Tuesday, March 28, 2006
On this day:

Going ATP

Across the pond, that is. I'll be heading out for England Wednesday evening, due to arrive in London around 8 AM Thursday morning. That means that blogging will be light to nonexistent over the next week or so, so y'all hold down the fort without me. I'll be back on Thursday, April 6.

We'll be spending most of the first half of the trip in the west country - specifically Devon and Cornwall - checking out the coast, the moors, and whatever else sounds interesting. After that, things are a little more flexible, but we'll probably trek up north to the Lake District - maybe southern Scotland - and stop a few places in between. Luckily, I'll have a translator with me, so communication shouldn't be a problem.

Anyway, if anyone has any last minute suggestions about places to go, food to eat, or beers to drink, please let me know.

Immigrant protests

Nice quip from Rush today: "These protesters are doing the protesting that Americans will not do anymore."

B'ham News: Alabamians in Congress adept at securing cash

WASHINGTON - The number of community projects in Alabama financed by federal tax dollars has increased 16-fold in the past decade, part of the increasingly aggressive effort by members of Congress to steer ever-larger chunks of the federal budget back home for local endeavors.

Last year alone, in one of the more conservative estimates, Alabama's nine-member congressional delegation landed funding for 291 special projects in Alabama, the highest total ever for the state. The $345 million spent on those projects is more than 3½ times higher than 10 years ago.
Problem is: you've got 98 other Senators and 428 other Representatives who are doing the same thing. Combine that with a "compassionate conservative" President who has yet to veto a spending bill (or any other bill, for that matter), and you get the biggest spending spree in American history. There is no excuse for this kind of waste, and conservatives are right to express their outrage about it, particularly when the source of the problem often lies so close to home:

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan and nonprofit budget-watchdog group in Washington, ranked Alabama 12th in the country in terms of "pork" per capita. ...

During the past 10 years, Citizens Against Government Waste has counted 1,435 Alabama-based projects worth more than $2.2 billion, all listed in one of the several federal spending bills that are divided by subject. ...

A handful of the largest earmarks for Alabama are defense-related, such as purchasing military equipment that may be made or used in Alabama by military personnel from around the world. The majority of the projects, however, are intensely local, whether in urban, high-tech centers in the largest cities of in the farthest reaches of rural counties.

In 2004, $20 million was earmarked for an administration-operations complex for the Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal, and then there was $15,000 for the Gordo Old Town Hall in 2003 from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund, to name just two.

State-by-state lists of earmarks are available at www.cagw.org.

The most generous of the appropriations bills to Alabama has been one for transportation, treasury and housing, which included 373 Alabama projects worth more than $909 million from 1995 to 2005. These are the big-ticket road, research and building projects, many of which were inserted under the powerful hand of [Sen. Richard] Shelby, who was chairman of the transportation appropriations subcommittee for several years. Traditionally, those who write the bill hold great authority over what is included and what isn't.

There's no doubt that Sen. Shelby has been the most profligate of Alabama's big spenders. (Just one more reason why Alabamians should have re-elected Admiral Jeremiah Denton back in 1986, by the way.) The Democrat-turned-Republican never met a pork project he didn't endorse. How, for example, can you justify using federal dollars to build a tram extension between the Alabama Space and Rocket Center and the Huntsville Botanical Gardens? Sen. Shelby did just that - to the tune of $229,000. That pales in comparison to other expenditures that he has supported, but this one stands out in my mind because - 1) it's just down the road from me, 2) it is an unnecessary frill that primarily rewards lazy-asses who could just as easily walk (it's a friggin' garden!), 3) the City of Huntsville is wealthy enough to pay for it with its own tax dollars, and 4) I'm sure that the Boy Scouts would have been happy to cut a nature trail through the woods for free, if there's not already one there.

I'm of the firm belief that the federal government's scope should be limited by the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. The debate over "internal improvements" goes back to the early days of the Republic (Remember Henry Clay?), but it's a debate that was lost almost as soon as it began. Even so, it is still possible for Congress and the President to curb the worst of the excesses with a minimum of fiscal discipline. Unfortunately, that's a virtue that seems to be lacking in this President and this Congress.

