Monday, February 27, 2006
On this day:

Earthquakes in Alabama

A quake along the New Madrid fault probably wouldn't affect Alabama much, but we aren't immune from earthquakes. One of the last "big ones" to hit the state occurred in April, 2003. It was centered near Mentone, in northeast Alabama, and measured a healthy magnitude 4.9 on the Richter scale, tying the record as the strongest earthquake to ever be measured in the state.

For more info, check out this map of historic Alabama quakes, accessible from the Geological Survey of Alabama's "Earthquakes in Alabama" page.

And we thought Katrina was bad...

From this AP report: "Even a magnitude 7 earthquake [along the New Madrid fault] would destroy more than 60 percent of buildings in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., because most buildings predate building requirements aimed at resisting the shock, officials estimate."

"Proceed to the end of the line, please"

Wonder if this will become a regular attraction at Huntsville's number two hospital?
Most people don't want to think about their colon, much less talk about it, but it's hard to ignore a 40-foot-long replica of the human colon in the parking lot at Crestwood Hospital.

Thursday evening, dozens of invited guests drank wine, ate hors d'oeuvres, put on surgical booties and crawled through CoCo, The Colossal Colon. Along the way, they saw - in a majorly magnified fashion - benign polyps, cancerous polyps, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease and hemorrhoids. ...

The giant colon exhibit also features EneMan, a life-size furry enema bottle. (!!!)

Sen. Clinton: Rove "spends a lot of time obsessing about me"

Today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to Bush strategist Karl Rove's assessment of her prospects for success in the 2008 presidential race; Rove's comments will appear in Bill Sammon's forthcoming book Strategery. I suppose that Sen. Clinton's puzzled reaction is understandable, considering that the men in her life have tended focus their obsessions on other women.

Poll: Riley leading Baxley, Siegelman

Good news for the Governor:
(Mobile Register) Alabama Gov. Bob Riley would beat both of his chief Democratic rivals this fall in head-to-head matchups as he seeks re-election, the results of a new poll suggest.

The Mobile Register-University of South Alabama statewide poll shows the Republican governor leading Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley by 9 percentage points and burying former Gov. Don Siegelman by more than 25 points. Siegelman, whose career has been damaged by recent federal corruption charges, lost to Riley in 2002 by about 3,100 votes.
The poll shows Riley ahead of Siegelman 53%-27%; he's at 45%-36% versus Baxley.

Sunday, February 26, 2006
On this day:

Weekend in Mobile

For those who don't know, Mobile hosted the first-known Mardi Gras celebration in America...way back in 1703, when the French were still in town. The crowd has improved a great deal since then, so a few friends and I decided to go down this weekend to participate in the festivities. A good time was had by all, in spite of yesterday's cold, rainy weather. We toured Battleship Memorial Park and the U.S.S. Alabama, took in the Mystics of Time parade Saturday night, ate plenty of good food, and somehow managed to find time to have a few beers downtown.

Mardi Gras in Mobile is much tamer than it is in New Orleans, of course. The crowds are a lot smaller and much better behaved. Pretty much the only time you have reason to fear for your safety is during the parades when you are trying to catch beads and Moon Pies, while making sure you don't get beamed in the face. One fellow in our group learned that lesson the hard way, and still has the bruises to show for it.

Now, back to more important matters. Like food. The raw oysters at Wintzell's downtown were very good, as was the gumbo...the sushi at the Liquid Lounge was awesome...the grilled Conecuh Sausage being sold by the street vendors smelled great and was tasty, too. Oh, and the Waffle House (a.k.a. the "Awful Waffle") was outstanding, as always. Waffle House is always great at 2 AM, but that particular, morning...there was a shortage of cabs downtown, so we were having a tough time getting there. Luckily for us, several limos had just finished dropped off folks from the Mardi Gras balls, so the drivers were looking to make a few extra dollars before heading home. Our driver, Sue, was very nice, and didn't seem the least bit surprised when we asked her to head to the Waffle House. Now, as for the people inside the Waffle House when we arrived...I'm sure they got a few laughs out of it.

Anyway...if you're looking for a place to go next Mardi Gras, and don't want to brave the madness of New Orleans, then head down to Mobile. You might want to stick around for Joe Cain day, too, as several locals informed us this weekend. I've already marked my calendar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
On this day:

Welfare for Wal-Mart

Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kinkaid has proposed that the city help lure a new Wal-Mart to town by paying $11 million of the $21.4 million purchase price for a 50-acre site currently occupied by the all-but-empty Eastwood Mall.

I think this is a supremely bad idea, but before anyone accuses me of jumping on the left's anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon, consider this: What's being offered here is not a broad-based tax cut, nor is it a taxpayer-financed infrastructure improvement. If it were either of those things, I'd say go for it. Those are legitimate, "conservative" means for improving the overall business environment; they are consistent with principles of limited government and they do not interfere with free markets. However, Mayor Kinkaid's proposal is corporate welfare in the extreme, constituting a direct subsidy to one of the world's richest corporations.

