Saturday, April 30, 2005
On this day:


That's the simplest way to describe the press coverage of this whole runaway bride story. I mean...there are so many more important things to this.

Friday, April 29, 2005
On this day:

"The Scream" Burned?

A report in a Norwegian newspaper says that Eduard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" has been burned.

OK...has anyone seen Rep. Gerald Allen recently?

Is That a Fusion Reactor in Your Pocket?

This is very cool...ummm...or maybe it's hot, I dunno...from yesterday's New York Times:

In a surprising feat of miniaturization, scientists are reporting today that they have produced nuclear fusion - the same process that powers the sun - in a footlong cylinder just five inches in diameter. And they say they will soon be able to make the device even smaller.

While the device is probably too inefficient to produce electricity or other forms of energy, the scientists say, egg-size fusion generators could someday find uses in spacecraft thrusters, medical treatments and scanners that search for bombs.

This story has also been picked up here and here. There's a tutorial on fusion here.

Social Security

Maybe we won't even need it.

Too Bad Don Siegelman Wasn't There

This would have been a very appropriate place for Siegelman to have a "listening post."

Cheney at Auburn

The veep will be speaking at Auburn's commencement ceremony on May 13.

Cheney will likely find himself right at home in Auburn. I mean...he's a pretty plain man.

Thursday, April 28, 2005
On this day:

Major Diversity

Defining "diversity" at the University of Alabama:

Training the new generation of leftists by providing majors in "social justice and anti-racist activism" (scroll to the bottom) and "oppression studies."

Alabama Universitites to Raise Tuition...Again

Students at Alabama's two largest universities will likely be paying more in tuition next year.

Auburn University's Board of Trustees has delayed a decision on the level of increase, but the consensus seems to be that the 4% increase proposed by administrators is too much. In-state tuition at AU has gone up by 51% since the 2000-2001 school year.

Likewise, University of Alabama President Robert Witt says that the administration will likely propose an increase to the Board of Trustees this summer. UA tuition for in-state students increased by 16% in 2003-04 and 12% in 2004-05.

Mobile Register: Democrats search mud to try to slime Pryor

The Dems are again raising old and discredited charges against Bill Pryor concerning his fundraising activities while he headed the Republican Attorney Generals' Association. The Mobile Register puts it all into perspective.

Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

Update: the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Pryor has been rescheduled for the week of May 9.

For Local Civil War Buffs

Earlier this month, the Decatur Daily published a six-part series entitled The Home Front: 1861-1865, discussing the Civil War and its impact on North Alabama.

Reagan's Diary

The diary that President Reagan kept while he was President will be published.

Roy's Rock Goes to Gadsden

It will be installed Friday (permanently?) at the CrossPoint Community Church in Gadsden. Meanwhile, Enterprise still has its boll weevil.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
On this day:

Gerald Allen's Bill Dead

From the AP:

The House Education Committee did not have enough members show up to hold its last scheduled meeting of the legislative, which killed a bill to prohibit schools from spending state money on books or other materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Allen (R.-Cottondale), was misguided at best...just plain stupid at worst. (See my previous posts here and here.) It didn't exactly help Alabama's image, either. For some strange reason, book-banning just doesn't go over very well these days.

The fact is that Allen's bill never had any chance of passing. Committee members didn't even show up today to consider it.

I just hope that Rep. Allen has learned his lesson and chooses to focus his attention on more important issues in the future...although it was kinda fun to see the nation's bedwetters in such a tizzy over this one.

"Big Entertainment" Gets a Wiregrass Welcome

From the AP:
Movie Gallery Inc. completed its nearly $900 million acquisition of Hollywood Entertainment Corp. on Wednesday, creating the second-largest North American home video retailer.

Hollywood will continue operating under its brand name as a subsidiary of Movie Gallery, headquartered in Dothan, Ala.

Donor Disclosure Bill is Dead

After five weeks of debate in the Alabama Senate, the donor disclosure bill is dead, and it is not likely to be revived for the remainder of this legislative session.

A post on the Alabama Democratic Party blog a couple of weeks ago derided GOP opposition to the bill, saying that it proved Republicans "care more about the special interests of the Christian Coalition than the interests of the people of Alabama."

Despite his overheated rhetoric, the ADP blogger is exactly right...well almost. I'd say it something like this: When it comes to freedom of speech, especially political speech, the liberty of individuals and organizations to express their "special interests" trumps a general "interest of the people" to curtail that liberty.

One of the dangers inherent to democracy is that legislatures are frequently tempted to suppress the expression of views that are unpopular or inconvenient. That's why our federal and state constitutions protect political speech against infringement by the government. And, that's why the Alabama GOP was absolutely right to stand up for the state's "special interests" by ensuring the defeat of this legislation.


Found a few posts I liked from this week's Carnival of the Vanities:

The World According to Pete gives a look at what might happen if cats could blog. Meow.

Incite discusses how to use the "calling instinct" to your advantage in a game of Texas Hold-Em. So, I wonder if there are any exclusive "poker blogs" out there.

Test Your Geography

Place the U.S. States.




South and Central America.

Whining Automakers

Surprise, surprise - Toyota is refusing to raise its auto prices in the U.S. in order help out its American competitors. The only reason Toyota would consider such an illogical move to begin with is to fend off calls by U.S. automakers for protectionist legislation. (Hat tip: Outside the Beltway.)

Today, a large percentage (maybe even a majority) of Toyota vehicles sold in America are made in America. Obviously, Toyota has figured out the right formula for producing automobiles right here in the good ol' USA. What's the problem with Ford and GM?

The last few decades proved that foreign competition has been a major factor in saving the U.S. auto industry from itself. Detroit automakers had become bloated and lazy in the '70's. Putting it bluntly, their cars sucked. Foreign manufacturers took advantage of this weakness, and marketed automobiles in America that came to be known for their quality and innovation. It was only after losing a huge chunk of their customer base to foreign companies that the Big Three were forced to respond to consumer demand by producing better, cheaper automobiles.

Instead of whining about foreign competition, maybe U.S. automakers should follow the lead of their competitors and move to Dixie, where the regulatory environment is more favorable and unions are less powerful. Maybe they can come up some better ideas. But, the last thing anyone should consider is shielding U.S. manufacturers from market competition by imposing tariffs or "voluntary" import quotas or price increases.

Splenda Clarification

I got a little confused while reading the fine print on a Splenda package today.

From the Splenda web site: McNeil Nutritionals owns the SPLENDA® Brand and has commercial responsibility for the worldwide SPLENDA® Brand retail and food service business. Tate & Lyle is the sole manufacturer and is responsible for worldwide food and beverage ingredient sales of SPLENDA® Brand sucralose.

Tate & Lyle manufactures Splenda in McIntosh, Alabama.

(By the do you make that little ® sign? I can cut and paste it, but I have no idea how to get the keyboard to spit it out.)

The Underlying Issue

Though the disclosure bill is the one being filibustered, many people believe that the real reason for the filibuster is dissatisfaction over the education budget passed by the House. Gov. Riley proposed a 4% raise for teachers in his budget, but the bill passed by the House would raise teacher salaries by 6%, in accordance with the wishes of the Alabama Education Association. The difference between a 4% raise and a 6% raise is $52 million.

Also at issue is a demand by one legislator that the state's two-year colleges be given $46.25 million more than already budgeted for next year.

State law requires a balanced budget and prohibits cuts in teacher pay. Therefore, a shortfall in education trust fund revenues results in across-the-board cuts in school funding, i.e. "proration," sparing employee salaries.

Practically everyone would like to give teachers a bigger raise, and no politician wants to go on record opposing more money for the state's community colleges, but all of that would come at the expense of contributing to the state's rainy day fund, which was set up to avoid proration in "dry years" when state revenues fail to meet expectations.