Don't let the bedbugs bite

Bedbugs are back:

Bedbugs, once thought to be eradicated in the United States, have made a comeback around the country, including Birmingham. In the last couple of months, a Birmingham hotel and an area apartment complex were treated for a bedbug outbreak, said Lester Harris, Birmingham-area service manager for Orkin. ...

"This is an insect that causes people a lot of mental stress," said Frank Meek, technical director of Orkin. "It's a blood-sucking insect that attacks you while you're in bed, which is supposed to be a safe haven."

People mistakenly associate bedbugs with filthy conditions, but that's not the case, Meek said.

"This is not a sanitation issue," he said. "Bedbugs can be found in the lowest-quality hotels or premier, five-star hotels. It doesn't matter how clean you keep your house. These insects do not feed on dirt; they feed on human blood."

Yeah, right. We're supposed to believe this nonsense? Government has wanted to get into our bedrooms for years, and this gives them just the excuse they need. Someone call Roy Moore. He'll get to the bottom of this!

Monday, March 27, 2006
On this day:

Moore uncovers cow conspiracy

Judge Roy Moore suspects that the government's prying eyes could be coming to a barnyard near you.

According to the Birmingham News:

MONTGOMERY - Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore said Friday it was a "strange coincidence" that mad cow disease was found in Alabama just as government officials want to start an animal-identification system.

Moore is opposed to a national tracking system that would give identification numbers to farm animals and to a bill pending in the Alabama Legislature that would authorize Alabama to start its own tracking system.

"It's a strange coincidence that we have a case of mad cow disease at the same time the Senate is debating this bill," Moore said. "I see this as an imposition on freedom and liberty." ...

When asked if he believed that the mad cow report could be manufactured, Moore replied, "That's right." But if it is true, Moore said, bureaucrats are exploiting fears to promote the passage of a tracking system.

A costly gesture

As much as I agree with the sentiment behind the abortion ban bills introduced in the Alabama legislature, I think that the editors at National Review made a good argument in their March 8 editorial:
Pro-lifers have gained ground over the last decade and a half by pursuing a savvy incremental strategy. That strategy puts the end of Roe within sight. If Roe falls, pro-lifers should then try to persuade the public in each state to prohibit most abortions. After that, they should try to persuade them to prohibit abortion in the case of rape and incest. To try to collapse this multi-stage process into an instant is to ignore social and political circumstances, and to throw away patiently and painfully won political victories for the sake of an emotional gesture.

The most effective response to Roe is not to pretend that it does not exist. Some of our pro-life allies who favor enacting these laws now — as opposed to waiting until Roe is gone — wave aside the practical objections by saying that it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. That is true. But making it easier for pro-choicers to win the abortion wars is not the right thing to do.

Buck Owens, RIP

Country music legend Buck Owens died Saturday at his home in Bakersfield, California. He was 76 years old. (Wikipedia bio here, AP obit here.)

Owens already had a long career behind him by the time I started watching him on Hee-Haw in the '70's. (That was back in the good old days, before Hee-Haw got all citified.) His hits included songs like "Act Naturally," "Together Again," and "Tiger by the Tail." For more on Owens's life and career, see this 1999 Salon.com article, "The Baron of Bakersfield."

Legislators introduce bills to ban most abortions in Alabama

Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would ban abortion for all reasons except those in which the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Two Alabama legislators have introduced bills that would ban almost all abortions in the state, except those performed to save women's lives.

The bills are similar to legislation banning abortion that passed in South Dakota last month and was signed on March 6 by Republican Gov. Mike Rounds.

"I thought if South Dakota can do it, Alabama ought to do it because we are a family friendly state," said state Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, who has introduced a bill in the Senate that would even ban abortions in cases where a woman became pregnant because of rape or incest. ...

A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Nick Williams, R-McIntosh. Both bills have been assigned to committees, but no further action has been taken. The bills would make it a felony crime to perform abortions in Alabama.

