Thursday, June 30, 2005
On this day:

Off to Chi-Town

I'm off to Chicago tomorrow for the weekend, so I doubt I'll get a chance to blog at all until at least Monday. It just so happens that Taste of Chicago (big food and music festival) is this weekend, and seeing as how I can never resist trying new and exotic cuisine, I'll probably be a few pounds heavier when I get back to Huntspatch.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a happy Independence Day, and I'll see y'all next week.

Will the Ten Commandments Rulings Help Moore?

I think so. And, I think Roy Moore thinks so, too. He was grinning from ear to ear last night on Hannity and Colmes.

For an "expert" opinion, see what UA Poly Sci Prof. Bill Stewart has to say in this Huntsville Times article.

The Don's Listening Posts

Coming to a neighborhood near you.

Alcohol Abuse

He did what? owner Randy Griffith decided that following his renewed faith in God meant shutting down drinking and smoking at T-Bird's Cafe.

You can still get wings and that enormous Texas burger - 10 ounces of beef and grilled onions on Texas toast - but you'll be washing it down with sweet tea.

Once Griffith made up his mind to turn in his liquor license, with wife Terry's blessing, next came the question: What to do with $4,000 worth of beer and booze? The distributor wouldn't take it back (Griffith said he probably would have if T-Bird's was going out of business) and, besides, the owner had a more symbolic idea in mind.

He'd pour the Bud Light down the drain and bash the bottles of liquor in a trash can.

"A few of my employees have wanted to cry about that part," Griffith said. "One of my cooks has already given me his two-week notice...

T-Bird's is known as a biker bar. Someone wrote, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" on the patio's fence near a wall mural of motorcycles riding down a winding mountain road, with shadowy faces of American Indians painted in the mountains. Countless poker runs - they're laid-back, non-competitive races for charity - have started and finished here, the only place on the highway between Chapman Mountain and Scottsboro that you can get a drink. (Huntsville Times)

Couldn't he have become an Episcopalian or something?


...not going over well in one Alabama town.

Incumbent Protection

Now that Republicans are poised to make an all-out effort to take control of the state legislature, at least one Democrat is proposing strict limitations on campaign contributions and spending.
At a news conference Wednesday, [State Senator Myron] Penn said increased accountability in government must include limiting the impact of special interests in elections. Penn proposes to do that by capping spending on all statewide and legislative races, by limiting contributions, and by restricting the activities of political action committees.

"Will this be a bold move in state government? Of course. But a bold move is exactly what is needed to assure the citizens of Alabama that government, starting with elections, belongs to them and not the big mules in Montgomery that pull wagons filled with limitless campaign dollars and resources that often influence elections and, thus, state government," Penn, D-Union Springs, said...

Currently, campaign contributions by individuals and political action committees are not limited. Penn's proposal would limit an individual to giving $1,000 to a candidate and a PAC to giving $5,000 to a candidate.

Currently, there are no limits on how much a candidate can spend. Penn's package would limit a candidate for statewide office to $1 million, a state Senate candidate to $50,000, and a state House candidate to $17,500.

Shampoo Shock

I had never heard of this until a friend of mine mentioned that something similar happened to him earlier this week. Weird.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
On this day:

EADS Incentives and Government "Takings"

From the Mobile Register:

One incentive that helped lure EADS North America to Mobile became clear Monday: public money will pay for the 65,000-square-foot building that will become home to the company's aerospace engineering center.

The Mobile Airport Authority will own the new building and lease space to EADS on a long-term, low-cost basis...

The state is in line to pay for all of the engineering center construction...but Mobile County and the city of Mobile may kick in some money, depending on whether EADS goes on to build an aircraft assembly plant...

I applaud the efforts of state officials to bring the EADS plant to Mobile, but I have to admit that I'm uncomfortable with incentive packages that give away taxpayer dollars to big business (or, for that matter, any private enterprise) for facilities, worker training, and the like. These public expenditures provide direct benefits to private businesses, while only indirectly benefiting the public through additional jobs, economic growth, etc.

In this instance, the state is taking taxpayer money and transferring it to a corporation for purposes directly related to that corporation's bottom line. We're not talking about building roads or providing infrastructure here. This is corporate welfare, pure and simple.

So, the state is using public resources to build facilities that 1) are almost exclusively dedicated to private use, and 2) have traditionally, and appropriately, been financed at private expense. Ring a bell? This is part of the same debate that's been raging since last week's Kelo decision. The only difference is that the "taking" in this case is money, which is fungible, rather than land, which is not. The sad thing is that neither political party in Alabama seems to care.

There's little doubt in my mind that EADS coming to Alabama is a good thing, but whether that feat was accomplished by sacrificing economic liberty is an open question.

Davis on CAFTA

One of Rep. Davis's arguments against CAFTA goes like this:
...CAFTA is different [from other free trade agreements that he claims to have supported]. For the first time, we create a duty-free zone with a collection of developing nations whose economies are wracked with poverty, whose social and civic cultures are largely unprotective of basic worker rights, and whose work force is populated primarily with unskilled labor. We fail to use our substantial economic leverage to influence fundamental reform of the local institutions that sustain these conditions. The result is that CAFTA abandons this president's much-publicized zeal for advancing freedom within unequal, crueler societies.
Davis is just plain wrong. Trade constitutes our greatest economic leverage over the world's "unequal and cruel societies." When those societies embrace free markets and economic liberty, as the CAFTA nations have done, the United States should take advantage of that win-win opportunity. Trade is the most mutually beneficial way to bring freedom and prosperity to developing countries. It seems to me that there are two plausible alternatives here - trade or aid. If you believe in free markets, there should be no question over which one to choose.


Good for them. From the B'ham News:
The Alabama Farm Federation's board of directors on Monday passed a resolution supporting the Central American Free Trade Agreement, saying it would level the playing field for the state's farmers and agricultural businesses.

"In terms of advantages of CAFTA for Alabama, it is clear that the lowering of high tariffs in the Central American region would benefit several Alabama products," Alfa President Jerry Newby said...

CAFTA would be particularly beneficial to the state's poultry, beef, pork, peanut and cotton farmers, according to the group. Alabama poultry exports now face duties as high as 164 percent in Central American countries, Alfa said.

It will be interesting to see whether the ALFA endorsement will provide political cover for Alabama's majority-Republican congressional delegation to support the free-trade pact.

Rep. Artur Davis (D., Birmingham) reiterated his opposition to CAFTA in this editorial appearing in Sunday's Birmingham News. Davis claims that the proposed agreement "deserts our values as Americans, and it constitutes a failed opportunity." This National Review editorial argues convincingly that Davis and other CAFTA opponents are wrong.

Monkey See...Monkey Do?

Or maybe primitive culture? Whatever...I found this fascinating.
There are now nearly 230 tailless Barbary monkeys on Gibraltar, and they do not merely live on the Rock so much as dominate it...

The monkeys do have a dedicated home, an ape den, at the reservoir up on the limestone rock that constitutes the bulk of tiny Gibraltar. But they are free to stray, and they do so, mostly in a quest for Kit-Kat bars, shady spaces, fruit trees, swimming pools and human toys. They have a special affinity for the purses, shiny cameras and plastic shopping bags that people tote around.

And they have grown so used to the kindness of tourists and tour guides that little will frighten them away, not even the sharp flick of a broom or the shrill screams of children...

The monkeys - despite being called apes, they are really monkeys - have grown so adept at the game that they can easily tell the difference between a maid and a tourist (the maid wears a uniform and cleans the windows)...

Like the adorable pint-sized pickpockets that abound in some European cities, often with the blessing of their parents, the monkeys do their utmost to charm and distract before making off with the loot. They have learned to preen in front of cameras and mimic snapping a picture; they jump on the heads of tourists for a laugh; they perch on the side mirrors of touring taxis and wait for their treats; they have even figured out how to unwrap candy bars.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
On this day:

That Kerry Column

Kerry made a few points in his NY Times editorial today that were pretty interesting, mostly because they amounted to little more distortions of current administration policy on Iraq and misrepresentations of what is really going on there. Taking a few of Kerry's recommendations for "the speech the President should give":

The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.

