Thursday, December 30, 2004
On this day:

Remembering Hank

Hank Williams died on New Year's Day in 1953. Among other events celebrating his life, a memorial ceremony will be held at his grave in Montgomery at 10 AM New Year's Day.

Looking for a Motivational Speaker?

This is your man.

(Don't get the reference? Think Chris Farley and SNL.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
On this day:

Site Updates

I'm in the process of adding blogs to my blogroll and making a few other updates. So far, I've added a few more Alabama bloggers to the list - Liberty Flash, Jason Coleman, Geek Girl Blonde, Red State Diaries, and War Liberal. They represent a pretty good mix of political views - from right to left on the spectrum. There are even one or two fence-straddlers. Scroll down and check 'em out.

Back Home

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I'm back in Huntspatch after visiting with the family since Friday. It's always nice to get out of the big city for awhile, especially over the holidays. Now, I get to hit all of the after-Christmas sales to stock up on all those things Santa forgot. Fun, fun.

I hate shopping, by the way. Part of it is because I hate the stupid crap they sell in stores. For retailers stocking t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. with logos of schools, businesses, or what have you...some of which don't even exist. Yeah, that's real nice - sell a shirt with a made-up ad for a made-up company...or with a mascot for a fictional high school. And people (mostly clueless teenagers) buy the stuff...because it's cool.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Burlington Coat Factory was selling Che Guevara t-shirts this holiday season. They even ran ads with young people proudly wearing their Che shirts. All because it's suddenly fashionable, for some strange reason. This is without regard to the fact that Che Guevara was a murdering Communist thug who helped bring the dictator Castro to power in Cuba. I'll bet you that whatever Burlington employees made the decision to sell Che merchandise didn't even know who the hell he was...and didn't find it important enough even to ask the question. It took protests from upset Cubans in Florida to fill Burlington's management in on the situation. Morons.

I get annoyed in much the same way every time I drive past a new subdivision with a made-up name whose only significance is that it "sounded good" to some nitwit developer. They aren't named after a landmark or in honor of a particular person. Oh, they may sound like they are - they may bear some surname or refer to a "creek" or a "wood" or a "crossing," but it's all made up. And, if that weren't silly enough, they go out and stick an extra "e" on the end of a few words just to make sure the name is both insignificant and pretentious. Some developers even add in their own delusions of grandeur - like the folks who named Huntsville's "World Famous Bridge Street," which isn't even famous in Huntsville, much less the world. As a matter of fact, it isn't even built yet.

Did I say Merry Christmas already?

Monday, December 27, 2004
On this day:

Breaking News

We interrupt this Christmas vacation with the following breaking news...

The North American Vexillological Association has released rankings of 150 American city flags based on design quality. Alabama cities making the list were Birmingham (39th), Montgomery (45th), and Mobile (76th).

Birmingham (39)

Montgomery (45)

Mobile (76)

So, here's a question. What do you call a really bad flag?

To get the answer, hold your tongue between thumb and forefinger and repeat the following sentence: "Now that's a city flag."

Friday, December 24, 2004
On this day:

God With Us

The Prophecy

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

- Isaiah 7:14

The Prophecy Fulfilled

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

-Luke 2:1-20

Thursday, December 23, 2004
On this day:

France - "The Shining Fromagerie on a Hill"

NRO's Jonah Goldberg is the master of frog-bashing. His G-File today, in which he calls for the destruction of France (as an idea), shows why. Here are a few outtakes:

France is "a shining fromagerie on a hill, serving as a beacon of asininity to left-wing radicals and a siren to kleptocratic third-world dictators who, after a career of mass-murder, want decent medical care, a good lawyer, and a fresh croissant."

"Yes, the French throne — not the Enlightenment philosophes — helped us out during the American Revolution, but that was a calculated attempt to give Britain a wedgie. "

"...more than a few French intellectuals have been known to look at dictators and mass-murderers the way Michael Jackson gazes at posters of Macaulay Culkin."

"...while they ribbit a big game about bringing liberty and civilization to the world, France's record is one of sowing the seeds of tyranny and corruption almost everywhere they've planted their flag. Meanwhile, Britain's former colonies are mostly moving in freedom's direction. The political scientist Myron Weiner has observed that since 1983, 'Every single country in the Third World that emerged from colonial rule since the Second World War with a population of at least one million (and almost all the smaller colonies as well) with a continuous democratic experience is a former British colony.' Meanwhile, every former French colony talks pretty. Advantage: pub-crawlers!"

" the French general who started fighting the Germans in 1945 said, 'Better late than never!'"

"So joy to the world and down with the French! But I repeat myself."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
On this day:

Shrimp Tariffs Upheld

The only good part about this decision is that the tariffs were smaller than what were sought. Some of the targeted countries have already threatened to challenge the tariffs in the World Trade Organization, which could authorize retaliation against U.S. products. The biggest losers in this battle are the consumers of seafood, of course, who stand to pay higher prices at the grocery store as a result.
Wally Stevens, president of Boston-based seafood distributor Slade Gorton Co., said the tariff decision "says 'bah humbug' to American consumers who have come to enjoy eating affordable shrimp."

Stevens, who also heads the shrimp task force of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition, the shrimpers' main opposition in the case, said the decision would injure domestic companies like his own, which rely on a steady supply of imported shrimp to produce low-priced products. But American consumers would suffer the worst from the resulting rising prices, he said.

Alabama to Increase Trade With Cuba

Alabama officials were in Cuba last week talking trade with the thugocracy of Fidel Castro. They even met with Fidel himself.

Under different circumstances, expanded trade with Cuba would be a good thing. Trade brings many benefits for both sides - in this case, Alabama agricultural companies and the Port of Mobile stand to gain millions of dollars from this trade deal and others that may be possible in the months and years to come.

However, Cuba is not just another country. It is an imprisoned isle ruled by a dictator who scoffs at individual liberties and the rule of law. There is every reason to believe that the benefits of expanded trade will be hoarded by Fidel Castro and his comrades, while Cuban workers and entrepreneurs continue to suffer as slaves to the communist system. Until that situation is rectified, the U.S. should be very reluctant to allow additional trade with Cuba. It would also be nice if Alabama officials would try to contain their enthusiasm when they sign up to fill Fidel Castro's pockets with cash.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
On this day:

Ayers Unhinged Again

In Sunday's Anniston Red Star, publisher H. Brandt Ayers speaks rather disapprovingly of Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign for President and the emergence of Republican Party dominance in the South:

Unwittingly, Sen. Goldwater led a motley parade of White Citizens Councils, Kluxers and old-line segregationists out of the Democratic Party to install racial prejudice as the core of the Southern Republican Party.

“It still is,” Jimmy Carter told me recently. “It has been; it always has been, ever since 1964. That’s right. I agree completely.” The former president and Nobel Laureate spoke with some heat.

Mr. Ayers had allowed earlier in the column that Sen. Goldwater was "no racist" himself. But, apparently everyone who voted for him in 1964 was, and his ideological heirs in today's Republican Party are, as well. That sounds like a cheap shot to me, and it is demonstrably untrue.