With only seven meeting days remaining in the 2006 regular session, the bills are not given much chance of passing this year, but supporters say they expect to keep trying, particularly if Republicans are successful in cutting into Democratic control of the Alabama House and Senate in this year's elections. There are currently 62 Democrats and 43 Republicans in the House and Democrats have a 25-10 margin in the Senate.
Sen. Erwin's bill is Senate bill 503; Rep. Williams's bill is House bill 791.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
On this day:

Bob, Roy, Don, Lucy, and the French

Now that Roy Moore has said once and for all that he intends to remain in the Republican Party, it's clear that voters will be treated to a real debate in the upcoming gubernatorial primary. Thank goodness for that...I was getting a little concerned. If Moore had dropped out or had decided to run as an independent, our only entertainment from now until the June primary would have been on the Democratic side, with Lucy "you-couldn't-find-my-position-if-I-had-a-GPS-in-my-head" Baxley taking on Don "heading-to-an-Alabama-Slammer" Siegelman. Now, it's true that Don has a few ideas (think lottery), but a well-known law of physics states that you can't hold a debate in a vacuum, and that's one law that even Don Siegelman can't break.

Gov. Riley and Roy Moore, on the other hand, are both "idea men," both with well-defined platforms stating where they want to take the state. On Tuesday, Moore gave a taste of how he plans to frame their differences, even going so far as to question the Governor's commitment to Republican principles:

(B'ham News) "The people of this state need true Republican leadership, and we're not having it now," Moore said, citing Riley's 2003 failed tax-increase referendum. "Higher taxes, bigger government is not the Republican philosophy." ...

"I believe in the principles of the Republican Party. It is not I who has deserted the Republican Party. It is they who have deserted the Republican Party," he said.

I honestly don't think that this kind of rhetoric is going to get Moore very far. Along with the vast majority of Alabamians, I voted against the Amendment One tax and accountability package in 2003. I think that it was a major blunder, both politically and as a matter of public policy; but, the Governor's recent actions indicate that he has learned from that mistake. He has come out strongly in favor of cutting taxes by raising the income tax threshold, increasing the personal exemption, and raising the level of deductions. He says he would support allowing Alabamians to vote on whether they want their property values to be reappraised every year or every four years. This year, as he has done throughout his term as Governor, he proposed a budget that was both fiscally sound and consistent with the principles of limited government.

It's also important to remember that back in 2003, the state was facing a fiscal nightmare; there were no good options. It's true that Gov. Riley chose the worst possible option - the largest tax increase in state history - but, he adamantly insisted that the entire package be voted on by the people, even though several of the tax increases could have been passed without one. And the package wasn't just about tax increases. It included several government accountability provisions that were good ideas at the time, and that remain good ideas today.

After Amendment One's defeat, the Governor started over again by insisting on steep budget cuts with no major tax increases, and within a year and a half, the growing economy had led to an unprecedented influx of revenues. For small-government low-tax types, Amendment One turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Its resounding defeat at the polls sent an unmistakable message to Montgomery that Alabama voters were in no mood for broad-based tax increases, thereby increasing the political price to be paid by anyone who would dare propose such a thing again.

That brings us to today. The state budget (one of them, at least: the Education Trust Fund) has a large surplus, and the Governor has suggested using this rare opportunity to allow taxpayers to keep more of their own money instead of sending it to Montgomery. I would say that the Governor has done quite enough penance since 2003 for the Amendment One debacle, and my guess is that most Republican voters will think the same thing.

Even so, Judge Moore's presence in the race should be welcomed, in my opinion - it is good for conservatism and good for the state Republican Party. In politics, as in life in general, contentment leads to boredom, which in turn leads to the kind of sloth that afflicts liberals and Democrats so much these days. Then, before you know it, every-damned-body around you starts acting like Frenchmen. So, bring it own, Judge Moore. Let's see a good fight.

High energy prices got you down?

To hear liberals and the media tell it, you'd think that oil company executives are taking their record profits and spending them frivolously on mansions, yachts, and fancy cars. OK...maybe they are, but as oil and natural gas supplies get tighter and prices rise, companies are also investing beaucoups of their own money on exploration and production in harder-to-reach areas, as the AP reported today:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Petroleum operators announced 10 new deepwater discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 and the number of drilling rigs exploring in deep water has increased sevenfold in a year, [the federal Minerals Management Service] reported.

[More info: see the Minerals Management Service press releases here and here.]

There's nothing surprising about this. It's the way markets work: they create incentives to produce and to meet the demands of consumers. The great thing about it is that energy companies don't need government subsidies to go off and look for new supplies. They are more than willing to do it on their own, if the government will just let them.

