Saturday, February 26, 2005
On this day:

Gone to Colorado

I'm headed out early tomorrow morning to Colorado for my first-ever ski trip. It'll be my first time to Colorado and my first time on a pair of skis. Here's hoping it's doesn't end up being the first time I break something. Anyway, I don't expect I'll be doing much bloggin' from out there, so I'll see all of y'all when I get back on Thursday.

Venezuela's Chavez: Socialism is the Cure

Castro clone Hugo Chavez has come out and admitted what everyone has known all along - he's a socialist. He believes in order to cure the problems that capitalism has failed to address, "We have to invent the socialism of the 21st century."

From the looks of what Chavez has been up to in Venezuela, the socialism of the 21st Century isn't much different from that of the 20th. Chavez's government has demonstrated little respect for civil liberties and even less for private property. In his favor, he doesn't seem to have imprisoned or murdered quite as many people as his good buddy Fidel has. So, maybe Chavez is trying to create a socialism with a kinder face.

Whatever the case may be, socialism is a dead-end path for any nation that chooses it. It attempts to alter the unalterable - human nature - leading to the inevitable conclusion that it can only be implemented at gunpoint. There is no reason to believe that its results will be any different now, under Mr. Chavez's leadership, than at any other time in history. I just hope that the good people of Venezuela come to their senses and kick this despot out before he ruins their country like his mentor has ruined Cuba.

Siegelman Still Under Investigation

This time, federal investigators are looking at state bond deals and a no-bid construction contract while Siegelman was Governor.

From the Mobile Register:
The ongoing corruption probe into activities when Don Siegelman was governor now includes a no-bid construction contract to a Birmingham company hand-picked by Siegelman and a program that allows companies to borrow money cheaply through the sale of tax-exempt bonds.

In an interview with the B'ham news, Siegelman said, "It sure has the ring of politics. We're right here in the beginning of the 2006 election cycle."

The ring of politics, or the ring of corruption? Siegelman's role in spreading money around to is buddies may or may not have been illegal - that's for the lawyers to sort out - but it certainly seems unethical.

Mr. Siegelman is currently meeting with Alabama Democrats at various locations around the state he calls "listening posts" in order to gauge whether he has enough support to run for Governor again. For the sake of their party (not that I care or anything), Democrats would be wise to tell Don "no."

Friday, February 25, 2005
On this day:

Study: Alabama Reading Initiative is Working

Reading proficiency has improved significantly in those schools participating in the Alabama Reading Initiative, outpacing those in which the ARI has not been implemented. The State Board of Education's press release has more information, including this: "Of the top 10 schools making the most gains in Alabama, every school is an ARI or ARFI school. Of the 35 top scoring K-3 schools all but seven are ARI or ARFI (Alabama Reading First Initiative) schools."

Don't Tread on Me

Animal rights activists are upset over Kraft's new road kill candy.
Animal rights activists are disgusted by a new candy from Kraft Foods Inc. that's shaped like critters run over by cars -- complete with tire treads.

The fruity-flavored Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy -- in shapes of partly flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels -- fosters cruelty toward animals, according to the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Hehe...someone should send them a copy of this and this.

Alabama AG Troy King Leads in Defending Constitutionality of Pledge

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Virginia law requiring the pledge of allegiance to be recited in schools.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studios Closes

From the AP: The historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, where Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon all made classic records, has closed.

See also here. Fact: Cher named an album "3614 Jackson Highway," after the studio's address.

Thursday, February 24, 2005
On this day:

"Silliest Commentary on the Larry Summers Flap"

NRO's John Derbyshire smacks down columnist Andrea Peyser's misstatement of Harvard Prez Larry Summers's remarks.

Here's Ms. Peyser (emphasis added):
WELL, he said it. Harvard University President Lawrence Summers did, in fact, declare that, in his learned opinion as head of one of the world's leading educational institutions, women, on average, are dumber than men.

And here's the Derb's excellent rebuttal:
Summers did not say anything of the kind. The only thing he said that even came close was: "There is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means -- which can be debated -- there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population."

The word "means" here means "averages." There are all sorts of differences between men and women in their mean measurement of various attributes -- rates of incarceration, for instance. Whether there is a difference in means for cognitive ability is, as Summers said, debatable. (If there is one, it is small.) There is no doubt, however, that there are differences in standard deviation; and that, as Summers also said, such differences have large effects at the tails of the bell curve: "Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out."

To understand the difference between a mean and a standard deviation, you need to have mastered some elementary statistics, a thing that plainly Andrea Peyser never bothered with.
Derb's right...this is a lesson straight from Statistics 101.

Legislators Question Constitutionality of No Child Left Behind

The National Conference of State Legislatures has just released a report stating that it believes the No Child Left Behind Act to be an unconstitutional usurpation of power by the federal government. Here's the relevant passage:

The standards-based education reform movement has followed much the same path as many other public policy innovations in the United States. Innovation and experimentation began in a few state legislatures, then others adapted the reforms to the unique cultures and circumstances in their states. A second and even third generation of reforms refined the initial approaches. And, with passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government incorporated many of the state reforms into a single national policy, thereby significantly expanding the federal role in the administration of elementary education. But this assertion of federal authority into an area historically reserved to the states has had the effect of curtailing additional state innovations and undermining many that had occurred during the past three decades.

It also has questionable constitutional underpinnings. It pits the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers to the states, against the spending clause of Article I, which allows the federal government to attach conditions to grants it provides to the states. Although the spending clause often has trumped the 10th Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court, in South Dakota vs. Dole and other decisions, has placed constraints on how Congress may exercise its powers under the spending clause. The Task Force is concerned that NCLB fails to meet two of the South Dakota vs. Dole tests: its grant conditions are not unambiguous and it uses coercion and not financial inducement to attain state participation.
The full report can be found here.

Canada Expected to Reject Participation in North American Missile Defense

U.S. officials are perplexed at Canada's apparent refusal to join in deploying a missile defense system.

(CP) - Canada's apparent decision to stay out of a North American missile-defence system has dumbfounded Americans as an unnecessary giveaway of sovereignty, Washington's envoy to Ottawa said Wednesday.

"We don't get it," [U.S. ambassador to Canada] Paul Cellucci said in Toronto. "If there's a missile incoming, and it's heading toward Canada, you are going to leave it up to the United States to determine what to do about that missile. We don't think that is in Canada's sovereign interest."

...Regardless, said Cellucci, Washington would press ahead with its plans.
"We will deploy. We will protect North America," he said.

"We think Canada would want to be in the room deciding what to do about an incoming missile that might be heading toward Canada."

Samuel Smith at Pros and Cons offers one possible explanation for Canada's obstinacy: "Canada is like the giant tortoise of the Galapagos has no natural predators."

House Votes for Queen Bee Over Monarch Butterfly

Looks like Alabama will soon have a new state insect.
Rep. Sue Schmitz, D-Toney, said the queen honey bee should be the official state insect because it plays a key part in the making of honey and in the pollination of plants. She estimated the queen honey bee is worth about $400 million a year to the state's economy.

As Schmitz spoke in favor of making the queen honey bee the state insect, other legislators chanted "monarch butterfly" in the background.

"I do love the butterfly, but the butterfly doesn't bring us any revenue," Schmitz said.
They chanted? I daresay that our state legislators aren't affording this measure the seriousness it deserves.

Scientists Observe Brightest Flash on Record

...and it wasn't in New Orleans.

In related news, a sea of ice has been found on Mars.

Republicans Go On Offense for Riley's Budget

...with a radio ad campaign and a newspaper insert that appeared earlier this week. I saw the ad in the Huntsville Times and thought it was pretty effective, although the choice to run it on a Tuesday struck me as kind of odd.

Also, in a direct challenge to the AEA, several former teachers of the year have lined up publicly behind Riley's education budget.

So far, AEA has not fired back with its own advertising campaign, but AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert said the teachers' organization will respond soon.

"My mother taught me one time that you can't let a weak man pound on you forever because that will bring a strong man down," Hubbert said.

Wait a minute...who's the "weak man" here? This coming from the strongest and most feared lobbyist in the state.

