Friday, July 29, 2005
On this day:

Republicans and the U.S. Dept. of Education

Once upon a time, in the 1980's, a popular Republican President proposed to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. But, Democrats controlled the Congress, and it didn't happen.

Then, in the '90's, Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 50 years, and the idea again became a topic of public debate. The talk centered around eliminating the Department by simply "defunding" it. But, faced with opposition from a Democratic President, it didn't happen.

Today, both the legislative and executive branches are controlled by Republicans. You'd think that now would be an opportune time to finally eliminate a department that should never have been created.

But, today's Republican Party, under the "compassionate conservative" leadership of President Bush, seems to have had a change in heart, as the Department of Education's budget has grown by an astonishing 82.5 percent - after inflation - since 2001.

This TechCentralStation piece by AEI's Veronique de Rugy and Kathryn Newmark suggests that it's time for Republicans to return to the principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility, and to start by substantially reducing the federal role in education.

In the 1990s, the Republican party sought to abolish the Department of Education as an inappropriate intrusion into state, local, and family affairs. The GOP platform was clear: "The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education."

Ever since President Carter created the Department of Education, the GOP had wanted to get rid of it. But today, with President Bush leading the way, the GOP is embracing the idea that the federal government should play a larger role in education. Sounding like the evil twins of 1990s Republicans, President Bush and his administration speak with great pride about increasing federal funding for education...

The Bush administration has taken the GOP from advocating no federal spending on education to spending like drunken sailors. It's high time for the party to sober up and remember its core principles.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Poker Parties

The Shelby County DA says don't hold 'em. Luckily, the Texas Hold 'Em matches that I've been known to attend from time to time with my buddies don't seem to be in any danger. According to the Shelby DA, state law allows private card games. Now, if I could just manage to figure out that whole winning thing.

Wonder if He's French?

"Truly bizarre."

Helen Thomas

Thomas says, "The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself." From the looks of things, she won't have to make much of an effort.

Fat Phil Comes to Alabama

Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer actually decided to show up for SEC Media Days this year. From the Huntsville Times:

A mob of television cameramen tracked Fulmer on his much-anticipated return to Southeastern Conference Media Days in the state where he has been vilified for his role in the NCAA investigation that resulted in severe sanctions against Alabama's football program. A year ago, with lawyer Tommy Gallion possibly waiting to serve him with a subpoena, Fulmer was a no-show and was fined $10,000...

"There has been a lot of intense media coverage, especially here in Alabama, theatrics that were worthy of Oscars, legal battles that went on, even some threats of harm to some of the people involved and their families, including mine," Fulmer said. "I do not take that lightly and I'm not quite over that yet as far as being angry about that."

Fulmer was a witness in the NCAA case that accused Alabama booster Logan Young of paying off high school coaches in Memphis to secure defensive lineman Albert Means for Alabama. Young was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to six months in jail and six months house arrest. The case is being appealed.

Alabama was placed on five years probation, barred from postseason play for two seasons and lost 23 scholarships...

Fulmer appeared ready to bury the hatchet with "true Alabama fans."
Fulmer said he was not apprehensive about returning to Media Days and would not be apprehensive about the Vols' visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium in October.

"I'd like to get back to where we have a great, clean, hard-fought rivalry that has none of this stench in it," Fulmer said. "Whether we can get there I don't know, but I have no hard feelings for anybody that is a true Alabama fan."

Bet there are plenty of true Bama fans who have lingering hard feelings for him.

Labor Split Won't Affect AL

Threats, intimidation to remain legitimate union tactics.

Thursday, July 28, 2005
On this day:

Guess You Gotta Consider the Competition

State Senator Roger Bedford (D. - Russellville) said the other day that George Wallace was "one of the greatest governors Alabama has ever had."

Hmmm...I guess if we would have elected him President 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today, huh, Rog?

Georgia Sales Tax Holiday

Looks like it may be a good weekend to head over to Atlanta. Might want to pick up one of those new Georgia-style BBQ grills.

"Where's the Weed"

This was not smart.

Pitchin' Horseshoes

The 2008 world championship for the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association will be held across the river in Decatur.

CAFTA Passes

In a major victory for free trade, the House of Representatives passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement by a vote of 217-215 today. The Senate approved the measure last month. The bill now goes to the President for his signature. Amazingly enough, each of Alabama's 5 Republican Representatives - Aderholt, Bonner, Bachus, Everett, and Rogers - voted for the bill. Both Democrats - Cramer and Davis - voted against it.