The problem, of course, is that some other city down the road (in this case - Irondale) is likely to draw up its own "incentive package," thereby initiating a shooting match over which city's politicians are most adept at swindling the taxpayers.

There is a solution to all of this: the state could act to end corporate welfare altogether. The first step is to define "corporate welfare." I like the Cato Institute's definition:
Corporate welfare should be carefully defined as any government spending program that provides unique benefits or advantages to specific companies or industries. That includes programs that provide direct grants to businesses, programs that provide research and other services for industries, and programs that provide subsidized loans or insurance to companies.

Once we've done that, the rest should be easy, don't you think? Well, maybe not. Democrats occasionally give lip-service to ending corporate welfare, but when push comes to shove, they like big government better. Republicans - well, ditto - although that's not entirely fair: there are still quite a few libertarian, i.e. classical liberal, Republicans out there, but they aren't nearly as vocal in the age of GWB and "compassionate conservatism."

So, while prohibiting corporate welfare would save money, impede corruption, and limit the scope of government power, it wouldn't purchase many votes. This frivolous waste of money is something to keep in mind, though, the next time your mayor and city council come begging for more taxes.

Follow the white rabbit

No one seems to know just where the Lovable Lucy Baxley would lead us, but by golly, she'll make sure we get there on time.

Fetal homicide bill to cover unborn children from conception

Another monumental victory is in the works.

A monument to victory

Less than an hour before the Sunday morning service on September 15, 1963, a bomb shook the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The church clock read 10:22 AM, and in the terrifying moments afterward, a prayer rose up to heaven: "'Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do."

Killed in the bombing were four young girls: Denise McNair, 11; Cynthia Wesley, 14; Carole Robertson, 14; and Addie Mae Collins, 14. All had been preparing to participate in the church's "Youth Sunday" service that day. Afterwards, the news would report that "the only stained glass window in the church that remained in its frame showed Christ leading a group of little children. The face of Christ was blown out."

In his eulogy for the victims, Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
"They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close. They are now committed back to that eternity from which they came. These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity." - MLK, Jr., 18 September, 1963.
Thankfully, lots of things have changed since 1963, and today a grateful nation again remembered the sacrifice of four little girls - Denise, Cynthia, Carole, and Addie Mae. May they rest in peace, and may we all find comfort in the knowledge that their deaths were not in vain.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
On this day:

Cheney's fury

Play the game, or Dick Cheney will be very upset...we wouldn't want that, now would we?

Competing for students

Almost 10% of Alabama's school-age population now attends private schools, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, as cited in Monday's Birmingham News:

From 1990 to 2002, the number of Alabama children enrolled in private schools grew by 45 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducts a study of private school enrollment every two years. The 2003-04 study hasn't been published yet.

"Nationally, the numbers of students enrolled in private schools haven't had significant growth over the years," said Steve Broughman, statistician for the center. "That doesn't seem to be the case in Alabama." ...

Alabama has more than 76,000 students enrolled in private schools, while public school systems have 743,604 students.

These new statistics may be disturbing to some people in the state's public education establishment; if they're not, they should be. They show that a growing number of Alabama families are losing confidence in a system that is hindered by centralization and a general lack of accountability.

Many "solutions" to the state's education woes have been proposed over the years: reduced class sizes, increased salaries for teachers, prettier buildings, more technology, revised curricula, and - of course - large increases in funding. Some of those have been good ideas, but almost none have cut to the core of the problem: the pressing need for more choices and greater accountability in education. Unfortunately, those aren't things that a government-run education system is very good at achieving on its own. It needs a forceful nudge from outside - one that is strong enough to overcome the resistance of bureaucracies and teachers unions. Experience shows that only one source is capable of providing that kind of kick-in-the-rear, and it's one we're all familiar with: the market.

Yes - the market. We trust it to supply us with food, shelter, health care, and entertainment, but when it comes to educating our kids, we defer to the government. That makes little sense. I'm not saying that we should privatize the public schools - at least not anytime soon. However, we should take steps to provide them with the same types of incentives that businesses face every day.

Those who support public education and have a sincere desire to make it better should welcome the fact that the system is being injected with a healthy dose of competition. They should encourage more where that came from, by supporting public school choice and tuition tax credits and/or vouchers. If Alabama's public schools are ever going to alleviate their persistent mediocrity, policitians and the AEA need to heed the message here and offer real, market-oriented solutions rather than the usual hand-wringing excuses.

Monday, February 20, 2006
On this day:

Headline of the day

AP: New prison chief's lack of behind-bars experience may be helpful.

Yeah, I'd say that's a good thing.

Presidents' Day? What's that?

Basil shares one of my pet peeves.

Lucy: "They never ask me how I feel"

In the Decatur Daily report cited in my last post, Mrs. Baxley indicated that she's eager to share her views with voters, but added that "with all kinds of stuff going on, they never ask me how I feel."

That's really a shame, as I'm sure that Mrs. Baxley has plenty of non-answers for all those non-questions.

Where's Lucy?

