Thursday, March 31, 2005
On this day:

Times-Daily on UA v. Daniel Moore: (A big) thumbs down to the University of Alabama's board of trustees

The Times-Daily editorial is here.
University officials say they have opted to take legal action at this time to "protect the image" of the university. Moore's paintings, which are hanging in thousands of houses and businesses across the Shoals and the rest of the state, only serve to enhance the university's image, so that argument doesn't hold water. Furthermore, they depict moments in time -- much like journalistic photographs taken at football games. The publication or reproduction of these images is also a free press issue. The trustees simply need to look for their pot of gold under another rainbow.

Heflin Memorial Scheduled

A public memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Deshler High School auditorium. Visitation will be at Winston Home on campus after the service.

Marijuana and the Law - Some Facts

This article by Ethan A. Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, appeared in the March 12, 2004 edition of National Review magazine. (It should be noted that the Drug Policy Alliance was founded by George Soros, and it supports the complete legalization of marijuana, a position which I do not support.)

Here are a few facts that Mr. Nadelmann cites: (Nadelmann lists this Time magazine article, along with various other studies and reports, as references.)
  • According to a 2002 Time/CNN poll, 72% of Americans believe that the penalty for marijuana possession should be a fine, not incarceration. 80% support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
  • "Police make about 700,000 arrests a year for marijuana offenses." 87% of those "are for nothing more than possession of small amounts."
  • "Alabama currently locks up people convicted three times of marijuana possession for 15 years to life."
  • "Foreign-born residents of the U.S. can be deported for a marijuana offense no matter how long they have lived in this country, no matter if their children are U.S. citizens, and no matter how long they have been legally employed.20 More than half the states revoke or suspend driver’s licenses of people arrested for marijuana possession even though they were not driving at the time of arrest.21 The federal Higher Education Act prohibits student loans to young people convicted of any drug offense; 22 all other criminal offenders remain eligible."
  • "Marijuana’s medical efficacy is no longer in serious dispute. Its use as a medicine dates back thousands of years. Pharmaceutical products containing marijuana’s central ingredient, THC, are legally sold in the U.S., and more are emerging."
  • "Every state ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana has been approved, often by wide margins—in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Maine, and Washington, D.C."

Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Alabama House

A bill has been introduced in the Alabama House that would "authorize the medical use of marijuana only for certain qualifying patients who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition."

Many see medical marijuana legislation as a first step towards full-scale legalization of marijuana. I don't believe that to be the case. But, I do believe that having a thoughtful and deliberative debate on the issue may be the first step towards adopting a more rational and compassionate drug policy.

Whether marijuana has valid uses in medical treatment is still a matter for debate. This article from Tuesday's New York Times claims to put "medical marijuana on trial," although some have questioned its objectivity. There's a good synopsis of both sides' arguments here.

Some may be surprised to learn that some of the most prominent voices in favor of medical marijuana legislation are conservatives. William F. Buckley has written in favor of medical marijuana here, here, and here. In the first of those articles, Buckley relays the story of a friend of his who died not long after he was forbidden by a (federal) judge from smoking marijuana to relieve his suffering from AIDS and cancer. Conservative historian and columnist Rick Brookhiser testified before Congress about his own use of marijuana while he was undergoing chemotherapy. He had used marijuana (illegally) in order to relieve the nausea caused by his chemo treatments. He wrote further about that experience here.

Assuming that it is not pronounced "dead on arrival," this will very likely be a contentious issue in the legislature. One point that may or may not be significant - the sponsor and all of the co-sponsors are Democrats.

Free Speech and the Internet (Again)

Any lingering doubts that "campaign finance reform" poses the most serious threat to free speech online should be dispelled by this piece in the New York post. (Link: The Corner at National Review Online.)

More Heflin Moments

Upon seeing some photos in the National Enquirer of Senator Ted Kennedy on a boat while in a compromising position with a woman not his wife, Senator Heflin is said to have remarked, "Well, I see that Senator Kennedy has changed his position on offshore drilling."

And, who could forget this?
Heflin often found himself the subject of humor. While dining with two female journalists from NBC on a hot summer day in 1994, he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and pulled out a pair of lady's undergarments.

"Pulling out those panties in front of two television people, that was most embarrassing," Heflin said.
As he later explained, the lady's undergarments were his wife's...he had merely picked them up by mistake. Most other politicians couldn't have gotten away with that explanation, but in Senator Heflin's case, no one doubted it.

Chris Farley as Howell Heflin

Whenever I think of Howell Heflin, I can't help but remember the SNL skit of the Clarence Thomas hearings, in which Chris Farley played Senator Heflin.

And, you know...I'll bet that Senator Heflin laughed every bit as hard as we did. He'll be missed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
On this day:

"Honey, I Forgot to Duck"

President Reagan was shot 24 years ago today. (Hat tip: Poliblogger.)

Harry Lyon to Run for Governor

This time as a Democrat. Lyon's last race for state office was for State Auditor in 2004 - as a Republican. Prior to that, he ran for Governor as a Democrat in 1994. Talk about a flip-flopper.

There's another interesting story about Lyon. Following his run for Auditor last year, he was involved in a very...ummm...sticky dispute with one of his neighbors:
Harry Lyon, a former Republican candidate for state auditor, is in serious condition after he was shot Sept. 6 and found lying face down in a pool of chocolate syrup. Robert Lee Black, Lyon's neighbor, was charged with attempted murder; Black said he shot Lyon in the neck after finding him pouring Hershey's Chocolate Syrup on Black's car. The two neighbors have apparently had previous disputes. Lyon, a Pelham attorney, unsuccessfully has sought a number of state offices since 1980 as both a Democrat and Republican. His most recent campaign was the June primary, in which he sought to unseat incumbent State Auditor Pat Duncan (R).

U.N. Wants to Get Involved in Internet Governance

See this interview with Mr. Houlin Zhao, director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau of the International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. agency. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

"The whole world is looking for a better solution for Internet governance, unwilling to maintain the current situation," Houlin Zhao, director of the ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said last year. Zhao, a former government official in China's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, has been in his current job since 1999.
When a Chi-Com talks about achieving a "better solution for Internet governance," there's lots to be worried about.

In a series of speeches over the last year, Zhao has suggested that the ITU could become involved in everything from security and spam to managing how Internet Protocol addresses are assigned. The ITU also is looking into some aspects of voice over Internet Protocol--VoIP--communications, another potential area for expansion.

Hmmm...I wonder if e-mails and instant messages condemning Chi-Com human rights violations would constitute "spam" in Mr. Zhao's view? Likewise, would he consider bloggers a "security" threat?

"Countering spam is just one of many elements of protecting the Internet that include availability during emergencies and supporting public safety and law enforcement officials," Zhao wrote in December. Also, he wrote, the ITU "would take care of other work, such as work on Internet exchange points, Internet interconnection charging regimes, and methods to provide authenticated directories that meet national privacy regimes."
Guess that answers the question. According to Zhao, protecting the Internet would include "supporting public safety and law enforcement officials" and "meeting national privacy regimes."

Here's more of Mr. Zhao, in his own words:

Anything which concerns the future development of the Internet will be part of the question of Internet governance. It covers a very wide range of topics not just related to technology development, service development, but also policy matters, sovereignty, security, privacy, almost anything...

On freedom of speech, I don't see it as a pure technical issue. In my opinion, freedom of speech seems to be a politically sensitive issue. A lot of policy matters are behind it. It's not in ITU's competence, but of course we can make some contributions...