Water Plant Shuts Down

So how will they keep that fire under control?

(OK...that was pretty lame. Don't hold it against me.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
On this day:

Alabama Democratic Party Blog

The Alabama Democratic Party has a new blog here.

Gift Ideas

A Condi Rice action figure...or maybe Howard Dean (scroll down and click on the Howard Dean Volume 2 sound clip.)

Fall Race at Talladega to Get New Name: The UAW-Ford 500

From the AP:
The fall NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co.

The Oct. 2 race will be called the UAW-Ford 500, track and company officials announced Tuesday.
So does this mean that the pit crews will go on strike and the cars will break down halfway through the race?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
On this day:

Artur Davis Speaks on Social Security

I say something nice about Rep. Davis, and he goes and ruins it with a passionate defense of welfare state liberalism:
"Social Security says that we owe things to people regardless of who and what they are, we owe things to people who can't do anything for us because we're big enough and noble enough to believe in that."

Blue Screen of Death

How many of us have felt like doing this?

Valuing Diversity at Yale

The campus crackdown on free inquiry continues at Yale.

Derb Dissects a Diversity Seminar

University of Alabama SGA candidates weren't the only ones enduring a diversity seminar this week. NRO's John Derbyshire sat down among the diversitoids recently, too.

Sitting round in the horseshoe like that, I got a closer look at my fellow participants. The women were, of course, the most enthusiastic. The whole affair, in fact, was running on estrogen. The general atmosphere was that peculiar mix of insistent niceness and angry menace that women are so good at. We are frail, sweet, and sorely oppressed, and you had better be nice to us... OTHERWISE WE WILL SMASH YOU TO PIECES. There was much talk of "sensitivity" and "understanding"; words like "efficiency," "measurement," "standards," came up only as pejoratives. The idea that excellence could be quantified was greeted with unanimous scorn and laughter. A person foolish enough to let slip the word "objectivity" was quickly hooted down by the others. There is no such thing as objectivity! I made a quiet, uncollectable bet with myself that I was the only person in the room with a degree in anything more mathematically rigorous than sociology.

...The diversity ideology is, as Peter Wood pointed out in his fine book on the subject..."a closed loop of thought and experience. Once one enters this loop and accepts the main propositions of diversity, it is difficult to see out of it."

Diversity is, in short, a cult; and I started to feel that if I hung out in that room much longer, I should be in need of some serious deprogramming. In any case, it was time for my own event. I snuck out quietly, leaving the pod people all ululating in happy unison at someone's mention of Larry Summers.

Washington Bios

I just finished reading Joseph Ellis's His Excellency: George Washington. It's probably the first biography about Washington I've read since the one about the cherry tree in elementary school. Actually, I kinda sorta read this book by Forrest McDonald, but it is more a historical account of Washington's presidency than a biography. Also, it was required reading for a class in college, and you know how that goes. There were so many better things to do than read back then.

Anyhoo...His Excellency was a great read. Go pick up a copy while it's cheap! (40% off at Barnes and Noble or BAM with a discount card, I think.). There's no revisionism here...just good, readable history. Forrest McDonald's review for the New York Times points out a few minor factual errors and errors of omission, but is still quite favorable overall.

To demysticize this larger-than-life, quasi-divine personage, to make him understandable as a human being, is the formidable task Ellis has set for himself. By and large, he succeeds...

Notwithstanding [its] shortcomings, this is an enjoyable book. Yet, finally, it is not the best one-volume treatment of Washington. That distinction belongs to Richard Brookhiser's ''Founding Father.''

There's another one to put on my reading list.

George Washington - The Indispensible Man

"First in war - first in peace - and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.

"To his equals he was condescending, to his inferiors kind and to the dear object of his affections exemplarily tender; correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues."

- General Henry Lee, eulogizing George Washington, December, 1799

Monday, February 21, 2005
On this day:

Walls of Jericho

One more reason to support Forever Wild.

About a week after [Mobile Register's Karen Tolkinner's] trip [to the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County], several state senators, including Gary Tanner, D-Mobile, launched an effort to take one-third of the Forever Wild program's money and give it to volunteer fire departments.

A majority of voters decided in 1992 that they wanted the money to protect environmentally important land.

If the Forever Wild program's funding had been reduced a couple years ago, the door to the Walls might still be locked. An important part of Alabama's natural heritage might still be hidden.

It seems to me that Forever Wild is a program worth preserving. See an editorial from the Mobile Register editorial here. The B'ham News weighs in here.

The Power of Blogs

The government in Iran is cracking down on blogs. And, the mainstream media in Europe is getting a little testy as blogs and web dailies keep them on their toes.

Czech Teen Mistranslates Historic American Campaign Slogan: Mother Suffers in Hospital's supposed to be "A Chicken in Every Pot!"

UA Requires Mandatory Diversity Training for Student Government Candidates

Candidates for Student Government at the University of Alabama are attending a mandatory leftist indoctrination diversity training session this evening. Someone must really think it's important - the announcement is written in all caps on the UA SGA's web site:


The diversity experience...sounds like a wonderful idea. There's no more fitting place to celebrate the diversity of ideas than on a university campus. Unfortunately, the type of "diversity training" that's in store for UA's student leaders doesn't place much value on ideas - at least not those that challenge the politically correct orthodoxy that currently rules on campus. One thing is guaranteed at these seminars - intellectual diversity is not to be tolerated. There will be lots of talk about oppression and oppressors. Lots of talk about race, gender, and sexual orientation.

And, the message will be pretty clear: People are defined by their race, gender, and sexual orientation. Black people think alike. White people think alike. Gay people think alike. Straight people think alike. You can never fully understand what it's like to be part of another group, so don't even try. Just realize where you fall on the oppressor vs. oppressee scale, and act accordingly.

If you are an oppressor, you should feel very guilty. You should attend rallies and light candles. Be understanding when oppressees incite riots and light buildings on fire.

If you are an oppressor, you should be philanthropic. You should organize silent auctions and donate the proceeds to charity. Be sympathetic when oppressees loot stores downtown, and be sure not to complain when they demand to keep their brand new TV sets.

If you are an oppressor, you should be generous. Write your Congressman and ask him to support more government spending for the poor and disaffected. This should make it less likely that oppressees will smash the windows of the dirty rich bastards whose tax dollars provided their last check.

If you are an oppressor, you should value diversity. Attend or organize a diversity training seminar at least once a year. Just be wary of allowing any "unusual" ideological views to pop up. Those rascally conservatives can be quite convincing sometimes, and you wouldn't want to let one of them speak up too much.

Monday Holidays

Another pet peeve of mine is the Monday holiday thing. Washington's Birthday is on Feb. 22, and that's the day it should be celebrated, whether or not that affords guv'mint employees the luxury of a three-day weekend. Screw convenience. I'm sure that camping out at Valley Forge wasn't too convenient most days. Neither was leading an army across the icy Delaware river on Christmas night. I'll bet a three-day respite from fighting the Redcoats would have been nice from time to would have really helped to improve "employee morale."

Anyway...I'm gonna quit whining and get back to work now.

Oh, and be sure to tune back in tomorrow for the celebration of Washington's Birthday.

Bring Back Washington's Birthday

I never have liked this contrived holiday called "Presidents' Day." First of all, the day is still officially known as "Washington's Birthday" by the federal government. Contrary to popular belief, there is no federal law on the books renaming it "Presidents' Day."

Secondly, replacing Washington's Birthday with an annual pick-your-favorite-president holiday is exactly the wrong thing to do in a nation that already has too difficult a time remembering the heroes of its past. Given the fact that Washington stands above all others as the preeminent American hero, his life is not one that we should so easily determine to forget.

So, I wish this man all the best in convincing Americans to bring back Washington's Birthday. (Link: National Review Online.)

"I Just Feel I'm Meant to Be Here"

That's according to Jill Holland, a Brit who was stranded in Alabama for 8 months after her passport was stolen from an Oxford parking lot. She liked the state so much she plans to come back permanently. "You're told in America you can lie down dead on the road and they'll walk over you, but not in Alabama." And, she's got some ideas for helping out "the locals" after she returns.