The cost of a special session would range from $108,000 to $430,000...a small price to pay for protecting free speech and ensuring fiscal responsibility.

If You Want to See a Real Filibuster, Come to Alabama

The Alabama Senate has been locked up in a filibuster for a month now over a bill "to provide that paid political advertisement made by or paid for by an organization or entity, other than a principal campaign committee, shall disclose the names of the source of the funding of the organization or entity..." (See the Alabama Legislative Information Service Online...the bill is HB75.)

The bill is aimed at non-profit organizations that engage in issue advocacy. It states that "while the Legislature recognizes the right to free speech, the Legislature believes that Alabama voters have a right to know who pays for the costs of political issue advocacy advertisements."

The Alabama Constitution states "that no law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press; and any person may speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty."

Apparently, a majority of Alabama legislators don't understand that the right to speak anonymously is fundamental to the freedom of speech protected by the Alabama Constitution.

Could they have forgotten that the most important issue advocacy ad in American history - the Federalist Papers - appeared in New York newspapers under a pseudonym? Would the supporters of this bill have forced Madison, Jay, and Hamilton to disclose their "sources of funding?"

This bill is plainly unconstitutional, and is nothing more than an attempt to protect incumbents and stifle dissent. Republicans in the legislature are right to use all means at their disposal to kill it - including the filibuster - even if that means that consideration of all other bills, including the budgets, have to be postponed to a special session later in the year.

Alabama House Passes Phone Deregulation Bill

The vote was 69-27. The House bill was amended from the original version passed by the Senate, so now it will go back to the Senate...which is locked up in a monthlong filibuster over a bill that would require nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors when they run political ads.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
On this day:

The Hitchhiker's Guide

I feel like I'm the only self-proclaimed geek who has yet to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Think I have time to read the book before the movie premiere this Friday?

"I would have had a better throw if I wasn't drunk."

...quote from a bikini-clad octagenarian at last weekend's Flora-Bama Lounge and Package's 21st Annual Interstate Mullet Toss.

Yup...Hu's a Commie

According to the Washington Post, Chinese President Hu Jintao "is emerging as an unyielding leader determined to preserve the Communist Party's monopoly on power and willing to impose new limits on speech and other civil liberties to do it, according to party officials, journalists and analysts."

Interesting...especially in light of that last post.

"Underground Conversations" in China

Will the communications revolution be the undoing of China's Communist government? The New York Times provides more evidence that the Chi-Coms believe that it could be.
The thousands of people who poured onto the streets of China this month for the anti-Japanese protests that shook Asia were bound by nationalist anger but also by a more mundane fact: they are China's cellphone and computer generation.

For several weeks as the protests grew larger and more unruly, China banned almost all coverage in the state media. It hardly mattered. An underground conversation was raging via e-mail, text message and instant online messaging that inflamed public opinion and served as an organizing tool for protesters.

The underground noise grew so loud that last Friday the Chinese government moved to silence it by banning the use of text messages or e-mail to organize protests. It was part of a broader curb on the anti-Japanese movement but it also seemed the Communist Party had self-interest in mind.

"They are afraid the Chinese people will think, O.K., today we protest Japan; tomorrow, Japan," said an Asian diplomat who has watched the protests closely. "But the day after tomorrow, how about we protest against the government?"

Siegelman to File Campaign Papers: "I'm closer to running than not."

Closer to losing than not, too, I'd say.

Auburn University to Build $100 Million Beach Hotel

From the Mobile Register:
Auburn University trustees voted Friday to move forward on a plan to build a hotel at Gulf State Park, for the first time releasing the proposed agreement with state officials...

Trustees gave interim President Ed Richardson the power to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as well as to sign a lease of 70 to 99 years with the state for the hotel site and to select a developer for a hotel.

The State of Alabama kick in up to $41 million on an "exposition hall" next door.

Sounds like an endeavor that would best be left in the hands of the private sector. AU should stick to cows and catfish. :)

Not So Sweet

Another tidbit from that Doug Bandow piece: American consumers pay up to five times the world price for sugar...thanks to federal handouts to the sugar industry.

Sweet Home Alabama

Splenda, the world's leading sugar substitute, is made in McIntosh, Alabama. I didn't know that.

The sugar industry is suing Tate & Lyle, Splenda's manufacturer, for allegedly misleading consumers into thinking that it is a natural sweetener. According to the Mobile Register, a spokesman for the company counters that "We have never claimed that it is 'natural,' because it is the product of a chemical process. But there are sugar deliveries being made to McIntosh every week."

The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow has more on the lawsuit and the sugar industry's anti-competitive tactics here.

Monday, April 25, 2005
On this day:

Confederate Memorial Day

Today was Confederate Memorial Day in Alabama.

NY Times: Many Say End of Firearms Ban Changed Little

The federal ban on so-called "assault weapons," which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, expired last September. As the ban was set to expire, the shrill warnings from the anti-gun forces were characterized by misinformation and outright lies. ran an ad insinuating that allowing the ban to expire would legalize machine guns. That allegation was a bold-faced lie, as pointed out.

John Kerry said, "For the first time in 10 years, when a killer walks in a gun shop, when a terrorist goes to a gun show somewhere in America, if they want to purchase an AK-47 or some other military assault weapon, they are going to hear one word -- sure," Kerry said. "Today George Bush chose to make the job of terrorists easier and make the job of police officers harder, and that's just plain wrong."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said: "...the assault weapons ban will expire ("sunset") in September 2004 unless Congress and President George W. Bush renew it. That means that AK47s and other semi-automatic assault weapons could begin flooding our streets again, as the weapons of choice of gang members, drug dealers and other dangerous criminals...the weapons banned by the 1994 law are nothing more than 'cop-killer guns.'"

An ad run by asked, "Why does President Bush want to put cop-killing guns back on the street?"

But, as this article from yesterday's New York Times indicates, none of the horrific consequences predicted by the ban's proponents have come true.
Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.
The ban's supporters say that's because it didn't go far enough to begin with. But, as the NRA and other gun-rights groups said all along, the ban was focused primarily on weapons whose aesthetics made them "look scary." The guns banned by the law were never used in a high percentage of crimes, and were never the "weapons of choice of gang members, drug dealers and other dangerous criminals," no matter what Sarah Brady and her followers might have said.

The long-term aim of the gun control crowd has always been an eventual ban on virtually all civilian ownership of firearms. The demise of the assault weapons ban is a victory for defenders of the Second Amendment, and they deserve a great deal of credit for their dedication and perseverance.

The Grand Canyon of the South

That's what the state's tourism director calls the Walls of Jericho wilderness area in Jackson County, which has received 10,000 visitors since it opened to the public back in August.

It's definitely on my road-trip agenda...lucky for me, it's only about an hour or so away. Here are directions and a map of the area. I found some photos here (scroll down to Alabama).

Conservative Democrats: A Dying Breed

Here's Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer:
"Sometimes I don't think my leadership gets it," said Cramer, D-Ala. "If they're to really stand the chance to take the House back, they've got to leave those members plenty of room to vote where their district is coming from rather than where the national party is coming from."

It ain't gonna happen, Bud - in the party of Howard Dean, there's just no room for conservatives. Time to do what's best for the state and switch parties.

Friday, April 22, 2005
On this day:

Breyer, O'Connor, Scalia Discussion Available on C-SPAN

Yesterday's "Constitutional Conversation with Justices Breyer, O'Connor and Scalia, moderated by 'Meet the Press' host Tim Russert" is available from C-SPAN. The RealPlayer video is here.

I thought it was interesting and entertaining, although Russert did have a few too many softball mamanem questions for my taste. (A mamanem question is one along the lines of "So, how's your mama 'n' 'em?")

Another thing...Russert needs to tone down the hair coloring a bit.

