Saturday, October 28, 2006
On this day:

The football game that broke racial barriers

Feddie at Southern Appeal links to this video on how Paul "Bear" Bryant helped pave the way for integration of the University of Alabama's football program.

Thursday, October 26, 2006
On this day:

Bud has a choice to make

Michael Barone has analyzed 50 in-play House races, and made predictions in each one. Summarizing, he says:

My predictions would produce an almost evenly divided House: 219 Democrats, a net gain of 16, and 216 Republicans. Such a result would raise the question of whether Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, who declined to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker in this Congress, would do so again, and whether another Democrat might do so—which could produce a Republican majority for speaker.
In the time since Mr. Barone published his predictions, Rep. Taylor's communications director has stated that Taylor intends to vote for Nancy Pelosi this time around. According to Hotline:

GOPers -- don't get your hopes up that if the House teeters on the brink of flipping to the Democratic Party, conservative Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) will switch parties or vote for a Republican as Speaker of the House.

His comm, dir, Courtney Littig, tells the Hotline that Taylor is committed to voting for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
So, the the question I asked yesterday seems to be quite relevant: if the Democrats manage to win control of the House, who will Rep. Bud Cramer (AL-District 5) support for Speaker? Will he vote according to the views and interests of his constituents, or will he fall in line behind the liberals in his party by supporting Nancy Pelosi?

Cramer calls himself a conservative Democrat. Time will tell whether his emphasis is on "conservative" or "Democrat."

Phyllis Schlafly

Phyllis Schlafly has been driving feminists nuts for decades now - ever since she helped to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 1970's. Now she's got a new book out called The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It.

SCOTUSBlog has posted a two-part interview with Mrs. Schlafly, which can be read here and here.

Sclafly has lots to say about the judiciary's assault on the Constitution, of course, but I thought her insights into the nature and goals of modern feminism were particularly interesting. Here are a few excerpts:
Q: When Justice O'Connor became the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court, do you feel it becomes her obligation to work for a society that is more equitable to her gender?

A: This question makes two false assumptions: that women are disadvantaged in America, and that women are best able to address and remedy these disadvantages. Both propositions are absurd. All jobs that women want are open to women, and nearly 60% of college students are women.

I don't think any Justice should be biased in favor of his or her own personal characteristics. Should a short Justice "work for" people who are short? Should an elderly Justice "work for" the elderly? Should a fat umpire "work for" players who are fat? Of course not. Such an approach should disqualify Justices from their obligation to impart justice fairly to all, like an umpire.

Q: So is there a difference between working for gender equality and "fostering feminism"?

A: This question seems to assume that feminism fosters gender equality, which is not true.

"Feminism" is a peculiar ideology that has almost nothing to do with the kind of gender equality that the American people support. (Remember, the federal equal pay for equal work statute was passed in 1963 before the feminist movement started.) Feminist ideology is based on victimology, the false claim that American women are oppressed by our patriarchal society. The truth is that American women are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived on the face of the earth.

The top priorities of the feminist agenda have little to do with gender equality: abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action for women, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape awareness. Feminism insists on placing women soldiers in military combat where they can be captured by the enemy and abused as prisoners of war. Feminism is responsible for eliminating over 170 college wrestling teams because they are somehow too masculine and they don't like the gender difference that more boys like to play competitive sports than girls. Just this fall, in a high-profile debate with Justice Scalia, ACLU President Nadine Strossen stated on October 15 that the ACLU supports a constitutional right to polygamy, a practice that is totally demeaning and harmful to women.

If feminism were about women's achievement (which it is not), their heroines would be Margaret Thatcher and Condeleezza Rice, but the feminists are totally silent about them.
Phyllis Schlafly - telling it like it is, as always. She's far too modest to do it, but I think she should add one more name to that short list of modern heroines - her own.

Unintended consequences of campaign finance reform

Todd Zywicki takes note of the "absurdities spawned by campaign finance reform" at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The evolving internet

The complete works of Charles Darwin are now available online. (Hat tip: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.)

Why have free trade?

Walter Williams takes us back to the basics, calling out protectionism for what it is: Congressional price-gouging.

Cobb: Alabama judges should be appointed, not elected

Sue Bell Cobb, the Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court says that judges should be appointed rather than elected by voters.

According to the Mobile Register:

Sabrina Loftin, a spokeswoman for Cobb...said Cobb favors reforms such as making judgeships nonpartisan positions. She also favors appointment of judges who then must stand for retention elections, Loftin said.
There are plenty of good arguments for appointing judges, but given the latest example of judicial meddling - today's opinion on same-sex marriage handed down by the seven unelected judges of New Jersey Supreme Court - it's not likely that Alabamians will be eager to give up the privilege of electing judges anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
On this day:

Question: When will we run out of oil?

Answer: Never.

Update: Link is fixed.

Democrat beggars target Bud

From to the LA Times (hat tip to Brian at Flash Point for the link):

WASHINGTON — In an unusual grass-roots uprising, liberal Internet activists are pressing dozens of Democratic House members without serious challenges in November's election to transfer nearly one-third of their campaign cash to the party's challengers against potentially vulnerable Republican incumbents.

The effort reflects both the belief among Democratic activists that the number of House seats the party can gain is steadily rising and the concern that a shortage of funds may prevent Democrats from maximizing these opportunities. ...

Some leading Democratic strategists, such as James Carville and Stanley B. Greenberg, have urged party campaign committees to increase the spending in several House races by borrowing to pay for more advertising. But Bowers argued that a more accessible financial source was the cash held by Democrats facing token or no opposition.

The amount involved is substantial: Bowers has identified 69 Democratic incumbents without serious opposition whose combined campaign treasuries total roughly $50 million. In his post, Bowers suggested that these lawmakers donate as much as 30% of their cash to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or directly to challengers waging races against Republicans who had not been considered vulnerable until recently.

Bowers posted a list of the flush Democratic incumbents and asked his readers to contact them. Last Friday, the effort received a boost when the political action committee associated with, the online liberal advocacy group, asked its members to contact the safe incumbents.

The targeted Democrats include Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts ($2.3 million in his treasury), Robert E. "Bud" Cramer of Alabama ($1.6 million), Adam B. Schiff of Burbank ($1.4 million), and Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois ($1.3 million), according to the MyDD calculations. Rep. Martin T. Meehan of Massachusetts easily topped the list with $4.9 million in the bank.

