Wednesday, November 30, 2005
On this day:

Where did all the gouging go?

From today's Birmingham News:

The average cost of gasoline has dropped a record 84 cents a gallon within the past two months, driving prices as low as $1.94 in the Birmingham area Tuesday.

The cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped 45 cents in the past month, also possibly a record, said Clay Ingram, spokesman for the American Automobile Association-Alabama. ...

Statewide, the average price of a gallon of unleaded stood at $2.11 on Tuesday.
Travel analysts predict the price will continue to drop - at least through January.

Crude oil prices are falling because of strong production with only a few oil refineries on the Gulf Coast still off line, Ingram said. ...

AAA has found that demand is 2 percent lower this year than it was at this time last year. Consumer demand, based on total sales nationally, usually rises about 2 percent a year.

"That's a 4 percent swing," Ingram said. "Which is very significant and really the reason we have seen the price drop as much as it has." ...

Competition is the key, Ingram said: "Buy the cheapest gas you can find and that will help get the price down," Ingram said.

In September, Mr. Ingram gave his support to legislation that would make price-gouging a felony in Alabama. So, if gas stations were gouging back in September, why is it safe to say that they aren't gouging now?

I think that Ingram answered that question: competition.

But, the level of competition hasn't changed since September. There were roughly the same number of gas stations then as there are now. They were just as hungry for customers then as they are now. If we assume that competition is enough to prevent gas station owners from gouging now, then how is it logical to say that retail gas prices in September were indicative of price-gouging, rather than a reflection of greater market uncertainties and risks? Hmmmm?

1000th execution since 1976 nears

You know what that means. Let's light some candles!

Definition of "South" and "Southern" is changing

That's according to this AP report. Even so, the article notes that:

The [South] is still set apart by its poverty, and some old stereotypes hold water. Eight of the top 10 states with the highest percentages of mobile homes are in the South, as are nine of the states with the highest rates of adult toothlessness.

Other stereotypes are way off.

States with the highest percentage of households without indoor plumbing? Six of the top 10 are in the West and Northeast. And while you can marry your first cousin in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, it's legally taboo in Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Read the rest of the article for yourself. AlabamaImproper didn't like it much.

Anniston Star speaks in favor of trade with Cuba

In today's Anniston (Red) Star, the editors argue that Alabama and the country as a whole would benefit from lifting the embargo on trade with Cuba.

For supporters of free trade, this is a particularly vexing issue. On one hand, there is no doubt that lifting the U.S. embargo would bring significant economic benefits to both sides. On the other, Cuba remains a Communist country where the state exercises absolute control over virtually all aspects of the economy, including foreign trade.

While the Star's editors do a good job explaining the potential benefits of ending the embargo, they all but ignore the fundamental incompatibility between the U.S. and Cuban economies. They summarize their position as follows:
It is high time that the remaining restrictions on trade with Cuba be lifted. This is not to say that we approve of Fidel Castro and his policies any more than we approve of leaders and policies in other authoritarian countries with whom we trade. This is just to say that through unrestricted trade we can improve the lives of the Cuban people and our people as well. As we send Cuba what we have to sell, we also send Cuba a little bit of what America is all about.

This overlooks the fact that Cuba's economic policies differ markedly from those of most other "authoritarian countries with whom we trade." Take China, for instance. It is the Chinese government's policy of economic liberalization that has made improved trade relations with the U.S. and other free market nations possible. China has opened up its economy to foreign trade and investment, privatized thousands of state-owned businesses, and just last year, it added protections for private property to its Constitution. By all measures, it appears that China is well on its way to becoming a market economy, albeit a highly regulated one.

Cuba, on the other hand, has gone in the opposite direction. In May of this year, Reuters reported the following:
HAVANA – Western companies welcomed in Cuba as heroes a decade ago for bucking the U.S. embargo are packing up and leaving as the Communist government rolls back market reforms and squeezes out intermediaries.

Embittered by the change in attitude, small and medium-sized foreign businesses complained this week that they no longer feel welcome and worried they would not recover money owed to them by Cuban partners.

President Fidel Castro's government, bolstered by growing economic ties to Venezuela and China, is cutting back the autonomy granted to state-run companies to do business in the 1990s and restoring central control over trade and finance. ...

During a recent speeches, Castro has reminisced about the 1980s, when the economy was 100 percent Cuban-owned. He said Cuba reluctantly opened up to foreign investment during the deep crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. ...

Western embassies report increasing complaints from their nationals whose businesses were liquidated without any guarantee they would be compensated.
As late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms pointed out back in 2000: when it comes to trade, "Cuba is not China." Until Cuba embraces market reforms and legalizes private property, it will remain on the sidelines of the world economy, and its citizens will continue to suffer the consequences, regardless of U.S. policies. In the meantime, calls for "unrestricted trade" by the Star and others should be rejected as both imprudent and impossible.

Roy Moore at UA today

From the Crimson White:
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate, will visit the Capstone today to talk about the connection between the Founding Fathers and religious liberty.

He will speak in Room 110 of the Alabama Institute for Manufacturing Excellence Building at 3 p.m.
If anyone's in Tuscaloosa and attends, be sure to fill us in on the details.

A world record in synchronized blinking?

I suppose it's possible that all of the U.N. delegates blinked in unison with Mr. Ahmadinejad for the duration of his speech, so that he just never noticed. If so, someone needs to call Guinness. The world record people, not the beer people.

Whatever the case may be, it's encouraging that there are at least some people in the Islamic Republic who aren't taking President Ahmadinejad's antics seriously. Even more encouraging is the fact that some have begun to air their criticism publicly. Here's more from that RFE/RL report:
Iranian legislator Akbar Alami has questioned Ahmadinejad's apparent claims, saying that even Islam's holiest figures have never made such claims.
Alami told ILNA news agency that it is hard to imagine that someone who is delivering a speech can at the same time focus his attention on the eyelashes of all the people sitting at a distance from him and categorically tell a leading Qom cleric that they did not blink.

Additionally, the number of Iranian blogs has exploded, and many bloggers are courageously airing their grievances against the government, even though they face the possiblity of persecution for doing so. From the Telegraph:

Iran is fighting a constant battle against dissenters who are using the internet to voice criticism of the Islamic Republic and to push for freedom and democracy.

With the closure of most independent newspapers and magazines in Iran, blogging - publishing an online diary - has become a powerful tool in the dissidents' arsenal by providing individuals with a public voice.

An Iranian blogger known as Saena, wrote recently: "Weblogs are one weapon that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat."

There are an estimated 100,000 active blogs written by Iranians both within the country and across the diaspora. Persian ties with French as the second most common blogging language after English.

