Tuesday, January 31, 2006
On this day:

Black caucus begins filibuster on deadly force bill

If there is any bill facing the legislature this session that deserves thorough and exhaustive debate, the deadly force bill is it. Along those lines, I think that the black caucus's filibuster is probably a good thing. However, injecting race into the debate is unnecessary and distracting. There are more important issues here. This bill would expand the circumstances under which homicide is legally permissible; that's seems to me to be a pretty big deal, involving principles of justice that transcend race and class.

Good idea or bad? Debate away. Just don't break anything.

Justice Alito

The U.S. Senate voted today 58-42 to confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Alabama Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions both voted in favor of Alito's confirmation.

Senator Sessions, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who questioned Alito during his confirmation hearing, released the following statement after the vote:

“Samuel Alito is exactly the type of person that President Bush promised to nominate to the Supreme Court, and I am pleased that he was confirmed today by the United States Senate and sworn in as the nation’s 110th Supreme Court Justice. Justice Alito is the epitome of a restrained jurist, one whose decisions are based on the Constitution, and not what he wants the Constitution to say. Justice Alito had the highest possible rating by the American Bar Association, and his colleagues on the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously held him in the highest regard. Thus it was unfortunate that so many senators voted against the nomination. Justice Alito should have gotten a far higher tally, but the Democratic leader had made it a partisan issue and urged his colleagues to vote no. I think the American people will see through this, however, and know that we confirmed a man of the highest credentials, caliber and integrity.”

Senator Shelby also issued a statement in response to Alito's confirmation:
“I am proud to join so many of my colleagues in support of Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Alito’s education, legal training, and judicial experience make him a great choice for the high court. He is a fair and impartial jurist, and I am confident that he will be an excellent addition to the United States Supreme Court."

Coretta Scott King, RIP

Born in the rural Perry County, Alabama community of Heiberger (near Marion), Mrs. King resided in Montgomery from 1954 to 1960 while her husband was pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Today's Montgomery Advertiser obit is here. The Advertiser also has the following reports (registration may be required):

Selma remembers
Montgomery mourns
Monday marked 50th anniversary of King home bombing

Alabama Governor Bob Riley issued this statement today on King's death:
MONTGOMERY -- “I was saddened this morning to learn of the death of Coretta Scott King. She was forced to endure her personal tragedy in full view of the world and she did so with quiet dignity and grace. She will always be remembered for the strength and courage she showed in devoting her life to carrying out the work of her husband and her commitment to her family. Patsy joins me in sending our deepest sympathy to her family, her friends and her many admirers in Alabama, the nation and around the world.”

Deadly force bill to be considered in House next week

The Alabama legislature is considering a bill, modeled after Florida's recently-passed "Stand Your Ground" law, which would "expand the circumstances under which a person could use deadly force in self-defense or defense of other persons."

I am an NRA member and a gun owner, and I think that people should be entitled to defend themselves and to "stand their ground" without fear of prosecution. However, it seems that there some very legitimate questions and concerns about this bill that need to be addressed. For instance, it says that:

"A person may use deadly physical force, and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another person if the person reasonably believes that another person is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle...and provided that the person using the deadly physical force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring or has occurred."
It goes on to say that:

"A person is not required to retreat if he or she is defending against an unlawful and forcible entry or an unlawful and forcible act...[as stated in the paragraph above.]"

Lots of hypothetical situations could come out of that, huh? Some of them are pretty plausible, too.

So, how far do we want to go, and does this bill go too far? Relaxing the rules under which homicide is justified is not a routine matter; it is a decision that should be made cautiously and deliberately. That pressing need for thoughtful deliberation makes it all the more unfortunate that the issue of race has entered into the picture as an unnecessary and irrelevant distraction. Although several members of the House black caucus support the proposal, others have threatened a filibuster because they say that it would victimize minorities.

I don't know enough to say whether this bill is a good idea or not, but if there's one fundamental principle upon which conservatives can agree, it is this: to do no harm. If legislators can't convince themselves that the deadly force bill measures up to that simple rule, they should save it for another day.

Monday, January 30, 2006
On this day:

Riley announces opposition to hate crimes expansion


"I can't think of anything that if it were a hate crime would not be a crime on the books today," Riley said. "If you kill someone for whatever reason, I think it should be covered in the same way."

We should still repeal the hate crimes law, but...

Alabama's existing hate crimes law may not be as strict as that of Wisconsin; unlike Wisconsin's law, Alabama's does not elevate misdemeanor offenses to felonies. Here's what the Alabama law says:

On conviction of a misdemeanor which was found beyond a reasonable doubt to have been motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability, the defendant shall be sentenced for a Class A misdemeanor, except that the defendant shall be sentenced to a minimum of three months. (Alabama Code Section 13A-5-13)
In Alabama, there are three classes of misdemeanors - Class A, Class B, and Class C. They carry maximum jail terms of one year, six months, and three months, respectively. A misdemeanor that is determined to be a hate crime is punished as a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of one year; the only exception for hate crimes is that there is also a minimum sentence of three months. The bill being considered by the legislature would not change any of that.

Immature prank or hate crime?

An Auburn University freshman has been charged under Wisconsin's hate crimes statute for harassing a gay student while he visited friends at the University of Wisconsin recently. From the Chicago Tribune:
Four suburban [Chicago] teenagers [including one who now attends Auburn University] have been charged with felony hate crimes, accused of shouting slurs at a gay University of Wisconsin-Madison student and vandalizing his property, authorities said Monday.

No one was injured in the early morning altercation in Ogg Residence Hall on Dec. 21, and property damage was limited to torn photographs and posters promoting a campus center for lesbians, gays and others.

But the nature of the attack and the fact that it was directed at a student based on his sexual orientation prompted Dane County, Wis., prosecutors to elevate misdemeanor disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property charges to felony hate crimes. ...

The men are accused of gathering outside the dorm room of a male student who is one of two gay and lesbian liaisons for the university's housing system and shouting anti-gay slurs and expletives.

Someone also tore down photographs of homosexual couples and posters promoting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Campus Center that were outside the room. Someone also spat on his door and wrote an anti-gay statement in marker on a bulletin board outside the room.

This January 19 report from University of Wisconsin's campus newspaper has more details:
According to the criminal complaint, the alleged victim said he was sleeping in his dorm room at around 2:30 a.m. Dec. 21 when he was awoken by male voices yelling, “All f*ggots should die! I hate f*cking f*ggots!”

The alleged victim then reportedly heard a male voice say “Oh, who wrote that?” followed by another voice saying “I wrote that.”

The complaint then states the alleged victim said he opened the door to find saliva dripping down his door. His bulletin board, which LGBT posters had been ripped off of, now reportedly read, “I hate f*cking f*ggots! Die.”
University of Wisconsin Interim Provost Virginia Sapiro was quick to condemn the crime, stating that "The University of Wisconsin - Madison is a place for people of all social, political, and religious beliefs, but aggressive and violent behavior towards others will not be tolerated." She also reminded students that "UW-Madison offers a range of resources and educational programming for members of the campus community interested in learning more about LGBT issues."