People say the Internet flourished because of the absence of government control. I do not agree with this view. I argue that in any country, if the government opposed Internet service, how do you get Internet service?


World's Largest Known Prime Number Discovered

The number, rendered in exponential shorthand, is (2^25,964,951) - 1. (That caret is supposed to indicate that the number following it is an exponent, so you'd say it "two to the 25,964,951 (pause) minus one.") The number is a Mersenne prime, which is a prime number taking the form of (2^p) -1, or "two to the p (pause) minus 1".

Someone tell Derb.

Alabama Senate in Filibuster Over Campaign Finance Disclosure

This is one filibuster I can support.
The Alabama Senate shut down in a filibuster Tuesday over legislation that would require organizations to reveal their contributors when they run ads to support or oppose legislation or distribute voter guides in elections.
Alabama Policy Institute President Gary Palmer had a nice editorial on this in Sunday's Huntsville Times. (The Times, on the other hand, took the opposite, anti-free speech, pro-incumbent position.)

Free Speech and the Internet

As every blogger knows, one of the greatest things about the internet is that it is a powerful and unprecendented medium for debate and deliberation between ordinary people from all walks of life. "Powers that be" around the world have been taken off guard by this explosion of free debate and inquiry, and are struggling to keep up. Those who have grown secure in their positions of power have never before had to deal with such a widespread challenge to their authority. The temptation to regulate and restrict the new medium while it is still in its infancy has become almost irresistable. (See here, for example.)

Even here in America, where freedom of speech is cherished and protected, some in government and the media are beginning to discuss ways to "contain" the internet revolution. Don't get me wrong - some of the measures being considered and implemented are legitimate. The internet has given rise to new challenges in protecting intellectual property, regulating commerce, ensuring fair and equitable taxation, and preventing the distribution of illegal materials, substances, and services. Each of these challenges is a legitimate object of government power, and even most libertarians would agree that action to address them is warranted.

However, some of the measures being discussed are aimed at restricting the political speech that lies at the core of the First Amendment. They have been justified under various pretexts, most notably that of "campaign finance reform." Some politicians, regulators, and members of the news media are "concerned" that the rise of alternate media on the internet could undermine government regulation of issue advocacy advertisements and contributions to political candidates. For example, if I write a series of blog posts supporting Ralph Nader for President, should I have to report that to the Federal Elections Commission as a "contribution" to the Nader campaign. Should my blog become subject to campaign finance regulations that prohibit "advertising" for Nader during the 30 days before a general election?

These threats to free speech are very real and shouldn't be dismissed, but we are fortunate in that we live under a Constitution that largely shields us against government encroachments on our right to speak freely. We can only hope that the inevitable backlash against any large-scale attempt to restrict political deliberation would put a quick end to such meddling. But, as this article by James D. Miller at TechCentralStation warns, the coming "war on blogs" may not be limited to campaign finance regulations, but may also be fought on at least two new fronts - libel law and copyright law. All the more reason for bloggers and their friends to remain on guard.

U.S. Supreme Court Expands Protection Against Sex Discrimination in B’ham Case

From SCOTUS Blog:

The Supreme Court, splitting 5-4, on Tuesday significantly expanded the scope of protection against sex-based discrimination under Title IX of federal civil rights law.

The Court ruled that a teacher who is disciplined after complaining about sex discrimination against students has a legal right to bring a retaliation claim under Title IX.
Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court. Thomas delivered the dissent, which was joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, and Kennedy.

The case was brought by a teacher in the Birmingham public schools who alleged that the Birmingham Board of Education retaliated against him because he had complained about sex discrimination in the high school's athletic program.

This AP story has more.

Finebaum on UA v. Daniel Moore

Paul Finebaum lashes out against the University of Alabama in Tuesday's Mobile Register, saying that in its lawsuit against artist Daniel Moore, the University has turned the Hippocratic Oath ("First, do no harm") into the "Hypocritical Oath".
Most pundits agree that if there were a legitimate lawsuit to be filed, it should have been Moore suing Alabama, claiming he has been unable to make a living doing artwork about Alabama since the school has enjoyed only two bowl wins during the last 10 seasons, been on NCAA probation twice, dropped nine of 10 to arch-rival Tennessee and had four different coaches in the last five years...

One thing Paul Bryant always stressed and preached to his players was a simple rule, but it's worth repeating. "No matter what happens," he would say, "show your class."

Lately, Alabama officials seem to have thrown that basic principle out the window.

You tell 'em, Paul.

Meanwhile, the oldest known painting of Antarctica has been found. No need to worry, though. The University of Alabama doesn't hold the trademark.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
On this day:

Tom Bevill, RIP

Heflin's death comes one day after former Rep. Tom Bevill passed away at his home in Jasper. Bevill represented what is now Alabama's Fourth Congressional District for 30 years.

Howell Heflin, RIP

Former U.S. Senator Howell Heflin has died at the age of 83.

For more on Heflin's life and his career as a U.S. Senator, see the following links:

New York Times
Montgomery Independent
The Times-Daily
AP summary

Medical Marijuana Ruling May Come This Week

According to this post at TalkLeft, the Supreme Court's decision in Raich v. Ashcroft could come as early as this week. (Hat tip: Liberty and Power, Positive Liberty.) (I had more details of the case in a previous post here.)

As I pointed out in a post last year, Alabama Attorney General Troy King, a protege of Bill Pryor, filed an amicus brief in favor of upholding the California law legalizing medical marijuana. Guess that would be "progressive" in Senator Specter's lingo, huh?

Pryor's Opponents Repeat Allegations of "Extremism"

I guess when it comes to judging Judge Pryor, adherence to the text and intent of the law is classified as "extremism".

Pryor's opponents have zeroed in on cases they think prove that a conservative ideological bent infects his judgment.

"Pryor's brief service on the 11th Circuit has not in any way dispelled the serious concerns raised by his career of legal extremism or made him any more suitable for a lifetime appellate judgeship than he was a year ago," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.
While the left continues to misrepresent Pryor's judicial philosophy, the Republican PR campaign to counter these assertions is somewhat "lacking in vision" at times. Senators Arlen Specter (R., Pennsylvania) and Jeff Sessions (R., Alabama) are quoted in the linked article.
There are "five opinions which he has written, which are progressive, moderate and I think show the kind of judicial demeanor which may be appealing to the Democrats," [Judiciary Committee Chairman Snarlin' Arlen] Specter told reporters last month. "Whether that will make a difference or not, I don't know." ...
To say that Pryor's decisions have been "progressive" borders on insult - to Pryor. Should we really try to sell a judicial appointee based on how "progressive" he is? Judges aren't paid to be progressive. Indeed, if all was right with the world, judges would be impeached for dictating notions of "progress" that are unsupported in the Constitution and laws. Senator Sessions's statement in favor of Pryor wasn't much better.
"Judge Pryor is doing a great job as circuit judge and winning praise from fair-minded observers," [Alabama Senator Jeff] Sessions said recently. "The recess appointment has provided Judge Pryor with an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law and to prove that he would not take a political agenda to the bench. He has demonstrated just that, ruling in favor of the little guy on more than one occasion."
According to Senator Sessions, by "ruling in favor of the little guy on more than one occasion," Pryor has demonstrated "that he would not take a political agenda to the bench." But, wouldn't he demonstrate the same thing by ruling in favor of the big guy when the law requires it? Given the current political environment, it can be very difficult to rule against the little guy. Power and influence, or the lack thereof, do not imply moral (or legal) correctness. There are poor scoundrels and rich ones. The duty of the judge is not to determine who is poor or who is rich, but rather who - according to the law - is a scoundrel.