In a related matter, Japan is planning to impose tariffs on U.S. steel in retaliation for the U.S. tariffs on steel imports.
Local media reported Thursday that Japan was planning to impose a 15 percent retaliatory tariff in September on about 10 products as a countermeasure to duties imposed by the United States on Japanese steel products under the so-called Byrd amendment, an antidumping law ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.
As you may remember, the steel tariffs were imposed under the guise of protecting American jobs. No matter what the polls say and no matter how much money big business and big labor pour into anti-trade initiatives, protectionism is a bad deal any way you cut it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
On this day:

Dollars for Hollers

As if the legislature doesn't already provide us with enough amusement.

Legislature Passes Sex Offender Law

...minus a provision that would have provided for mandatory physical castration of those convicted of violent offenses against children under 12. But, that's not the end of the story:
Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, reluctantly agreed not to include the castration language in the final version of the bill, but said he will come back with the measure in the next regular session. Hurst had introduced the castration amendment in the House last week. (AP)

The Special Session is Over

...with no permanent damage done, and quite a bit of good.

Redneck Games

The 10th Annual Summer Redneck Games were held in Dublin, Georgia last week. It Is What It Is has more. Other photo galleries are here and here.


You remember her from the Wonder Years. Who knew that Danica McKellar was an arithmo-babe, too? (You can also see her personal web site here. She even does a little online tutoring!)

Here's a little taste of that NY Times article:

Ms. McKellar, now a semiregular on "The West Wing" playing a White House speechwriter, Elsie Snuffin, is probably the only person on prime-time television who moonlights as a cyberspace math tutor.

Her mathematics knowledge extends well beyond calculus. As a math major at the University of California, Los Angeles, she also took more esoteric classes, the ones with names like "complex analysis" and "real analysis," and she pondered making a career move to professional mathematician.

"I love that stuff," Ms. McKellar said last month during a visit to Manhattan after a play-reading in the Hamptons. Her conversation was peppered with terminology like "epsilons" and "limsups" (pronounced "lim soups").

"I love continuous functions and proving if functions are continuous or not," she said.

She may also be the only actress, now or ever, to prove a new mathematical theorem, one that bears her name...

For a simple model of magnetism, Professor Chayes [teacher of her Real Analysis class] thought that [McKellar and a fellow student] might be able to prove a property that would indicate when the magnetic field would line up in a certain direction...

...the students spent months more, up to 12 hours a day, working on the proof...

Sometimes, they spent days on an approach before finding an obvious flaw. Other times, they thought they had finished, before Professor Chayes would find an error or oversight. And, finally, Professor Chayes found no more gaps.

A paper with an imposing title - "Percolation and Gibbs States Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models on Z²" - appeared in a British mathematical physics journal, and Ms. McKellar presented the findings at a statistical mechanics conference at Rutgers, the only undergraduate to speak.

Today, the proof is known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem.

Be still my heart.

Revamping the Periodic Table

A new version of the periodic table developed by Oxford University ecologist Phillip Stewart is gaining fans. USA Today has more.

Posters and additional info are available here.

Hat Tip: 45-Caliber Justice.

New Alabama Bar Association President Proposes End to Election of Judges

Bobby Segall, the new President of the Alabama State Bar, is certainly not an "ultraconservative," and I doubt seriously whether he's a member of the Federalist Society. According to the AP:
Segall represented former Gov. Don Siegelman in his Medicaid bribery trial last year. His other clients have included the Alabama Education Association, Democratic state senators who fought with Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Windom over leadership of the Senate in 1999, and poor parents and their children in Alabama's equity funding lawsuit for schools in the 1990s.

Obviously disappointed by the Democratic Party's failures at the ballot box in recent elections, Segall also proposes that state Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges be nominated by the Governor based on "merit" from a list submitted by a committee.

The chief argument in favor of this method of judicial appointment is that it removes "politics" from the process of selecting judges. That's bunk. The nominating committee that Segall proposes will be no less influenced by political considerations than under the current system, in which judges are elected. Such a committee will undoubtedly be dominated by lawyers, politicians, and former politicians. The only difference will be that the judiciary will become a few more steps removed from the people it serves, and potential nominees will be beholden to the personal attachments of the select few who constitute the nominating committee. Other than providing jobs for out-of-favor liberals in the Democratic Party, it's anyone's guess as to how Segall's proposal would improve on popular election.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
On this day:

The Federalist Society: Ultraconservative?

The ADP Blog also refers to the Federalist Society as an "ultraconservative legal society."

I'm not sure what "ultraconservative" means, but if it refers to advocating juridicial adherence to the Constitution as it was written, absent the assistance of sociologists and cultural hoity-toits, count me in.

Who are these "ultraconservatives?" Well, the Birmingham Lawyer's Chapter of the Federalist Society lists the following people on its Board of Advisors. They include one former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, four individuals who have served as Associate Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court (one of whom - Gorman Houston - is a former Democrat), one former Attorney General who was recently appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, two members of Congress, a former U.S. Attorney, and one of the most distinguished History professors in the nation.

