Saturday, July 29, 2006
On this day:

A nation of wimps

I agree with Derb. This is pretty depressing.

Friday, July 28, 2006
On this day:

The Communist News Network?

(My apologies...long post ahead. But, I've included part of an excellent Reagan speech at the end, so it'll be worth your while.)

Here's the latest outrage from CNN: Courageous American "rebels" show their solidarity with the Castro regime.

Honestly - and I'm not exaggerating here - this is exactly the type of propaganda I remember hearing when I would occasionally tune in to Radio Moscow's shortwave broadcasts back during the Soviet days. It's absolutely disgusting that this sort of thing now passes for "objective" journalism at CNN. (Yes, I was around in the '80's, and yes, I occasionally listened to shortwave radio. Hey, I grew up in the rural had to do something to keep yourself entertained.)

Here's a complete transcript of the story, which is titled "U.S. rebels vacation in Cuba":
Morgan Neill (CNN): "Scraping old paint off the wall is dull, monotonous work, even if you're doing it while surrounded by Cuba's tropical sun and palm trees. So, why would anyone stockpile their vacation days to do this?"

Jo-Jo (Venceremos Brigades): "We're here because we feel it's important for us to challenge unjust laws, and for the U.S. to dictate to us that we can't travel to Cuba...we don't really...we feel is unfair and it's wrong."

Morgan Neill (CNN): "Jo Jo is part of a group known as the Venceremos Brigades, U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba every year in defiance of the U.S. embargo. They work side-by-side with Cubans on various projects. This year, scraping paint off a rural schoolhouse."

Sophia Elijah (VB): "Vacation? Well, I'm working probably as hard or harder than I do back home, but I use vacation time to come, yes."

Morgan Neill (CNN): "It's not just opposition to the travel ban that attracts them. It's also a chance to see the country built by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro."

Elisa Pintor (VB): "We have so much to learn from a very live...a live Revolution down here."

Morgan Neill (CNN): "While the Vinceremos Brigades have a specific focus, Cuba's one-of-a-kind mix of Communism and defiance appeals to a broad range of tourists. Many visit the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, where Fidel Castro and his vastly-outnumbered army waged a guerilla war that would eventually topple the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

"Following in the footsteps of El Comandante [Che Guevara], tourists make their way up to this makeshift hospital, once entirely hidden from enemy planes. It was here that they did what they could to treat the wounded.

"Getting to Cuba's Revolutionary landmarks isn't easy. Visitors must arrange their own transport and often face rugged climbs, but they say it's worth the effort."

Jens (tourist): "It's a good story about Castro arriving from Mexico to this place and making this war down here. It's very exciting."

Morgan Neill (CNN): "Cuba's beaches may be the star attraction here, but for those looking for a bit more adventure, the lure of the Revolution and its heroes is hard to resist."

Morgan Neill (CNN): "Morgan Neill. CNN, Havana."
Well, I want to share something with those who would call Fidel Castro and Che Guevara "heroes". On May 20, 1983 - Cuban Independence Day - President Ronald Reagan gave a speech in Miami, Florida, where he joined Cuban Americans in expressing their hopes for a free Cuba. He said:

About 10 million people still live in Cuba, as compared to about 1 million Cuban Americans -- people with the same traditions and cultural heritage, yet the Cubans in the United States, with only one-tenth the number, produce almost two times the wealth of those they left behind. So, don't let anyone fool you: What's happening in Cuba is not a failure of the Cuban people; it's a failure of Fidel Castro and of communism.

The Soviet Union with all its military might, with its massive subsidy of the Cuban economy, can't make the system produce anything but repression and terror.

It reminds me of the story -- I happen to collect stories that the Soviet people are telling each other, the Russian people. It indicates their cynicism with their own system. This is a story of a commissar who visited one of their collective farms, and he stopped the first farmer, workman that he met, and he asked about life on the farm. And the man said, "It's wonderful. I've never heard anyone complain about anything since I've been here.'' And the commissar then said, "Well, what about the crops?'' "Oh,'' he said, "the crops are wonderful.'' "What about the potatoes?'' "Oi, sir,'' he said, "the potatoes,'' he said, "there are so many that if we put them in one pile they would touch the foot of God.'' And the commissar said, "Just a minute. In the Soviet Union there is no God.'' And the farmer said, "Well, there are no potatoes either.''

Cuban Americans understand perhaps better than many of their fellow citizens that freedom is not just the heritage of the people of the United States. It is the birthright of the people of this hemisphere. We in the Americas are descended from hearty souls -- pioneers, men and women with the courage to leave the familiar and start fresh in this, the New World. We are, by and large, people who share the same fundamental values of God, family, work, freedom, democracy, and justice. Perhaps the greatest tie between us can be seen in the incredible number of cathedrals and churches found throughout the hemisphere. Our forefathers took the worship of God seriously.

Our struggles for independence and the fervor for liberty unleashed by these noble endeavors bind the people of the New World together. In the annals of human freedom, names like Bolivar and Marti rank equally with Jefferson and Washington. These were individuals of courage and dignity, and they left for us a legacy, a treasure beyond all imagination.

But today, a new colonialism threatens the Americas. Insurgents, armed and directed by a faraway power, seek to impose a philosophy that is alien to everything which we believe and goes against our birthright. It's a philosophy that holds truth and liberty in contempt and is a self-declared enemy of the worship of God. Wherever put into practice, it has brought repression and human
deprivation. There is no clearer example of this than Cuba.

The people of Cuba have seen their strong independent labor movement -- which existed before 1959 -- destroyed by a regime that shouts slogans about its concern for the workers; the suppression of the church, including the right of the church to broadcast and print God's word. It is a new fascist regime, where freedom of speech and press of every opposition group has been stamped into the ground with ideological zeal. And it doesn't stop there. Young Cubans are pressed into the military and sent to faraway lands, where hundreds have been killed, to do the bidding of a foreign government, defiling their hands with the blood of others, not serving their own interests, but propping up leaders who have no popular support. ...

The declining Castro economy continues to make a grotesque joke out of the ideological claims that Marxism is for the people. Nearly a quarter of a century after the Cuban revolution, the Cuban people continue to face shortages and rationing of basic necessities. Once one of the most prosperous countries in all of Latin America, it is rapidly becoming the most economically backward in the region, thanks to the Communist system.

You know, they say there are only two places where communism works: in heaven, where they don't need it -- and in hell, where they've already got it.

On this day, we celebrate Cuban independence, something special for the people of the United States as well as Cuba. Eighty-five years ago, we joined together and fought side by side, shedding our blood to free Cuba from the yoke of colonialism. Sadly, we must acknowledge that Cuba is no longer independent. But let me assure you: We will not let this same fate befall others in the hemisphere. We will not permit the Soviets and their henchmen in Havana to deprive others of their freedom. We will not allow them to do that to others. And some day Cuba, itself, will be free. ...

Teddy Roosevelt, a man who fought alongside your forefathers for Cuban independence, said, ``We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.''

Today, let us pledge ourselves to meet this sacred responsibility. And let us pledge ourselves to the freedom of the noble, long-suffering Cuban people. Viva Cuba Libre. Cuba, si; Castro, no.

Thursday, July 27, 2006
On this day:

Roy Moore to write weekly opinion column

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore will be writing a regular Wednesday column for WorldNetDaily. His first column, which ran yesterday, is entitled "Will America Choose to Acknowledge God?"

Florence King on Ann Coulter

I'm not a big fan of Ann Coulter. It's not that I disagree with her politics, really; it's that she seems to have no sense of the "proportionate response." As Florence King says in the latest National Review, "Wondering what life in America would be like if Coulter used a stiletto instead of a sledgehammer is a tempting but futile excursion into dreamland."

Tuning into Birmingham

A writer for the Washington Post is impressed with the Birmingham music scene. (Hat tip to Justin at Southern Appeal, who adds: "I know most of you couldn’t care less, but I keep telling people that the world is beginning to notice our little slice of heaven down here in Dixie - it seems that I just might be right on the money…")

It's an entertaining read, and yes, it includes the usual, mandatory references to Birmingham's "turbulent past." (Is it just me, or do journalists almost always seem to overlook the "turbulent pasts" of cities outside the South?)