Senators Specter and Sessions deserve credit for doing their best to win Pryor's confirmation, but do they really have to adopt the language of the left to do it?

Monday, March 28, 2005
On this day:

B'ham News: Support Bill Restricting Eminent Domain

A Birmingham News editorial yesterday weighed in "in defense of property rights."

The Current Account Deficit: Should We Worry?

Almost every day, we read in the newspapers that the U.S. trade balance vis-a-vis the rest of the world has "worsened," that our debt to the rest of the world is increasing, and that all of this will have dire consequences for the U.S. economy and for future generations.

But, the U.S. has run a trade deficit since 1976. It ballooned in the 1980's, amid shrieks from doomsayers that "foreigners were buying up America," and that the U.S. was drowning in debt and burdening future generations. Somehow, though, the U.S. economy was able to ignore all the doom-and-gloom, and the 1980's saw tremendous gains in American prosperity.

Fast forward to the 1990's. After retreating in the late '80's and early '90's, the trade deficit came back in full force, reaching record levels, even as the U.S. economy enjoyed huge gains in growth and productivity.

Now, as the trade deficit has reached $665 billion, people are again scurrying around shouting that the sky is falling. Even Warren Buffett has gotten in his two cents, saying that the U.S. is on the verge of becoming a "sharecropper society," due to an increasing reliance on foreign investment.

So, what gives? Why have so many self-proclaimed "experts" been so wrong about the dire consequences of running a large current account deficit in the past? And, why should we believe them now?

An article in this month's Foreign Affairs magazine argues that the U.S. current account deficit is not the threat that it is so often portrayed to be. "The dollar's role as the global monetary standard is not threatened, and the risk to U.S. financial stability posed by large foreign liabilities has been exaggerated." Kinda long, but worth reading.

Also, for informative responses to Warren Buffett's concerns, see Don Boudreaux's posts over at Cafe Hayek here, here, here, and here.

Oh, and sorry for the sloppiness in terminology. "Trade deficit" and "current account deficit" are not interchangeable terms, although I've used them that way here. The "current account" is the broadest measure of trade - taking into account goods, services, investment income, and one-way transfers. The "trade balance" includes only goods and services. The late economist Herb Stein (Ben Stein's dad) authored a good explanation, available online here, bringing to mind a Herb Stein quote that is particularly relevant when talking about the trade deficit: "If there is no problem, don't solve it."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Celebrates #75

Her birthday was Saturday, but since taking the time to wish her a happy birthday then would have imposed an undue burden on my weekend plans, I had to wait until today.

Go, Bo!

American Idol contestant Bo Bice has plenty of relatives and fans in Morgan County cheering him on. The "Bice Squad" gathers in Somerville at Mama's Country Diner on Tuesday nights and Jack's Family Restaurant Wednesday nights. See here also, and see the latest in today's Decatur Daily.

So, who wants to go cheer Bo on? Maps: to Mama's and to Jack's.

Take Some Sand to the Beach

Ivan caused massive beach erosion (as much as 164 ft. in places) along the Gulf Coast, according to an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Interesting technological note:
Much of the surveying is done with a NASA twin-engine Cessna 310 equipped with lidar, which stands for "Light Detection and Ranging." Lidar is similar to radar but it uses light waves instead of radio waves to map contours.

Oriole Pitcher/Alabama Native Eric DuBose Arrested for DUI

From the Baltimore Sun:
Orioles pitcher Eric DuBose was arrested and charged with driving under the influence early Monday morning in Sarasota, Fla., before making a start later that day at the team's minor league complex...

When instructed to recite the alphabet, DuBose allegedly said, "I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet."
DuBose has obviously been away from Alabama for's been at least 5 years since we stopped using Phoenician.

Mobile Register: UA's Suit Against Moore is "Unbecoming"

And "...the University looks decidedly chintzy." What the hell is "chintzy"?

Tuscaloosa News Executive Editor: University Overextending Itself in Moore Lawsuit

"Symbols may belong to UA, but memories belong to us."

Sunday, March 27, 2005
On this day:

China - Becoming a "Christian Nation?"

The New York Times's Nicolas Kristof says that as Christianity declines in Europe, it is thriving in the developing world. Among the places it is making inroads is in China. Kristof says, " seems possible to me that in a few decades, China could be a largely Christian nation."

Christianity is spreading rapidly in China in spite of the many challenges facing Christians there. From this Christian Science Monitor article: Bible study meetings are "frowned upon since officials feel such gatherings can incubate dissent." But even so, there is "what appears to be a public admittance by Beijing that Christianity is not only on the rise but is growing rapidly - and that the church is benefiting a spiritually hungry population that is growing more 'individualistic.'"

Journalist David Aikman, who was interviewed by National Review Online here, has written a book on this subject. One very prominent U.S. State Department official has taken notice, too.

This is really something to keep an eye on. If you thought the economic changes going on in China were revolutionary, just wait.

Easter in Cuba

The wives of jailed Cuban dissidents, known as the "Ladies in White," held a peaceful protest today in Havana following Easter services. They had also marched last Sunday, when they were confronted by a group of chanting pro-Castro thugettes.

See also: today's "Easter in Havana" post at Babalu Blog. Babalu has more on the courageous "Ladies in White" here (follow the links).

Easter at the Vatican

Easter mass at the Vatican was celebrated without Pope John Paul II for the first time since he became pope.

...the ailing pontiff was unable to speak and managed only to greet the saddened crowd with a sign of the cross, bringing tears to many.

Aides had readied a microphone, and the pope tried to utter a few words from his studio window overlooking the square. But after making a few sounds, he just blessed the crowd with his hand and the microphone was taken away.

Easter in Pinellas Park, Florida

Terry Schiavo received communion today. "The severely brain-damaged woman received a drop of communion wine on her tongue - her only sustenance in nine days - after her husband allowed her to receive the sacrament. (AP)"

Happy Easter

The guys at Southern Appeal have a few good thoughts beginning here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005
On this day:

Artist Licensing May Become Issue at Auburn, Too

According to this story in the Opelika-Auburn News:
“It is very important for universities to protect their intellectual property rights,” Susan O. Smith, trademark management and licensing director at Auburn University, said in a statement.

“Art renderings are like any other licensed product: intended for sale. Artists paint university related prints because they know those who care about the institution will buy them. It’s only right, therefore, for artists to follow the same protective licensing policies that manufacturers of every other licensable product follow. Such manufacturers return a small percentage of sales (eight percent) to the university which, at Auburn, supports student scholarships. Fortunately, we have many licensed artists who willingly support our program efforts.”

Coup in Florida

From Scrappleface:
Florida Coup: Gov. Bush and Legislators May Flee
by Scott Ott

(2005-03-24) -- The interim ruler of Florida, former Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer, today promised to appoint a new "people's legislature" in the wake of a coup which overthrew Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature.

While Gov. Bush and "pro-life" legislators have not yet fled Florida, helicopters are reportedly standing by...

Friday, March 25, 2005
On this day:

OK...You Auburn Fans

...just hold your tongues.

Bama fan sought in 3 robberies

A man sporting a "BAMA" tattoo on his neck is wanted in connection with a string of gas station convenience store robberies Tuesday night in Theodore, authorities said Thursday...

He was wearing a gray long sleeve T-shirt, jeans and a red or maroon baseball cap...

Poisonous Chi-Coms

A massive march will be held tomorrow in Taiwan to protest China's recently passed "anti-secession" law. The Communists on mainland China have responded by accusing the march's organizers of "poisoning bilateral ties."