With a little over three months left until the primary elections, you'd think that Loveable Lucy Baxley would be able to give straight answers to simple questions on the issues of the day - particularly when the questions relate to matters currently before the legislature. Well, if this Decatur Daily report is any indication, that may be too much to hope for.

During an interview with THE DAILY before her address at First Baptist Church of Austinville's annual Valentine's Banquet, [Lucy Baxley] commented on the controversy in the Legislature about how to charge someone who kills or injures both a woman and her unborn child.

The abortion issue has made it hard to write a law that most legislators can agree on.
Prosecutors can now bring only one murder or assault charge because Alabama is one of 18 states without a law recognizing two victims.

"If you take two lives, you've taken two lives," Baxley said.

"But there are two pieces of legislation that have been introduced."

The House passed a bill covering a fetus from conception to delivery, but the Alabama District Attorneys Association is recommending a different bill that would apply to "a viable fetus greater than 19 weeks gestation for which there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival."

Baxley said she has no problem with the state clarifying the law if there is a question.

Lucy, Lucy. It's kinda hard to advocate clarifying the law when you can't even clarify your own position. A strong leader has to have a vision of where she wants to lead, and she must be able to enunciate the principles that underlie the vision.

So far, Mrs. Baxley has failed to do either of those things. On a range of important issues - tax reform, constitution reform, education, abortion, same-sex marriage, you name it...Mrs. Baxley's position is either absent or indecipherable.

As the campaign for Governor kicks into high gear, the big question will become, "Where's Lucy?" I think I may know the answer: as the old song says, just look for the girl with the sun in her eyes.

Saturday, February 18, 2006
On this day:

Taylor Hicks

Another of Bama's favorite sons is doing us proud on American Idol.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Another Alabamian has made the final cut on Fox's "American Idol."29-year-old Taylor Hicks of Birmingham was named a top 24 finalist last night.

Hicks, a well-known performer on Birmingham's nightclub circuit, will be among 11 contestants to perform in Hollywood at 7 p.m. Tuesday night. It will be a live broadcast. 12 others vying for the prize will sing Wednesday night.

A new blog all about Taylor is here. There are plenty of music clips and info. Be sure to check it out. And be sure to vote for Taylor.

Friday, February 17, 2006
On this day:

So, "The Machine" does exist

Anyone who has attended the University of Alabama knows about "The Machine." It's been written about in the national press. It has its own Wikipedia page. It is the exclusive subject of a web site called "Welcome to the Machine," and Alabama Public Television even made a documentary about it a few years ago, called "One and All."

For years, the University's student newspaper, the Crimson White, has defined The Machine as "a select coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities designed to influence campus politics." "Influence" may be a bit of an understatement. As recently as 2004, there were allegations of Machine threats and intimidation against a sorority member who dared to run for office without the organization's endorsement. It wasn't the first time something like that has happened. There have been numerous other incidents through the years, but the one that sticks in my mind occurred while I was a student there. Back in 1993, the University administration disbanded student government altogether after a candidate for SGA President was assaulted in her apartment. Although no one was ever charged, Machine involvement was suspected. That was a long time ago, but it still holds some interest because the candidate who was beaten up was Minda Riley, whose father now serves as Governor of Alabama.

Anyway...what brought all of this to mind were these two stories from Thursday: this one from the Crimson White and this one from the AP.

Here's the summary: The current SGA President, Mary Margaret Carroll, has publicly acknowledged "The Machine's" existence and has stated that she was once a member. So, the big topic of discussion on campus now is whether Mary Margaret was sticking her neck out by publicly revealing her association with the group, or whether The Machine has finally decided to come out of the closet, so to speak. Should be entertaining to watch.

An "Old Fashioned Wallace Rally"

This should stir up some memories.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — George Wallace Jr. will kick off his campaign for lieutenant governor on Saturday with an old-style political rally like his father used to stage, except rock music will replace country.

In an age when most campaigns rely on TV ads and the Internet, Wallace said he decided to go retro with what he's advertising as an "old-fashioned Wallace rally." It will feature hot dogs, speeches, and entertainment by Rick Derringer.

Thursday, February 16, 2006
On this day:

Bama riots over Bryant cartoons

The important thing here is to remain calm, folks.

Flames of hate in Alabama

Here's columnist Jeff Jacoby, in Tuesday's Boston Globe (Hat Tip: Justin at Southern Appeal):

Ten arson attacks against 10 churches -- all of them Baptist, all in small Alabama towns, all in the space of eight days: If anything is a hate crime, obviously this is.

Or is it? ''We're looking to make sure this is not a hate crime and that we do everything that we need to do," FBI Special Agent Charles Regan told reporters in Birmingham.

Make sure this is not a hate crime? If 10 Brooklyn synagogues went up in flames in a little over a week, wouldn't investigators start from the assumption that the arson was motivated by hatred of Jews? If 10 Cuban-American shops and restaurants in Miami were deliberately burned to the ground, wouldn't the obvious presumption be that anti-Cuban animus was involved?

Apparently Baptist churches are different.