President Bush and the administration would most certainly agree with that. Indeed, that's a point that they have have made all along. Here's Donald Rumsfeld, from a news conference in April 2003:

"I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. "The likelihood of it seems to me to be so low that it does not surprise me that it's never been discussed in my presence -- to my knowledge."
The President also answered that point directly in his speech tonight.
I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis — who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops — who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy — who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed — and not a day longer.

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don’t you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever — when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave.
More from Kerry:

He should also say that the United States will insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the Constitution and holding elections in December.
Yup, and that is exactly what is happening as we speak.

Iraq, of course, badly needs a unified national army, but until it has one - something that our generals now say could take two more years - it should make use of its tribal, religious and ethnic militias like the Kurdish pesh merga and the Shiite Badr Brigade to provide protection and help with reconstruction. Instead of single-mindedly focusing on training a national army, the administration should prod the Iraqi government to fill the current security gap by integrating these militias into a National Guard-type force that can provide security in their own areas.
Probably a good idea. The Iraqi President said the same thing back in April, and repeated it again earlier this month.

If Mr. Bush fails to take these steps, we will stumble along, our troops at greater risk, casualties rising, costs rising, the patience of the American people wearing thin, and the specter of quagmire staring us in the face.
And liberals like John Kerry will continue to misrepresent the big picture of what is actually happening in Iraq.

John Kerry on "Humility"

John Kerry lectures the President in the New York Times today, saying that "a little humility would go a long way." Yes, John Kerry.

Monday, June 27, 2005
On this day:

The Justices: Time to Find a New Line of Work

It seems to me that the only real conclusion to be drawn from today's Ten Commandments rulings is that at least five justices should seriously consider packing their bags to follow their true callings in life. If they want to be interior designers and lawn care technicians, so be it. Here's a little ad to get them started in their new endeavor:

Stevens: Hi folks, I'm John Paul Stevens. During my 30 years on the Supreme Court, I've had the opportunity to rule in many interesting cases. Unfortunately, I've forgotten most of what I've written over all those years...I am 85 years old, you know. Oh well. On to better things. Mister Just...ummm...Justice O'Connor - would you care to tell the lovely people out there a little more about our exciting new venture?

O'Connor: Certainly, Justice Stevens. Justice Stevens and I, along with our colleagues Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, have decided to go into business together. Life on the Supreme Court is quite a burden sometimes - often unduly so - so we've decided to head out into the hinterlands and do some real public service. We are proud to announce the arrival of JUST-US Home and Garden Concepts, serving all of your lawn care and interior design needs.

Souter: Jobby-job...hehehe.

Ginsburg: Ummm...thanks, Sandy...and Dave. Many people, especially women and minorities, often have difficulties creating living environments that adequately conform to acceptable standards of aesthetic appeal and intellectual stimulation, while simultaneously cultivating thema reflecting sub-societal aversions to the governing racist patriarchy. That's where we come in.

Souter: Beedie-beedie-beep.

Breyer: As Ruth said...or at least I think she did...most of us want our homes and workplaces to breathe. It's so dehumanizing to go to work in the morning only to be greeted with the sameness we left the day before. Same plants, same photos, same lighting - which all too often simply reflect the values and desires of others, leading to feelings of helplessness and wanton despair. As Justice Kennedy might say if he were here, we need to be able to "define our own concepts of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Informed by international tastes and norms, of course.

Souter: Ooh-la-la! Cest la vie. Ere-whay is-ay y-may oupee-tay?

O'Connor: Justice Souter - please! Anyway folks, give us a call and put us to work on your next improvement project. Whether at home or at the office, every day will hold something new and exciting. From window treatments and floor coverings to lawn care and outdoor structures, you'll never know quite what to expect. We've proven that for years.

Stevens: Thanks, everyone. And, don't forget - our work is compliant with all applicable federal statutes. We should know - we rewrote 'em! Now, let's all join in for a little jingle.

Souter: Ringle jingle. We refangle. Hehe.

Group (singing to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic):

The best years of our lives were spent just making up the law
Now we're paying our own bills and we'll fix all your little flaws
We've taken emanations - turned 'em into penum-bras
But, now we're marching on!

Call us up and we'll do wonders
Tear down walls from here to yonder
Never, ever will we plunder
You'll thank us when we're gone!

Souter: Yee-haw!

Announcer: Dial 1-800-4-JUST-US for a free estimate.

The Ten Commandments Cases

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Ten Comandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol was constitutional, while decreeing that displays in two Kentucky courtrooms were unconstitutional.

The vote was 5-4 in each case. Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy voted to uphold the constitutionality of both displays, whereas Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg said that they violated the First Amendment's establishment clause. The "swing vote" belonged to Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote a concurring opinion in the Texas decision attempting to explain why the two cases should be viewed differently as a matter of constitutional law.

The Court's establishment clause jurisprudence emerged from today's rulings as muddled as ever. As a result, this issue will continue to be decided in the federal courts, rather than in state legislatures, where it rightfully belongs.

Hope He's Right

Feddie at Southern Appeal says that an "extremely reliable source" informs him that "conservatives will NOT be disappointed with who the president has in mind to replace Rehnquist and O'Connor."

Grandfather Objects to "Whorehouse" at Auburn

Well, something like that. It coulda been worse, though.

On a related note...a Birmingham environmental activist apparently doesn't get the whole concept of too much information.

Wallace and Folsom Considering Runs for Lt. Governor

Two names that Alabama's had quite enough of.
The race for lieutenant governor next year could feature two of the biggest family names in Alabama political history: Wallace and Folsom.

George Wallace Jr. said Thursday he's planning to run as a Republican. Friends of Jim Folsom Jr. said he's considering entering as a Democrat.

One of those "friends of Jim Folsom, Jr." is former Governor Don Siegelman.
Former Gov. Don Siegelman, who is looking at running for another term, said he and Folsom talk regularly and he has encouraged Folsom to get back into public service.

Roy Moore

...says he's likely to decide whether to run for Governor by this fall.

Little River Canyon

It "tells the story of the formation of the Appalachian Mountains." Always amazing to me how many Alabamians don't even know it exists.

The Flag-Burning Amendment

Mark Steyn has some pretty good arguments against the flag desecration amendment approved by the U.S. House last week. (The only Alabama Representative to vote against the amendment was Artur Davis, a Democrat.)

I agree with Steyn's arguments against the amendment, but I'd add the following:

It is poorly written and invites interference by the judiciary. The proposed amendment states that "the Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." The amendment leaves the question of who defines "physical desecration" unanswered. It is clear to me that the intent is for Congress to have that power, but the amendment's vague language seems to be an open invitation to intervention by the federal courts.

The amendment also leaves the states out of the equation. The amendment would give the power to ban desecration exclusively to Congress, so it's a good assumption that the federal government would be responsible for its enforcement. Does that mean that Congress will have to provide for a federal "desecration police" to scour the land in search of the long-haired tofu-eaters who fit the profile of flag desecrators? It seems to me that such a power ought to reside in the states, if anywhere.

As Jonah Goldberg said in the Corner last week, I like Louisiana's solution to this problem. According to Jonah: favorite solution, if memory serves, was when Louisiana declared it would fine people who beat-up flag burners $25. So a bunch of folks pre-paid the fine and carried the receipts as flag-burning permits.

Friday, June 24, 2005
On this day:

Chinese Blogger: Microsoft is "Evil"

He's preaching to the choir. From Wired magazine:

SHANGHAI, China -- Twenty-eight floors above the traffic-choked streets of China's most wired city, blogger and tech entrepreneur Isaac Mao sums up his opinion of Microsoft and its treatment of the Chinese bloggers with one word. "Evil," says Mao. "Internet users know what's evil and what's not evil, and MSN Spaces is an evil thing to Chinese bloggers."

Mao, 33, knows something about the topic. In 2002, he was one of China's first bloggers, and since then his ideas on harnessing blogs, peer-to-peer and grass-roots technologies to empower the Chinese people have made him a respected voice in the global blogosphere...

The Chinese version of MSN Spaces is linked to the new MSN China portal, launched last month in partnership with Shanghai Alliance Investment, a company funded by the city government here. Last week that partnership plunged Microsoft into the long-standing controversy surrounding the Chinese government's internet censorship policies, after Asian blogs and news reports revealed that MSN Spaces blocks Chinese bloggers from putting politically sensitive language in the names of their blogs, or in the titles of individual blog entries.