All four suspects are charged with criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct. Under Wisconsin's hate crimes statute, the destruction of property charge (at least) will be boosted from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Look, I think we can all agree that these guys should be punished in some way for what they did, but let's review: four young college men got drunk, shouted epithets, tore down signs, and spat on a door. To elevate this type of behavior to felony status - based solely on the group identity of the victim - is not only unjust; it is absurd. It penalizes the offenders for their thoughts and prejudices, instead of their actions, and it trivializes those crimes which should be felonies.

Next week, the Alabama legislature will consider whether to expand the state's hate crimes law to cover crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation. This case should help illustrate that what is needed is not the expansion of Alabama's hate crimes law, but its repeal.


I've always heard that George Wallace actually said it a bit differently.

VP Cheney

He'll be just down the road in Priceville on Feb. 6.

Three tax plans

This session, Alabama legislators will choose from among at least three different tax reform plans. One was proposed by Gov. Riley; the other two are sponsored by Rep. John Knight and Sen. Roger Bedford, respectively. Both Knight and Bedford are Democrats.

The difference between the three plans? Gov. Riley's is the only one that would cut income taxes for everyone who pays them. Both of the Democratic proposals would raise taxes on a large number of taxpayers by eliminating the state deduction for federal income taxes.

Interestingly, Knight's bill would also index the income tax threshold to inflation - a sensible provision that I'm surprised didn't make it into the Governor's bill.

Chop off their bits

Washington State passed an anti-spyware law last year, and now its Attorney General is pursuing one of the first spyware lawsuits in the nation. Sounds like a good example for Alabama to follow.


If you're Euro or Afro, it would be a good bet
That that stuff in your ears is gonna be wet.

But, if, perchance, you hail from Asia
Here's some news that's bound to amaze ya:

For years, the world wondered why your earwax was dry;
Now science has answered the who, what, and why.

It involves genetics, though some may regret it
For your earwax, it seems, has a definite link
To how much (or how little) your body does stink.

Sunday, January 29, 2006
On this day:

Wilson Pickett (1941-2006)

Pickett, who was born and raised in Prattville, Alabama, died Thursday. He is known for such R&B hits as "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour." Many of his greatest hits, including "Mustang Sally" and "Land of 1000 Dances," were recorded in Muscle Shoals. In a 1999 interview with the Times-Daily, Pickett said, "Once I hit Muscle Shoals and hooked up with Rick [Hall] and his guys, we were smoking...We made some funky music. Those were great records."

Pickett was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1999.


Saturday, January 28, 2006
On this day:

20 years ago

Man will continue his conquest of space. To reach out for new goals and ever greater achievements—that is the way we shall commemorate our seven Challenger heroes.

Dick, Mike, Judy, El, Ron, Greg and Christa—your families and
your country mourn your passing. We bid you goodbye. We will never forget you. For those who knew you well and loved you, the pain will be deep and enduring. A nation, too, will long feel the loss of her seven sons and daughters, her seven good friends. We can find consolation only in faith, for we know in our hearts that you who flew so high and so proud now make your home beyond the stars, safe in God's promise of eternal life.

May God bless you all and give you comfort in this difficult time.

- President Ronald Reagan, in his eulogy for the Challenger astronauts, January 31, 1986.

Two Chinese boys

They say, "We're two boys, and... erh... Chinese." You may have seen them in this video before. If you haven't, you need to. They're good for a laugh or two.

Anyway...they've posted a gallery of some of their greatest (?) hits here.

The "Year of Outdoor Alabama"

A new web site is devoted to promoting Alabama's outdoor recreational opportunities. It has a brochure (in PDF format) and searchable list of Alabama's "Top 100 Outdoor Adventures" here. Just hit the "search" button without selecting a county or region if you want to see them all. If you're looking for more, see the Outdoor Alabama web site. Lots of good stuff.

(Also see a related B'ham News report here.)

What to do about Don?

Siegelman's upcoming trial, particularly its close proximity to the June primary, is putting Democratic party leaders in a tough position.

Next step in Siegelman's strategy

It sounds like Siegelman has been taking advice from his alleged co-conspirator Richard Scrushy. Next on the agenda: start attending Sunday morning services at black churches, and while you're there, pay off a preacher or two to say nice things about you.

Siegelman plays the race card

Don Siegelman's trial on federal racketeering charges isn't set to begin until May 1, but the former Governor looked into his crystal ball last week and determined that the jury selection process will be tainted.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman has joined former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in asking a judge to throw out their federal indictment because blacks are underrepresented in the jury selection process for the federal courts in Montgomery.

Scrushy's lawyers filed his challenge Tuesday and Siegelman's attorneys added his nearly identical challenge Friday.

They argue that the population making up the 23 counties in the court district is 30 percent black, but pools of jurors called for cases in the district last year ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent black.

Siegelman and Scrushy, who are white, asked that their indictment be thrown out or that the selection of the jury for their trial be postponed until the process for developing pools of jurors is changed.

U.S. Magistrate Charles Coody has set a hearing for Feb. 2.

Federal prosecutor Louis Franklin said the jury selection procedure had been approved by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and he is not concerned about the challenge.

Friday, January 27, 2006
On this day:

Yes, I'm here

Just got back from Orlando (business trip) yesterday...will post more later.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
On this day:

Hate crimes

Last week, Alabama's House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would impose harsher-than-normal penalties on those who commit crimes based on the victim's sexual orientation. The proposal would add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes that fall under the state's hate crimes statute. Currently, that list includes race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, and physical or mental disability.

The committee approved the bill on a voice vote, so there is no official record of how any individual member voted. However, the AP report linked above mentions that the vote was "sharply divided" along party lines, with Democrats generally in favor, and Republicans opposed.

I'd love to say what I think about this bill, but it looks like the Mobile Register's editorial board has saved me the effort.

Mobile Register: Keg-banning bill "more froth than substance"

Plus, it would be bad for the environment. Hehe.
If anybody really thinks the "no keg" bill will put a serious blockade against teen drinking, they just don't understand teenagers. There are excellent reasons, of course, to discourage and penalize teen drinking, but this idea seems unlikely to be effective.

Not only that, but there may be bad environmental consequences from this bill: Keg beer can be poured into washable, reusable cups, but the alternatives to keg beer are glass bottles and aluminum cans that end up increasing the volume of garbage.
(Earlier posts on the proposed keg ban are here, here, here, and here.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
On this day:

Beer wholesalers oppose "reasonable alternative" to keg ban

One state legislator is proposing a statewide keg registration system to keep track of keg purchases, but the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association remains dead set on an outright ban on keg sales to individuals.

(Mobile Register) MONTGOMERY -- State Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile, said she is ready once again to propose a statewide beer keg registration system that would create a record of each purchase, giving law enforcement officials a paper trail back to those who provide kegs at under-21 parties.

Ison said she's responding to criticism she has heard in recent days over a near-ban on private keg parties that has already cleared the Alabama Senate. She said she wants a "reasonable alternative" to that bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. ...

Under Ison's bill, a keg buyer would be required to fill out a purchase form containing an identification number on the keg. The ABC Board would work with retailers to coordinate the record-keeping. Ison has already won passage of a local bill creating such a system in Mobile County, but she has been unsuccessful in her efforts for a statewide system. ...