''I don't see any evidence that these fires are hate crimes," Mark Potok, a director of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Los Angeles Times. ''AntiChristian crimes are exceedingly rare in the South."

But are anti-Christian crimes really that rare? Or are they simply less interesting to the left, which prefers to cast Christians as victimizers, not victims?

Read the whole thing.

How about a real tax cut?

An August sales tax holiday, proposed by Governor Riley earlier this year in his State of the State address, seems to be gaining quite a bit of support in the state legislature.

I don't care for the idea much, myself. The temptation is understandable, but the Governor and legislature should avoid election-year gimmicks like this. The tax holiday may be popular and showy, but it won't generate jobs or long-term economic growth. A better alternative would be to implement permanent tax cuts that have the added benefit of increasing incentives to produce and invest.

To begin with, why not pass Gov. Riley's bill to raise the income tax threshold and exemption levels, while phasing them in faster than he has proposed? That would provide immediate tax relief to every Alabamian who pays income taxes. It would also enhance the incentive to work, particularly among those lower-income wage-earners who would see the greatest marginal benefit from the tax cut.

Then, instead of luring companies to Alabama with "incentive packages" that unfairly favor "chosen" industries, how about providing real, lasting incentives to all of Alabama's businesses by eliminating the corporate income tax? The state shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to economic development. Much of what we offer in the form of "incentive packages" to attact new business amounts to little more than corporate welfare. That's not fair to businesses that are already here, and it's not fair to the taxpayers who foot the bill. Eliminating both corporate welfare and the corporate income tax would do wonders for Alabama's business climate by stimulating investment and entrepreneurship, and by creating a level playing field that is open to all.

These measures - raising the income tax threshold with a fast phase-in, eliminating the corporate income tax, and doing away with corporate welfare "incentive packages" - would do more for economic growth in Alabama than a one-weekend-a-year sales tax holiday ever could. Meanwhile, be sure to keep your weekends in August open.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
On this day:

You've always been a big Willie fan

After today's news, I thought this Top Ten list deserved a #11.

Beer...really good beer

This Birmingham News report contains a fact that I've mentioned before: "Eighty-seven of the best 100 beers as listed on can't be sold in Alabama because they are too strong."

There's a bill in the legislature this session that would change that. So, now that the keg ban proposal is all but dead, isn't it time to Free the Hops?

Supermodel Lauren Bush to speak at AU "Hunger Summit"

AUBURN - After more than a year developing a student-led "War on Hunger" campaign, Auburn University is now inviting other universities to join its partnership with the World Food Programme by hosting the first War on Hunger Summit Feb. 17-19 at the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center.

Lauren Bush, international fashion model, Princeton University student and spokesperson for the World Food Programme's War on Hunger Campaign, will speak at the summit on Saturday, Feb. 18. Other speakers include Peter McPherson, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, and Auburn University women's basketball coach Nell Fortner, the university's spokesperson for the War on Hunger.

Either way, they get some sh*tty clients

Several of the attorneys defending former Gov. Don Siegelman, HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy, and former transportation director Mack Roberts against federal racketeering charges are also representing defendants in a bribery case involving the Jefferson County sewer program.

There's a good chance that the trials will overlap, though, and it appears that Siggy and Company have been relegated to #2 on the priority list.

A Twinkle in Judge Roy's eye

Roy Moore has asked Alabama Republican Party chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh to resign, contending that she has compromised her impartiality by saying nice things about Gov. Riley.

(B'ham News) At a Tuesday press conference, Moore handed out copies of a Republican newsletter, The Elephant Trunk, in which Cavanaugh praised current Republicans in office.

"During the past year, Alabamians have benefited from the strong Republican leadership of President Bush, Governor Riley, Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions in building our economy and handling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," Cavanaugh wrote in the two-paragraph chairman's message.

Moore said he sent Cavanaugh a letter asking her to step aside until after the primary.

"Republican voters feel betrayed by the chairman of our party who is clearly using her position to favor a particular candidate in the June primary," Moore wrote.

Moore also took issue with another article in the newsletter that quoted Riley calling Alabama's economy "one of the strongest in America."

"This is clearly an endorsement of my opponent using her position as chairman," Moore said.

Now, that's a stretch if I ever heard one. It might be different if Mrs. Cavanaugh had singled out Gov. Riley in her statement, but she didn't. She referred to "the strong Republican leadership of President Bush, Governor Riley, Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions." It's part of a party chairman's job to praise the party's elected officials and draw attention to their accomplishments. Mrs. Cavanaugh is doing a pretty good job of that, as far as I can tell, and Ol' Roy should stop being a crybaby.

Legislature considers further limitations on eminent domain

You may remember that last year, Alabama became the first state to enact new restrictions on eminent domain in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision. The legislature now has an opportunity to go a step further, by expanding those protections and making them a part of the state constitution. From the AP:

The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee voted 9-0 for a bill by Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, and 8-1 for two identical bills by Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham, and Sen. Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale.

All of the bills are proposed constitutional amendments that go beyond the law the Legislature passed last year to restrict governments from using the power of eminent domain to take private property.