One part, which has absolutely nothing to do with music, made me laugh:
The established district of Five Points South is also expanding, with a wine bar and a seafood cafe. Even the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain is getting into the act, with Friday-night in-store wine tastings. You can't get more random than sipping Pinot Grigio at the Pig. they sell Pinot in a box?

Fingerpainting 101

From the Birmingham News:
Wallace State Community College-Hanceville is offering a nail technology option as part of its cosmetology program. It will prepare students to become licensed nail technologists.

Why Barkley switched parties

Earlier this month, Barkley said, "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." No, no, Charles. You've got it all wrong. We still have our minds - it's our hearts that seem to have been misplaced.

Barkley for Governor?

"Sir Charles" Barkley, who now calls himself a Democrat, still has his sights set on the Governor's mansion. Time will tell whether Mr. Barkley is as talented at politics as he is at basketball, but so far, the chances aren't looking good. Consider the issues that Mr. Barkley labels as "stuff that's not important." Minor things like the war in Iraq, illegal immigration, and gay marriage. Now, some politicians may try to avoid talking about those particular issues, but that doesn't diminish their importance. If Mr. Barkley is really interested in a political career, he may need to rethink his priorities.

Politics aside, Charles Barkley is a true Alabama success story - an enormously gifted man and a respected role model who cares deeply about the future of his state. While he may be guilty of "talking trash" from time to time, he often talks a lot of sense. Take this, for example:
"I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money," he said. "I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that." ...

"People will tell you this is America and there is a level playing field. That's the most BS you're ever going to hear," Barkley said. "If you're poor, if you're dodging bullets and drop out (of school), it's not a level playing field." ...

While scolding white America for largely ignoring the needs of the poor, Barkley admonished black students and parents.

"There are too many black kids and their parents who do not value a good education," he said.

"There are places where a black kid who is a good student and tries to speak correctly, you hear stuff like, `He's trying to be white.' Well I say, if that's true, we need more kids trying to be white."

Barkley attacked rap music as promoting a culture that is not good for black Americans.

"I used to think it was just music. I was wrong," Barkley said. "I think it's having a negative effect on black kids, especially young black men, who grow up believing things that hurt them and hurt people."

Barkley urged school board members not to give up on educating poor kids.

"I will never give up on helping those kinds of kids, because I used to be one of those kinds of kids. Don't you give up, either."
That's inspiring stuff, and coming from a popular figure like Charles Barkley, it's a message that kids of all races will listen to. So, come home Charles. We need you.

A good idea from Sen. Sessions

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions wants to bring federal sentencing for possession of crack cocaine in line with that of the powdered stuff. Wheeler at Alablawg has more.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
On this day:

"You call that a knife?"

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of "little-old-ladies-go-medieval-on-your-sorry-thug-ass" stories. They always bring a smile to my face.

For example, I recently told you about 74-year-old Thelma Carter, who - in her own words - "strangled the living daylights" out of an intruder into her Decatur, Alabama home back in April.

Today, meet 80-year-old Winifred Whelan of Liverpool, England. Confronted in her bedroom by a man with a knife, Mrs. Whelan ran downstairs to the kitchen and picked up a weapon of her own - a 14-inch carving knife, yelling to the intruder, "You call that a knife? This is a knife!" Mrs. Whelan and her husband of 61 years, John, were able to fend off the burglars (there were two of them) and send them running. The unlucky robbers have since been arrested and sent to jail.

The Liverpool Echo has more, including a photo of "Brave Winnie" holding her butcher knife.

Maybe civilization has a chance, after all.

Like daughter, like mother

From the Huntsville Times (be sure to read the whole thing):

A 39-year-old grandmother is getting ready to go to Iraq to disarm bombs like the one that seriously injured her daughter.

Army Pfc. Cindra Smith, said she doesn't want revenge on those who hurt her daughter, but she wants to help prevent other soldiers from being hurt by improvised explosive devices.

"What revenge is there in saving someone's life?" Smith said. "If you can dismantle one IED, you can save up to four lives. If I can save one life, I feel I have done what I came to do."

Smith is training at Redstone Arsenal to become an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. She is likely to be deployed within the next year after six more months of training in Florida.

Disarming IEDs is dangerous work, said Lee Hallman, Smith's drill sergeant since her arrival at the arsenal May 26. "You have to ask for this job," he said. "The Army doesn't give you this job."

But it's a job Smith wanted. "I want to understand what happened to my daughter, what we're fighting for and why,'' she said. "I want to help other parents not get the same kind of call I did."

Troy King: meth production down 57%, illegal immigration a growing concern

Story in last Friday's Huntsville Times.
Even though the...local production of meth has declined, King said, most of the imported meth comes from Mexico.

"The federal government has allowed a border problem to become a heartland problem," King said. "Now we've got to search for a way to deal with it and we have to demand our federal officials do something."

He said with an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, the issue is not just about closing the border, but what to do with the illegal immigrants already here.

"The federal government is running a catch-and-release program if the person has committed no horrible crimes on record," he said. "Then, they release them and encourage them to try to become legal citizens because they don't have the funds to house" and deport them.

Huntsville Times on Auburn's "directed study" program

From the Times editors on Monday:
How serious is the dispute at Auburn University over a professor's individual directed-study program and the fact that some athletes took part? It's not much ado about nothing, but it may well be much ado about relatively little.

Phat Girl Mo'Nique cries "Racism!"

So, who do y'all think started this fight?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
On this day:

When the devil comes a' knockin'

Folks in Mobile may want to find a reason to get out of the house for awhile Saturday afternoon:
In conjunction with the Democratic National Committee's "Democratic Reunion" day, the Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will hold a "Door Knockin' for Democrats" event Saturday, according to a news release. Volunteers should meet in the southwest corner of Municipal Park (near the airplane) at 3:30 p.m.

The event will consist of two hours of door-to-door canvassing, followed by a free ice cream social in the park, the release states.

Bama's best export

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's best export might be slathered with sauce.

'Bama-based barbecue restaurants are spreading throughout the South and beyond, slowly gaining an out-of-state foothold in a highly regionalized business where diners can be pretty picky about what's on their plate. ...

...the spread of so many restaurants from a single state is unusual in the barbecue world, according to Scott Jones, executive food editor at Southern Living magazine.

Monday, July 24, 2006
On this day:

Shelby "inconsistent" on biomedical research?

From the Birmingham News:
Sen. Richard Shelby has evolved into a champion of biomedical research, praising the state's universities for cutting-edge, disease-curing research. Over the years he's arranged for Congress to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on such work, especially at UAB, and has spoken publicly of his personal experience with, and admiration of, advanced medical technology.

How, then, to reconcile Shelby's vote last week against increased federal funding for embryonic stem cell research?

"We must not deviate from our strong protection of human life," Shelby said, invoking the conservative platform that embryos are life. "Crossing the boundary medically only calls into question our future protection for life. If we do not draw the line here today, where will the line be drawn?"

The contradiction was not lost on the UAB community.

"I would say, ideally, we wish he had a more consistent position," said Gregory Pence, a professor of medical ethics at UAB who advocates more federally funded research on embryonic stem cells.

It is more than a little disingenuous to call Senator Shelby's position on embryonic stem cell research "inconsistent" and "contradictory." Embryonic stem cell research involves a range of ethical considerations that most other forms of medical research do not. It is entirely appropriate - and "consistent" - to take those issues into account when deciding how to allocated federal dollars. You'd think that a "professor of medical ethics" would understand that.

Sunday, July 23, 2006
On this day:

Who is Hezbollah?

This article, from London's Sunday Times, is informative.