I suspect that Rep. Cramer will be keeping a tight grip on his wallet in case he needs it for a future campaign, but the fact that his seat is considered safe enough that anyone would bother asking him for a donation is a real shame. The reason it is safe, of course, is that the Republican Party couldn't come up with a single candidate to face off against him in this year's election.

Alabama's Fifth Congressional district is a fairly conservative district; it is one that Republicans should be able to win given the right candidate and enough resources. Granted, Cramer is a popular, conservative Democrat who has often been courted by Republicans as a possible party-switcher, but it seems to me that he could have been somewhat more vulnerable than usual this year. It appears that the fight over control of the House may come down to a few seats, and a key question for Cramer - if only he had an opponent to ask it - would be whether he would support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker in the unfortunate event that Democrats manage to take over. As it stands, there are at least even odds that we'll know the answer to that question soon enough, but by then the moment to press him on the issue will have passed. Even a token Republican opponent would have put him on notice that he'd better vote the interests of his constitutents when it comes to organizing the House, even if it means annoying the liberals in his own party.

Unless he convinces me otherwise over the next couple of weeks, my thinking is that a vote for Bud Cramer is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, and Barney Frank. That means I'm looking for a suitable person to write in. Any ideas?

It may be a fruitless gesture, but hey - I'm a conservative in George W. Bush's big-government Republican Party. If it weren't for fruitless gestures, we'd all go mad.

CNN's Terrorist Outreach Program

"We promised to give the terrorists a fair shake."

Poll taxes and voter ID

The Wall Street Journal today editorializes against the "liberal assault on voter ID laws." I tend to sympathize with their argument, with a few minor caveats.

Voter identification is an essential element in preserving the integrity of our elections. That said, election laws must be crafted in such a way as not to run afoul of the 24th Amendment, which states:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senators or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

Some people have gone so far as to say that any requirement to present ID in order to vote is a "poll tax," and therefore unconstitutional. That's simply not the case, but to see why, it helps to understand just exactly what a poll tax is and what it isn't, something that even the Wall Street Journal fails to do. In its editorial, it says:

Showing ID is an incidental cost of voting, like having to buy a postage stamp for an absentee ballot, or feed the parking meter when you go to the polling booth. Poll taxes, by contrast, required a person to pay a fee every time he voted and were adopted for racially discriminatory purposes.

That last sentence feeds two popular misconceptions: 1) that the definition of a poll tax is a tax on the act of voting, and 2) that a poll tax is inherently racist and/or discriminatory. Neither of those things is true.

Addressing misconception #1: Prior to the adoption of the 24th Amendment, the payment of poll taxes was indeed used by many states as one condition among many for voting, but that does not mean that it is correct to define them as taxes on voting. As to misconception #2: The fact that poll taxes have been used in the past to deny minorities the right to vote does not make them inherently racist.

So, what is a poll tax? A poll tax is also known as a capitation - a "head tax." It is simply a uniform tax levied on individual citizens or residents. For example, if the state of Alabama were to require every adult citizen over the age of 21 to pay $10 to the state each year, that would be a poll tax. Poll taxes need not have any relationship whatsoever to voting, nor to race or any other immutable characteristic. In that regard, they are very similar to property taxes or income taxes. The 24th Amendment forbids states and the federal government from requiring the payment of any tax in order to vote - whether that tax is a poll tax, a property tax, an income tax, or a sales tax.

The key question with respect to the constitutionality of voter ID legislation is: "what constitutes a tax?" If would-be voters have to pay a fee in order to obtain an acceptable form of identification, is that a tax? If the answer is yes, then it is a clear violation of the 24th Amendment. If the answer is no, then it isn't.

In my opinion, the payment of a fee - no matter how small - is unacceptable under the constitution as a requirement for voting. If someone has to pay for an acceptable form of ID to prove their eligibility to vote, then we shouldn't mislabel that as a "poll tax," but it may very well qualify as one of the "other taxes" that are prohibited by the 24th Amendment.

The simple way around this is to provide state-issued voter ID cards for free; if memory serves me correctly, some states are doing that already. I'll bet that plenty of others will be following their lead soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
On this day:

Aw, shucks!

Oyster shortage possible.

Alabama candidate for Governor "campaigning on her cleavage"

Libertarian Loretta Nall probably won't be moving in to the Governor's mansion anytime soon, but she's certainly livened things up a bit this year. She's got a quite a few good ideas, too. So, thanks for the...ummm...memories, Loretta. And good luck in November!

Monday, October 23, 2006
On this day:

Yes, but will there be a speedy trial?

The Republican candidate for Madison County Coroner promises a "vigorous defense" against a charge of cocaine possession.

Sunday, October 22, 2006
On this day:

A Rocket City wedding

They'll be honeymooning in a galaxy far, far away.

Speaking of fatalism...

Let's not talk about that Bama-Tennessee game? K? Thanks.

C.S. Lewis "On Living in an Atomic Age"

C.S. Lewis wrote his essay "On Living in an Atomic Age" back in 1948, just three years after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an abrupt end to World War II and at time when the Cold War was in its infancy. Lewis's essay could just as easily have been penned today, as the heightened threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism weigh on us more heavily than ever before.

I wish I could print the whole thing, or at least provide a link where it could be found someplace else on the web; however, copyright laws are much more readily enforced than nonproliferation treaties, so I'll have to make do with just the introductory paragraphs.

If Lewis's introduction seems somewhat fatalistic, don't let that be discouraging. It contains the seeds of an argument that leads to a supremely hopeful conclusion. You can read the essay in its entirety in the book Present Concerns: Essays by C.S. Lewis, available from Amazon here.

Here are the first three paragraphs:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

Saturday, October 21, 2006
On this day:

George Will on "Economic Hypochondria"

"Prosperity amid the gloom."

Friday, October 20, 2006
On this day:

B'ham News interviews AG candidates

This week, the Birmingham News profiled the two candidates for Alabama Attorney General - Republican Troy King and Democrat John Tyson, Jr. Click on the links below:

"Tyson touts new ways to battle crime"

"King's interest in politics goes back to age 11"

"When North Korea Falls"

That's the title of an excellent article by Robert Kaplan in the latest edition of The Atlantic. It's well worth reading the whole thing.