"I think I have a purpose in helping people," she said.

A specialist in aromatherapy, the practice of using oils from flowers, plants, seeds etc. in healing, Holland wants to help locals, and especially women, change some of their unhealthy habits.

"This is a pill society and an overmedicated society," she said.

Food is a primary issue.

"I'd literally spend hours in a supermarket reading the labels," said Holland, who still marvels at the amount and variety of processed foods available.

Back home, she said, they make mostly everything from scratch.

Alabamians' eating habits are a byproduct of an over-consumerist culture, she said.

"You're encouraged to spend here," she said. "You're encouraged to get into debt here."

But the natural beauty and spirituality of the area overshadow the negatives for Holland.

"I found a different spirituality here," said Holland.

Other plans include motivating people to match the natural beauty of their area with clean surroundings.

A competition between trailer parks, for example, could induce tenants to keep them clean, she said.

"So that they have pride in whatever they live in," Holland said.

Competition between trailer parks...I like that. Welcome home, Ms. Holland!

Alabama's Artur Davis a "Rising Star of the Democratic Caucus"

...according to a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Artur Davis has had the title of congressman for barely two years, but he has racked up several others in recent weeks as Democratic leaders are increasingly turning to him to help revive the party's fortunes in the South.

Since the beginning of the year, the Birmingham, Ala., lawmaker has been dubbed as a senior deputy whip, a regional co-chair of the party's efforts to win more House seats, and a leader of the New Democratic Coalition, a group of moderates created during the Clinton administration.

I like Davis. He's probably the closest thing to a conservative that can be hoped for from Alabama's 7th District, and is a tremendous improvement over the embarrassing Earl Hilliard. He also has a very impressive biography.

Who Controls the Artifacts

One of the big issues in the Alabama legislature involves access to artifacts lying at the bottom of Alabama waterways, pitting "amateur archaeologists" and collectors against the professionals.

Honey Bee Good

Legislators are considering whether to replace the monarch butterfly with the queen honeybee as the official state insect.

Poll: Baxley Would Beat Either Riley or Moore

And, Siegelman is the weakest candidate of them all.

Ho-hum. Polls this early in the season are pretty useless. But, here's the news article from the Mobile Register, in case anyone's curious.

Our Real Friends

Or, maybe a better title would be, "No Friends, Only Interests."

As Japan announces its agreement with the U.S. over Taiwan, the EU is contemplating removing the arms embargo against China - arms that could be used against us in any potential conflict in the Taiwan Straits.

Where is Kim Jong-Il? ...and Japan's New Assertiveness

At the same time the Chinese government was condemning the U.S. and Japan for declaring Taiwan to be a "mutual security concern," it sent a top Chi-Com Party official to North Korea in an attempt to persuade the Communist government there to return to six-nation talks over its nuclear program.

The Chi-Com official, Wang Jiarui, is slated to meet with Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. It'll be interesting to see whether any photos emerge from that meeting, as there the Dear Leader has been conspicuously absent from the public view recently, prompting speculation about his whereabouts and even his grip on power.

All of this was happening as Japan's foreign minister was in Washington talking Taiwan, missile defense, and North Korea.

In Washington, Japan's foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, said he hoped China "will serve the role not just as a mere moderator, but also as a player actively at work on the North Koreans" to rejoin the talks.

In response, North Korea criticized Japan's new defense guidelines, which singled out North Korean missiles as a threat and allowed Japan to pursue a missile defense program with Washington. According to Pyongyang, the guidelines adopted in December were a sign that Tokyo has joined "U.S. vicious hostile policy" toward its communist state.

While all eyes are focused on China, the importance of Japan's role in world affairs shouldn't be understated. They are a powerful friend of the United States, and are increasingly willing to use that power in defense of their interests. Japanese influence may well end up being the single biggest factor in bringing the North Korean situation to a peaceful (hopefully) conclusion. The stepped-up cooperation between the U.S. and Japan is encouraging and even poignant - two free and independent nations standing together against tyranny - whether on the Korean peninsula or in the Taiwan Straits.

"China's Taiwan"

The new joint security statement by the U.S. and Japan has met with the typical Chi-Com reaction to such expressions of solidarity with the free Chinese on Taiwan.
In Beijing, the official New China News Agency described the statement as "unprecedented" and quoted China's Foreign Ministry as saying that the country "resolutely opposes the United States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan, which meddles in the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty."

Saturday, February 19, 2005
On this day:

Students Express Opposition to Speech Code at UA

It's nice to see that some students know what real censorship is.

Vagina Monologues Playing in Tuscaloosa

...and it's generating some controversy. Apparently, it got bumped for Team America: World Police in the student center. (Gotta love that!) And wouldn't you know it...the gals putting on the show are crying "censorship."
If you've ever felt censored, if you've ever been angry, if you have a vagina or just love the idea of women talking and screaming about vaginas, then come join. And men shouldn't be scared - it's not man-hating, just vagina-loving.
Uh-huh. OK.

Friday, February 18, 2005
On this day:

U.S. Policy on North Korea - Playing the China Card

China plays a pivotal role in the effort to persuade North Korea to abandon its policy of nuclear blackmail. However, North Korea's "we have nukes" announcement last week and its refusal to return to the six-nation talks illustrate that China has been either unable or unwilling to pressure North Korea into cooperating.

Given all of that, I guess it's not surprising that there was a notable shift in tone in the administration's China policy this week. First, CIA Director Porter Goss delivered a threat assessment to a Senate Committee that deemphasized areas of cooperation between China and the U.S., focusing almost exclusively on the growing Chinese military threat. Later in the week, the Washington Post reported that for the first time, the U.S. and Japan are set to declare that Taiwan is a "mutual security concern," thereby "laying the groundwork" for Japanese assistance in the event of Chinese military action against Taiwan. For the Chinese, the prospect of a more assertive Japan could be just what is needed to get the them to play ball on the North Korean standoff. Let's hope it works.

Summers's Speech - Excerpts and Comments

After reading the transcript of Dr. Summers's speech, it is difficult to sympathize with the defenders of PC orthodoxy whose fits of hysteria led him to apologize for his alleged insensitivity. In his speech, Summers put forth a logical approach to the issue, asking exactly the right questions in response to factual observations.

Dr. Summers opened his remarks by stating his intention to provoke thought about the "whys" surrounding the underrepresentation of women in the fields of science and engineering.

I asked Richard, when he invited me to come here and speak, whether he wanted an institutional talk about Harvard's policies toward diversity or whether he wanted some questions asked and some attempts at provocation, because I was willing to do the second and didn't feel like doing the first. And so we have agreed that I am speaking unofficially and not using this as an occasion to lay out the many things we're doing at Harvard to promote the crucial objective of diversity... I'm going to confine myself to addressing one portion of the problem, or of the challenge we're discussing, which is the issue of women's representation in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions, not because that's necessarily the most important problem or the most interesting problem, but because it's the only one of these problems that I've made an effort to think in a very serious way about. The other prefatory comment that I would make is that I am going to, until most of the way through, attempt to adopt an entirely positive, rather than normative approach, and just try to think about and offer some hypotheses as to why we observe what we observe without seeing this through the kind of judgmental tendency that inevitably is connected with all our common goals of equality.

He goes on to discuss three hypotheses that could explain the underrepresentation of women in certain fields.

First, he discusses what he calls the "high-powered job hypothesis."

...the most prestigious activities in our society expect of people who are going to rise to leadership positions in their forties near total commitments to their work. They expect a large number of hours in the office, they expect a flexibility of schedules to respond to contingency, they expect a continuity of effort through the life cycle, and they expect-and this is harder to measure-but they expect that the mind is always working on the problems that are in the job, even when the job is not taking place. And it is a fact about our society that that is a level of commitment that a much higher fraction of married men have been historically prepared to make than of married women. That's not a judgment about how it should be, not a judgment about what they should expect. But it seems to me that it is very hard to look at the data and escape the conclusion that that expectation is meeting with the choices that people make and is contributing substantially to the outcomes that we observe.