Ison said she's heard complaints from consumers, ranging from members of Mardi Gras mystic societies to the owners of "kegerators," refrigerators, equipped with a tap, to house kegs in private residences. Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, has also expressed skepticism on behalf of fraternities and sororities and other groups that hold alumni functions.

Finally, we come to the real reason why the beer wholesalers are fighting so hard for a ban:

Consumers also stand to be hit hardest economically should an outright ban pass, because the price by volume is lower the larger the container. Retailers also prefer to sell kegs or draft servings from kegs, because their profit by volume is greater than on containers. Manufacturers and wholesalers' profits, meanwhile, are generally expected to be greater selling smaller containers than kegs.
(Earlier posts on the proposed keg ban are here, here, and here.)

Shelby: Science and engineering programs need more money

Maybe so, Senator, but the people and the Constitution would be better served if you and the rest of the Honorables would engineer a way to make the federal budget add up. I just read your job description, and educating young 'uns ain't part of it.

Quote for a Coke

King James or NIV?

Alabama NOW organizes to fight protections for pregnant mothers and unborn children

In his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Riley called on the legislature to pass a law protecting unborn children from violence, noting that "32 states have laws recognizing that the murder or assault of an unborn child is a crime, but Alabama does not." Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives responded to the Governor's call by passing HB19, which would broaden the definition of the word "person," when used in reference to the victim of a criminal homicide or assault, to include an unborn child. The vote was 97-0.

Although the bill explicitly states that "nothing in this act shall make it a crime to perform or obtain an abortion that is otherwise legal," some abortion-rights supporters still manage to find it "offensive":
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Proposed legislation to make it a crime to murder or assault an unborn child in Alabama is "offensive" and merely the latest ploy to overturn the court ruling protecting a woman's right to an abortion, the leader of a revived women's group at the capital said Thursday.

Cheryl Sabel was flanked by women holding signs reading "Stop Racism Now," "Keep Abortion Legal," and "Alito — No Justice for Women," as she announced the reorganization of the Montgomery Chapter of the National Organization for Women. ...

"It would merely be a stepping stone for them to talk about the unborn child, which is a fetus," Sabel said of the legislation. "Again, it's another attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade and that's how people are chipping away at our rights."
The only people whose "rights" are endangered by this bill are those who would assault or murder a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Apparently, that matters little to the pro-abortion extremists in NOW; to them, the only thing that is unassailable is the precious "right to choose." Their guiding principle is clear: any law recognizing the humanity or personhood of the unborn is an assault on the sacred and inviolable right to abortion - to be opposed at all costs - even if it means that violent thugs are allowed to unleash their aggression on would-be mothers and their unborn children with impunity.

Pardon my French, but what kind of f***'ed-up notion of "choice" is that?

Good news from Canada

The Conservatives won today's election. Stephen Harper will replace Liberal Paul Martin as Prime Minister.

A new addiction

I should have known better. My friends warned me against it. I've read many times recently that once you start, it's almost impossible to quit. There was even a warning on the package. But, did I listen? No. I went out and bought a Sudoku book anyway.

Monday, January 23, 2006
On this day:

Take the semester off. Play poker. Win $205,000.

That's what Shannon Shorr, a 20-year-old civil engineering student at the University of Alabama, did last week, when he came in fourth in the Aussie Millions No-Limit Texas Hold-Em Tournament.

Two trains

Two trains are traveling east through Alabama on their way to Atlanta. The first train, which is 8,277 feet long, pulls off onto a side track and stops in order to allow the second to pass by. The side track on which it parks is 8,780 feet long. The second train, which is 4,580 feet long, is traveling at 53 mph. At 4:22 PM, it collides with the first due to a misaligned switch on the track.

Q: How long take for the Anniston (Red) Star to blame the incident on President Bush?

A: See here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006
On this day:

States I've visited

I must be really bored. You can create your own visited states map here. (H/T: Gut Rumbles.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006
On this day:

It's still morning in America

Let's not forget...the economic policies that President Reagan helped put into place continue to fuel our prosperity even today. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized (Hat tip: Michael at Southern Appeal):
Twenty-five years ago today, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States promising less intrusive government, lower tax rates and victory over communism. On that same day, the American hostages in Iran were freed after 444 days of captivity. If the story of history is one long and arduous march toward freedom, this was a momentous day well worth commemorating.

All the more so because over this 25-year period prosperity has been the rule, not the exception, for America--in stark contrast to the stagflationary 1970s. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the success of Reaganomics is that, over the course of the past 276 months, the U.S. economy has been in recession for only 15. That is to say, 94% of the time the U.S. economy has been creating jobs (43 million in all) and wealth ($30 trillion). More wealth has been created in the U.S. in the last quarter-century than in the previous 200 years. The policy lessons of this supply-side prosperity need to be constantly relearned, lest we return to the errors that produced the 1970s.

Friday, January 20, 2006
On this day:

The fog lifts

Stephen Hayward comments on listening to Reagan's inaugural, 25 years later.

25 Years Ago

It's hard to believe it has been that long, isn't it? Here are a few things that the newly-inaugurated President Reagan said that day - January 20, 1981 (President Reagan's complete inaugural address can be read here):

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. ...

We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work -- work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. ...

To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale.

As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.

Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

Thursday, January 19, 2006
On this day:

Alabama unemployment rate at record low

3.5% in December...the lowest ever recorded in Alabama... down from 5.3% a year earlier...well below the nationwide unemployment rate of 4.9%...and down from 3.6% in November, which was tied with that of Florida as the fifth lowest in the nation.

Barkley in B'ham bar fight

Sir Charles has often said he would like to go into politics one day...this may help enhance his resume.

Some businesses oppose keg ban

The retailers aren't happy:
(Montgomery Advertiser) Alabama business owners Wednesday urged their representatives to reject a bill that would ban the sale of beer kegs to individuals.

The calls came just one day after the Alabama Senate voted 30-0 to ban keg sales except to restaurants and bars.

"We've been getting calls all day from constituents saying, 'Vote against the bill, vote against the bill,'" said Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee.

She met with owners of the Cold Keg, a business that sells beer kegs in Shorter, to discuss the impact the bill would have on the 25-year-old business. It wouldn't be good.

"With Macon County being in the economic crunch it's in now, I can't afford to see one business close," said Warren, adding that she would poll members of the House to see if the bill has the votes to pass. If it does, she said she would work on an amendment to allow Cold Keg owners to continue to sell beer by the gallon, half-gallon and quart. ...

"How does not selling kegs stop underage drinking?" asked M.S. Reddy, who owns two keg sales stores in Auburn. "What's the difference between a person buying a keg and 10 cases of beer?"

Reddy said keg sales are the "heart" of his business in Auburn, where he sells as many as 60 kegs a week but always checks the buyer's driver's license.

Beer wholesalers and the anti-keg law

Their involvement with the bill is even more direct than I suspected. Turns out that not only do they support the bill, as I said yesterday; they were the ones who initiated it. Yesterday, the Mobile Register reported:

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, sponsored the bill, which, he said, was brought to him by the beer industry, chiefly the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association. The organization represents the 25-plus distributors operating in the state.

"I just want to do something to help solve the problem, and it's a tribute to the industry that they came up with this idea," Singleton said. ...