Other than those minor nitpicks, this is a rare opportunity to see three sitting Supreme Court justices in a public forum answering questions about the law and the Court. Take a's a little over an hour long.

(Hat tip: Howard Bashman at How Appealing.)

Campaign aims to recycle e-waste

See story here.

Well whoop-tee-doo! NASA here in Huntsville is recycling p-waste.


Yes, this game is weird...thanks, Jonah.

Mystery is Revealed

I actually like the unpopped kernels.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
On this day:

The South Will Rise Again

The Census Bureau projects that in 3 decades, almost 40% of the nation's population will live in the South, with tremendous consequences for the nation's culture and politics. (Registration required for that link, I think...sorry.)

The same census study says that Alabama's population growth isn't expected to keep up with its neighbors, but some people aren't buying it. From today's Huntsville Times:
Carl Ferguson, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, said the census didn't take into account Alabama's recent growth, especially in its urban areas.

"If we were to put it into neutral and do absolutely nothing else, not pay any attention to our future, these numbers might come to pass and indeed Alabama could well suffer," Ferguson said. "But what we've seen over the course of the last 15 to 20 years is that Alabama isn't going to do that."

Because the bureau looks at past decades to make predictions, it isn't taking into account the most recent growth, Ferguson said.


Huntsville's annual Panoply Arts Festival is this weekend in Big Spring Park downtown. Headline musical acts are Chubby Checker, Koko Taylor ("Queen of the Blues"), Pam Tillis, and Hal Ketchum. Plus, there will be a whole host of local bands and artists from all over the South. And ohhhh...the food!

The Panoply web site is here.

Should We Be Worried?

According to my Sitemeter statistics, someone did a Google search early this morning for "inflatable sheep," leading them to an earlier post of mine. I found that a little...ummm...odd.

But, I got even more concerned when I saw that the person doing the original search had a ".mil" domain name. Maybe I shouldn't be too worried, though...I heard recently that the military is testing out new deception tactics for use against the French.

By the way, when I did the Google search for "inflatable sheep" post was 9th from the top of the list. Wonderful. There will be all kinds of weirdos showing up in here now. :)

France: We Would Support Chinese War Against Taiwan

"The [mainland Chinese] anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France." So says French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Thus has France taken sides in a potential conflict between Taiwan and China - a conflict in which the United States is pledged to come to the aid of Taiwan. France's latest act of perfidy provides more evidence that the emerging alliance between France and China isn't limited to trade - it is now extends to diplomacy and even defense. It was only last year that France and China conducted joint naval exercises - timed just prior to Taiwan's elections in order to provide maximum intimidation of Taiwan's voters.

France has chosen its course - it sees itself as an enemy of the United States. It is time to revise our defense and foreign policy to reflect that fact.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Pope Benedict XVI

He's heard of Alabama.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
On this day:

Picking Up Where Lawrence Left Off

If this news account is accurate, the facts seem remarkably similar to those in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case. Police respond to a complaint, enter a private residence, find an adult couple engaged in an act of consensual sex, then arrest them because the sex act they were performing is prohibited by state law.

In Lawrence, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state anti-sodomy statutes. The Court's opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, held that such laws were unconstitutional under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. (In a concurring opinion, Justice O'Connor reached the same conclusion by applying the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.)

In light of Lawrence, it will be very interesting if this happens to wind up in the federal courts.

As Justice Scalia said in his Lawrence dissent:

The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are "immoral and unacceptable," the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity. Bowers [reference to Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986] held that this was a legitimate state interest. The Court today reaches the opposite conclusion. The Texas statute, it says, "furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual," (emphasis added). The Court embraces instead Justice Stevens' declaration in his Bowers dissent, that "the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice." This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation. If, as the Court asserts, the promotion of majoritarian sexual morality is not even a legitimate state interest, none of the above-mentioned laws can survive rational-basis review.


Courtroom "mooner" ruled competent to stand trial.

Vehicular Homicide?

Florida man pumps 5 shots into the hood of his Chrysler LeBaron, saying that the car had "outlived his usefulness," and he was merely "putting it out of its misery."

Bill Pryor On Senate Judiciary Committee Docket This Week

Senator Jeff Sessions (R. - Alabama) continues to fight the good fight on Pryor's behalf.
"I remain hopeful," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who is Pryor's most outspoken supporter on the Judiciary Committee. "It's not going to be easy to get senators to change their votes. In fact, it's seldom done. But there is a good basis for it on Bill's nomination."

Sessions has been distributing to colleagues a packet of information that he says details Pryor's decisions since he has been on the bench, proving he isn't the ultraconservative foes have made him out to be. (AP)

Theatre of the Depressed

For those at the University of Alabama who are feel the need to break the yoke of oppression following yesterday's speech by anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, there is hope, courtesy of the UA Women's Resource Center:

The WRC will also be holding auditions for a new theatrical peer education project on Monday-Tuesday, April 18-19, from 4-6 p.m. on the third floor of Russell Student Health Center. Based on a style of performance called Theatre of the Oppressed, the new production will seek to break down barriers between audience members and actors in order to educate people about the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
"What is the 'Theatre of the Oppressed?'" you might ask. According to the Theatre of the Oppressed Laboratory (be sure to put the emphasis on the second syllable):
The Theater of the Oppressed, established in the early 1970s by Brazilian director and Workers' Party (PT) activist Augusto Boal, is a form of popular theater, of, by, and for people engaged in the struggle for liberation. More specifically, it is a rehearsal theater designed for people who want to learn ways of fighting back against oppression in their daily lives. In the Theater of the Oppressed, oppression is defined, in part, as a power dynamic based on monologue rather than dialogue; a relation of domination and command that prohibits the oppressed from being who they are and from exercising their basic human rights.
Ummmm...yeah. Paid for with your tax dollars, folks.

(If, by chance, you're really interested in this topic, more info is available at the International Theatre of the DeOppressed Organisation website here. Ahhhh...didn't think you would be.)

Aarrg, Matey!

Got a link to this story from a friend of mine today...students at North Carolina State have elected an fellow who calls himself "the Pirate Captain" as student body president. He "wears a beard, eyepatch, white puffy shirt, boots, dangling sword and sometimes even a parrot."

See his website here...complete with photos and a radio ad. The campus newspaper's writeup is here.

Alabama Unemployment at 4.7% in March

...the lowest level in 4 years, and well below the nationwide unemployment rate of 5.2%. According to this AP report, however, there may be reason to doubt the new numbers:
Statistics released Tuesday by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations showed all 67 counties recorded a decline in their unemployment rates — another huge change that raised eyebrows.

DIR information specialist Ron Macksoud said the department is looking into whether this is the first time all counties have recorded a decline in a single month.

He said there was a change in the methodology of figuring unemployment rates nationwide in January, but it was not immediately clear if the change had anything to do with the strong statewide decline.

Nonetheless, for many years, economists considered an unemployment rate below 5% as "full employment," so I'd say we're in pretty good shape.

That New York Times Article on Anti-Japan Protests in Hong Kong

In a post yesterday, I linked to this article in the New York Times.

At the time, the article said:

Hong Kong schools teach almost nothing about the occupation, a legacy of the British, who were close allies of Japan.

Unable to recall any British alliance with the Japanese during World War II, I said:

I guess someone at the Times noticed the error, because today, the sentence in question has been edited to read:
Hong Kong schools teach almost nothing about the occupation.
As far as I can tell, the edit was made without any notice to readers of a correction. A little sloppy for America's "Newspaper of Record," don't you think?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
On this day:

Justice Scalia and "Strict Constructionism"

Here's columnist Adam Cohen from Tuesday's New York Times:

Conservatives claim that they are rising up against "activist judges," who decide cases based on their personal beliefs rather than the law. They frequently point to Justice Antonin Scalia as a model of honest, "strict constructionist" judging. And Justice Scalia has eagerly embraced the hero's role...

Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with.

Now, here's Justice Scalia, in his own words (from a speech delivered March 14, 2005, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars...transcript here):

I am one of a small number of judges, small number of anybody: judges, professors, lawyers; who are known as originalists. Our manner of interpreting the Constitution is to begin with the text, and to give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people.

I’m not a strict constructionist, despite the introduction. I don’t like the term “strict construction”. I do not think the Constitution, or any text should be interpreted either strictly or sloppily; it should be interpreted reasonably. Many of my interpretations do not deserve the description “strict”. I do believe however, that you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted.

It should be very clear from that statement that Scalia does not "boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads." In fact, he emphatically rejects the label of "strict-constructionist." You'd think that even an "editorial observer" for the New York Times could figure that out.

Adam Cohen obviously needs to do a little more fact-checking. Anyone want to place a bet on whether he will admit his error?

The Classical "Holy Grail"

New technology is allowing scientists to unveil classic Greek and Roman texts that have not been seen by human eyes for centuries. Way cool.

Monday, April 18, 2005
On this day:

Siegelman: A State Lottery is the Best Way to Pay for "Quality Education"

Former Gov. Don Siegelman had a column in Sunday's Birmingham News reiterating his support for a state lottery, and saying that "opponents...continue to criticize a lottery without offering a single workable alternative."

As best I can tell, Siegelman's argument for a lottery is based on three assumptions - 1) that "all Alabama children deserve the right to a quality education," 2) that public education in Alabama is underfunded, and 3) that there is a "prevailing anti-tax sentiment in Alabama" that prevents raising tax revenues that are sufficient to fund "quality" education for the state's schoolchildren.

These assumptions lead Siegelman to conclude that a state lottery is the only reasonable way to address the problems in Alabama's education system.

In my opinion, the validity of each of Siegelman's assumptions is questionable. Nonetheless, they pose some interesting questions that are worth discussing. For instance:

"All Alabama children deserve the right to a quality education."

  • What is a "right," and what obligations does it imply?
  • Should there be a right to pursue a quality education or a right to receive one?
  • Is there an inherent right to an education at public expense?
  • If so, what does that imply?
  • If not, then why has the state chosen to support public education at all?

Public education in Alabama is underfunded.

  • Do Alabama's public schools, colleges, and universities waste a significant amount of taxpayer money?
  • What level of financial support should parents be expected to provide for the education of their children? On the other hand, what should the state provide?
  • Are Alabama's educational institutions accountable for the results they produce?
  • Will additional revenue lead to a better education system?

Anti-tax sentiment prevents the state from raising adequate revenues for education through taxation.

  • Why are Alabamians so adamantly opposed to higher taxes, even if the revenues are to be spent on "good causes" like education.
  • Do low taxes provide benefits that outweigh the benefits of more state spending?
  • What is the record of Alabama voters in approving taxes devoted to public education?

There'll be more on all of this later in the week. For now, though, let me know if I missed anything.

Mobile Register: Leave Coastal Insurance to the Free Market

Well stated. Intervention by the state into the market for high-risk property insurance, however well-intentioned, can only lead to undesirable consequences.
In the 1990s, Florida attempted to compel insurers to provide coverage [in catastrophe-prone areas]. The effort was counterproductive.

Due to the regulatory environment that virtually trapped a company by setting up extreme barriers on business decision-making, insurers were discouraged from entering the market. Consumers were left with fewer and more expensive choices.

On the other hand, Alabama's insurance market is competitive; and homeowners in Baldwin and Mobile counties are able to find private market options for insurance. To ensure that consumers continue to have these options, insurance companies must be able to make sound, prudent business decisions.

Insurance companies must be able to examine their individual circumstances, consider their level of exposure to catastrophe-prone areas, and determine if they are prepared to handle the risk.

Bama's Water Wars

Alabama's Congressional delegation is standing up for the state in its water war with Georgia. The latest news is that Senators Shelby and Sessions have placed a hold President Bush's nomination of John Paul Woodley Jr. to be the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, the civilian post that oversees the Army Corps of Engineers.

The action by Alabama's members of Congress comes on the heels of a meeting with Gov. Riley last week. Alabama officials accuse the Army Corps of Engineers of playing favorites in the dispute over access to water resources in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin.

An earlier, witty and pithy post is here. Ha!

"Whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting over." - Mark Twain

Tax Freedom Day

Prof. Michael DeBow at Southern Appeal notes:
Tax Freedom Day 2005 was yesterday -- for the average Americano. Here in Alabama (#49, or #2, depending on how you look at it), it was back on April 4.

According to the Tax Foundation, "Tax Freedom Day is calculated by dividing the official government tally of all taxes collected in each year by the official government tally of all income earned in each year." It is the "the date each year when Americans stop working to meet tax obligations and start working for food, lodging, transportation and other personal expenditures."

Social Security - Insufficient Funds

Added a link last week to the Heritage Foundation's Social Security Calculator. It's at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

New York Times: British "Close Allies of Japan" During WWII Occupation of Hong Kong

What is the writer of this article in yesterday's New York Times talking about?
Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 women were raped in the first few days after the Japanese capture of Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 1941. The Japanese turned the city into a military base, summarily executing many residents suspected of opposing them.

To conserve food for soldiers, the Japanese cut rations for civilians to starvation levels and deported many to famine- and disease-ridden areas of the mainland, and even dumped some on barren islands, said Philip Snow, a prominent historian of the period.

The territory’s population dropped to 600,000 by the end of the war, from 1.6 million before the invasion, Mr. Snow said, adding that many of those deported had died.

Hong Kong schools teach almost nothing about the occupation, a legacy of the British, who were close allies of Japan.


Reform/Replace the Income Tax

There are plenty of people out there who saw April 15 as an opportunity to argue against the evils of the federal income tax.

NRO's Deroy Murdock argues in favor of a flat tax.

Americans for Fair Tax is an organization dedicated to a consumption-based "fair tax" that would completely replace the income tax.

"Congress" - Singular or Plural?

Friday was tax-filing day, so I thought - what better time to reaffirm one's hatred for the income tax than the day when jackbooted IRS agents come knocking at your door, demanding the federal guvmint's cut of your hard-earned wages?

As I was sifting through various materials on the web and from my vast collection of right-wing propaganda, I came across the following passage from Federalist #30:

The present Confederation, feeble as it is, intended to repose in the United States an unlimited power of providing for the pecuniary wants of the Union. But proceeding upon an erroneous principle, it has been done in such a manner as entirely to have frustrated the intention. Congress, by the articles which compose that compact (as has already been stated), are authorized to ascertain and call for any sums of money necessary in their judgment to the service of the United States; and their requisitions, if conformable to the rule of apportionment, are in every constitutional sense obligatory upon the States.
You catch that? Congress...are authorized.

At first I maybe Alexander Hamilton didn't have a great command of the English language. I mean, he was a bastard child who grew up in the West Indies. But, I searched around a little more, and it seems that Hamilton wasn't alone in using "Congress" in the plural. From Article I Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution:
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
From Article I Section 7:

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
From Article II Section 2:

...but the Congress may by law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
From Article II Section 3:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...
From the ninth anti-federalist article written under the pseudonym "Brutus,"

I shall not undertake to enquire whether or not Congress are vested with a power to keep up a standing army in time of peace...

The present Congress are restrained from an undue exercise of this power, from this consideration, they know [that] the state legislatures, through whose authority it must be carried into effect, would not comply with the requisition for the purpose, if it was evidently opposed to the public good: the proposed constitution authorizes the legislature to carry their determinations into execution, without the intervention of any other body between them and the people.
From the first anti-federalist paper written by "Centinel,"

By sect. 8, of the first article of the proposed plan of government, "the Congress are to have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States, but all duties, imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States." ...