Friday, July 21, 2006
On this day:

Learning from history

In June of 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, and the world was confronted with a new crisis in the Middle East. Here in the U.S., George Shultz had just been nominated by President Reagan to replace Alexander Haig as Secretary of State. Shultz recalls the events of 1982 in Turmoil and Triumph, an extraordinary memoir of his six years as Secretary of State. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4, entitled "The Siege of Beirut":
In my confirmation hearings, I had told the Senate that the crisis in Lebanon made painfully clear the urgent need to resolve the problems of the Palestinian people. The peace process had collapsed, and a war process continued to gather momentum. Now the Israeli army was laying siege to the capital of an Arab land: they were poised on the southern edge of Beirut. Palestinian fighters ran raids against their front lines and lobbed mortars in their rear areas; the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) pounded back at the city with artillery, tank forays, and air strikes.

The United States was caught in the middle. The Arab world blamed us, as Israel's great ally and financial supporter, for all of Israel's deeds and looked to us to end the fighting in a responsible way. The Lebanese government particularly relied on us to save them from outside predators and to help them restore Lebanese central authority over their country. The Israelis took our material support for granted while defying any criticism of their chosen course of action; yet they also clearly wanted the United States to negotiate an end to the war that would keep the IDF out of inevitably bloody street-to-street fighting in Beirut.

The problems to be faced had been around for a long time. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), expelled by Jordan after bloody battles back in the late 1970's, had established its headquarters in Beirut and based its fighters in Lebanon. Their cross-border attacks on northern Israel and Israeli retaliatory strikes led to a cease-fire negotiated on July 24, 1981, after long efforts by [U.S. diplomat] Phil Habib. The border had been generally quiet for eleven months, although the sense of mutual antagonism was intense. The PLO wanted to disrupt Israeli society, and the Israelis could not bear their enemy in a sanctuary so close to their border.

With the fighting across the Lebanese-Israeli border greatly reduced, PLO terrorism beyone the Middle East increased. The cease-fire applied only to the border area; the Israelis screamed "foul" as the PLO hit elsewhere. On June 3, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov, was shot and critically wounded in London. The Israelis bombed PLO targets in Lebanon in retaliation, killing 45 people and wounding more than 150, according to the Lebanese government. The PLO responded with artillery attacks on northern Israel. On June 5, the UN Security Council, meeting at Lebanon's request, issued a unanimous call for a cease-fire. On June 6, massed Israeli tanks and infantry crossed into Lebanon, supported by air strikes and sea landings. This was war, and not only between Israelis and Palestinians: the Israeli forces were taking on the army and air force of Soviet-backed Syria as well. Initially announced by Prime Minister Begin as an operation to clear out terrorists from a zone forty kilometers deep into southern Lebanon, the invasion kept rolling northward until, by June 9, Israeli forces were within sight of Beirut. Israel's real objective was the destruction of the PLO and its leadership of the Palestinian movement.

The U.S. response and objectives evolved rapidly: attain a cease-fire between Israeli and Syrian forces; use the Israeli presence and threat as a means to negotiate the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut, and in turn use that prospect to keep Israeli forces out of that Arab capital; lay the groundwork for putting in place an international peacekeeping force, as the Lebanese were requesting; work for a diplomatic arrangement that would get all foreign forces out of Lebanon; and use the opportunity to help Lebanon get back on its feet, assert its national identity, and, if possible, develop some sort of stable relationship with Israel.

I just thought that was interesting, particularly in light of the current crisis. To find out how the story ended, either make good use of Google, or read Secretary Shultz's book. (Here are a few of the major events that followed: The PLO did evacuate Beirut, PLO leader Yassir Arafat was escorted by the U.S. Sixth Fleet to Tunisia, and a multinational force - including troops from the United States - entered Lebanon to keep the peace. The U.S. marine barracks in Beirut was attacked by Hezbollah terrorists in October of 1983, killing 241 Marines and precipitating the U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006
On this day:

Bush's "hands-on" diplomacy

This is kinda funny. (Story here.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
On this day:

Anniston Star: Blame Israel first

Are the Anniston Star's editors suffering from short-term memory loss? In Tuesday's editorial, they wrote:

Israel’s response to the killing and kidnapping of several of its soldiers has been a massive overreaction that has targeted innocents as well as militants in Lebanon and Gaza. Scores of civilians have been killed.

The Star's editors make it sound as if the only event that provoked the Israel's "overreaction" was the "killing and kidnapping of several of its soldiers." They ignore the fact that ever since Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza last year, Hezbollah and Hamas "militants" have been regularly launching rockets and mortars against Israeli cities. The clear goal of these attacks is to terrorize residents and attract support from Islamic extremists and Jew-haters the world over.

The Star's editors also failed to state that last week's kidnappings by Hezbollah resulted from an incursion into Israeli territory that coincided with a series of rocket attacks on northern Israel from Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Lebanon.

Now, it may be that the Star simply doesn't believe that Hezbollah was the culprit in those rocket attacks. It's very difficult for me to think like a Red Star liberal, but their reasoning might go something like this:

In 2004, the U.N. passed a resolution demanding that Hezbollah disarm. We know that Hezbollah is made up of peaceful people who value diversity and respect international law; therefore, it follows that they dutifully complied with the U.N.'s wishes and buried their guns and ammo in deep in the hills of Lebanon. Since we are confident that Hezbollah has renounced its military ambitions in favor of building schools and hospitals, the only way that rockets could have been fired from Lebanese territory is if the supposedly-kidnapped Israeli soldiers paid off their "kidnappers" to tell them the location of the rockets. The Israelis then proceeded to fire the rockets back at Israel, with the foreknowledge that a war would ensue. (Jews are savvy like that, you know?)

I am being absurdly unfair to the Star's editors, but no more so than they were by selectively ignoring Israeli civilian casualties and suggesting that Israel's actions in Gaza and Lebanon are a "massive overreaction" to nothing more than a few random killings and kidnappings.

It's interesting that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt have been more understanding of Israel's actions than has the Anniston Star. They and other Arab states recognize that the blame for the current conflict lies with Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. They also recognize that, for the moment, the Israelis are practicing the most effective form of diplomacy possible.

What is happening in Lebanon today is tragic. Could the United States and the West have done more to prevent it? Probably so. We could have insisted on the enforcement of the U.N. resolutions which demand Hezbollah's disarmament. That would have required the deployment - for an indefinite period of time - of a heavily-armed international peacekeeping/peacemaking force in southern Lebanon. But whether such a force could have succeeded, absent the cooperation of Syria and Iran, is doubtful. We could have provided more solid support (whatever that means) to Lebanon's fledgling democracy, but Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" occurred just last year; although Syria has withdrawn its troops, its Hezbollah allies play an influential role in the new government. Again, without cooperation from Syria and Iran, it has been impossible for the Lebanese government to assert its authority in the Hezbollah-controlled regions of the south.

So, we're left with what we have - a big mess. Eventually, there will be a resolution to this crisis, for better or for worse. The best result, as far as the U.S. is concerned, is a free and independent Lebanon and a secure Israel. That means that until circumstances change - either Hezbollah is defeated or its supporters in Syria and Iran have a change of heart - it is in our interest to support Israel in its effort to defend itself through all appropriate military means. If I understand the Bush administration's position correctly, that is precisely its policy.

The Anniston Star says that "the world needs a statesman sitting in the Oval Office right now." Luckily, we have one. And he's one who understands that there's more to statesmanship than simply appeasing one's adversaries.

Results of Tuesday's Republican runoff

It looks like all of my guys won. Well, all but one. I would have preferred "none of the above" in PSC race, since I found both candidates to be equally undesirable.

Here are the latest returns:

Lieutenant Governor
Luther Strange - 55%
George Wallace, Jr. - 45%

State Auditor
Samantha Shaw - 51%
Wes Allen - 49%

Public Service Commission Place 2
Perry Hooper, Jr. - 58%
John Amari - 42%

Court of Civil Appeals Place 3
Terri Willingham Thomas - 55%
Phillip Wood - 45%

Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3
Sam Welch - 51%
Clay Crenshaw - 49%

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
On this day:

Alabama Republicans say "no more Wallaces"

Luther Strange will be the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor, after beating George Wallace, Jr. handily in today's primary runoff. His Democratic opponent in the November 7 general election will be former Governor Jim Folsom, Jr.