From Jesus to Christ

There's an interesting article in this week's Newsweek (available online here) on "how a Jewish prophet came to be seen as the Christian Savior." (Hat tip: Cut on the Bias.)

Samuelson: Social Security = Welfare

In the Washington Post yesterday (hat tip: Political Man), economist Robert Samuelson reminds us that Social Security isn't "social insurance" at all. It is welfare - " a governmental transfer from one group to another for the benefit of those receiving." He goes on to say that the real issue with Social Security isn't its "solvency," but rather the costs it imposes, both economic and political.

I would agree. Social Security should be defined properly - as welfare - and it seems to me that the plan to add a personal retirement account option provides hope that one day that definition will no longer be accurate.

It Is Finished

And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.' Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us;' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"

And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God." And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying, "If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself." And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS".

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." But the other answering rebuked him, saying, "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." And he said unto Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

- Luke 23: 28-46.

Thursday, March 24, 2005
On this day:

Destination Alabama

According to today's Huntsville Times, several North Alabama tourist attractions will be featured in next month's National Geographic Traveler Magazine:

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center and EarlyWorks Children's Museum are among 28 cultural, recreational and natural sites mostly in north central Alabama featured in the magazine...

Other Alabama attractions listed in the magazine are the Wright Dairy in Alexandria, Aliceville Museum, Bare Hands Gallery in Birmingham, Pinhoti Trail in northeast Alabama, Birmingham Civil Rights District, DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg, Oakville Indian Mound in Danville, Frank Lloyd Wright-Rosenbaum House in Florence, W.C. Handy Music Festival in Florence, the town of Mentone and Tannehill Ironworks in McCalla.

The list continues with the North Alabama Birding Trail, Moundville Archaeological Park, Natural Bridge Park, Kentuck Festival of the Arts in Northport, Palisades Park in Oneonta, Dismals Canyon in Phil Campbell, Horsepens 40 in Steele, Blue Bell Creameries in Sylacauga, Talladega SuperSpeedway and International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Back Street Opry in Vernon, Swayback Bridge Trail in Wetumpka, Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville; and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Ivy Green and Coon Dog Cemetery in Tuscumbia.

Check out some of those links and plan your next road trip. Let's see here...the Blue Bell Creamery sounds pretty good to me. Hope they give out free samples.

Update: More on Wright's Dairy, the Pinhoti Trail, and the Talladega SuperSpeedway here.

Legislature Considering Bill to Limit Eminent Domain

The Alabama House has passed a bill that would prohibit municipalities from using their eminent domain powers to take private property for commercial uses. The bill now goes on to the Senate.

What's at stake here is the right of private property owners to be secure against government takings of their property for the sole purpose of selling it to another private owner for non-public uses. Abuse of eminent domain authority by local governments has been on the rise in recent years, and this bill is an effort to restrain the use of this unsavory form of corporate welfare here in Alabama. Libertarians and conservatives alike should stand united in supporting it.

On a related note...there's a case currently being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court deals with eminent domain and the meaning of "public use" under the Fifth Amendment. The case is Kelo v. City of New London (CT).

On a different note...I noticed that the reporter used the contraction that'd in that linked article. Somehow, I don't think that's in the New York Times style manual.

Animal Rights Activists and Hunters Battle Over "Hog-Dog Rodeos"

Too bad it's not a real battle...any doubts on who would win that fight?

Studying Conservatives

That quote by UA Prof. Donald Snow a couple of posts back reminded me of this bit of pseudoscience (summarized here) from 2003, in which the researchers investigated "the psychology of conservatism." Among their conclusions were that conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others.

The taxpayer-financed study was refuted by NRO's Jonah Goldberg and Byron York here and here.

More Bama Fans Speak Up for Daniel Moore

Keith Dunnavant, who has written several books about the Tide, says that "this is the moral equivalent of suing Michelangelo for painting the Sistine Chapel."

I'm not sure that analogy quite works, but it makes a fair point, nonetheless.

Meanwhile, UA's student newspaper, the Crimson White, is uncharacteristically silent on the whole ordeal. I haven't seen a peep about it on their web site. Hmmmm...

Update: The Crimson White has a story and editorial in today's edition. There's also this letter to the editor.

The Tuscaloosa News has another story today, too.

Man Convicted for Impersonating IRS Agent

That's all fine and dandy, but how about a little equal justice here? I'll be waiting to see an IRS agent convicted for impersonating a human being.

Oh I Know He Didn't

This article in yesterday's Crimson White asks, "are UA professors too liberal for students?"
Political science professor Donald Snow said his colleagues tend to be more liberal than students. "Faculty historically is fairly liberal because of their education level," he said.

I hope that Dr. Snow isn't saying what I think he's saying.

Some North Koreans Get a Taste of Freedom - in China

Illusions shatter with the taste of freedom (from the New York Times - subscription required).

"When I lived in Korea, I never thought my leaders were bad," said one woman in her 50's, a farmer who had brought her grown daughter to Yanji recently from her home not far from the other side of the border for treatment of an intestinal ailment. "When I got here, I learned that Chinese can travel wherever they want in the world as long as they have the money. I learned that South Korea is far richer, even than China."

"If we are so poor," she continued, "it must be because of Kim Jong Il's mistakes," she said referring to North Korea's leader...

Asked how they felt now, after having seen some of the outside world, each person interviewed said his or her illusions about North Korea had been shattered. "There is no way I can believe my government again," said one person who had been in China only a few weeks. "They spend all their time celebrating the leaders. There is one thing I have understood in China, and that is, as long as there is no freedom, we will never get richer."

There is hope yet. Read the whole article. (Correction: No subscription is required to read NYT articles online - just registration, which is free.)

Another Astronomical Feat

Astronomers said yesterday that they have observed the first direct detections of light from planets outside our solar system.

More on the Coffeeville Quake

From the Mobile Register:

Coffeeville sits on the Bahamas Fault Zone, which runs from northern Florida through the Panhandle, into Alabama's Escambia County and west into Mississippi, said Dorothy Raymond, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Alabama.

Over the past decade, the area has had occasional earthquakes, but they're so deep scientists aren't sure what is causing them, she said. Coffeeville's quake was 3.1 miles below the surface. In 1997, four quakes rattled south Alabama, including one that opened a crack in a Conecuch County road. That year, officials asked for federal funding for seismic monitoring in Alabama.

Never have heard of the Bahamas Fault Zone, but a Google search turns up "Bahamas Fracture Zone" and "Florida-Bahamas Transfer Fault."

The latest USGS data on the quake is here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
On this day:

Stop Your Engines

The NASCAR Hall of Fame will not be located in Alabama.

B'ham Post-Herald on UA vs. Daniel Moore

According to the B'ham Post-Herald, Moore is getting support from fellow sports artists who have also been sued for their work:

Rick Rush and Alan Zuniga, two artists who've had lawsuits filed against their own sports art, both voiced support for Moore's right to artistic expression.

"The bottom line is this is about freedom of speech and artistic expression," said Rush, of Tuscaloosa.

Rush was sued by Tiger Woods' licensing firm for a painting of the golfer's victory at the Master's Golf Tournament in 1997. The case alleged the use of Woods' name and likeness was theft of intellectual property.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2003 that Rush's right to artistic expression was greater than the claims leveled on behalf of Woods...

Birmingham artist Zuniga sees the lawsuit as an First Amendment issue.

"We believe as artists, we can artistically depict sporting events — especially historic sporting events — and we have the First Amendment right to do so," he said. "It's just like someone could publish a book on the history of Alabama football. That would not require licensing."