From the bio: "Kaplan is a national correspondent at The Atlantic and the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. His latest book, Imperial Grunts, was published in paperback last month by Vintage."

Has China had enough of Kim's antics?

Scholars and government officials in China have begun to openly speculate that Chinese leaders have finally become fed up with Kim Jong-Il. From today's New York Times:

BEIJING, Oct. 19 — China is prepared to step up pressure on North Korea in coming weeks by reducing oil shipments, among other measures, if the country refuses to return to negotiations or conducts more nuclear tests, Chinese government advisers and scholars who have discussed the matter with the leadership say. ...

Several leading Chinese experts said senior officials had indicated in the past week that they planned to slap new penalties on North Korea going beyond the ban on sales of military equipment imposed by the United Nations. But they would be likely to hold off if Mr. Kim agreed to return soon to multilateral talks North Korea has boycotted since September 2005. Years of talks have produced meager results. ...

“China is going to have to make some crucial choices in the coming days,” said one senior international relations specialist who has participated in top-level discussions of the matter but asked to remain anonymous. “I think Chinese leaders are preparedto take a hard line, but Kim may be smart enough to try to divide China and the U.S.” ...

Chinese experts who have taken part in discussions about how to manage the situation said that after North Korea’s missile tests in July, Chinese leaders concluded that Mr. Kim might not negotiate a way out of the impasse unless he had no other choice. Officials felt badly stung by the nuclear test and have dug in their heels on ending the nuclear program there, the experts said. ...

"I believe that Chinese leaders are firmly resolved to roll back the nuclear program and not accept it as an accomplished fact,” said Zhang Liangui, a Korea expert at the Communist Party’s Central Party School in Beijing who has favored taking a tougher line.

“I do not think that the resolve of the Chinese leadership is going to be less than the resolve of the American leadership,” he said.

Others agreed, arguing that as long as the Bush administration kept its focus on a diplomatic solution, China would work to maintain solidarity with the United States.

“The only issue that they do not agree on is interdiction at sea,” said Xu Guangyu, a retired general who is now a member of the Chinese Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a government-sponsored institute. “For the most part the United States has responded to this with the right tone, so I don’t see a major obstacle to cooperation.” ...

“The people who were the most critical of Kim in the past were a minority,” said one scholar. “But they have a bigger voice now. The people who had the most favorable interpretations of Kim’s actions are for now keeping quiet.”

These are very positive developments, of course, and they serve to demonstrate that the diplomatic blundering here has been on the part of Kim Jong-Il, and to lesser degrees, the Chinese and South Koreans. It is increasingly clear that North Korea's nuclear test was a major miscalculation, one which has solidified the resolve of his neighbors to face down his threats and provocations through means that promise to grow in severity to meet the urgency of the crisis. In that respect, Kim's nuclear test rivals Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait as an act of diplomatic idiocy.

Kim's test has also illustrated the utter futility of the policies of appeasement which had previously been favored by the Chinese and South Koreans (and even by the U.S. under the Clinton administration). From the time he first stepped into his presidential platform shoes, Kim Jong-Il fully intended to develop nuclear weapons, irrespective of the opinions and entreaties of the international community. All the while, he eagerly accepted bribes from those who were persuaded by his propaganda, fearful of his wrath, or sympathetic to his regime's objectives.

Now that they are face-to-face with reality, you'd think that the appeasers - at least those who live here in America - would be burying their faces in the sands of a desert island somewhere, but they're not. They're still here and speaking more loudly than ever, blaming America for having failed to accept terms from a dictator who has intentionally starved his own people in order to build the weapons that now threaten millions of South Koreans and Japanese with annihilation. There's a fine line between appeasement and surrender; surrender may bring peace, but what will be the cost?

So ronery

The U.S.-led financial choke-hold on North Korea may be working. It seems that Kim Jong-Il is now begging for a breath of air.

From the beginning, the Bush administration's strategy with respect to North Korea has been to narrow down the six-party talks into something more manageable - two-party talks. Not between the United States and North Korea, as Gen. Wesley Clark suggested on his recent trip to Alabama, but between the two principal powers in Northeast Asia - the United States and China.

It took a North Korean nuclear test to get the Chinese to pull their chairs fully up to the table, but ever since that "unacceptable" event occurred, China's leaders have suddenly become more eager to negotiate.

The Dear Leader's newfound humility is a positive indication that the administration's tough diplomatic stance will pay off in the end - serving to avert a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula and possibly leading to the ultimate downfall of Kim Jong-Il's regime. President Reagan's old line about "peace through strength" is just as relevant now as it was during the Cold War.

Thursday, October 19, 2006
On this day:

Interesting Tyson fact

His brother is an actor. According to this WikiPedia article: "His most prominent role was as the villain Colin Crisp, Sr. in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop."

Bipartisan group of registrars line up to support Chapman over Worley for SOS

How does a person manage to generate the animosity of virtually every voter registrar in the state? Just ask Nancy Worley.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Thirty county voter registrars from both political parties endorsed Republican state auditor Beth Chapman for secretary of state Monday, saying she would return professionalism to the office now held by her opponent, Democrat Nancy Worley. ...
Les Sellers, a Coosa County registrar appointed by the Democratic agriculture commissioner, said Worley inherited a stable, professional staff that had worked well under both Democratic and Republican secretaries of staff, but her administration has been troubled by high turnover.

Because of that, she has been difficult for registrars to contact, and when they do reach her, they often get "misinformation or distortion of information," he said.

Worley said she is not planning any kind of counter news conference with voter registrars who support her. "I'm too busy working to have those kind of things," she said.
The Montgomery Advertiser reports that Sellers "believes that at least 80 percent of the registrars statewide are unhappy with Worley's leadership."

Dan at Between the Links has a few additional links, adding that "We need to get rid of this woman - now!" No doubt.

So, has anyone seen or heard any campaign ads for Worley's opponent, Beth Chapman? This should be a very winnable race for Republicans, but not if no one knows Chapman's name.