Second, he discusses the "different availability of aptitude at the high end," pointing to data showing that the aptitudes of males in math and science vary over a wider range than do those of females.

It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability - there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means - which can be debated - there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined...if my reading of the data is right - it's something people can argue about - that there are some systematic differences in variability in different populations, then whatever the set of attributes are that are precisely defined to correlate with being an aeronautical engineer at MIT or being a chemist at Berkeley, those are probably different in their standard deviations as well.

The third hypothesis is that the problem arises out of "different socialization and patterns of discrimination." He expresses doubts that either of them adequately explain the differences in representation.

[Addressing socialization]...what we've learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization. We've been astounded by the results of separated twins studies. The confident assertions that autism was a reflection of parental characteristics that were absolutely supported and that people knew from years of observational evidence have now been proven to be wrong. And so, the human mind has a tendency to grab to the socialization hypothesis when you can see it, and it often turns out not to be true.

[Addressing discrimination]...there's a real question as to how plausible it is to believe that there is anything like half as many people who are qualified to be scientists at top ten schools and who are now not at top ten schools...

If it was really the case that everybody was discriminating, there would be very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating, because of what it would mean for the pool that was available. And there are certainly examples of institutions that have focused on increasing their diversity to their substantial benefit, but if there was really a pervasive pattern of discrimination that was leaving an extraordinary number of high-quality potential candidates behind, one suspects that in the highly competitive academic marketplace, there would be more examples of institutions that succeeded substantially by working to fill the gap. And I think one sees relatively little evidence of that.

His conclusion is that these first two hypotheses, taken together, are the most likely explanation for the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering.

So my sense is that the unfortunate truth - I would far prefer to believe something else, because it would be easier to address what is surely a serious social problem if something else were true - is that the combination of the high-powered job hypothesis and the differing variances probably explains a fair amount of this problem...

So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.

Finally, Dr. Summers expresses his respect for those who hold differing opinions and welcomes research that proves him wrong. It is unfortunate that his detractors don't have the same high regard for free inquiry.

Let me just conclude by saying that I've given you my best guesses after a fair amount of reading the literature and a lot of talking to people. They may be all wrong. I will have served my purpose if I have provoked thought on this question and provoked the marshalling of evidence to contradict what I have said. But I think we all need to be thinking very hard about how to do better on these issues and that they are too important to sentimentalize rather than to think about in as rigorous and careful ways as we can.

Summers Transcript

The transcript of Harvard President Larry Summers' "insensitive" speech on diversifying the science and engineering work force has been posted here.

Thursday, February 17, 2005
On this day:

Kim Jong-Il

Yesterday, North Koreans were forced to celebrate the birth of Kim Jong-Il. Today, we mourn its aftermath.
North Korea flouted the international community last Thursday by announcing it had nuclear weapons and was staying away from international nuclear talks where the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have urged it to abandon its nuclear ambitions...

"The Americans swagger like a tiger around the world, but they whimper before our Republic as the tiger does before the porcupine,'' Pyongyang Radio said. "That's because we have our Great Leader Kim Jong Il, who is undefeatable.''
(By the way, did anyone notice if the Little Dictator showed up for his party?)

Appealing to the Base

Senator Clinton wants to allow ex-felons to vote. Nice to know she hasn't forgotten all her old friends.

Editorial Roundup on Telephone Deregulation

The Mobile Register and Huntsville Times have editorialized in favor of deregulation. The Montgomery Advertiser isn't so sure.

PSC Courts Alfa to Oppose Telecom Bill

The Public Service Commission is seeking the support of the Alabama Farmer's Federation (Alfa) in its fight against telephone deregulation.

PSC President Jim Sullivan said the commission is courting Alfa because of the organization's connection to rural Alabama, but he noted, too, that state regulators will welcome other allies in fighting the BellSouth-backed proposal.

According to the PSC, if the bill passes, large companies like BellSouth will lower rates in competitive urban areas "in order to eliminate any remaining competition. When that remaining competition is gone, prices will go up and the affected customers will have no competitive alternative available."
The PSC's statement completely ignores the changes that are taking place in the telecommunications industry. Many people have dropped their home telephone service altogether, substituting their home telephone with a cell phone. Why shouldn't landline providers be able to compete under the same rules as wireless providers?

In addition, cable companies will soon offer VoIP (voice-over internet protocol), which allows people to use high-speed internet connections to make phone calls. Like wireless, VoIP is also largely free of PSC regulation.

Another emerging technology is broadband over powerlines (BPL), which provides data, voice, and video communications via elecrical power transmission lines.

A statement issued by BellSouth says it all: "market-based competition will allow consumers to choose from new services, more choices and better prices. Market-based competition, not government regulation, delivers for consumers."

It's time to create a level playing field so that companies and technologies can compete freely in an ever-more-vibrant telecommunications market.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
On this day:

The Bellsouth Bill - Deregulating Telecom in Alabama

As advancing technology continues to transform the telecommunications industry, it is becoming more and more apparent that government regulations have not kept up with the revolutionary changes that have occurred. A market that was once dominated by monopolies providing traditional landline services has broadened and become increasingly competitive. In most local markets, cable, wireless, and satellite providers now compete directly with telephone companies to meet the demand for voice, video, and data communications.

However, the combination of federal and state regulations currently in effect largely assume a market that is still dominated by monopolies. This highly-regulated environment discourages new market entrants, penalizes innovation, creates market uncertainty, and restricts competition.

One proposal winding its way through the state legislature this session would take a big step towards deregulation of the telecommunications industry in Alabama. Called the Communications Reform Act of 2005, it would remove the Alabama Public Service Commission’s power to regulate broadband services and “bundled offerings” by local exchange carriers. (“Bundled offerings” are packages consisting of basic telephone service plus “premium” services like call waiting, voice mail, caller ID, internet service, etc. Local exchange carriers are companies that provide traditional landline telephone communications.)

The PSC would retain its authority to hear complaints, enforce contractual obligations, and set standards for new market entrants. It would also retain the authority to regulate basic telephone service, and rate increases for basic service would be limited to the inflation rate.

Even so, all three members of the PSC, two of whom are Republicans, have announced their opposition to the bill. Commission Chairman Jim Sullivan says, "We believe that this legislation will guarantee rate increases." Commissioner George Wallace, Jr. brought up the memory of dear old dad in expressing his opposition:

Wallace said he rode with his father back to the Governor's Mansion after the elder Wallace in 1986 announced he was retiring from politics. The governor asked the state trooper driving the van to stop along Dexter Avenue so he could look at the Capitol and reflect on the past, Wallace said.

"And the only thing he said in that moment was, "Don't let the rich and powerful take over at the expense of the people.' And I think this bill will do that," Wallace said.

The senior George Wallace left the Governor's office in 1987. It's possible that Alabama's current telecom regulations would have been well-suited for the market as it existed then. However, the Legislature should recognize the realities of 2005, and should pass this bill into law.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
On this day:

Fair Use and Blogging

A blogger in Tulsa has been threatened with legal action by the Tulsa World newspaper for reproducing articles and editorials from the Tulsa World newspaper and for "inappropriately" linking his website to Tulsa World content. The newpaper has demanded that he remove all Tulsa World content from his blog, including links to the Tulsa World web site. Haha! Yeah, right. Tulsa World Tulsa World Tulsa World

It sounds to me like Tulsa World doesn't have much of a case. Fair use, baby. Although bloggers do need to be careful and courteous when they use other people's material. Here are several sites with tips on avoiding copyright infringement:

Wired Magazine Fair Users Manual
Matt at Nerf-Coated World
4 Basic Questions About Copyright and Weblogs
14 Copyright Tips for Bloggers
New Media Musings: Fair Use of Photos on Blogs
Photo District News Online: Photos, Blogging, and Fair Use
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway (some links above from his blog)

Oh, and don't forget to let the folks at Tulsa World know what you think about their silly little newspaper.

No Brain, No Pain

A Norwegian study indicates that it is unlikely that lobsters feel pain when they are boiled. It's an issue that PETA has been very concerned about over the years.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, has made lobster pain part of its Fish Empathy Project, putting out stickers and pamphlets with slogans such as "Being Boiled Hurts. Let Lobsters Live." Group supporters regularly demonstrate at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland.