The words and phrases blocked by Microsoft include "Taiwan independence," "Dalai Lama," "human rights," "freedom" and "democracy."

Interesting name...Isaac Mao.

So Many Missed Opportunities cut back on federal spending.
The time has now come for fiscal conservatives to publicly admit the truth: the Republican complicity in the great spending spree of the early 21st century has placed our agenda on life-support. By failing to cut spending while implementing tax cuts and fighting a war, we now find ourselves in a predicament. The beast has not been starved, the deficit has once again become a political issue, and the chances of acceptable Social Security reform, overhaul of the tax code, and the permanence of the previous tax cuts are all in jeopardy.

Here's another one, in my own backyard.

Alabama and Eminent Domain

The Alabama Constitution (Section 23) says:

That the exercise of the right of eminent domain shall never be abridged nor so construed as to prevent the legislature from taking the property and franchises of incorporated companies, and subjecting them to public use in the same manner in which the property and franchises of individuals are taken and subjected; but private property shall not be taken for, or applied to public use, unless just compensation be first made therefore; nor shall private property be taken for private use, or for the use of corporations, other than municipal, without the consent of the owner; provided, however, the legislature may by law secure to persons or corporations the right of way over the lands of other persons or corporations, and by general laws provide for and regulate the exercise by persons and corporations of the rights herein reserved; but just compensation shall, in all cases, be first made to the owner; and, provided, that the right of eminent domain shall not be so construed as to allow taxation or forced subscription for the benefit of railroads or any other kind of corporations, other than municipal, or for the benefit of any individual or association.

"...nor shall private property be taken for private use...without the consent of the owner." However, this provision has been amended numerous times to give municipalities the right to take land for industrial parks. So, it's not clear to me what, if anything, the Keno decision will mean for Alabama.

The legislature considered a bill limiting eminent domain authority this session, but it stalled in the Senate. The bill would have prohibited municipalities from condemning property for commercial retail development.

Thursday, June 23, 2005
On this day:

The End of Private Property Rights in America?

That's what some are saying about today's Supreme Court ruling in Keno v. City of New London. (The opinions are available online here. Hat tip: SCOTUS Blog.) I don't think the situation is that dire, nor do I think that the Court's decision is necessarily a "nonconservative" one. Here's why:

At the time it was written and ratified, the Bill of Rights wasn't intended to be applied to the states. The Supreme Court confirmed that fact in its Barron v. Baltimore decision, which like Keno, also involved the Fifth Amendments takings clause.

Writing for the Court in Barron, Chief Justice Marshall wrote, "Had the framers of these amendments [referring to the Bill of Rights] intended them to be limitations on the powers of the state governments, they would have imitated the framers of the original constitution, and have expressed that intention." More specifically, he said that "we are of the opinion that the provision in the fifth amendment of the constitution, declaring that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation, is intended solely as a limitation on the exercises of power by the government of the United States, and is not applicable to the legislation of the states."

Marshall's opinion in Barron remained the law of the land throughout the 19th Century. It wasn't until the first half of the 20th Century that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights were "incorporated" under the 14th Amendment's due process clause to apply to the states. Whether and how to apply the incorporation doctrine is still a source of controversy, particulary among conservatives. (See NRO Corner posts here, here, and here, for example.) But, it's clear that the few diehard conservatives who oppose the incorporation doctrine in its entirety should applaud the result of today's ruling, even if they object to its reasoning.

Most conservatives, though, have come to view incorporation as a settled matter which shouldn't be overturned. Others openly endorse it and believe that it fulfills the original intent of the 14th Amendment, even though they may disagree with how the doctrine was developed and how it has evolved. From this perspective, it seems to me that a valid originalist argument would go something like this:

The Fifth Amendment's takings clause says "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." It's context is the entire U.S. Constitution and its express delegation of certain powers to the Congress. In addition to the delegated powers, the Constitution authorizes Congress to exercise powers which are "necessary and proper" to the execution of the delegated powers. The objects of these powers - delegated and implied - must be considered valid "public uses," insofar as they are authorized by the U.S. Constitution. Taking private property as a means to a constitutional end is essential to the operation of the federal government and consistent with the Constitution's "necessary and proper" clause, but when property is taken for such a public use, the Fifth Amendment demands that just compensation be provided.

Applying the takings clause to a state government would proceed along the same lines, but in the context of the state constitution, not the federal constitution. Since states are the interpreters of their own constitutions, it is for them to decide what constitutes a "public use," just as the federal government makes that determination for itself in light of the U.S. Constitution. Thus, under the takings clause, states have the right to appropriate private property for any purpose that is consistent with their constitution and statutes, as long as they provide "just compensation."

I hope that no one accuses me of advocating the devil here, but it seems to me that in this case, conservative attacks on the Supreme Court are misdirected. The real devils are the state of Connecticut and the city of New London, who should bear complete responsibility for this appalling abuse of power.

The Register on Riley

Glowing words for the Governor from the Mobile Register:
Gov. Bob Riley's relentless pursuit of the EADS project marks him as one of the most effective governors in Alabama history -- certainly as far as Mobile is concerned. He sold EADS on Mobile, touting the advantages of the Brookley complex and serving up dinner at the Paris Air Show.

Gov. Riley demonstrated what leadership should be. If he runs for re-election -- and we hope that he will -- Mobilians of all political persuasions should keep in mind the good he has done for the area.

Mobile Register on EADS: What Did We Give Up to Win?

The details of the incentive package haven't been released, but you can bet it wasn't cheap.

Europeans Take Mobile

From the Mobile Register:

EADS North America Inc. on Wednesday named Mobile as the site of a proposed $600 million, 1,150-worker aircraft engineering and assembly center, ending a highly competitive, nationwide search with a decision that local officials said would alter the city's economic fate for generations to come.

EADS, a subsidiary of the Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., said Mobile's Brookley Field Industrial Complex emerged "head and shoulders above" a list of candidates that began in January with 70 sites in 32 states...

EADS wants the plant to assemble KC-330 aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, and said the potential 1,000 aircraft assembly jobs it could create are contingent on the company winning at least a share of the Air Force contract. But EADS said it is committed to building an aircraft engineering center at Brookley whether or not it wins the tanker work.

Crosby said Brookley's strategic location -- particularly its lengthy runways, proximity to the Port of Mobile and ability to draw from a ready pool of workers -- distinguished it among a group of four finalists that also included airports in Charleston, S.C., Melbourne, Fla., and Kiln, Miss.

More here:
Even before it bids on [the Air Force] contract, however, EADS is having to lobby against a "buy American" provision in a House-passed defense bill that could bar it from pursuing Air Force work. It's also still trying to line up an American partner, most likely Northrop Grumman, that could smooth its path on Capitol Hill.

Even more here and here.

Lucy Makes Some Friends the Alabama Education Association Leadership Conference in Huntsville.

...perhaps the most raucous applause came during the introduction, when Dr. Paul Hubbert, the head of AEA and one of the state's most influential lobbyists, said, "The people of Alabama twice elected her governor, sorry, treasurer."
From the Birmingham News:

Baxley in her speech did not lay out specific details or policies she might pursue as governor. Instead she told an abbreviated version of her life story: poor south Alabama farm girl guided by God and inspired by her teachers; Houston County courthouse worker who saw the needs of plain folk every day; successful Birmingham-area Realtor who left that lucrative job behind to seek and win public office in order to help others.
No specific details or policies...that seems to be a recurring theme with Mrs. Baxley.

"If you put your name on that line and you run for office, it's the one area where you are trying to give back to the rich, the poor, the young, the old, everybody," said Baxley. "When I am able, behind the scenes, to help someone reach the right place for help or do something, I am always so humble that they think, `Oh, she's the lieutenant governor.' You know I am always so eager for them to know that no, I'm you. I've walked in your shoes."

Putting your name on the line, Mrs. Baxley?


Speaking of Milo's, today's Huntsville Times had a story on the restaurant and its famous sweet tea.
If sweet tea is the drink of the South, then Milo's is the sweet tea of Alabama. And the popularity of Milo's is quickly spreading across the Southeast. Jay Evers, vice president and chief executive officer of Milo's Tea Co., says the tea was first brewed at a renowned Birmingham hamburger joint, Milo's Restaurant, owned by the late Milo Carlton...