My readers are not Troy King fans

Quite frankly, neither am I. In fact, I've criticized him on more than a few occasions. Think back to the whole post-Katrina price-gouging nonsense, for example, when King was constantly in front of TV cameras talking tough about how he was going to investigate and prosecute gas station owners who had raised their prices a little too much. It was an entirely political show over what should have been a non-issue, because, as King's investigation eventually determined, there were very few instances of actual price-gouging, as defined by Alabama law. In this post from September 2005, I said of King's investigation:
What a crock. Troy King knows full well what caused the recent spikes in gas prices. First of all, there was a hurricane. A big one. It disrupted shipping, shut down oil production and refining on the Gulf coast, and cut off the pipelines that transport gasoline from throughout the Southeast and to points beyond. The severity of the "spike" was augmented by the fact that oil and gas markets were already tight, even before Katrina hit. Gas retailers reacted to the supply disruptions and market uncertainies by doing the only thing they could do to prevent widespread shortages - they raised prices. Certain locations were hit harder than others due to various factors, including proximity to the hurricane impact area, proximity to gasoline distribution points, available inventories, and population density.

None of that should be news to the Attorney General. His so-called investigation is nothing more than a self-serving attempt to boost his political fortunes at the expense both of taxpayer dollars and common sense. King should stick to enforcing the law and cut out the populist grandstanding.
Well, it seems that John Tyson, Jr. is now criticizing Troy King for failing to pursue his witch-hunt even further than he did, accusing him of being too lenient on all those non-existent price-gougers. From the Tuscaloosa News:
Tyson also said King hasn’t followed up on a 2005 news conference in which he pledged to investigate gasoline price gouging.

“This guy had a lot of fanfare and a lot of press conferences announced a big time investigation and he did arrest a convenience store operator or two," Tyson said.

King filed civil suits against gasoline distributors. A settlement required defendants to pay $5,300 to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army but without an admission of wrongdoing. King said the amount collected was more than the profits from alleged price gouging.
If we call King a "grandstander," then what are we to make of Mr. Tyson?

The two main questions I asked myself in determining who to vote for in this race are 1) Which candidate has the best philosophy for fighing crime most effectively? and 2) Which candidate will best defend the State of Alabama's interests when its laws are challenged under either the Alabama or the U.S. Contitution?

I discussed question 1 in my post yesterday.

As to question 2, I think that King has performed admirably. He has filed amicus curiae ("friend of the Court") briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a state's (California's) right to allow medicinal marijuana and supporting a state's (Virginia's) right to require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. He has (unsuccessfully) defended the executive branch's right under the Alabama constitution to review legislative pork projects passed as community service grants. His office is currently helping to ensure that Alabama meets its obligations under the Helping America Vote Act, in spite of Secretary of State Worley's obstruction. He also believes that when judges abuse their authority and assume the role of legislators, it is his duty as the state's attorney to challenge them. The same can't be said of his opponent.

Voting is sometimes a balancing act, and in this case I have to come down in favor of King as the lesser of two evils. He may not be the best guy for the job, but that's because the best guy isn't running this year; he's in Atlanta serving on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
On this day:

Congressman, you don't know Shi'ite

Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein has been roaming around Washington, D.C. quizzing various federal officials on their basic knowledge of Islam. In Tuesday's New York Times, he wrote:
FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

Needless to say, lots of the people he interviewed couldn't answer the question, including Alabama's own Rep. Terry Everett (R-Rehobeth):

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

This isn't surprising, of course. On the "things every Congressperson should know" list, the origin of the schism in Islam doesn't rank very high. Still, I'd think they should be able to come up with a sentence or two, at least. Something like, "The split came about due to a controversy over who were the legitimate successors to the Prophet Muhammed" would be sufficient.

So, do you know the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites? If not, this WikiPedia article is a pretty good place to start.

Update: Darn it, that link doesn't work, because of the weird characters. Try this:

An endorsement (or two, if you count me) for Troy King

Feddie at Southern Appeal encourages Alabama voters to re-elect Troy King as Attorney General. Troy King hasn't impressed me as much as his predecessor, Bill Pryor, but his positions on the issues still make him to be a far better choice than John Tyson, Jr., his Democratic opponent. From that Tuscaloosa News report that Feddie linked to:

The attorney general serves as the state’s lawyer, who also appoints private attorneys to state cases, an important and advantageous patronage position.

The attorney general also sets the tone for the approach to law enforcement and criminal justice, said Brad Moody, a political science professor at Auburn University in Montgomery. ...

Moody said King and Tyson’s philosophies couldn’t be more dissimilar.

King is the type of prosecutor who believes in locking them up and throwing away the key.

“King is sort of a three-decades-later Charlie Graddick," Moody said. “But that’s the Republican approach. He kind of personifies the conservative, hard-nose, we-got-to be-tough-on-criminals approach."

Tyson, a 54-year-old Democrat, is a good-natured but tough-sounding bear of a district attorney who says prosecuting criminals isn’t enough. He advocates programs to help prevent crime and rehabilitate criminals, especially drug users.

King calls those “feel-good programs."

“You see over and over when we tilt toward responding to crime with social programs, the crime rate goes up and that’s what’s going up in Mobile," King said. “Three years in a row homicides are up 30 percent. The way to stop crime is to punish people who commit crimes." ...

Tyson said he wants to expand community correction programs he helped start in Mobile County, such as drug court, where certain non-violent addicts can plead guilty to felonies but receive intensive counseling and rehabilitation. If they fail, they’re hauled off to prison.

“He has no appreciation of trying to stop crime before it happens," Tyson said of King.

King’s response is that the attorney general isn’t hired to conduct social experiments.

“The attorney general is hired to make streets safer," he said. “I believe you do that by doing the things we’re doing, making Alabama physically safer by passing tough laws. We’ve passed an incredible child pornography law, meth law, an identify theft law. Our laws are the models for the nation."

I agree with Mr. Tyson that it's best to prevent crime before it is committed. I think that Attorney General King and everyone else with an ounce of common sense would also agree. The question for our next Attorney General is not whether government should try to prevent crime, but rather how it can most effectively act to achieve that objective.

The type of crime prevention that Tyson advocates - a myriad of new taxpayer-financed social programs - relies far to heavily on the power of politicians, bureaucrats, and state-employed social workers to change the hearts and minds of criminals. It's a task that government is quite unsuited to perform, and all the wishful thinking in the world won't change that.