One of the differences between the bills is that the French and Biddle bills require a government to pay the landowner for the value of land at its highest and best use and to throw in money for relocation costs. Preuitt's bill does not.

The bills are SB 368 (French), SB 136 (Biddle), and SB 446 (Preuitt). They can be accessed online here. (Go to "Bills," then search by status.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
On this day:

World's oldest chicken dies

(Birmingham News) Matilda, recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living chicken, died over the weekend at her home in Bessemer.

Matilda, 16, was featured in a magic act called Mort the Mystifying and Donna. She belonged to Keith and Donna Barton of Bessemer and had appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.
Mort and Donna have posted a "Tribute to Matilda" here. You can find a picture of Matilda with Jay Leno here. World's Oldest Living Chicken Fan Club t-shirts are here.

Don't pick your nose

Streaming video of Birmingham traffic will soon be accessible online.

Massachusetts: Wal-Mart must stock and sell "morning after" pill

Choices for me, but not for thee.

(Follow-up to this post from a couple of weeks ago.)

Good news for Gov. Riley

The latest Mobile Register-USA poll shows the Governor leading Roy Moore by 56%-28% among likely Republican primary voters.

Monday, February 13, 2006
On this day:


These press corps tizzies are always fun to watch, aren't they?

The New York Times has already broken out the Watergate lingo:

[Presidential spokesman Scott] McClellan was questioned intensely by the White House press corps today about why the White House never released the information itself and why it was left to a private citizen to report to the world that the vice president of the United States had been involved in a shooting.

They also seemed frustrated that Mr. McClellan could not tell them at the briefing exactly when Mr. Bush learned that the vice president himself had shot Mr. Whittington.

Later in the afternoon, after the briefing, the White House put out a statement providing details about what the president knew and when.

Alabama's own Anniston (Red) Star has joined in the hysteria:

...not informing the public of an incident where the vice president shot and wounded a hunting partner is inexcusable. [Me: Yes, not informing the public would be inexcusable...but, the public was informed, as the (Red) Star acknowledges in the very next sentence.] The victim, a lawyer from Texas, had been in the hospital nearly a full day before news reports surfaced. [Me: Actually, it was only about 18 hours (18/24 = 3/4...some hard arithmetic there, huh?) from the time of the shooting until the local press was informed, according to various news reports I've seen.] Even then, the news came from the owner of the property where Cheney was hunting and not from the White House. [Me: So, the (Red) Star is bellyaching that the information came from someone who observed the shooting first-hand. Do they think that a second- or third-hand account by the White House would have been more accurate?]

Now, don't get me wrong...I do think that this could have been handled better. Next time the Veep goes hunting, the administration should insist that members of the White House press corps tag along.

Cheney shoots hunter; repeals Second Amendment

I think this is a bit of an overreaction.

Friday, February 10, 2006
On this day:

Anti-groping bill passes House committee

Sounds good to me, but just to give equal's a pro-groping Bill.

B'ham News on "plugging loopholes"

From today's editorial:
An industry that produces significant downsides and few benefits for the state is piecemealing itself into existence. Alabamians should put a stop to it, but they at the very least should have a say in whether this will be a gambling or no-gambling state.

The Riley/King approach is one way to allow that to happen.

Riley and King: Abolish electronic "sweepstakes" games

I'm fine with pretty much any anti-gambling bill, as long as it doesn't interfere with my Friday night game of Texas-Hold-Em. This one doesn't:

MONTGOMERY - Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Troy King said Tuesday they want a constitutional amendment to abolish the Las Vegas-like electronic gaming machines beeping at state dog tracks.

Their proposal would prohibit the electronic sweepstakes games recently opened in Birmingham and the electronic bingo machines played at the dog tracks in Macon and Greene counties. The tracks could still have bingo, but they would be relegated to the old-fashioned variety, with cards.

Riley and King said track owners are taking advantage of loopholes in state law, and most people never imagined roomfuls of machines for playing bingo or a promotional sweepstakes.

"If it looks like a slot machine and sounds like a slot machine, ladies and gentlemen to me it is a slot machine," Riley said.

Needless to say, Alabama gambling magnate Milton McGregor isn't happy:
Milton McGregor, owner of the Birmingham and Macon County tracks, isn't pleased with it, either. "The tracks will be out of business if Riley's proposal passes," he said. ...

"Myself and other companies have collectively spent millions of dollars in Birmingham. Now, after we get our investment made, Gov. Riley wants to change the law. That's obviously wrong and ridiculous," McGregor said.
"Myself and other companies?" Yick!

If for no other reason, the legislature should pass this bill as Mr. McGregor's penance for such a foul misuse of the English language.

State tax burden is 5th lowest in the nation

$1,551 per person in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure may be a bit misleading in that it doesn't include local or federal taxes, nor does it account for the differences in wealth and income between Alabama and other states.

Thursday, February 09, 2006
On this day:

Alabama hate crimes expansion clears another hurdle

It was approved by the Senate judiciary committee today. Next up: consideration by the full Senate and the full House.