The plain construction of which is, that when the state legislatures drop out of sight, from the necessary operation this government, then Congress are to provide for the election and appointment of representatives and senators. get the point.

So, here's a question for everyone to ask their English-major friends. Is "Congress" singular or plural? If it's supposed to be plural, an issue on which Federalists and Anti-Federalists seem to have been in agreement, then why do we use it in the singular?

Lochner Anniversary

According to Robert Bork, the Supreme Court's opinion in Lochner v. New York is one "whose name lives in the law as the symbol, indeed the quintessence, of judicial usurpation of power." (From Bork's The Tempting of America...available here for the low price of $10.88.)

Sunday was the 100th anniversary of that decision, in which the Court used "substantive due process" to strike down a New York state law limiting the work hours of bakery employees. (Hat tip: Howard Bashman at How Appealing.)

What is substantive due process? Here's Justice Antonin Scalia:
What substantive due process is is quite simple. The Constitution has a due process clause which says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

Now, what does this guarantee? Does it guarantee life, liberty or property? No, indeed. All three can be taken away. You can be fined. You can be incarcerated. You can even be executed. But not without due process of law. It's a procedural guarantee.

But the court said -- and this goes way back, in the 1920s at least. In fact, the first case to do it was Dred Scott. But it became more popular in the 1920s.

The court said there are some liberties that are so important that no process will suffice to take them away; hence, substantive due process.

Now, what liberties are they? The court will tell you. Be patient.

When the doctrine of substantive due process was initially announced, it was limited in this way. The court said it embraces only those liberties that are fundamental to a democratic society and rooted in the traditions of the American people...

Within the last 20 years, we have found to be covered by due process the right to abortion -- which was so little rooted in the traditions of the American people that it was criminal for 200 years -- the right to homosexual sodomy, which was so little rooted in the traditions of the American people that it was criminal for 200 years.

So it is literally true -- and I don't think this is an exaggeration -- that the court has essentially liberated itself from the text of the Constitution, from the text and even from the traditions of the American people.

It is up to the court to say what is covered by substantive due process.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
On this day:

10 Commandments and $1.3 Million

According to this AP report, Roy Moore's Foundation for Moral Law has $1.3 million in its bank account after its first year.
Among its expenses were legal fees totaling $428,438. Foundation President Rich Hobson said the legal fees involved Moore's effort to keep his Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building and another Ten Commandments case in Georgia.

For those of us who got the impression from earlier news reports that the state footed the entire bill for Moore's Ten Commandments fight in the courts, this is a bit of a surprise. Did I miss something?

Don't Look, Ethel!

The I-65 Flasher has been arrested.
A brief chase ended Thursday with the arrest of a naked motorist who authorities believe is the same man spotted several times in recent months walking nude along Interstate 65 in southwest Alabama, state and Conecuh County officers said...

"He came out of the woods wearing nothing but tennis shoes and a rag tied on his head..."

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

...and while you still have the chance. Huntsville is considering an ordinance that would ban "indoor smoking in Huntsville except in homes and private clubs. Bars and restaurants would also fall under the ban but would be free to establish outdoor smoking areas." The ban is on the agenda for the April 28 council meeting.

Birmingham approved a less-restrictive ban earlier this month, and Mobile is considering one, as well.

Back to Nature

This weekend, federal officials opened 3000 acres of the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in Calhoun County to the public. The 9000-acre refuge lies on land that was formerly part of Ft. McClellan. The area, which was once used by the army for field training and firing ranges, protects the only remaining old-growth mountain longleaf forest in the Southeast. Some of the mountain longleaf pines there are over 200 years old. According to this:

Longleaf not only tolerates fire, it requires fire to suppress competition from hardwoods and faster-growing pines.

Elsewhere in the Appalachians, Smokey the Bear has done a number on longleaf. But recruits training at Fort McClellan have, through shooting off guns and flares, set enough wildfires to preserve the trees and the rare plants that grow under them.

The oldest of Fort McClellan's longleaf pines predate the United States. Scientists have identified whole stands with an average age of 180 years. Definitions of 'old growth' vary, but this is as close to old growth as Southern pine gets, especially in a mountain setting.

The Jacksonville State University Environmental Policy & Information Center has more here. (The official web site for the refuge is

Now a Memory

Goodbye to the old Flora-Bama. More from the Mobile Register here: "Flora-Bama Gets Smashed."

Friday, April 15, 2005
On this day:

Site Feed Added

For those of you who have an RSS (or Atom) aggregator, I've added an XML chicklet under "My Site Feed" in the sidebar.

If that sentence didn't make a lick of sense to you, then you are probably as unfamiliar with RSS (really simple syndication), site feeds, and news aggregators as I was up until a couple of days ago. See this Wired article for a pretty good summary. Basically, they allow you to monitor various news and blog sites for updates without having to visit the sites directly (until you see a story or post that looks interesting).

If you are interested in getting an RSS reader for your very own, search for "RSS Reader" in Google. I've heard that SharpReader is a good one, but I have yet to download one for myself, so I can't say much more than that.

If you can recommend other good aggregators, or have anything to add about how useful they are, which ones are best, how they work, etc., please leave a comment.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
On this day:

Karaoke for the Deaf

...over at MVRWC. Ha!

(Rated PG-13.)

Pu-Pu Platter?

In it's latest effort to gear up for the Olympic games, China is set to host the World Toilet Expo next month. Interested potties can register here.

Economics in One Lesson

What's wrong with minimum wage laws? Why are tariffs a bad idea? Why are "make-work" programs bad public policy? How does the pricing system work? Each of these questions are answered in free-market economist Henry Hazlitt's popular book, Economics in One Lesson, which is now available online, courtesy of the Foundation for Economic Education.

The Mobile City Council, which is considering capping charges for shuttle and limousine services, might want to read Chapter XVII before their next discusses the perils of government price-fixing.

Hat tip: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.

Surly Worley

The Tuscaloosa News asks "if the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office has become dysfunctional under [Democrat] Nancy Worley’s administration of a little more than two years."

At issue was a bill proposed by Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City, that would remove the office of voter registration from Worley’s control and re-establish an independent office that existed -- and from all evidence worked extremely well -- from 1989 until Worley took over in 2003.

“You can’t imagine the number of complaints I have had and lawsuits based on the action of the secretary of state," testified E.J. “Mac" McArthur Jr., director of the Alabama State Employees Association.

Registrars, who are appointed three to each of/sAlabama’s 67 counties by the governor, state auditor and commissioner of agriculture and industries, are in an up-roar, McArthur and others said. Those testifying said registrars often can’t even get their phone calls to Worley returned.

Depending on the day of the week, Worley has blamed attempts to take away her authority on racism, Republican partisanship, personal attacks by people who aren't willing to work hard, and personality conflicts with "touchy-feely" registrars.

Mrs. Worley seems a little uptight...maybe she needs to take a little time off and curl up with a good book .

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
On this day:


Shipments of liquor to the state's ABC stores have fallen behind in recent months, and ABC Board administrator Emory Folmar (yes...that Emory Folmar - the former mayor of Montgomery) is having a tough time explaining it.

Emory Folmar, administrator of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said liquor shipments to stores around the state fell behind for about three weeks starting in February while a new conveyer-belt system was being installed at the state liquor warehouse in Montgomery. "We had to slowly make up the ground that we lost," Folmar said."We are regaining whatever little lost ground we lost."

Huh? Anyone care to diagram that sentence?

Some brands may be unavailable because they didn't sell very well and have been removed from the list of available products, Folmar said.

"Some people don't like it, but that's too bad," Folmar said. "If it doesn't sell a certain amount, then I get rid of it. We're not going to buy a case and have 10 bottles of it sitting on the shelf and you get two. But if you come in and you buy a case of it, we'll get it for you...within five days."