Over the last year, however, Iranian authorities have arrested and beaten dozens of bloggers, charged with crimes such as espionage and insulting leaders of the Islamic Republic. Among them is Omid Sheikhan, who last month was sentenced to one year in prison and 124 lashes of the whip for writing a blog that featured satirical cartoons of Iranian politicians. ...

There is no legislation against blogging itself but the writers can be charged by authorities in the hardline theocracy with "morality violations" for the content of their websites.

Nevertheless, Iranians are increasingly turning to blogs and those who can publish their words in English hope they will reach a wider international audience and alert them to the problems facing free-thinkers within Iran. ...

In one entry yesterday a blogger calling himself Persian Dissident wrote: "How long can this go on? His [President Ahmadinejad] ministers are terrorists, political prisoners are in jail, political in-fighting is clearly visible."

But the Iranian authorities are fighting a losing battle to crush these new outlets of dissent. As fast as one perpetrator is tracked down and closed, another rises in its place and takes up the cause.

These Iranian freedom fighters deserve all the support and encouragement we can provide. They risk their lives everyday just to tell their stories, and it's important for them to know that the world is listening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
On this day:

Persian gaffe

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had an interesting story to tell about his speech at the U.N. in September. According to this Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report:
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says that when he delivered his speech at the UN General Assembly in September, he felt there was a light around him and that the attention of the world leaders in the audience was unblinkingly focused upon him. ...

According the report by, President Ahmadinejad made the comments in a meeting with one of Iran's leading clerics, Ayatollah Javadi Amoli.

Ahmadinejad said that someone present at the UN told him that a light surrounded him while he was delivering his speech to the General Assembly. The Iranian president added that he also sensed it.

"He said when you began with the words 'in the name of God,' I saw that you became surrounded by a light until the end [of the speech]," Ahmadinejad appears to say in the video. "I felt it myself, too. I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there, and for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink."

Ahmadinejad adds that he is not exaggerating.

"I am not exaggerating when I say they did not blink; it's not an exaggeration, because I was looking," he says. "They were astonished as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."
Who's this guy kidding? Everyone knows that the U.N. always blinks when confronted with tyrants.

BR the Governor

If the Riley campaign actually paid someone to come up with this, I'd say they got a Bad Return on their investment:
(Mobile Register) Supporters of Gov. Bob Riley have a new sticker that can be seen on cars and trucks around Montgomery. It's yet another sequel to the ubiquitous "W The President" stickers. The Riley stickers are square and black, with "BR" in large white letters. A smaller line of text across the bottom reads, "The Governor."

Bill would put "God Bless America" on Alabama car tags

I guess the Ten Commandments won't fit.

"We do have a strategy. We do have a plan."

Senator Lieberman gets it.

Monday, November 28, 2005
On this day:


Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I spent mine back home with the family - eating lots of turkey and dressing, catching up on some reading, watching a few old movies on TV, and mostly just enjoying life outside the big city of Huntsville.

Of course, Thanksgiving is first and foremost a time to give thanks to God for His many blessings, and beyond that, to remind ourselves of what it means to be genuinely thankful. Thanksgiving and thankfulness go hand-in-hand.

Telling God "thank you" by uttering something to the effect of "good bread, good meat, good God, let's eat" isn't quite enough. To say "thank you" is certainly polite, but it is still merely an expression of gratitude. It's what you do when a friend or family member gives you a gift - any gift - even if it's an ugly tie, a fruitcake, or a brand new set of bathroom scales. When it comes to gifts from God, though, there is no worry about whether they will fit us properly or whether we'll ever need them. Considering the source and nature of the gifts, it seems inadequate to simply include a polite "thank you" in one's prayers and leave it at that; instead, it seems that our expressions of thanks can achieve their full, genuine meaning only when we devote those gifts to the purposes God intended. Of course, since we are human, that's easier said than done. Aside from cooking the turkey, it may be the biggest challenge of Thanksgiving. that I've ventured into religion, let's talk some politics. Ummmm...actually, it's late, so that'll have to wait till tomorrow.

Meanwhile, if you, too, have discovered the meaning of life and diagnosed all of the world's ills, please feel free to add your two cents in the comments section. If you're not up to that...then take on this topic: Compare/contrast the theme of man and his place in the universe as presented in The Matrix and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
On this day:

Seen in Auburn

I'm told that a new bumper sticker is selling like hotcakes down on the plains. It says, "Honk if you sacked Brodie."

Pretty funny, even for a disappointed but ever-hopeful Bama fan like me.

The right way to create wealth and fight poverty in the Third World

According to a new report cosponsored by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, economic growth in poor countries is often constrained by government-imposed obstacles that inhibit the development of home-grown businesses. The main remedies are to streamline regulations and cut taxes. TCS's Hans Lebohm gives his take (read the whole thing):

"If you were opening a new business in Lao PDR, the start-up procedures would take 198 days. If you were opening one in Syria, you would have to put up $61,000 in minimum capital - 51 times the average annual income. If you were building a warehouse in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the fees for utility hook-up and compliance with building regulations would amount to 87 times average income. And if you ran a business in Guatemala, it would take you 1,459 days to resolve a simple dispute in the courts. If you were paying all business taxes in Sierra Leone, they would take 164 percent of your company's gross profit."

These are the opening sentences of "Doing Business in 2006 -- Creating Jobs", a report cosponsored by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. This is the third in a series of annual reports analyzing regulations that enhance or constrain investment productivity and growth. ...

As the report notes, reforms, while often simple, can create many new jobs. Jobs are a priority for every country, and especially the poorest countries. Doing more to improve regulation and help entrepreneurs is crucial to creating more jobs - and more growth. It is also a key to fighting poverty. Women, who make up three quarters of the work force in some developing economies, will be big beneficiaries. So will young people looking for their first job. The past year's diverse range of successful reformers -- from Serbia to Rwanda -- are showing the way forward. "We can all learn from their experience," said Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank Group.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
On this day:

B'ham leaders dispute "10th Most Dangerous" ranking

Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid described the survey as "unchecked propaganda."

Kincaid said figures from the Birmingham Police Department show the city had an across-the-board reduction in crime, including homicides, based on 2004 statistics. ...

Barry Copeland, executive vice president of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce...said he, too, is suspicious of the survey's methodology, which includes giving equal weight to the six basic crime categories reported: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor-vehicle theft.

While it's an overstatement to call this survey "unchecked propaganda," it is important to interpret the results properly.