Donna Alexander, executive director and lobbyist for the beer wholesalers, said her group approached lawmakers about the idea in response to public pressure regarding underage drinking and in answer to calls for a statewide keg registration system like the one used in Mobile County.

That process requires a written record of keg sales, thus allowing law enforcement officials to trace the purchaser of kegs when underage drinking occurs.

Singleton's bill would make such a system moot.

It simply writes a new definition for "keg beer" in the portion of state law that details what kind of alcohol is legal in Alabama. The new definition would read in part: "beer sold in factory-sealed containers not less than 5 gallons. This beer is to be sold by retail licensees for on-premises consumption only."

Again, I'll reiterate. The industry is not asking for this legislation out of a concern for underage drinking. They're concerned about one thing - the bottom line. The Register goes on to explain:

In addition to Alexander's group, lobbyists for beer manufacturers and retailers have expressed their support for the new definition -- or at least pledged not to oppose it.

Presumably, the proposed change could give some manufacturers, if not wholesalers, a financial boost: At different stages in the distribution process, the profit margin by volume is typically higher when selling smaller containers.

For retailers such as bars and restaurants, profit by volume is greater selling draft beer from kegs, meaning they could also stand to gain from the bill. Retailers who depend heavily on off-premises keg sales, however, would suffer.

Alexander said Alabama law, in which distributors act as a mandatory middleman between manufacturers and retailers, is set up so that her clients will make money either way.

Yeah, and you'll make more money by making keg sales illegal. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money. The objection in this case is that beer manufacturers and wholesalers are trying to do that through collusive, anti-competitive, and anti-market means.

There's a name for what the businesses supporting this bill are doing: it's called rent-seeking, and it involves lobbying for restrictions on free markets in order to secure advantages over one's competitors or potential competitors. It's not an uncommon behavior, unfortunately, but it's an exceptionally bad one, especially when it makes it harder to get cheap beer. Remember what Ben Franklin said: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Robert E. Lee

(Reprinted from last year.)

General Robert E. Lee was born on this date in 1807. Recognized by many as the greatest of all American military men, Lee holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, whether they be from North or South.

He opposed secession and believed that slavery was a moral and political evil that should eventually be abolished. Nonetheless, when duty called, he responded in the only way he could. On April 20, 1861, just on the heels of Virginia's secession from the Union, Lee wrote to his sister:

The whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have foreborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native State.

With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword...

On the same day, Lee had also written a letter to his commander, General Winfield Scott, resigning his commission in the U.S. Army - bound by duty to defend his native Virginia.

General: Since my interview with you on the 18th inst. I have felt that I ought no longer to retain my commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my life and all the ability I possessed.

During the whole of that time - more than a quarter of a century - I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors and most cordial friendship from my comrades. To no one, General, have I been as much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, and your name and fame shall always be dear to me.

Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.

Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity, and believe me, most truly yours,

R.E. Lee

Lee was a great general and a great man. It is fitting that the country he loved so much still holds him fondly in its memory.

Ted Kennedy's secret love child

Could it be?

Navy destroyer to visit Mobile during Mardi Gras

You know how those sailors love to show their tats.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
On this day:

UA looking to acquire part of mental hospital

Story here.

Apparently, they are looking for a more appropriate place to house the Women's Studies Department.

Tax cuts for me, but not for thee

The usual suspects are criticizing Gov. Riley's plan to cut taxes because it would apply to all taxpayers, regardless of income. Never mind the fact that the Governor's plan would disproportionately benefit lower-income families. Never mind that it would institute a reform that "progressives" have been advocating for years. The mere fact that middle- and upper-income taxpayers would get to keep any more of their earnings is intolerable. From to the B'ham News:

Alabama has the lowest state income tax threshold in America, taxing a family of four that makes just $4,600 annually. Riley wants to gradually raise that threshold to $15,000 while also increasing deductions for all income levels. Riley and his supporters argue it's a matter of fairness and the right thing to do during a flush budget year.

But some lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates for the poor are concerned because middle-and higher-income families would get the same the tax cuts as poorer families, and that's money that otherwise would have gone to public schools.

"I think this was hurriedly put together as a way to give money away in an election year," said Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association and frequent critic of Riley's. ...

Hubbert, who is opposed to reductions in education funding growth, said he'd like a ceiling put on tax cuts for higher-income families. But he thought lawmakers would eventually approve something.

"It's an election year," Hubbert said.

Fortunately, Gov. Riley isn't backing down.

Riley Communications Director Jeff Emerson said the governor believes it's morally wrong for Alabama to charge poor families an income tax, but he also wants every family to get a break.

"As Gov. Riley said in his State of the State address, he wants every Alabamian that pays income taxes to get a tax cut," Emerson said. "This isn't Paul Hubbert's money or the Education Trust Fund's money. This is the taxpayers' money."

"Upscale Hooters" coming to Huntsville

I can see it now: Help wanted - Please have nice body, pretty face not required.

Too bad for this guy the jobs are for girls only.

Bama's missing beers

From the Free the Hops web site: "98 of the Top 100 beers at BeerAdvocate.com aren't found anywhere in this state."

Not enough beers to choose from?

Blame the legislature.

Anybody who has walked the warehouse stacks at a beer distributor in Pittsburgh, wandered into a microbrewery in San Francisco or scanned the colorful aisles of a beer emporium in Nashville knows what Alabama is missing.

Aged and augmented beers, potent foreign selections and oversized domestic microbrews. A catalog of centuries worth of Belgian craftsmanship. Barley wines. Trappist ales. Optimators. Honeyed dobblebocks. Thick tripelbocks. ...

Free the Hops: Alabamians for Specialty Beers strives to bring these smaller labels and stronger concoctions to stores near you. To do that, the statewide lobbying group would have to hurdle two state laws.

The first law restricts alcohol content of beer to a maximum of 6 percent, which often translates to lager and pale yellow pilsner. Throughout Alabama, that means beer drinkers are limited to Coors, Budweiser and the other major brands that advertise during football games.

The second law restricts bottle size. No carafes, no quarts, no liters. Nothing over 16 ounces.

Unhoppy about the keg ban

Say what you will about whether banning keg sales will cut down on underage consumption. I have my doubts. I mean, it's just as easy for a minor to drink from a can as it is for him to drink from a keg.

Regardless, a deep-seated concern for Alabama's youth is almost certainly not the reason that the Alabama Beer Wholesalers Association supports the idea. Wholesalers make a bigger profit when they sell beer in bottles and cans than they do when they sell it in kegs. So, it seems to me that the anti-keg bill being considered by the legislature is primarily an anti-competition bill. It is a convenient, legal way for beer wholesalers to collude in order to maximize their profits.

For example, see this story, which appeared in the Decatur Daily this time last year. It turns out that wholesalers' opposition to keg sales extends to restaurants and private clubs, as well.

...unlike any other form of alcohol, draft beer service in Alabama requires a local act of the state Legislature. A local government has to ask its legislative delegation to introduce it for a vote in Montgomery.

Twenty-three counties have that state approval, according to Capt. John Richardson, assistant director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control enforcement office in Montgomery. ...

...the reason draft beer isn't easier to get today is not that Alabamians necessarily prefer their beverages with pop tops or even the opposition of religious groups. According to several people familiar with the issue, a major factor is that breweries and beer distributors oppose it.