Reaction to Baxley's ruling

Some of it seems a little over the top. From the Mobile Register's "Political Skinny:"
After the flap over Rep. Spencer Collier's unborn victims bill, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley got a good taste of how election-year angling affects legislative maneuverings.

Within hours of her ruling on Collier's bill, House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, distributed news releases denouncing the lieutenant governor for siding with "liberal groups" such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women, which Hubbard decried as "out of the mainstream" in Alabama.

State Christian Coalition President John Giles also released a prepared statement, saying, "Baxley's ruling was incorrect, inaccurate and was an exaggerated stretch at best. ... The Senate Democrat leadership must take full responsibility for every unborn child murdered in this state without the protection of this bill."

Riley on the fetal protection bill

There's no guessing about where Gov. Riley stands:

Gov. Bob Riley said if the bill did reach the Senate floor, it would be "passed unanimously."

"It would be a shame to see it locked down again in the Senate committee," Riley said.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
On this day:

Baxley ruling on fetal homicide bill likely to become campaign issue

According to the Huntsville Times:

Alabama is one of 18 states where the law recognizes only one victim instead of two when a pregnant woman is killed. Twenty states recognize a second victim from conception, and 12 states set a later time in the pregnancy.

Back in January, the Alabama House tried to rectify this situation by passing an unborn victims of violence bill by a vote of 97-0. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Collier (R.-Bayou La Batre), would define "person" to include an unborn child when referring to a victim of a criminal homicide or assault. It states further that "nothing in this act shall make it a crime to perform or obtain an abortion that is otherwise legal."

Since its unanimous passage in the House, the bill has been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham). Smitherman has refused to schedule a vote on the legislation, saying that it needs further study. Perhaps the Senator is a just a slow learner: his committee considered and killed a similar bill in last year's session.

Last week, Senate proponents of the bill made a last-ditch attempt to save it from the same fate this year by moving it out of Smitherman's committee. Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley was having none of that, though. From the AP:

On Thursday, [Sen. Hank] Erwin [R.-Montevallo] proposed using a Senate rule that says if a committee has taken no action on a bill for six meeting days, 21 of the 35 senators can vote to pull the bill out of the committee and have the lieutenant governor reassign it to a different committee to consider.

Smitherman said the Judiciary Committee had taken action because it held a public hearing on the bill March 7-8. Smitherman said a public hearing constitutes action, and a vote on a bill is not required to have action.

Erwin argued that a vote constitutes action, and he asked Baxley for a ruling as the Senate's presiding officer.

Baxley said the public hearing constituted action. "Under any stretch of the imagination, that was action going on in the committee about this bill," she said.

Erwin urged Baxley to change her view. "This is a matter of life or death," he said.

Baxley said it was about the Senate's rules and not about life or death. She said the senators wrote and approved the rules in 2003, and her only role is to interpret them. She also said she personally favors recognizing "that it is a second life if a pregnant woman is killed."

Erwin challenged Baxley's ruling, which prompted a vote on whether to sustain her ruling. The Senate voted 12-17 to sustain the ruling. The nay votes were one vote short of the 18 needed to override a ruling of the chair. [A majority of the entire 35-member Senate is needed to override a ruling by the chair.]

"The chair's ruling stands," Baxley announced.

Now, in all fairness to Mrs. Baxley, her ruling may very well have been the correct one. It all depends on how the Senate has traditionally defined "action" by one of its committees. I don't profess to know all the arcane rules of the Senate, so I'll leave it at that.

That's really beside the point, though. Mrs. Baxley is running for Governor. She says she favors recognizing that there are two victims whenever a pregnant woman is killed, but she has not said whether or not she supports this particular bill, nor has she publicly suggested that Sen. Smitherman stop obstructing its consideration. To put it bluntly, Mrs. Baxley has not acted as a leader and prospective Governor should act, and her actions (or lack thereof) have only reinforced the notion that she is either unable or unwilling to take a meaningful stand on anything of importance.

At least they won't be disappointed

This has got to be the best news yet for Lucy Baxley:
Many of the retirees, business owners, farmers and small-town politicians who greet Lucy Baxley on the campaign trail don't come to hear detailed positions on issues.

The age of pork

Thanks in part to Senator Richard Shelby, Alabama will be getting $350,000 in federal money to combat underage drinking. From Senator Shelby's press release:
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, announced today that the Department of Justice has awarded $350,000 for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety Division’s Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Block Grant Program. The funding will assist statewide efforts to enforce underage drinking laws.