But, what good would a cheap shot be without backing it up with a name drop? In this case, the honors went to St. Jimmy, who seems even more irritable than usual now that the presidential election is over. Jimmy Carter is highly esteemed by Mr. Ayers, which should serve as a perpetual reminder of why not to listen to the Red Star when it comes to forming judgments about politicians.

Big Whoop #2

President Bush has pledged to submit a budget that will halve the U.S. budget deficit in 5 years. Whoop-tee-doo. As President Reagan said, the deficit is big enough to take care of itself. With moderate economic growth and reasonable spending restraint, it should be a piece of cake for the President's goal to be achieved.

So, why not aim higher? A good start would be to eliminate the Departments of Education, Energy, and Agriculture; to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Amtrak; to zero out the budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Americorps; and to eliminate farm subsidies and corporate welfare. This is supposed to be a transforming Presidency, right?

Big Whoop

Last Saturday, Bob and Martha Sargent spotted the first whooping cranes to be documented in Alabama since 1899. The birds were seen in the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Belle Mina in Limestone County (about 20 or so miles west of Huntsville).

According to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, the birds were almost extinct 60 years ago. About 275 exist today in the wild, and a nonmigrating flock of about 100 birds lives in central Florida near Kissimmee. A small wild population lives in northern Canada and migrates each year to Texas.

The birds are named for their loud, distinctive calls and live in wetland areas where they forage for aquatic plants and small animals. Reintroduction efforts the last four years to help build the population in its traditional eastern range have been successful. Young cranes are trained to follow an ultralight airplane from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge north of Tampa, Fla. The assisted three-month migration covers more than 1,200 miles over seven states, including Tennessee.

Sargent said a sighting of three whooping cranes Saturday afternoon near Winchester, Tenn., initially led the group in Belle Mina to think maybe it was the same trio. But those were spotted about 2 p.m., and the Sargents found their birds about 2:30 p.m.

"They couldn't have traveled that far in that time," he said. "So, we realized there were two sets of birds. We were both stunned that in our lifetime we would get to see these birds outside of Texas doing what they do naturally, and to occur in Alabama. To know as a researcher and bander, to see these banded birds and to know how critical this information is to the person doing the research, is truly wonderful."

[Dr. Milton] Harris, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has been a serious bird-watcher for about 40 years. He hunted for about 20 years, then switched from a gun to binoculars and spotting scope. He lived in Austin, Texas, for a while and frequently traveled to the Port Aransas, Texas, area to watch the cranes, whose numbers in the 1960s had dwindled to about 40 birds.

"To have it back in the United States is a biological miracle," Harris said. "There are about 200 of them in the world, and we have more 10th-graders at Huntsville High than that. We get rare birds that are blown in here that aren't endangered ... (but) to see a bird that is this close to extinction is amazing."

Martha Sargent once found a tundra swan in southeast Alabama during a meeting of the Alabama Ornithological Society. Her discovery immediately broke up the gathering as birders rushed to spot the visiting exotic.

But Saturday's find was better. "I told them I'm going to hang up my binoculars," she said, "because I can't top this."

Want to Stop for a Coke?

This map (link via the Corner) is interesting, although I think Southerners' preference for "Coke" as a generic term for all soft drinks is a little overstated. When referring to a generic soft drink, you don't hear us say, "What kind of Coke would you like?" or "pick up some Cokes at the store" nearly as often as we sometimes lead Yankees to believe. Or do we?

More Price-Gouging Indictments

Alabama's price-gouging statute is another example of a well-intended law that ends up doing more harm than good by interfering with free markets. By punishing people for setting prices according to what the market will bear, the law impedes the delivery of goods and services in the aftermath of a disaster.

But, the law is being enforced strictly by the Attorney General's office. Three more indictments were announced last week.

A Baldwin County grand jury returned three indictments against three people for allegations of theft and price gouging following Hurricane Ivan, according to a statement from the Alabama attorney general's office...

State laws prohibiting price gouging take effect when the governor has declared a state of emergency, which he did in the days leading up to the storm.

Price gouging is defined as selling or renting any item for 25 percent or more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days, unless the increase can be attributed to reasonable costs, the release states...

In October, a Baldwin County grand jury also returned three other price-gouging indictments, according to reports. Two tree-service workers -- Jonathan Spotswood, 39, of Daphne, the owner of Spotswood's Tree Service, and Herbert O'Neal Humphrey, 46, of Stapleton -- were each arrested and released on $10,000 bonds in early October.

The third defendant, James M. "Mike" Christian, 50, of Gadsden, was charged with price gouging on electrical work. He was also arrested in October and released on a $15,000 bond, according to reports.

Cheap Gas

As I said, I love Cowboys gasoline. It and a few other convenience store chains - like Racetrac and Murphy Oil - sell gasoline at prices well below their major competitors. It's a great feeling to see all the pumps at Cowboys being used while those at the Shell station down the street are empty.

But, it is likely that Cowboys, Racetrac, and Murphy would sell gasoline at even lower prices if the state government would mind its own business and let the free market work its magic.

A law on the books in Alabama called the Motor Fuel Marketing Act forbids retailers from selling gasoline below cost. The law was passed in 1984 to protect smaller gas stations from unfair competition by large oil companies. From the looks of things, it didn't do a very good job of that. Try finding a "mom-and-pop" gas station sometime. They are few and far between.

Not only did it fail at its intended purpose, the law also interferes with market competition, likely keeping gas prices a few cents higher than they would be otherwise. There was a failed attempt to repeal the law in the last legislative session, and the Federal Trade Commission even weighed in on the matter, saying:
  • Low prices benefit consumers. Consumers are harmed only if below-cost prices allow a dominant competitor to raise prices later to supracompetitive levels.
  • Economic studies, legal studies, and court decisions indicate that below-cost pricing that leads to monopoly occurs infrequently. Below-cost sales of motor fuel that lead to monopoly are especially unlikely.
  • The federal antitrust laws deal with below-cost pricing that has a "dangerous probability" or a "reasonable prospect" of leading to monopoly. The FTC, the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, state attorneys general, and private parties can bring suit under the federal antitrust laws against anticompetitive below-cost pricing and price discrimination. The Act, however, does more than duplicate these protections; it exceeds them in ways that do not benefit consumers. Federal law prohibits pricing that could harm competition and consumers, not just competitors, whereas the Act prohibits pricing that could harm competitors even if there is no harm to consumers.
  • Current Alabama law discourages competitive pricing. The Act subjects vendors to civil liability - including treble damages and a $10,000 fine per violation - for cutting prices even if there is no likelihood of harm to market-wide competition. Further, by focusing on total unit costs rather than marginal costs, the Act subjects a greater range of prices to liability in comparison to federal antitrust law. As a result, many vendors likely avoid procompetitive price-cutting.

    For these reasons, we believe that the Act likely harms consumers and restricts competition. Moreover, the Act is unnecessary because the federal antitrust laws already protect against anticompetitive predatory pricing and price discrimination.