In a very gracious and classy concession speech, Wallace said that his days running for public office may be over: "For me as a political candidate, that chapter is probably closed, but my heart will always belong to Alabama."

As a first-time candidate for office, Luther Strange entered this race with very low name recognition, but due to impressive fundraising and a series of effective campaign ads, he was able to convince Republican voters that a new face in Montgomery is precisely what the state needs. He is an exciting candidate with a positive vision for Alabama, and I think that he will fare well against Jim Folsom, Jr. - another well-known fixture in Alabama politics - come November.

Those yellow jacket nests

One commenter to my post yesterday said he'd like to see a photo. Well, here it is, courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser. I'm just glad I'm not the one who took the picture.

The caption reads: "A yellow jacket nest engulfs the inside of a 1955 Chevrolet on Harry Coker's Tallassee property on Thursday. Gigantic yellow jacket nests have been found in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama."

Photo: Montgomery Advertiser (July 18, 2006)

New York Times follows up on Auburn "directed-readings" controversy

Story here. (Or try here if you don't have a registration with the Times.)

U.N. to propose new Middle East peace initiative

I guess anything is worth a try, but I really don't think this is gonna work.

Well, it's about time

"Bible stolen [by Godless Yankees] during Civil War battle returns home."

Runoff election today

If you are a Republican, don't forget to go vote today. (The Democratic Party doesn't have any statewide runoffs.) The results of today's runoff primary will be listed on the Alabama GOP web site as soon as the vote totals are in. Here's a list of races:

Lieutenant Governor
Luther Strange
George Wallace, Jr.

State Auditor
Wes Allen
Samantha Shaw

Court of Civil Appeals Place 3
Phillip Wood
Terri Willingham Thomas

Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3
Clay Crenshaw
Sam Welch

Public Service Commission Place 2
John Amari
Perry Hooper

Endorsements by Alabama's major newspapers can be found at the following links. The candidates endorsed by each paper are in parentheses, in the order the offices are listed above:

Birmingham News (Strange, Shaw, Thomas, Welch, Amari)
Mobile Press-Register (Strange, Shaw, Thomas, Welch, none)
Huntsville Times (Strange, none, Thomas, Welch, none)
Anniston Star (Strange, none, none, none, none)
Decatur Daily (Strange, Allen, Thomas, Welch, none)
Montgomery Advertiser (Wallace, Shaw, Thomas, Crenshaw, Amari)
Tuscaloosa News (Strange, Allen, Thomas, Welch, Amari)

As for me, here's how I intend to vote: Luther Strange for Lieutenant Governor, Samantha Shaw for State Auditor, Terri Willingham Thomas for Court of Civil Appeals, Sam Welch for Court of Criminal Appeals, and "none of the above" for PSC.

Meet Chad Vader

Day shift manager.

Monday, July 17, 2006
On this day:

Alabama's role in missile defense

The Huntsville Times ran several articles last week outlining the Rocket City's contributions towards developing the nation's missile defense and intelligence capabilities:

From Sunday, July 9: "Missile defense chief says system ready; experts note limitations."
If a North Korean long-range missile is ever launched at the American West Coast, decades of Huntsville missile defense work will be aimed at stopping it.

Between the Missile Defense Agency, Boeing Co. and many subcontractors in Huntsville, the Rocket City supplies 1,200 people doing about 80 percent of the work toward fielding the $50 billion missile defense system that ties advanced radar to interceptor missiles in the ground in Alaska and California.

"I can't imagine there being anywhere else we could perform this work," said Brig. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Huntsville-based Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense Joint Program Office.
From Tuesday, July 11: "Local missile analysts fight war of data" and "North Korean launch shows need for MSIC monitoring."
Not everybody can lay claim to a job that contributes to the official daily reading of the president of the United States.

However, many people at the Missile Space Intelligence Center at Redstone Arsenal do just that by getting the best information on global hot spots, intelligence and military leaders said here Monday.

The key job of intelligence gathering is getting information into the hands of decision makers quickly, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during a visit to Huntsville.

"The diplomats and policy-makers of our governments are deeply impacted by what the people here do," Maples said. "Their analysis has, for years, gone to the desks of presidents and key leaders."

The situation in North Korea is no different than events in the past, Maples said after a ceremony that marked the 50th anniversary of the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) at Redstone Arsenal. ...

The center obtains and analyzes missile systems, such as the Russian-made Scud ballistic missiles that threatened troops during the 1991 Gulf War and again in the 2003 battles for Iraq. Also, the center helps Air Force pilots figure out ways to beat surface-to-air missiles.

The July 4 launches of North Korean ballistic missiles did not catch American intelligence off-guard, Maples said, because the men and women of MSIC had done their jobs properly.
From Thursday, July 13: "There's no other place like it."
To keep soldiers safe and win an extended war on terrorism, the country needs Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal to keep producing innovative work, the Army's chief pilot in the Pentagon said Wednesday.

"Redstone and Huntsville both are extremely vital to the support of the soldier - not just to me and Army aviation and missiles, but to the nation, given all the work that goes on across multiple agencies here," said Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Mundt, the U.S. Army's aviation director, during an Armed Forces Week luncheon at the Von Braun Center. "There's no other place like it."

A "phenomenal success" for missile defense

Last week's successful THAAD* test presents a phenomenal challenge to those who say that a defense against ballistic missiles isn't possible. The Missile Defense Agency's press release on the test notes THAAD's Alabama connection: the program is managed by the Missile Defense Agency in Washington, D.C. and executed by the THAAD Project Office at Redstone Arsenal here in Huntsville.

* THAAD = Terminal High Altitude Area Defense

Don Siegelman - Always the politician

If Don Siegelman's trip to Huntsville over the weekend is any indication, he seems to be taking his conviction on federal corruption charges in stride:
(Huntsville Times) At the table where he ate bacon and biscuits, he kept his face to the back room of Mullins restaurant, where patrons would pass near him on their way to the cash register. Some didn't care to come say hello; the lifetime politician has long since learned when to just let those nonfans walk on by.

But when he sensed even a glimmer of intrigue or support, he hopped out of the booth, shook their hands and gave his self-deprecating smile, shrug and mantra: "When you've been blessed by the best, you don't worry about the mess." ...

And what a mess. Siegelman - elected to more statewide offices that anyone else in Alabama history - has not only lost his last two bids for governor, he's facing real jail time and fines for his recent convictions on bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

For Siegelman, even worse than that, he's had to concede that his career - his life in politics - is over.

"It was difficult enough to raise money when I was an indicted former governor," he said. "I just can't imagine it working any better as a convicted former governor." ...

"I know I'd gladly accept it if the judge decided to throw out the convictions, but I'd rather have a new trial," he said. "I want to prove my innocence."

Some would say he had that chance during his last trial, the one that started May 1 and ended June 29 with guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

"But look at all the things the jury didn't find me guilty of," Siegelman said, joking. With seven of 32 counts getting guilty verdicts, he was acquitted of 25. ...

On the off chance that a judge should grant it, could he afford a new trial?
"Well, I've cashed in my retirement, we've used all of our savings, and the insurance settlement we got when the hurricane wiped out our beach house on Dauphin Island is all gone," he said. "We'll do what we have to do. This, too, shall pass. Fortunately, I've got a very frugal wife." ...

"I'm leaving here to go see a man in Cullman about a job," Siegelman said, leaving a $5 tip for a meal that cost less than that. "If you know of anyone who needs the legal services of a convicted former governor, pass my name along."
That's almost enough to make me feel sympathetic for the guy. Almost.

Sociology prof says he won't cooperate with AU investigation

According to the Huntsville Times:

AUBURN - James Gundlach, the Auburn sociology director who accused department head Tom Petee of academic misconduct, says he will no longer cooperate with the committee appointed by Provost John Heilman to investigate the allegations. ...

Gundlach said he made his decision after reading a report in Friday's Huntsville Times that administration officials said he was motivated, at least in part, to make his allegations in a story released Thursday by The New York Times because he was passed over when Petee, a criminology professor, was promoted in 2002.