Senator Shelby said, “I am pleased to announce $350,000 to enforce underage drinking laws. Too often, underage drinking is viewed as a right of passage for teenagers despite the number of alcohol related accidents and deaths that occur each year. I believe we must support the efforts of state and local law enforcement to uphold the law. Enforcement, coupled with education, is our best protection against needless drunk driving accidents and fatalities.”
Reducing underage drinking may be a worthy objective, but I've yet to find an underage drinking clause in the Constitution giving the feds that responsibility. Is the federal government so awash in revenue that it can afford to hand out money for activities that have traditionally, and constitutionally, been handled by the states? Are states so strapped for cash that they can't come up with the money on their own? I think not. The federal government is running a deficit of over $300 billion annually, while the State of Alabama has more money than it knows what to do with.

I guess I should look on the bright side, though. It'll be much easier to curb underage drinking than it will be to curb the federal government's spending habits.

Monday, March 20, 2006
On this day:


Hope everyone had a festive St. Patrick's day. Sorry I've been so quiet lately. I've been trying to catch up on a little reading, and more importantly, do a little spring cleaning. I know you'll never believe this, but I'm a wee bit of a packrat. (Quiet in the peanut gallery, please.)

Anyway...I hope to be bloggin' at full speed a little later this week. Just wanted to chime in and let everyone know I'm still here. Meanwhile, have fun playing this.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
On this day:

Baptists and Methodists

I kinda like this description of their relationship:
Methodists and Baptists have a friendly rivalry, one that centers more on being first to the restaurant for Sunday lunch than anything dark or unsettling.


It's big business in Alabama:

Alabama Catfish Producers Director Mitt Walker said the catfish business is responsible for more than 3,000 jobs in Alabama. Ranked second to Mississippi in annual catfish sales, Farmers in Alabama sold more than $97 million worth of catfish in 2005, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Alabama's three major catfish processors — Southern Pride in Greensboro, Harvest Select in Uniontown and SouthFresh in Eutaw — sell about $170 million worth of catfish to all 50 states and Canada and Europe. Annual sales to farmers by allied industries are approximately $80 million for feed, utilities, equipment and services.

But do they have a Catfish King and Queen?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
On this day:

You know you're in the South when...

You read stories like this one in your local newspaper. From Jasper's Daily Mountain Eagle:

It's hog boiling time for members of Meek High School.

This Friday, the 47th Annual Chittlin' Supper sponsored by the Meek High School Band of Champions and the Winston County Chittlin' Eaters Association will be held in Arley.

For those who aren't so adventurous, chicken is provided as a substitute for the chittlins. The entire menu consists of chittlins or chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, cracklin' cornbread and rolls.

And what would a meal be without the evening's entertainment? This year Meek will host a number of alumni who have agreed to sing, the gospel group 3 for 1, Elvis impersonator Doug Lewis, Judge Bobby Aderholt from Haleyville, and children from around the community. Hartselle country music radio personality Carol Ann will be the emcee.

Throughout the night, door prizes will be given away to lucky participants and the band will have T-shirts for sale. The annual Chittlin' King and Queen will be crowned, which is voted on by the students of Meek. It will also include the yearly hog calling contest and buck dancing contest. ...

Tickets in advance can be purchased for $7 for adults at William's Grocery, Arley Farm Supplies or at the school's office.

Tickets will be $8 for adults and $5 for children the night of the supper.

The chittlin' supper will start at 5 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 17.

For those of you who don't know what chitlins* are: they are hog intestines; they are prepared by first cleaning thoroughly (very important), then boiling and/or frying with whatever spices you like. They are served plain or with hot sauce. I've never had them myself, but I've heard that they are quite tasty, but a little greasy.

If you are tempted to make some yourself, there are plenty of recipes at this site , and this one has both a recipe and a bit of chitlin history. If you're a bit turned-off by the whole cleaning process, you can order your chitlins already hand-cleaned from The Chitlin' Market. Sounds almost too good to pass up, huh?

*The proper spelling is "chitterlings."