Service with a smile - that's what I like. Courtesy of your state-owned, state-operated ABC liquor stores.

(Excerpts from the B'ham News...story linked above.)

Kittens, Monkeys, and Inflatable Sheep

What do these things have in common? Probably not a damn thing - but don't take my word for it - check out Itsapundit.

Cracking Down on Voter Fraud in Alabama's Black Belt

If Don Siegelman wants to find some real examples of vote-stealing, he should turn his attention to the heavily Democratic counties of Alabama's Black Belt.

Hat tip: VoteLaw

Siegelman Leaning Toward Run for Governor

In a "listening post" meeting with the Auburn College Democrats Tuesday evening, Don Siegelman said he is leaning towards running for Governor again in 2006. He told the AP that if he decides to run, his primary campaign issue will be constitution reform: "It will be my number one plank. If they think they got tired hearing me talk about the lottery before, wait until I start talking about this."

Siegelman also touched on the oft-repeated themes that Republicans stole the election from him in 2002 and that the fraud and conspiracy charges levied against him by federal prosecutors were politically motivated. “I thought they would’ve been satisfied with stealing the election, but then they come with a false prosecution,” Siegelman said (Opelika-Auburn News).

Mr. Siegelman's beginning to sound like a broken record.

Parking in the Tetons

You gotta read this story from Saturday's Huntsville Times:

A Huntsville lawyer who police found naked with a partially clad woman in a parked pickup truck plans to appeal his conviction Friday on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and harassment.

Patrick Jones, 47, was sentenced to 120 days in jail. Stephanie Ann Anderson, 30, who also plans an appeal, was sentenced to 90 days on a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure.

Municipal Judge Liles Burke of Arab, substituting for a Huntsville judge, found them guilty after hearing testimony from two police officers and a woman who called police one night last summer about the pickup parked in front of her house. Jones and Anderson did not testify...

Municipal Judge Sonny Rodenhauser would have heard the case but he stepped aside Friday. Jones and Rodenhauser have practiced together and opposed each other in court cases, said Robert Tuten, Jones' lawyer.

The amorous couple was arrested on Teton Circle in Huntsville. It gets it all.

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy has looked at the Alabama indecent exposure statute, and says that the case raises some interesting legal questions.

The Will Work for Favorable Dicta blog asks:
What activity is always performed best when drunk?
a. Dancing
b. Putting on make-up
c. Motion for Summary Judgment
d. The Woo-ing of The Lay-deese
e. Having sex in the cab of your pick-up truck with, you know, some chick from the bar
f. All of the above

Rep. Allen, Book-Banning, and Leftists on Campus

Rep. Gerald Allen's misguided effort to ban books from libraries is all the more frustrating because it shifts the focus from some very real problems on college campuses these days.

If Rep. Allen were to visit a college library, he would likely find books and journals written by people of every political persuasion, representing a true diversity of ideas. Consequently, he was unable to find much support for his book-banning bill, even from conservatives - and rightfully so.

On the other hand (as illustrated in my last post), there are entire departments at our state-supported universities that are unabashedly devoted to leftist political indoctrination. For example, if Rep. Allen were to take a close look at the numerous Women's Studies departments across the state, he would find that they uniformly reject academic discipline in favor of promoting a radical left-wing agenda that stands in direct opposition to discipline. This is troublesome to conservatives, libertarians, and even some liberals.

I'm hopeful that Rep. Allen has learned his lesson and will be more politically astute in the future. If he is serious about taking on the cultural left, he should focus his energy more directly on the source of the problem. Here's a place for him to start.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
On this day:

Liberal Arts at Alabama

I guess this is what passes for "liberal" arts these days at the University of Alabama.

Dr. Jennifer Purvis of the Department of Women's Studies is hosting a Queer Movie Series this spring 2005 semester. Her class, WS 440/EN 444, "Feminism and Queer Theory," is viewing several films related to the subject matter of the course. These films are being screened in 207 Manly Hall. Interested members of the broader Women’s Studies and Queer community are welcome to attend these free screenings.

The schedule is as follows:

March 3, 2005 - 7:30 But I'm a Cheerleader
March 16, 2005 - 7:30 The Brandon Teena Story
April 13, 2005 - 7:30 You Don't Know Dick and XXXY
April 27, 2005 - 7:30 Ma Vie en Rose

The "free" (i.e. paid for with your tax dollars) film series is also advertised in the UA faculty/staff newsletter here.

Hat tip: James Otteson at the Liberty and Power blog.

Rep. Gerald Allen Receives "Muzzle Award"

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded Rep. Gerald Allen (R. - Tuscaloosa) one of this year's "muzzle" awards for attempting "to suppress the expression of a viewpoint that is at odds with his own personal views." (All of this year's muzzle award recipients are listed here.)

Allen sponsored a bill in the legislature that would have prohibited the use of state funds "for the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."

From day one, I thought that the hoopla surrounding Allen's bill was disproportionate to the actual threat it posed to freedom of expression. The bill was dead, is dead, and will forever be dead. Even if it had a chance of passing, it would only have denied state funding for certain materials it deemed inappropriate. How that would have "muzzled" anyone is beyond me. It was a stupid bill, no doubt, but it was never a serious threat to free speech.


Guthrie's, a chain of chicken-finger restaurants with the best sauce anywhere, is looking to expand across the southeast. One of the chain's owners, Hud Guthrie, said, "We're starting in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, then eventually we want to expand across the nation."

Practically everything on the Guthrie's menu is fat-filled except for the sweet tea, but it sure is tasty...especially the sauce, which is good on the chicken fingers but even better with the french fries. One cup is never enough. If anyone knows what's in the stuff, be sure to let me know.

Come to think of it...I haven't had dinner yet.

Big Battle Flag Goes Up on I-65

The flag is on property owned by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
It is the latest eye-catching symbol on a stretch of interstate that already has the Big Peach water tower, billboards touting Montgomery's civil rights and Civil War past, and another billboard with a red satanic figure and the message, "Go to Church or the Devil will get you!" (B'ham News)

Forget Hog-Dog Rodeos

Let's have a Pig Olympics.

Legislature May Ban Hog-Dog Rodeos

I'm not normally one to jump on an animal-rights bandwagon, but how could a ban on hog-dog "rodeos" be bad? From the AP:
A bill to ban hog-dog rodeos - spectator contests in which pit bulls or American bulldogs are released to subdue hogs or feral pigs - has support in the Alabama Legislature but is caught in a legislative logjam, according to the bill's backers...

Billed as family entertainment, the rodeos feature hogs, usually with their tusks removed, released in a pen with "catch dogs," who subdue the hogs by biting their ears and pulling them to the ground. The contest is timed. The dogs are sometimes suited in chest armor, but both the dogs and the hogs typically sustain major injuries...
One of the bill's supporters is John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States.
Goodwin said a broader law banning all animal-against-animal bloodsports was not pursued because the breeders of fighting cocks are well organized and politically connected. Though cock-fighting is illegal in Alabama, the state has one of the weaker laws against it, Goodwin said.

Something tells me that the Cockfighters PAC won't be showing up on any campaign disclosure statements.

China Finds Another Religious Minority to Persecute

I've mentioned Chi-Com persecution of Christians on several occasions. Now they are stepping up persecution of the Uighur Muslims of East Turkestan, called Xinjiang by the Chi-Coms.

The new policies "tighten controls on religious worship, assembly and artistic expression among Xinjiang's eight million Turkic-speaking Muslims, including strict rules on teaching religion to minors."

John Kerry: People Were Denied Right to Vote and Intimidated

John Kerry says, "Last year too many people were denied their right to vote, too many who tried to vote were intimidated."