Tweaking the tyrant, take two

This story cheered me up a little bit, too. Yeah, yeah...kicking Cuban bureaucrats out of their hotel may not be the best diplomacy, but no good Commie should want to stay in a privately-owned American hotel, anyway, right?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
On this day:

Tweaking the tyrant

Fidel Castro is upset over a small electronic sign attached to the American mission in Havana, calling it a "gross provocation."

If he means that the sign may provoke renewed hopes for liberty on the streets of Havana, he may have a point. The sign, which has been functioning for a few weeks now, displays sayings from Martin Luther King Jr. and excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other things. One message read, "Everyone has the right to free thought." Apparently, that's too much for Mr. Castro: earlier this week, he erected a monument of sorts that is intended to prevent any subversive messages from reaching the the eyes of the masses.

Nonetheless, our diplomats kept on provoking.
Although it's now more difficult to read from afar, the electronic billboard continued to stream messages Tuesday, including one that read, "The only thing that we want to provoke with our little sign is the free flow of ideas and voices."
And in spite of Castro's antics, the truth still shines through. (Hat tip: Babalu Blog) Gotta love it.

Norks: money for nukes, but none for fertilizer

The utter depravity of Little Kim's regime is on display once again.

Ayahtollah Sistani and the cartoons

Once again, he has proven to be a calming voice of reason and moderation.

(CNN) [Iraq's] top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, suggested militant Muslims were partly to blame. He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

This is also encouraging:
(Brussels Journal) Two moderate Danish imams, Fatih Alev and Abdul Wahid Pedersen, defended Danish values in an interview with the Saudi newspaper Arab News, urging for a settlement in the cartoon affair. The imams stressed that Jyllands-Posten, the paper that first published the controversial cartoons, had apologized for offending Muslims, that the Danish press is not under government control, that Muslims in Denmark are generally well treated, and that the boycott of Danish products in the Middle East also harms Danish Muslims.

Some good may come from this little temper tantrum yet.

Good site

The Reagan speech I linked to a couple of days ago ("A Time for Choosing") is hosted the American Rhetoric web site.

I found that speech via Google search, so I didn't take the time to look around at the time. As it turns out, there's lots more good stuff Michael DeBow noted Monday over at Southern Appeal .


Back in 1996, a young white man named Chistopher Deer set fire to the all-black New Liberty Baptist Church in Tyler, Alabama, near Selma. You can read more about it here. Let me warn you, may want to have a few tissues handy. (Not that I needed any, mind you. I just know how emotional some of you can get from time to time.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
On this day:

Become as little children

One young lady put things into perspective:
(B'ham News) Nine-year-old Kirklynn Hamby, who...attends Ashby [Baptist Church], cried as she watched investigators comb through the remains of the church where she has attended Bible school and Christmas plays. She said her family will attend church today at Shady Grove Baptist Church and then come back to Ashby to take photos.

"In the Bible it says the church is not a building," Kirklynn said. "It's two or more people coming together. They did not destroy the church. They destroyed the church building."

More church burnings in west Alabama

Five last week and four more this morning.

If there is a common link between the churches, aside from geography, it seems to be denomination, not race: All were Baptist; 4 were white, and 5 were black. Here are the details (relevant only because race seems to be a preoccupation of the national media):

All five churches that burned last week were in Bibb County. Four of them - Old Union Baptist, Antioch Baptist, Ashby Baptist, and Rehobeth Baptist - are white churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention; the other - Pleasant Sabine Baptist - is a black church. Bibb County is 77% white and 22 % black.

All of the four churches hit today - Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Greene County, Galilee Baptist and Spring Valley Baptist in Sumter County, and Dancy First Baptist in Pickens County - are black churches. Greene County is 19% white and 80% black. Sumter County is 26% white and 73% black. Pickens County is 56% white and 43% black.

For those of you who are as unfamiliar with west Alabama as I am, this blogger has posted a map. (Birmingham is located at the top right.)

Good news: Keg ban is dead

That's according to Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, who says, "That thing will not see the light of day again this session. I'll kill it myself."
Hinshaw said his subcommittee, which handles alcohol-related proposals for the House Tourism and Travel Committee, will instead work on a bill from Rep. Jamie Ison, R-Mobile, that would create a statewide keg registration system. ...

Ison's bill is designed to create a paper trail with each keg purchase to allow law enforcement officials to trace the purchaser of kegs found at underage drinking parties. As written, the bill would require a keg buyer to fill out a purchase form containing an identification number affixed to the keg. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would work with retailers to coordinate the record-keeping. Ison pointed out that buyers typically already have to fill out paperwork when paying retailers deposits on kegs...

[The keg ban] bill would have restricted keg beer consumption to the property of the bars, restaurants or other locales licensed to sell it. It was first pushed by beer distributors in Alabama who said they are interested in limiting underage access to alcohol.

Many lawmakers have commented in recent weeks about the volume of calls they have received from angry constituents blasting the Senate's version as an undue restriction of individual rights.