"The tea was something they were proud of, a tried and true recipe," Evers said. "A lot of people thought they were crazy." But the public has been drinking Milo's tea as fast as the company can make and distribute it, not just in Alabama but in Mississippi, Tennessee and parts of Florida and Georgia.

Sweet Tea: "The Drink of the South"

No offense to any of my Yankee friends, but it's hard for me to imagine the drudgery of a life without sweet tea.

One of the worst things in the world is to go into a fancy-schmancy restaurant for Sunday dinner, only to find out that they don't serve sweet tea. You can have a walnut-encrusted loin of pork over leeks, covered with capers and garnished with something resembling a pine limb, but no sweet tea.

"But, we have sugar," the waiter says. Yeah, right. You might as well throw in a handful of sand. It would have about the same effect.

"...or you can use Sweet 'n' Low," he chimes in, meeting with blank stares. Who the hell wants a glass of tea that tastes like Tab? I'll just have water, thank you.

And, to think that there are restaurants right here in Huntsville, Alabama that don't have sweet tea. Uncultured cretins. The next time I go to one of those places, I'm tempted to take in my own soft drink of choice - a gallon of tea from Milo's, which is unquestionably the best storebought sweet tea you'll find anywhere.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
On this day:

Tuesday Trivia

  1. What is the brightest star in the nighttime sky?
  2. What was the first James Bond movie?
  3. What character on "Leave it to Beaver" went on to become an LA policeman in real life?
  4. What 5 North American cities have hosted the summer Olympics?
  5. What country had the most combat deaths in World War II?
  6. What is the easternmost state capital in the United States?
  7. What planet in our solar system has the longest day?
  8. In what country did the Boxer Rebellion occur?
  9. Who wrote "Catch 22?"
  10. Who was the oldest Beatle?
  11. Who was the first man to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine?
  12. Who was the first U.S. President to hold a televised press conference?

See the comments for answers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
On this day:

Christian Proselytizing

Jesus Christ said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"(Mark 16:15). Why, then, is it so surprising that some people take that charge seriously?

Christians who "spread the Gospel" often do so at the risk of being called annoying or obnoxious, and certain individuals and sects probably deserve those labels. But, if mere proselytizing is not one of the most fundamental examples of "free exercise of religion," then what is?

Update: Stones Cry Out had a couple of good posts on this controversy here and here. And, Scrappleface is priceless, as always.

Wal-Mart is Taking China By Storm

This could spell "The End" for the Chi-Coms.

Joe Hatfield is the quintessential Wal-Mart guy--a chain-smoking good ole boy from Baltimore who started as an assistant store manager and toy buyer in the American heartland nearly 30 years ago under the tutelage of Sam Walton. Today he is the missionary from Bentonville, Ark., bringing the Wal-Mart way to China..."It's amazing. We're bringing people a great shopping experience!" Chinese customers, piling goods into their shopping carts, seem to agree. In a corner of the food department, Wal-Mart salespeople lead a group of giggling women shoppers in a rousing relay race, transporting small sausages down the aisle with chopsticks...

He runs 46 stores today but has much bigger plans. In two years, Wal-Mart will double that number and, in the next year alone, he will train some 25,000 new employees in the art of delivering those everyday low prices to China's growing middle class...The core of his message to Wal-Mart's associates (as all company employees are called) is simple: respect for the individual--customers in particular--"is what we're all about." Unlike in most Chinese companies, the system is transparent--guanxi, or personal connections, don't matter in the firm's Chinese stores. "The culture of Wal-Mart is stronger in China than anywhere else in the world," he says.


Congrats to Bill Pryor

From the AP:

After more than a year serving as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor officially joined the court for life on Monday.

Pryor was sworn in as a member of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit appeals court at an investiture ceremony, officially ending more than two years of political fighting over his appointment by President Bush...

"I agree with his critics; ... he is an extremist," said William D. Smith, chief counsel to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., one of Pryor's chief backers. "He is extremely intelligent, extremely principled, extremely honest, extremely prone to do the right thing and extremely qualified to serve on this court."

The only extremists in the battle over Pryor's nomination were Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who used unprecedented and shameful tactics to oppose his confirmation.

Here at home, it was a different story. Support for Pryor crossed party lines, with many prominent Democrats lending their unreserved endorsements. They should be commended for that, but this whole episode should cause them to rethink their association with the national Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party in Alabama is dying. Its funding is drying up, its constituency is shrinking, and the "D" label is quickly becoming the surest route to loserdom. If there was ever a time for the Alabama Democrats to separate from their national party, this is it.

Luckily for the GOP, though, Alabama Democrats seem to have about as much political sense as Washington Republicans.

"This is where the action is, not at NASA."

A "new generation of deep-pockets space entrepreneurs" sees money-making opportunities in space travel.

The Incredible Shrinking Deficit

In spite of (or perhaps because of) lower marginal tax rates on income and investments, federal revenues are up and the deficit continues to shrink.

For the first eight months of this fiscal year, the government ran a deficit of $272 billion. That's down from the $346 billion deficit for the same months in fiscal 2004. Receipts were up 15 percent from last year.

While that revenue surprise won't cure the nation's overspending problem, it has set off a flurry of budget speculation. A number of economists are lowering substantially their estimates for this year's deficit. Ed McKelvey, an economist with Goldman Sachs, for example, revised his forecast of the fiscal 2005 deficit to $350 billion, down from $412 billion. Some hope, perhaps unjustifiably, that the deficit will continue to shrink...

Perhaps the most interesting speculation [about the source of the new revenue] revolves around whether long-term effects of tax cuts are beginning to kick in. Many supply-side enthusiasts certainly believe they are. The new tax revenue numbers are "an eye-popping vindication of the Laffer Curve and the Bush tax cut's real economic value," wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial writer.

The Laffer Curve, named after Arthur Laffer, a White House economic adviser during the Reagan administration, is getting renewed attention. Briefly, it says that the tax on the last dollars earned - the so-called marginal tax rate - has a huge impact on individual effort and enterprise. So, the theory goes, substantial cuts in the marginal tax rate will generate lots of new business and, thus, boost tax revenues. An extreme version of supply-side theory says the gain in revenues could fully offset the revenues lost from the tax cut.

Now, if we only had a fiscally responsible party in Washington that would hold the line on spending, we might be in business. Anyone know where we can find one of those?

Hat tip: Justin at Southern Appeal via Real Clear Politics.

Monday, June 20, 2005
On this day:

LA Times: Tuscaloosa is a "Sweltering, book-banning land of tainted catfish"

According to LA Times auto critic Dan Neil:
SURELY my favorite part of any product presentation of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class is hearing German engineers pronounce "Tuscaloosa," as in Alabama, where in 1997 Mercedes started building its first sport-utility vehicle: Too-ska-loo-sah.

In their mouths, Tuscaloosa sounds like such a dreamy, enchanted realm, and not the sweltering, book-banning land of tainted catfish it is.

Get a real job, dude.

Sunday, June 19, 2005
On this day:

Coming Soon to a Dinner Table Near You

The bug movement is spreading.
While the spicy, leggy bodies of locusts; the crusty, french-fried caterpillars; or bursting, buttery ant eggs may be an acquired taste, insect cuisine is winning converts in a variety of ways.

Tough Child Support Laws = Fewer Out-of-Wedlock Births

"Tough child support laws may dissuade men from becoming unwed fathers, as states with the most stringent laws and strict enforcement have up to 20 percent fewer out-of-wedlock births, a new study shows."

But, was that really an unintended consequence?

Oregon: The Feds Made the Law - Let Them Enforce It

From the AP:
Oregon resumed issuing medical-marijuana cards Friday, deciding the program could continue despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing federal prosecution for possessing the drug.

But the state warned that registration in the state program won't protect patients or caregivers from federal prosecution for drug possession if the federal government chooses to take action against them.

Friday, June 17, 2005
On this day:

Dick Durbin

Poster boy for the anti-pullout movement.

Gaza Pullout Opponents Flood Chatrooms

They say that pulling out won't provide enough security after disengagement.

Funny...a few of my buds from high school were saying the same damn thing back in the '90's.

Thursday, June 16, 2005
On this day:

Hot-Air Hugo

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has more in common with his buddy Fidel Castro than I thought.
Left-winger Chavez, who has ruled the world's No. 5 oil exporter for more than six years, has a reputation for delivering marathon televised speeches in which he sometimes talks for five hours or more...