One lobster biologist from Maine who studied the matter while he was a graduate student sums up the study's conclusions as "No brain, no pain," which raises an interesting question. If you give a PETA member a noogie, will he scream?

Bush Renominates Pryor

President Bush sent 20 judicial nominees to the Senate Monday, including Alabama's own William Pryor, who has been nominated for a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Pryor's nomination was filibustered by Democrats in the Senate, but he has been serving under a recess appointment that expires at the end of this year.

Monday, February 14, 2005
On this day:

A Twinkle in Their Eyes

Alabama Republicans have elected Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh to be their party chairman. Only 38 years old, Cavanaugh has an impressive biography.
She taught school in Montgomery for one year after college; worked five years in Washington for the Republican National Committee; also worked for then-U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Ala., in Washington; returned to Montgomery in 1998 andworked in several Republican campaigns; served as executive director of the Alabama Republican Party from 1999 until January 2001, when she ran unsuccessfully for the chairmanship; served as state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy in 2001; ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in 2002; served as Gov. Bob Riley's appointments secretary and then as his deputy chief of staff from January 2003 until December 2004, when she resigned to seek the party chairmanship.
Cavanaugh says that her primary goal will be to help the party gain control the legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

A large part of the Republican Party's efforts will be directed at conservative Democrats in the legislature. Cavanaugh put them on notice that they should either consider switching their party affiliation or face tough, well-financed Republican opponents in the general election. She said, "We have had many successes, but we still have one battleground left to conquer, one institution left to change, and the time is now...No longer will someone be able to say that they play for one team but believe in the values of another. Have you ever heard of an Auburn football player saying, `Well, I play for Auburn, but I pull for Alabama?"'

For conservative Democrats, the call to switch parties could prove very enticing. Like Georgia's Zell Miller, many of them are tired of having to apologize to their constitutents for the policies of their national party. They realize that the Democratic Party in the South is a dying institution, devoid of ideas and beholden to teacher unions, trial lawyers, and the "diversity" industry. Add in the fact that most legislators would prefer to be part of the governing party, and the chances for a few Democratic defections seem high. The promise of an all-out Republican offensive to take control of the Legislature enhances those prospects, and Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh seems just the person to lead the fight.


From the last post:
Moody's also cited the state's legal and constitutional provisions that "ensure conservative fiscal practices."

Did I read that right? Praise for the Alabama Constitution?

Alabama's Financial Performance "Above Average"

Moody's Investors Service is considering upgrading Alabama's bond rating, a action that would lower the state's borrowing costs.

"Alabama's financial performance has been above average compared with other states," a bond analyst said. Moody's also cited the state's legal and constitutional provisions that "ensure conservative fiscal practices."

Governor Riley and the state legislature deserve a great deal of credit for adhering to sound financial practices in bringing the state through last year's budget crisis. The state's voters also deserve to be commended for ensuring fiscal discipline by rejecting a major tax increase at the ballot box in 2003.

Presidents of Stanford, MIT, and Princeton: Speculation Over "Innate Differences" Between Men and Women Must End

Three university presidents take on Harvard's Larry Summers for speculating that innate gender differences may explain why women are underrepresented in the fields of science and engineering.
The question we must ask as a society is not "can women excel in math, science, and engineering?" -- Marie Curie exploded that myth a century ago -- but "how can we encourage more women with exceptional abilities to pursue careers in these fields?" Extensive research on the abilities and representation of males and females in science and mathematics has identified the need to address important cultural and societal factors. Speculation that "innate differences" may be a significant cause for the under-representation of women in science and engineering may rejuvenate old myths and reinforce negative stereotypes and biases.

As the doors to free inquiry slam shut and the air in the tower grows stale...what wraiths will emerge from the darkness? What unseen mischief is fomented under the ivory-hued spires? Bwaa-ha-ha.

Charles and Camilla

I heard on the radio the other day that Charles and Camilla's plan to wed has renewed calls to disestablish the Church of England. It will be interesting to see whether antidisestablishmentarianism prevails.

(Hey, it's not often you get to use the longest word in the English language.)

Classified Ad

From today's Huntsville Times:

Executive desk solid peacan 5' wide by 30' deep w/separate protective glass top exc. cond. $450...


Sunday, February 13, 2005
On this day:

Abe's Birthday

Abraham Lincoln's birthday was seemed like a good time for me to finally finish reading The Real Lincoln, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. The book is harshly critical of Lincoln, calling him "The Great Centralizer," a man whose allegiance to the "Whig/Republican dream of a North American economic empire" led him to launch an invasion of the South that destroyed the constitutional doctrine of federalism and resulted in the barbaric subjugation of those who stood in his way.

As would be expected, DiLorenzo's assessment of ol' Abe was met with a great deal of criticism. See here, here, and here. A few positive reviews are here, here, and here. The transcript of a debate between DiLorenzo and Harry V. Jaffa, one of his harshest critics, is here.

Friday, February 11, 2005
On this day:

Accolades for Condi

Rich Lowry on NRO: "...after four years of Colin Powell, the United States now has a secretary of State in full."

Dick Morris: The Republicans should draft Condi to run for President.

Timothy Garton Ash writes in the Guardian about Rice's "charm offensive" during her European tour.

Helle Dale in the Washington Times: "Europeans have been known to value style over substance. In Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, they got both. Over the past week, during her official trip as America's chief diplomat, Miss Rice blew away the grumpy old men of Europe with her style, elegance and poise, combined with high intelligence and the authority that comes with having the confidence of the president of the United States. And she gave her first major foreign policy speech in Paris, to boot."

North Korean Heir Confirmed

Little Dictator Kim Jong-Il has apparently resolved his hair...ummm...heir issues.

Thursday, February 10, 2005
On this day:

Reagan Stamp

The new Reagan stamp was dedicated today. It's available online here.

Auburn Fans

War Egale!

ABamaBlog Exclusive - Recent North Korean Behavior Explained: Chinese Pressure Unlikely to Succeed In Near Future

Kim Jong-il (AP)

According to the New York Times:

Driven by new evidence that North Korea may have begun selling nuclear materials around the world, President Bush sent an emissary last week to see President Hu Jintao of China and urge him to intensify diplomatic pressure on the North to give up its weapons program, according to senior American and Asian officials.

I have my doubts as to whether the Chinese will have much success here. You see, the Little Dictator recently received a briefing from his intelligence agency regarding an intercepted conversation between Chinese President Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. In that conversation, Hu and Koizumi discussed the North Korean "heir issue." (Some background is here.)

Unfortunately, North Korean intelligence agents aren't the best translators in the world, and the title of the brief they delivered to the Dear Leader was "Hu and Koizumi Concerned about Dear Leader's Hair Issues." The Dear Leader was not at all happy with the foreign criticism of his coiffure, and many experts believe that his outrage may explain this.

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Passes Both Houses: State Representative Likens Supporters to Hitler and Nazi Party

A proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has now passed both houses of the legislature. The vote was 35-0 in the Senate and 85-7 in the House. The two houses must now reconcile the language before final passage. Assuming that the final version is approved by the legislature, it will go to the voters for near-certain ratification.

A survey released Tuesday by Auburn University showed that 54 percent of residents strongly support the constitutional ban and another 4 percent mildly support it. Interestingly, nearly one out of four respondents said they opposed the ban.

Rep. Alvin Holmes (D.-Montgomery) certainly isn't one for understatement. First, he said that allowing cameras at intersections was racist. Now, he has likened fundamentalist Christians to Nazis:
"The same tactics that are being used in the state of Alabama now by these fanatical religious, right-wing groups were used by Adolf Hitler ... and the Nazi movement in Germany," said Holmes, D-Montgomery. "Unless the religious fanatics in this state are stopped now..., one day we all will hang our heads in shame."

Privatize the U.S. Postal Service

Amen to this.