Lots of reasons are given for this opposition, but it all comes down to one thing - money. It's an unfortunate fact that businesses will often support anything - including policies that restrict competition - to increase their profits. A local microbrewer knows the game:

Don Alan Hankins, a Huntsville native who started a microbrewery last year and produces his Olde Towne brand in kegs and bottles, said he would prefer to sell just draft beer. Bottled beer may sit in a window and get light shock. Canned beer may sit on a shelf getting heat.

"Beer, the absolute instant it leaves the brewery, starts to break down," he said. "Kegs are stainless steel. They're always refrigerated. The beer going to the consumer is much fresher. I look at it from a consumer flavor standpoint, but I'm biased."

Conversely, draft beer is more expensive and less profitable for the major breweries and distributors, he said. It takes a major investment for refrigerated warehouses, kegs, refrigerated trucks, employees to clean out lines and other draft technician type work. It's also highly competitive.

"The draft market is very dog-eat-dog," Hankins said. "It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of labor to get that sort of thing going. If a city the size of Decatur voted to have draft beer, it would be an extremely competitive market. The big brewers want their tap handle up there. They want it to be visible. They cut all kinds of deals. It's a marketing thing. It's not just about how much beer you sell."
So, the question is this: will a ban on keg sales really cut down on irresponsible drinking - particularly among teens and college students - or will it just make drinking more expensive for consumers and more profitable for Big Beer?

Outlawing keg sales

My friends with Keg-erators are really gonna hate this.
The Alabama Senate voted 30-0 Tuesday for legislation that would ban the sale of draft beer in kegs of five gallons or more to individuals. The legislation would still permit draft beer to be sold in restaurants and bars in the 24 counties where it's legal.

The bill, which now goes to the House for consideration, was supported by the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association.

Auburn students win "Fear Factor"

For $250,000, college kids will do anything. From the Opelika-Auburn News:

More than 100 people braved a steady rain falling through the mostly open roof of the Sky Bar Tuesday night to watch hometown heroes Chad Granger and Lacey Moulton conquer their fears one last time - and win a quarter million dollars in the process. ...

An explosion of cheers and applause that went up from local supporters rivaled the on-screen blast that occurred during the show’s final stunt, which featured Lacey being dynamited out of the top floor of the Bates mansion.

Granger’s father, Dodd Granger, said he was impressed with the courage shown by Lacey, who had to eat two Iraqi Cow Spiders in the finale.

Actually it was a camel spider, not a cow spider. But, given that the winners are from Auburn, I guess the confusion is understandable.

Here is the couple's Fear Factor interview, and below is a picture of an Iraqi camel spider.

Fix for Winfixer popups

I just downloaded and ran a program called VirtumundoBeGone (described here...including a link to the download) that seems to have gotten rid of the Winfixer popup problem I mentioned the other day. I'm crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
On this day:

Ayers: "Bothered by facts" on Reagan

Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004. Not long after his death, on July 11, The Anniston (Red) Star's publisher H. Brandt Ayers, wrote a column remembering the late President. He said (my emphasis added):

His intellectual curiosity ended when he quit reading Reader’s Digest as his political career began to absorb him. From that point on, every new thought or deed had to fit in the tight box of his conservative philosophy.

If he was a distant father and friend without curiosity, then was it his accomplishments that made him an outsized leader? Hardly.

He weakened the nation and worried allies by a spending spree that tripled the national debt. He lost more lives in Lebanon than Clinton did in Somalia and Bosnia combined, and Reagan did little to ease the pain of Palestine, the infected tooth of the Middle East.

His disciples credit him with defeating Communism. Historians will say the Soviet Union died of the internal contradictions of state socialism, and the historic efforts of an Atlantic Alliance stretching back to Truman. Reagan viewed the corpse, and pronounced it dead.

There is no doubt that he was magnificent, thrilling at the public theater of statecraft, a leadership trait lacked by both Bushes, Ford and Jimmy Carter. Who can forget, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!"

How different he was from the approachable Bill Clinton. Because Clinton was not distant, was touchable, smart-ass superior journalists could cartoon him as a balloon-nosed performing clown.

It was Reagan’s very remoteness that made him larger than life, a figure who inspired both awe and warmth, a totem above the reach of media into which people could project their desires for self and country.

Who was Ronald Reagan? Only God and Nancy Reagan know.

That diatribe was typical of Mr. Ayers's writings about President Reagan over the past two decades: belittling, spiteful, and completely out of touch with reality. It shows why I've never cared much for Mr. Ayers's opinions nor for his publication. But, it also makes it oh-so-sweet to note that Mr. Ayers has recently had a change of heart about President Reagan.

In his latest column, Mr. Ayers admits that it was his own stubborn ideology, not President Reagan's, that prevented him from seeing the light sooner.
REAGAN RE-EVALUATED: One scientific test of how hardened a person is in his or her ideology is this: Are they bothered by the facts? I’m happy to report I haven’t reached ideological rigor mortis because trustworthy facts have improved my opinion of Reagan’s foreign policy.

Jack Matlock’s book, “Reagan And Gorbachev, How the Cold War Ended,” is to blame for my rising opinion of Reagan. I’ve known and respected Jack since 1975 when he was the No. 2 man in our Moscow embassy.

Subsequently, he was the Soviet specialist on the White House National Security Council, executive secretary to the Saturday breakfast meetings of Vice President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and CIA director William Casey, and, finally, he was President Reagan’s choice as ambassador to the U.S.S.R. in its last years.

For those of us whose judgment was clouded by distance, the president’s unfortunate “Evil Empire” speech and his reputation as an uninformed, right-wing noodle will be surprised, as I was, by Jack’s book.

The man was serious, hard-working and sincere in wanting better relations with the Soviet Union. Reagan’s work habits differ from those of George W. Bush, who favors one-page, double-spaced abstracts. Jack writes of Reagan taking, reading and making marginal notes on every page of a six-page, single-spaced policy memorandum during a Camp David weekend.

Jack’s ultimate insider view is of a man who didn’t want to gun up the arms race to do the Soviet Union in. He wanted better relations to end the arms race and might have achieved that aim sooner if three Soviet leaders hadn’t died on him.

His book is an intimate CAT Scan of the men who together pushed on a crucial hinge of history and opened a door to better, though not perfect, relations.
Welcome to the real world, Mr. Ayers. Perhaps we should get you up to speed with a brief course on supply-side economics.

Or maybe...

I could make him read and explain Edward Feser's intriguing TCS column entitled "The Metaphysics of Conservatism."

Willy or won't he?

Odds are that I will never be installed as benevolent dictator, but there's always a chance, so I constantly keep my eyes open for mildish forms of torture that might someday come in handy for use on those who really piss me off.

I've been looking especially hard this week because some devious SOB put a program on my computer that keeps trying to download something called Winfixer when I open a new browser window. Apparently, it is related to a trojan called Vundo, and my AntiVirus and anti-spyware apps won't get rid of it. Needless to say, I'm not happy about it.

Anyway...this dopy Englishman's stunt could be adapted nicely as a suitable punishment for the culprit, don't you think?

