Thursday, September 29, 2005
On this day:

Bush nominates two U.S. District Court judges for Alabama

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. His nomination was rejected in the Senate Judiciary Committee due to allegations from left-wing groups that he had made racially-insensitive remarks and had unfairly prosecuted "civil rights activists" in south Alabama for committing voter fraud. The deciding vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee came from none other than the late Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama.

Fast forward a decade to 1996. Sen. Heflin retired from the U.S. Senate, and Jeff Sessions beat out Democrat Roger Bedford to take Heflin's old seat. Sessions was re-elected in a landslide in 2002 and now serves on the same Judiciary Committee that - thanks to Howell Heflin - voted against his district court nomination back in 1986.

This week, President Bush nominated one of Senator Sessions's closest associates, Kristi DuBose, who has worked for him since his days as a U.S Attorney in Mobile, to the same court that Heflin prevented him from joining 20 years ago.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Thursday sent the Senate the names of two Alabamians [the second was Keith Watkins, who will replace retiring Judge William Harold Albritton in Alabama's Middle District] to fill federal court vacancies in Montgomery and Mobile.

Kristi DuBose, who worked for Jeff Sessions when he was a U.S. attorney, state attorney general and U.S. senator, was tapped as a federal judge in Alabama's Southern District. DuBose, a graduate of Huntingdon College and alumna of Emory University School of Law, is currently a federal magistrate judge. She will succeed U.S. District Charles R. Butler, who retired.

Folks, that ain't just's running up the score.

Labor Leader: Wal-Mart contributes nothing to America but more poverty

At the founding convention of the Change to Win Coalition, UNITE HERE boss Bruce Raynor said that Wal-Mart "contributes nothing to America but more poverty, and they've got to be stopped." That shrill bit of nonsense says much more about the state of the labor movement today than it does about Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has done more to alleviate poverty in this country than big labor ever dreamed of. I doubt that Mr. Raynor has ever even stepped foot in a Wal-Mart store. If he had, he might know that its customers are predominantly middle class and poor people who shop there because they know they can find what they need, when they need it, at prices that beat the competition. Wal-Mart's success in maintaining the low prices that are so important to the poor and middle class is at least partly due to its refusal to cave in to union pressures. The company - and most of its employees - know that a unionized work force would mean higher prices, fewer customers, and eventually, fewer jobs.

Wal-Mart's can-do attitude was vividly demonstrated in its response to Hurricane Katrina, when it proved capable of delivering needed goods to the disaster area quicker and more efficiently than government bureaucracies will ever be capable of; and it did so in spite of big-government idiocy. New York Times columnist John Tierny was so impressed with the company's performance that he echoed suggestions for Wal-Mart to take over FEMA's job.

According to big labor, though - "Wal-Mart has to be stopped." That makes you wonder. Who's side are the labor bosses really on?

Former prisoner attempts suicide

...and fails. Ouch.

God's wrath?

State Senator Hank Erwin thinks that Gulf Coast hurricane victims were asking for it.
(Birmingham News) Hurricane Katrina and other storms that battered the Gulf Coast were God's judgment of sin, according to state Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo.

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness," Erwin wrote this week in a column he distributes to news outlets. "It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."

After touring Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., and Bayou La Batre, Erwin said he was awed and humbled by the power of the storm. But he wasn't surprised.

"Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell?" Erwin wrote. "Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad."

Septmember's almost over

Beware of things made in October.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
On this day:

Alabama elections directory

From PoliSciZac at the Alabama Elections blog:
Today, AlabamaElections is now online with the web's only Alabama-specific elections directory.

That is, I have created a directory that will contain every statewide and legislative race that will take place in Alabama in 2006. The directory's accuracy will be maintained throughout the 2006 cycle to the best of my ability. I want to make the directory as comprehensive as possible, including candidates of all parties as well as any campaign websites.
From the looks of things, Zac's doing an admirable job so far.

Breaking News: Gas leak at Auburn

Apparently, a few of their cows ate some moldy hay.


The lawyer mentioned in this story might want to stay away from the team showers.

Nevada in dire need of ambulances

...for all the new lawyers to chase.

Author of book banned in north Alabama urges teens to speak up

"Just tell your parents to f*** off!"

42 escapees from Alabama's prisoner work programs in the last year

Bad news: Eleven are still at-large, and 3 of those are convicted murderers.

Good news: Gov. Riley has ordered new restrictions to address the problem.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005
On this day:


Note to the Brits: it's not what you think.

UA to host symposium on academic freedom and censorship


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Professors, authors, editors and other experts on freedom of expression speech will speak at the Bankhead Historical Symposium titled “Censorship, Free Speech and Free Press in the University” held Oct. 13 and 14 on The University of Alabama campus.

The symposium is free and open to the public.

The two-day event, co-sponsored by the UA department of history, UA Libraries, student and faculty organizations, will begin with a reception and opening the “Banned in Bama” exhibit at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall on Hackberry Lane, Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

According to David Beito at Liberty and Power, "the speakers are a politically diverse group including David French of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Donald A. Downs, a University of Wisconsin professor and author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, and John K. Wilson, author of The Myth of Political Correctness."

Disasters and federalism

CATO's Chris Edwards says that "federalism is a good strategy, even, if not especially, in disasters."

Drudge on Mother Sheehan

Earlier headline on Drudge today: "Cindy Sheehan arrested at White House in cunning stunt."

Try repeating that 5 times in rapid succession.

Monday, September 26, 2005
On this day:

Parker: Nabers is "a nice man," but unelectable

Drayton Nabers' likely opponent in the Republican primary will be Justice Tom Parker, who was elected to the Supreme Court in 2004. Parker wasted no time in directing criticism at the Chief Justice.
Parker, who was in St. Louis on Thursday attending the Eagle Forum national conference, issued a statement saying he considers Moore "the rightful chief justice of Alabama because he was elected by the people." Parker said he would support Moore if he wants to run again.

Moore, however, is looking at the governor's race. George Hundley, chairman of the We Need Moore 2006 Committee, said Thursday that Moore will announce his
decision on whether to run Oct. 3 in his hometown of Gadsden.

Parker's statement did not address whether he would consider running for chief justice if Moore seeks the governor's office, but Parker said Nabers can't win.

"Drayton Nabers is a nice man, but his race for chief justice risks losing the seat to a liberal Democrat. Because Drayton was the architect of the highest tax increase in Alabama history — Amendment One — and did not support the Ten Commandments monument or Chief Justice Roy Moore, he is just not electable in Alabama," Parker's statement said.
It seems to me that Parker's criticism misses its mark. Let me count the ways.

1. On whether Roy Moore is the "rightful" Chief Justice of Alabama

Moore was the rightful Chief Justice, but like it or not, he was removed from that office under procedures outlined in the Alabama Constitution. For Parker to hold that Roy Moore is the "rightful Chief Justice" denies the constitutional authority of the proceedings that led to his removal. It also implies that Drayton Nabers is a usurper with no legitimate claim to his position. Is that really what Parker meant to say?

2. On Amendment One

As Gov. Riley's Finance Director, Nabers was indeed an architect of the tax and accountability package proposed under Amendment One and roundly defeated at the polls. If Nabers were running for Governor or state legislature, that transgression would certainly be an important consideration, along with his views on other public policy matters. As a candidate for Chief Justice, though, the far more relevant factors are his judicial temperament and philosophy. In word and deed, Nabers seems to have established himself as a mainstream conservative on both counts. In a Sept. 7 interview with Tim Lennox on APT's For the Record, Nabers discussed his judicial philosophy. Here's an exchange from that interview:

Lennox: "Do you consider yourself a strict constructionist of the Alabama constitution or the U.S. constitution?"