That's not to say that government should be passive or reactive when dealing with criminals. Government can and does have a major role to play in preventing crime - one that flows from the simple fact that it is the only institution in our society which is empowered to isolate those who commit crimes - and especially those who commit violent crimes - from those of us who don't. When it comes to fighting crime, it seems to me that government is most effective when it focuses its attention on that unique and essential responsibility. We should always leave room for alternatives other than "lock 'em up and throw away the key," but we have to also recognize that government is notoriously ineffective in bringing about cultural change among a criminal element that shows no inclination to change. I wish it were different, but unlike John Tyson, Jr., I understand that wishful thinking doesn't make it so. That's one reason I'll be voting for Troy King come November.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
On this day:

Animal House

I have been appointed temporary guardian of an attention-craving three-legged cat named Nubbins. She'll be here for about a week or so while her owner is off visiting his mum in England. I didn't do much catproofing before she arrived, so I'm just hoping for the best. So far, she's been pretty good; at least I think she has been. Who knows what these little critters do while you're away.

The only thing I'm a little concerned about is that she doesn't appear to have used her litter box yet. I'm hoping that doesn't mean she has come to prefer some remote but appealing spot on my carpet. If so, there's a strong chance that I may not notice it for awhile. First of all, there are only a about two square feet in my apartment where the carpet is actually visible. Secondly, for me to be able to detect a new smell around here, it would first have to overpower the various others that it would have to compete with. I'm not the tidiest fellow in the world, to say the least. It's a trait that seems to run in my family, at least among the males. Just a couple of weeks ago, my dad was talking about his own lack of organization skills. (I believe the subject came up because he and mom had just visited me the weekend before.) Anyway, he mentioned how he'd like it if he could just put lines of nails along every wall in the house to hang things on so as to actually be able to find them at a glance instead of having to remember what drawer or cabinet they are stashed away in. Sounds like a pretty good idea to me, although not very aesthetically pleasing - I'm sure mom would never go for it.

At least the cat doesn't seem to mind the state of things at my place; in fact, I'm pretty sure she sees it as a kitty playground. We should be able to tolerate each other just fine.

I am not an addict

...although I seem to fit the profile:

According to preliminary research, the typical Internet addict was a single, college-educated, white male in his 30s, who spends approximately 30 hours a week [4.285714 hours per day] on non-essential computer use.

Blogging is essential, isn't it?

Hillary's baggage: What's she gonna do with all that junk?

She's got Dems spinning.

Worley's contempt

Alabama's Democratic Secretary of State, Nancy Worley, is still holding up the process of ensuring Alabama's compliance with the Helping America Vote Act.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley's attorney told a federal judge Monday that Secretary of State Nancy Worley hasn't supplied all the records needed to implement a statewide voter registration system, despite the threat of contempt of court.

Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, gave U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins a list of eight types of documents that "would be helpful" but that haven't been turned over to the governor.

They included e-mails between the secretary of state and voter registrars about the procurement of the voter registration system and many documents involving communications between Worley's office and companies interested in developing the computerized system.

Wallis said he has "attempted to be polite, amicable and cooperative with the secretary" and even offered to go to her office with her former staff attorney, Trey Granger, to search for the missing documents.

"Subsequently, I have been informed that Mr. Granger would not be welcome in her office," Wallis wrote.

Mr. Granger is a Montgomery attorney who currently serves on the Governor's HAVA Implementation Committee. He is also the Director of Elections for Montgomery County. Formerly, Granger served as Worley's General Counsel before moving on to greener pastures. It appears that he would be just the right guy to help the Secretary of State locate the missing records needed to fully implement the state's obligations under HAVA. Why is it, then, that Nancy Worley has declared him persona non grata?

"Unusual meteorite found in Kansas"

10,000 year old meteorite bears a striking resemblance to former Kansas Senator Bob Dole.

Sunday, October 15, 2006
On this day:

Justice Scalia debates ACLU President

Should judges in this country consider the decisions of foreign judges when interpreting the laws and Constitution of the United States?

Is flag-burning protected by the First Amendment?

How should the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments be interpreted? Do they have substantive content, or is the concept of "substantive due process" a contradiction in terms?

Under our Constitution, who should decide whether certain sexual practices are legal or illegal? Judges or legislatures?

Is it appropriate for judges to appeal to natural law in their decisionmaking?

Should the meaning of Constitutional provisions evolve over time to reflect societal changes or should they mean today what they meant when they were adopted?

Does Justice Antonin Scalia consider himself to be a "strict constructionist"?

And why on earth would he hang out with the President of the American Civil Liberties Union?

Those are a few of the topics that were addressed Sunday in a debate between Justice Antonin Scalia and ACLU President Nadine Strossen. The debate was televised on C-Span, and you can watch it here. It's about an hour long, but well worth it.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
On this day:

Of mice and men

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials have designated 6,200 acres in coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle as critical habitat for three endangered beach mouse species.

Property owners or developers could be required to survey property for the protected mice before construction or to redesign a project that would harm the nocturnal creatures, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in a ruling Thursday. ...

The FWS estimates the cost of saving the three subspecies of beach mice at $93.4 million to $174.9 million over the next 20 years, nearly all of that in costs paid by landowners or developers who must alter or restrict their beachside projects.

You can learn more about the Perdido Key beach mouse here. Below is a pic of the little critter.

Baxley: "It will take a minor miracle" for me to win

Lucy Baxley has all but admitted defeat in her race for Governor.

Friday, October 13, 2006
On this day:

Schwarzenegger to the rescue (of the Electoral College)

A Republican Governor vetoes a bill that probably would have helped Republican presidential nominees. I heartily approve. So does George Will.

Deaf and dumb

Signs of the times.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gallaudet University students blocked access to campus for a second day Thursday, escalating their protest against an incoming president they say lacks the skills to lead the nation's only liberal arts university for the deaf and hearing impaired. ...

The blockade began around 3 a.m. Wednesday and forced the university to cancel classes for a second day Thursday as about 200 students protested at the front gate. Some linked arms and formed a human chain to block the main entrance to campus while about 10 police officers looked on from across the street.

The protests began last spring when then-Provost Jane K. Fernandes was appointed to replace president I. King Jordan, beginning in January, by the school's board of trustees.

Students intensified their protests on Oct. 5, when they took over Gallaudet's main classroom building -- an occupation that was marred by complaints about rough actions by campus police. Since then, the demonstrations have escalated, with students blocking campus gates, forcing school officials to move or cancel classes.

Plummer, who signed through an interpreter, and other students and some faculty said they felt shut out of the selection process for the next president. Some also felt the field of candidates was not ethnically diverse. ...