Here is the portion of the story from last Friday's Huntsville Times that got Professor Gundlach in such a tizzy:

Administration officials close to the investigation told The Times that James Gundlach, director of sociology who joined the Auburn faculty in 1979, has alleged that Thomas Petee, interim chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work and Criminal Justice, has given special treatment to varsity football players in his classes and in the department. Petee, a professor of criminology, has vehemently denied the allegations.

Gundlach, officials said, confirmed to Auburn that, at least in part, his dissatisfaction with being passed over when Petee was promoted in 2002 led him to ultimately take his allegations to The New York Times earlier this year.

Gundlach went on to reiterate in today's Times article that he did not believe that special treatment had been reserved for Auburn athletes, and he confirmed that the directed reading courses at the center of the controversy were available to all students:

"I have never said this was something that was done specifically for athletes," Gundlach said. "My concern was that the athletes were something that was going to call attention to it and lead to embarrassing situations. If the athletes weren't there, nobody would care.

"Since I've been thinking about the athletic rules and other such things, it is clear that everything Petee did for athletes was also available for other students. In terms of the letter of NCAA regulations, there are probably no problems."

Meanwhile, a few current and former Auburn players and their families have responded to the story. See here (Travis Williams, David Irons, Sr.), here (Doug Langenfeld), and here (Carnell "Cadillac" Williams).

"Supersized" yellow jacket nests showing up in Alabama

This is a little scary:

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama. ...

Auburn University entomologists, who say they've never seen the nests so large, have been fielding calls about the huge nests from property owners from Dothan up to Sylacauga and over into west-central Alabama's Black Belt.

At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, said Andy McLean, an Orkin pesticide service manager in Dothan who helped remove it from an abandoned barn about a month ago. ...

Entomologist Dr. Charles Ray at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn said he's aware of about 16 of what he described as "super-sized" nests in south Alabama. ...

The largest nest Ray has inspected this year filled the interior of a weathered 1955 Chevrolet parked in a rural Elmore County barn. That nest was about the size of a tire in the rear floor seven weeks ago, but quickly spread to fill the entire vehicle, the property owner...said.

Headline of the day

"Persistence pays off for Austin grad with hot Morningwood band."

Saturday, July 15, 2006
On this day:

Bama fans launch shameless, mean-spirited attack on Auburn

This kind of thing is so uncalled for. And I find this and this and this to be more than a little unsportsmanlike. Do Bama fans have no class? Ummm...maybe I should reword that. Anyway...there's really no need to rub this little scandal in, is there? Can't we all just get along?

Just kidding. Helping to reinforce Auburn's inferiority complex is the duty of every Crimson Tide fan. Heck, even the University of Michigan guys are getting in on the fun.

In the interest of fairness, though - an Auburn fan explains the Tigers' predicament here, and a Troy State University Professor weighs here. Poliblogger Stephen Taylor points out that this "has nothing to do with Auburn, per se, but with the whole “student athlete” situation in general."

Friday, July 14, 2006
On this day:

Meanwhile, down on the Plains

Things aren't looking so good.

Justin, over at Southern Appeal, says ( somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I'm sure) that this may be "the biggest news to come out of Alabama in 2006.

Update: More from the New York Times here.

Tyrone Prothro wins 2006 ESPY Award for Best Play

Tyrone Prothro wowed University of Alabama football fans last season with his acrobatic plays and breathtaking style.

Wednesday night, alongside the world’s best athletes, Prothro injected the ESPY Awards with that same emotion.

The Crimson Tide’s junior wide receiver was named the winner of the 2006 ESPY Award for Best Play on Wednesday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. ...

Prothro earned the ESPY for his spectacular catch to key a comeback victory over Southern Mississippi on Sept. 10 in Tuscaloosa. With the Crimson Tide trailing 21-10 late in the second quarter and facing a fourth-and-12 situation, Prothro caught a Brodie Croyle pass over the head and on the back of a USMdefender for a 42-yard gain. The play put the Tide on the USM 1-yard line and set up an Alabama touchdown, trimming the deficit to 21-17 and setting the Tide on its way to an eventual 30-21 victory.

Awesome! Roll Tide! Tell Tyrone congratulations at his web site here.

Rep. Westmoreland on the Voting Rights Act (Take Two)

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R.-Ga.) released this statement following Thursday's passage of the VRA renewal:
"We came up short today of the votes we needed to modernize and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, largely because partisan posturing, ignorance of the act’s details and lingering prejudice toward Southerners. We lost on the vote board in the House, but we won in the grand scheme of things.

"Originally, this bill was supposed to be passed without debate and without amendments before Memorial Day. We fought with perseverance for the pride and integrity of Georgians, and we began a national dialogue on the progress we have made on race and equality. That dialogue would not have occurred without our efforts. We created a public record that will be cited when there’s an inevitable court challenge to Section 5. We needed 218 votes in the House but we’ll only need five votes on the Supreme Court. Justice will prevail. The honor of Georgia will be restored.

"Supporters of the underlying bill today kept noting that the Judiciary Committee found evidence of lingering discrimination across the nation.

"I agree there are problems across the country – which is why it defies common sense to treat a handful of states differently. The House failed to prove that the 16 states subjected to federal ‘preclearance’ of electoral laws are substantively different than the states not covered by the Voting Rights Act.

"Proponents of the bill kept citing problems in Ohio and Florida. It just shows how little they know about the bill – Ohio is not covered by the Voting Rights Act and most of Florida isn’t covered. The irony here is they voted AGAINST the Norwood amendment that would have brought those trouble areas under preclearance coverage.

"Congressman Norwood and I waged an intense campaign to modernize and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. The Congress rejected those efforts to undergird the constitutionality of the law. If this bill is tossed by the courts and the Voting Rights is undermined, the fault should be laid at the feet of Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. His legacy will be his unyielding support for a law that endangered the future of the Voting Rights Act."

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R.-Ga.) speaks out on the Voting Rights Act

Rep. Westmoreland delivered the following speech on the floor of the House on Thursday:

The Voting Rights Act has a proud and important legacy in my home state of Georgia and across the United States. With minor changes that would modernize the Voting Rights Act and better reflect the reality of what’s happening in the 21st century, I would be joining many of my colleagues and voting "yes" today.

But the bill we have before us is fatally flawed, Mr. Chairman. This rewrite is outdated, unfair and unconstitutional. I cannot support it in its current form.

This renewal treats Georgia as if nothing’s changed in the past 41 years. In other words, this rewrite seems based on the assumption that the Voting Rights Act hasn’t worked.

As a Georgian who’s proud of our tremendous progress and proud of our current record of equality, I’m here to report to my colleagues in the House that the Voting Rights Act HAS worked in my state and now it’s time to modernize the law to deal with the problems of today, not yesteryear.

Mr. Chairman, it’s true that when the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965, Georgia needed federal intervention to correct decades of discrimination.

Now, 41 years later, Georgia’s record on voter equality can stand up against any other state in the union. Today, black Georgians are registered to vote at higher percentages than white Georgians and black Georgians go to the polls in higher percentages than white Georgians. One-third of our statewide elected officials are African-Americans, including our attorney general and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Plus, African-Americans’ representation in the state Legislature closely mirrors their representation in Georgia’s population.

But don’t just take my word for it on Georgia’s progress. Listen to this ringing endorsement from my colleague from Georgia, Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement.

Under oath in federal court five years ago, Congressman Lewis testified: "There has been a transformation. It’s a different state, it’s a different political climate, it’s a different political environment. It’s altogether a different world we live in. … We’ve come a great distance. It’s not just in Georgia, but in the American South I think people are preparing to lay down the burden of race."

If he said that under oath – sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth – why is he telling the House something completely different today?

Though it defies common sense, this renewal of the Voting Rights Act gives NO CONSIDERATION to any changes that may have occurred since the first law was passed in 1965. Lester Maddox, George Wallace and Bull Connor have at least two things in common: 1) they are all segregationists and 2) they are all dead.