Nabers: "What every justice should seek to do is take the words of the law - or take the words of the Constitution - in accordance with their plain meaning, and try to apply them to the facts of the case. If you call that "strict constructionist," I'm a strict constructionist, but what I want to do is put myself - and I speak for the other justices on the Court, as well - under the laws that the legislature of this state has passed. We have a democratic system in this state, and the legislature is elected by the people to pass the laws and establish the policies that judges are chosen by the people to apply (those laws) in light of the facts presented in the cases that come before us."

Lennox: (after discussing an Alabama court opinion in an 1800's slavery case) "...if you are a strict constructionist, then a Supreme Court justice has no real power other than what the words say on the paper. Even if one of the justices believes in his or her heart that slavery was wrong, then oh well, that's what the law says, right?"

Nabers: "Well, you have a constitution that protects the liberties of the people of this country, and that constitution was not properly construed in the Dred Scott decision, but essentially, we've got to remember that we have a democracy, and the people of this state every four years elect a legislature, and they want the legislature to pass the laws that essentially establish the policies of this state in our legal system. They don't want judges to be policymakers. They want judges to apply the law. They want judges to interpret the law, and that is the role that judges should play in a democratic republic, which is what we have in Alabama and in the United States."

Lennox: "But, Mr. Chief Justice, just look back over the past decade or so, or two decades, and look at what the Alabama legislature has not done. It has done just the opposite, and it has left it up to the courts to decide so many of the issues."

Nabors: "Well, you don't like the choices that our people have made and our legislature has made. That is not a decision a judge should make. It is not up to us to say that the legislature has been wrongly chosen, and we're going to establish our laws. Judges cannot operate that way in a democratic republic."

Lennox: "Do you think that the legislature is passing off some of the responsibilities, though, to the judicial branch of government?"

Nabors: "Well, perhaps a law is not as clearly written as we would want it to be, because in the clash of interests within the legislature a compromise is reached and therefore words that are somewhat obscure are used, and judges, at that point, have to do our very best with the language that is given us in the laws, and apply that language."

3. On the Ten Commandments Monument and Roy Moore

Parker's contention that Nabers "did not support the Ten Commandments monument or Chief Justice Roy Moore" is inaccurate and misleading.

I don't know that Nabers has addressed Moore's monument specifically, but his position on Ten Commandments displays in general is virtually indistinguishable from those of Gov. Riley and former Attorney General Bill Pryor. Nabers stated that position earlier this year in response to two U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky and Texas:

I am disappointed in the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling today in a Kentucky case prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments. I do not find anything in the United States Constitution that prohibits a state government from publicly displaying the Ten Commandments.

Disregarding the role that religion has played in shaping our society and our laws flies in the face of well-established tradition. Indeed, as Justice Scalia wrote in dissent:

"Acknowledgment of the contribution that religion has made to our Nation's legal and governmental heritage partakes of a centuries-old tradition… Display of the Ten Commandments is well within the mainstream of this practice of acknowledgment. Federal, State, and local governments across the Nation have engaged in such display. The Supreme Court Building itself includes depictions of Moses with the Ten Commandments in the Courtroom and on the east pediment of the building, and symbols of the Ten Commandments 'adorn the metal gates lining the north and south sides of the Courtroom as well as the doors leading into the Courtroom.'…The frequency of these displays testifies to the popular understanding that the Ten Commandments are a foundation of the rule of law, and a symbol of the role that religion played, and continues to play, in our system of government. "

I am heartened that, in a companion case from Texas, the Court upheld a Ten Commandments display. Here Chief Justice Rehnquist got it right:

"Of course, the Ten Commandments are religious -- they were so viewed at their inception and so remain. The monument therefore has religious significance. Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the [Constitution]. "

By disallowing the Ten Commandments in Kentucky yet allowing them to be displayed in Texas, the Court sent confusing and contradictory signals. Justice Scalia’s dissent exposes the shifting sands on which the Court has based these decisions:

"What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

Our founding fathers anticipated that the judicial branch would be the “least dangerous branch of government”. When the Court departs from the plain meaning of the Constitution as written, it can become the most dangerous branch.

Like Riley and Pryor, Nabers agrees with Roy Moore that Ten Commandment displays are constitutional, but is unwilling to support disobeying a federal court order that conflicts with that view. From the APT interview quoted above:

Lennox: "Have you talked to Chief Justice Roy Moore since his removal from office?"

Nabers: "No, I haven't."

Lennox: "Would you like to?"

Nabers: "I like Roy Moore, and I would be pleased to chat with him."

Lennox: "You, of course, I believe, agreed with the decision that led to his ouster."

Nabers: "That whole process was handled by a number of judges along the way. I was not involved in it, and I presume that in their consciences and under the law, they did what they thought was right."

Lennox: "If you were told by a federal judge to do such-and-such, and you philosophically disagreed with it, would you feel you should disobey that order?"

Nabers: "I think that it took us 700 years to establish a rule of law in this country
and in England, beginning with the Magna Carta. And, it's by the rule of law I mean a judicial system where everybody is equal under the law and equally subject to the
law. I believe every American is subject to the law. I believe the President of the United States and the Governor of the State of Alabama and every judge and every elected official is equally, with every other citizen in this country and in this state, subject to the law."

4. On whether Nabers is "electable"

I can't speak for the rest of Alabamians, but any candidate who routinely quotes Russell Kirk is "electable" in my book.

Nabers to seek full term on Court

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, who was appointed to his current position by Gov. Riley after Roy Moore's removal from office, has announced his intention to run for a full term.

Funny Girl

Noted climatologist Barbra Streisand says, "We are in a global warming emergency state, and these storms are going to become more frequent, more intense." Other experts disagree.

When is a flood a flood?

There's an insurance battle brewing in Gulf Coast communities ravaged by Katrina's storm surge.

Lawsuit accuses cosmetolegists of race discrimination

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A woman's lawsuit accusing Dillard's hair salon in Tuscaloosa of making blacks pay more than whites for the same service has raised questions of racial bias in the otherwise chatty, pleasant world of coiffures.

Many Alabama salons say factors such as hair length and thickness, not race, determine the charge. But Debbie Deavers Sturvisant of Springville, who filed the suit against Dillard's, alleges the salon charged her $35 to set and wash her hair while white women pay $20.

Vaughan Thomas, who joined the suit, said she had the same experience at Dillard's in Montgomery and tape-recorded her conversation with the stylists. Upon questioning the price, Thomas said, she was told that it takes longer for ethnic hair to dry and more conditioners are used.

Dillard's has said it does not base its charges upon race. In a spot check of Alabama salons, stylists had similar comments. Floor manager Lindsey Graffeo of Hair Reflections in Birmingham said charges are based on the hair's length and thickness, while a stylist at Headstart in Montgomery said they charge the same price for black and white hairstyles.
Why not just shop around, ladies?

Saints and haints

Now this is spooky. (Text of story here.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005
On this day:

A surreal meal

It's been a crazy Saturday here in Huntsville, folks. I ate lunch at Atlanta Bread Company a little while ago, as I often do on Saturday afternoons. Usually, that wouldn't be anything special, but today was a little different. After ordering my normal Southwest chicken salad sandwich, the cashier handed me my ticket and said, "Your order number is 665." So far, so good.

But, then things started to get interesting. As I got my food and sat down, I heard the server call out the next order: "Order number 666." No one responded, so he called it out again, this time over the microphone. "Number 666 - your order is ready."

Finally, an older gentleman walked up to the counter, and as he turned around, I noticed that he bore a striking resemblance to the devil sheriff from "Oh Brother, Who Art Thou" - dark sunglasses and all.

"How weird," I thought. "That guy bears a striking resemblance to the sheriff from 'Oh Brother, Who Art Thou.'" As he walked in my direction toward his table, he caught me looking at him, and suddenly his eyes lit up and fire began to shoot out in all directions, instantly vaporizing the lady in white who was seated at the table next to mine.