Perry Hooper, Sr., Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.
William Pryor, [Former] Attorney General of the State of Alabama.
Jean W. Brown, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Alabama.
Forrest McDonald, Professor of History, University of Alabama.
Frank Donaldson, Former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Harold See, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.
Jeff Sessions, United States Senator from Alabama.
Spencer Bachus, United States House of Representatives, Alabama 6th District.
Hugh Maddox, Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.
Gorman Houston, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

ADP Blog: Roberts is a Liar

Yesterday, one of the bloggers at the Alabama Democratic Party Blog had this to say about Judge Roberts:

Why Supreme Court nominee John Roberts feels he has to lie about his membership in the Federalist Society is beyond me. Sure, they're an ultra conservative legal society, but why lie about membership? And if John Roberts will lie about something small like this, will he lie about much bigger things? And doesn't this mean that the Senate really needs to examine his record and see where he stands on judicial issues?

I don't buy this "I don't recall being a member" malarkey. Roberts was a member of their steering committee. We know this for a fact now, thanks to the Washington Post. Are we honestly expected to believe he doesn't remember serving on the steering committee? How dumb does Roberts and Bush think the American people are? (emphasis added)
To say that Roberts is a liar is a pretty serious accusation, by calling his character into question. To make that kind of statement publicly and without merit invites a defense from those who believe the accusation to be unfair and unsubstantiated. Of course, the ADP bloggers made no effort to actually back up their allegation, so we're left to assume that they drew their conclusion from the Washington Post piece they linked to.

Here are the relevant facts from that article:

Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group [the Federalist Society] that he had no memory of belonging...

Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.

Yesterday [Sunday], White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee." Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said...

Roberts is one of 19 steering committee members listed in the directory, which was provided to The Post by Alfred F. Ross, president of the Institute for Democracy Studies in New York, a liberal group that has published reports critical of the society.

Among the others on the list are such prominent conservatives as William Bradford Reynolds, a Justice Department civil rights chief in the Reagan administration; Ethics and Public Policy Center President M. Edward Whelan III; and the late Barbara Olson, who was a Capitol Hill staff member at the time. Her husband, former U.S. solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, is listed as president of the chapter.

Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard A. Leo said that either he or another official of the organization recruited Roberts for the committee. Roberts's task was to serve "as a point of contact within the firm to let people know what is going on" with the organization. "It doesn't meet, it doesn't do a whole lot. The only thing we expect of them is to make sure people in the firm know about us," Leo said.

Membership in the sense of paying dues was not required as a condition of inclusion in a listing of the society's leadership, Leo said. He declined to say whether Roberts had ever paid dues, citing a policy of keeping membership information confidential.

[Edward] Whelan, who has been a member of the Federalist Society but said he had no recollection of his own membership on the steering committee, said the society is tolerant of those who come to its meetings or serve on committees without paying dues...

In 2001, after he was nominated by President Bush for the seat he currently holds on the court of appeals, Roberts spoke to Post reporter James V. Grimaldi and asked him to correct an item Grimaldi had written that described Roberts as a member of the Federalist Society. In a subsequent column, Grimaldi wrote that Roberts "is not and never has been a member of the Federalist Society, as previous reported in this column."

Last Wednesday, the day after Bush announced Roberts's nomination, the officials working on the nomination asked the White House press office to call each news organization that had reported Roberts's membership to tell them that he did not recall being a member.

None of that even remotely suggests that Judge Roberts has lied about his association with the Federalist Society. Indeed, the piece doesn't attribute any quote directly to Roberts. (The White House told...White House spokeswoman what's-her-name said...Post reporter what's-his-face wrote...officials working on the nomination asked the White House media manglers to call...) Every bit of information in the Post article has been filtered through either the White House or the news media. How can anyone say that Judge Roberts lied when they don't even know what the hell he has said?

Even today's New York Times editorial doesn't go so far to say that Roberts is a liar. It does say that "the Senate should make sure that there was no intent to deceive senators or the public" and that Roberts needs to explain his views more fully, but it never once calls him a liar.

The Federalist Society has been in existence since 1982, just 3 years after Roberts graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. It was also the year that President Reagan appointed him as Associate Counsel to the President. For those of you who were schooled in Democrat math, that was 24 years ago. If memory serves me correctly, I was watching Scooby-Doo and playing with Hot Wheels cars at the time.