Blogging tip of the day

Guess this is one way to get folks to read your blog:
WASHINGTON (AP) — An aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions has agreed to shut down her Web log after the office heard about a complaint a Montgomery newspaper received about the site, which included a photo of the aide's bare midriff.

The Montgomery Advertiser received an e-mail Thursday about Stormie Janzen's blog on, a popular site that allows users to post details about their lives and to connect with friends.

The photo, which showed Janzen's midriff in open jeans and the waistband of her underwear, had been removed by Friday afternoon and entry to parts to her site were restricted to "blog owner friends only." ...

Janzen, 34, who was described as "single, straight and a Scorpio," on the site, did not appear to use the blog to comment on congressional business.

She entered observations on dating, hanging out with girlfriends, and one of her biggest turn-ons — men in button-fly jeans.
The Montgomery Advertiser has more (including a photo) here. I only hope that Stormie weathers the criticism.

Cheney visits

He was in Priceville today raising money for Bob Aderholt. He took the opportunity to defend the administration's policy of using warrantless wiretaps to detect calls into the U.S. from terrorists overseas.
Speaking at a campaign luncheon for Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Cheney said the wiretapping of Americans and people overseas without a special court's warrant has been inaccurately described as domestic spying.

"It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about international communication," he said.

Monday, February 06, 2006
On this day:

Dems seek nonpartisan judicial elections

Guess they're getting tired of losing.

A Time for Choosing

Ronald Reagan, whose birthday we celebrate today, delivered one of the most important speeches of his career on October 27, 1964 in San Francisco. At the time, Reagan was still an actor and had not yet run for political office. He had been a Democrat for most of his life, and had only officially registered as a Republican two years earlier. He said later that "I guess it was in 1960, the year Richard Nixon ran against John F. Kennedy for the presidency, that I completed my political journey from liberal Democrat to dedicated Republican." (Reagan in An American Life, Simon and Schuster, 1990.)

In 1964, Reagan served as co-chairman of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in California, hitting the campaign trail with a superb speech about the virtues of liberty and the dangers of big government. In the final days of the campaign, "The Speech," entitled "A Time for Choosing," was televised nationwide; although it wasn't enough to avert the Johnson landslide, it propelled Reagan into the national spotlight and set the stage for his eventual runs for Governor and President.

The text of "The Speech" can be read here, and it is available in video and audio here. Take a few minutes to's worth it. Below are a few of my favorite parts:

On freedom versus "security"

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves--and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me--the free man and woman of this country--as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy. ...

On government planning and welfare

We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer and they've had almost 30 years of it, shouldn't we expect government to almost read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater, the program grows greater. We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we are told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than $3,000 a year. Welfare spending is 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We are spending $45 billion on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you will find that if we divided the $45 billion up equally among those 9 million poor families, we would be able to give each family $4,600 a year, and this added to their present income should eliminate poverty! Direct aid to the poor, however, is running only about $600 per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead. ...

On liberal do-gooders

...anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so. ...

On the nature of government

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this Earth. ...

On liberty versus socialism

...Back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his party was taking the part of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his party, and he never returned to the day he died, because to this day, the leadership of that party has been taking that party, that honorable party, down the road in the image of the labor socialist party of England. Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? Such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment. Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues. They want to make you and I believe that this is a contest between two men...that we are to choose just between two personalities. ...

On accomodating and appeasing the enemies of freedom

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer--not an easy answer--but simple.

If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based upon what we know in our hearts is morally right. We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace--and you can have it in the next second--surrender.

Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face--that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand--the ultimatum. And what then? When Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we are retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary because by that time we will have weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he has heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he would rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us. You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin--just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance.

On America's destiny

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

Sunday, February 05, 2006
On this day:

Funding Alabama's colleges and universities

The Mobile Register takes a look, and points to a key problem: "Amid the lobbying, it's not clear that the state has a big-picture strategy for funding universities in a way that makes them serve a set of state priorities."

Saturday, February 04, 2006
On this day:

Welcome Corner readers

Whoo hoo! Derb linked to me!

Friday, February 03, 2006
On this day:

FIRE: "Speech code of the Month" goes to JSU

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says that Jacksonville State University's speech code is "one of the most illegally overbroad—not to mention simply inane—speech codes that we have ever seen." According to FIRE:
The student code of conduct at JSU provides that “No student shall threaten, offend, or degrade anyone on University owned or operated property.” Got that? No student shall offend anyone on University property. The only way for students to ensure they are in compliance with this policy is to remain in complete silence. Otherwise, how could a student possibly know whether an opinion she wants to express might offend one of the 9,000 other students at JSU, each of whom has his or her own particular sensitivities?

The barber

Received via e-mail from one of my co-workers:

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The florist is pleased and leaves the shop. Next morning when the barber goes to open there is a thank you card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week."The cop is happy and leaves the shop. Next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a thank you card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later a Republican comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The Republican is very happy and leaves the shop. Next morning when the barber goes to open, there is a thank you card and a dozen different books such as "How to Improve Your Business" and "Becoming More Successful."