"Leaflets are handed out saying Democrats vote on Wednesday, Republicans vote on Tuesday. People are told in telephone calls that if you've ever had a parking ticket, you're not allowed to vote," he said.
Senator Kerry really thinks highly of his constituency, doesn't he?

Big Increase in Education Budget Could Mean Large Cuts Down the Road

From the Birmingham News:

State education spending as proposed by lawmakers would jump 12.3 percent
next year, prompting hopes for the year starting Oct. 1 but also fears that too
much spending could trigger cuts a year later.

Some officials worry that the Legislature has gone overboard. They say promising so much more money in the 2005-06 budget year could risk cuts of $100 million to $200 million in classroom programs and higher education the following year...

Next year's budget as now written would spend $5.164 billion from the state Education Trust Fund, an increase of $565.7 million, or 12.3 percent, from this year. That would be the biggest percentage increase since a 17.5-percent jump in 1989.
But more than two-thirds of the increase would come from balances carried over from earlier years and other non-recurring money.

State officials have warned for months that spending too much of that windfall next year on recurring expenses, such as salaries, could create spending demands the following year that would outpace the natural growth in tax collections. Then lawmakers would have to cut spending or raise taxes.

We've been down this road before. The education budget is based on projected revenues. If actual revenues fall short of the projections, state law requires across-the-board cuts known as proration. Employee salaries, including those of teachers, are exempt from proration. (I'm not sure if there are different rules for "nonrecurring" revenues.)

Of the proposed growth in trust fund spending next year, $179 million would come from projected growth in state tax collections. The remaining $386.7 million would come from one-time money.

Joyce Bigbee, director of the Legislative Fiscal Office, said that if the Senate panel's budget for 2005-06 were approved, the trust fund would have to grow by between 6.02 percent and 7.67 percent the following year just to maintain level funding...

The median growth in trust fund revenue was 4.74 percent for the 15 years through 2004.

Bigbee has estimated that trust fund revenue will grow by 4.15 percent next year. She hasn't made an estimate for 2006-07.

Sounds to me like legislators are asking for trouble.

Ginsburg Defends US Supreme Court References to Foreign Court Decisions

The following quotations are from a speech delivered by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week to the American Society of International Law. The Mobile Register criticized Ginsberg's remarks on today's editorial page.
If U. S. experience and decisions can be instructive to systems that have more recently instituted or invigorated judicial review for constitutionality, so we can learn from others now engaged in measuring ordinary laws and executive actions against charters securing basic rights...

...while U. S. jurisprudence has evolved over the course of two centuries of constitutional adjudication, we are not so wise that we have nothing to learn from other democratic legal systems newer to judicial review for constitutionality...

We refer to decisions rendered abroad, it bears repetition, not as controlling authorities, but for their indication, in Judge Wald's words, of "common denominators of basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed." ...

Israel's Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, had it right, I think, when he listed among questions on which comparative law inquiry could prove enlightening or valuable in a positive or negative sense: hate speech, privacy, abortion, the death penalty, and now the fight against terrorism...

The notion that it is improper to look beyond the borders of the United States in grappling with hard questions has a close kinship to the view of the U. S. Constitution as a document essentially frozen in time as of the date of its ratification. I am not a partisan of that view. U. S. jurists honor the Framers' intent "to create a more perfect Union," I believe, if they read our Constitution as belonging to a global 21st century, not as fixed forever by 18th-century understandings...

Term limits for Supreme Court justices are sounding a little better.

Monday, April 11, 2005
On this day:

Taking On Speech Codes

UA's David Beito and co-conspirators Robert "KC" Johnson, and Ralph E. Luker have an excellent column against university speech codes at HNN.

Best sentence in the whole piece: "The problem with speech codes is that speech that should be self-governed by good manners and humility is prescripted by inflexible legal codification."

Bonfire of the Vanities at MVRWC

Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy will be hosting this week's Bonfire of the Vanities, where bloggers can showcase their worst post of the week.

Flora-Bama Update

Owners of the Flora-Bama Lounge, which was damaged during Hurricane Ivan, plan to say goodbye to the old bar by holding an Irish wake on April 16. More here.

The lounge will be torn down and rebuilt, but its owners promise that the new Flora-Bama "will be just as low-rent" as the old one. They were even able to "rescue dozens of signed bras that hung from the rafters so they again can be displayed in the new building."

Also, the Flora-Bama's 20th Annual Interstate Mullet Toss is still on for this year...scheduled for the weekend of April 22.

Quin Hillyer: Courts are Not Supreme

Quin Hillyer reminds us that "nothing in...judges' own backgrounds, or in the Constitution, or in classical American political theory, justifies their attempts to substitute their own philosophies for the will of the people as expressed through elected representatives."

He cites Federalist #78 quite a bit, in case anyone wants to make sure Mr. Hillyer puts everything in its proper context. (He does, by the way.)

And yeah, I'm late with my Federalist Friday post again...what of it?

Conservative Engineers

Vodkapundit enters the latest battle between NRO's Jonah Goldberg and Brad DeLong. Lots of good comments, too.

Anniston Star: Medical Marijuana Should be Seriously Debated

Finally, an editorial from the "Red Star" that I can agree with.

Dems Get Upset About the Darndest Things

The folks at the Alabama Democratic Party blog are upset that "the picture on [State Auditor Beth Chapman's] bio webpage contains a Bush Cheney campaign bumper sticker in the background."

Sounds like "ticket envy" to me. There's a reason that no Democratic elected official would want a Kerry-Edwards placard in the background...and we all know it ain't because of ethical concerns.

Yo-Yo Ma Likes Huntsville

He mentioned the Rocket City in the April 4 edition of Time magazine.

Sunday, April 10, 2005
On this day:

Siegelman: I Got "Snookered"

Looks like Don Siegelman still isn't willing to concede the last election.

Siegelman did, however, have something to say about how he lost the 2002 race to Gov. Bob Riley. He said conspiring Republican officials in Baldwin County "snookered" votes away from him that would have given him the election.

Baldwin County officials initially provided a media summary sheet that showed Siegelman had 19,070 votes in the county and put him ahead in the narrow statewide tally. But officials changed that number, subtracting more than 6,300 votes from Siegelman's tally for the county and giving Riley a 3,117-vote win.

County officials attributed the initial total to a software "programming glitch." Siegelman tearfully conceded the race after challenging Riley's victory for two weeks.

Tommy Stevenson of the Tuscaloosa News has more:

“Let me say this -- I wanted to be re-elected, I think I was re-elected, I think we got snookered down in Baldwin County."

Siegeleman, warming to his subject, talked of vote-count irregularities around Mobile in the wee hours of the morning after the election. He saw his lead in the county, and thus the state, turn into a 6,000-vote deficit.

“I have no doubt in my mind that those votes were stolen after we won the election. They closed the election, they posted the results, they gave them to the reporters, they gave them to the chairman of the Republican Party, they gave them to the chairman of the Democratic Party -- keeping in mind all these are Republican election officials in Baldwin County.

“After the lights go out in the courthouse, one light goes on in the sheriff’s office, and they recount the voters, and oddly enough the only votes that are changed are taken from me and given directly to Bob Riley -- no other candidate was affected by this shift in [6,000] votes," he said, his voice trailing off for a few moments in frustration.

Do the math, Don. And quit lying. "No other candidate was affected by this shift in votes?" Tell that to John Sophocleus! The first summary report of vote totals in Baldwin County showed him in second place with a total of approximately 13,000 votes. That got cut to 937 in the final certified results.

Friday, April 08, 2005
On this day:

Go Eat Some Crawdads

Tim's Cajun Kitchen is holding its annual crawfish festival here in Huntsville at the VBC this Saturday.

Blogger is Screwed Up

...what else is new, huh?

Alabama House Passes Fetal Homicide Bill

The vote was 93-0. It now heads to the Senate.