Zuniga was sued in 1999 for a print called "Victory — At Last." The artwork was a montage of scenes from Tennessee's 1998 victory over Florida. The lawsuit claimed Zuniga did not have permission to use the university's logos.

The artist reached a settlement with the University of Tennessee in 2001. The Associated Press reported that the university would assist the artist with some of his attorney fees and other expenses. Zuniga agreed to become a licensee. He also agreed to abide by NCAA regulations for using names and pictures of athletes in commercial artwork.

Post-Herald sports columnist Ray Melick has also weighed in, saying that by suing Daniel Moore, the University is "going after one of its own."

Never mind that the University of Alabama comes across looking like mighty Goliath trying to squash little David, that it seems more eager to spend more money going after one of its own than it spent in protecting its reputation against the NCAA.

Of course, we all know how Goliath fared against David.

Fortunately for Moore, he could turn out to be the giant in this case. No doubt First Amendment groups from all over the country will line up on his side, as they have in similar cases all over the country. And there is a little thing called the Constitution that, so far, has successfully protected artists such as Moore. Unfortunately for the University of Alabama, the school comes across looking small. This isn't a matter of the university protecting its "good name." This university has successfully used Moore's work for decades to promote that "good name."

I hope that Moore doesn't let the University's hardball tactics intimidate him into settling the case - he will certainly have UA alumni, fans, and the general public on his side, and it sounds like there's a good chance he has the law on his side, as well. No matter how it turns out, though, the administration's perfidy has been revealed for all to see.

UA's Statement on Daniel Moore

Here is the University of Alabama's statement on its lawsuit against Daniel Moore and New Life Art.

This article in today's Tuscaloosa News has more.'s Tide forum is hopping on this topic today, with the vast majority of comments expressing outrage against the "administrative pinheads" at UA.

Thank You For Smoking

Looking forward to seeing Christopher Buckley's satire (reviewed at Reason Online here) when it hits the big screen. Wish they'd do the same with God is My Broker.

Gender-Specific Reading Classes Coming to One Alabama County

From the Montgomery Advertiser:
Lynn Ritvo, principal of Wetumpka Intermediate, and Stephen McKenzie, principal of Wetumpka Junior High, decided on the single-sex classroom approach after doing research and reading "Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Parents and Teachers" by Michael Gurian, Patricia Henley and Terry Trueman.

It's interesting that some of Principal Ritvo's research was done at Harvard University's Principal's Center, when it was only a little while ago that Harvard President Larry Summers was castigated by the faculty for saying that boys are different from girls.

Glenn Reynolds: Porn Protected More Than Political Speech

...thanks to campaign finance reform.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Pryor Appointment

The Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals related to Judge William Pryor's recess appointment to the 11th Circuit. The Christian Science Monitor has more. (Hat tip: Southern Appeal.)

The linked AP article repeats a distortion made by Pryor's opponents that he "compared homosexual acts to incest and pedophilia" in his Lawrence v. Texas amicus brief.

Here is what Pryor actually said in that brief, in its full context:

...the right that petitioners advocate is so expansively defined that it will inevitably cover a variety of supposedly consensual adult activity that has always been considered to be within the traditional police power of the States. “Among the liberties protected by the Constitution,” petitioners claim, “is the right of an adult to make choices about whether and in what manner to engage in private consensual sexual intimacy with another adult, including one of the same sex.” According to petitioners, “[o]ne’s sexual orientation, the choice of one’s partner, and whether and how to connect sexually are profound attributes of personhood where compulsion by the State is anathema to liberty.” The scope of these claimed rights is breathtaking.

It should be noted, again, that the Texas statute in question does not criminalize petitioners’ sexual orientation, which may or may not be a matter of choice and thus may arguably be protected from state discrimination by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Rather, the Texas antisodomy statute criminalizes petitioners’ sexual activity, which is indisputably a matter of choice. Petitioners’ protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, a constitutional right that protects “the choice of one’s partner” and “whether and how to connect sexually” must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be “willing”).
It is clear that Pryor's point was not to compare homosexual acts to "prostitution, adultery, necrophelia, etc.," but rather to make a logical point that finding a constitutional "right" to participate in such acts would have much broader implications. Pryor addressed this specific issue in his Senate confirmation hearing, in response to an allegation by Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wisconsin) that he had "equated private, consensual sexual activity between homosexuals to prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, incest and pedophilia":
In the Lawrence case...I was upholding and urging the Supreme Court to reaffirm its decision of 1986 in Bowers versus Hardwick, which is the law of the land. And the argument to which you referred, the slippery slope argument, was taken from Justice White's majority opinion for the Supreme Court of the United States.
Bowers v. Hardwick, to which Pryor referred, was a case involving a challenge to the constitutionality of Georgia's sodomy law. The majority opinion, written by Justice White, stated(emphasis added):

And if respondent's submission is limited to the voluntary sexual conduct between consenting adults, it would be difficult, except by fiat, to limit the claimed right to homosexual conduct while leaving exposed to prosecution adultery, incest, and other sexual crimes even though they are committed in the home. We are unwilling to start down that road.

Even if the conduct at issue here is not a fundamental right, respondent asserts that there must be a rational basis for the law, and that there is none in this case other than the presumed belief of a majority of the electorate in Georgia that homosexual sodomy is immoral and unacceptable. This is said to be an inadequate rationale to support the law. The law, however, is constantly based on notions of morality, and if all laws representing essentially moral choices are to be invalidated under the Due Process Clause, the courts will be very busy indeed. Even respondent makes no such claim, but insists that majority sentiments about the morality of homosexuality should be declared inadequate. We do not agree, and are unpersuaded that the sodomy laws of some 25 States should be invalidated on this basis.

Pryor's opponents imply that he was making a moral comparison between the various types of behavior he mentioned. The truth is that he was doing no such thing. But, I guess it's too much to ask for the press to report the truth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
On this day:

Daniel Moore and Bear Bryant

One of Daniel Moore's most famous works is the Bear Bryant commemorative stamp, which was released by the United States Postal Service in 1997.

University of Alabama Sues Artist Daniel Moore for Trademark Violations

The University of Alabama has filed a federal lawsuit against artist Daniel Moore and his publishing company for alleged trademark violations. UA says that Moore's art depicting Alabama uniforms and logos must be licensed by the University.

Moore, whose prints portraying notable moments in Alabama football history are treasured by Bama fans far and wide, claims that his work is protected by the First Amendment and that his paintings constitute a "fair use" of the University's registered trademarks. I doubt that this action by the University will go over very well with many Bama fans - nor will it please the many admirers of Daniel Moore's work.

UA's assistant VP for university relations says that the University is only trying "to protect the university's reputation and financial interests and to protect consumers who assume Moore's products are officially licensed by the university." Oh, give me a break! Moore has done more to enhance the University's reputation through his artwork than the entire UA administration has ever done, and I'd love for someone to explain to me how suppressing free expression serves to "protect consumers." The University spin team should cut the crap - it's obvious that this suit is all about money. Here's wishing Daniel Moore all the best as he takes on the Tyrants of Tuscaloosa. sure to check out some of Daniel Moore's prints at the University of Alabama Supply Store's web site. (Click on Merchandise - Bama Prints.) The Supply Store is owned and operated by the University of Alabama.

Fast Fingers

A new "world's fastest text-messenger" has been named.

It took him only 48 seconds to type the sentence: "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."