I was a little startled, to say the least, but then I thought about the reason I was sitting here in the first place. I had passed up going to Tuscaloosa for today's Alabama-Arkansas game just so I could see Don Williams and Dwight Yoakam play at Big Spring Jam this evening, and there was no way I was going to let some fire-shooting demon alter my plans.

So, as the screams of customers and employees rang through the restaurant, I calmly got up out of my seat and said, "Dude, don't you remember? They changed the number. It's 661, not 666. So, sit your ass down and quit igniting people."

Well, I must say that I've never seen such a stunned look on a devil in all my life. "What are you talking about?" he asked. So, I explained it all to him - about the newly found fragment from Revelation, how new technology had made it legible, blah-blah-blah - and as the glow slowly retreated from his eyes, I actually felt a ping of sympathy come across me. (Or, maybe that was just a hunger pain, since it was 3 o'clock and I hadn't eaten all day.)

"So, I'm not the Antichrist?" he asked, dejectedly.

"No, sorry dude. Apparently, you're not. Besides," I continued, pointing at his basket of food, "Do you really think the Antichrist would be eating soup, salad, and a fruit cup? I mean - he's got a lot of hard, strenuous work to do - surely, he'd be eating at a buffet or something."

"Yeah, I guess you have a point," he replied, and with that, he tossed his meal in the trash and walked out the door, quickly apologizing for the mess he had caused , before disappearing into the muggy Huntsville afternoon.

What a crazy day! Oh well, time to go downtown for the Jam.

Friday, September 23, 2005
On this day:

Where do you stand politically?

Take the Politics Test. (Hat tip: Patrick at Southern Appeal)

Here's me:

You are a

Social Conservative
(38% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(83% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Post-Herald is no more

Today's edition of the Birmingham Post-Herald was its last . The staff says goodbye here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
On this day:

Is requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote a "poll tax?"

That's what some "voting and civil rights groups" in Georgia say. They have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new Georgia law that requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Voting and civil rights groups launched a legal assault Monday on the state's requirement that Georgians show a government-issued photo ID at the polls — a law they call the most restrictive of its kind in the country.

That statement is not entirely accurate, in that the photo ID doesn't necessarily have to be presented at the polls. According to this UPI article:

A voter without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, but under current Georgia law he or she would have to present an ID within 48 hours to qualify as an official voter.
The AJC's omission isn't really a big deal, though. Continuing with the Journal-Constitution story:

A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two African American voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, League of Women Voters, black legislators and others calls the new law a "poll tax" that will rob black, elderly and rural people of their right to vote...

The law, which went into effect earlier this year after approval by the Legislature and Gov. Sonny Perdue, requires voters to show one of six forms of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license. Previously, Georgians could show one of 17 forms, including a Social Security card or utility bill...

"The new photo ID requirement ... imposes an unnecessary and undue burden on the exercise of the fundamental right to vote on hundreds of thousands of citizens of Georgia who are fully eligible, registered and qualified to vote, but who do not have Georgia driver's licenses, passports, or employer ID cards or other forms of photographic identification issued by the state or federal government," according to the lawsuit.

The suit cited Secretary of State Cathy Cox's testimony that during her nine years in office, she has not documented a case of voter fraud at the polls by people pretending to be someone they are not.

The lawsuit also alleges that requiring Georgians to pay for a state identification card constitutes a poll tax that is outlawed under the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In addition to the $20 to $35 fee for an ID card, there are also travel costs associated with getting an ID card, since only 56 of Georgia's 159 counties offer them at Department of Driver Services offices.

This is where Georgia could get in trouble.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a "poll tax" is defined as: "a capitation tax; a tax of a specific sum levied upon each person within the jurisdiction of the taxing power and within a certain class...without reference to his property or lack of it," or alternately, as "a tax upon the privilege of being; it is a sum levied upon persons without regard to property, occupation, income or ability to pay."

The 24th Amendment states that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice-President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."

The big question here is whether the Georgia law violates the 24th Amendment. It appears to me that it does, since it states that only a citizen "who swears under oath that he or she is indigent and cannot pay the fee for an identification card" is entitled to vote.

I imagine that there are a number of people in Georgia who could afford to pay a reasonable fee to get an acceptable ID card, but who would be unwilling to do so. The new law would prevent those people from voting, based solely on their refusal to pay money to the state. Assuming that a "fee" is properly interpreted as a form of "tax" under the original understanding of the 24th Amendment, it seems clear to me that this particular law's voter-ID requirement is unconstitutional.

I strongly support strengthening voter identification requirements as a deterrent to fraud, but by requiring citizens to pay a tax in order to vote, the Georgia law goes too far. Even if it is upheld in court (which I doubt it will be), the Georgia legislature should act to ensure that all citizens who want to vote and who are otherwise qualified can obtain the requisite ID without having to pay for it directly via a specific tax or fee.

Martian heat

The fact that the warming on Mars coincides with a period of warming here on Earth raises some interesting questions, now, doesn't it?

Evidence that Mars is undergoing "global warming" has been around for awhile, by the way. See here and here.

Mars is heating up

From the latest Mars Global Surveyor press release:
...for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress.
An animation of Mars's shrinking south polar cap is accompanied by this caption:

The observations made by Mars Orbiter Camera in 2001, during the first part of the extended mission, showed that the scarps and pit walls of the south polar cap had retreated at an average rate of about 3 meters (10 feet) since 1999. In other words, they were retreating 3 meters per Mars year (and, of course, most of that retreat takes place during the summer). In some places on the cap, the scarps retreat less than 3 meters a Mars year, and in others it can retreat as much as 8 meters (26 feet) per martian year.

Of the two volatile materials one is likely to find in a frozen state on Mars -- water and carbon dioxide -- it is carbon dioxide that is volatile enough to permit scarp retreat rates like those observed by the Mars Orbiter Camera.

Over time, south polar pits merge to become plains, mesas turn into buttes, and buttes vanish forever. Since 2001, two additional Mars years have elapsed. A scientific benefit of having a long extended mission for Mars Global Surveyor has been the opportunity to document how the polar cap is changing each year.

Four images are shown here, plus an animation at left presenting the four frames in sequence. The location is near 86.3 degrees south latitude, 49.4 degrees west longitude, and the images show the same portion of the south polar residual cap as it appeared in 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2005. Comparing the images or viewing the animation makes it evident that the landscape of the south polar cap has been changing rapidly over the past four martian years.

Each year that Mars Global Surveyor has been in orbit, the landforms of the south polar residual cap have gotten smaller, and the carbon dioxide removed from the cap has not been re-deposited. The implication is that Mars presently has a warm (and possibly warming) climate, with new carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere every year. The other implication is that, at some time in the not-too-distant past, the planet had a colder climate, so that the layers of carbon dioxide could be deposited in the first place. If one takes the rate of scarp retreat and projects it backwards to fill in all of the pits and troughs with the carbon dioxide that has been removed from them, one finds that the colder climate might only have occurred a few centuries to a few tens of thousands of years ago. This kind of time scale is not unlike that of the climate changes that have been recorded on Earth, including the Ice Ages and the smaller fluctuations that have occurred since the last Ice Age (e.g., the "Little Ice Age" of the mid-14th through mid-19th centuries).

Must be all those damned Martian SUV's.

Good news

From Cafe Hayek: there's a productivity revolution in the garbage business.
Simply put, operators of garbage dumps are stuffing more waste that anyone expected into the giant plastic-lined holes, keeping disposal prices down and making the construction of new landfills largely unnecessary.

That's great means there will be lots more space to toss out all the bad ideas liberals are coming up with these days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
On this day:

Pro-Price-Gouging Legal Defense Fund

How's that for a bold name? The Auburn Plainsman has the story.

Suspending the "prevailing wage" to help hurricane cleanup -good or bad?