Federalist Society dues for a lawyer are currently $50. For a public-sector employee, they are $25. Not very substantial, and for a man like Roberts, who doesn't appear to be much of a "joiner," probably not very memorable. It seems to me that "I don't recall" was the safest and most honest answer for Roberts to make, as unfulfilling as that answer may have been. Given his current situation, when the press is parsing his every word and his White House handlers apparently don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, it was probably the best thing he could have said until his confirmation hearing. Just a guess.

There will be plenty of time during Roberts's confirmation hearing for Democrats to ask the question they are dying to ask: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Federalist Society?" Until then, the dirty business of disparaging this man's character should stop, and there are at least a couple of Alabama Democrats who need to quit acting like braying jackasses.

David McCullough: Alabama Has Stopped Teaching History

In a recent interview , author David McCullough said, "The state of Alabama has stopped the teaching of history through the first eight grades. State-wide, no more history." He made the same statement in a lecture delivered to the Heritage Foundation (available here) on June 10, 2005.

I think (and hope) that McCullough is mistaken. Alabama, like many (if not most) other states, lumps the teaching of geography, history, economics, political science, etc. together under the multidisciplinary subject we all know as "Social Studies." According to the Alabama Course of Study :
...historical concepts and skills are included in each grade, but students have a concentrated study of the history of the United States in Grades 5 and 6 as well as in Grades 10 and 11 and of world history in Grades 8 and 9.
Clearly, it isn't accurate to say that there is "no more history" being taught in Alabama schools, unless something has changed very recently. So, I'm at a loss here - why did McCullough single out Alabama for abandoning history education? Where'd he get his info? Did I miss something? Did a federal judge order the removal of all history textbooks from Alabama classrooms while I snoozed? Did all the coaches in the state resign en masse? Did the AEA unilaterally implement its agenda for education reform without telling anyone? Help me out here.

Monday, July 25, 2005
On this day:


I've been busy reading David McCullough's latest book, and it took lots of effort to come up for air to do a little light blogging before bedtime. This is a good one, well-deserving of its Pulitzer Prize, in my opinion, despite the objections by a few academic types who like to belittle the kind of "pop-history" that has made McCullough famous.

The book begins just prior to the American siege of Boston in 1775. Tonight, I finally put it down following Washington's nighttime retreat from Brooklyn to Manhattan in August of 1776.

The great thing about McCullough's story-telling is that it comes about as close as humanly possible to making you feel as if you are a contemporary of the people whose lives and struggles he portrays. And, in 1776, the portrait he paints isn't just of generals and politicians. He puts you right there with the soldiers and the civilians - Patriots and Loyalists, rebels, redcoats, and mercenaries.

McCullough says that he wrote the book as a response to the "national despair" following the September 11 attacks. According to the San Francisco Gate:
"1776," he says, was very much a response to the national despair after Sept. 11. "I saw people on television saying, 'This is the darkest, most difficult, perilous time we've ever been through.' Now, that's nonsense. It's the worst day in American history -- I don't think there's much question about that. But it isn't the darkest time, by any means."

Several have been darker, McCullough says, and the darkest was the period he describes in his new book. A companion piece to his 2001 blockbuster "John Adams," "1776" describes a struggle for independence against staggering odds: a 43-year-old commander-in-chief, George Washington, who had never led an army in battle; a majority of Americans who favored the king and fiercely opposed "the horrid crime of rebellion"; and an amateur army, disdained as "peasantry" and "rabble in arms," who lacked uniforms, training and proper food and hygiene.

The big difference is that we know how the struggle for independence turned out. Unfortunately, the outcome of our current struggle still isn't certain. That's one reason why it's so important that the story of 1776 regain its proper place in our national consciousness - in order to stoke the fires of freedom and ensure that America is able to summon the courage and perseverance to face the trials that lie ahead.

Here are a few other reviews of McCullough's book:

Joshua Micah Marshall in the New Yorker

Tony Horowitz in the New York Times

David Hackett Fischer in the Boston Globe

George Will at Town Hall

Supreme Questions

Might as well go ahead and add a couple of questions to the list that New York Senator Charles Schumer plans to ask Judge Roberts at his confirmation hearing:

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Federalist Society? When you say that you're a practicing Catholic, you're just kidding, right?"

Hat tip: Southern Appeal here and here.

That's Nice to Know

Alabama AG Troy King says "I am not a sex offender."

Siegelman: Live By the Ten Commandments

"I have a lot of respect for Roy Moore. We all support the Ten Commandments. But I think they are not just something you put on the wall, they're something you live by."

- Don Siegelman, at a "listening post" in Prattville.

Divide and Conquer

I don't see any downside to this.

Friday, July 22, 2005
On this day:

A "Pro-Life" Justice?

NRO's Ed Whelan says why he thinks John Roberts won't be .