First of all, the methodology used was objective and straightforward:

First, 2004 city and metro area crime rates per 100,000 population (the most recent comparable final numbers available, released by the FBI in October 2005) for six basic crime categories — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft — were plugged into a formula that measured how a particular city or metro area compared to the national average for a given crime category.

The outcome of this equation was then multiplied by a weight assigned to each of the six crime categories. Each of the six crimes was given equal weight. By weighting each crime equally, cities are compared based purely on their crime rates and how they stack up to the national average for a particular crime category. These weighted numbers then were added together for a city or metro area’s final score.

Finally, these scores were ranked from lowest to highest to determine which cities and metropolitan areas were safest and most dangerous.

Mayor Kincaid's contention that Birmingham's crime rate went down in 2004 certainly indicates progress, but it is irrelevant to what was actually measured; i.e., how each city's crime rate compares to the national average.

Nationwide, crime has declined substantially over the past decade or so. In Baltimore, for example, it is down 40% since 1999. Nonetheless, that city is still ranked as the 6th most dangerous in the country. Crime is down in Camden, New Jersey, as well, but it still earned the #1 ranking.

All of that illustrates the big problem with rankings like this. By only showing relative statistics, they obscure the underlying data, which may be more meaningful. In this case, we know that crime rates have improved in Birmingham and other cities on the "most dangerous" list in recent years, but that fact doesn't show up explicitly in the rankings. For example, an individual city may move up or down in rank from one year to the next, even if its own crime rate remains unchanged. Likewise, every city on the list could have better crime statistics than it had the previous year, while their placement in the overall rankings remains the same. In the end, somebody has to be "best" and someone else has to be "worst." Whether you're looking at college football polls or comparisons of poverty rates, rankings may be useful and interesting, but they never paint the complete picture. That seems pretty obvious, but it's a point that's often lost among the media and politicians.

Birmingham ranked tenth most dangerous city

The question for Birmingham city officials, of course, is why?

From CNN:
For the second year in a row this destitute city of Camden, New Jersey, has been named the nation's most dangerous, according to a company's annual ranking based on crime statistics. ...

The city took the top spot last year from Detroit, which remained No. 2 in the most dangerous city rankings, to be released Monday by Morgan Quitno Press.

The Lawrence, Kansas-based company publishes "City Crime Rankings," an annual reference book.

Listed as the most dangerous cities are: Camden, New Jersey; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Flint, Michigan; Richmond, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Gary, Indiana; Birmingham, Alabama.
The full list is here. The rankings measure how cities and metro areas compare to the national average in six crime categories - murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. Details of the methodology used can be found here.

Sign of a new cultural revolution?

Wonder if President Bush ran into these guys on his just-finished China trip.

Heightened security

Iain Murray posted this over in the Corner the other day...kinda funny:
The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They also have two higher levels: "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Alabama doubles number of state troopers trained to make immigration arrests

The 23 troopers who completed the training course at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston add to the 21 who have already graduated from that program. An April 2005 press release from Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Alabama) provides a few more details:
...under the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act any state or local law enforcement agency can request permission to enforce immigration law. In 2003, Alabama became one of three jurisdictions nationwide to enter into an agreement with the federal government to train selected state troopers. Twenty-one state troopers completed the five-week course. The training took place at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Calhoun County. ...

...the program is voluntary and applies only to border or coastal states like Alabama. Local police receive training that mirrors the immigration training that ICE agents receive and includes specific instruction that stresses immigration and nationality law, as well as cultural sensitivity and civil rights instruction. Local police may enforce immigration law in connection with people they encounter only while performing their normal duties.
Enlisting greater support from state and local authorities in the enforcement of immigration law is a positive development, but even their best efforts will be ineffective without a renewed commitment from the federal government. This particular program, for example, only addresses those illegals who are already here. It does nothing to control the flow of illegal aliens into the country. That problem will not subside until Congress and the President live up to their constitutional obligations and re-establish control over our southern border.

Sessions introduces leglislation to "fence off Mexico"

Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Mobile) has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to crack down on illegal immigration. His legislation includes a proposal to build a physical barrier stretching from California to Texas.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. government should build a 2,000-mile fence along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said Friday.

Sessions, a second-term Republican, introduced legislation to make it harder for people to enter the country without permission, and also make it easier to deport those already in.

The bill would grow the nation's entire immigration-related bureaucracy by adding border patrol agents, prosecutors, detention beds, judges, surveillance equipment and workplace investigators - all with an eye toward cracking down on undocumented immigrants. ...

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sessions, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Some sections of the bill are similar to one introduced earlier this month by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and they could wind up as companion bills.

There were about 10.3 million illegal aliens in the U.S. last year. An estimated 35,000 of those are here in Alabama.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
On this day:

Wal-Mart critics stand in the way of Gulf Coast recovery

Wal-Mart's key to recovery: "We can change on the fly."

The Wal-Mart in Waveland, Mississippi, is one of the few stores in that Katrina-ravaged town that have reopened.
WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) — No other Wal-Mart in the country looks like the store that reopened here more than two months after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped the town off the map.

Pallets of space heaters, box fans, mops and buckets are stacked on the cement floor. Behind insulated plywood walls, workers repair what used to be the food department.

Wal-Mart is one of a handful of retailers along the Gulf Coast that have tailored their inventory to meet the basic needs of its hurricane-weary customers, stocking its shelves with large quantities of hardware, appliances, no-frills clothes, dry food and other post-disaster products.

The new store in Waveland is a prototype for Wal-Mart, which had 120 stores in Louisiana and Mississippi that were closed by Katrina. Most reopened quickly, but seven stores remain closed. ...

Waveland's "Wal-Mart Express" is roughly one-third of the size of the original 205,800-square-foot "Supercenter." Parts of the old store that remain under construction are sealed off by dustproof walls.

Store manager Ray Cox said his inventory will change as residents go from cleaning up their homes to rebuilding them.

"It's quick, it's easy and we can change on the fly," he said.

While Wal-Mart leads, others stand in the way

Throughout this devastating hurricane season, Wal-Mart has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to adapt to new business conditions in order to ensure that its customers have the access to affordable goods that they have come to expect.

Meanwhile, the company's detractors have stepped up their campaign to prevent it from doing the work it does so well. Lately, Wal-Mart Watch has been keeping itself busy trafficking in stolen company documents and running ridiculous radio spots. They've even gone so far as to enlist preachers to deliver sermons on the evils of Wal-Mart.

One religious group that has been heavily involved in the anti-Wal-Mart silliness is the United Church of Christ. The UCC would do well to tread a little more lightly. For example, while it's nice that the UCC is working to raise $3 million for hurricane relief efforts, that is a paltry sum compared to what Wal-Mart is providing. The company's contributions to Katrina relief include $17 million in cash and $3 million in merchandise and in-kind donations.