The House is voting today to keep my state in the penalty box for 25 more years based on the actions of people who are now dead. By the end of this renewal, Georgia will have been treated by federal law as a "bad actor" for 66 years, Mr. Chairman. To put that in perspective, 66 years ago, FDR was in his second term, and the Japanese were more than a year away from bombing Pearl Harbor.

By passing this rewrite of the Voting Rights Act, Congress is declaring from on high that states with voting problems 40 years ago can simply never be forgiven – that Georgians must eternally wear the scarlet letter because of the actions of their grandparents and great-grandparents. We have repented and we have reformed, and now, as Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Lastly, this renewal is unconstitutional. In 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – the section that singles out certain states for federal oversight – was constitutional only because it was narrowly tailored to fix a specific problem and temporary. You don’t need a law school degree to know that this renewal of the Voting Rights Act fails both of those tests. At 41 years, we’re already way past "temporary" and the application of Section 5 is now arbitrary because this House CANNOT present evidence of extraordinary, continuing, state-sponsored discrimination in the covered states that is different from the rest of the nation.

As such, Section 5 has served its purpose and is no longer an appropriate remedy in light of today’s newer voting problems.

The Voting Rights Act represents a grand trophy of great accomplish for Congress. But after 41 years, the trophy needs dusting.

We could have given the trophy a new shine for a new century. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Instead, this bill states EXPLICITLY that my constituents can’t be trusted to act in good faith without federal supervision. That assertion is as ignorant as it is insulting.

I cannot and will not support a bill that is outdated, unfair and unconstitutional.

Thursday, July 13, 2006
On this day:

Anyone wanna trade for these?

I have not just one, but two red paper clips. (Photo below.)

House votes to renew Voting Rights Act; rejects amendments

The bill now goes to the Senate. From the Washington Post, here are a few of the most important details:

The Voting Rights Act is a cornerstone of the civil rights era and was adopted in 1965 to stop the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters, particularly in the South, through barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Much of the legislation, including a section that bans racial discrimination at the ballot box, is permanent law.

But several key provisions are temporary. One requires certain states and jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to gain federal approval for voting-law changes. Another imposes a language-assistance requirement on jurisdictions with a high percentage of voters whose native language is not English.

It is those two provisions that drew the ire of some Republican lawmakers, mainly from the South. Some of these Republicans had objected to approving the provisions and, in recent weeks, had blocked the bill from going to the floor. To move it forward, GOP leaders allowed the four amendments to be considered. Most of the disgruntled Republicans swallowed their complaints and voted for final passage. ...

Two of the amendments the dissenting Republicans brought forward addressed the required approval of changes in states' voting laws. "It's true that when the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965, Georgia needed federal intervention to correct decades of discrimination," said freshman Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.), whose amendment to ease the pre-clearance requirement failed 302 to 118, although a majority of Republicans backed it.

Westmoreland noted that voter registration and turnout in Georgia are higher today among black voters than among white voters. One-third of officials elected statewide are black, including the attorney general and the chief justice, and black representation in the state legislature is in proportion to Georgia's black population.

"Georgia's record on voter equality can stand up against any other state in the union," he said.

Unfortunately, a majority of House members disagreed with Rep. Westmoreland and - absent a miracle in the Senate - the South will be forced to endure another 25 years of punishment at the hands of the federal government.

"The longest 'emergency'"

Ramesh Ponnuru argues against renewing certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act in this piece, which appears in this month's National Review.

The wrongs of the Voting Rights Act

A few sections of the federal Voting Rights Act are up for renewal this year. The Heritage Foundation has a slew of links to various articles arguing that Congress should carefully consider the implications of extending those provisions.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is particularly troubling. It requires a few states and districts - almost exclusively in the South - to "preclear" all changes in election procedures with the U.S. Justice Department. By "election procedures," I mean all election procedures - from drawing legislative district lines to determining the location of polling places.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has expressed reservations about renewing Section 5, as have several Republican members of the House. Former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor called Section 5 "an affront to federalism and an expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness."

Section 5 was intended to be a temporary measure to rectify the disenfranchisement of blacks and other minorities that existed at the time of the act's passage. Today, the South has more black elected officials than any other section of the country, and the rights of voters are as well protected here as they are in any other region. Accusations that a failure to renew Section 5's preclearance requirements would "turn back the clock on civil rights" are absurd. Congress should either refuse to renew Section 5, or amend it so that it no longer subjects Alabama and other Southern states to requirements that are not imposed on the rest of the country.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
On this day:

Fighting crime - Alabama style

A few young thugs in Montgomery got more than they bargained for when they decided to mess with the wrong guy. From the Montgomery Advertiser:

Joe Whittington's frustration with crime in his Highland Garden neighborhood came to a boiling point Monday evening. With the muzzle of a robber's pistol pressed against his neck, Whittington decided he'd had enough.

Whittington was robbed outside his home by two men who followed him home after he walked to a convenience store at the corner of Powell Lane and Fairground Road around 10 p.m.

"He was going to have to kill me before he got my gun," said Whittington, who has carried a 9 mm pistol for five years.

When one of the robbers walked behind him, Whittington pulled his gun from the small of his back and tried to fire.

"It was on safe, that's the only thing that kept that kid from getting shot," he said. Whittington eventually fired at the men seven times as they ran away, but apparently didn't hit either.

The thieves made off with Whittington's cell phone and wallet. ...

Whittington, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said he is more concerned about the safety of his north Montgomery community than his money.

Whittington has lived on the 2100 block of Powell Lane for more than 30 years. In that time, he said crime in the neighborhood has gotten drastically worse. Thieves have broken into his home at least 10 times.

"But I'm not going to let them run me out of my house and I'm not going to let them abuse me out in public," he said. ...

Whittington, who expanded his home from 900 square feet to more than 2,100 square feet, said he has seen other residents in the neighborhood leave because of the crime.

"I didn't build all of this for somebody just to run me out of town," he said.

How could anyone not be inspired by that kind of attitude? Standing your ground against those who would destroy everything you have worked for takes a great deal of determination and perseverance. In spite of it all, though, Mr. Whittington and countless others like him continue to hang in there and fight - because it is their homes and their neighborhoods that they are defending. There is a lesson here for all of us: to surrender all we hold dear to savages and barbarians would not just be unthinkable - it would be dishonorable.

Mr. Whittington should consider sending his resume to the State Department. They could use someone like him.

Tuscaloosa threatens to use eminent domain to seize downtown businesses

The City of Tuscaloosa is threatening to use its eminent domain authority to take the property of several uncooperative downtown business owners. It's all part of a downtown revitalization project, which will be funded with up to $80 million of federal tax dollars.

The half-block area that the city is proposing to seize would be turned into a public park. That is a "public use," by anyone's definition, so this isn't necessarily an abuse of the city's eminent domain power. Still, it is a prime example of how federal government meddling so often tips the balance between local governments - who are the recipients of vast sums of federal money - and small business owners, who rarely have a comparable source of revenue.

Revitalizing downtown Tuscaloosa may be a worthy objective, but it is a local project which should be among the least of the federal government's concerns. If it is so worthwhile, the City of Tuscaloosa should pay for it out of its own bank account, and Senator Shelby - who is from Tuscaloosa, by the way - should find a better use of federal dollars. Reducing the deficit would be a good start.

Auburn holds "Holiday Tree" forum

From the Opelika-Auburn News:
Students at Auburn University hope to put an end to the controversy surrounding its annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony long before it is held this December.

A public forum was held Tuesday for students, faculty and community members to share opinions on the matter with members of the Holiday Tree Lighting Committee. Another forum will be held Sept. 19 from 5-7 p.m. in Room 217 of the Foy Student Union. ...

AU has had a tree-lighting ceremony for several years, but it reached the height of controversy last December when a campus crusade started, demanding that the name change to reflect the obvious celebration of the Christian holiday. The Student Government Association rejected a resolution to rename it. The Holiday Tree Lighting Committee charged with planning the event and potentially changing its name, contains SGA members, including President George Stegall.