Thursday, July 21, 2005
On this day:

Lucy Baxley: Tough as Nails

Pretty red painted ones.

In a possible warmup to the governor's race, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley complained Thursday that Gov. Bob Riley's official Web site downplayed the importance of her office by listing it among the state's "cultural" agencies.

Alabama's first female lieutenant governor said she had spent years "working my way up to being a real role player in government, and I'm disappointed the governor doesn't recognize that."

Jeff Emerson, Riley's communications director, said the listing was a mistake, and it was corrected as soon as reporters mentioned it to the governor's office. He said it would have been corrected even sooner if Baxley had called when she noticed it.

Alabama's Iron Lady, she ain't.

In the process of pitching this little hissy-fit, Mrs. Baxley did manage to announce her first campaign promise. Responding to the perceived slight by the Governor, Mrs. Baxley said, "It's a mistake I'll never make when I'm elected Governor, regardless of who is Lieutenant Governor."

At least now she has taken a position on something.

House and Senate Vote to Protect Private Property

Today, both houses of the legislature unanimously passed bills limiting the use of eminent domain by local governments.

House Passes Bill Requiring Surgical Castration of Sex Offenders

The Alabama House gets tough on sex offenders.

The House passed a bill Thursday that would require mandatory castration of persons convicted of violent sex crimes against children under 12 and would require them to wear electronic monitoring devices for the rest of their lives after release from prison.

The House, during more than three hours of debate, heavily amended the legislation proposed by Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Troy King. The House bill would prevent all convicted sex offenders from working or loitering within 500 feet of a school, park or business that educates or entertains children. The bill passed the House 96-0.

A milder version of the legislation passed the Senate 35-0. The Senate version provides stiffer penalties for sex offenders, provides for electronic monitoring for at least 10 years and toughens requirements for them to report their location to police, but does not include the castration requirement or other tougher language added in the House...

Either the House or Senate version must pass in the other chamber before the legislation can become law...

The amendment requiring surgical castration for violent offenders who assault children under 12 was introduced by Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford. (AP)


She's got the blues.

Dishing it Out

The Sand Mountain Warm Tomato Tart has been named the Year of Alabama Food's official dish. So, who's gonna volunteer to make it for me? Hmmm? The recipe is here.

Other winning recipes are here. This tomato pie sounds pretty tasty, too, huh?

The Russians are Coming

A group of Russian politicians will be visiting Alabama in September to learn how our government works. If they can figure that out, I hope they'll tell me about it.

FEC Rules in Favor of Free Speech dismissing a complaint against Jerry Falwell for urging followers to vote for President Bush.

Shelby and Sessions Positive on Roberts

Senator Richard Shelby says he's "extremely pleased" with President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sessions said that Roberts is "probably the most capable person in America for this job."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005
On this day:

House and Senate Committees Act to Restrict Eminent Domain

Today, the legislature took important steps toward restricting the use of eminent domain by local governments, even though there were questions over whether the bills go far enough.

Several [House Committee on Municipal and County Government] members suggested the issue should have instead been dealt with as a constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by voters.

During a public hearing, several speakers said they felt the bill contains loopholes and does not go far enough to protect the homes and property of Alabamians...

The four-page [House] bill specifies that cities and counties can't "condemn property for retail, office, commercial or residential development."

Among the complaints Wednesday were that the bill did not prevent the state from using eminent domain and did not specifically say eminent domain could not be used for "industrial" development. Riley, however, says the bill covers "commercial" development and that includes industrial projects.

Hugo Black - Racist Anti-Catholic?

Feddie at Southern Appeal says that Steve Suitts, a native Alabamian and author of a new book on Hugo Black, is guilty of "whitewashing" Black's legacy. He specifically takes issue with Suitts's criticism of a recent speech by Judge William Pryor, in which the former Alabama AG said that "many of Blacks trial tactics were despicable, even evil."

Donald at All Deliberate Speed adds his thoughts here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
On this day:

Sign of the Times

A notable I-65 landmark has been replaced.
For years a large billboard beside a man-made lake on the edge of I-65 north of Prattville has urged motorists to "Go to church or the devil will get you." On Monday, that billboard was replaced with a large sign that says on the top line "We Love Lucy." A second line says "Baxley" and a third line says "Gov.."

The advice on the old was much better, in my opinion.

It's John Roberts

The word is out. If Roberts is confirmed, he will become the 108th Supreme Court justice to not have had the good fortune of being born in Alabama.

Gore: New Youth-Centered TV Network Will Be "Nonpartisan"

Kinda like ABC, NBC, CBS...