Its critics need to face the facts. Wal-Mart has proven itself to be one of the nation's most effective disaster-relief organizations, and it has done more to alleviate poverty in America than most liberal do-gooders have ever dreamed of. If they are truly interested in "progress," they'd be better off going to work for Wal-Mart rather than subjecting it to a constant barrage of unfair criticism.

Football weekend

Y'all heard that Vandy beat Tennessee this weekend, right? 28-24. The first time Vanderbilt has won that matchup since 1982. As for that other game yesterday - well, we won't talk about that.

Friday, November 18, 2005
On this day:

Why such high unemployment rates among young blacks in America and young Muslims in France?

Thomas Sowell has the answer. (HT: Justin at Southern Appeal.)

The conservative debate over abortion rights and the Constitution

Conservative activism on the courts can be every bit as subversive of the constitutional order as liberal activism, as Judge Robert Bork ably points out in this exchange with Nathan Schlueter, which appeared in the January 2003 issue of First Things.

(Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg from the Corner.)

John McCain endorses George Wallace, Jr. for Lt. Gov

Arizona Senator John McCain will be in Alabama next week to help raise funds for George Wallace, Jr.'s campaign for Lieutenant Governor. According to an ad in yesterday's Huntsville Times, he will also be signing copies of his new book, Character is Destiny, on Monday, November 21 at the 1101-7 North Memorial Parkway Books-a-Million, beginning at 5:30 PM.

Thursday, November 17, 2005
On this day:

Democrat Sue Bell Cobb to challenge Nabers for Alabama Chief Justice

MONTGOMERY - Democrat Sue Bell Cobb, a judge on the state Court of Criminal Appeals, said Tuesday she will ask Alabamians to disregard party labels, examine her qualifications and elect her chief justice of the state Supreme Court next year.
It's no wonder that Judge Cobb is asking voters to disregard party labels. When it comes to electing appeals court judges, Democrats have not fared well in recent years. As recently as 1994, Democrats held every seat on the state Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals, and Court of Criminal Appeals. Today, Judge Cobb is the only one left.

In an interview last year, Judge Cobb attributed the Democratic losses to the Republican Party's superior public relations and fund-raising efforts.

"We've got to win the public relations war. The Republican Party, with their great resources, have convinced the people that to be a good judge you've got to be a Republican," [Cobb] said in an interview.

In 1994, business groups brought in presidential adviser Karl Rove, then a little-known Texas political consultant, to start changing the makeup of Alabama's appellate courts. Rove helped buzz words like "tort reform" and "activist judges" become part of Alabama's political jargon.

The change in Alabama's courts began slowly, with Perry Hooper Sr. getting elected chief justice after an election dispute that dragged on from 1994 through most of 1995.

More Republican victories came in 1996, and they've continued every election since then.

Cobb also criticized former Alabama Democratic Party chairman, Redding Pitt, for spending too much time in 2004 working on the Kerry campaign rather than devoting party resources to candidates for statewide office. She became one of the first elected Democrats (if not the first) to call for Pitt's replacement as party chair.
"What Democrats in Alabama need is a Democratic Party chairman who cares as much about electing Democrats on the state level as on the national level. . . . He was never here. All his time was spent working on the Kerry campaign," she said.
Unlike many of her fellow Democrats, Cobb seems to recognize that her party's perceived aversion to religion is one of its biggest problems, particularly in Alabama.
"Those other Democrats who truly care about Alabama have got to find a way to convince Alabamians that Republicans do not have a monopoly on faith. My Christian faith motivates me to do so much," she said.

While she is plainly a die-hard Democrat, Judge Cobb put partisanship aside to publicly endorse President Bush's nomination of former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Of Pryor's nomination, she said:

I write, not only as the only statewide Democrat to be elected in 2000, not only as a member of the Court which reviews the greatest portion of General Pryor's work, but also as a child advocate who has labored shoulder to shoulder with General Pryor in the political arena on behalf of Alabama's children. . . . Bill Pryor is an outstanding attorney general and is one of the most righteous elected officials in this state. He possesses two of the most important attributes of a judge: unquestionable integrity and a strong internal moral compass. . . . Bill Pryor is exceedingly bright, a lawyer's lawyer. He is as dedicated to the 'Rule of Law' as anyone I know. I have never known another attorney general who loved being the 'people's lawyer' more than Bill Pryor. Though we may disagree on an issue, I am always confident that the position is a product of complete intellectual honesty. He loves the mental challenge presented by a complex case, yet he never fails to remember that each case impacts people's lives.

And this...

"He does not go out and craft law....He wants law where you adhere to precedent because when it comes to the law, it's not politics," said Cobb, who's worked with and known Pryor since his days as an assistant state attorney general.Though Cobb admits there are issues on which she disagrees with Pryor, she maintains: "I am always confident that his position is the product of complete intellectual honesty."

Judge Cobb could be a very tough challenger for the Republican nominee, likely to be either Chief Justice Drayton Nabers or Associate Justice Tom Parker. Parker, who led the "Roy Moore slate" of court candidates in 2004, has not yet announced whether he will challenge Nabers in the Republican primary.

Cobb represents the best the Democrats have to offer. If someone like her can't win statewide against a lackluster candidate such as Nabers or Parker, it would mean disaster for the Alabama Democratic Party. Now, wouldn't that be fun to watch?

Judge Cobb's web site is here.

Fancy fiddles fixing to be featured at former fort

MCCLELLAN, Ala. (AP) — A 1936 brick building in McClellan's warehouse district will soon house Howard Core Company, one of the world's largest violin makers and wholesalers.

The company, which already has a space at a former parochial school in
downtown Anniston, purchased the building from McClellan's Joint Powers Authority for $200,000. The manufacturer will renovate the warehouse into a showcase for the violins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
On this day:

Alito is a conservative

The Birmingham News says, "Yikes! Hide the children."

Fight! Fight!

A fox versus an old red hen. I know who I'm betting on.

Sauerkraut and kimchi

Good thing I love 'em both.

Another disappointed reader

As much as I try, I can't please everyone. Like the guy who was directed to my site today after Googling the phrase "beer on boobs." He was directed to this post. Somehow, I don't think it was exactly what he had in mind.

Funny thing is...I'm ninth on the list.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
On this day:

Bear Hugs

The New Republic's Michael Lewis reviews The Last Coach: A Life of Paul "Bear" Bryant, by Allen Barra and Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania, by Warren St. John.

Preschool - the slippery slope?

"Absolute madness."