Nevertheless, the bill failed under opposition from trade organizations representing convenience stores and petroleum marketers. As a result, low-price gasoline retailers have to be careful in their pricing schemes in order to avoid possible lawsuits from competitors, and consumers end up paying more for gasoline.

Monday, December 20, 2004
On this day:

Cowboys Gas is Great

$1.69 per gallon at Cowboys versus $1.82 at the Shell station just 1/4 mile down the road. Is there any question over which one to choose?

Thursday, December 16, 2004
On this day:

Huntsville Feminist Chorus to Hold Winter Solstice Concert

From the Go Section of today's Huntsville Times:
The Huntsville Feminist Chorus will present its annual Winter Solstice Concert on Sunday at 7:30 PM in the Von Braun Center Playhouse, 700 Monroe St., featuring songs, poems and dance from a diversity of cultures and ethnic traditions and celebrating the rhythms of the earth. It's free.

The Huntsville Feminist Chorus is an a capella chorus specializing in "songs that empower women." As you would guess, the "free" concert is not really free - it is supported by the Women's Studies Department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Since I have close connections to the local feminist community, I was forwarded a sneak preview of one of Sunday night's featured songs. Here are they lyrics, sung to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Hark! The Feminists Will Sing

Hark! The feminists will sing
"Don't tell us to praise a king"!

We're diverse, and that's our style.
You don't like it? Then you're vile.

We will triumph o'er the guys -
Crush them 'neath our mighty thighs.

We are women! Hear us roar!
Tremble, ye, at what's in store!

Hark! The feminists do sing
Take a queen to be your king!


Controversial Christmas decorations remain up at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2004, a day after Cuban officials warned the top American diplomat on the island there would be consequences if they were not taken down. The item that most irks the Cuban authorities is a sign that says

It's great to see the U.S. State Department standing up for 75 Cuban dissidents jailed by the murderous thug Fidel Castro.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday rejected Cuba's demand to remove Christmas lights in front of the American mission in Havana, saying the display shows solidarity with local prisoners of conscience.

Cuba threatened retaliation but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the mission "has put up decorations like this, Christmas tree lights, for years, and
we do not plan on taking down our holiday decorations until the holidays are over."

The display includes the number 75, in reference to 75 pro-democracy activists imprisoned in Cuba. There is an international campaign to free them.

"It shows our solidarity with Cubans who struggle for democracy and freedom ... It's a remembrance in the season of peace that there are people who don't have peace at this season," Boucher told a news briefing.

James Cason, the chief of the U.S. mission in Cuba, said, "As part of our holiday celebrations, we also displayed a '75' symbol as a reminder of those arrested for thinking and speaking independently."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
On this day:

Alabama's New Ten Commandments Judge

The blogosphere responds to Judge Ashley McKathan's Ten Commandments robe:

The Daily Kos says "Here we go again."

The American Constitution Society blog calls the robe "Roy Moore's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

JD at Southern Appeal says he "never thought anybody could out-Moore Roy Moore."

PoliBlogger calls it "Moore of the Same."

Possumblog points his readers to Matthew 23 for an important opinion on such matters.

The World Around You says, "Why oh why do we have to continue this fight?"

War Liberal wonders if Roy Moore will try to one-up Judge McKathan by getting the Commandments tattooed on his forehead.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
On this day:

Bama Makes the Corner

Specifically, in regards to the Kennedy-Nixon race in 1960. Kinda interesting. See here and here and here and here. (Or, just start at the first link and work your way up.)

Subject-Matter Testing for Alabama Teachers to Resume

Alabama teachers will finally be tested in the subjects they teach for the first time since 1986.

One of the biggest drivers for getting teacher testing out of the courts and into the classrooms was the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It's debatable whether any branch of the federal government should have ever been involved in the issue of certification for Alabama teachers. Nonetheless, this agreement could be the basis for a new and essential layer of accountability for K-12 education in Alabama.

I'm not familiar with the details of the Praxis II tests that are to be used, but they seem to provide an adequate measure teacher competence - certainly superior to what this state has now. For the test to be meaningful, though, the state must also establish adequate pass/fail criteria. In doing so, they must resist the urge to lower standards or discriminate on the basis of demographic classification. That could prove difficult, given the history of lawsuits that led to our present predicament.

Students Protest Un-Bareable Policy

Some students at Bennington College in Vermont have nothing to hide when it comes to telling the adminstration what they think about its stance against public nudity.
Students occasionally parading buck naked around Vermont's Bennington College campus has been a tolerated, if peculiar, part of the university's student culture here since the 1960s.

Now Robert Graves, hired this year as Bennington's dean of students, has embarked on a crusade against public nudity -- one that has run afoul of the school's free-spirited students.

Students have long enjoyed an informal policy allowing them to go naked on campus. Whether it was as a topless sunbather lounging on the lawn or students running naked at an annual bonfire party, college officials turned a blind eye.

But when a student strolled around campus naked this summer during an orientation session when parents were visiting campus, the new dean reprimanded him.

More than 200 students, a few of them naked, marched across campus in October to protest against what they saw as a crackdown by the administration on freedom of expression. While the impending onset of the New England winter has put a temporary pause to the dispute, students are preparing for a springtime assault.

Get the State Out of the Liquor Business

It's high time to privatize the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Alabama. The Alabama ABC Board was created by the legislature in 1937 on the heels of Prohibition. In addition to licensing and enforcement, the ABC Board distributes and sells alcoholic beverages to retailers and the general public. In 2003, it ran 140 stores - 62 retail only, 75 wholesale/retail, and 3 wholesale only - employing 541 people. The gross revenues generated by its Product Management Bureau in fiscal year 2002-2003 were $274 million*.

It is beyond question that there is a need for strict government control of alcohol sales and distribution. Alcohol is one of the most used and abused drugs on the planet. Its abuse has contributed to a plethora of social ills ranging from obnoxious behavior to DUI-related auto accidents. Its economic impact probably isn't measurable, but there is no doubt that it can be attributed to a significant loss in productive hours among wage-earners.

That said, it is doubtful that the state needs to own a chain of liquor stores in order to adequately control the sale of alcohol. Strict regulation and enforcement would address concerns that privatization would foster greater consumption or abuse. Neighboring Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia could serve as examples - none of them have "state stores" that sell liquor. Alabama should embrace the free enterprise system and sell off its socialized liquor outlets.

* Source: ABC Board Annual Report 2002-2003.

Dispirited in Alabama

The maker of Alabama's "official state spirit," as designated by the legislature last April, is in trouble with the state ABC Board. Kenny May, whose distillery produces Conecuh Ridge whiskey, is charged with selling liquor to a minor, possession of an excess quantity of liquor in a dry county, and selling liquor without a license. The charges could result in a ban on future sales of Conecuh Ridge in Alabama.

There's no word on whether the legislature will choose another "state spirit" or whether any distiller would welcome the designation.

The Alabama Judiciary's Guide to Interior Design and Fashion

First it was Ten Commandments plaques and monuments in courtrooms and courthouses. Now, a judge in Covington County has taken to wearing a robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered in gold on the front.