Stupid in America

ABC's John Stossel reports here (ABC News) and here (Reason Magazine) on why your kids are probably dumber than Belgians. (Hint: it has to do with the choices you have when it comes to your children's education; the little boy in the dunce cap can tell you why his mom and dad have so few of them.)

Here's a sampling from Mr. Stossel's ABC News piece:

American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don't have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it's a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can't attract students, it goes out of business.

Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents. She told us, "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, saying, "You can't afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."

"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."

Monday, January 16, 2006
On this day:

MLK's conservative legacy

MLK was certainly not a political conservative, but his words and deeds have found a resonance on the American Right that would never have been possible on the Left.

The Heritage Foundation's Carolyn Garris explains why.

I have a dream...

That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

That one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

That one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

That my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

That one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

That Alabama - the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement - will enact an "Alabama Civil Rights Initiative," prohibiting the state - including its public universitites - from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to anyone on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

That race will never again be used as a qualification for admission to one of Alabama's publicly-supported colleges or universities.

That courageous men like Ward Connerly will finally receive the recognition they deserve as heirs to the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

That America's universities will rediscover that the duty to foster intellectual diversity lies at the heart of their mission, and that their irrational obsession for multiculturalism detracts from that duty.

That "choice" will be embraced as heartily by those who seek to educate our children as it is by those who seek to abort them.

That our law enforcement resources will be concentrated in the neighborhoods and communities where they are most needed, thereby ensuring that all law-abiding citizens - black or white, rich or poor - are equally protected from the violence of those who would steal, rape, maim, or murder.

That involuntary unemployment is eliminated once and for all by ensuring that wages and benefits are determined by the invisible hand of the free market, not by the long arm of government.

That those who seek liberation from the bonds of material poverty will continue to have the opportunity to do so by means of best system ever devised by man to provide that opportunity - free market capitalism.

That those who seek liberation from the bonds of spiritual poverty will turn to their God for relief, not to their government.

Thursday, January 12, 2006
On this day:

Yes, that was a cheap shot

I'm not at all certain how likely it is that Don Siegelman will be convicted under the RICO charges he now faces. In fact, many of the charges are troubling to me in that they illustrate what I believe to be an undesirable trend: the use of the RICO statute to federalize crimes that have been understood traditionally (and, it can be argued, constitutionally) to fall under the jurisdiction of the states.

Congress passed RICO under its constitutional authority to "regulate interstate commerce," but several, if not all, of the crimes that Siegelman is alleged to have committed are only incidentally related to interstate commerce. Too bad for Mr. Siegelman, though...few in the federal government have cared much for the federalism of the Constitution since about 1933.

Siegelman's words of wisdom

"Have you ever tried to raise money when under indictment? It's difficult."

Hmmm...you don't say? I bet it's even harder once you're convicted.

Happy Birthday Rush

The Maha Rushie turns 55 today.

Baxley talks faith

Says she's not trying to "out-Jesus" her Republican opponents.

Bloggers react to State of the State

Charles at ProsAndCons says: "Good to see Governor Riley touting a budget surplus in the State of the State Address last night." Charles also reminds us that only two years ago, lots of people were saying the world would come to an abrupt and violent end if we didn't vote to raise taxes.

PolisciZac at Alabama Elections says: "Riley's speech was half promotion and half laundry list." And half Gomer Pyle impression.

Jeff at Politics in Alabama says: "Overall the speech was good."

The World Around You hasn't had a chance to review it yet. Me neither. That's why I'm quoting everybody else.

Chuck at Redneckin' says it "must be an election year in Alabama." Sho' 'nuff.

Bama newspapers respond to the Governor's speech

Editorial reaction to the State of the State was overwhelmingly positive.

The Huntsville Times: "...this was a masterful political speech. He seemingly left his various rivals little to latch on to as they look to next November."

The Birmingham News: "Forgive Gov. Bob Riley if his State of the State address Tuesday evening sounded an awful lot like the State of the Re-elect Riley Campaign. In his first three years as governor, the Ashland Republican has a lot to crow about - which he did, for about the first third of his speech."

The Mobile Register: "...let us note that the governor had every right to boast about remarkable accomplishments, and that he has thus earned the trust necessary to implement a series of reforms he outlined. Gov. Riley said that 'the state of our state is the strongest it has ever been.' It's hard to argue against him."

The Decatur Daily: "Gov. Bob Riley's State of the State address Tuesday accurately described an Alabama that has progressed during his tenure. We may question whether he can claim credit for all of that progress, but sometimes the best one can hope for out of a politician is that he not be a hindrance. At the least, Gov. Riley has gotten out of the way of an increasingly active economy. At best, he's leading a dramatic turnaround in Alabama's fortunes."

The State of the State

Gov. Riley's proposals for the 2006 legislative session, as outlined in his State of the State speech on Tuesday, include:
  • Mandating full disclosure of how much money lobbyists spend entertaining public officials.
  • Passing a constitutional amendment for legislative term limits.
  • Passing a constitutional amendment to protect private property rights and limit the use of eminent domain.
  • Passing an education budget that increases spending on public education by $1 billion: giving K-12 and higher ed all the money they have requested, providing for a teacher pay raise of up to 5%, adding 5 days to the school calendar, spending $500 million on school construction, repay all the money owed to the state Rainy Day Fund.
  • Cutting taxes by raising the threshold for paying income taxes, increasing the personal tax exemption, and increasing the deduction for dependents for the first time since 1935.
  • Providing for a "back-to-school" sales tax holiday.
  • Increasing funding for the Dept. of Forensic Sciences (the state crime lab) by 19%.
  • Increasing funding for the Dept. of Public Safety by 19% and adding 200 state troopers over two years.
  • Approving a plan to alleviate prison overcrowding.
  • Closing the loophole that allows "slot machines" to be called a "sweepstakes game" or "bingo," thereby making such games illegal.
  • Enacting legislation to ensure that each item of child pornography in someone’s possession is treated as a separate criminal offense.
  • Making the murder or assault of an unborn child a crime.
The Birmingham News, Mobile Register, Montgomery Advertiser, and Huntsville Times report on the speech and the reaction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
On this day:

Fact-checking A Bama Blog

(Warning...long post ahead. But, it will probably be the only one today, so read on if you dare. All links will open in a new window.)

Whenever I state something as a fact, I always do my best to ensure that it is just that - a fact. I mean...I'm an experienced blogger. I can Google with the best of 'em.

If I mess up, as I certainly will from time to time, then I hope that someone will point it out to me (and everyone else, via the comments section), so that I can correct my error. I prefer that it be done politely, but if not - it's no big deal - I'll make sure to post a correction, anyway.

However, if you accuse me of intentionally misrepresenting someone's position...and you don't do it nicely...and you are wrong because you failed to do your own damned fact-checking...then you can expect that Wrath of Lee P will pick up his tater-shooter and launch a thousand Alabama-sized hailstones at your lazy butt. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

Anyway...today was going along just fine until a few minutes ago. Sam Alito did a superb job at his Senate confirmation hearing, Gov. Riley's State of the State address was acceptable, my team won at trivia, and I've had a few beers. I hate to interrupt my good mood with this kind of unpleasantness, but as Yoda would say, "Done, it must be."

[Shifting to a serious tone.]