Turkey Day Greeting


Monday, November 14, 2005
On this day:

Nabers's book on character hits the shelves

Drayton Nabers, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has written a new book entitled The Case for Character: Looking at Character from a Biblical Perspective. Information about the book (and a link for purchasing) is available here.

The Montgomery Advertiser has a Q&A with Nabers here.

Poll: Large majority supports barrier along U.S.-Mexico border; plurality supports end to birthright citizenship

That's according to a recent Rasmussen poll.

You listening, Mr. President?

The "stupid states" of Bill Maher

What a classy guy.

Comedian Bill Maher, in his recently published book, New Rules, writes:

"The next reality show must be called America's Stupidest State. We'll start at 50, and each week, if your state does something really stupid with, say, evolution or images of the Virgin Mary, you'll move on to the next round. Of course, the final five will always end up being Alabama, Utah, Kansas, Texas and Florida. Sorry, Tennessee."

It's no wonder that Bill Maher likes "new rules." They have played an important role in his career, since under the "old rules," people called "comedians" were actually expected to practice "comedy."

Saturday, November 12, 2005
On this day:

Thomas at UA: The judiciary is being "held hostage" to the abortion issue

"I think we all should be honest with one another that the only issue, the central issue in all of this, is abortion. It's not the other things that people throw out," he said. "The whole judiciary now is being held, in a sense, hostage to that one issue."

That sums up why it's so important to get the issue of abortion out of the courts and back to the state legislatures where it belongs.

Friday, November 11, 2005
On this day:

Ancient church discovered in Israel may be world's oldest

The church could date as far back as the Third Century. It is located in the town of Megiddo, not far from the biblical site of Armageddon.

The Choice

The Choice

The American Spirit speaks:

To the Judge of Right and Wrong
With Whom fulfilment lies
Our purpose and our power belong,
Our faith and sacrifice.

Let Freedom's land rejoice!
Our ancient bonds are riven;
Once more to use the eternal choice
Of Good or Ill is given.

Not at a little cost,
Hardly by prayer or tears,
Shall we recover the road we lost
In the drugged and doubting years.

But, after the fires and the wrath,
But, after searching and pain,
His Mercy opens us a path
To live with ourselves again.

In the Gates of Death rejoice!
We see and hold the good—
Bear witness, Earth, we have made our choice
For Freedom's brotherhood!

Then praise the Lord Most High
Whose Strength hath saved us whole,
Who bade us choose that the Flesh should die
And not the living Soul!

To the God in Man displayed—
Where'er we see that Birth,
Be love and understanding paid
As never yet on earth!

To the Spirit that moves in Man,
On Whom all worlds depend,
Be Glory since our world began
And service to the end!

Rudyard Kipling (1917)

We Remember

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae (1915)

"Thank you, America"

From the Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan.

See GatewayPundit for the sure to click on the video link. More at The Other Iraq.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
On this day:

Meddling Mexico

America's illegal immigration problem isn't solely due to the widespread (and understandable) desire of Mexican workers to improve their families' lives by finding work north of the border. A big part of the problem stems from the policies of the Mexican government, as this article by Heather MacDonald (adapted from a piece that appeared in City Journal) points out.

Immigration in Alabama

The Birmingham News has a series of reports this week on the large-scale influx of Hispanics to Alabama in recent years.

Alabama Minutemen Support Team targets employers who hire illegal aliens

I don't care much for the tactics of the Alabama Minutemen, but the only way to ensure that such extreme measures do not gain broader acceptance is for the government to do its job of securing the nation's borders and curbing the flow of illegal immigrants. That's one reason why this effort by House Republicans is encouraging.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005
On this day:

Bama Pork

Senator Shelby sure knows how to bring home the bacon.

Here are some of the eyebrow-raising expenditures that Senator Shelby has managed to include in the 2006 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill:
$1 million to let state prisoners talk with their attorneys at the Jefferson County Criminal Justice Center by videoconference.
Ever heard of Yahoo Messenger? It's free.

$850,000 for the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Preserving our history is a very good thing, but if Alabama and other states don't start paying for stuff like this out of their own tax revenues, one thing's for certain - the federal budget deficit won't be a relic of history anytime soon.

$275,000 for the Huntsville-Madison County Botanical Garden.

Because money grows on trees, you know.

$3.5 million for Auburn University to develop high efficiency, free piston stirling converters.
You know, I've always wanted one of those...but I'd prefer mine to be built by the private sector.

$150,000 for the University of Alabama Cultural Development Program. The money will help expand the Zelpha-Wells music education programs for economically disadvantaged children.

$8 million for the continuing revitalization of downtown Tuscaloosa. The funding will go towards design, planning, and land acquisition.

$500,000 to help the city of Montgomery in revitalizing the riverwalk area of downtown.

Can you tell that Senator Shelby is from Tuscaloosa?

$5 million for planning, design and construction of a new science facility at Alabama State University.

$30 million for a state-of-the-art science and engineering complex at the University of Alabama.
Again, it's easy to tell that Senator Shelby is from Tuscaloosa. By the way, didn't they just build a state-of-the-art science and engineering facility at the University of Alabama? And didn't the federal government provide $30 million for it? And wasn't it named after Richard Shelby? And in honor of his profligate spending, didn't it come in at almost $20 million over cost?

$1 million for Gulf Shrimp Bycatch and Reduction Research to protect and maintain the red snapper fishery.

$1 million to research new, innovative ways to grow and strengthen the Gulf oyster industry.

$2.3 million for the Southern Shrimp Industry Alliance to conduct research, collect data and provide analyses to determine and document shrimp industry fishing efforts in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic.

$5 million for the Southern Shrimp Industry Alliance’s marketing campaign to conduct research and develop new products and improve quality assurance of domestic wild shrimp from several southern states including Alabama.

$6 million to establish a Center for Aquatic Resource Management at Auburn University.

$500,000 for Auburn University to develop an inland shrimp and saltwater fish industry in the Black Belt. The funds will be used to assist farmers with the necessary information to grow and market shrimp and other fish profitably using existing water sources in the Black Belt.

...because Alabamians love a good fishing story.

$350,000 for the Regional Center for Community and Economic Development at the University of West Alabama to provide an avenue for economic development and job growth throughout West Alabama and the Black Belt.

$500,000 for the Center for International Business and Economic Development at Troy University to enhance economic development in the wiregrass.

Can you say "duplication?" The already-existing and adequately-funded Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama "works to promote economic development through economic and demographic research for public and private sector organizations." Likewise with the Economic Development Institute at Auburn University. It was "created in 1988 and has established itself as one of Alabama's leading organizations for economic development education and professional development, research, and community assistance."