Lucy Baxley: Jesus was a liberal

The Gospel according to Lucy:
(AP) Baxley characterized herself as a "conservative Democrat," but she said she won't get upset if someone calls her a "liberal," provided they use it to describe someone who cares about people.

"In my opinion, if you read about the life of Jesus, he was a liberal," she said.

Monday, March 13, 2006
On this day:

The crappiest invention of all time

The other day, I came across this piece by Nick Schulz, in which he discussed the auto-flush toilet. If you're lucky, your office hasn't yet been equipped with one of these contraptions, but be prepared: it's coming your way soon. Then, you'll understand the typical scenario:

There you are - taking care of business - maybe reading the local newspaper or just having a little thoughtful interlude from the stresses of the day - then all of a sudden...click, whirrrr. Before you can say, "What the...?", you are greeted with the dreaded bum sprinkle.

As the initial shock fades, gentle reason takes over and you think to yourself, "OK...perhaps I moved a smidge and the sensor-thingy thought I was done...no biggie. If I remain perfectly still, it won't happen again."

You soon find out that this is no small feat: to stay perfectly still even as you exert the energy required to complete the task at hand is just not that easy. And it's all in vain, anyway. Even as you are perched upon the throne like The Thinker, and just as motionless...there comes the inevitable click, whirrrr, followed this time by a string of obscenities that echoes through the room, to the great amusement of the other occupants. One of them chimes in, "Let us know if we need to call somebody to pull you out." Gee, thanks, s***head.

As clean-up operations commence, the need for speed becomes more urgent, as the click, whirrrs come with increased frequency. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do but to grin and bear it, since there are certain things in life that you just don't want to rush.

Now...the guys who invented this atrocious device had to know the blasted things wouldn't work right, but they marketed and sold them anyway. Where are all the lawyers when you need 'em? Why can't a few of them stop chasing ambulances and go after the auto-flush conglomerate? Where are the Democrats? Lord knows they love to regulate...so let 'em regulate. Someone needs to get to the bottom of this problem, once and for all.

In the meantime, here's a little tip: next time you have to use a toilet with auto-flush, take a Post-it note in with you and place it so that it covers the IR sensor on the toilet. It'll never even know you're there. (Alternately, you could take in a sledgehammer and pound the thing into oblivion, but that could result in a perpetual flush situation and/or criminal charges, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006
On this day:

Suspects arrested in church arsons

It sounds like the three young arsonists may have had no real motive other than thrill-seeking. From this AP report (which appeared today in the Decatur Daily):

Benjamin Nathan Moseley of Birmingham and Russell Lee DeBusk Jr. of Hoover, both 19 and theater students at Birmingham-Southern College, and Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20, of Indian Hills, a friend and student at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, were charged in the rash of church fires last month.

Federal agents said Moseley admitted to the arsons after his arrest Wednesday, the day after a tire track, picked up as evidence in the probe, was traced to Cloyd. DeBusk also confessed, court documents show. ...

The three suspects rode with Cloyd to shoot deer in Bibb County the night the first fire was set, according to a sworn statement by a federal agent who investigated the fires, Walker Johnson.

Cloyd told a witness they set fire to a church "as a joke and it got out of hand," according to Johnson, who works for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Moseley later told agents that burning additional churches became "too spontaneous" after they saw fire trucks rushing by.

Four days after burning five churches in Bibb County, Moseley and Cloyd traveled to West Alabama and set fire to four more churches "as a diversion to throw investigators off," according to Johnson's statement.

"Moseley said the diversion obviously did not work," said the affidavit. ...

Moseley and DeBusk are theater students at Birmingham-Southern, a small liberal arts school affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Cloyd formerly attended the same school but transferred to UAB.

Two other AP stories have more on the students' backgrounds: see here and here.

Birmingham-Southern College has suspended Moseley and Debusk, and the college president has pledged to help rebuild the churches.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
On this day:

To print or not to print?

The Huntsville Times editorializes on the controversy over the University of South Alabama Vanguard's decision to publish one of the Mohammed cartoons.

More good economic news for Alabama

The state's January unemployment rate came in at 3.8%. That's up from 3.6% in December (the lowest ever recorded in Alabama), but it is still well below the national average of 4.7%, and it remains among the lowest in the nation.

In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that Alabama's unemployment rate declined by 1.2% from 2004 to 2005. That ties with Oregon as the largest decrease in the nation over that time period.