In order to speed the Gulf Coast cleanup and recovery efforts, President Bush has temporarily suspended the requirement that federal contractors pay local "prevailing wages" to their employees. The move has been criticized by many prominent liberals, including Senators John Kedwards, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. Ted Kennedy, AFL-CIO head John Sweeny, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Though I realize it's something they may be unaccustomed to, liberals need to face the reality of what has happened. Katrina left behind an unprecedented trail of devastation, and as Hurricane Rita sets her sights on Texas, it looks as if there is much more to come. Many federal regulations impede the work of cleanup and recovery, so it is essential to identify those that stand in the way and to either suspend or repeal them. That is exactly what the President has done in this instance, and he should be commended for it.

Katrina's path of destruction

The Mobile Register rounds up the status of popular landmarks and attractions over the area stretching from Baldwin County, Alabama to New Orleans.

Siegelman targets the next generation

He was in Hazel Green today pitching his idea for a state lottery to high school students.

Get 'em while they're young.

I wonder where the feds going with this

The Siegelman grand jury went back to work yesterday, and it sounds as if they are leaving no stone unturned:

(B'ham News) Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, said he was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury Tuesday to discuss a 1997 bill that allowed the Talladega Superspeedway to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Siegelman was lieutenant governor when the bill was passed. Siegelman ally Dewayne Freeman, then a senator from Huntsville, was the sponsor of the legislation.

Dial said he amended the bill when it got bogged down in the Senate. He said he was asked Tuesday about the legislative process and the duties of the lieutenant governor. At the time, the lieutenant governor exercised great control over which bills were approved in the Senate.
Senator Dial sounds almost as confused as I am over how this might relate to the Siegelman investigation. From today's Mobile Register:

Dial said he didn't know why prosecutors wanted to know about the bill, which in its original form would have allowed Sunday liquor sales at the racetrack and at a golf course owned and operated by the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

As Dial remembered it, operators of other golf courses in the county objected to allowing only the RSA course to sell liquor. The senator amended the bill, he said, to limit Sunday sales to the racetrack, and that's how it passed.

"I don't see how it connects to him (Siegelman), but I don't see the whole picture," said Dial.
Me, neither, but it probably boils down to "who's back did he scratch, and why did he scratch it?" Here's more from the Register.
There were at least two other witnesses Tuesday, including a woman named Debbie Taylor who arrived with an attorney. Taylor declined to provide the reason she was called to the federal courthouse in Montgomery, or to identify herself in a way that might suggest her reason for being there.

The day's other known witness was Tuscaloosa County Administrator Farrington Snipes. He arrived with a stack of files and left without them. The files contained information on road and other infrastructure projects in the county, said Snipes.

Snipes said he was asked to testify about the process by which a project originates, then receives funding, such as with assistance from state agencies. Snipes said he was asked if he knew certain people, but he would not publicly identify any of those individuals, other than to say that Siegelman was not among them.

Tuesday Trivia

Scroll down for the answers.

  1. Who was the first professional baseball player to have his jersey retired?
  2. In what decade was the microwave oven invented?
  3. What was Lee Harvey Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby's, sentence?
  4. What 70's legend will soon be honored by having a statue of him erected in Bosnia as a symbol against ethnic division?
  5. From the Rocky movies, name Rocky Balboa's opponents.
  6. In what city were the 1960 Olympics held?
  7. Who was the first U.S. President to lose a Presidential election? Who did he lose to?
  8. What does the acronym OPEC stand for?
  9. What does a frog have in its mouth that a toad does not?
  10. What is the only land animal that can go longer without water than a camel?
  11. Who was England's first Queen (reigning in her own right)?
  12. Name the seven virtues.
  13. What is the first letter in the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet?
  14. What is Campbell's best-selling soup?
  15. What soft drink was invented in Waco, Texas in the 1880's?


  1. Lou Gehrig.
  2. The 1940's.
  3. Death.
  4. Bruce Lee.
  5. Apollo Creed (Rocky I and II), Clubber Lang (Rocky III), Ivan Grago (Rocky IV), and Tommy Gunn (Rocky V). Rocky also faced Thunderlips in a charity match in Rocky III.
  6. Rome.
  7. Jefferson lost to Adams in 1796.
  8. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
  9. Teeth.
  10. A rat.
  11. Mary I. ("Bloody Mary")
  12. Faith, hope, charity, justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.
  13. A.
  14. Tomato.
  15. Dr Pepper.

The rise of the welfare state

The Danes give the phrase new meaning.

AAA Alabama supports bill to toughen anti-price gouging law

From the Montgomery Advertiser:
[Alabama AAA spokesman Clay] Ingram said he would support a bill to be introduced to the Alabama Legislature in January that would make price gouging a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

The bill would lower the percentage of justifiable increase at the pumps from 25 percent to 10 percent.

"We're behind them 100 percent on that bill," he said. "That law was written when gas was probably 99 cents a gallon, and 25 percent (increase) at that time would have probably been a pretty reasonable amount because it would have been right at a quarter."
The Tuscaloosa News calls the bill a "welcome move," but Walter Williams had an excellent column last week explaining why they might want to rethink that position.

Alabama loses a round in water war with Atlanta

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama will ask for a full appeals court review of a three-judge panel's decision allowing the Atlanta area to use more water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River than allowed under earlier orders, Attorney General Troy King said Tuesday.

The ruling by the panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed earlier decisions by an Alabama federal district court, which blocked metro Atlanta from getting additional water that state and local officials say is necessary for Atlanta to accommodate expected growth.

The ruling Monday by the three-judge panel, which sends the case back to the Alabama court, could allow Atlanta to take up to 50 percent more water from the lake and river. If the ruling stands, Atlanta eventually would be able to take up to 537 million gallons of water a day out of the lake and river below it.

AG Troy King promises to be "aggressive" in the ongoing defense of the state's share of water resources, saying "we are prepared to exhaust every legal avenue available to the state of Alabama to protect what is the most basic and essential element, which is water."

Good. If King is even half as aggressive as he has been in harrassing gas station owners across the state over unfounded accusations of price-gouging, we might get lucky next time.

Meanwhile - while he has a little free time - King might want to brush up on his Chemistry a bit. Water is certainly basic and essential, but it ain't an element.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
On this day:

FEC launches "war on the First Amendment"

Club for Growth President Pat Toomey has responded to a new lawsuit filed by the Federal Elections Commission that is intended to penalize the group for daring to speak freely about political issues and candidates for public office:
The Federal Election Commission’s suit against the Club for Growth continues this agency’s war on the First Amendment and its defense of incumbents from criticism of their policies. The FEC’s claims and legal theories are a bizarre interpretation of the Club’s mission, the Constitution, the laws adopted by Congress and their own regulations governing nonprofit organizations.

The Club’s principle purpose is to advocate for and defend pro-growth policies. One of the ways we do that is through the Club for Growth PAC, which allows Club members to donate to pro-growth candidates and independent expenditure campaigns. We have consulted with counsel every step of the way and have followed the law and regulations that govern our work.

This action by the commission was triggered by a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee complaint about ads we ran criticizing former Sen. Tom Daschle’s refusal to back pro-growth tax cuts. The complaint had no supporting detail and the Commission allowed it to lie inactive for nearly a year and one half and then resurrected it as a platform to seek to take away our members’ rights and exact a huge civil penalty from the Club.

The FEC, under pressure from liberal organizations that want to regulate free speech, is attempting to regulate organizations through the Courts when the Congress and the agency itself have rejected additional regulations on 527 groups such as the Club.

The Club will vigorously defend the rights of our members, and all Americans, to organize and speak out about our government’s policies. The FEC’s outrageous lawsuit will further boost our members’ determination to work harder than ever before for free speech and free markets.

The lawsuit is possible due to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which represents the most egregious attack on free political speech since the Sedition Act of 1798. The framers understood political speech to be at the core of those rights protected by the First Amendment, but in the world of McCain-Feingold, it is one of the only forms of expression that is not protected.