$ 1 million to the University of South Alabama for youth violence prevention research.

$950,000 to the West Alabama Youth Violence Initiative at the University of Alabama. The funds will to conduct a number of studies on youth violence intended to provide a better understanding of the programs and methods of prevention that are most effective.

For $2 million, you can buy several truckloads of canned whoopass.

$300,000 to the City of Orange Beach for an after school teen activity program.
Dude, they live on a friggin' BEACH.
$1 million for Mobile's Bring Back Broad Street initiative.
How about an initiative to bring back fiscal sanity?

$1 million for the Alabama Nature Center Interactive immersive-reality science laboratory, providing students with the opportunity to access large public domain databases such as the data from the Hubbell Space Telescope.

Look's free. Ahhh...the wonders of the internet age.
$300,000 to help with development of a light industrial mall in the City of Oneonta.

Industries build things and make money. Cities tax things and take money. They should get together sometime.

$1 million for the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center.

Let's see here. They charge admission. They have various levels of membership. They host birthday parties and camps. They rent out their (quite impressive) facilities. And, they have a gift shop. Sounds like they can pay their own way in the world. If not, I'm sure the City of Mobile would be eager to help out.

$100,000 for construction and equipping of a county animal shelter in Randolph County.

That reminds me...we should enact a leash law to restrain our free-spending Congresspersons.

$250,000 for the Alabama Writers Hall of Honor and conference center in Monroeville.

Wonder if they'll reserve a wall for bloggers?

(Primary sources for the above information are here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Entrepreneurial Alabama

Entrepreneur magazine has ranked Alabama as the fifth most entrepreneurial state in the nation. Birmingham and Mobile rank #3 and #5, respectively, among mid-size cities. Among small cities, Auburn-Opelika ranks #1, Huntsville #7, Dothan #17, Gadsden #21, Tuscaloosa #24, Anniston #25, Montgomery #27, Decatur #35, and Florence #75.

Jason lives

...and takes Mobile.

Clarence Thomas to speak at UA this Friday

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will deliver the sixth Albritton Lecture at The University of Alabama School of Law Friday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. Thomas will speak in room 287-288 of the Law School.

Riley in Washington: shares advice on disaster preparation

Gov. Bob Riley was in Washington today, where he won bipartisan praise for Alabama's handling of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. He also gave Congressmen some needed advice on the federal government's role in disaster preparation:
(AP)...Riley had plenty of advice on how to improve communication among the various levels of government. He said several FEMA regulations complicate effective preparation, which he says should be days ahead of a hurricane instead of hours ahead.

Rather than serving military-style meals ready to eat, he suggested using a portable generator to keep open one grocery store in a town, allowing evacuees to pick out their own food. That would buy the state a few days of time, he said, but isn't allowed by FEMA because the store is a private entity.

Riley also defended his state's decision to perform criminal background checks on adult evacuees housed temporarily at several state parks. FEMA advised the state not to do it, Riley said, but he rejected the advice. He said he believes two people with criminal backgrounds were identified and not allowed to stay at the park.

Riley said he disagreed with a proposal floated by the White House that would consider putting the National Guard under federal control and making the military first-responders to natural disasters.

"I think we've got one of the greatest presidents we've ever had, but he doesn't know Alabama the way I do," Riley said.

A toxic stew

According to this report, New Orleans may have to endure it again in a couple of years.

Alabama performing background checks on Katrina evacuees

Governor Riley puts public safety above political correctness.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley's administration has been running criminal background checks on Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in temporary housing in Alabama's 13 state parks, a move opposed by a federal Homeland Security official.

About 1,268 evacuees who fled Katrina in late August were still living in the park system this week.

"The governor made a decision that if evacuees were going to move into locations owned by the people of Alabama, then we had a right to know who the heck was going into our parks," Jim Walker, director of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, told the Mobile Register for a story Wednesday...

A federal official, Michael Waters, protective security adviser in the Birmingham district of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, had opposed the background checks.

"I recommended that we not attempt to do this at all," he wrote in a Sept. 7 e-mail obtained by the Register.

No background checks were required for Hurricane Ivan evacuees from Baldwin County, Waters said.

He described the background checks as "a potentially explosive issue given the existing race/class issues that have already been raised."


Cuba's communist government regularly refers to the U.S. embargo as "el bloqueo," or "the blockade." That terminology is objectionable for a couple of reasons. First of all, the term "embargo" more accurately describes the U.S. policy on trade with Cuba. Secondly, the use of the term "blockade" by the Cuban propaganda machine carries with it the clear implication that the U.S. policy towards Cuba is a coercive "act of war" that violates international law.

Here's the reason I'm bringing up this subject - just more evidence of where the New York Times' sympathies lie.

Should be a short trip

Is it "undiplomatic" to tell the truth about the source of Zimbabwe's economic problems? Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe seems to think so. U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell has stepped up his criticism of Mugabe's regime in recent weeks. Today, Mugabe said, "Mr. Dell, go to hell."

Roy Moore, Boy Scouts, the Constitution, and doughnuts

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Foundation for Moral Law have filed a friend-of-the-court brief (available online here) arguing that a federal statute allowing the military to help the Boy Scouts of America hold a National Jamboree every four years does not violate the First Amendment's establishment clause. The case is Winkler v. Rumsfeld.

From the Foundation for Moral Law's web site:

On November 7, 2005, former Chief Justice Roy Moore and the Foundation for Moral Law filed an amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court”) brief in Winkler v. Rumsfeld before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that a congressional statute that authorizes the U.S. Military to help the Boy Scouts of America conduct a National Jamboree every four years does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. (read/print brief here) The ACLU sued the military, and a federal district court incredibly ruled in the ACLU’s favor. The ACLU objects to the Boy Scout oath which acknowledges a duty to God.

Judge Moore recently observed, “the Winkler case demonstrates just how far the ACLU and other liberal organizations will go to remove any public recognition of God who has so blessed our Nation.” ...

In the legal brief, Judge Moore and the Foundation urged the court to halt the use of various judicial tests that have yielded ridiculous results in many cases regarding our recognition of God. Judge Moore encouraged the court to return rulings based on the words of the First Amendment. When the statute is compared to those words, it becomes obvious that acknowledging God is not a law “respecting an establishment of religion.” In authorizing support for the Boy Scouts, the statute does not favor any particular religion because the Boy Scouts is not a religious organization. Moreover, the statute does not “establish” a national religion of any kind because it does not force anyone to believe in a particular religion.
Roy Moore is exactly right. The First Amendment's establishment clause states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Moore argues 1) that establishment-clause cases should be decided based on the text of the First Amendment rather than on "judically-fabricated tests" like the so-called Lemon test; 2) that the Boy Scouts is not a religion; and 3) that even if it were, the law providing for support of the Boy Scout Jamboree does not "create, involve, or concern" an establishment of religion.