I don't think that the judge's fashion choice is necessarily unconstitutional, but it certainly stretches the limits of propriety. The judge says that he will wear his new robe because "the Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong." I don't doubt that at all, but for a judge to quite literally wear his religion on his sleeves while performing secular duties just seems unprofessional and inappropriate. This is not a theocracy, and judges are not popularly elected clergymen.

Alabama's Electors Cast Ballots for President and Vice President

Alabama's Electors for President and Vice President of the United States met Monday in Montgomery to cast their ballots for George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, respectively. In doing so, they fulfilled their obligation under Amendment 12 to the U.S. Constitution, which states, in part:
The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;...
Alabama's nine Electors were elected in the November 2 election, in which Electors pledged to Bush-Cheney got 1,176,394 votes and those pledged to Kerry-Edwards received 693,933. (Section 17-19-2 of the Code of Alabama provides that "A vote for a candidate for President or Vice-President shall be counted as a vote for the electors of the political party or independent body by which such candidates were named, as listed on the certificate of nomination or nominating petition." The Republican Party's electors were chosen in the June primary election.)

The Electors were Martha Stokes of Carrollton, State Auditor Beth Chapman of Shelby County, Jefferson County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins, state Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors of Birmingham, state Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, and Republican Party members Martha Hosey of Baldwin County, Floyd Lawson of Cullman County, Elbert Peters of Huntsville, and Will Sellers of Montgomery.

Freak Snowstorm Hits Huntsville

Actually, it's just a few flurries, but what's a little wishful exaggeration among friends - kind of like Huntsville's latest residential/office/retail development, called "World Famous Bridge Street," which hasn't even been built yet. It was announced last week that Alabama's first Westin Hotel would be located there, so I guess that's a start.

Serves Him Right

When this guy's dad told him, "Son, someone needs to light a fire under your ass," I'm sure he didn't mean it quite so literally.
A 20-year-old man is being treated at a Birmingham hospital for burns he received while allegedly setting a south Huntsville house on fire Friday...

The suspect, James Rice, was in fair condition at the burn center of the University of Alabama in Birmingham Hospital late Friday, said Hank Black, hospital spokesman. Rice reportedly had burns to more than 50 percent of his body, including both feet, legs, buttocks, hands, arms and face...

Roger Parton was in the neighborhood off Mountain Gap Road when he heard an explosion and looked down the street to see smoke.

"I was about two houses away," Parton said. "I saw this guy running around from the back yard carrying a gas can."

The gas can and the man's feet were on fire, he said. Parton ran to offer help.

"I got down there and he got into his car and I was offering to help and he tried to run me over!" Parton said.

Another witness down the street threw a hammer through a window of the car, a bronze-colored Honda Accord, as it sped out of the neighborhood, said Parton...

Sublett said investigators determined an accelerant had been poured throughout the house. While attempting to ignite the fuel, the vapors that had been building inside the house also ignited and caught the man on fire, he said.

Lotto Winners Gone Crazy

One of the reasons I didn't care for Don Siegelman's idea of a statewide lottery was that I was a bit leery of the high social costs that it might entail - things like addictive gambling or people spending their welfare or social security money on lotto tickets. Lottery winners going nuts wasn't exactly what I had in mind. But, see here and here for the latest incidents.

Christmas Party No-No's

Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) joined trade unions on Friday to issue guidelines on how to host a safe and successful office party this Christmas.

Here are some of their suggestions:
"Resist the temptation to photocopy parts of your anatomy," RoSPA and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said. "If the copier breaks, you'll have Christmas with glass in painful places."

"Dancing on desks could do them and you a lot of damage," they said. "Likewise, the boardroom table is meant for weighty documents, not overweight executives."

Candles, flaming Christmas puddings and cigarettes should be avoided at all costs.

Stepladders, not swivel chairs, should be used to hang tinsel and mistletoe, which should not be hung near sources of heat.

"Keep a close eye on those who may drink too much," the organizations advised. "Alcohol makes some people aggressive rather than friendly. The party will be spoiled if it ends in a punch-up or harassment complaint."

Monday, December 13, 2004
On this day:

Peterson Gets the Death Penalty

I know next to nothing about this case and I care even less. OK, that's not entirely true. I do care that a woman and her unborn child were killed and I'm glad that justice has been done. But, this story has been overplayed to the point that perhaps the most natural reaction upon hearing about the sentence is one of callous disregard.

Of all the interesting things going on in the legal world, this story has taken top billing in the media. "But, it's what people want to watch...murder and mayhem make money." Maybe so, but it's easy to lose perspective when a single crime generates such a media sensation that it dominates news coverage for so long. One of Drudge's headlines today projects that there will be over 15,500 homicides in the U.S. this year. It's just that most of them did not have the "murder mystery" appeal of this particular one. Even if some of them did, though, the media already had their made-for-TV drama, and they milked it for all it was worth.

I hate to say it, but it would be hard to surpass FOX News in contributing to all the hype. I'd almost bet that you could count on one hand the number of nights that Greta van Susteren hasn't mentioned the Peterson case since Laci's murder in April 2003. Frankly, FOX's coverage of this story made it seem even more loud and obnoxious than usual.

Now that the trial is over with, let's just hope that something else attracts the media's attention before the appeals start.

By the way, this was my first post on this subject, and I can almost guarantee that it will be the last.

Take Away Her Computer

Bless her heart, this lady may be sweet as can be, but she needs to stay away from high technology.
...a single mother in Daphne...was visiting a Yahoo! chat room in October when she got a note from someone calling himself Michael Stevens.

"He said he was a Marine who just got back from Iraq," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used because she hadn't told her relatives, several of whom are veterans. "I thanked him very much and told him I appreciated him protecting our country."

After a couple weeks of messages, "Stevens" told the woman he was heading to Africa briefly for some sort of job. Then he needed her help to get home. He was being paid with cashier's checks drawn on a U.S. bank and couldn't cash them overseas, he said.

Claiming he was an only child whose parents had died, he wanted to send the checks to her so she could cash them and wire the money back to him. Without the money, he told her, he couldn't pay his hotel bill and retrieve his passport or buy a plane ticket.

A $3,200 cashier'scheck arrived. The woman took it to her bank, which accepted it and cashed it. Then she wired the money to Africa.

"Stevens" said it wasn't enough, that his bills had increased. He sent her a bundle of money orders totaling $3,880. Again, she went to Western Union and wired the money, and again it wasn't enough.

"I said, 'You know, it sounds to me like they're robbing you,'" the woman recalled telling the supposedly stranded Marine. "'You need to go to the U.S. Embassy and they'll help you."'

"Stevens" promised to do so after he tried once more to pay off the hotel. A third envelope arrived, this time with $6,750 in money orders. The woman wired the money again.

She was about to send the confirmation number for "Stevens" to pick it up, when she opened an envelope from her bank. Inside was the $3,200 cashier's check and a letter warning her not to try to cash it again because it was fake and that she would be liable for the money the bank had given her.