When confronted with such an outrageous power grab by the federal government, I'm with this guy - the only appropriate response is polite, ongoing, determined defiance.

There's more at the Club for Growth's blog.

New Math

Yeah, we've heard that before, usually in reference to some faddish idea for dumbing down the curriculum, but it sounds like this guy may be on to something.

A University of NSW mathematician has devised what he says is a simpler, faster and more accurate method of studying the measurement of triangles.

And it can be done by hand, without calculators or trigonometric tables.

Your saviour: Associate professor Norman Wildberger.

Professor Wildberger, who will launch his new method in a book, Divine Proportions: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry at UNSW [University of New South Wales] next Tuesday, said 2000 years of trigonometry had turned students off mathematics because it relied on complex circular functions to describe the relationships between the sides and corners of triangles...

His new method, rational trigonometry, employed two concepts: quadrance and spread.

"Quadrance is a way of measuring the separation between two points: it's the distance squared," he said. "The spread is the ratio of two quadrances obtained by dropping a perpendicular line from one point on one of the lines to another line."

Professor Wildberger said his method "probably" represented a paradigm shift. "It could help surveyors, engineers, navigators ... and teachers and students. It also provides a new framework for Euclydian geometry."

There's more at Professor Wildberger's web site.

Waiting on FEMA

Here's another example of why it isn't a great idea.

Gov. Riley ignores federal red tape to speed aid to Katrina victims

It's called leadership. Apparently, Louisiana's Kathleen Blanco is still waiting on the memo. (See bold below.)

PELHAM, Ala. (AP) — With federal government under fire for a sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, Alabama did an end run around red tape to get victims into temporary housing in state parks, where about 500 evacuees are living.

What the state did wasn't that big of a deal when compared to the size of the disaster: Acting at the direction of Gov. Bob Riley, park workers let scores of people move into government travel trailers days before the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted permission.

But that simple act touched a chord with evacuees fed up with what they describe as FEMA's inept response. And it made a huge difference in the lives of dozens of families from Louisiana and Mississippi who needed shelter after the storm.

"We'd still be waiting on a place to live if FEMA was running it," said Stuart Breaux, who is staying in a small, white trailer with his wife Evelyn and their three dogs at Oak Mountain State Park in suburban Birmingham.

With as many as 1 million people displaced by Katrina, FEMA has purchased thousands of new and refurbished travel trailers to use as temporary housing. Contractors have placed many of those trailers in campgrounds, including 13 Alabama state parks.

But of 1,350 trailers that were in Alabama parks by Friday afternoon, FEMA had inspected and approved only 365 for occupancy, according to the state. A total of 98 trailers were occupied in two parks, and state officials said many of those people moved in before they were supposed to.

In some cases, delays left evacuees living in tents in 90-degree heat near trailers with air conditioning and water already running.

Operating under the governor's "Operation Golden Rule" policy of helping storm victims as quickly as possible and handling paperwork later, park workers last weekend began letting evacuees move into the temporary housing without FEMA's blessing.

Evacuated from their home in Jefferson Parish near New Orleans, Breaux said his only contact with the federal government was with a FEMA inspector who got angry after learning he and his wife had moved into the trailer without federal approval.

"He was hot because you had all the people living in trailers that FEMA hadn't inspected," Breaux said.

"These things were here, they were up and running with air conditioning andsewage, and people were living in tents. What's wrong with this picture?" he said.

Living with about two dozen relatives in eight trailers at Oak Mountain, Catherine Menesses of St. Bernard Parish, La., has high praise for the Alabama workers who opened the campers and the dozens of volunteers who stocked a large pavilion with food, clothes and hygiene items for evacuees.

"We want for nothing. They have brought us everything," she said.

Menesses is frustrated with constant busy signals on FEMA disaster hotlines and the lack of information from her hometown. But rather than hoping for more federal aid, she worries FEMA involvement would just mess up a good system operating at the state park...

About 155 people have occupied 40 of the 81 FEMA trailers parked at Oak Mountain State Park. More evacuees are expected this week as word spreads about the availability of the campers, according to Jimmy Shivers, the park superintendent.

Jerry deBin, a spokesman for the state parks and conservation system, said additional trailers could have been delivered to parks earlier if not for FEMA bungling at a staging site in Selma.

There, federal workers spent time trying to assign specific trailers to camp sites rather than getting the housing on the road to parks as quickly as possible, according to deBin.

"They assigned 40 trailers to one camp site in Wind Creek (State Park)," he said. "If just defies common sense. Bureaucracy and disaster don't really go well together."

About 2,500 people are living in state parks in Louisiana in their own campers and tents, and the state hasn't decided whether to allow FEMA campers, said parks spokeswoman Sharon Broussard.

"We're in discussions with FEMA about whether they will bring trailers in here," she said.

Oooo-oo, What's that smell?

A sizable number of Decatur residents reported feeling "unusually mellow" last Friday. Now we know the reason.

I imagine the scene looked something like this.

Siegelman: I'm sorry I hired a bunch of deadbeats

From the Mobile Register's "Political Skinny" yesterday:
Former Gov. Don Siegelman, whose administration remains under investigation by Montgomery federal grand jurors, is nevertheless working hard at his re-election campaign.

In a fund-raising letter dated Sept. 12, he owned up to some "mistakes" and "missteps" during this gubernatorial tenure from 1999 to 2003.

"Looking back over my term as governor, it is obvious to me that I made mistakes -- but I have now learned from them.

"I made a couple of 'bad' hires, I should have used more senior advisers, and I should have taken your phone calls and seen my friends personally when you wanted to give me advice. For these missteps I am truly sorry."

Siegelman was indicted by a Birmingham-based federal grand jury last year but prosecutors abandoned the case after a federal judge dismissed key charges.
Who were those "bad hires," I wonder? Do tell, Governor Siegelman.

Monday, September 19, 2005
On this day:

Aargh Mateys!

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day.

What's your pirate name? Me: Red Sam Flint.

The Supreme Court, John Roberts and the right to privacy

Princeton University's Robert P. George writes that "the nation will be fortunate if Judge Roberts understands that the result of the court's invention of a generalized right to privacy has been 40 years of unprincipled - and unpredictable - constitutional law."

Hat tip: Southern Appeal

Abortion in America: 2005

When the subject is abortion, this report is about as objective as can be hoped for from the New York Times.

Fashion with a flare

There are probably many reasons, both practical and aesthetic, why one should not wear wool underwear. The possibility of spontaneous combustion ranks high on the list.

UAB in eminent domain dispute

The University of Alabama in Birmingham is using its eminent domain authority to build a women and infants hospital on some prime downtown real estate. The property owners who stand to lose their land are appealing.

Unlike other recent controversies over the use of eminent domain, the issue here is not over whether UAB's taking is a legitimate "public use," but rather over what constitutes "just compensation."

Roy Moore: "We will always be one nation under God."

"No federal court, no federal government, no state government can deny it."

Neither can the Huntsville Times.

Sunday, September 18, 2005
On this day:

Huntsville Times: "Freedom will suffer" if Supreme Court upholds pledge of allegiance

The Times says that "Congress could resolve this issue easily by removing the 'under God' phrase from the pledge."

"The Catch"

Daniel Moore is going to paint it, in spite of a UA trademark infringement lawsuit against him.

Tyrone Prothro's amazing catch from last week's Bama-Southern Miss game can be viewed here. (Hat tip: Justin at Southern Appeal.)

Auburn's football field gets a new name

Pat Dye Field.

Siegelman's running

...and it's not from the law.

Friday, September 16, 2005
On this day:

B'ham News profiles Troy King

See this story in Monday's Birmingham News. PoliSciZac at Alabama Elections asks if King may be the GOP's rising star.

(Thanks to Zac for pointing out the King profile.)

Nice quote

From the Conservative Progress: "Watching Fox News to counter the liberalism of the rest of the MSM is like setting your head on fire to get rid of lice."