Monday, in a comment to this post, I said, factually:
...the NEA continues to advocate a nuclear freeze, stricter regulations on the sale of guns and ammunition, expansive abortion rights, education of illegal aliens at taxpayer expense, and handing over U.S. sovereignty to the International Court of Justice.
Some dude who calls himself "Dude" responded:
Lee, you need to provide some links for your "evidence" so that I can evaluate it. As I understand it, NEA does not have a pro-abortion policy. Rather, they support family planning, which encompasses reproductive freedom (which covers much more than abortion, such as birth control pills).

On the other issues, you are just so wrong. Handing over US sovreignty? Is that what you consider cooperation in the international community? Perhaps you forgot that we set up the Nuremburg trial? And for the nuclear freeze stuff, I hate to tell you but the US has signed a treaty which pledges nuclear disarmament. You might not know this with King George in power, but it is true. Look at Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I think you're big on rhetoric, but short on substance.
What was he thinking? That I had pulled all of that out of thin air? Puh-leeze. This is a first-class operation I run here. And, I'll have you know that approximately 50% of my regular readers have told me as much. (Full disclosure: I only have one regular reader, and he's a schizophrenic, but I'll take what I can get.)

Nonetheless, I thought that "Dude" deserved the courtesy of a response, so I provided four. Here they are:

Point #1:

I said, "...the NEA continues to advocate...expansive abortion rights."

Here's the evidence you asked for:

NEA resolution I-13 states:

"The NEA supports family planning, including the right to reproductive freedom. The Association urges the government to give high priority to making available all methods of family planning to women and men unable to take advantage of private facilities. The Association also urges the implementation of community-operated, school-based family planning clinics that will provide intensive counseling by trained personnel."

Prior to 1998, the NEA-PAC's questionnaire asked candidates whether they supported "reproductive freedom without government intervention."

In April, 2004, the NEA co-sponsored a pro-choice march (the March for Freedom of Choice) in Washington, D.C. NEA's opened up its D.C. headquarters as a "hospitality center" for marchers.
Point #2:

I said,

"...the NEA continues to advocate...handing over U.S. sovereignty to the International Court of Justice."

I should also have mentioned the International Criminal Court. Actually, that's the one I intended to mention in the first place, but conveniently, the NEA has taken positions on them both.

Here's the evidence you asked for:

NEA resolution I-2 states:

"The National Education Association believes in the concept of the rule of law throughout the world and recognizes that the International Court of Justice is one instrument to resolve international disputes peacefully. The Association urges participation by the United States in deliberations before the court."

NEA resolution I-3 states:

"The National Education Association believes that the International Criminal Court is critically important as an instrument to help end the impunity of human rights violators, provide for the rule of law, and hold accountable those who commit the gravest human rights crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Association also believes that the United States should ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and recognize and support its authority and jurisdiction."

If the U.S. "recognizes and supports" the "authrority and jurisdiction" of the ICC, that constitutes handing over a part of our sovereignty, no matter how you look at it.

Point #3:

I said, "...the NEA continues to advocate a nuclear freeze..."

Here's the evidence you asked for:

NEA Resolution I-6, originally adopted in 1982 during the height of the Cold War, states:

"The National Education Association believes that nuclear war is not survivable. The proliferation of weapons technology and the sale and distribution of conventional and nuclear weapons increase the possibility of nuclear war.

"The Association also believes the United States and all other nations should adopt a verifiable freeze on the testing, development, production, upgrading, emplacement, sale, distribution, and deployment of nuclear weapons, materials, and all systems designed to deliver nuclear weapons. The Association supports the development of treaties for the cessation of all nuclear weapons testing, providing they contain adequate verification and enforcement provisions. The Association also supports the development of treaties to eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons arsenals."

You are right that the U.S. has signed treaties obligating it to reduce its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The most recent of these were the START I and START II treaties and the Treaty of Moscow. (Only START II and the Treaty of Moscow were ratified by the U.S. Congress.)

You are wrong to suggest that the U.S. has ever agreed to a nuclear freeze. A "freeze" refers to a cessation of production, testing, and deployment. We have never agreed to that; the last presidential candidate to support it was Walter Mondale in 1984. Nonetheless, it remains on the NEA's agenda.

Allow me to add that Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty merely states that "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

That is absolutely irrelevant to a "nuclear freeze" as advocated by the NEA. Under the NPT, the U.S. does not "pledge nuclear disarmament," as Dude suggests. It only pledges that it will "pursue negotiations in good faith...on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament." We have done that, and we are continuing to do that. A nuclear freeze is neither plausible nor required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.



I sincerely hope that I have met your high expectations by adequately supporting my "rhetoric" with substance. As for me, I am satisfied that every position I attributed to the NEA is in fact their position.

Again, sorry for the long post. I hope that y'all will agree with me that I am right and "Dude" is wrong, but if not...thanks for reading anyway. I look forward to your comments.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
On this day:


Yes, Alabama teachers have an alternative - the Alabama Conference of Educators. (Although their web site is pretty darned annoying. I could do without the mood music.)

Monday, January 09, 2006
On this day:

Legislature to convene; Riley to deliver State of the State

The legislature begins the 2006 regular session on Tuesday, and Governor Riley will deliver his annual State of the State address at 6:30 PM.

For summaries of the issues facing legislators in this session, see this AP report and this report from the Mobile Register.


Ummm...maybe I should hire a maid.

Saddam's terror camps

Did the U.S. underestimate Saddam Hussein's support for transregional terrorists? That's what one intelligence official says, according to The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes.
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

"Display only"

Larry the Cable Guy discusses a recent trip to Home Depot with Jay Leno.

Flaming mouse burns down man's house

Apparently, the mouse became upset after the home owner sold his collection of show tunes.

The best blonde joke ever

This one is so good you'll never stop laughing.

AEA's Hubbert: Riley's tax cut proposal is an "election year gimmick"

From that Advertiser article:
Riley's proposal [for tax relief] doesn't sit well with Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association.

"Sounds like an election-year gimmick to me," he said of the Republican's plan to cut taxes. Hubbert is a vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Riley: Cut income taxes

In his upcoming State of the State address, Governor Riley will ask the legislature to raise the threshold for paying income taxes and to phase in higher exemptions for individuals and their dependents. According to the Montgomery Advertiser (registration required, I think...AP story here):

Gov. Bob Riley thinks it's "unconscionable" that Alabama taxes its working poor the way it does -- and he wants to do something about it.

On Tuesday, when the Legislature convenes for its new session, Riley will propose reducing income taxes across the board by phasing in higher personal and dependent exemptions and standard deductions over five years.

By 2011, a family of four would start paying income taxes at $15,000. That dollar figure today is $4,600, unchanged since 1982 and the lowest income tax threshold in the nation.

The proposal would raise the personal exemption from $1,500 to $2,000 and the dependent exemption from $300 to $2,000. Neither has been increased since 1935, when the state income tax was implemented.

While the Governor's plan would cut taxes for everyone who pays the state income tax, its greatest impact would be felt by individuals and families in the low to middle income range.

Alabama's threshold for paying income taxes is currently the lowest in the nation. The burden it creates falls most heavily on those who can least afford it, penalizing work and making saving more difficult. Raising the income tax threshold is an issue that has been supported by Alabamians across the political spectrum. A similar measure was a component of the Amendment One tax and accountability package in 2003. Although Amendment One was defeated at the polls, it contained several provisions that should be revisited; this is one of the best of those.