Get religion

In case you're in the mood for a little light reading, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a real treasure-trove. Check it out sometime, but be warned - it's easy to spend a lot of time there. Here are a few samples of what you'll find:

St. Augustine
The City of God
The Confessions

St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

John Bunyan
Pilgrim's Progress

John Calvin:
Institutes of the Christian Religion

G.K. Chesterton:
The Man Who Was Thursday

Dante Alighieri
The Inferno

John Milton:
Paradise Lost

John Henry Newman:
Apologia Pro Vita Sua

George Whitefield
Selected Sermons

Group says manual labor not safe for teens, should be avoided

I kid you not.

Summer has begun and teens everywhere are looking for ways to enter the work force. But according to the National Consumers League (NCL), which on June 21 released its list of the Five Worst Teen Jobs in 2006, young adults should be careful about the types of jobs they take.

Darlene Adkins, NCL vice president for fair labor standards policy, called for parents and teens alike to consider safety in summer youth employment.

This year's list includes both work that is currently prohibited for minors and work that should be prohibited, based on compelling statistics on occupational injury and death to working youth provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). According to NCL, five of the worst teen jobs in 2006 are:

Agriculture – Fieldwork and processing
Construction and work in heights
Outside Helper – Landscaping, groundskeeping and lawn service
Driver/Operator – Forklifts, tractors and ATVs
Traveling youth crews

The National Consumer League goes on to suggest that the federal government should prohibit teenagers from working in these types of jobs. It sounds like they would go so far as to prohibit teens from working on family farms - activities that include applying fertilizer, driving tractors, driving ATV's, and operating chain saws. What a crock. Read more from these nitwit busybodies here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
On this day:

A path all his own

Meet Eric Motley (H/T: Southern Appeal):
(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) There is a little enclave on the rural edge of this history-drenched city. It is called Madison Park. You can hear the roosters. And gawk at Dr. Hagalyn Wilson's roses, tulips and calla lilies, in bloom all over her yard.

The outside world might not know much about it, but Madison Park has produced a scintillating array of black achievers: lawyers, doctors, educators, ministers -- and at least one Republican on the rise, Eric L. Motley.

At 33, Motley occupies a huge State Department office in Washington. He is an obscure but influential Bush administration official who heads an international visitors program. He supervises a staff of more than 100 and oversees a budget that exceeds $80 million. How Motley arrived at this station from Madison Park is the tale of one man's journey through the labyrinth of racial expectations.

Petrified tree dug up in Clio, Alabama

Horrified by global warming, Al Gore decided to plant himself.

Ayers: Conservatives (some of them, at least) were right on desegregation

Considering the topic, Brandt Ayers's Sunday column in the Anniston (Red) Star, entitled "How liberals failed schools," was a little on the short side. He failed to mention how liberals have been the primary stumbling blocks to serious, positive education reforms like charter schools and vouchers. He also left out the fact that liberals have managed to eviscerate the public school curriculum by dumbing down the study of history, geography, and civics; abolishing the study of the "Great Books" and the Western canon; succumbing to various fads that place equality of outcome over equality of opportunity; and viewing every path of intellectual inquiry through the lens of radical ideology. Liberals have failed the schools, all right, but the magnitude of their failure is much more extensive than any of them - including Mr. Ayers - will ever care to admit.

That said, I had to do a double take when I read this:

Two years ago, we celebrated the unanimous Supreme Court decision Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, which began a process that resulted in true racial integration in some school systems, and re-segregation in most urban systems.

Where is the South 50-plus years after Brown? Taken as a whole, the half century represents a strong assertion of democratic principles. We won a fight that frightened and froze the founding fathers, that even Civil War couldn’t achieve — the defeat of legal segregation.

However, the outcome of the issue that Brown sought to resolve is muddied by a persistent trait of human nature: If there is a hard thing to do, let someone else do it. Governors, senators, legislators and educators refused to put their hands to the difficult task of designing a unitary school system in which poor and middle-class children of all races could achieve.

They let the courts do it. Courts, operating as they do through the distant and rigid arm of the law, are numb to elegant choices affecting race, ease of access, different opinions and levels of preparation.

With applause from liberals like me, one of our heroes, Justice William Brennan, delivered an opinion that was the death knell of many urban schoolsystems in the South. In a 1968 Virginia decision, Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, the Supreme Court, in effect, struck down gradual integration under "freedom of choice" plans. ...

Lower courts took their cue from the language in Green that gradual isn’t good enough, and from Brown that segregated schools are "inherently unequal." So, instant and total integration would make them inherently equal? The logic didn’t work.

By the time the Green decision had been fully applied by the lower courts, the Anniston system lost 2,000 students, was 55 percent black and mostly poor. In 2000, the system was more than 95 percent black, 84 percent poor enough to need meal subsidies. A majority of poor, socially and educationally unprepared children flooded systems from Birmingham to Boston, and middle-income parents of both races fled to avoid the deluge. ...

Integration became an end in itself, a value greater than education, or so it seemed to the president of the Mississippi NAACP at a 1972 regional education meeting in Jackson. I asked [Anniston civil rights leader Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds], "What is more important: education or integration?" He replied without hesitation: integration.

But more and more integration didn’t translate into better and better education for either race. The result was more and more re-segregation. ...

It takes rare courage to upset local conventions, loyalties and prejudices on behalf of even the highest ideals. Conservatives in the 1960s who counseled a more cautious, thoughtful approach to integration were on sounder ground then.

Note that Ayers is not talking about those "conservatives," like former Governor George Wallace, who chose to do everything in their power to prevent integration. He is talking about those who believed that integration should (and must) come, but only as the result of society's natural progression - a gradual process which would be preceded by, or at least concurrent with, the social and economic integration of blacks into American life.

That's an interesting perspective - one that provokes thoughts of "what might have been." I'm not sure how useful it is today, 50+ years after Brown, but still, it's refreshing to hear a prominent Alabama liberal speak out so reasonably on a topic that has so often been obscured in the shadows of political correctness.

Unfortunately, Ayers chose to wrap up an otherwise thoughtful and deliberate piece with an unfair swipe at modern-day conservatives:
But the conservative approach — doing nothing — isn’t the answer now. In the absence of state action, exceptional local leadership or legal mandates, poor children here and throughout the urban South will be doomed to perpetuate failure — generation after generation.
I'm sorry, but the "conservative approach" to education is absolutely not to sit back and do nothing. It is to recognize where public education has gone wrong and to do our best to correct it. Not by placidly accepting resegregation, as Ayers seems to imply, but by raising standards and revamping the curriculum so that students of all races and backgrounds are actually challenged to achieve and excel. I'm not a fan of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act," due to its emphasis on centralized, one-size-fits-all solutions, but there's one thing the President says with respect to education that I completely agree with: the "soft bigotry of low expectations" is a terrible thing, and it is a mindset that has done irreparable harm to generations of American students. It's also a mindset which conservatives are doing their damned-level-best to defeat.

Monday, July 10, 2006
On this day:

UA hosts "Multicultural Journalism Workshop" for high school students this week

Apparently, it's never too early to teach kids that at the University of Alabama, race-consciousness is an ever-present, overriding concern:

Applicants [to the 23rd Annual Multicultural Journalism Workshop] are accepted on the basis of interest in a journalism career and completion of an application that includes a transcript of grades, evidence of high school journalism activities and other writing, and a recommendation from a publications adviser, guidance counselor or professional journalist.

While the focus is on attracting minorities because of their low representation in the media, students who are not a member of a minority group are also eligible to attend. ...

The workshop is one of the oldest of its kind in the country and is part of the University's Minority Journalism Program, which is designed to recruit minorities into the media.

Now, I'm all for recruiting minorities into the journalism profession - with any luck, some of them will turn out to be conservatives, as well - but it appears that the University has chosen the wrong way to do it. For instance, the application form for this week's workshop explicitly required students to provide their race in order for their application to be valid. Presumably, anyone who happened to omit that key bit of information would have been excluded from consideration.