Alabama unemployment rate down to 3.8% last month

How low can it go? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 9 other states have unemployment rates that are less than or equal to Alabama's (precise to one place past the decimal point). They are Hawaii, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida, Minnesota, Virginia, Idaho, and South Dakota.


Huntsville's annual Oktoberfest celebration will be held at Redstone Arsenal this weekend. Beer and brats galore. Whoo-hoo!

It just so happens that this year's celebration coincides the German elections on September 18. I'm rooting for the CDU candidate for Chancellor, Angela Merkel. If she is elected, she will become the first German Chancellor to have grown up in Communist East Germany. She has promised to reinvigorate the sluggish German economy through a program of tax cuts and a general shift away from socialism, raising the tantalizing prospect that she may become Berlin's own "Iron Lady." Hopefully, we'll soon be saying goodbye to Herr Schroeder.

Thursday, September 15, 2005
On this day:

Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech

Reconstruction?? Ummm...I think I would pick a different word.

Troy King's fishing expedition

Southern Appeal blogger Michael DeBow commented recently on the Attorney General's investigation of the post-Katrina spike in gas prices.
According to a press release from the Alabama AG's Office, dated today, 45 state attorneys general are "issuing the first round of subpoenas in the multi-state inquiry of rising fuel prices following Hurricane Katrina." ...

No explanation was given as to what would constitute "a legitimate reason" for price increases. Similarly unexplained: why we should ask the respondent firms to spend time and effort rummaging through their files, etc., to comply with the two-week deadline on the subpoenas, rather than using all their efforts to serve their customers.

I can predict, with sublime self-confidence, what will eventually come of all this: Absolutely nothing. The oil industry's pricing decisions have been investigated umpteen times over the years (usually after a price spike) by various government agencies, Nader groups, etc., etc., and nothing has ever come of it. So it will be with this fishing expedition.

When all is said and done, I think that Professor DeBow's prediction will prove accurate. If King's investigation is conducted fairly and objectively, its conclusions are likely to be similar to those of past inquiries. There is little or no evidence to show that gasoline producers, distributors, wholesalers, or retailers have raised prices in response to anything other than market forces such as short supplies and heightened market uncertainties.

But, given the vagueness of Alabama's price-gouging law, there are legitimate concerns over whether a fair and objective investigation is even possible. According to the Attorney General's office:
The state law that prohibits "unconscionable pricing" of items for sale or rent comes into play when the Governor has declared an official state of emergency. Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in state law, a price that is 25 percent or more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days--unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost-- is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

A great potential for mischief stems from the law's ill-defined concept of "reasonable cost." For example, does that encompass the risks of miscalculating future costs or of losing customers to competitors if there is nothing left to sell? Cost is often indeterminable, at least monetarily, making it very difficult to quantify its reasonableness. It may be that the legislature intended only to look at actual monetary expenditures when it crafted the anti-gouging law, but most business owners and economists would balk at such a narrow definition of "cost."

In any case, Alabama does have an anti-gouging law, and it is the Attorney General's job to enforce it. Thus, King's inquiry is not entirely unjustified. It is the fact that he has given it such a high profile and has resorted to the tactics of a demagogue that seems inappropriate. Accusing oil companies and gas station owners of wrongdoing may serve to enhance King's popularity, but it doesn't do a thing about high gas prices.

If Troy King is serious about understanding the high costs of energy, he should subpoena a few lawmakers and bureaucrats, since they are the ones responsible for the onerous regulations that limit productive capacity and stifle innovation. He should ask oil company executives what restrictions impede additional oil exploration here in the United States. He should inquire as to why no new refinery has been built in the U.S. in almost 30 years. He might even want to investigate what can be done to assuage popular resistance to building new pipelines. All of that may take some time, but I'm sure that he would find it to be pretty enlightening. In the meantime, he can get out of the way and stop being part of the problem.

New Google search engine targets blogs

Google has unveiled a new search engine focusing exclusively on blogs. It is online at

AU and "diversity"

I wonder if the Auburn administration considers this to be an acceptable tactic for "recruiting, retaining, and graduating a critical mass of minority students – especially African-American students."

The meaning of diversity - AU style

Here are the vision and goals of AU's Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs:


The Office of Diversity and Multi-Cultural Affairs' vision for Auburn University is that of a Multi-Cultural campus where members see themselves first, as people and second, as representatives of a particular group; a campus where members see themselves as a "community" of Multi-Culturally diverse people who value and appreciate diversity, and where inclusiveness, fairness, and equity are the norms. Working collaboratively with the entire Auburn University community, the Office of Diversity and Multi-Cultural Affairs strives to create and sustain a global campus community of interdependent and interconnected ambassadors of the human race.


Work collaboratively with the entire Auburn University Community to create and sustain an all-inclusive Multi-Culturally diverse campus.

Foster a total campus community that values diversity and Multi-Cultural inclusiveness through ongoing educational, cultural, and social programs.

Create , promote, and encourage a supportive and friendly campus environment that is welcoming for, and attractive to people of all races, ethnicity, nationalities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and those with disabilities.

Assist Auburn University in its efforts to recruit and retain a critical mass of minorities (especially African-Americans) and women into faculty, staff, and administrative positions–of power and authority–(e.g., chairs, deans, vice provosts, vice presidents).

Assist Auburn University in its efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate a critical mass of minority students–especially African-American students.

Regularly monitor and assess Auburn University's diversity efforts for effectiveness and identify new and better strategies for success.

Build and strengthen alliances with diverse external communities–civic, business, and various ethnic organizations–to support Multi-Culturally inclusive diversity in and outside of Auburn University.

Auburn to appoint diversity chief

Conservatives need not apply. Diversity extends only so far, you know.

Federal judge says that pledge is unconstitutional

I will wager that this decision will be overturned by the Roberts Court.

An idea for Ron Sparks

Last week, Alabama Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks endorsed government subsidies for poultry manure (aka chicken sh*t) to be used as an energy source for automobiles. Here's something else he might want to look into. If he likes the idea, I might even vote for him for "chief animal control officer" just so he can try it out.

(There's an update to that kitty-fuel story, by the way.)

George Will on the poverty of thought

Will illustrates once again why he's one of my favorite conservative pundits.
America's always fast-flowing river of race-obsessing has overflowed its banks, and last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois's freshman Democrat, applied to the expression of old banalities a fluency that would be beguiling were it without content. Unfortunately, it included the requisite lament about the president's inadequate "empathy" and an amazing criticism of the government's "historic indifference" and its "passive indifference" that "is as bad as active malice." The senator, 44, is just 30 months older than the "war on poverty" that President Johnson declared in January 1964. Since then the indifference that is as bad as active malice has been expressed in more than $6.6 trillion of anti-poverty spending, strictly defined.

The senator is called a "new kind of Democrat," which often means one with new ways of ignoring evidence discordant with old liberal orthodoxies about using cash — much of it spent through liberalism's "caring professions" — to cope with cultural collapse. He might, however, care to note three not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
On this day:

A Bama Blogoversary

It's hard to believe it's been a whole year since my first blog post. As you can see from the photo above, I celebrated the occasion in style. Wish y'all coulda been here.

Seriously, though, I'd like to say thanks to my loyal readers. I hope both of you are doing swell. You're always welcome here, so be sure to keep checking in from time to time. Oh, and tell your momma 'n' 'em I said howdy.

"Condi, I gotta pee"

"Reckon Kofi's got a back porch?"

Hope the President was careful to make sure there wasn't a bug in the urinal.

Gas in short supply in China

America isn't the only nation that is having to deal with tight gasoline supplies. Even so, we have not experienced widespread or long-lived shortages. That is not the case in China, for reasons that should be very clear, even to Troy King.
China, especially in the south, has experienced oil shortages in recent months, partly because of the [National Development and Reform Commission’s] price controls. The local oil majors all but stopped selling imported crude because of the huge losses they were incurring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
On this day:

Troy King: Playing dumb or just clueless?