Fernandes has said some people do not consider her "deaf enough" to be president. She was born deaf but grew up speaking and did not learn American Sign Language until she was 23.

A lost art?


Thursday, October 12, 2006
On this day:

Folsom: "Full rewrite" of Alabama constitution is needed

Jim Folsom, Jr., the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, wants to scrap the current Alabama constitution and call a constitutional convention to write a new one. According to the Decatur Daily:

In response to a question from a Rotary member, Folsom said he favors holding a convention to rewrite the state's constitution.

"We need a full rewrite to put us into the 21st century," Folsom said. "It would make our government more efficient and increase local control."

It's a fact: the Alabama Constitution restricts the power of government perhaps more than any other state constitution in the country. Jim Folsom, Jr. says that this makes our government less efficient than it should be. I say it makes it less intrusive than it would be were the majority of constitutional reformers to have their way. It all depends on your outlook: on how you view the role of government.

The primary purpose of a constitution is not to ensure government efficiency. It is to provide the basic framework for government and to define its powers. Loosening the constitutional restrictions on government power would almost certainly make government work more efficiently, just like Jim Folsom says. If it weren't for all those inconvenient limitations, government could raise taxes more efficiently, spend the people's money on new social programs more efficiently, hand out industrial development money to big corporations more efficiently, and build buildings named after important political figures more efficiently.

For government to act efficiently is one thing; for it to act in a way that is mindful of its foremost duty - to protect life, liberty, and property - is something altogether different.

"Constitutional reform game plan eyed"

From last Friday's Birmingham News:
MONTGOMERY - People who want Alabama to have a new constitution must make their case with more voters, persuade more legislators, get the legislative leadership on board and have the governor or another high-profile politician lead the campaign.
Another important consideration for con-reformers that somehow went unmentioned is: How do we convince voters that we're not really trying to come up with a clever way to simplify the process for raising their taxes, when in fact, that's our primary objective?

Speaking of brave men of the West

There's a new movie out called 300, recounting the Greek battle against the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC. Victor Davis Hanson has lots of background material and a (mostly positive) review of the movie here.

Hanson is the author of lots of books on military history, including The Wars of the Ancient Greeks, which I started reading awhile back but - as with most books I've started on - I haven't finished. You can read Mr. Hanson's bio here.

Happy Columbus Day

Today marks the 514th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World. It's fashionable these days to be down on Columbus and other Western explorers and colonists, but those who wallow in the mire of such political correctness always seem more than happy to reap (or sometimes, to plunder) the benefits of what those brave men of the West accomplished. Columbus and those who followed in his wake brought the gifts of Western civilization and Christianity to formerly savage and heathen lands. Their courage, perseverance, and hopeful spirit set in place the cultural forces that would bring ever-increasing freedom and prosperity to the lands they discovered. For that, we Americans owe them a debt of gratitude.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
On this day:

Anything's good when you deep fry it

Including Co'Cola.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
On this day:

Riley leading Baxley by large margin

According to a Mobile Press Register/University of South Alabama poll, Gov. Riley holds a 57-32% lead over Lucy Baxley among likely voters. In other statewide races:
The race for lieutenant governor was tied, with Republican Luther Strange and Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. each at 43 percent.

Republican Troy King, bidding for a full term as attorney general, was 2 percentage points ahead of Democrat John Tyson Jr., the Mobile County district attorney.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley, a Democrat seeking re-election, had a 1 point advantage on Republican Beth Chapman, the state auditor. ...

Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks was strongly positioned in his race for re-election, according to the poll, drawing 49 percent support to lead Republican Albert Lipscomb by 21 points. ...

State Treasurer Kay Ivey, a Republican seeking re-election, had a lead of 11 percentage points on Democrat Steve Segrest. Samantha Shaw, the Republican candidate for state auditor, had a 7 point edge on Democrat Janie Baker Clark.

Forty-five percent of the people polled said they identified more closely with the Republican Party, while 35 percent leaned toward the Democratic side. Twenty percent did not answer or said they identified with neither party.

Monday, October 09, 2006
On this day:

Bud Cramer on the War

Rep. Bud Cramer speaks thoughtfully and responsibly on the War in Iraq. I don't agree with all of what he says, and his comments seem a bit wishy-washy to me, but it's nice to know that some Democrats actually want to win this thing.

Cramer is my Congressman. He is a relatively conservative "Blue-Dog" Democrat and is running unopposed this November, but I don't know if I can bring myself to vote for him. The write-in option will be awfully tempting, but who would I write in?

One question I'd like to hear Cramer answer is this: "If the Democrats manage to win the House in November, who will you vote for as Speaker?" If the answer is "Nancy Pelosi," then my vote for U.S. Representative will be for someone other than Bud Cramer. Not that it'll make any difference, of course, but at least I'd be able to sleep at night.

Nork Nukes

North Korea claims that it has successfully tested a nuclear weapon.

The question of the day is whether China and South Korea will now step forward to help destroy the beast that they helped to create and sustain. By "destroy," I don't mean to imply that a military confrontation is desirable or even necessary. A coordinated strategy to choke off funds and supplies to the North Koreans could very well succeed in bringing about the regime's collapse, but only if is supported wholeheartedly by the two nations with the most influence in the region - China and South Korea.

This is a very difficult diplomatic game for the U.S., but I think that the Bush administration has played it as well as it could have. The easy option would have been to fall in line behind the policies of previous administrations by simply trying to buy off (or appease) Little Dictator Kim Jong-Il. President Bush, though, has quite rightly put that option off the table, for the simple reason that it is absolutely unfathomable that the U.S. would act to prop up such a dangerous and untrustworthy tyrant.

The Bush administration's policy of multilateral, six-party negotiations with North Korea was designed to force its neighbors to step up to the plate and take some of the responsibility for dealing with Kim Jong-Il's repeated provocations. Until now, only the U.S. and Japan have shown a determined willingness to take the actions required to bring about a change in regime. Now that the North Koreans have demonstrated their nuclear capabilities in such a blatantly hostile fashion, we can only hope that China and South Korea will come to their senses and help put an end to this madness once and for all.