Earthquake Shakes Southwest Alabama

The 3.3 magnitude earthquake occurred at 2:11 a.m., and was centered in Clarke County near Coffeeville.

"My whole bed, my windows, everything was shaking. I thought my roof was going to fall in," said Faye Cotten, the mayor of Coffeeville, population about 360.

Another Coffeeville resident said, "I jumped up and said 'Lord, what was that'? We had no idea what was happening. I thought 'Who could be dynamiting at this time of night?'"

Monday, March 21, 2005
On this day:

Bill Seeks to Avoid Schiavo Scenario in Alabama

Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery is sponsoring a bill in the Alabama House of Representatives that would prevent the removal of nutrition from a patient who does not have a living will specifying the degree of medical care desired, or a clear legal guardian."

Making Water

They say that a device being tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville produces water that is is purer than any you'd get from a tap, but I'm not so sure I'd want try it out.

Alabama's "Road Back from Tort Hell"

Just came across this white paper written prior to last fall's election, in which Cumberland Law School Professor Michael DeBow discusses the notable changes in judicial philosophy that have occurred on the Alabama Supreme Court during the past decade. A good read, if you're interested in such things.

It would be difficult to find a state supreme courtthat has changed more in the last decade than theAlabama Supreme Court. In 1994, all nine justices on the court were Democrats – including two conservative,traditionally-minded jurists. Today, on the eveof the 2004 general election, the court is composed of eight Republicans and one Democrat – and it is possible that after the election all the justices will be Republicans.

The Alabama Supreme Court of 1994 was identified in the minds of many with a litigation climate in the state that was hostile to defendants – particularly corporate defendants...

The Alabama Supreme Court of 2004 follows amuch more conservative judicial philosophy – one which understands the judicial function as necessarily bound up with the protection of the rule of law, and the separation of powers among the different branches of state government.

"Environmental Justice" Measure in Alabama Legislature

Most everyone can understand people's concern over having polluting industries located next door. However, should this be turned into a racial issue? Some legislators think so.

A Senate committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would require the state to measure pollution affecting minority populations before considering permits for industries...

It would require the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to identify the subpopulation exposed to pollutants from any plant applying for a new, renewed or modified pollution permit.

Considering the populations within half a mile, one mile and three miles of the facility, ADEM would be required to add all the pollutants from all sources that contribute to exposure for people in the area. If there were more pollution on a minority or poor population than on another in the same county, the industry would be required to reduce its pollution or would be denied its permit.

- From the Birmingham News

Sunday, March 20, 2005
On this day:

Federalist Friday - Judicial Confirmations, the Filibuster, and the "Nuclear Option"

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are considering use of the so-called “nuclear option,” – or as they call it, the “constitutional option” - in order to break the Democratic filibuster that has prevented confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

The potential use of this parliamentary maneuver has infuriated Democrats, who have threatened to shut down virtually all business in the Senate if it is invoked.

A letter from Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D., Nevada) to majority leader Bill Frist (R., Tennessee) states that the tactic "would remove one of the constitutional checks and balances that has served our country so well for over two centuries." He goes on to say:

The role of the Senate in the confirmation of presidential nominees is a central element of our democracy. The Framers of the Constitution created a system of checks and balances to limit the power of each branch of government, and in that way to protect the rights of the American people. The Senate's review of judicial nominees is especially important because federal judges are the only government officials to receive lifetime appointments. These men and women will serve on the federal bench for decades, making far-reaching decisions that affect all Americans...

The power to confirm judges includes the right to use well-established Senate rules to reject nominees. No one has seriously doubted that right in over 200 years, and Senators have exercised it in recent times...

Reid raises a legitimate constitutional question: Would restricting or eliminating use of the filibuster in judicial confirmations “remove” one of the checks and balances established by the Constitution? More specifically, would it undermine the Senate's “advice and consent” role in judicial nominations? For an answer, it is helpful to look at what the Constitution's Framers had to say about the subject.

The appointment power is spelled out in Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law."

In Federalist #76, Alexander Hamilton discusses this power in great detail. In his defense of the system adopted in the Constitution, he discusses three practicable methods by which the appointment power could be exercised –1) “by a single man”, 2) “in a select assembly of a moderate number”, or 3) “in a single man with the concurrence of such an assembly.” The third method – nomination by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate - was the one selected by the Constitution’s Framers.

Hamilton proceeds to discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of each method. First, he compares the merits of the first two, arguing that vesting the “sole and solitary responsibility” of appointments in a single man would be preferable to delegating it to an assembly.

…one man of discernment is better fitted to analyze and estimate the peculiar qualities adapted to particular offices than a body of men of equal or perhaps even of superior discernment.

The sole and undivided responsibility of one man will naturally beget a livelier sense of duty and a more exact regard to reputation.
In other words, if the President were given an “undivided” power to appoint federal officials, he would know that his reputation would be subject to all the praise, or all the blame, for the quality of his appointments. Vesting the appointment power exclusively in the Senate or some other assembly, on the other hand, would inevitably result in partisan conflicts and deal-making that would prove detrimental to the “public service.”

Having established that appointment by one man would be superior to appointment by a body of men, Hamilton then goes on to argue that the Convention’s decision to divide the appointment power between the President and the Senate would result in the best possible outcome.

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. And, in addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in
proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.
Thus, Senate concurrence is required 1) to check "a spirit of favoritism in the President," 2) to promote "stability in the administration," neither of which would be impaired by a limitation on the filibuster.

It is safe to say that Harry Reid and the Democrats are mistaken in their criticisms of the "nuclear option." It is implausible that efforts to restrict the use of the filibuster would infringe on the Senate's advice and consent role as envisioned by Hamilton and the Framers. If anything, restricting use of the filibuster would restore the balance of power by reaffirming President’s prerogative in nominating candidates for federal offices. Abuse of the filibuster brings with it a requirement that nominees be acceptable to a supermajority of 60% in the Senate. This has produced results similar to those Hamilton spoke of when discussing the disadvantages of appointment by an assembly - "a full display of all the private and party likings and dislikes, partialities and antipathies, attachments and animosities, which are felt by those who compose the assembly."

In case any further convincing is needed, here's one more argument from Federalist #76, in which Hamilton addresses criticism that the Constitution's method of appointment could give the President too much influence over the Senate.
…A man disposed to view human nature as it is, without either flattering its virtues or exaggerating its vices, will see sufficient ground of confidence in the probity of the Senate, to rest satisfied, not only that it will be impracticable to the Executive to corrupt or seduce a majority of its members, but that the necessity of its co-operation, in the business of appointments, will be a considerable and salutary restraint upon the conduct of that magistrate.
Hamilton and the Framers anticipated that a majority would be required for confirmation of presidential appointments, not a supermajority . Thus, it is entirely legitimate that Senate rules enforcing such a requirement are not only debatable, but amendable and subject to repeal.

(Yeah, yeah...I'm a couple of days late in making this "Federalist Friday" post...but at least I started writing it on Friday. That counts for something, right?)

Saturday, March 19, 2005
On this day:

Bringing Home the Bacon

Richard Shelby is leaving his position as chairman of the U.S. Senate's Chairman of the Transportation, Treasury and General Government Subcommittee to assume the chairmanship of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Some say this may mean less pork for Alabama. the hard-nosed arena of congressional wheeling and dealing, some observers predict the recent shift could make it harder for Shelby to bring back the millions of dollars worth of federal "pork" money that Alabama civic leaders have increasingly come to count on for big-ticket projects.
Am I the only one in Alabama who thinks that this isn't necessarily a bad thing?