The growing economy has taken care of the budget problems that many of Amendment One's supporters sought to alleviate. As a result, the need to offset a tax cut with corresponding tax increases has evaporated, and there is no good excuse for failing to act on this issue during the upcoming 2006 legislative session.

Check out the comments

I just added a few comments to some earlier posts...if you're interested, scroll back to the Rose Bowl post and read through the threads. I may turn some of them into blog entries later, but right now, its bedtime.

Friday, January 06, 2006
On this day:

Where do teachers' NEA dues go?

Teachers who become members of the Alabama Education Association are also required to become members of the National Education Association. There is no way for an AEA member to opt out of NEA membership. According to the AEA Constitution: "All local affiliates [of the AEA] shall require their members to hold membership in the Alabama Education Association and the National Education Association."

So, if you're one of the 94,000 AEA members, you are forced to pay dues to the NEA, whether you like it or not. The New Editor takes a look at where those NEA dues go. (For info on how the AEA spends its dues dollars, check here.)

Given the NEA's left-wing agenda, it is not surprising that a 2002 survey of AEA members indicated that a large percentage of them would opt out of NEA membership if they could.

According to the Education Intelligence Agency:

...the AEA survey has a unique question. It deals with NEA’s unified dues structure. Established in the early 1970s when NEA made the shift from professional association to labor union, the policy dictated that NEA members must become members and pay dues at all levels – local, state and national. AEA asked its members if, given a choice, they would choose to belong to both AEA and NEA, or just AEA alone. A majority (57%) like the current structure just fine, but a surprising [me: surprising???] 38% said they would opt out of NEA if allowed.
It is obvious that many Alabama teachers are uncomfortable with the leftist politics of the AEA and the NEA. So, why do they continue to join?

Alabama GOP wants to offer teachers protection against lawsuits

AEA leader Paul Hubbert says that the proposal is unnecessary, since the AEA already provides liability insurance to teachers: "This would be $6 million of state money wasted. The purpose is to tell teachers that 'you don't have to join AEA.'"

What would be so bad about that, Mr. Hubbert?

Lucy to Don: No debates until your trial is over

Lucy Baxley gets feisty:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman called for debates Thursday among the major candidates for governor, but Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley said talk about debates ought to wait until after Siegelman's trial. ...

"After Don Siegelman completes his trial for public corruption, we can talk seriously about holding debates. Until then, I'll be working every day in the Legislature, fighting for the needs of working families, students and small business. I suggest Don spend his time on his legal problems and not political gimmicks," Baxley said.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
On this day:

Chuck Norris

I don't know how or why, but when I was down at my parents' place over Christmas, I ended up watching multiple episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, starring Chuck Norris. It has got to be one of the absolute worst TV shows ever made. If Chuck Norris weren't a Republican (and a martial artist who could kick my ass), I would elaborate.

Anyway...the reason I'm bringing that up is that I got an e-mail today linking to this site, which contains other little-known (and hilarious) "facts" about Chuck Norris. They even have a t-shirt that says "Guns Don't Kill People - Chuck Norris Kills People." Worth checking out for a good laugh. (Rated PG-13.)

Alabama #8...Auburn #14

The final AP poll is out.

The Rose Bowl

I felt like I just spent 3 hours watching a Democratic Convention. Lots of pretty flowers, but everyone was weak on defense.

Oh, and how about this quote from USC QB Matt Leinart: "I still think we're a better football team. They just made the plays in the end." You'd think he was coached by Al Gore, Mr. Sore-Loserman himself.

Lucy Baxley: "I am that woman"

Lucy Baxley has made it official...she's running for Governor.

(AP) "For the past 40 years, we have picked Governors by saying, `Well, the new guy can't possibly be as bad as the old guy,'" Baxley said. "Well, this year I don't think the new guy should be a guy at all. I think it should be a woman, and I am that woman."
She even has a few ideas now. They may be vague, but it's a start.
(AP) Speaking to more than 250 people at a meeting hall near the Capitol, Baxley laid out a lengthy campaign platform that included better state insurance coverage for children from low-income families, protecting tax revenue for public education from being used for other purposes, and toughening ethics laws to prohibit a public official from receiving more than $250 in one year from a person or group.

She also promised to create a Cabinet-level position to work on small business development and advocated a tax credit for small businesses that provide health insurance for their employees.

Huntsville Times: Does Alabama need an eminent domain amendment?

The Times editors say: probably yes.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
On this day:

Riley supporting constitutional amendment to limit eminent domain

Last summer, Alabama became the first state to restrict its own eminent domain authority in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo vs. City of New London. Now, Gov. Riley wants to put that law into the state constitution.

This is a certainly a welcome proposal, but some property rights advocates argue that it wouldn't go far enough, since the new Alabama law still allows municipalities to use eminent domain to alleviate "blight" in their neighborhoods. That's the same justification that the city of New London, Connecticut used in the Kelo case. Last year, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public interest law firm that represented the New London homeowners, noted how the Alabama loophole could be abused:
“Kudos to Alabama political leaders for taking the first step toward protecting their citizens from eminent domain abuse,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, who represents Susette Kelo and the other New London, Conn., homeowners fighting to save their homes. “But there is more work to do. For full protection of Alabamians’ rights, legislators must reform the blight laws that all-too-often provide a sham justification to use eminent domain for private profit. Today, blight can mean literally anything the government wants it to mean, and as a result, homeowners’ rights remain in jeopardy.”
A couple of Alabama legislators want to ensure that any constitutional amendment addresses this directly.
(AP) Sen. Larry Dixon, who helped write the new eminent domain law, said the fight won't just be over putting the current law into the constitution. It will also be over making the constitutional amendment stronger than the law.

Dixon, R-Montgomery, said he will propose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the use of eminent domain to remove blighted neighborhoods. Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottonwood, said he's working on a similar constitutional amendment that will restrict or ban the use of eminent domain in blighted neighborhoods.
I tend to favor "restricting" over "banning," but with a few reasonable safeguards:

1) Voluntary transactions in the free market are always preferable to coercive takings by the government; thus, restrictions should be strong enough that the use of eminent domain authority is viewed by state and local officials as a measure of last resort;

2) The eminent domain power should only be exercised when there is a specific, immediate, and legitimate public use for the property that is to be taken;

3) The government's power of eminent domain should never be used to transfer property directly from one private owner to another;

4) The sale of public property attained through the use of the eminent domain power should be strictly regulated, along the following lines: The sale of such property to private parties other than the previous owner should be prohibited for a period of 5 or more years; the property should be auctioned publicly, under fair and equitable rules established by the legislature; the public should be given reasonable notice of such a sale; the previous owners of the property or their heirs should be notified of the government's intent to sell, and they should be allowed to bid on the property under the same rules as other interested parties.

Following the Kelo decision (which I thought was correct, by the way), it is clearly up to the states to protect private property against eminent domain abuse. So far, Alabama has led the way in addressing this issue. This year, the Governor and legislature have a chance to lead once again by making Alabama the property-rights capital of the nation. Let's hope they deliver.