The woman rushed to stop the last wire transfer, which Western Union allowed her to do, for a fee, she said. After emptying her savings account, she now owes the bank about $2,100, a significant sum, especially for someone on a modest income.

"It's very hard to accept," she said, sobbing, "that I can't provide for my youngest son." That the criminal posed as a military man "just makes my blood boil," said the woman's lawyer, Michelle Hart.

One Thing's For Sure, Though

The odds of winning at Rock Paper Scissors are much better than that Alabama will be be given a fair shake in the national media.

National Public Radio's "Tavis Smiley Show" recently reported on Alabama's defeat of Amendment 2, a measure to remove segregation-era language from Alabama's constitution. Opponents argued that certain language in the amendment would have allowed the state to raise taxes.

Characterizing the amendment, NPR reporter Melanie Peeples said: "It seemed like the kind of amendment no one in the year 2004 could possibly oppose, not even in Alabama, a state that only got around to repealing a ban on interracial marriages four years ago."

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader columnist Merline Davis also commented recently on Alabama's Amendment 2 in a column about escaping the frigid winter temperatures of Lexington.

"Mobile is warm, I thought. It has all kinds of charm about it and warmth, and gulf waters and warmth. And during the summer, the temperatures are kept in check by cool breezes from the Gulf of Mexico. Why not move to Mobile? Well, admittedly, one drawback is the state it sits in. Alabama is not noted for the welcome mat it puts out for minorities of any kind, especially black folk."

Holiday Gift Idea for the Guy Who Has It All

The World Rock Paper Scissors Society has a special membership offer for the holidays...$35 gets you a laminated membership card, a signed copy of the Official Rock Paper Scissors Strategy Guide, a letter of welcome from a "legendary" RPS pro, an official t-shirt, 8 RPS stickers, an official Rock Paper Scissors rulebook, and 2 World RPS Society beer coasters. How could you pass up a bargain like that!

(By the way, it seems that dynamite is a big no-no among the RPS enthusiasts.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004
On this day:

Attorney General King Files Briefs With U.S. Supreme Court Supporting Ten Commandments Displays

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has joined other state attorneys general in filing amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs supporting the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on public property in two cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term. The two cases are from Texas and Kentucky (Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, respectively).

In a statement released yesterday, Attorney General King said:
"I have said many times that the constitution does not require that the public square be cleansed of religious symbols. This case provides an opportunity for Alabama to once again stand for this important proposition. Neither I, nor any citizen, should ever be required to surrender our faith as a prerequisite to entering the public square. I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will use this case to replace the confusion in this area of the law with clarity and to protect our citizens’ religious rights."

Oh No, It's Raining Again

See Genesis 6 for instructions on ark-building.

Note: A cubit is a unit of linear measure, from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger of a man. This unit is commonly converted to 0.46 meters or 18 inches, although that varies with height of the man doing the measurement. There is also a “long” cubit that is longer than a regular cubit by a handbreadth.

Toying With the Constitution

Defendants must decide by Dec. 23 whether to appeal Alabama's ban on sex toys to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sherri Williams, the owner of Pleasures here in Huntsville, says "This is a case that is certainly begging for the Supreme Court. I want to have that opportunity. Really, it is up to whether my attorneys feel this a proper time to present it to them."

The Alabama law in question may or may not be silly or misguided, but it is certainly not unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has invited these kinds of lawsuits by finding a "right to privacy" amid the "penumbras and emanations" of the Constitution. Beginning with Griswald v. Connecticut and notably upheld in last year's Lawrence v. Texas decision, the "right to privacy" created by the Court threatens to bring every state action regulating private behavior under federal court jurisdiction. This is a jurisprudential mistake that President Bush should keep in mind should he get the opportunity to nominate Supreme Court justices during his second term.

Alfa - Conservative?

Alfa often comes under heavy criticism from so-called progressives because of its "conservative" stances on taxation, home rule, constitution reform, etc. However, when it comes to farm subsidies, Alfa is as anti-free market as they come.

Pork Farmers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama farmers received $1.43 billion in federal subsidies during the last nine years, with 121 farms collecting more than $1 million each.

Figures were compiled by a group called the Environmental Working Group that lobbies againt farm subsidies. The money included $544 million for cotton subsidies, $236 million for disaster subsidies, $229 for peanut subsidies, and $198 for conservation subsidies.

In Alabama, 12,863 farms, or 29 percent of the state's farms, received federal subsidies. Of those, 1,123 received $250,000 or more during the nine-year period.

The federal support for Alabama included $163 million in 2002-2003 for a one-time federal buyout of peanut quotas. One of the farmers who benefitted was U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, who received about $27,000 from 1995-2003 forpeanuts grown on his 400-acre farm near Dothan, the report said.

Everett, who crafted the peanut buyout as a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, said he promoted the transformation of the peanut program from a quota system to a price support system to help U.S. growers fight an increase in cheaper imported peanuts.

"My purpose was to try to save an industry that was going to go down," Everett said. "Obviously, we had to do something to be competitive."

Everett takes issue with the group's criticism of the subsidies."They love to eat, but they don't appreciate the fact that the subsidies help American farmers produce some of the cheapest food in the world," he said.

But, as this article shows, many, if not most of the beneficiaries of subsidies are large farming operations, contrary to the claims of some subsidy supporters. The top 10 subsidy recipients in Alabama each received over $3 million in federal payments. Not exactly the "small family farmer" there.

SACS Lifts Auburn's Academic Probation

Auburn's accreditation is no longer in jeopardy. Interim President Ed Richardson and Gov. Bob Riley should be commended for leading Auburn through this frustrating process.

"If I had only one victory this weekend, and I had to choose between the SEC championship and SACS, I would have chosen SACS," [Interim President Ed]Richardson said. "It was that important to me."

Here is Governor Riley's statement on the matter:
"The lifting of probation is an acknowledgement that there has been a real change at Auburn University. Dr. Richardson’s leadership, the changes in the way the Board of Trustees operates and the new members that continue to be added to the Board have all helped us reach this important goal. Now Auburn University has the opportunity to confidently move forward as an outstanding institution of higher learning."

People from outside were called in to review board of trustees practices.

Independent reviews of Auburn University board of trustees practices appear to have helped clear the university of charges of micromanagement by two members ofits board.

The reviews, released Wednesday, were conducted by two law firms and a former chairman of one of the largest competitors of Colonial BancGroup, of which trustee Bobby Lowder is CEO.

Detailed letters to Auburn University interim President Ed Richardson from Tuskegee attorney Fred Gray, former Alabama National Bancorporation chairman John J. McMahon and attorney William A. Weary of Washington, D.C., concluded that the board's behavior was "consistent with national expectations and practice."

Another interesting note from the News article: Ed Richardson reiterated that he is not a candidate for permanent President of AU.

The Theory of Everything?

String theory is 20 years old.
ASPEN, Colo. - They all laughed 20 years ago.

It was then that a physicist named John Schwarz jumped up on the stage during a cabaret at the physics center here and began babbling about having discovered a theory that could explain everything. By prearrangement men in white suits swooped in and carried away Dr. Schwarz, then a little-known researcher at the California Institute of Technology.