The Alabama House passed a bill Thursday that makes it a crime of murder if an unborn child dies in an assault on a pregnant woman.

The bill, by Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Irvington, would treat an assault on a pregnant woman as also an attack on the unborn child. The bill was partly inspired by the Laci Peterson case in California, where her husband, Scott, was convicted of killing both his wife and her unborn child.


The bill exempts the deaths of fetuses in legal abortions or other medical procedures.
Nonetheless, this bill is a step forward in recognizing that unborn children are human beings with certain rights, apart from those of the mother, that deserve legal recognition. As Gov. Riley said, "Pregnant women who have been harmed by violent crime know they are not the only victims. Their unborn child is also a victim and both should be protected by law."

Google Maps

Google has a map feature now. Check it out. The ability to bring up satellite views of specific addresses is way cool.

Thursday, April 07, 2005
On this day:

Name Wizard

Here's a cool link. Type in a first name, and find out how common it has been over the past 100 years.

UA: Daniel Moore Robbing Kids of Scholarships

Another ridiculous contention by the UA administration and its lawyers.

Constitution Reform Dead for Another Year

It looks like efforts to rewrite Alabama's constitution will have to wait at least another year. Sen. Ted Little (D.-Auburn), sponsor of a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to call a constitutional convention, says that "unless there's a change in attitude, it's not going to go further in this session."

There are plenty of sound, conservative arguments for reforming, or even rewriting, Alabama's constitution. That's why it is so unfortunate that the most vocal advocates of constitutional reform have adopted a message that seems to say, "Let's rewrite the constitution so that we can raise taxes and increase the size of government."

From that Birmingham News article linked above:

"Since 1901, our constitution has deliberately tied the hands of the state Legislature and local government to levy taxes for needed services," said Kimble Forrister, state coordinator of Alabama Arise, which lobbies for poor people. (B'ham News)

Tax, tax, spend, spend. Ms. Forrister couldn't have made the case against constitutional reform any better.

From the AP:

Supporters and opponents of rewriting the constitution spent more than two hours Tuesday before the Senate Constitution and Elections Committee debating a bill that would allow Alabama residents to vote on whether they want to call a convention to rewrite the constitution. The committee did not vote on the bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn...

Former Gov. Don Siegelman told the committee that during his term as governor he often faced "the limitations" of the constitution.

The conservative/libertarian response to Gov. Siegelman would be that placing "limitations" on government is precisely what constitutions are for. Gov. Siegelman probably had some specific unreasonable limitations in mind, but his assumption seems to be that "limitations" are a bad thing. Statements like that only play into the hands of those who oppose constitutional reform. You'd think that an astute politician like Don Siegelman could come up with a more creative argument.

Continuing with that AP article:

Lenora Pate of Birmingham, co-chair of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, said the constitution was written at a time when blacks and whites were segregated in Alabama."It was framed for illicit purposes to preserve segregation, which taints the entire document," Pate said.

Ms. Pate makes a good historical point, but one that is irrelevant to the current debate. The Alabama Constitution isn't alone in having been written at a time when the law required racial segregation. For example, the U.S. Constitution was written at a time when both segregation and slavery were legal in many states. The fact that it afforded protection to those institutions was a good argument for amending it, but it was never a valid argument for rewriting it.

If constitutional reform is ever to succeed in Alabama, its proponents have got to figure out how to alleviate the public's concerns that reform will lead to higher taxes and bigger government. That may mean settling for a series of revisions that are limited to addressing the current constitution's deficiencies, as opposed to a complete rewrite by a constitutional convention. At the very least, it means that would-be reformers need to recognize Alabama's political realities and tailor their message to fit the intended audience. Their current strategy has largely ignored the state's conservative majority, and has thereby produced the expected result - failure.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
On this day:

Year of Alabama Food

Check out this site, and be sure to click on the link to the top 100 must-eat dishes!

Official State Nuts

Now that the Alabama legislature has passed a bill making the peach Alabama's official state tree fruit, they are turning their attention to repealing the designation of Conecuh Ridge whiskey as the "official state spirit."

Interesting Idea - Switch Alabama to Eastern Time

I think I like it. Must consult Cronos before I can say more.

Study Shows that College Faculties are Liberal

Late last month, a story made the rounds in most of the nation's newspapers about how college faculties were overwhelmingly liberal and had gotten even more liberal over the past decade. (The complete study is online yesterday's New York Times, Paul Krugman says that part of the reason is due to self-selection, and part is due to the fact that today's Republican party has become the "party of theocracy," and is "increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research."

National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg has responded, saying that Krugman's column is "a peripatetic tour of liberal fantasyland" and that Krugman "picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue."

I've got a few thoughts on this topic, but alas, it's time to perform the daily ritual of driving to work. There will I await the revelation of the engineering gods.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
On this day:

April 6 is Tartan Day in Huntsville

For those of Scottish descent (from the Huntsville Times):

Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer was to sign a proclamation this morning declaring April 6 to be Tartan Day. The city's designation of the day coincides with National Tartan Day, for which the U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 1998. The Alabama Legislature has also declared April 6 to be Tartan Day.

So, if you see anyone wearing a kilt tomorrow, don't be too surprised.
[Tennessee Valley Scottish Society treasurer Phil] Johnson said the kilt, which was made of tartan cloth, was a practical garment for early Scots. A single piece of cloth that was wrapped around the body and then looped over the shoulder, the kilt served as clothing as well as a blanket. Wearers, who were always men, would also use the fold of the kilt to carry things.
Haha...reminds me of a song I've heard.

Riley Proclaims April as "Confederate History and Heritage Month"

Following the lead of his predecessors, Governor Riley has again issued a proclamation naming April as Confederate History and Heritage month in Alabama.

It didn't go over without generating a little controversy, though.

Confederate heritage groups were initially excited when Gov. Bob Riley's annual proclamation designating April as Confederate History and Heritage Month in Alabama dropped a paragraph saying slavery was a cause of the Civil War.

They were pleased because they considered the description of slavery historically inaccurate, but their excitement was shortlived.

"It was a mistake," Jeff Emerson, the governor's communications director, said Monday.

He said the governor was unaware of the deletion until The Associated Press contacted his office Monday. The governor quickly reissued the proclamation with the paragraph on slavery restored, and his staff posted the revised proclamation on his Web site.

The paragraph in question says, "our recognition of Confederate history also recognizes that slavery was one of the causes of the war, an issue in the war, was ended by the war and slavery is hereby condemned."

Hmmm...I just don't see what is "historically inaccurate" about that. It is neither false nor misleading. One fellow from the Sons of Confederate Veterans says that it "leaves the impression that slavery was the total cause of the war, and that's untrue."

Problem is...the Governor's proclamation doesn't say that. It says that "slavery was one of the causes of the war." If that plain and simple language left anyone with a different impression, then maybe they are far too impressionable.

Alabama Legislature May Name Official "Tree Fruit"

Just peachy.

Castro Sheds Fatigues, Goes to Church

(AP Photo)

China and the Vatican

There's more background on the relationship between China and the Vatican here.

According to a bishop from Hong Kong, the Vatican is considering cutting ties with Taiwan in order to meet a Chi-Com condition for establishing diplomatic relations with the PRC. The Archbishop of Taipei says that won't happen.

That New York Times Story on Chinese Catholics

Take a look at these two stories appearing in the New York from April 4...the other from April 5.

I didn't do a word-for-word comparison, but as far as I could see, the only thing that changed was the headline.

On April 4, it read "In China, a Divided Church Cautiously Honors Pope's Memory"

Then, on April 5, it changed to "China's State Catholic Church Honors John Paul"

I'm sure that the New York Times wouldn't doctor a headline in order accomodate Chi-Com sensibilities...would they?