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has issued 22 subpoenas to Alabama service stations in order to determine why gas prices rose so much after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

King said his office has received about 900 phone calls in the past couple of weeks from Alabama residents wanting to know why the price of gas skyrocketed in the days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. Callers also wanted to know why the price of gas was more expensive in some parts of the state than in others.

"I don't know the answers to those questions. That's why we've issued the subpoenas. What's occurring with the price of fuel doesn't make any sense to me," King said.

King said he had many of the same questions the last time he went to a service station to fill up his family car.

"From where I sit it's very difficult to understand what's causing these spikes in gas prices," King said.
What a crock. Troy King knows full well what caused the recent spikes in gas prices. First of all, there was a hurricane. A big one. It disrupted shipping, shut down oil production and refining on the Gulf coast, and cut off the pipelines that transport gasoline from throughout the Southeast and to points beyond. The severity of the "spike" was augmented by the fact that oil and gas markets were already tight, even before Katrina hit. Gas retailers reacted to the supply disruptions and market uncertainies by doing the only thing they could do to prevent widespread shortages - they raised prices. Certain locations were hit harder than others due to various factors, including proximity to the hurricane impact area, proximity to gasoline distribution points, available inventories, and population density.

None of that should be news to the Attorney General. His so-called investigation is nothing more than a self-serving attempt to boost his political fortunes at the expense both of taxpayer dollars and common sense. King should stick to enforcing the law and cut out the populist grandstanding.

Speaking of Chi-coms

A group of Falun Gong practitioners were in Huntsville Sunday to raise awareness about Chi-Com persecution of their sect back in China. It's interesting that a spiritual movement whose practices center around "Tai Chi-like exercises and meditation" is viewed as such a serious threat by the government of a great nation like China. The fact that the Communist Party there sees these people as a threat is an indication of just how tenuous its grip on power really is.

Strapped for cash at UA

Pull out your checkbooks and give a nice fat donation, folks. Looks like they're really hurting for funds in Tuscaloosa. Poor things...I bet they can't even afford to keep the bar stocked.

Comrade Smurf and Mao tse-Mickey?

First, it was Commie Smurfs. Now, it's Mao-tse Mickey. My cartoon favorites...falling like depressing.

Back to "Black"

A prominent student group at UA chooses an "unhypnenated" name.

John Roberts

Among the constitutional offices of the United States, none is more exclusive than that of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. If John Roberts is confirmed by the Senate as Chief Justice, he will become only the 17th person to hold the office. That's pretty remarkable when you think about it.

Only 15 men will separate Roberts from John Jay, the nation's first Chief Justice, who was nominated 216 years ago by President Washington. Only 11 have held the office since John Marshall, the longest-serving Chief Justice, died in 1835. It is an office that requires the utmost respect and humility from its occupants, which is exactly what John Roberts exhibited in his remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

The next few days will be a great and rare civics lesson for the nation. The Senators should take the opportunity to ask Roberts pointed questions in order to discern his judicial philosophy, and Roberts should answer them to the best of his ability and to the extent that is appropriate. Gauged by his remarks in today's session, I don't think that will present a problem.

Here are a few excerpts from Roberts's speech, which he delivered without notes:
Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them.

The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules.

But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.

Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.

And judges have to have the modesty to be open in the decisional process to the considered views of their colleagues on the bench.

Mr. Chairman, when I worked in the Department of Justice, in the office of the solicitor general, it was my job to argue cases for the United States before the Supreme court.

I always found it very moving to stand before the justices and say, "I speak for my country."

But it was after I left the department and began arguing cases against the United States that I fully appreciated the importance of the Supreme Court and our constitutional system.

Here was the United States, the most powerful entity in the world, aligned against my client. And yet, all I had to do was convince the court that I was right on the law and the government was wrong and all that power and might would recede in deference to the rule of law.

That is a remarkable thing.

It is what we mean when we say that we are a government of laws and not of men. It is that rule of law that protects the rights and liberties of all Americans. It is the envy of the world. Because without the rule of law, any rights are meaningless.

President Ronald Reagan used to speak of the Soviet constitution, and he noted that it purported to grant wonderful rights of all sorts to people. But those rights were empty promises, because that system did not have an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and enforce those rights. We do, because of the wisdom of our founders and the sacrifices of our heroes over the generations to make their vision a reality.

Mr. Chairman, I come before the committee with no agenda. I have no platform. Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.

I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind. I will fully and fairly analyze the legal arguments that are presented. I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench. And I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.

Monday, September 12, 2005
On this day:

Katrina leads to dialog on race

Sounds more like a lecture to me.

Friday, September 09, 2005
On this day:

New Orleans police now confiscating firearms from civilians

From the New York Times:
No civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns or other firearms, said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

Hat tip: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Thursday, September 08, 2005
On this day:

Mobile Register: Do not protect Dauphin Island homes with tax dollars

The Register opines that home owners and private insurers should accept the full risk of building on the island. That's a good idea, but why limit its application to Dauphin Island, Alabama?

If those houses [damaged and destroyed on Dauphin Island] are rebuilt by their owners, no more tax dollars should be spent to protect them. Nor should any insurance fund associated with the state or federal government insure them.

If private insurers want to take on the risk of covering storm damage or flooding, that's up to them. If homeowners want to rebuild on private property, that's up to them.

But every time Dauphin Island floods, the west end erodes and narrows. A $1 million berm built a few years ago -- with 75 percent federal money -- lasted only a couple of years.

Unlike the beaches of Baldwin County, this piece of Dauphin Island is a relatively small part of the overall regional economy. Legislation of some sort may be needed to prohibit any use of tax dollars to protect it from wind, water and erosion, but in the long run, the public will benefit.

The lessons learned from decades-old decisions to build on Gulf Coast beaches should be heeded. Dauphin Island is a prime example of how such mistakes can prove to be costly.

While we sympathize with property owners who have lost their homes on the west end, there is no justification for repeating the mistake of building there.

If homeowners on the west end continue to deny the obvious and insist on rebuilding on shifting sand, they should do so entirely at their own risk.

Dauphin Island

From the Birmingham News:

Dauphin Island looks as if an enormous rake had been dragged across the western part of the island, according to reports from the U.S. Geological Survey's aerial study of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

On the ground, biologists report that the island was breached repeatedly as a six- to eight-foot storm surge carved inlets throughout the sand. The island was weakened when it lost sand in Hurricane Ivan last year and storms nearly every year before, all the way back to Hurricane Camille in 1969, said Ralph Havard, a biologist for the Marine Resources Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"It's a long-running battle between man and Mother Nature, is what it is," Havard said. "And Mother Nature is winning."
That may be true, but man isn't helping out the situation any.
Every two or three years, a sandbar forms off Mobile Bay and impedes shipping traffic. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges that sand and deposits it farther offshore.

Left alone, the sand would naturally drift to Dauphin Island, said Scott Douglass, a civil engineering professor at the University of South Alabama.

Instead, the dredged sand is carried out in the Gulf. Then new sand drifting along the coast falls into the shipping channel instead of reaching Dauphin Island.

"They've removed 20 million cubic yards of sand in 35 years," Douglass said. "If you had that sand right now, you could double the width of Dauphin Island."

The corps has not determined whether its dredging is affecting the dunes at Dauphin Island, said spokesman Pat Robbins. But, to settle a landowners' lawsuit, it has agreed to an independent study of the matter and will abide by the findings and change its practices accordingly, Robbins said. The proposed settlement awaits a decision by a federal judge.

Douglass said he personally would prefer that the corps dump the dredged sand at Dauphin Island, in a beach nourishment program that would mimic nature. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores' program is an outstanding example, perhaps the most successful in the country, of sand deposits saving a beach, Douglass said.