That's all pretty straight-forward and right out of the originalist playbook. A more interesting question, though, is not whether federal support for the Boy Scout Jamboree and similar activities is prohibited by the Constitution, but whether it is authorized.

The powers of Congress are listed in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. If you ever want to know whether the Congress has the power to do something, then you should read that section for yourself. (No law degree is required, by the way.)

A quick reading of Article I Section 8 raises the following questions: Does Congress have the power to provide support for Boy Scout Jamborees? Is Congressional funding for that activity "necessary and proper" to the execution of its delegated powers? Is it appropriate for private charities to view Congress as their donor of last resort?

More specifically: Is providing support to the Boy Scouts necessary and proper for regulating of interstate commerce? For raising and supporting armies? For providing for and maintaining a navy? For calling forth, organizing, arming, disciplining, or governing the militia?

I think that the answer to each of those questions is "no." The Boy Scouts is a wonderful organization with an admirable mission, but they should seek funding and support from someone other than the federal taxpayer. If they want money for their Jamboree, then let them sell doughnuts. The country could use a few more young capitalists.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
On this day:


France, at this moment in history, strikes me as a nation that is not overly concerned with it.

Riley among top 10 imperiled Governors

From the Mobile Register:
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has returned to the Top 10 in a national ranking of imperiled governors. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, moved him to the No. 8 spot after former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced he would challenge Riley in the GOP primary.

Rankings are updated quarterly, and Riley had been unranked the previous quarter. Back in the spring he was No. 4 because of his failed billion-dollar tax plan.

The rankings are based on the likelihood of a partisan turnover in each state's governor's office. It should be noted, however, that the most recent results were released before former Gov. Don Siegelman, a candidate in next year's Democratic gubernatorial primary, was indicted.

Poll: plurality of Alabamians say Siegelman should withdraw from Governor's race

Also: 45% of respondents say they have an unfavorable opinion of Siegelman; 42% say their opinion is favorable.

Monday, November 07, 2005
On this day:

Birmingham News has a "change of mind and heart" on the death penalty

The News is explaining its new position in a series of five editorials that began Sunday. The first two installments are here and here.

From Sunday:

Why? Because we have come to believe Alabama's capital punishment system is broken. And because, first and foremost, this newspaper's editorial board is committed to a culture of life.

Put simply, supporting the death penalty is inconsistent with our convictions about the value of life, convictions that are evident in our editorial positions opposing abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia. We believe all life is sacred. And in embracing a culture of life, we cannot make distinctions between those we deem "innocents" and those flawed humans who populate Death Row.

Faith tells us we all are imperfect, but we're not beyond redemption. We believe it's up to God to say when a life has no more purpose on this Earth.

We are not turning soft on crime. Remember, the alternative to the death penalty is not leaving predators free to kill again. The alternative to execution is life in prison without any chance, ever, for parole. That is enough to protect the public.

The problem with the News' "culture of life" argument, as it relates to the death penalty, is that a civilized society can and must make distinctions between "innocents" and those who commit the most heinous crimes. There are certain crimes that are so depraved, so fundamentally at odds with the norms of civilized behavior, and so subversive of liberty that the only suitable punishment is death. There is no contradiction in holding that "all life is sacred" while also believing that a free society should retain the death penalty as a means for its own preservation. We shouldn't take pleasure in administering the death penalty, but it seems to me that we shouldn't recoil from it when it is necessary, either.

The News says that its recommended alternative to the death penalty, life without parole, would be "enough to protect the public," but I would question their premise. The punishment of criminal acts isn't just about "protecting the public." Equally important is the enforcement of public morality through retribution that is commensurate to the crime. Abolishing the death penalty would undermine that legitimate state function by depriving it of a principal instrument of deterrence and punishment. Maybe that's not "soft on crime," but it's certainly soft on criminals.

How'd you like to have some of these jobs on your resume?

Popular Science has listed the 10 worst jobs in science.

Friday, November 04, 2005
On this day:

A great day in American history

Ronald Reagan won his bid for the presidency 25 years ago today. By the time the night was over, he had secured 489 electoral votes, representing 44 states, to Jimmy Carter's 49, representing 6 states and the District of Columbia.

I wasn't too "in-tune" with politics at the time, seeing as how I was only 7 years old, but I distinctly remember one of my teachers taking a show of hands in class one day to see how we would vote if we were allowed to. I raised my hand in favor of Jimmy Carter.

That was the first and last time I endorsed a Democrat for President.

Thursday, November 03, 2005
On this day:

Alabama's desegregation lawsuit

It's 24 years old, and it's probably going back to court.

The case has seen three trials and two major orders from [U.S. District Court Judge Harold] Murphy totaling about 1,300 pages. The state has appropriated more than $180 million to carry out Murphy's orders. Most of the money has gone to Alabama A&M and ASU for such uses as diversity scholarships, physical facilities and multimillion-dollar endowments to support various academic activities and to set up courses that Murphy's orders have enabled them to establish...

For months, the parties to the case have been trying to negotiate a transitional agreement to end it...

[Attorney Robert] Hunter [(who represents the state)] said a big sticking point in the negotiations was a proposal for need-based scholarships to help low- to moderate income students meet the growing cost of higher education...

While differences over a need-based scholarship program kept the parties from reaching agreement on ending the case, another issue likely to come to trial is the plaintiffs' desire for some of the historically white institutions to boost their numbers of black faculty and administrators. [Jim] Blacksher [(who filed the suit that started the case in 1981)] said the plaintiffs want the schools to develop "diversity plans with goals and timetables."

Now that's an interesting concept of "desegregation." Establish "diversity plans with goals and timetables," i.e. quotas and racial preferences, while leaving the current structure intact. No consolidation. No merging of administrations or departments. Just more money for everybody.

The sad thing here is that no party to this never-ending lawsuit is willing to do what it takes in order to truly eliminate the vestiges of segregation in Alabama's higher ed system. Doing that would require either shutting down some schools, consolidating them in some manner, or privatizing them. Unfortunately, the old guard in Alabama - principally those who want to ensure that historically-black institutions remain that way - will have none of that, and the ever-present reminders of Jim Crow will be with us long after they depart from the scene.