Then a Democrat comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies: "I'm sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I'm doing community service this week." The Democrat is very happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Democrats lined up waiting for a free haircut.

A religious observation

It seems as though Catholics set a higher standard for sainthood than do the Episcopalians. Mr. Justice Marshall - token saint? Let's ask Julian Bond.

How the left trashes black conservatives

Julian Bond has been in this business for quite awhile now.


Speaking of Merle Haggard, he will be coming to the Von Braun Center here in Huntsville on March 26 (tickets soon to be available here).

NAACP's Julian Bond: Condi is a "token"

From World Net Daily (via Drudge):

Civil rights activist and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond delivered a blistering partisan speech at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina last night, equating the Republican Party with the Nazi Party and characterizing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, as "tokens."

"The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side," he charged. ...

He referred to former Attorney General John Ashcroft as J. Edgar Ashcroft. He compared Bush's judicial nominees to the Taliban.

The talk so infuriated at least one black family in attendance among the 900 in the auditorium that they got up and walked out in protest.

"He went on and on name calling," said Lee Wilson. "I walked out in the middle of his speech with my wife and three kids."

When I hear stuff like that - especially when it is directed against a daughter of Alabama - it brings to mind an old Merle Haggard song.

Thursday, February 02, 2006
On this day:

Groundhog Day...the movie

It "is one of the best films of the last 40 years," according to NRO's Jonah Goldberg. He explains why here.

Ain't it the truth

The 2006 Demotivators calendars are available at

Cindy Sheehan

"I was arrested by the Capitol Police, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

This just in...

Reliable sources tell me that the real reason for the delay in voting on the deadly force bill is that the French have requested additional time to draw up articles of surrender.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
On this day:

Forcing a compromise

The deadly force bill is on hold for now, as legislators attempt to reach a compromise in order to address concerns raised by members of the House black caucus. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Albert Hall (D-Gurley) explained that the House didn't call for cloture (a vote to end debate) on the bill because "we hated to do it that early in the session."

The Birmingham News (see first link above) has a pretty good description of what the bill would do:
Under current law, a person in most cases is not allowed to use deadly force if he or she knows it could be avoided by retreating, unless he or she is in his or her own home or workplace and was not the original aggressor.

The proposal debated Tuesday would let a person use deadly force if he or she reasonably believed another person was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or already had unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling or occupied vehicle. It says a person would have the right to stand his or her ground, rather than retreating, as long as he or she was doing nothing illegal and had the right to be where he or she was. ...

Under the bill, a dwelling would include a tent or porch. A vehicle would include any conveyance, motorized or not, designed to move a person or property.

The bill also would let a person use deadly force if he or she reasonably believed another person was attempting to remove, or had forcefully removed, someone from a dwelling or vehicle where that person had a legal right to be.

There would be some exceptions. For instance, a person could not use deadly force against someone who was in a place he or she had a right to be if there were no restraining order against that person.

The bill would grant a person who used deadly force, as the bill allowed, immunity from criminal prosecution and lawsuits.

State law now says a person can use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes another person is:

Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.

Using or about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling while trying to commit a burglary.

Committing or about to commit a kidnapping, serious assault, burglary, robbery, forcible rape or forcible sodomy.

A right to choose? Take two

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich recently imposed a rule requiring pharmacies in his state to provide the "morning after" pill. Several bills have been introduced in the Illinois legislature that would override the rule, thereby allowing pharmacists the choice to act in accordance with their religious or moral beliefs. The Governor has said that "if any of those bills reach my desk, they are dead on arrival."

A right to choose?

Three Massachusetts women are suing Wal-Mart over the company's refusal to sell the "morning-after" pill in its pharmacies.

Now, I go to Wal-Mart quite a bit, and it's not uncommon for me to find that they don't stock a particular product that I need. It may be mildly irritating, but I don't break down in tears and file a lawsuit when it happens. I go somewhere else. That's what most people would do. But, these women and their accomplices are not most people. They stand out from the crowd in their self-centered contempt for those who fail to indulge their every need and desire.

The womens' attorney had the gall to say, "No pharmacy chain can take a political agenda and impose it on the people of Massachusetts." The truth is, of course, that Wal-Mart isn't the one doing the imposing here. It has made a conscious choice - a "business decision" - to stock certain drugs and not to stock others. It does not force anyone to shop at its pharmacies. It doesn't prevent anyone from doing their business elsewhere. The only ones advocating coercion in this dispute are the three women who filed the lawsuit and their friends at Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Jane Doe, Inc.

This little brouhaha might be funny if it weren't so sad. And if it weren't happening in Massachusetts, where the choice-for-me-but-not-for-thee crowd probably stands a good chance of winning.

Report: 142 ways to improve Auburn

I'm sure some of you can have fun with that one.

Fairhope residents don't want Wal-Mart

Gotta keep out the riff-raff, ya know?

Siegelman finds fundraising slow


Maybe people will start giving him money once they know how he'll be spending it - on road signs or to post bail, for example.