Friday, October 06, 2006
On this day:

Federal judge threatens SOS Worley with contempt

From the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge has asked Secretary of State Nancy Worley to show why she should not be found in contempt of court for not fully cooperating with Gov. Bob Riley's efforts to comply with a court mandate to develop an overdue statewide voter registration system.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ordered Worley Friday to respond to a report filed earlier by Riley's attorney that said Worley had refused to cooperate with a committee set up by Riley to manage development of the voter registration system. In the report, Riley's legal adviser Ken Wallis said Worley had indicated she would only deal directly with the governor and not with individual members of the governor's committee.

Watkins said he would consider Worley's response and comments from Riley and then decide if the secretary of state should be held in contempt of court.

"In making her responses to the court, defendant Worley is advised not to parse the words of the orders of this court, nor to test the court's willingness to utilize its contempt powers," Watkins said in a sternly worded three-page order.

Nancy Worley has responded with her old stand-by excuse: "The Republicans are out to get me." Unfortunately for Mrs. Worley, lashing out at Republicans won't help her out much right now. What she needs is a lawyer or two. Too bad she ran them all off.

Bill Pryor takes on Sandra Day O'Conner re "The Threat to Judicial Independence"

In this Wall Street Journal op-ed , Judge William Pryor responds to a recent piece by former Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, in which O'Conner argued that the current level of criticism aimed at the judiciary constitutes a "grave threat" to judicial independence.

Pryor answers by making the case that 1) contemporary criticism of judicial decisionmaking is neither grave nor unprecedented, 2) much of the criticism that Justice O'Conner frets about is fair, just, and healthy for democracy, and 3) judges must inquire as to whether they deserve to be criticized at times, in light of their obligation to act within constitutional restraints.

Overall, it's a very effective rebuttal.

Those who followed the Republican race for Alabama Supreme Court Justice last spring may appreciate Pryor's response to one of the examples Justice O'Conner cites as a "grave threat."

Here's Justice O'Conner:
Troublingly, attacks on the judiciary are now being launched by judges themselves. Earlier this year, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker excoriated his colleagues for faithfully applying the Supreme Court's precedent in Roper v. Simmons, which prohibited imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by minors. Offering a bold reinterpretation of the Constitution's supremacy clause, Justice Parker advised state judges to avoid following Supreme Court opinions "simply because they are 'precedents.'" Justice Parker supported his criticism of "activist federal judges" by asserting that "the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court . . . look down on the pro-family policies, Southern heritage, evangelical Christianity, and other blessings of our great state."

Now, here's Judge Pryor, telling the part of the story that O'Conner left out:
Some who complain about the current climate of criticism point to the bizarre example of Justice Tom Parker of the Alabama Supreme Court, who recently
castigated his colleagues for following the ruling of the Supreme Court in Roper, which prohibited use of the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-old murderers, but there is a good ending to this story from my home state. Not only did the other members of the Alabama court faithfully apply Roper, with which many of them disagreed, but Justice Parker's political gambit failed miserably. He ran for chief justice of Alabama, aligned with his mentor, former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ran for governor; both were trounced in the Republican primary. Their twisted ideas of opposing activist decisions by defying judicial decrees went nowhere, even in a state with a shameful history of defiance of federal authority. The Alabama justices who did their duty all prevailed in their primary contests. Alabama has come a long way since the days of Governor Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door.
(Hat tip: How Appealing via Southern Appeal.)

PETA targets Auburn

This story reminds me of an old joke:

Two boys were playing football in a Tuscaloosa park one day when one was attacked by a Rottweiler. Thinking quickly, the other boy ripped off a board of the nearby fence, wedged it down the dog's collar and twisted, breaking the dog's neck.

A reporter who was walking by saw the incident, and rushed over to interview the boy.

"Alabama fan saves friend from vicious animal," he starts writing in his notebook.

"But, I'm not an Alabama fan," the boy replied.

"UAB fan rescues friend from horrific attack," the reporter starts again.

"No, I'm not a UAB fan, either," the boy said.

"Then what are you?" the reporter asked.

"I'm an Auburn fan." replied the boy.

The reporter turned to a new sheet in his notebook and writes, "Redneck bastard kills family pet."

"Surly Worley" not cooperating on voter registration

Is there anyone that Alabama's current Secretary of State can get along with?

Second and last post on Foley

It's amazing how much effort the media is putting into turning up new details about former Congressman Mark Foley. They have been out questioning former aides, looking into his family life - anything and everything to keep this story going for a while longer. It's getting kind of ridiculous. I mean, today I found out that his favorite novel is War and Peace. Seems he likes it because it's got almost a thousand pages.

(Yeah, I know I shouldn't have hit the "Publish" button on that one, but I couldn't resist.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006
On this day:

The Foley business

It may not surprise you that I believe that the person responsible for the Foley mess is none other than Mark Foley himself. Not Speaker Hastert. Not the Republican leadership in the House. Not Nancy Pelosi. Not even the many Congressmen - Republican and Democrat - who were almost certainly aware of Foley's wandering eyes.

Not Foley's childhood priest. Not his parents. Not the free love generation or the Sexual Revolution. Not the Log Cabin Republicans. Nope...I blame the dirty old man himself...Mark Foley. In hindsight, it seems that Foley's fellow House members could have been a little more attentive to his odd behavior, but then again, what could they have done about it other than tell him to cut that crap out? Members of Congress have no "boss" other than their own constitutents. There are plenty of obnoxious rogues on Capitol Hill, but being obnoxious is not a crime. Given what is now known about Foley's string of e-mails and instant messages - when they were sent, to whom, and who was aware of their contents - the efforts by the media and others to shift the blame for Foley's behavior to the House leadership and to the Republican Party in general is unwarranted.

Rep. Foley should be punished for what he did. In fact, that punishment has already begun. Once the details of his conduct were reported, he promptly resigned his office, and properly so; if he had not, he would have been forced out. It's safe to say that Foley will never be entrusted with a position of public trust again. His reputation is thoroughly trashed, and he has lost the friendship and goodwill of former colleagues and constituents. He could possibly face legal action and even jail time. All of that is exactly as it should be.

This is a shameful episode, but not surprising. Human beings, weakened as they are by original sin, are capable of horrible misdeeds. Man's actions, when they are unrestrained by conscience and the virtues, are limited only by his imagination and will, coupled with the capacities of his body and intellect to fulfill what is demanded of them.