Critics say his broadcasts are excessive and accuse him of developing a personality cult. They say he is following the example of his friend and ally, Cuban President Fidel Castro, another famous public orator.

Chavez's appearances are transmitted by Venezuelan state television and radio but the government can oblige all national TV and radio stations to carry the presidential broadcasts -- a power it frequently uses.

Republicans Challenge Alabama Legislative Districts

Alabama Republicans have filed a federal lawsuit contending that Alabama's legislative districts violate the principle of one-man one-vote. The suit is part of the Republican Party's strategy to wrest control of the legislature from the Democrats, who have controlled both houses since 1874.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

Don't miss Triumph's latest interview, as he takes on Michael Jackson supporters outside the courthouse.

UA Wants 5% Increase in In-State Tuition

UAB and UAH want smaller increases - 2.8% and 3.8% respectively. The proposals will be considered by the UA Board of Trustees Thursday and Friday.

There's no mention of reducing duplication in academic programs or cutting administrative costs. No mention, either, of cutting funds for mandatory diversity training workshops, politicized departments like Women's Studies and ethnic studies, or stopping construction of new rock-climbing walls and swimming pools.

Alabama on the Frontlines in CAFTA Debate

Rep. Spencer Bachus, the only member of the state's Congressional delegation to go on the record in support of CAFTA, is having second thoughts due to concerns expressed by the textile industry.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
On this day:

Top 10 Things I'd Like the Senate to Apologize For

Here are some things that I'd like to see the U.S. Senate apologize for - not by passing some lame resolution full of half-hearted expressions of sorrow and woe, but by taking real action to fix the problems it has caused.

10. Failing to confirm President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, while consenting to the nominations of Justices Earl Warren, William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

9. Failing to state clearly once and for all that the federal holiday that has become popularly known as "Presidents' Day" is, and forever shall be, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY.

8. Creating the Department of Agriculture in 1862; the Department of Labor in 1913; the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1953; the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965; the Department of Transportation in 1966; the Department of Energy in 1977; the Department of Education in 1980; the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980; and the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989.

7. Passing "Lyin' Lyndon's" Great Society programs in the 1960s - Medicare, Medicaid, AFDC welfare - under which the federal government usurped powers not granted by the Constitution, consolidated the welfare state, and created tremendous financial burdens for taxpayers.

6. Enacting the first federal minimum wage as part of the National Recovery Act of 1933, and then repeating that mistake again in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Add to that the wage and price controls that were passed during the 1970's under the guise of controlling inflation, and you've got a whole set of policies that have proven themselves time and again to be miserable failures. The minimum wage has led to higher unemployment, particularly among young and unskilled workers most desperate for jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, limiting growth in wages and prices creates shortages that hurt both producers and consumers, and it served to exacerbate the "stagflation" of the '70's. The sad thing is - Adam Smith warned us about the evils of those kinds of policies back when George Washington was fighting the Redcoats, but the U.S. government and a few pointy-headed economists thought they knew better.

5. Passing the Social Security Act of 1935, thereby subjecting Americans to a dependence on the federal government that is antithetical to individual liberty and that endures to this day.

4. Proposing the 16th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, both of which were ratified by the states in 1913. The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power to tax incomes directly. The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of Senators by the people of each state. (U.S. Senators had previously been chosen by the state legislatures.) The 17th is the more objectionable of the two, in that it permanently upset the delicate balance between the states and the federal government that had been established by the Constitution's Framers. Taken together, the two amendments were precursors to the massive expansion of federal power during the previous Century.

3. Passing the Reconstruction Acts advanced by Radical Republicans in the aftermath of the Civil War, establishing federal military control over the former Confederate states and ensuring that Southerners to would view their countrymen to the north with hostility and bitterness for generations to come.

2. Failing to impeach Justice Roger Taney following the infamous Dred Scott decision, which established a constitutional right to own slaves. In Dred Scott, the Court struck down a hard-fought compromise over the issue of slavery in the territories, inflaming tensions between the states and clearing the path to Civil War. The mischief of Dred Scott was achieved by reading new meaning into the 5th Amendment's due process clause solely to achieve a political objective supported by a majority of the Court. The doctrine established by Dred Scott, known as "substantive due process," set the precedent for later cases like Lochner v. New York, Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, and Lawrence v. Texas.

1. Failing to keep up the tradition of wearing powdered wigs, as was the custom in the British House of Lords (and still is, I think...unless it has been abandoned along with so many other peculiar British traditions under Tony Blair's reforms.)

On Apologies

In response to a post yesterday, in which I called the Senate apology for failing to pass anti-lynching laws "futile," a reader commented: "I'm glad to see the Senate do this. It shows remorse for a time when their colleagues lacked the courage to do it."

This raises a pretty interesting ethical topic. In the event that a moral wrong has been done by one individual or group to another, what parties are morally capable of delivering and of accepting an apology?

I wrote my opinion as a comment to the original post (I've added some minor grammatical edits):
While [the Senate] resolution may have been a nice gesture to alleviate some lingering ill feelings from the country's civil rights struggles, I still maintain that the apology was misguided.

It seems to me that for an apology to be credible, it must be issued by the person or persons responsible for the original grievance. Following that assumption, members of the U.S. Senate today are not qualified to speak for their predecessors of 50-100 years ago. For them to pretend to do so is only to invite cynicism.

There are obvious exceptions to [such a] "rule of apologies." The most obvious [would] apply to children and others who can't be held entirely responsible for their own actions. Arguments can and have been made that U.S. Senators have been known to act like imbeciles on occasion, but I don't think anyone would say that they shouldn't be held responsible for their own actions, for good or bad. Thus, the "kid and idiot" exception doesn't apply. general, I think that collective apologies for bygone failures are pointless. We can't speak for those who came before us. Their words and actions [can] speak only through the pages of history. We can praise them or deplore them, as the case may be, but we do not have the moral capacity to speak for them. To do [so] does little good, and may even do some harm by undermining traditional rules of conduct regarding apologies, e.g. by confusing the issue of who is morally capable of either delivering or accepting them.
I'd be interested to hear what others think about this. Feel free to comment.

Say Yes to CAFTA

Trade with Cuba may be a tricky issue for free-trade conservatives, but when it comes to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, there should be no controversy. National Review Online says why.

Microsoft Censor 2.0

It's well-known that the Chinese government censors web sites, e-mail, and other internet communications, but this was news to me:

Users of the MSN Spaces section of Microsoft Corp.'s new China-based Web portal get a scolding message each time they input words deemed taboo by the communist authorities -- such as democracy, freedom and human rights.

...a spokesman at [Microsoft] headquarters in Seattle acknowledged that the company is cooperating with the Chinese government to censor its Chinese-language Web portal.

Microsoft and its Chinese business partner, government-funded Shanghai Alliance Investment, work with authorities to omit certain forbidden language, said Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director for MSN.

One more reason to get a new web browser...and office software...and operating system...

How to Tie Your Shoes

Wanna be unique? Try one of these. (Link from K-Lo at NRO.)

Boston Globe: Roy Moore's Popularity May be a Problem for the GOP

According to the Boston Globe, Republican strategerists are worried about a "political confrontation" with Alabama's own Roy Moore.
Moore, a Republican who enjoys widespread support in his home state, is poised to run against a vulnerable Republican governor. If he wins, some party strategists speculate, he could defy a federal court order again by erecting a religious monument outside the Alabama state Capitol building. With the 2008 presidential race looming, President Bush would then face a no-win decision: either call out the National Guard to enforce a court order against a religious display on state grounds or allow a fellow born-again Christian to defy the courts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
On this day:

Roy Moore: First-Class Jackass?

That's what Feddie at Southern Appeal thinks, citing this excerpt from a recent interview with Judge Moore:
Vanguard: Some in Washington feel that the filibustering of judicial nominees by Democrats is an attack on religion because some of those nominees have strong feelings about faith. Would you agree?

RM: Let's talk about specifics. Bill Pryor has strong religious convictions, yet he removes the monument of the Ten Commandments, which absolutely contradicts the law he is sworn to uphold? Do I think it is an attack on faith? Well, if it is, it is curious, because he agrees to uphold the order even if it contradicts the law.