For 2005, only 10 other states had average unemployment rates that were lower than Alabama's 4.0%: Hawaii (2.8%), North Dakota (3.4%), Vermont (3.5%), Virginia (3.5%), New Hampshire (3.6%), Wyoming (3.6%), Florida (3.8%), Idaho (3.8%), Nebraska (3.8%), and South Dakota (3.9%). Minnesota had the same rate as Alabama. Nationwide, the average for 2005 was 5.1%.

Military recruiting in Alabama

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Solomon Amendment, a 1996 law which restricts federal funding of any college or university that denies military recruiters access equal to that provided to other recruiters. (The case was Rumsfeld vs. FAIR; the opinion of the Court was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.)

The University of Alabama School of Law and the Cumberland School of Law are not affected by the ruling, since they already allow military recruiters on their campuses. However, the story could have been very different. Back in 1994, it literally took an act of the legislature to force the UA Law School to allow military recruiters:
(AP) The law school at Tuscaloosa once restricted recruiters, but Jennifer McCracken, a spokeswoman at Alabama, said they are allowed now. ...

At Alabama in the 1990s, military recruiters weren't allowed to meet with students in the law school, despite opposition from the law faculty. The restrictions on recruiting were enacted in 1994 after the Association of American Law Schools, which includes 160 top law schools, adopted a rule to protest the military's policy toward gays as discriminatory.

Then-Alabama Attorney General Jeff Sessions objected to the restrictions at Alabama, which were eventually dropped, and legislators passed a law requiring that schools let military recruiters on campus.

"For us, (the ruling Monday) is a non-story because of the state law," said Rodney Waites, assistant dean for career services at Alabama. A few dozen law students talk annually with military recruiters, and two entered the service last year, he said.
That's all well and good - thank you Jeff Sessions - but the UA School of Law is still a member of the Association of American Law Schools, and to my knowledge, the AALS still requires the following of its member law schools:
For purposes of compliance with the bylaws, schools that choose to permit access to the military may demonstrate adequate "amelioration" by a number of different actions. As a starting point, each school should assure that all its students, as well as others in the law school community, are informed each year that the military discriminates on a basis not permitted by the school's nondiscrimination rules and the AALS bylaws and that the military is being permitted to interview only because of the loss of funds that would otherwise be imposed under the Solomon Amendment (or, in appropriate cases, because of higher university directives that compel the law school to permit access). Other ameliorative acts that schools might consider include forums or panels for the discussion of the military policy or for the discussion of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although no specific type of amelioration is required, the Executive Committee will examine the actions schools take in the context of the totality of the school's efforts to support an hospitable environment for its students. In assessing that environment, the Association will consider, among other things, the presence of an active lesbian and gay student organization and the presence of openly lesbian and gay faculty and staff. We would be grateful if schools would advise us of effective amelioration strategies in which they have engaged so that we can periodically share those strategies with other member schools.

I'm sorry, but no school that is supported by Alabamians' tax dollars should have to "ameliorate," apologize, or otherwise do penance for allowing the U.S. military to recruit on its campus. Apparently, though, the UA School of Law has done exactly that. It is still a member of the AALS, so the assumption has to be that it has adhered to the AALS's policy. How so? Just what sort of "amerlioration" has the UA School of Law undertaken in recent years to satisfy the politically correct whims of the AALS? I'd love to know...wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006
On this day:

Breyer at UA

The Tuscaloosa News has this report, and the AP reports here.

Siegelman "Born to Run"

(B'ham News) Former Gov. Don Siegelman formally opened his campaign for governor Sunday talking about many of the same things he talked about in a failed re-election bid four years ago.

Speaking to a cheering crowd of about 200 people at The Summit shopping center, Siegelman called for a lottery to support education and criticized Gov. Bob Riley, the man who unseated him by a razor-thin margin in November 2002. ...

Siegelman's rally was held in a large, vacant store decorated with red, white and blue balloons. Campaign workers passed out bumper stickers, yard signs, buttons, brochures and T-shirts. Cake and lemonade were served, and supporters dropped campaign contributions, in cash and checks, into large glass jars. One jar was labeled "Riley Relocation Fund."

Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and other tunes blared from a stereo system.

The only question is: would that be for Governor or from the law?