Only a few of the laughing audience members knew that Dr. Schwarz was not
entirely joking. He and his collaborator, Dr. Michael Green, now at CambridgeUniversity, had just finished a calculation that would change the way physics was done. They had shown that it was possible for the first time to write down a single equation that could explain all the laws of physics, all the forces of nature - the proverbial "theory of everything" that could be written on a T-shirt.

And so emerged into the limelight a strange new concept of nature, called string theory, so named because it depicts the basic constituents of the universe as tiny wriggling strings, not point particles...

By uniting all the forces, string theory had the potential of achieving the goal that Einstein sought without success for half his life and that has embodied the dreams of every physicist since then. If true, it could be used like a searchlight to illuminate some of the deepest mysteries physicists can imagine, like the origin of space and time in the Big Bang and the putative death of space and time at the infinitely dense centers of black holes.

In the last 20 years, string theory has become a major branch of physics. Physicists and mathematicians conversant in strings are courted and recruited like star quarterbacks by universities eager to establish their research credentials. String theory has been celebrated and explained in best-selling books like "The Elegant Universe," by Dr. Brian Greene, a physicist at Columbia University, and even on popular television shows.

Last summer in Aspen, Dr. Schwarz and Dr. Green (of Cambridge) cut a cake decorated with "20th Anniversary of the First Revolution Started in Aspen," as they and other theorists celebrated the anniversary of their big breakthrough. But even as they ate cake and drank wine, the string theorists admitted that after 20 years, they still did not know how to test string theory, or even what it meant.

As a result, the goal of explaining all the features of the modern world is as far away as ever, they say. And some physicists outside the string theory camp are growing restive. At another meeting, at the Aspen Institute for Humanities, only a few days before the string commemoration, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, called string theory "a colossal failure."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
On this day:

Paul Krugman Steps In To Save the Day

Is it just me, or is New York Times Paul Krugman way too full of himself. Here he is, from yesterday (Krugman has taken a break from writing his regular NYT column in order to work on a book that I'm sure he will find compelling.):
Privatizing Social Security - replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts - won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse. Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.

I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis.
Oh yes, Paul, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to "debunk the hype." We always look forward to watching you self-destruct in your own snittiness.

As always, Mr. Krugman would be well-advised to review his past statements before he opens his mouth. It's funny how Paul changes his mind so nonchalantly as the political winds shift.

Later on, Krugman says, "But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one. "

Now, this is just not accurate. The fact that there may be a looming "crisis" in funding Social Security is not the best argument in favor of reform. There are several issues that must be addressed in order to ensure that the Social Security system has sufficient funds as the Baby Boomers enter retirement.

"Privatizers" believe that allowing Americans to invest their own money in private investment accounts is the best way to address the inevitable problems ahead. The idea is to give Americans control and ownership of their own retirement accounts. The argument is whether this is a more sensible way to fund Americans' retirements than the current pay-as-you-go system. Unfortunately, Krugman's many years dabbling in the dismal science of economics have immunized him to all forms of common sense.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
On this day:

French Ambassador in Montgomery This Week

The French ambassador to the U.S., Jean-David Levitte, will be in Montgomery for a couple of days this week. In the spirit of diplomacy, I will refrain from any all-too-easy frog-bashing. However, readers are more than welcome to post any thoughts, jokes, etc. to welcome the ambassador to our state.

AG Troy King Plans to Crack Down on Illegal Gambling

Good for him, as long as he doesn't interfere with the semi-regular Texas Hold-Em games that I enjoy occasionally.

Final Round of State High School Football Playoffs Set

Class 6A
Hoover (14-0) versus Prattville (13-0)
7 p.m. Thursday at Legion Field, Birmingham.

Class 5A
Homewood (13-1) versus Russellville (13-1)
3 p.m. Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Class 4A
Demopolis (14-0) versus Deshler (14-0)
7 p.m. Friday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Class 3A
Oneonta (14-0) versus Winfield (14-0)
3 p.m. Thursday at Legion Field in Birmingham.

Class 2A
Woodland (11-1) versus Leroy (11-2)
11 a.m. Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Class 1A
Hubbard-Courtland (14-0) versus Sweet Water (12-2)
3 p.m. Friday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

A&M Earns Full Accreditation - Auburn Finds Out Today

The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges informed Alabama A&M yesterday that they had earned full accreditation.

SACS will release its decision regarding Auburn's accreditation this morning.

Waste Not, Want Not

When folks is hongry, there ain't no sense in lettin' a good coon go to waste. Throw him in a pot and cook the little critter. This here sounds like a right tasty recipe:

Coon and Dressing

You'll need:

1 Coon - fairly fresh kill
Two medium onions
teaspoon of oregano
Stove Top Dressin or make your own

Dressin' recipe
1 loaf of bread
3/4 cup chopped onion
Poultry seasoning
broth from boiled coon
sage, salt & pepper

Remove the meat from the cold salt water you should of soaked it in overnight, and put it in a pot and cover it with fresh water - add the two medium onions (chopped up) and the oregano. Boil it until it's tender.

Put the coon meat in a roasting pan, and cover it with the dressin'. Use some of the broth from the boiling to wet down the dressin. Bake at 350 until it's all done.

Raccoon Causes Power Outage

I thought it had something to do with this nasty weather, but it turns out that a 'coon was the culprit.

A raccoon climbing on electrical equipment downtown plunged much of Huntsville into near-darkness Monday afternoon for more than an hour and a half.

Huntsville Utilities spokesman Bill Yell said the outage struck the city's main business district and stretched from Hampton Cove to Cummings Research Park. About 44,000 customers, including Huntsville Hospital, Crestwood Medical Center and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, were without electricity from 2:43 p.m. until about 4:30 p.m.

The blackout also caused some confusion for drivers, who had to navigate busy intersections without stoplights...

Yell, the utility spokesman, said the raccoon touched a piece of equipment in a downtown electric substation, causing a fault that knocked the station off line. Crews restored power to Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood first, then got everyone else's lights back on before dark.

The raccoon died.

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today in 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Southern Progressives, Take 2 and 3

Here's another take on the meeting of Southern hoity-toits at Ole Miss, from a bit more conservative perspective.

But to judge by the stemwinders at this academic conference, the Society named for [L.Q.C. Lamar] never developed much interest in conciliating conservatives and liberals. Correction: There are no more liberals; they're progressives now. It's all in the best tradition of modern marketing: If a product doesn't sell, change only the name.

I intend to keep a running score of the political asides, digs and general bloviations at this morning's session. I want to see how many reflect a liberal/Democratic bias, and how many a conservative/Republican slant.

I soon give up. Because the contest proves as one-sided as the Arkansas-Ole Miss score this year: 35-3. Except the conservatives don't score as much as a field goal during this first session of the morning.

Is there any sector of American life that talks more of diversity than academia, and shows less of it when it comes to ideas?

...And another.