(Thanks to Southern Appeal for posting the link.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
On this day:

UA to Undergrads: Give Us Money

Fact: Of Alabama's 16 four-year colleges, half have increased tuition by at least 33 percent over the past four years. In-state tuition at the University of Alabama was increased by 16.25% in 2003-04 and another 12% in 2004-05. Meanwhile, duplication of academic programs among the UA System's 3 universitites continues unabated, and spending on new facilities has been less than frugal. Last year, UA completed work on a new science and engineering building named in honor of Alabama's senior U.S. Senator. The cost was about $60 million, more than $10 million above the original bid. A $24 million expansion of the student recreation center was recently completed, adding a pool, water slide, rock climbing wall, and yet another tennis complex. Now, the UA administration says the University is so impoverished that it has to beg undergraduates for donations.

Racist Traffic Cameras?

State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D. - Montgomery) says he will do all he can to stop a bill that would allow municipalities to install cameras at traffic lights in order to ticket people who run red lights.

Holmes, D-Montgomery, said he will ask the Legislative Black Caucus to help him kill the measure.

"We're not going to give law enforcement in the state of Alabama more tools to harass and intimidate black people," Holmes told the Montgomery Advertiser for a story Sunday. "When they put it on the calendar, we're going to filibuster and we're going to lock down the Legislature."

The legislation would give municipalities the option of using camera or video systems to record the license plate of a vehicle running a red light and issuing the owner a ticket of up to $250 by mail. Violations would not become part of a driver's history, no points would be assessed against a driver's license and insurance companies could not raise rates based on the infractions.

Rep. David Grimes (R. - Montgomery) responds: "This is not racial profiling. The only color I'm concerned about is red."

The Huntsville Times also takes on Rep. Holmes here.

Rattlesnake Rodeo Coming Up

I drove through Opp, Alabama on my way home today. Opp is best known for hosting the annual Rattlesnake Rodeo, held on the first weekend in March (the 5th and 6th this year). Only it turns out that the Rodeo is no longer held in is now held just down the road at the Covington Center Arena in Andalusia. Go figure.

Back from Florida - Considering a Seafood Diet

Just got back from a trip down to the Ft. Walton area. It appeared as though most of the damage from Ivan has been cleaned up, although I noticed that there were a few hotels on Santa Rosa Island that were still closed. I suppose that could just be because winter's the slow season. Who knows. As Mr. Maslow says, food is more basic to life than shelter, so I'd much rather talk about that.

For me, culinary attractions are always a major part of any trip. And, this time was no exception. I went to the Old Bay Steamer on Santa Rosa Boulevard in Ft. Walton Beach last night. If you like seafood and you're ever down that way, you've got to go there. You certainly won't be disappointed. I started off with an appetizer of a dozen raw oysters...then had the "Little Steamer" plate. One thing's for sure about the "Little Steamer"...there ain't nothing little about it. It has clams, oysters, mussels, royal red shrimp, snow crab, king crab (for a couple of bucks extra...a small price to pay), red potatoes, and corn. Eating all that was a LOT of work. I was the last one at the table to finish, since I'm not too skilled at peeling shrimp and cracking open crab legs. I guess that means I'll have to get more practice. Anyway, I managed to get out with no major injuries, although I had a couple of close calls. Some words of advice: be careful with the king crabs, and say "yes" to the bib.

Monday, February 07, 2005
On this day:

An Unnecessary Amendment

Saturday's editorial in the Huntsville Times made the case that a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is "pointlessly divisive and utterly superfluous."

Look: Alabama already has a law on the books banning same-sex marriages. And in 1996, Congress passed and a Democratic president - Bill Clinton - signed a federal law stipulating that states would not be required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Where's the loophole? Not on the U.S. Supreme Court, which, before President Bush leaves office, will probably become the most conservative it has been in generations. And not on the Alabama Supreme Court, where conservative Republicans are firmly in control with no real threats in sight.

Under such circumstances, the existing state law ought to suffice. Even if a constitutional amendment were to pass in Alabama and the U.S. Supreme Court took a unexpected turn to the left, an amendment to the state's basic law would have no more clout before that body than an act passed by the Legislature.

I would agree with the Times that this proposed amendment is unnecessary. The Alabama Constitution may be flawed in many ways, but the the lack of a provision banning same-sex marriage is not one of them. There are already statutes on the books that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If these statutes are inadequate, then they should be revised. The Constitution is not the appropriate place for a state to codify its marriage law.

Indeed, the Constitution is not the problem here - activist judges are the problem. Therefore, the focus should be on curbing the judiciary's growing tendency to usurp the powers of the legislative branch. There are several options for dealing with judges who seek to redefine marriage from the bench - remove their funding, remove their jurisdiction, remove them from office, or ignore their decisions. Legislatures, as the representatives of the people, must reassert their constitutional authority to make law. The proposed Constitutional amendment elevates symbolism over substance, and is inadequate to address the fundamental issues at stake.

UA Groups Pressure for Multicultural Center

So far, the University of Alabama administration has wisely resisted calls to create a "multicultural center" on campus. But, the University's "Coalition for Diversity and Inclusiveness" (CDI) isn't taking no for an answer.
The CDI plans to actively lobby UA administrators for the creation of a multicultural center this semester, [CDI President Pat] Bauch said. The CDI will form a group of students who will demonstrate how much they want the center, she said.

Then, when the moment is right, they will use publicity from television and newspapers to try to strong-arm UA officials into creating it, she said.

Sunday, February 06, 2005
On this day:

Remembering Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911- June 5, 2004)

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, was born on this day, January 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois.

The Election

I never had the opportunity to vote for President Reagan, since I was only 7 years old when he was first elected to the presidency in 1980. One of the few things I remember about that election is that one day at school, one of my teachers asked the class who we would vote for if we were eligible. She took a show of hands, and I proudly raised mine for Jimmy Carter, marking the first and last time I supported a Democrat for President.

The Assassination Attempt

"May I have your attention, please...may I have your attention, please." Those familiar words rang out from the intercom in my mom's classroom on the afternoon of Monday, March 30, 1981. Classes were already out and most students had gone home, but since my mom taught at my school, I was still around to hear the principal's announcement that day - President Reagan had been shot. I believe that the announcement was followed by a moment of silence...maybe even a prayer. (I guess people weren't so easily offended by such things back then.) Later, as news reports trickled in, we learned that President Reagan had spoken to Nancy and said, "Honey, I forgot to duck." From that moment on, the nation knew the true character of Ronald Reagan.

World Peace

Sometime during the summer of 1984, I wrote a letter to President Reagan. I don't remember exactly why I did it. Maybe a teacher had suggested it, or maybe I had heard that the President already had a pen pal or two, and might be looking for one more. How cool would that be?

The topic of my letter was world peace. I just couldn't understand why we had to live in fear of a war that would destroy the world as we knew it. My family and I had watched a movie called The Day After on ABC-TV in November of 1983. It depicted the aftermath of a nuclear war in a town (Lawrence, Kansas) not too much different than the place I grew up. The thought that my little corner of Alabama might be incinerated by a few nuclear bombs was terrifying. So, I waited anxiously for the President to write back. Finally, a letter came with the return address of "The White House - Washington." Here's what it said:

September 6, 1984

Dear Lee,

On behalf of President Reagan, I want to thank you for writing about your deep concern for peace.

While the President would like to respond personally to all the letters he receives, the volume of correspondence makes it impossible. However, in September of 1983 the President answered a letter from an American who, like yourself, questioned why our country had to have a military force and a defense program. I hope that it will answer your questions and give you an understanding of the problems that we face today.

President Reagan is working daily to maintain peace at home and to bring a lasting peace to our troubled world.

With the President's best wishes,


Anne Higgins
Special Assistant to the President and Director of Correspondence

Enclosure: Text of 9/6/83 Presidential Letter

The following is the text of a letter sent by the President on September 6, 1983:

I was deeply touched by your letter. I know how fervently you desire peace and how much you long for a world free of the threat of nuclear war. I know just how you feel.