Territorial Dispute Between Japan and S. Korea Flares Up

Given the need for both countries' cooperation in dealing with North Korea, I'm sure folks at the State Department would characterize the latest dispute between Japan and South Korea as "unhelpful".

Friday, March 18, 2005
On this day:

Blackstone's Commentaries Online

Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England are now available online. Don't all rush there at once.

Hat tip: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy.

More Protection for "Big Shrimp"

Proposed federal rules that would cap the number of shrimping vessels in the Gulf of Mexico are anti-competitive and will inevitably result in higher prices for consumers. A few points from this Mobile Register article today:

In May, the federal government is expected to pass new rules that would cap the number of shrimping boats in the Gulf, potentially closing off future generations from their family tradition. The measure pits fishermen who still have boats against those who've lost them, believers in the free market against the zealots of "stability" and sometimes father against son...

Several options will be considered by the quasi-governmental Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council at its May meeting in Biloxi, including one that would limit the fleet to the 2,700 or so boats that were registered in December 2003.

Another would extend that deadline to May 2, 2005, potentially opening the fishery to hundreds more vessels. The cap would last 10 years.

The backers of the proposed regulation argue that closing off the fishery will allow those in the industry to catch more shrimp and make a profit, as well as insulate the industry from cycles of booms and busts. No one is claiming that shrimp are over-fished...

Critics of the measure say it's a sign that one more American industry is running scared from global competition, speeding away from capitalist uncertainty and toward the security of socialist-style controls...

"Businesses always want to insulate themselves from booms and busts. It's just a way of saying they want to insulate themselves from competition, so they can make more money," said James Gattuso, an economist with the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. "The problem is, when you limit competition, you cut out the innovation that's needed to make an industry competitive, especially in a global market."...

Perhaps a larger economic question raised by the proposed boat cap is that of equal opportunity, an issue that especially concerns hundreds of Vietnamese-American shrimpers who lost their boats to finance companies and banks when the market hit bucket bottom in recent years.

This comes in addition to the tariffs on foreign shrimp that were recently approved by the Department of Commerce. As the Cato Institute's Radley Balko wrote in response to that decision:

The shrimping industry is a great example of how the fight for free trade isn't about protecting big business at all. Rather, it's about protecting free markets, promoting commerce and generating prosperity. It's about consumers having access to the best goods at the best prices, and employees and employers finding one another where they may - and doing both without deference to or interference from artificial borders, protective special interests or messy, overarching governing bodies.

Erecting new barriers to market entry is even worse than imposing tariffs, in my opinion, because it is aimed solely at keeping new domestic competitors from entering the market. What if the federal government put caps on the number of farmers...or gas stations...or bookstores? I'm sure a lot of the big players in those lines of work would like that plenty - but that doesn't change the fact that it would be bad economic policy.

This kind of government nonsense has no place in a free marketplace, and the supposedly free-trade-friendly Bush administration should put an end to it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005
On this day:

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Have fun and be safe.

"Genes contribute to religious inclination"


(Link from Derb in the Corner.)

Hu's Party is It?

According to this article in the NY Times, even China's top leaders don't necessarily decide what information gets through the Propaganda Department's censors.
...official records in China, whether party histories dating back 70 years or next-day transcripts of public news conferences, tend to be scrubbed clean lest they portray the party itself as fallible.

"Individual leaders can make mistakes," [Beijing University] Professor Jiao [Guobiao] said. "The party cannot make mistakes."

Should Judge Moore Pay?

In a post Monday, I said: "The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that Chief Justice Roy Moore will not have to reimburse the state for legal fees sustained during the court fight over his Ten Commandments monument."

As one reader pointed out in a comment to that post, my statement wasn't quite accurate. The Court merely ruled that the plaintiffs in the case didn't have legal standing to sue Judge Moore for repayment of the fees. Sorry for the sloppiness.

As this Mobile Register editorial says,

The fact is that the high court still hasn't ruled on the merits of whether Mr. Moore should repay the $549,430 paid by the state in his defense. Instead, the court merely ruled that a group of taxpayers did not have legal standing to force such a repayment.

Relying on two court precedents and applicable state law, the Supreme Court noted that the law clearly delegates to "the governor" the responsibility for "the recovery of any public moneys ... which have been wrongfully disbursed."

In other words, individual taxpayers cannot exercise powers that, through their own elected officials, they already have delegated to the governor as their agent.

Having determined that the taxpayers have no standing to sue, the high court did not consider what should happen if the governor tried to collect court costs from Mr. Moore. Gov. Bob Riley, therefore, has reason to press the issue.

The editorial goes on to state that Judge Moore should foot the bill, expecially since he has "gained fame and possibly fortune" as a result of the Ten Commandments case. Their argument is that Moore has a moral obligation to pay, if not a legal obligation, which was exactly the point that Cheif made in his comment yesterday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
On this day:

UA SGA Senator Calls on Faculty to Rescind "Hate Speech" Resolution

Student Government Association Senator Richard Samples, who is leading the fight against the "hate speech" resolution passed by the UA Faculty Senate last fall, has an excellent opinion piece on the subject in today's Crimson White.

Speech codes in various forms, including that of harassment codes, have been part of American college life for the last two decades. The main purpose of these speech codes has been to suppress dissenting opinion, especially conservative opinion critical of liberal and leftist University policies.

...These codes invariably are used to justify "malicious aggression" against those who do not conform to the narrow ideology of the campus Left. Labeling dissenters as "haters" or "harassers" is a cowardly and immoral way of avoiding real, substantive debate...

While their collective heart may have been in the right place, the collective mind of the UA Faculty Senate certainly was not when they passed their resolution. They should exercise academic leadership and admit they made a mistake, then rescind their resolution. That would be an act of courage and decency that we could all admire.

Samples and other student leaders at UA are right on target. At a time when free inquiry and intellectual diversity are under attack on college campuses across the nation (e.g., see the latest in the Summers saga from Harvard), they have committed themselves to holding the high ground, and for that they should be commended.

Hat tip: Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy and Charles Nuckolls at Liberty and Power.

Bama Bong

A restaurant in Tuscaloosa has introduced a new concept to enhance (?) the dining experience.

Alabama House Approves Bill Naming Black Bear as Alabama's Official State Mammal

The bill now goes to the Senate. I didn't even know that there were any black bears in Alabama, but apparently so, mostly along rivers in the southwestern part of the state.

Alabama Senate Approves Phone Deregulation Bill a vote of 23-8. The bill now goes to the House.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
On this day:

Long-Winded Castro

In a speech broadcast on Cuban state TV last week, Fidel spoke for 5 1/2 hours, 2 of which were spent discussing the merits of pressure cookers. (See the links in the last post.) And I thought Bill Clinton was bad.

"Intellectuals" Announce Support for Castro Regime

From the AP:

About 200 intellectuals, activists and artists from Latin America and elsewhere issued a letter Monday urging the top United Nations human rights watchdog to side with Cuba in an expected battle over the communist country's rights record.

...Among American signatories were actor Danny Glover, author Alice Walker and historian and activist Howard Zinn.

Yeah, yeah. Betcha they're just kissing up so that they can get one of those free pressure cookers. (See also here.)

Roy Moore to Visit Huntsville

Roy Moore will speak in Huntsville this Saturday amid speculation that he may soon announce plans to run for Governor.

Those Lebanese Protests

What protest? There are no protesters here.

Hat tip: Poliblogger.