It was easy to pass for a liberal in those days because that was still the one-issue South, and The Issue was race. If you opposed racial segregation, you were a liberal no matter what you might have to say about anything else - economic policy, foreign policy, any policy. Nothing else mattered. (It wasn't just black folks who were defined by the color line.)

So someone who thought he was following sound conservative doctrine - respect for the courts and the law of the land, a reverence for the Constitution, a belief in the dignity of man as created in His image - could be labeled as some kind of wild-eyed radical. Even now somebody will approach and ask why I've changed over the years, when from my perspective I haven't changed much at all.

I much prefer this new, multi-issue South. It's healthier, more well-rounded. Now we can disagree about a whole wide range of topics, instead of just one volatile issue linked to a violent past, and tensions are defused. It makes for a quieter, and longer, life.

I sense a certain nostalgia for the old days at this gathering. I understand: Things were so much simpler then. You didn't have to think so much. Right and wrong were clearer. And we happy few who opposed segregation never had to agonize over our stand; the injustice of that peculiar institution was so evident.

It feels good to be in the minority at this conference, too, where the conservative caucus numbers maybe three. We have a kind of secret sign - an exchanged look, a quiet sigh when all things good are equated with the Democratic Party, and a shared delight when the best of the Southern tradition comes to the fore: a sense of place, a respect for eccentricity, a never-ending complexity when it comes to social relations, the lulling presence of the ever fecund land, the palpable feel of a past that is never past, the assurance that comes with knowing you will be treated with the greatest warmth and courtesy when not being challenged to a duel . . . and finally the sheer impossibility of ever really explaining this evanescent South. You might as well try explaining love.

Brandt Ayers to "Progressives": We Failed

In a recent column, the Anniston "Red" Star's H. Brandt Ayers says that he and his fellow southern progressives failed in their efforts to create an ideal South.

OXFORD, Miss. — A large group of aging Southerners, the New South generation of the 1970s, came here to Ole Miss to tell our stories again, and to ponder why Southern progressives have become extinct volcanoes.

Across three generations the progressive instinct in the South has boiled to the surface in bright eruptions of promising reform only to cool, almost at the moment of epiphany, and die out.

Our generation’s progressive movement lit up the sky for a moment, and then it went away, just as its predecessors had — an example and a warning to yet another broad-minded effort now being formed.

We called ourselves the L.Q.C. Lamar Society, after the Mississippi statesman celebrated in John Kennedy’s “Profiles In Courage,” a firebrand secessionist who became a voice of reconciliation after the Civil War...

The Lamar Society wanted to focus the new wealth and leadership emerging after 1970 on avoiding Northern mistakes in our growing cities, and finding answers to the economic anemia of rural areas. With the end of segregation and a rising economy, we dreamed of creating an ideal South.

We failed. I failed as president of the Society. A liberal voice fell silent, and few now care about the ghettoization of our cities or rural decline. We are focused instead on “family values,” whatever that is.

Mr. Ayers shouldn't be quite so hard on himself. The South has come a long way since the days of segregation, both morally and economically. Race has diminished as an issue as new generations of Southerners who have never known segregation have reached voting age. The South is more prosperous now than it has ever been, and continues to outperform the rest of the nation economically.

So, why all this doom and gloom? My guess is that folks like Mr. Ayers are simply jealous that the advances in the South since the 70's have either occurred outside the realm of politics or have coincided with the rise of the Republican Party. The enlightened leadership and extravagant plans of the "progressives" were largely rejected, yet the progress still happened. Now, their efforts seem like a lot of wasted energy, and they are reduced to sitting on the sidelines only to say, "Things would have been so much better if we would have been in charge."

Monday, December 06, 2004
On this day:

Reid to Justice Thomas: Try to Write Better

From CNN via Drudge:

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday had harsh words for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.

"I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice."

I wonder if Senator Reid has even read any of Justice Thomas's opinions. I doubt it. Among the criticisms of Justice Thomas, that his opinions are "poorly written" is the lamest one I've heard yet.

"We Love Black Folks Contest"

Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane attended an annual meeting of black columnists in Baltimore last week. One discussion, entitled "How Right was Bill Cosby?" was led by Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint. Poussaint said, "You wouldn't expect [Justice] Clarence Thomas to love black people. You wouldn't expect black conservatives to love black people."

Kane responds:

I felt compelled to mention to Poussaint that, as a conservative who loves black people, I had a problem with his assertion. At any rate, I didn't know there was a contest going on. Will all the winners of the "We Love Black Folks Contest" please raise their hands?

I don't know who started this nonsense about who loves black folks the most, but I do know this: People who don't give a tinker's damn about you will tell you what you want to hear, or what they think you want to hear. People who love you will tell you what you need to hear.

So who loves black people the most? Those of us, no matter what our politics are, who say that blacks can't blame white racism for all - or even most - of what afflicts us and that we have to take some responsibility for doing things ourselves? Do those blacks who say racism and the system hold black folks back while patronizing those black parents who have no interest in their children's education really "love" black folks?

Is loving black people telling them that pouring more money into public schools will save public education or is it those black conservatives who said, long before Cosby did, "Hey, it's the parents, stupid" who are showing the love?

Well, it can't be us black conservatives, according to Poussaint. We "don't love" black people. Poussaint isn't the first to utter this nonsense, of course. I've had some e-mailers, callers and letter writers tell me that all the time. When I remind them that two of the most famous black conservatives, Booker T. Washington and Birmingham, Ala., businessman A.G. Gaston, did more for black folks in one day than detractors of black conservatives have done all their lives, the commentators move the goal posts.

Washington and Gaston, they will contend, weren't "real" black conservatives.

Once they're done rewriting history with a wave of the hand, they get back to telling me how Mr. Justice Thomas has single-handedly reduced the quality of life for every black man, woman and child living in America. Thomas and other black conservatives "don't love" black people, you know, certainly not the way other factions within the black body politic love it.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panther Party, the revolutionary faction, showed its love for black people by having its members intimidate, alienate and terrorize black nationalist groups the Panthers labeled "pork chop nationalists."
Renegade members of the Nation of Islam showed their love for black folks in 1973 by massacring several black women and children belonging to the Hanafi Muslim sect in Washington, D.C.

Several years later, Hanafi Muslims, seeking what they called "justice" for the 1973 murders, took several hostages and committed one murder. The victim? A black reporter for Howard University's radio station. I guess we could say the reporter was "loved" to death.

Two members of a "pork chop nationalist" group headed by Ron Karenga - the same guy who gave us Kwanzaa - shot two members of the Black Panther Party to death in 1968. In the spirit of love, of course.

Liberal blacks frequently show their love - as the Congressional Black Caucus did several years ago - by questioning the intellectual capabilities of black students and implying they'll flunk standardized tests not even created.

With love like this going around, maybe black folks need somebody black who'll hate us a little.

Sunday, December 05, 2004
On this day:

Capitalism and Freedom

I've just started reading Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman. The book was originally published in 1962, but as with so much of Friedman's work, it is still very much relevant today. Here's a taste, from the introduction:

In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. That paternalistic "what your country can do for you" implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, "what you can do for your country" implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served...