So, why did the Journalism Department find it necessary to inquire into the race of applicants in the first place? The only possible motivations I can think of are 1) to compile a statistical profile of applicants (unlikely as an explanation, but good as an excuse), or 2) to achieve unspecified "diversity objectives" for the program by accepting applicants (and excluding them) on the basis of race. Sadly, I think we know what the real answer is.

Larry Darby update

What an odd, odd man:
MONTGOMERY - Alabama's most prominent atheist is no longer an atheist.

Larry Darby, a former candidate for attorney general who lost in the Democratic primary but won most of North Alabama, said he is embracing Jesus as he crusades against "Judeo-Marxism."

Darby, a Montgomery lawyer who received more votes in Huntsville than Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, released a long written statement Friday saying that others in the atheist community had turned their backs on him. ...

Darby had fallen out of favor with many groups after he said he doubted the veracity of the Holocaust.

In his release, Darby said he believed "thousands" of Jews died in the Holocaust. The widely accepted number of deaths in the Holocaust in 6 million.

Along with questioning the Holocaust, Darby also embraced white supremacist groups and spoke at a white supremacist conference in May.

Despite such controversial views, Darby won Madison and Morgan counties along with a slew of others in the June 6 Democratic primary. Statewide Darby received more votes than Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice.
If Mr. Darby's conversion is the real thing, that's great, but maybe someone should break the news to him that Jesus was a Jew.

Friday, July 07, 2006
On this day:

The things you learn from Sitemeter

My blog comes in second out of only two search results when you Google on "saucy lady party." Sadly, I think that the person who searched for that phrase and was directed here may have been a bit disappointed.

George Wallace, Jr.

He's finally trying to secure his base.

Ants can count

I heard about this from Neal Boortz this morning. Pretty cool.

Thursday, July 06, 2006
On this day:

Someone buy her a one-way ticket

Grieving mother Cindy Sheehan, who recently began a fake two-month "hunger strike" to protest the war in Iraq, says that she would rather live under Venezuela's would-be dictator Hugo Chavez than under George W. Bush. So, what's stopping her? Airline tickets from Washington, D.C. to Caracas are pretty cheap these days, and I'm sure there are millions of patriotic Americans who would be willing to help her out with the expenses. Go, Cindy, go!

Free the Hops

Alabama's beer connoisseurs are optimistic that higher-quality adult beverages may be making their way to the state very soon. Currently, many specialty and "gourmet" beers cannot be sold in Alabama due to a law restricting the alcohol content of beer and malt beverages to 5% by weight and 6% by volume. A bill to legalize the sale of higher-alcohol content "gourmet" beers failed in this year's legislative session, but it appears that the campaign is gaining ground, due mostly to the determination of a grassroots organization called Free the Hops. If you enjoy good beer, you might want to check out what they have to say.

State revenues continue to pour in

Thanks to Alabama's booming economy, revenues to the state's General Fund and Education Trust Fund continue to grow, reaching record levels. According to the Birmingham News:
MONTGOMERY - State tax collections continued their red-hot growth during the government's fiscal year which ended its first nine months Friday, according to state finance department reports released Monday.

Tax collections and other revenue for the Education Trust Fund, which supports public schools and colleges, totaled $4.085 billion from Oct. 1 through June 30, an increase of $359.5 million, or 9.65 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier. ...

Combined personal and corporate state income tax collections totaled $2.37 billion from Oct. 1 through June 30, an increase of $246.2 million, or 11.6 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier. State sales tax collections totaled $1.183 billion from Oct. 1 through June 30, an increase of $61.8 million, or 5.5 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The fast growth in the trust fund so far this year continues a trend from last year. The Education Trust Fund in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 grew by 11.5 percent compared with the previous year. That growth, and the 9.65 percent growth for the first nine months of this fiscal year, both are well above the long-term average growth in the trust fund of about 5 percent.

The state General Fund, which supports Medicaid, prisons and other non-education state agencies, grew by an even faster rate than the larger Education Trust Fund.

Tax collections, interest payments and other revenue for the General Fund totaled $1.13 billion from Oct. 1 through June 30, an increase of $156.2 million, or 16.1 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier.
This is great news, and it creates yet another opportunity for the Governor and legislature to return some of the state's revenue windfall to the taxpayers. They should start by 1) indexing personal income tax brackets for inflation; 2) following up on this year's tax cuts with another increase in the thresholds for paying income taxes; and 3) reducing corporate income taxes, while simultaneously eliminating direct subsidies to corporations - including those to promote "industrial recruitment." These three measures would bring greater fairness to Alabama's tax code and improve Alabama's business climate and growth potential. So...who'll be the first candidate to adopt them as a part of their campaign platform?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006
On this day:

UA School of Law creates "Morris Dees Justice Award"

Why do I get the feeling that conservatives need not apply?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama School of Law and one of the most renowned law firms in the world, Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom, have joined together to create the Morris Dees Justice Award.

The award honors UA law alum and civil rights activist Morris Dees, a 1960 graduate of the Law School. Dees is founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery.

Each year, this national award will recognize a lawyer who has devoted himself or herself to serving the public interest and pursuing justice, and whose work has brought about positive change in the community, state or nation.

The nomination committee thus far includes Mary Bauer, director of the Immigrant Justice Project; Bryan Fair, UA professor of law; Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center; Marjorie Press Lindblom, co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Susan Butler Plum, founding director of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation; Tisha R. Tallman, regional counsel, Atlanta Office, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Vaughn C. Williams, partner of Skadden.
The award's recipient will receive a sculpture whose "figurative qualities represent the struggle of man to push through great odds and trials in life to become a noble force in the modern world." Here's a photo:


Tuesday, July 04, 2006
On this day:

Let freedom ring

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Two hundred and thirty years ago today, delegates from each of the thirteen British colonies in North America assembled in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence. At the time of the Continental Congress's meeting on July 4, 1776, the Revolutionary War was just over a year old - the "shot(s) heard 'round the world" had been fired at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 - and in the months since, many American colonists had maintained hope of an eventual reconciliation with Britain. The mother country showed little appetite for compromise, however, and the war would last for another five years, ending with Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown in October, 1781. (The formal end to the war came even later, at the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.)

For much of the Revolutionary period, it must have seemed to many Americans that their Declaration was little more than a suicide pact. The colonies were not prepared for war. General Washington had a devil of a time trying to organize the militia into a disciplined army capable of taking on the most powerful empire in the world. Funding for the war effort was scarce. Soldiers often went without pay, and adequate supplies and munitions were hard to come by. The Continental Congress questioned the competence of the Generals, and the Generals questioned the fortitude of the Congress. In the end, though - whether by skill or by Providence - the Americans managed to win the war.

To some, the Americans' victory in the Revolutionary War meant that the "world had turned upside down." To a certain degree, that is true, but not entirely, for theirs was essentially a conservative revolution: the colonists did not intend to destroy their civilization, but rather to preserve it. As Russell Kirk stated in The Conservative Mind:

By and large, the American Revolution was not an innovating upheaval, but a conservative restoration of colonial prerogatives. Accustomed from their beginnings to self-government, the colonials felt that by inheritance they possessed the rights of Englishmen and by prescription certain rights peculiar to themselves. When a designing king and a distant parliament presumed to extend over America powers of taxation and administration never before exercised, the colonies rose to vindicate their prescriptive freedom; and after the hour for compromise had slipped away, it was with reluctance and trepidation they declared their independence. Thus men essentially conservative found themselves triumphant rebels, and were compelled to reconcile their traditional ideas with the necessities of an independence hardly anticipated.
We've latched onto a good thing here in America, and it's worth preserving. Our liberty was not secured by armies of lawyers and politicians; it was won by the blood of patriots. It was not concocted by political scientists and philosophers; it is the culmination of thousands of years of tradition - formed through trial and error, turmoil and triumph, victory and defeat. As heirs of the "triumphant rebels" who won America's independence, our greatest duty - besides that which we owe to our Creator - is to defend the civilization and the liberties that so many others have fought and died to protect.

Happy Fourth of July!