To understand where we are it is necessary to understand where we have been. After the Second World War there were high hopes among the Western Democracies that the Soviet Union would become a partner in building a peaceful world. Many concessions were made to the Soviet Union to demonstrate Western goodwill. For example, they were given three votes in the UN General Assembly. Also, the USSR was the only nation that added to its national territory in the wake of World War II. While Western nations were granting their former colonies independence, the Soviet Union grabbed large chunks of Finland and Poland. Soon it became clear that the Soviets were determined to ignore all the promises about free elections and national self-determination as the Red Army helped to reduce countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania to mere satellites.

The Soviet Union again showed its colors when it attempted to starve Berlin into surrender. We broke the Berlin blockade with a historic airlift, and the Kremlin backed down. They launched a proxy war against South Korea, an aggression condemned by the UN. As tens of thousands of East Germans fled into West Germany to escape the oppressive communist rule, the Soviet puppet government erected the ugly Berlin Wall, making their nation a prison. The Soviet Union supplied and supported the North Vietnamese communist government in its war to conquer South Vietnam. The Soviet Union, with the collusion of Fidel Castro, turned Cuba into a forward base for threats against this country and further expansion into this hemisphere.

President Kennedy had to resort to a massive naval quarantine and strong warning of further sanctions in order to get Khrushchev to remove those missiles. Soviet forces crushed bids for freedom in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Then there's Soviet-Cuban involvement in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Today tens of thousands of Soviet troops are warring against the people of Afghanistan. These, of course, are just some of the highlights.

As the USSR began to show its true aggressive colors, the United States and the nations of Western Europe understood that its prime target would be the free nations of Europe with their advanced industrial base and large, highly skilled populations. And so NATO was formed, a collective security alliance designed to deter further Soviet advances in Europe. After the USSR acquired nuclear weapons and delivery systems, it was felt necessary to offset those weapons by creating and deploying an arsenal which would be able to deliver such a powerful counterstrike - even after a Soviet first strike - that such a first strike would never be attempted. When the USSR began to deploy intermediate range missiles in East Europe, aimed at West European targets, it was our West European allies who requested the United States to deploy medium range missiles in West Europe to neutralize this threat.

We are negotiating in the hope that the Kremlin will be willing to agree to mutual, balanced, and verifiable arms limitation agreements. We have made several goodwill offers, all of which have been rejected at this point. But we are still trying. In the meantime, we believe a one-sided cutback on our part would do nothing to enhance the chances for mutual disarmament. It would further tip the balance in favor of the Soviet Union and give them no reason to make any concessions. It would move us closer to war. It would do nothing to preserve the peace. But I believe we must go beyond the present posture of nuclear threat and counterthreat. It is true that this "balance of terror" has been effective in preventing nuclear war for almost 40 years, but a more fundamental and stable solution, I believe, lies in the development of a genuine defense against nuclear missiles. I believe this is within the realm of technological possibility, and we are moving in this direction. If we succeed, we will have lifted from the brow of all mankind the terrible fear of nuclear holocaust.

I understand the deep and sincere feelings of many of those who take part in "peace demonstrations." I would be leading the march if I thought this would help to avert nuclear war. But marching for peace, shouting slogans for peace, and waving placards for peace will not bring peace. In fact, to the extent that such activities may weaken the will of the free countries and influence them to drop their guard, they could make war more likely.

We are working for peace and praying for peace. I hope we will have your support and your prayers. God bless you.


Ronald Reagan

A lot has changed in the world since President Reagan wrote that letter in 1983. The Soviet Union is no more...the Berlin Wall fell...the captive nations of Eastern Europe are free. Reagan was right.

Final Farewell

Like most of his admirers, I never had the chance to meet President Reagan. But, I made it to Washington, D.C. on June 10, 2004 - just one among thousands who came from every state in the Union to pay their last respects to a man whose message of hope and optimism had changed the world - all saying, "Thank you, President Reagan, for all you did."

Saturday, February 05, 2005
On this day:

President Bush Seeks to Eliminate Amtrak Subsidies

The Bush administration will propose eliminating operating subsidies for Amtrak. This is something President Reagan proposed over 20 years ago, calling Amtrak a "mobile federal money-burning machine."

Thursday, February 03, 2005
On this day:

Straddling the Fence on Personal Accounts

All those fingers in the air at the SOTU last night were in honor of Iraqi voters. From the looks of things, they're still in the air today, testing the political winds on Social Security.

It appears that many Republican members of Alabama's congressional delegation can't make up their minds on whether to support personal accounts. Sen. Jeff Sessions and Rep. Spencer Bachus are the only ones who pretty much have said, "Yes, I'm for personal accounts."

Senator Shelby hemmed and hawed, probably remembering how he originally won his Senate seat back in 1986. In that election, he misleadingly accused Republican Sen. Jeremiah Denton of voting to cut Social Security. Shelby was a Democrat back then, and although he is now a reliably conservative Republican, I still can't quite forgive him for defeating Denton.

Speaking of which...If you don't know the story of Jeremiah Denton's courage and heroism, be sure to click on the previous link and this one, and check out this review of his book, When Hell Was In Session (also a made-for-TV movie).

Denton has been in the news more recently. During election season, many people read this piece in which he gives his opinion of fellow Vietnam Vet John Kerry . Also, on Independence Day last year, he was scheduled to speak at a celebration on the floor of the California Assembly. However, the Democratic leadership objected , saying that Denton was an "ultraconservative Republican and member of the religious right who is opposed to the separation of church and state." They refused to allow him on the floor to speak. (Now we know where San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi gets that warmth and charm she displayed last night.)

Finding Money for the General Fund

I believe that this helps to answer question #1 from my post 2 days ago.

In order to fund General Fund programs without a tax increase, Gov. Riley's budget:

  • Shifts costs for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from the General Fund to the Education Trust Fund. CHIP's budget is $23 million.
  • Uses $80 million from the Capital improvement Trust Fund to pay state bond debt normally covered by the General Fund, and
  • Limits the increase in Medicaid funding to $65 million, rather than the $129 million originally sought by the administration, due to successful negotiations with the federal government.
  • Transfers costs for audits of school systems and other education-related activities from the General Fund to the Education Trust Fund.

Predictably, the AEA's Paul Hubbert has already announced his opposition to many of the Governor's plans, especially the plan to shift costs of some programs into the Education Trust Fund. Hubbert said, "We're just not going to stand for it. We'll do everything we can to defeat an effort like this."

Prattville Fight

A fight at a high school girl's basketball in Prattville is making news around the country. See here, and here. Also made Drudge.

The Montgomery Advertiser has the video here.

State of the Union Part IV - Foreign Policy

Wow. The President called out Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That will make some headlines.

He also happened to put forth a vision for the Middle East that is unparalleled among U.S. Presidents - calling on the expansion of democracy throughout the region and reiterating his commitment to "two states side by side in peace" - Israel and Palestine.

He recognized that Iraqis "have earned the respect of us all," and that they will "inspire reformers from Damascus to Tehran." He rightly said that he would not support any artificial timetables for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. With this President, progress is what matters.

He warned Syria and Iran to stop supporting terrorists. He expressed solidarity with the Iranian reform movement, and gave a strong hint that the U.S. would give its support to a rebellion there, should Iran's people take matters into their own hands: "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you." Wow. That will make headlines, too.

I was a little disappointed that during the NorK part of the speech, the President didn't hold up a Team America Kim Jong-Il doll as he mentioned how "we ah getting rearry, rearry rivid about the Dear Reader's nucurar program." That would have really pissed the Little Dictator off.

State of the Union Part III - The Values Agenda

President Bush: "CONFIRM MY JUDGES!"

Amen...and start with Bill Pryor.

It was interesting (and telling) that the President called on the Senate to confirm his judicial nominees during the "values" segment of his speech.

Bush also repeated his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, even though he has no constitutional role in the amendment process. I really don't like the idea of amending the Constitution to implement social policy, even if it concerns a matter as fundamental as marriage. The problem here is not the is activist judges who ignore the Constitution.

One bold thing for the President (or a few Senators) to do would be to pass legislation restricting the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear marriage cases. An even bolder move would be to call for the impeachment of federal judges who uphold a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. (I favor impeachment followed by tarring, feathering, and exile to Djibouti myself. But, then again, when it comes to judicial tyranny, I'm one of those "impatient" conservatives I mentioned in my last post.)