Robert Bork on Alito and Roe v. Wade

Writing for National Review Online today, Robert Bork made the case for why conservatives should support the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. While admitting that he does not know whether Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Bork argues convincingly that he should:
...overturning Roe v. Wade should be the sine qua non of a respectable jurisprudence. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will hear a lot about stability in the law, the virtues of stare decisis, and the reliance many women have placed on that decision. The obtrusive fact is that constitutional law has never been stable. Precedent counts for less in constitutional law than elsewhere for the very good reason that the legislature can correct the Court’s mistake in interpreting a statute, but the Court is final when it invokes the Constitution and only the Court can correct its own mistakes. For that reason, many justices have made the point that what controls is the Constitution itself, not what the Court has said about it in the past. Cases like Roe, that some will claim must not be disturbed, were themselves repudiations of prior understandings of the Constitution.

If judgments about the prudence of overruling are invoked, the justices should take note of the fact that Roe lies at the center of the bitter polarization of much of American society. In countries where the issue is decided democratically, no such intense animus exists. Compromises are worked out and each side knows that it is free to continue the public debate in hope of doing better next time. That was, and would be again, the case in America if the subject of abortion were returned to state legislatures and electorates. Overruling Roe would not, as some Democrats will claim, make abortion illegal, but merely the subject of democratic regulation. We have paid a high price for a ruling that rests upon nothing in the Constitution and was arrived at in an opinion of just over 51 pages that contains not a line of legal reasoning.

Building a better bra

If this titillating new research pans out, someone's certain to rack up bodacious mounds of money.

Any grief I get for posting this joke will be well-deserved

But, here goes, anyway:
A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack. "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."

Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager. Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.

The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed. Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.

She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000, and he wants to use this as collateral." She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?"

The bank manager looks back at her and says...

"It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Trading with Fidel

Alabama agricultural commissioner Ron Sparks has been in Havana this week for the International Fair of Havana, where he has signed deals "to sell $19 million worth of chicken, minced meat and wooden utility poles to the Cuban government."

Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not. Whether and how much to trade with Castro's communist government is a complicated issue that raises lots of tough questions. For instance, does the increased trade serve to make things better for the people of Cuba or does it merely prop up the brutal dictatorship of Fidel Castro? I wonder how often Ron Sparks and others who support trade with Cuba have asked themselves that question.

If he gets some free time while he's in Havana, Mr. Sparks might consider meeting with Cubas "Ladies in White," who just last week were awarded the EU's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought. That would certainly offend Fidel Castro, but it would demonstrate that Alabamians' willingness to trade with Cuba is tempered by their moral outrage over the brutal treatment of Cuban dissidents. It appears, though, that Mr. Sparks' singular purpose on this trip is to bring money back home to Alabama; and as has been the case so often - Cuba's dissidents are merely an unwelcome distraction.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
On this day:

While we're on the subject

A Troy University student is suing in federal court because the University refused to display his nudie pics.

(More here.)

Beer and boobs

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board says you can't have both - at least not in a bar.

Sessions meets with Alito

...says he will support the "nuclear option" if Democrats decide to filibuster.

Hugo and Halloween

Venezuelan dictator wanna-be Hugo Chavez should give this Halloween thing a chance. I mean, it's not like he needs to buy a costume.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005
On this day:

Civilization IV

It's out...and I so don't need to buy it. I have Civ I and II, and every time I start a game, I end up going without food, water, and sleep for hours on end...until I finally get frustrated and irritable enough to nuke all my rivals. looks like Best Buy has it, and there's a Best Buy really, really close. Not gonna do it, though. Not gonna yield to the temptation. Nothing good could come of it...but, then again, not much bad could come from it, either. I mean - I have been trying to lose a few pounds, and last time I played, I didn't eat for three days. Just kidding...I'm not an addict...I can stop at any time. Really.

Words of wisdom on the drug war

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Jim Hill has it about right, in my opinion:
"According to the prison commissioner, 80 percent of our folks in jail or prison are illiterate or have a drug problem, and I think we need to start looking at who we want in prison," said Hill, who was a district court judge for 10 years before being elected last year to the 30th Circuit. "I'm personally in favor of us greatly expanding our community corrections programs and looking at these folks who are basically drug addicts and dealing with them in a community setting where we can stress education and sobriety and holding them accountable, but at the same time leaving our prisons for people who are genuinely a danger to society."
I don't know anything about Judge Hill's politics, but what he is advocating in this instance is rational, compassionate, and conservative. I just hope that Alabama's drug warriors see it the same way.

Governor's task force suggests making marijuana possession a misdemeanor

Governor Riley's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding has recommended reducing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor.

A first offense is a misdemeanor now, but a second is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Current law sends nearly 500 people to prison each year...

"Alabama ranks with only four other states ... that authorize up to 10 years of incarceration as punishment for possession of 2.2 pounds or less of marijuana," the commission pointed out in its 2005 report.
This comes on top of a report commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance that reveals just how much prison space is taken up by those convicted of drug-related offenses.

According to the AP:
The report points out that drug-related offenses made up 3,202, or 31 percent, of the 10,267 prison admissions in 2004 — nearly twice the number of robbery, murder, rape and manslaughter entries combined, based on figures by the Alabama Sentencing Commission.

The researchers say three out of 10 inmates have received an enhanced sentence under the state's habitual offender law and 1,325 of the 8,259 habitual offenders are drug convicts.
It's time for Alabama to correct the excesses of the drug war. As a first step, it should reconsider how it treats those who are convicted for minor drug offenses such as marijuana possession. It is senseless and immoral to sentence people to long prison terms for using and/or abusing drugs and alcohol. Fine them and send them to rehab, but quit filling up our prisons with a bunch of nonviolent potheads.

Correction: Governor Riley's Task Force on Prison Overcrowding did not recommend reducing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor. That was a suggestion of two of its members. Thanks to commenter Tim for pointing that out.

Shelby and Sessions offer praise for Alito

As they should.

Did you know that if Judge Alito is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have a Catholic majority? (I think for the first time in its history.)

Benedict Blog spells out just what that means:

10) Meat-less Fridays all year round in the Supreme Court cafeteria;

9) Oral arguments in Latin;

8) The bones of Chief Justice Marshall will be disinterred and placed in a glass coffin in the center of the Supreme Court bench;

7) Collections between each session of oral argument;

6) Supreme Court windows replaced with stained glass;

5) On close votes, the Justices will consult a statue of St. Thomas More. If the statue weeps, they affirm; if no tears, then they reverse.

4) Incense at the start of each session;

3) Supreme Court opinions will be deemed infallible and unreviewable by any earthly authority [Ed. - Sorry - that does not appear to be a change at all]

2) Catechism of the Catholic Church will now be "persuasive authority";

And, the number one change which a Catholic majority would make to the Supreme Court . . .

1) Wednesday night bingo!