Bush to Announce Supreme Court Nominee Tonight

President Bush is set to announce his nominee to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court tonight at 8 PM Central time. Speculation of who the nominee will be is centering on Judge Edith Clement, who currently serves on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

If Judge Clement is nominated and confirmed, she would become only the second Supreme Court justice to have been born in Alabama. The first was Justice Hugo Black, who was born in Ashland and served on the Court from 1937 to 1971. (Source:

Remembering the Father of the Blues

The W.C. Handy Music Festival will be held this weekend in Florence.

Enfinger: Raise Taxes

Huntsville Democrat Jeff Enfinger is disappointed that the Governor's call for the special session doesn't include any new taxes or other revenue-raising measures.
Enfinger said Riley's plan, if it copies the House-passed budget, would prop up the General Fund by spending about $250 million in windfalls that won't be available the following year. The windfalls include a $75 million federal grant, $127.2 million taken from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which gets some of the state's natural gas royalties, and $54.5 million from money tobacco companies have paid to Alabama as part of a national lawsuit settlement.

Enfinger this spring worked to kill the House-passed operating budget and one like it passed by a Senate committee in hopes of persuading lawmakers to raise taxes now to fend off a financial crunch looming for 2006-07.

But Enfinger said there's no sentiment among the vast majority of lawmakers to raise taxes in the special session, so he won't try to kill the budget this time around.

"Most people want to get in and out of there in five or six days and don't want to talk about taxes, and see what the story looks like next spring," Enfinger said. "It seems clear to me it's not going to be a pretty picture, but apparently most people are willing to wait until next spring to find that out."
Enfinger's concerns were echoed by Montgomery Democrat John Knight in this Anniston Star editorial.

Fortunately, Gov. Riley seems to have learned his lesson on taxes. Apparently, some prominent Democrats have not.

Special Session Begins Today

The highest priority is passage of the General Fund budget. The Governor is also proposing a constitutional amendment that would limit local governments' eminent domain authority.
Riley's office said in a statement released last week that the official proclamation for the session would ask lawmakers to consider a bill that would "prohibit municipal and county governments from using eminent domain to take property for retail, office or residential development."

Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson promises that the Governor's bill would give Alabama "the strongest private property rights in the nation." The bill's main sponsor is Rep. Jack Venable (D. - Tallassee).

Federal Deficit Down Sharply

Here's one of the most important stories from last week - the federal deficit is shrinking, due to "unexpected" increases in revenue. Nonetheless, NYT columnist Paul Krugman is still saying things like this: "Tax cuts have pushed the federal budget deep into the red."

Monday, July 18, 2005
On this day:

AG King: Make Price-Gouging a Felony

From the AP:

After receiving complaints that some grocery stores sold ice for $5 a bag in the days before and after Dennis hit, Attorney General Troy King urged lawmakers to pass a bill in the special session that would make price gouging a felony crime and "more specifically define what price gouging is."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, was one of several hurricane-related measures that died along with the General Fund budget when a filibuster stalled action in the Senate at the end of the regular session...

Kennedy said she feels it's important to pass the price-gouging bill during the special session.

She said she has heard complaints of exorbitant prices for gasoline, food, ice and other essential items before and after storms.

"It places an unnecessary burden on people who are already burdened by the natural disaster," Kennedy said. The bill passed the House on a 92-0 vote, but died without coming up for a final vote in the Senate.

This is a horrible idea. Anti-gouging laws interfere with the natural operation of markets and create shortages of goods and services at the very times they are most needed. You'd think that Attorney General King, who bills himself a conservative Republican, would know better.

Back in Huntsville

Finally. The D.C. trip with the family was great, but I'm glad to be back home to the land of cotton and sweet tea. One of the best things about driving to D.C. from Alabama is that you get to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. One of the worst things is that driving all that way is so darned tiring.

We left Alabama just as Dennis was arriving on Monday morning, so we got to drive through plenty of wind and rain all the way to South Carolina. Fighting the traffic of Atlanta's rush hour is never fun, but even less so when the weather doesn't cooperate. About 13 hours after leaving, we arrived at our first destination - Williamsburg, Virginia.

After spending Tuesday at Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown, we headed up to D.C. - stopping by the birthplaces of George Washington and Robert E. Lee on the way.

D.C. was quite an experience, as always. The fact that mom and dad had never ridden a subway before made things interesting in the beginning, but they caught on pretty quickly, and after walking as much as we did, the D.C. Metro stations soon became welcome sights.

Wednesday, we toured the Supreme Court and Library of Congress (not always at the top of the to-do list for a D.C. trip, but a must-see, in my opinion), then made our way down to the Mall to see all the monuments. I quickly remembered just how long the walk is from one end of the Mall to the other. But, as I told my parents and sis, you just can't have the complete D.C. experience without walking the Mall a few times. This time, that experience included lots of sweating - the weather was hot, muggy, and pretty much miserable.