State of the Union II - The Domestic Agenda

The Money Issues

Some of the most "ideological" of conservatives complain that many elements of the President's domestic agenda call for an expansion of the federal government, rather than its limitation. For example, in his speech tonight, President Bush endorsed greater federal involvement in education, reforming the job training system, and providing for community health centers in every poor county. None of those items would be likely to appear on the agenda of a conservative or libertarian ideologue.

More pragmatic conservatives recognize that for the most part, the President's agenda reflects an astute understanding of "what is possible" given the current political environment. It is an incremental approach designed to attract a growing constitutency for small-government conservatism.

The biggest domestic issue of the night was Social Security. The President repeated his commitment to personal retirement accounts for younger workers. These accounts will lead to both moral and economic benefits. Personal retirement accounts will transform Social Security from a system that fosters dependence on government to one that encourages self-reliance and individual responsibility. The money invested will provide capital to the private economy, increasing productivity and economic growth. Politically, personal retirement accounts will expand the "investor class," a natural constituency for the Republican Party.

On health care, the President proposed medical liability reform, association health plans for small businesses, and an expansion of health savings accounts, all designed to address rising health care costs by allowing markets to operate more freely and by injecting more individual control and responsibility into the system. On energy policy, the President called for Congress to implement the strategy he outlined 4 years ago, which focuses on enhancing productive capacity, largely by reducing government interference. On tax policy, he renewed his commitment to a fairer and simpler tax code. Etc., etc. The common theme here - free markets, individual responsibility, less government regulation.

I noticed that the President didn't mention our inane agricultural policies - you know, the ones that pay people not to produce. But, if putting up with that, a bloated Department of Education, and a few big pork programs is the price for instituting necessary reforms to Social Security, health care, energy policy, and taxation, then that's probably a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
On this day:

State of the Union

In his State of the Union speech tonight, President Bush laid out a bold and substantive agenda that reflects his vision for transforming government's role in the lives of everyday citizens here at home and for tackling the threats to our liberty that come from abroad. In the Democratic response, Senator Harry Reid (D., Nevada) said that the President merely repeated "the same-old ideology that we've heard before — over and over again." Nothing could be further from the truth.

This President's agenda is not the "same-old same-old." No President has dared to propose the level of fundamental reforms to Social Security that President Bush laid out tonight. Likewise, no President has been so forthright in assessing the problems of the Middle East, nor so visionary in contemplating their solutions. The charge that President Bush is simply reading from a faded and worn-out ideological page just doesn't square with the facts.

Coors, Eh?

Coors and Molson are merging.

"The Vagina Monologues" - Brought to You by the UAH Women's Studies Department

The Women's Studies Department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville will sponsor a production of "The Vagina Monologues" this Saturday and Sunday. The plot of this infamous play is apparent from its title: it features monologues of women sharing stories about their vaginas, among other things. (Gee whiz...what ever happened to sharing recipes?) The play is presented as part of the V-Day College Campaign to "stop violence against women and girls."

Other V-Day Huntsville events include a "Saucy Lady Party," a belly-dancing workshop, a "Drag King Contest," a "Sexploitation Film Festival," and an erotic bingo game. All of these events are listed on UAH Women's Studies Department web pages.

That's our tax dollars at work, folks. Good thing the state has that big surplus in the education budget, huh?

Rethinking the Iraq War

A war opponent asks: "What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?" (Link from lots o' blogs.)

Groundhog Day

NRO's Jonah Goldberg says that Groundhog Day, the movie, is one of the best films of the last 40 years. This piece he linked to from the Corner discusses "The Lessons of Groundhog Day." Lesson #1: the protagonist's "Nietzschean quagmire" leads him to despair. He finds his redemption only by turning to the philosophy of the ancients. Interesting...especially upon returning from the "Nietzschean quagmire" of Tuesday night team trivia at Third Base Grill.

State of the State: Some Questions

A few unanswered questions following the Governor's speech:

  1. Riley didn't specify how he plans to make up for the $250 to $300 million shorfall in the state's General Fund. Will his budget propose cuts in programs he didn't mention? Will he call for a bond issue? He mentioned the "All Kids" health insurance program...will he propose to fund it from the Education Trust Fund rather than the General Fund? His speech didn't give any details, other than to say that there were "no new taxes" in his budget and that Education Trust Fund revenues would remain earmarked for education. Sounds like the Gov's leaving room for negotiation.

  2. What accountability measures does the Governor support to address the problem of redundancy in higher ed? Does he support the giving the Alabama Commission on Higher Education more authority to identify and eliminate duplication of programs among colleges and universities? How his SMART budgeting initiative tie in to this issue?

  3. Are there any proposals under consideration that address long-term solutions to rising Medicaid expenditures? Medicaid eats up a large and growing percentage of the state's General Fund budget. Is the administration considering measures that would "free up" the market for health care in order to reduce costs?

  4. Riley said that he wanted to "defend the sanctity of marriage as a union between a man and a woman," but didn't specifically endorse a constitutional amendment to that effect. This issue is expected to be at the top of the legislature's agenda, and both Republicans and Democrats have come out in favor of an amendment. Does the Governor believe that an amendment is necessary, or is he merely deferring to the legislature on an issue over which he has little influence?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
On this day:

State of the State

The text of Governor Riley's State of the State address is here. It is summarized in a press release here.

In the first part of his speech, the Governor reviewed the progress that has been made in Alabama during his first term - balancing the budget by cutting spending, cutting the state work force, and closing or consoliding state agencies; making state government more open and ethical; instituting SMART budgeting practices in state agencies; addressing the rising costs of health care for state employees; and improving education by funding the Alabama Reading Initiative.

The Governor also mentioned the economic upturn that the state is now enjoying, but he was careful to give credit where credit is due:

...before we make the mistake of patting ourselves on the back, let’s remember: government does not create jobs. It only helps create the conditions that make jobs more or less likely. The real credit for our economic renewal belongs to the people of Alabama. We’ve made government their partner, but they are the ones who deserve the honors and the praise.

In that statement, the Governor summed up one of the primary philosophical differences between conservatives and liberals. It was Reaganesque...almost.

Then, Riley went into a refreshingly short list of proposals for this legislative session. Here's a summary:

Accountability in Government
  • Eliminate money transfers between PACs
  • Pass "limited home rule" for local governments
  • Institute a transportation commission that is more independent from political influence
  • Place a permanent ban on "pass-through pork"
  • Strengthen the state's open meetings law
  • Encourage the legislature to institute a code of ethics

The Budgets

  • No new taxes
  • No shift in funds from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund: education dollars pay for education only; General Fund dollars stay in the General Fund.

Accountability in Education

  • Require all school systems to be audited
  • Eliminate tenure for school administrators
  • Provide tools to reduce redundancy in higher education through improved accountability


  • "The amount of money we spend on education is important, but not nearly as important as how the money is spent."
  • Fully fund budget requests of the State Board of Education and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Provide all requested funds for textbook purchases
  • Fully fund the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative
  • Fully fund professional development for teachers
  • Provide a 4% pay raise for teachers
  • Fund a new distance-learning program called ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) that will allow students and teachers to take courses via internet and/or videoconferencing that would not otherwise be easily available to them
  • Provide bonuses to teachers who volunteer to teach in schools or in subject matter areas where there are shortages
  • Support merit pay for teachers
  • Create an Alabama Commission on Teacher Quality to recommend ways to support, retain, and reward teachers
Other Budget Priorities
  • Add 100 state troopers
  • Repay the "Rainy Day Fund"
  • Maintain the level of health care provided by Medicare
  • Eliminate the backlog of state inmates in county jails
  • Increase funding for the All Kids health insurance program by almost 25 percent and thereby eliminate the waiting list for children in need of health care coverage
Moral Issues
  • "Defend the sanctity of marriage as a union between a man and a woman."
  • Oppose expansion of gambling
  • Pass a law that punishes those who commit crimes of violence against pregnant women for committing two offenses