I don't have any problem with the filibuster rules and allowing an up or down vote. But do I think that it is going to improve the system or that is going to be better for people of faith? Not when judges like Bill Pryor, who don't understand the First Amendment and will deny God simply because another man in a black robe tells him to do so.

When Bill Pryor or any other judge will obey an unlawful court order, that's not much of a matter of faith as you submit.

It is a political thing. The Republicans want to get their judges in. The Democrats want to get their judges in. They got this rule, the filibuster, which I don't agree with. But, the solution to our problems in this country is not the removal of filibuster. That's not going to help. We got education of judges to undergo. When we have Republican judges that have been blindly following unlawful orders like Bill Pryor did, we got a big problem.
Moore goes on to talk about Alabama's education system and economy. Pretty interesting, all in all, providing some insight into Moore's thinking on issues other than the Ten Commandments and activist federal judges.

Frum: Saving Africa

NRO's David Frum follows up on a topic from a few days ago, which I linked to here.

Monday, June 13, 2005
On this day:

U.S. Senate Apologizes for Blocking Anti-Lynching Laws

Futility: n. a useless act or gesture.

Another Good Communist

Alvaro Cunhal, a former leader of Portugal's Communist Party, has died.
Cunhal applauded the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, praised the Soviet war effort in Afghanistan, and rejected the reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

He clung to his Communist ideals long after the Soviet "perestroika" of the 1980s and, perhaps as a consequence, the party's influence gradually faded. Its 7 percent share of the vote in 2002 general election was its lowest point.

National Summit on Cuba

The National Summit on Cuba was held in Mobile this weekend in spite of the bad weather due to Tropical Storm Arlene. (See the Mobile Register here and here.) Seems that it turned out quite as expected - with Castro apologists fully in charge of the agenda.

The ostensible aim of the summit was to promote an end to the American embargo. The issue of trade with Cuba is a complicated one, even for conservatives, and it deserves an appropriate level of attention. However, it's unfortunate that this weekend's summit only told one side of the story, in the end amounting to little more than a forum for airing pro-Castro propaganda.

Dennis Hays is a former ambassador who was "disinvited" from the summit due to his anti-Castro views. (See here.) In this piece he wrote for the Mobile Register, he discusses why doing business with Cuba may not be such a great thing, after all.

A Tale of Two Krugmans

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Donald Luskin asks, which was it, Paul?

Alabama's $5000 Shoeshine Man

Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron is under fire.
Republican senators and some Democrats trying to oust Barron as president pro tem of the Senate point to Barron approving $5,000 in payments to Raymond Payne, who shines shoes from time to time at the Legislature.

Another Dem Party-Switcher?

State Representative Lea Fite (D., Jacksonville) says that he will serve out his term as a Democrat, but that he will consider running as a Republican next year.

According to Fite: "I am a businessman. I'm pro-life and I'm a Christian, and I have been spending a lot of time explaining to people why I'm a Democrat."

Fite almost certainly isn't alone.

For Diversocrats, Race = Ideology

My post on Howard Dean's recent statements that Republicans "all look the same" and that the Republican Party is "a white Christian party" prompted one fellow to add this comment: "And the author of this blog is . . . a white guy. Color me shocked."

So much for liberal open-mindedness. His logic, which is all too common among the diversity crowd these days, seems to conclude that people who "look alike" must "think alike," as well.

Well, the truth is that there are plenty of women and "people of color" out there who found Howard Dean's comments just as outrageous as I did. For a few examples, take a look at what Michelle Malkin (see here and here), LaShawn Barber (see here), and NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru and Kathryn Jean Lopez have said about the subject.

On a side'd this guy figure out that I'm white, anyway? Has he seen me dance or something?

Friday, June 10, 2005
On this day:

NYT Pryor Profile: Maybe He's Not a Knuckledragger After All

The New York Times has a surprisingly fair (for the Times) profile of the newest member of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Bill Pryor, summarizing his life and his years in Alabama politics.

A couple of excerpts show why he has earned the respect and admiration of so many Alabamians in both parties.

First, Pryor has always insisted on being honest about his views, even during his confirmation hearings, when he was well aware that complete honesty wasn't necessarily the surest route to confirmation.

When Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, asked Judge Pryor during his confirmation hearing if he regretted the abomination remark [Pryor had said that Roe v. Wade was "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history], he did not take the bait.

"No," the judge replied evenly, "I stand by that comment."

Senators appeared shocked. Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said the room was so quiet "you could hear a pin drop." At that moment, Judge Pryor broke a barrier, daring to talk about what Mr. Schumer described as "fervent personal beliefs" - and clearing the way for future nominees to do so - while advancing the cause of religious conservatives, as he has done his entire adult life.
Secondly, as Alabama's Attorney General, Pryor was known to stick up for the things he knew to be right, regardless of the potential political consequences.

He earned the admiration of state civil rights leaders by becoming the only white statewide official to campaign for the repeal of a provision in the Alabama Constitution barring interracial marriage. "He put his political career on the line," said Alvin Holmes, a black state legislator. "He thought it was racist."...

He pressed to keep a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Alabama state judicial building, yet prosecuted the chief justice, Roy S. Moore, for disobeying a federal court order to remove it.

Even though he was Alabama's youngest Attorney General when he was appointed by then-Governor Fob James, Pryor set a new standard of integrity while he held that office, and I'm confident that he will do the same as a federal judge. I wouldn't be surprised if even a few thoughtful liberals around the country eventually change their minds about Pryor, once they have a chance to see him in action.

There's no doubt that Pryor is a conservative - both politically and legally - but he also recognizes the proper role of the judiciary in our federal republic. That's a quality that should be comforting to liberals and conservatives alike.

Mugabe's Zimbabwe

In that long post from yesterday evening, I wrote about how foreign aid and debt relief is not the answer to Africa's many problems:

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is a shining example of why new efforts by Western nations to extend debt relief and foreign aid to African nations are misguided. Mugabe's government is engaged in a crackdown on "black-market" merchants, most of whom want nothing more than to provide a decent living for themselves and their families. While the Mugabe regime may be an extreme example, it has much in common with the corrupt and socialistic governments that hold power in Africa and much of the Third World. Why on Earth would we want to forgive their debts and throw more money into these backwater cesspools? ...

Today, NRO's David Frum elaborates on that point:

So if this is the year that Tony Blair wants the world to save Africa, why not start with Zimbabwe?

Today is the second day of a general strike in that miserable and oppressed country. The strikers have a long long list of grievances, but the trigger for the protest was President Mugabe's three-week-long campaign to raze shanty houses. Two hundred thousand Zimbabweans, the poorest of the urban poor, are threatened with homelessness.

The houses belong to urban squatters. At other times, of course, Mugabe has encouraged and promoted squatting - when he was engaged in his campaign to confiscate the lands and force from the country Zimbabwe's remaining white farmers. (Nobody has covered this heart-rending story better than the UK Spectator. Their articles are now behind a subscriber wall, but if you are interested in this issue, you might consider signing up.) The farms stolen by the squatter campaign were not of course redistributed to the landless: They were lavished on Mugabe's inner circle and his own family, including his wife.

Now South African President Mbeki - Mugabe's closest ally - threatens to take that country, the most important and once most hopeful on the continent - in the same doomed direction.

Surely these stories give the final lie to the Sachs/Annan/Geldof theory that Africa suffers only from insufficient foreign aid? The story of southern Africa is one of unbroken decline toward poverty and tyranny underneath governments - let us be frank - to a very great extent installed by the US and Britain. The west is often blamed, not without justice, for propping up the Saudi monarchy/restoring the shah in 1953/assorted derelictions in Latin America, etc. Somehow Mugabe rule in Zimbabwe and African National Congress rule in South Africa never get mentioned in this polemical list, even though Mugabe already and Mbeki bids fair to do more harm to their subjects as any Latin American generalissimo ever did.


Just woke up from an evening nap a bit ago. It seems I've come down with a bit of a sore throat and fever. Dagnabbit! Anyway, I'm not much up for bloggin' at the moment, and's kind of a slow news day. Kinda...

Bill Pryor did get confirmed today. Hooray! He'll make a great judge, and victory came in spite of the shameful tactics used by Senate Democrats and their leftist friends to scuttle his nomination. Pryor has a brilliant legal mind, and Alabamians should be proud of their role in advancing him into his current position.