We made our way back to the Mall on Thursday and went to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum, where there are lots of fossils - many of which were even older than those over at the Supreme Court. After that, we saw all ninety-some-odd galleries in the National Gallery of Art. It's nice to be reminded that for many years, real artists produced real art. Betcha most of it was done without an NEA grant, too.

Friday morning, after checking out of the hotel, we drove down to tour the National Cathedral, then crossed the Potomac to Arlington cemetery. It poured down rain during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but that was fine - vastly preferable to a rain of bullets, I'd say. Plus, it cooled things off a bit.

The rain didn't let up as we made our way towards Mt. Vernon. The rain, rush hour traffic, and a wrong turn by yours truly all combined to make us arrive at Mt. Vernon about 30 minutes after closing time. Oh well...there was a nice view of the house from a little road that runs behind the mansion.

From Mt. Vernon, it was on to Charlottesville and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, with a couple of stops at the Chancellorsville and Wilderness battlefields along the way. I'm not a huge fan of Jefferson's politics, but seeing Monticello really makes you appreciate what an important and unique figure he was.

Anyway, that pretty much wraps it up. What's amazing about that part of the country is how many of the crucial events of our nation's history played out in such a small area. And how many of its leaders had such enduring legacies - Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Lee, Mason, the Harrisons, the Randolphs, etc.

And, there'll be plenty more left to see next time. In the meantime, I'm gonna go grab a glass of sweet tea and hit the sack.

Saturday, July 16, 2005
On this day:

On the Way Home

The trip so far has been great. Right now, I'm at a hotel just north of Knoxville, Tennessee, and plan to be back in Huntsville tomorrow evening. At the moment, I'm too tired to even attempt to recall all of the sights we've seen this week, but it's been a lot. I'm gonna need a vacation from my vacation once I get home - or at least a nice, long nap.

Sunday, July 10, 2005
On this day:

Off to DC

I'm headed up to Williamsburg, VA and Washington, DC with the family for the week, so I probably won't get many chances to blog. Right now, I'm just hoping we are able to leave before Dennis arrives in full force. Anyway, I hope everyone has a good week, and I'll see y'all next weekend.

Friday, July 08, 2005
On this day:

We Say Grace and We Say Ma'am

We used to, at least.
Charlene Levering, a retired Dallas etiquette teacher, remembers when sir and ma'am were commonplace. Now, she said, they're so seldom used that they almost sound out of place.

"In my generation, it was so obvious if you didn't give a title to a person," she said. "It was as if a person didn't finish a sentence."

Sen. Jeff Enfinger (D., Huntsville) Wants More Taxes

From the Mobile Register:

Enfinger "has argued that lawmakers should consider revenue measures to prevent an unmanageable deficit in the 2007 budget."

British Steel

Here's Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the London bombings:

This morning, the civilized world watched with concern as the people of London saw the face of violence and brutality. We offer our deepest sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones and to those who were wounded.

Too often the global struggle against violent extremists is discussed in a context that can distract from the harsh reality that its victims are innocent mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and neighbors we see and work with every day.

Images from London have shown faces filled with tears and shock. Such faces are sadly familiar to us here in America. However, reports from London are already telling of calm passengers, compassionate strangers, and courageous rescuers. And that too is familiar -- the grace and humanity that contrasts vividly with the hatred and violence of terrorists.

The London attacks have a special resonance for the American people -- for America has no stronger or closer ally in the world than Great Britain. We are bound together by a common heritage, a common language, and a deeply shared commitment to freedom. As President Bush indicated earlier this morning, the United States will stand with the British people with unflinching resolve.

Though it is not yet known with certainty precisely who is responsible, we do know terrorists’ intentions. They strike without warning and without regard for human life in the hope that they can frighten and intimidate free people -- to change our way of life. And they won't stop until their side or our side has prevailed.

But if these terrorists thought they could intimidate the people of a great nation, they picked the wrong people and the wrong nation. For generations, tyrants, fascists, and terrorists have sought to carry out their violent designs upon the British people only to founder upon its unrelenting shores.

Before long, I suspect that those responsible for these acts will encounter British steel. Their kind of steel has an uncommon strength. It does not bend or break.

The British have learned from history that this kind of evil must be confronted. It cannot be appeased. Our two countries understand well that once a people give in to terrorists’ demands, whatever they are, their demands will grow.

The British people are determined and resolute. And I know the people of the United States are proud to stand at their side.

Hat tip: the Corner.