Bainbridge speaks again on outsourcing disaster relief

Professor Bainbridge lays out even more reasons for giving the private sector a greater role in disaster relief. (His original post is here. His TCS column on the subject is here.)

Jerry Clower would be proud

Coonhunters for Christ answer the call for help.

Ron Sparks' solution to the energy crisis: chicken shit

Alabama Ag Commissioner Sparks has yet another creative idea to address the energy crunch. Here's another Sparks quote from that Sand Mountain Reporter article:

We can create ethanol with poultry litter. Our farmers can’t get rid of it. Let’s use it to create ethanol.
Yes, you heard that right, ladies and gentlemen - chicken shit. Ron Sparks wants us to run our cars on government-subsidized chicken shit. Now I've heard it all.

Alabama Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks on gas shortages

From the Sand Mountain Reporter:

“Our concern is that people held back on the gas they had and said they were out or raised prices on the gas they had purchased before prices began to rise,” [Agriculture Commissioner Ron] Sparks said, following an address to the Marshall County Democrat Club in Albertville Tuesday night...

Sparks said his office is currently investigating instances of price gouging at gas stations across Alabama. “We want to make sure we stay on top of things and make sure that people don’t get gouged,” he said. “It’s staggering the amount of money that is going to gasoline right now.”

What Ron Sparks sees as a problem, I see a shining example of how the free market ensures the efficient allocation of scarce resources. As TCS's Iain Murray says, gas price "gouging" simply doesn't exist in a rational, competitive market, and any effort to prevent it through government coercion does more harm than good.

Sparks went on to call for more federal regulation of gasoline production, saying "I hope the government looks into getting these refineries regulated."

That's another bad idea. It is widely accepted that excessive government regulation of refineries is one of the major contributors to the "tightness" in today's gasoline market. The truth is, a new refinery has not been built in the U.S. since 1976, and federal regulations ensure that there is little incentive to build another one anytime soon. Without additional refining capacity, the gas market will remain tight for years to come, given the energy demands of a growing economy. New regulations are the last thing we need if we want to maintain a reliable and affordable supply of energy.

Even though the two measures Sparks advocates - price controls and increased regulation - would inevitably result in higher gas prices and more frequent shortages - he had the gall to "publicly criticize the Bush administration for creating the gas shortage."

Funny, I thought that the recent shortages were caused primarily by a massive hurricane that temporarily shut down much of the nation's already-stressed refining and distribution capacities. Is Ron Sparks suggesting that President Bush created Hurricane Katrina?

Outsourcing disaster relief

Professor Steve Bainbridge extends his remarks on giving the private sector a more prominent role in disaster relief, citing Daniel Henniger's piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Who prevented the Red Cross from delivering supplies to N.O.?

Hint: It wasn't President Bush, it wasn't FEMA, and it wasn't the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Radioblogger has more here.

On a related note, Professor Bainbridge says that it may be time to allow the private sector to play a much greater role in disaster relief. What a novel idea.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
On this day:

Auburn embraces "diversity"

Political correctness takes a great leap forward at another of Alabama's premier universities.

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn University officials have begun a search for a new diversity director, who will have university-wide responsibility for implementing a plan to improve the school's racial and cultural diversity.

Auburn Provost John Heilman said an internal search is currently under way to find a new diversity chief by Nov. 1.

Evolution expert comes to Auburn

...presumably to discuss the process by which Auburn fans turn into Alabama fans.


Operation Golden Rule

That's the name of the state of Alabama's effort to provide housing for hurricane victims.

Bama fans reach out to hurricane victims

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Some Alabama fans stayed home Saturday night to give at least 300 refugees from Hurricane Katrina a chance to see a Crimson Tide football game.

For the past several days Alabama fans have been dropping off their tickets to Saturday night's Middle Tennessee-Alabama game at a Red Cross shelter at the University of Alabama recreation center, which has been home to about 500 refugees...

Raydell Hayes, who works at The Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans, said he doesn't know when he and his family will be able to return home or when he will be able to return to work. Thanks to the free tickets to the sold-out game, he was able to take his three stepsons and 11-year-old twin daughters to the game.

"This is monumental. It takes your mind away from what's going on," said Hayes, a New Orleans Saints fan and former high school and college football player. He said the gift of the football tickets is made even more special because he knows how much Alabama fans love the Crimson Tide.

As the kickoff approached Saturday, some volunteers at the shelter were teaching the refugees, many fans of rival LSU, to say "Roll Tide," the official rallying cry of the Crimson Tide.

"I know all about 'Roll Tide,'" Hayes said. "When Alabama plays LSU, the fans come to the French Quarter and pretty much what you hear is 'Roll Tide.'"

State attorneys general ask why gas prices are rising

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Attorneys generals from across the country talked by phone about why gas prices are rising so rapidly, but they did not take any immediate action.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King organized [Thursday's] conference call through the National Association of Attorneys General.

If we're lucky, the AGs' lack of action will become permanent.

A defense of "price-gouging"

Cato's Jerry Taylor says "gouge on."
The reason that gasoline is disappearing from service stations across the nation is because station owners aren’t gouging with sufficient gusto. Whether out of a misguided sense of kindness, concern about what politicians might think, fear of bad press, or the desire to keep customers happy, they are pricing below what the market would otherwise bear and, as a result, their inventory has disappeared.

Now, how are the poor been helped by service stations closing down for lack of fuel? Gas at $6 a gallon, after all, is better than gas unavailable at any price. Moreover, shortages are likely to disproportionately affect the poor since rich people can spend more money finding gasoline and securing alternative means of transportation.

Monday, September 05, 2005
On this day:

Happy Labor Day

A great day to support the idea that no one should be forced to pay tribute to a union in order to get or keep a job.

The answer to my question

In my last post, I asked why private relief efforts weren't more evident in New Orleans early on, when adequate government resources had not yet arrived. Don Boudereaux at Cafe Hayek has the answer, and it's exactly what I had suspected. They weren't allowed in.

According to the Disaster FAQs section of the American Red Cross's website:

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

    • Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
    • The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
    • The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.
Boudereaux also points to this Knight-Ridder report that the Red Cross wasn't alone in being denied access to the city.
As federal officials tried to get some control over the deteriorating situation in New Orleans, chaos was being replaced with bureaucratic rules that inhibited private relief organizations' efforts.

"We've tried desperately to rescue 250 people trapped in a Salvation Army facility. They've been trapped in there since the flood came in. Many are on dialysis machines," said Maj. George Hood, national communications secretary for the relief organization.

"Yesterday we rented big fan boats to pull them out and the National Guard would not let us enter the city," he said. The reason: a new plan to evacuate the embattled city grid by grid - and the Salvation Army's facility didn't fall in the right grid that day, Hood said in a telephone interview from Jackson, Miss.

Friday, September 02, 2005
On this day:

Where are the private relief efforts?

It is obvious that government must play a large role in coordinating relief for the hurricane victims in New Orleans, but I've been struck by the absence of private relief organizations from the scene. Where are the churches who could bring in needed food, water, and transportation? Where are the former military guys and private security firms who could help ensure safe passage through the city's streets? Why are the streets not filled with canoes and rafts to bring supplies and to evacuate people still stranded in communities throughout the city? Why aren't there Red Cross and Salvation Army trucks headed down the interstate bringing supplies to those stranded on the interstates?

Government at all levels has already demonstrated its inability and incompetence. Certainly there are many individuals and organizations who have volunteered their time and resources to go into New Orleans and help out. Why are they not there? (Or are they?) I suspect that the answer to these questions is that the government has erected barriers that keep individuals and private relief organizations out of the New Orleans area, in spite of the fact that government has demonstrated its inability to deal with the situation. It's depressing and demoralizing to know that there are people willing to donate their time and resources on site in New Orleans, but for some reason they are not getting there. Absolutely ridiculous.