Scalia Talks About Politics and the Judiciary

Justice Scalia had some harsh words for the U.S. Supreme Court and the "Living Constitution" in a speech delivered yesterday at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Also, Scalia said that he is not a strict constructionist and that the term "judicial activism" is overused.'ll be interesting to see the transcript, if one is forthcoming.

California Judge Rules Marriage Law Unconstitutional

I'm sure that the California Constitution provides a method for removing judges from office. If elected officials there don't summon up the nerve to get rid of this guy, I wonder if that would make them "constitutional girlie men."

Southern Appeal and the Volokh Conspiracy have more (you may have to scroll some), as does practically every other blog on the internet by now. The judge's decision is here.

Ben Stein in B'ham

I made it down to Birmingham this evening for Ben Stein's speech at Birmingham-Southern College. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision on my part, but I've been a Ben Stein fan ever since I started reading his Diary in the American Spectator while I was in college, and I didn't have any other plans, so I figured - what the heck?

The speech didn't disappoint. Typical Ben Stein...funny, positive, and uplifting. He touched on politics, economics, the war on terror, the media, and Hollywood. If I had boil it all down to one theme, it would be this: "One of the keys to happiness in our society is to be grateful for living in America...take full advantage of its opportunities...and quit your incessant whining!" Pretty good advice, I thought.

While he was down front shaking hands and signing autographs after the speech and Q&A session, he got in a pretty heated discussion with a guy who I guessed to be a junior or senior at BSC. The young fellow said that Stein had understated the extent of poverty and homelessness in America, rattling off statistics about poverty levels, numbers of homeless, etc. It was obvious that he had missed the point of Mr. Stein's lecture entirely. No one denies that poverty and homelessness are problems, but as Stein responded - there are very few people in this country who go to bed "involuntarily hungry" at night. You can cite poverty levels all you want, but as any economist who's worth his weight will tell you, government-published poverty levels are misleading at best. 90% of those living below the poverty line in America have color TV sets, 74% have microwave ovens, and most have at least one automobile. Stein's point was that it should be a cause for celebration that we live in a country in which even the poorest citizens are able to afford such "luxuries." Unfortunately, that's not a lesson you're likely to learn on today's college campuses, and that's why folks like Ben Stein are so important, and why it was such an honor to shake his hand.

Monday, March 14, 2005
On this day:

Commercial Shrimpers Fight to "Keep the Weekend Warriors Out of the Water"

Commercial shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico are facing unwanted competition from part-timers, so they're calling on the federal government to lend them a hand by putting a cap on the number of licenses issued.

Stifling competition via licensing...kinda like the casket business in Tennessee and the cab business in NYC.

Social Security Compromise in the Works?

Bob Novak outlines a potential compromise being forwarded by Sen. Robert Bennett (R.-Utah) that would index increases in benefits to inflation rather than to wages and wait 5 years before adding private accounts to the system.

Roger Bedford: "Bush wants to go after the seniors"

Here's state Senator Roger Bedford on President Bush's Social Security plan: "I don't know why George Bush wants to go after the seniors. Maybe it's because New York stock brokers gave him so much money, and they're going to make money off of seniors."

No one is "going after" senior citizens. As the President has pointed out repeatedly, those who are currently receiving Social Security benefits and those who are set to receive them in the near future will not be affected by the President's plan. The Senator is smart enough to know this, but he and other Democrats fear that, like 401(k)'s and IRA's, private investment accounts in Social Security are likely to prove very popular once they are instituted. So, I guess it comes as no surprise that they are resorting to this kind of demagoguery and innuendo. They are fighting for the future of their party, with the knowledge that dependence on government translates into support for Democrats at the voting booth. What else to make of that party-line vote in the legislature a few weeks ago condemning the President's plan?

Boll Weevil Monument Gains International Attention

A British travel columnist makes note of Enterprise's Boll Weevil monument, but forgot to mention the Axis of Weevil.


A home-schooled student from Rainbow City won the Alabama spelling bee this weekend, correctly spelling the word "stupefacient."

Voting Wrongs

The Mobile Register says certain provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that "treat certain Southern states as if they are outlaw regimes" should be allowed to expire in 2007. At issue are the Act's "pre-clearance" requirements that force Southern states to get Justice Department approval before instituting any changes to election law or procedures.

No Moore Money

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that Chief Justice Roy Moore will not have to reimburse the state for legal fees sustained during the court fight over his Ten Commandments monument.

Sounds fair to me. Moore pursued his legal battle in his capacity as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, so whatever one's opinion of "Roy's Rock" and the surrounding controversy, it is fitting that the state should pick up the tab.

Attorney General Troy King to Run in 2006

Alabama Attorney General Troy King says he will definitely run for a full term in 2006. King was appointed as AG by Gov. Riley following Bill Pryor's nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Most recently, he submitted an amicus brief in Roper v. Simmons (Supreme Court opinions are here), the juvenile death penalty case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last week. King's brief supported the constitutionality of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, a position that was rejected by the Court. King also praised last week's passage of a new state Open Meetings Law(see here), which was one of the first measures he endorsed upon taking office.

King follows in the footsteps of two other outstanding Republicans to serve in the Attorney General's office - (now-Senator) Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor. When you consider that the three men who held the office before Sessions took over in 1995 were Charlie Graddick, Don Siegelman, and Jimmy Evans, it's clear just how much things have changed for the better.

Friday, March 11, 2005
On this day:

Tax Dollars: Going Down the Toilet

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill to tax toilet paper.

Alabama Legislature Passes Proposed Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

The Alabama legislature has approved a constitutional amendment that would ban state recognition of same-sex marriages. The measure will go to voters for ratification in the 2006 primary election, unless the Governor and legislature call for a special election sooner.

Star Wars

The third "prequel" in the series, "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," will hit theaters in May. George Lucas says it will probably be the first in the series to get a PG-13 rating, due to a greater level of violence than the others.

Federalist Friday - Social Security and the "General Welfare"

The first question that should be asked when considering any federal program is - is it constitutional? The same question should be asked of Social Security.

Social Security's constitutionality was originally defended based on the "general welfare clause" of the U.S. Constitution. The preamble of the Social Security Act states:
An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws; to establish a Social Security Board; to raise revenue; and for other purposes.
The question of what powers the general welfare clause confers on the federal government is one as old as the Constitution itself. The Anti-Federalists were concerned that its vague wording would be interpreted as an all-encompassing power for Congress to tax and spend virtually without restraint. James Madison answered them in Federalist No. 41 (emphasis added):

Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare."

But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.

The objection here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language used by the convention is a copy from the articles of Confederation. The objects of the Union among the States, as described in article third, are "their common defense, security of their liberties, and mutual and general welfare." The terms of article eighth are still more identical: "All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury," etc. A similar language again occurs in article ninth. Construe either of these articles by the rules which would justify the construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever. But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense and general welfare? I appeal to the objectors themselves, whether they would in that case have employed the same reasoning in justification of Congress as they now make use of against the convention. How difficult it is for error to escape its own condemnation!

That all boils down to an assurance by Madison that the general welfare clause did not "amount to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the...general welfare," and that the clause was "explained and qualified" by the specific Section 8 powers enumerated afterwards. None of those enumerated powers delegate a power to create a social insurance program or an old-age pension program.

Nonetheless, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Social Security Act in Helvering v. Davis, Steward Maching Co. v. Davis, and Carmichael v. Southern Coal & Coke and Gulf States Paper. So, here we are.

(I should note that Alexander Hamilton had a more expansive view of the general welfare clause - the Court alluded to that fact in Helvering - but Hamilton didn't go out of his way to express that position in the Federalist Papers.)