Thursday, July 07, 2005
On this day:

Gov. Riley's Agenda for Special Session Will Address Eminent Domain

Governor Riley has called a special session of the legislature to begin July 19. The main item on the agenda will be to pass a General Fund budget. However, the Governor will also propose "a bill to counteract the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said cities could use eminent domain to obtain private property for commercial development. (AP)"

State Revenues Continue to Swell

A rising tide lifts all boats. From the AP:
State tax collections, fueled by a growing Alabama economy, grew faster than expected in the first nine months of the current budget year, officials said Tuesday.

Tax collections for the Education Trust Fund, which supports public schools and colleges, totaled $3.8 billion, an increase of $364 million, 10.9 percent, according to finance department reports.

The trust fund collected $190 million more than state officials forecast for the first nine months of fiscal 2006, which began Oct. 1, state Finance Director Jim Main said. Most of the trust fund's money comes from state income taxes and sales taxes...

Tax collections and other revenues flowing to the General Fund, which supports prisons, Medicaid and other non-education agencies, totaled $1 billion in October through June, an increase of $179.4 million, 21.8 percent, according to the finance department.

Much of that growth came from rising interest rates on state deposits and recent tax increases on tobacco and on oil and gas production.

The General Fund collected about $48 million more than state officials forecast for the nine-month period...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005
On this day:

Calvin Coolidge

He was born on July 4. He was one of Ronald Reagan's favorite presidents, and his portrait hung in the Oval Office for the 8 years of the Reagan presidency. "He twice vetoed farm relief bills, and killed a plan to produce cheap Federal electric power on the Tennessee River." As Professor DeBow pointed out over at Southern Appeal, "he was also the last American President to 1) understand, and 2) enforce, the Constitution's blueprint for a 'limited' national government." Columnist Bob Novak said of Coolidge: "his combined personal integrity, faith in the market system and concern for the ordinary citizen are what should be - but all too often are not - the model of American conservatism." Coolidge hailed from Vermont - which today is the the land of Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, and Ben and Jerry's. Makes you wonder what went wrong.

Independence Day

The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776, two days after it was signed in Philadelphia. Sounds like a great occasion to read the whole thing.

Free Love

I love Southwest Airlines. They don't fly out of Huntsville, but I can't count the times that I've made the drive to Birmingham or Nashville just to take advantage of their low fares and good service. That's one reason why the controversy over repeal of the Wright Amendment, which restricts flights to Dallas's Love Field, is so frustrating. The Wright Amendment is an example of federal meddling at its worst, as George Will discussed in a recent column. (Also see Virginia Postrel's New York Times column here.) For more background, see the news articles here and here.

Other bloggers have weighed in to support the "Free Love" movement, as well:

The AntitrustProf Blog
The Dynamist
Hit and Run (Reason Magazine)...also here.
Arguing With Signposts
Chris Menegay
AVN Blog
Coyote Blog
Shameless Self-Promotion

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
On this day:

Back from Chicago

I had a great trip to Chicago over the weekend. Good food, good beer, good weather, and good company. Even learned a few things while I was there:

It may be kinda tricky, very uncomfortable, and possibly illegal, but it is altogether possible to fit 8 passengers into a cab.

If you happen to venture into a late-night Mexican restaurant and don't remember much from Spanish 101, here's a word of advice: be sure you know what's in the lengua tacos before you order them.

The Goose Island brewery tour is a great bargain. For $3, you get a brief tour of the brewery, followed by an introduction to the beer-making process and a sampling of about 8 different a free pint glass with the Goose Island logo. Can't beat that.

The nighttime view from the Signature Room Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building never gets old. It's a must-see. The drinks are expensive, but the experience is unbeatable.

A supermarket-sized store full of wine, beer, and liquor...we really need one of these in Alabama.

If you bank with Southtrust (soon to be Wachovia), be sure to call them anytime you go out of town. On my second night in Chicago, my debit card was declined at a local restaurant, and it turned out that I couldn't use it for the rest of the trip. Apparently, Southtrust had detected "suspicious activity" and had deactivated my card. I called the number on the back, only to be directed to a computerized woman who told me to call back during regular office hours - Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Luckily, I had another credit card and a friend who loaned me a little cash until I got things straightened out today.

Taste of Chicago, the annual food/music festival by the lake in Grant Park, is definitely worth visiting, but only if you can handle big crowds. Two of the most interesting things I ate were the pierogies from Kasia's Deli and the Zam Zam restaurant's mutton biryan (goat with basmati rice, spices, and saffron). Not baaaaad. Topped off with a slice or two of Chicago-style deep dish pizza and some pork barbecue, it all made for a nice little snack.

Of all the big cities I've been to, I have to say that Chicago is one of the friendliest. This was my fourth time there, and every trip has been great. Plus, Southwest will get you there cheap. What more can you ask?