Let's see...what else? The Michael Jackson trial. Is anyone else just ready for it to be over? Not necessarily the trial itself...justice needs to be served, however it turns out. I'm just tired of the 24-hour-a-day press coverage. Have I mentioned lately how much I've come to loathe the 24-hour news networks - Fox included?

My Adtran stock is up. That put me in a good mood for most of the day.

Howard Dean continues to promote his unique brand of assocracy.

CNN says that Jacques Chriac and Gerhard Schroeder are "closing ranks." Yup...they're both losers. Their aspirations of creating a new European socialist megastate having been dashed, both are now turning back to domestic issues. And, both are in trouble...facing double digit unemployment and sluggish economies that are weighted down by the dual burdens of taxation and overregulation. The problems are particularly acute for Schroeder, whose party just lost a major state election, and who faces stiff competition from the center-right Christian Democrats in the upcoming nationwide election this fall. Say hello to Germany's Margaret Thatcher.

The Canadian Supreme Court has struck down a Quebec law forbidding private health insurance. The ruling has led to the expected reaction from Canada's health care bureaucrats, who, like all statists, fear the loss of power over the lives and health of their subjects.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is a shining example of why new efforts by Western nations to extend debt relief and foreign aid to African nations are misguided. Mugabe's government is engaged in a crackdown on "black-market" merchants, most of whom want nothing more than to provide a decent living for themselves and their families. While the Mugabe regime may be an extreme example, it has much in common with the corrupt and socialistic governments that hold power in Africa and much of the Third World. Why on Earth would we want to forgive their debts and throw more money into these backwater cesspools? If these nations are ever to advance, they have to start taking responsibility for their own recklessness. I say - make 'em pay - even if it takes 100 years. Maybe in that time, an African Alexander Hamilton will emerge who understands the value in living up to one's financial commitments.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says that "the middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists," and that "working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years." Does anyone really believe this? Let's see - 30 years ago - that was 1975. Personal computers were virtually unheard of, the internet didn't exist, and only the richest Americans could afford an airline ticket to a faraway destination. If Krugman prefers the economy of 1975 to the one of today, let him build a time machine and take a little trip. The problem with Krugman's statistics - especially those on inflation - is that they fail to adequately account for technological advances, improvements in product quality, and new efficiencies in trade. There's no doubt that Krugman, as an "expert" economist, is acutely aware of all that. Apparently, though, he has discarded his economist's hat, replacing it with that of a political hack.

Talladega wants Oprah Winfrey to come to town.

Tropical Storm Arlene is heading our way.

Four of the fourteen Cubans who were intercepted by the Coast Guard on a "taxi-boat" will be allowed to stay in the U.S. I feel sorry for the 10 who have to go back to Castro's prison paradise. Meanwhile, this weekend's National Summit on Cuba is getting some much-needed criticism from anti-Castro alumni of Mobile's Spring Hill College, which will host parts of the summit.

OK...time to resume my nap, now. See y'all tomorrow.

Thursday, June 09, 2005
On this day:

Another Judicial Victory

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Alabama native Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today. The vote was 56-44. The only Democrat to break ranks and vote for Brown was Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Senators also voted to end the filibuster on former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor's nomination. Pryor's nomination will likely come up for a vote Thursday evening.

Democrats persist in labeling many of President Bush's judicial nominees as "extreme" and "outside the mainstream." It's difficult to understand how favoring the interpretation of the Constitution and laws according to the plain, original meaning of the text is "extreme," but in the age of Griswold, Roe, and Lawrence, that's what it's come to.

For a few real examples of judicial extremism, take a look at this post on NRO' s Bench Memos blog, documenting some of the interesting opinions held by Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee.

Pressing the Flesh

Porn actress Mary Carey, who ran for California governor in 2003 on a platform of making taxing breast implants, making lap dances tax-deductible, and wiring every room of the Governor's mansion with webcams, will be attending the annual President's Dinner at the Washington Convention Center on June 14.

Carey, who calls herself a political independent, is eagerly anticipating the Republican Party fundraiser. From World Net Daily:
"I'm hoping to run as lieutenant governor of California next year. "Since Arnold [Schwarzenegger] is a Republican, I thought this dinner would be a great networking opportunity for me."

Added Carey: "I'm especially looking forward to meeting Karl Rove. Smart men like him are so sexy. I know that he's against gay marriage, but I think I can convince him that a little girl-on-girl action now and then isn't so bad!"

Even porn stars gotta eat, I suppose. But, with the President of the United States?

Encyclopedia of Alabama

The web-based "Encyclopedia of Alabama" sounds like it will be a great service once it gets up and running in 2007. Auburn history professor Wayne Flynt calls it "the most important intellectual enterprise in the history of this state."

See the Encyclopedia of Alabama web-site for more info.

Here We Go

The first tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean Sea.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
On this day:

A New Game

Sudoku..."the Rubik's Cube of the 21st century."

Free daily Sudoku puzzles, with solutions, are available here and here. A Sudoku "solver" is here. Some links to other Sudoku sites, including online games, are provided here.

Brown and Pryor to Finally Receive Confirmation Votes

The U.S. Senate will finally consider Alabama native Janice Rogers Brown's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today. Former Attorney General Bill Pryor's nomination to the 11th Circuit will likely be considered before the end of the week.

Southern Appeal has the schedule.

Tuscaloosa News: Dems Can't Distance Themselves from Party Chairman

Alabama Democrats may not be willing to take on Howard Dean, but the Tuscaloosa News is.
Alabama Republicans got an unexpected windfall this week as fund raising began for statewide elections next year.

Bidding to expand their hold on the courts, retain the governor’s chair and make substantial gains in the Legislature, the Republican fund-raisers got a boost right out of left field -- from National Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.

His mouth running like a leaky faucet (to use a nice simile), Dean said that Republicans never made an honest living in their lives.

For good measure, he added that GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence.

This is the kind of talk that veteran football coaches call “fightin’ words." It’s polarizing and motivating for those at the receiving end.
Keep talking, Chairman Dean.

Howard Dean: Republicans "All Look the Same"

According to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."

I wonder if the guys at the Alabama Democratic Party blog will continue to object to fellow Democrats' criticism of Dean's outrageous statements, as they have over the last week here and here. I guess it's no wonder that the party here in Alabama is having trouble raising money.

Professor Bainbridge jokes that Dean may have been "planted" by Karl Rove. If only the Republicans were that smart.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
On this day:

Teen Gets Life Sentence for Helping 17-Year-Old Girlfriend End Pregnancy

He helped her kill her unborn twins by stepping on her stomach while she punched herself repeatedly. The girl "can't be prosecuted because of her legal right to abortion." Had her boyfriend performed the procedure with a scalpel and suction tube, maybe he'd have been in the clear, as well.

Following in His Daddy's Footsteps

Alabama Public Service Commissioner George Wallace, Jr. addressed the Council of Conservative Citizens this week at its national conference in Montgomery. Wonder if he grabbed up one of those "White Pride" t-shirts advertised on the group's web site? (Might want to be careful about clicking that link if you're at work.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the CCC a "hate group." Personally, I wouldn't even venture to guess what motivates the CCC to spew its venom, but its advocacy of white supremacy is unmistakable. A quick look around the web site convinced me of that. For an Alabama politician, especially a Wallace, to give such a ringing endorsement to such a group is indefensible.

Ag Commissioner Sparks: No to CAFTA, Yes to Cuba

While Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is busy badmouthing the proposed trade agreement with America's friends in the Dominican Republic and Central America, he has nothing but kind words for Castro's Cuba.

Sparks says that "Cuba has lived up to every agreement they signed. President Fidel Castro has never tried to put me on the spot. He's been very respectful of the administration."

Respectful? Now that's an interesting description of Mr. Castro if I've ever heard one. I'm not sure what Commissioner Sparks is thinking of - maybe I'm missing something. Lets see here...

Following President Bush's election in 2001, Castro said that "someone very strange, with very little promise, has taken charge of the leadership of the great empire that we have as a neighbor...That gentleman has arrived there, and hopefully he is not as stupid as he seems, nor as mafia-like as his background makes him appear."