Anniston can breathe easier...for now

The Anniston Army Depot has destroyed the last of its sarin gas stockpile. The incineration process isn't finished, though. There are still VX and mustard weapons to go.

Birmingham's "brilliant bike museum"

The Daily Telegraph's Frank Melling discovers the Barber Museum in Birmingham, Alabama.

UA Law Prof: There are no liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court

From the University of Alabama Crimson White:

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will speak to the UA School of Law today, making Breyer the seventh high court justice to speak at the University. ...

David Lanoue, chairman of the UA political science department, said Breyer has been "well to the left side" of the court, often siding with justices such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg in several decisions.

"He's not always a predictable liberal vote on the court, but he is usually a confident one," Lanoue said.

UA law professor Bryan Fair said there are no liberals on the Supreme Court, and he would describe Breyer as a moderate who writes "very careful and deliberate decisions on cases."

I guess that all depends on your perspective, Professor.

Monday, March 06, 2006
On this day:

Muslims at USA miffed over cartoon; demand apology

Some Muslim students and faculty at the University of South Alabama are upset that the school's newspaper, the Vanguard, recently reprinted one of those Danish cartoons of Mohammed.

(AP) Muslim students at the school have sought an apology since the cartoon appeared in the paper's Feb. 13 edtion. It depicts Muhammad, holding a curved sword, with a black bar over his eyes and flanked by two women wearing burkas.

"We just wanted an apology and for them to not do it again," said Joseph Stewart, a freshman who is president of the school's Muslim Students Association, which has about 50 members. "We're just saying this is rude, it offended a lot of people."

Jeff Poor, editor in chief of the Vanguard, said the newspaper printed the cartoon in support of freedom of speech and has no intention of apologizing.

Dean of Students Tim Beard told the Mobile Register in a story Monday that the administration is considering printing some sort of statement on religious tolerance and freedom of speech, but said the university will not restrain the paper.

"If any place should be a place to discuss philosophy and religion and press, it should be a university," Beard said.

The "controversial" editorial and cartoon can be viewed at the Vanguard's site here. There's a very long comment thread, as well.

Sunday, March 05, 2006
On this day:

Lucy's ass-kickin' husband

One of Lucy Baxley's lesser-known opponents for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination had a little run-in this past weekend with Mrs. Baxley's husband, Jim Smith.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nathan Mathis has found that criticizing Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley can cause trouble — with her husband.

Speaking Saturday at the Alabama Press Association convention, Mathis said, "Last night I received my first threat since I've been running."

Mathis said he was attending a state Democratic Party reception Friday night in Montgomery and saw Baxley's husband, Jim Smith, come through the door.

"I stuck my hand out to shake hands, and he said, 'I ought to kick your ass for what you said on the radio about Lucy.' I said, "What did you say?' And he told me again."

Mathis, a former state representative from Newton, said he had been on a radio talk show in Birmingham, where he compared Baxley's job as presiding officer of the Senate to being a PTA president and criticized her for not taking positions on important issues.

Contacted while campaigning with Baxley on Saturday, Smith said he did express his displeasure to Mathis, but didn't recall threatening to kick him.

Well, at least Lucy's hubby can take a stand. Maybe he's the one who should be running for Governor...That name-recognition thing might be a problem for him, though.

Friday, March 03, 2006
On this day:

Republicans pick up Alabama House seat by a landslide

A special election was held on Tuesday to fill the late Rep. Jack Venable's seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. The Republican, Barry Mask, won by a margin of 59%-41%. Venable was a Democrat, so Mask's victory brings the Republican Party one step closer to its goal of gaining control of the legislature.

The outcome of this election makes this Feb. 25 Alabama Democratic Party blog post even more amusing. It reads: "The Alabama Republican Establisment has gone into a full-fledged panic mode as Democrat Bobby Payne has proven to be an exceptional candidate with a pristine record and work ethic."

Nice pre-election propaganda there, guys, but before you say something like that again, you may want to consider how stupid you'll look after your guy gets trounced.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
On this day:

Liberals are a sad bunch

A recent Pew Research Center survey confirms that conservatives are indeed happier than liberals.

Last week, columnist George Will had some interesting thoughts to explain this "happiness gap". Here's a taste:
Begin with a paradox: Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward''), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation''). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.