The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms, that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in the political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they be not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp...

It is extremely convenient to have a label for the political and economic viewpoint elaborated in this book. The rightful and proper label is liberalism. Unfortunately, "As a supreme, if unintended compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label", so that liberalism has, in the United States, come to have a very different meaning than it did in the nineteenth century or does today over much of the Continent of Europe...

Because of the corruption of the term liberalism, the views that formerly went under that name are now often labeled conservatism. But this is not a satisfactory alternative. The nineteenth-century liberal was a radical, both in the etymological sense of going to the root of the matter, and in the political sense of favoring major changes in social institutions. So too must be his modern heir. We do not wish to conserve the state interventions that have interfered so greatly with our freedom, though of course, we do wish to conserve those that have promoted it...

Partly because of my reluctance to surrender the term to proponents of measures that would destroy liberty, partly because I cannot find a better alternative, I shall resolve these difficulties by using the word liberalism in its original sense - as the doctrines pertaining to a free man.


Prohibition ended on this day in 1933 after Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment.

Friday, December 03, 2004
On this day:

Southern Appeal Adds Two Bama Bloggers

Southern Appeal has added Alabamians Nathan A. Forrester and Marc James Ayers to their crew of bloggers. Could this mean more Bama-related posts over at SA?
Nate is the former (and first) solicitor general of the State of Alabama, and he clerked for the Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, from 1993-94, and for the Honorable J. Harvie Wilkinson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, from 1992-93.

Marc served as law clerk (1998-99) and senior staff attorney (2001-2004) to Associate Justice J. Gorman Houston, Jr. of the Alabama Supreme Court. Between those positions, he was in private practice, specializing in appellate litigation and constitutional and administrative law. Marc also served as an adjunct professor of law, teaching First Amendment Law, Administrative Law, Public Interest Law, and Legal Research and Writing.

Both gentlemen currently work for Bradley Arant White & Rose, one of the premier law firms in Birmingham, Alabama (if not the premier firm).

Thursday, December 02, 2004
On this day:

America: F*** Yeah

OK...I really shouldn't post this. It's vulgar, crude, and socially unacceptable. Do not click on the link if you are offended by profanity, nudity, crude humor, or anything else. Do not click on it if you are under 18. Do not click on it if you are from Palm Beach County.

OK...just don't click on it. I'm warning you. Don't.

OK...don't say I didn't warn you.

Alabamians: Good at "Picking Cotton, Singing Mournful Songs and Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd", Bad at Putting Cars Together

So says page 2 of this article in the London Times. Possumblog's response to this limey slight is right on the mark.

Suggestion to Dan Rather/CBS News: Learn Choctaw

From Marginal Revolution:

A group of British scientists has come up with a brain-taxing spin on the
old formula of 100 things to do before you die.

The group - which includes the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins,
astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield and the inventor
James Dyson - urges us all to take samples of our DNA, measure the speed of
light with chocolate, and solve the mathematical mystery of the number

The list, compiled by New Scientist magazine, suggests booking to see
Galileo's middle finger (preserved in Florence) or ordering liquid nitrogen to
make the "world's smoothest ice-cream" at home.

Another option is learning Choctaw, a language with two past tenses -
one for giving information that is definitely true, the other for passing on
material taken without checking from someone else

Venezuela's Chavez: Arming for What?

Venezuela's President and Castro buddy Hugo Chavez was in Russia last week for talks with President Putin. The talks centered around cooperation between the two nations' oil industries. However, the two leaders also discussed military issues. Specifically, Chavez wants to buy 40 helicopters, 100,000 semiautomatic rifles, an unspecified number of anti-missile and anti-tank weapons, and as many as 50 MiG-29 fighter jets to replace its current batch of F-16's.

When they first met in 2001, Chavez and Putin declared their intent to form a strategic alliance against U.S. dominance as the world's only superpower. Since then, economic and military ties between Russia and Venezuela have grown stronger, as evidenced by last week's meeting.

U.S. officials have taken notice of the emerging relationship. One unnamed government official said following the meeting, "Let me put it this way: We shoot down MiGs."

Mobile Register Calls for Lowder to Resign

The Mobile Register has weighed in on Auburn trustee Bobby Lowder.

As a Bama grad, I'm not very much in tune with Auburn University politics, but I understand that Mr. Lowder's heavy-handed control of the Board of Trustees has put Auburn's SACS accreditation in jeopardy.

Why is lack of trustee oversight and control such a central element in college accreditation? It seems to me that one problem in higher ed is that trustees and state agencies often exercise too little oversight of University activities. I think that the issue at Auburn is unique, in that proper oversight has degenerated into control, but does anyone know where SACS draws that line?

Tariffs on Seafood Upheld

Alabama's shrimpers may be happy now that tariffs on imports from China and Vietnam have been upheld, but consumers will be on the losing end by paying more at stores and restaurants. Perhaps more importantly, I'd look for China and Vietnam to retaliate against American exports in the near future.

"Blog" is Webster's Word of the Year

"Blog" is Merriam-Websters #1 word of the year for 2004.
blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer

Rep. Gerald Allen: Book Burner?

This story is making the rounds in the nationwide media, including Fox and CNN.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public
funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or
promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."

...Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

Even though it seems that Rep. Allen's bill goes way overboard, the response from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok is predictably over-the-top: "It sounds like Nazi book burning to me."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
On this day:

Anniston Star Sticks Up for Dan Rather

Nonetheless, they make a good point about the "loud and rude exchanges and name-calling" that have come to typify the news on the various cable networks. However, I think they are missing the overall picture.

People who follow the news regularly are supplementing, if not supplanting, broadcast journalism, with news gleaned from the electronic media. Journalism has transformed from an industry dominated by media monopolies to one in which people can get reliable news from multiple sources.

Monopolistic enterprises like the Anniston "Red Star" can no longer ignore market forces and hope to survive. For good or bad, Dan Rather's downfall was one of the first major upheavals in the media revolution. Others will undoubtedly follow. It would suit the "old media" well to recognize this fact and move on, rather than to sit behind their mahogany desks whining about how it was so much easier to dupe the public in the old days.


Just two weeks ago, the press and some economists were spinning that the U.S. might be seeing a significant uptick in inflation. I posted on it at the time here. A link to the original AP story that was run in newspapers nationwide is here.

Today, however, the Commerce Department has reported that core inflation, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, remains at the lowest levels since the 1960's. (Link via the Drudge Report.)

This is just one more reason never to trust the MSM's reporting on the state of the economy. In general, they are either too incompetent or too biased to give an accurate assessment.

In Alabama, It's Still a "Christmas Tree"

The State Christmas Tree was hauled to a spot in front of the Capitol building in Montgomery Monday. The tree-lighting ceremony will be on Friday, December 10. In Washington, the Capitol "holiday tree" will be lit on December 9.

Auburn Faculty Asks Lowder and Miller to Resign

An organization of Auburn University faculty members voted Tuesday afternoon to ask trustees Bobby Lowder and Jack Miller to resign as the school awaits word on whether it will remain on academic probation.