"The power and prerogatives of that country's president are so extensive, and the economic and technological and military power network in that nation is so pervasive, that due to circumstances that fully escape the will of the American people, the world is coming under the rule of Nazi concepts and methods." - Castro in June 2002.

''We know that Mr. Bush has committed himself to the mafia ... to assassinate me.'' - Castro in January 2004.

"Bush couldn't debate a Cuban ninth grader." - Castro in February 2004.

Castro: Bush is "sinister" and could be having a difficult time “distinguishing between relevant and inconsequential information.” - July 2004.

In November of 2004, Castro said that the bin Laden video that surfaced prior to the election was likely "arranged" by President Bush: “We have seen too much ... trickery and shamelessness to sustain the belief that this wasn’t something arranged.”

In February of this year, Castro commented that President Bush had "the face of a deranged person."

In April, Castro said that Bush's trip to the pope's funeral was "an outrage to the memory of John Paul II."

New Orleans: The Next Atlantis?

"By century's end, much of southern Louisiana may sink into the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas coastline, including Galveston, could soon follow."

Monday, June 06, 2005
On this day:

Pakistan to Hand Over Terror Suspects to U.S.

Presumably, they'll be taken to the Gitmo "gulag." How long before Amnesty International registers its concern?

Federal Reserve May Eliminate Jobs in Alabama

Workers to suffer...babies to starve.

That's one way to read this story about an upcoming Fed decision over whether to close its cash processing operations in Birmingham. But, when you consider why the jobs may go away, it doesn't seem so bad.
Since 2003...the Fed has reduced the number of its check processing centers from 45 to 23 in response to a decrease in the number of paper checks being written.

Of course, we all know why this is happening. People are paying their bills electronically - it's more efficient and more convenient. But, someone who had been living in a cave for the past 10 years might fail to see the big picture and focus exclusively on the job losses, overlooking the fact that they pale in comparison to the overall economic benefits.

That kind of pessimism seems almost absurd in this case, because the "big picture" is so easy to see. But, a similar defeatist attitude is motivating some Alabama officials to oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a Democrat, warns of job losses and harmful effects on family farmers if the trade deal is passed.

When it comes to an issue like free trade, economic gains aren't always apparent. News of textile mills closing down or software jobs being outsourced makes a big impression. When a family member, co-worker, or neighbor loses his job due to foreign competition, it's easy to overlook the fact that goods and services are cheaper and new jobs have been created by businesses capitalizing on increasing trade. Even if these positives are obvious - as they are in today's economy - they aren't likely to be associated with "free trade" in the mind of the average Joe. So, the issue of free trade is easy to demagogue by pointing out that competition from abroad often results in job losses in certain industries, while ignoring the fact that it creates new markets and new jobs in other industries.

Ron Sparks and other opponents of CAFTA have taken this approach - focusing on the potential negatives while ignoring the certain benefits. They are wrong to do that. Lower prices will benefit every consumer in Alabama. Alabama's proximity to the CAFTA region makes the state a likely conduit for an increasing flow of goods. Our manufacturing and commercial enterprises - including agriculture - also stand to gain, since trade barriers are currently higher at the Central American end than at the U.S. end.

Maybe Sparks has fogotten that the largest (and most successful) free trade zone in the Americas is right here in the United States, where barriers to interstate trade are banned by the Constitution. No doubt, there are people in Michigan who would love to be able to put tariffs on automobiles made here in Alabama. And, some in Alabama at one time may have favored restrictions on Texas cotton. But, in ratifying the Constitution, the states agreed that trade between them would be unimpeded. That arrangement has served these United States well through the years, and the benefits will only increase as we open markets to global trading partners.

Coal and the Energy Bill

News of the Alabama coal industry's fortune is great stuff, in that it provides a good illustration of the free market working its wonders. As is so very common, though, the federal government is proving unable to resist the urge to "help out" the process.

The energy bill currently being considered in Congress and supported by the Bush administration would provide tax breaks and subsidies for the development of so-called "clean coal" technologies.

On its face, that doesn't necessarily sound like a bad thing. Everyone wants energy that is cleaner and cheaper. But, when the government grants subsidies and preferential tax treatment to favored energy producers, it often ends up hurting more than helping by interfering with market signals.

In a recent column, NRO's Rich Lowry said of the energy bill: "Bush relentlessly touts the as a potential salve for high gas prices, but it won’t be, because it runs afoul of a force with which Bush should be familiar — the free market." He goes on to say that much of the bill is "a grab-bag of subsidies for new technologies — for “clean” coal, fusion energy, hydrogen-powered fuel cells, etc. — that are likely dead-ends, or the people interested in developing them wouldn’t be so needful of the federal teat."

Unfortunately, when there are so many sucklings waiting their turn at the spigot, some are bound to get fatter than others.

The Heritage Foundation's Ben Lieberman, discussing "the good and bad of the energy bill," writes:
The energy bill...tries to pick winners and losers among sources of energy. It contains many targeted tax breaks designed to encourage certain alternative energy technologies and to promote energy efficiency and conservation, as well as billions of dollars for research. Solar and wind energy systems, fuel cells, alternative vehicles, and nuclear and clean coal research are among the beneficiaries. This is nothing new, but decades of such efforts have yielded few results. Programs that funded research on electric cars and synthetic fuels demonstrate that the federal government does a poor job and wastes money when it tries to steer the energy market. Washington would do better to stay on the sidelines.
Lieberman praises the market-oriented portions of the bill, but says, "For every provision that would take energy policy in a free market direction...there are several others that reek of central planning." If conservatives in Congress fail in their efforts to remove the centralizing features of the bill, they should fight for its defeat, even if that means voting against the President. Welfare for individuals has been rolled back over the past decade, and it's high time to take on corporate welfare.

An Old Energy Alternative: Coal

High natural gas and oil prices is fueling a resurgence in Alabama's coal industry, with local companies building new mines and reactivating old ones.

The reason for the new "coal rush" amounts to simple economics. A 2004 article in the Christian Science Monitor says, "Low-cost, low-emission, natural-gas turbines sprouted like mushrooms in the '90s and their contribution to the nation's generating capacity reached 19 percent. But in the past four years, the cost of natural gas has roughly tripled: from $2 per 1 million British thermal units of heat generated to over $6 per million BTUs. By contrast, coal costs less than $1 per million BTUs." As a result, at least 94 new coal-fired plants were being planned in the U.S. at the time the article was written.

Saturday, June 04, 2005
On this day:

Light Blogging

Yes, I know blogging has been a little light in the last week or so. I've been a little busy and a little lazy. I should be plenty rested by next week, though, so stay tuned.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
On this day:

Alabama Tax Collections Up

In another sure sign that Alabama's economy is on a roll, state revenues were up over 10% for the October through May time period - without any major tax increases. Amazing how that works, huh?

Specifically, revenues from income taxes were up 14.0%, sales taxes 5.2%, diesel fuel taxes 15.1%. Money devoted to education programs was up 7.1%, and General Fund revenues were up 21%.

Word Games

If these guys have their way, playing them might become a lot easier.

Help Me!

I think I've become a Literati addict. If anyone knows of a cure, please spell it out for me - in 7 letters or less, please.

EU Constitution - Back to the Drawing Board

National Review Online sums up why the French rejection (now joined by the Dutch) of the EU Constitution is good for Europe and good for the U.S.

Jonah Goldberg chimes in from the Corner:
Now is the time for unreasonable giddiness, schadenfreude, and rank geopolitical opportunism. Maybe not items one and two, if we're talking about what the offcial US response should be, but for the rest of us, I can't see how this is anything but fantastic news.

Though I do think there's little reason to rejoice about the voter's intentions. If I understand the debate in France correctly, it was about whether or not a refrigerator box or a tree house makes for a better place to hide. Oh, wait, that was a different debate. This debate was about whether or not the proposed new EU constitution would result in "ultraliberalism" AKA as "the American" economic model. In other words, both the yes-ers and the no-ers were voting with anti-American attitudes. One group wanted the EU to stick it to America geopolitically. The other group found that part appealing, but was more afraid of becoming like America culturally and economically. In short, I think France remains largely a write-off to us. The good news, however, is that France is now far less positioned to determine the course of European foreign policy generally -- and that's great news.

I agree. This is great news for the cause of freedom and liberty in Europe, and thus bad news for the Euroweenie elite.