We are right to expect our public officials to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, but as we've been reminded this week, they too are capable of acting badly from time to time. To make excuses for them or to blame others for their misconduct is to reject the idea that grown men and women must be held accountable for their own decisions. People need to calm down and ponder that for awhile.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
On this day:

Money, money everywhere

From the Birmingham News today:
MONTGOMERY - State tax collections continued their rapid growth in Alabama's budget year that ended Saturday, according to state finance department reports released Tuesday.

Tax collections and other revenue for Alabama's Education Trust Fund, which supports public schools and colleges, totaled $5.495 billion in the 2005-06 budget year, an increase of $527.3 million, or 10.6 percent, from the year before.

The state General Fund, for noneducation state agencies, grew by an even faster rate, increasing 13.7 percent to a total of $1.6 billion in 2005-06.

Much of the Education Trust Fund's growth came from increases in income tax and sales tax collections. ...

The trust fund gets about 87 percent of its money from state income tax and sales tax collections.

Combined personal and corporate state income tax collections totaled $3.17 billion in the 2005-06 budget year, an increase of $341.1 million, or 12 percent, from the year before.

State sales tax collections for the trust fund totaled $1.61 billion in 2005-06, an increase of $110.0 million, or 7.3 percent, from the year before.

How much is enough?

State and local tax revenues in Alabama, including here in Madison County, where I live, are the highest they have ever been. Just this past weekend, the Huntsville Times reported that the county's property tax revenues for last year could be up to 20% higher than they were in 2004. In spite of that, and in spite of the fact that Madison County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state with one of the biggest tax bases, the usual suspects are trying their best to get the county commission to approve a countywide 1/2% hike in sales taxes. From the Times last Friday:

The leaders of local business and education organizations joined Thursday to ask the Madison County Commission to pass a countywide half-cent sales-tax increase without calling for a referendum to find out if the public supports a higher tax.

The additional half-cent tax - expected to generate an estimated $21 million a year for construction and repairs in the county's three public school systems - is on the agenda at this morning's County Commission meeting. ...

All three local school boards and the boards of the Schools Foundation, the chamber and the Committee of 100 business group have passed resolutions supporting the increase. ...

The business groups and Schools Foundation pledged to help build support for a property-tax increase to replace the temporary sales-tax increase.

Thankfully, the commission voted down the proposal last Friday, but only temporarily, pending "further study." They also killed a proposal to allow voters to decide the issue directly in a referendum. Commissioners are expected to consider the sales tax increase again next month.

During Friday's discussion, Commissioner Roger Jones proposed that the commission vote on the tax increase. Commissioners Faye Dyer, Mo Brooks, Dale Strong and Bob Harrison voted against the hike. Commissioners Jones and Jerry Craig voted in favor.

Jones and Craig said they trust school officials to spend the money appropriately.

Strong and Harrison said they want to see where the money is going before they vote for the tax increase. They said they want to know if any of the money would be spent on schools in their district to relieve overcrowding and address understaffing.
In Madison County, the sales tax is currently 5.5%. Here in Huntsville, it is 8%. Proponents of the increase say it is necessary to accomodate all the new students who will be coming to Huntsville due to decisions by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission to shift jobs to Redstone Arsenal. Of course, all the new families who move here will be paying taxes themselves; if the government would just slim down for a year or so until they are all settled, things would work out just fine. It's fruitless to bombard tax-raisers with common sense, though. Their goal in life is to increase taxes, and if this tax increase is approved, you can rest assured that it will never be repealed.

Still, hope remains. The Commission has delayed voting on the measure, which should provide ample opportunity for the opposition to mobilize. If you live in Madison County, here's who to call:

District 1 - Roger Jones: 256-828-0726 (Jones voted in favor of the increase last week)
District 2 - Faye Dyer: 256-532-1590 (Dyer voted against the increase)
District 3 - Jerry Craig: 256-723-4247 (Craig voted in favor)
District 4 - Dale Strong: 256-852-8351 (Strong voted no last week, but remains undecided)
District 5 - Mo Brooks: 256-539-6000 (Brooks voted no...and to my knowledge, his streak of voting against every single tax increase he has ever had the chance to consider remains unbroken)
District 6 - Bob Harrison: 256-532-1505 (Harrison voted no last week, but remains undecided)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
On this day:

Alabama Democratic Party official speaks of "our black agenda"

From the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — With five weeks to go before the election, black Democrats will meet Saturday to air complaints about their votes being taken for granted and about some Democratic candidates not being electable.

Joe Reed, chairman of the black wing of the Alabama Democratic Party, said Friday he organized the closed meeting at a conference center in Prattville after hearing complaints from black Democrats throughout the state.

"It's a black Democrat family meeting," he said. ...

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, a black member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, said Democrats are running competitive races for some offices, such as lieutenant governor and chief justice, but Democrats in a few races, such as the governor's race, need to do a better job of getting their message out.

"The governor's race hasn't picked up a lot of momentum on the Democratic side," said Holmes, D-Montgomery.

Reed's invitation to the meeting said it would have two purposes. One is to decide "what position we should take regarding supporting Democratic candidates who, in our opinion, are not electable, or whose agenda is unacceptable or not compatible with our black agenda."

The other purpose, he wrote, is to examine "the quality and status of our relationship as black Democrats to the state Democratic Party, and whether it is in our best interest to continue to maintain the present relationship, given the current political climate."
I hope that someday, the kind of racialist politics that Joe Reed preaches will be a thing of the past. If a high-ranking official of either party were to speak of "our white agenda," the press would be up in arms and politicians of all stripes would show uncommon unanimity in denouncing him. Mr. Reed, though, gets a pass. Clearly, there is a double standard.

To speak of a "black agenda" implies that there are "black issues": issues that are the exclusive concern of black citizens, or at least that are of much greater concern to blacks than they are to whites. That point is arguable, but I think that by and large, it is much more productive (and statesmanlike) to speak in universal terms rather than to follow Joe Reed's example of viewing virtually every issue as an issue of race. Economic growth, better educational opportunities, and a culture that produces good, law-abiding citizens are issues of concern to everyone. The real disagreement comes in the search for solutions, and that's where Joe Reed and other liberals have got it all wrong.

The fact is that if you ignore his black-vs.-white rhetoric, Joe Reed's "black agenda" really has little to do with race. Using his past policy preferences as a guide, it consists of the same liberal policies that have failed people of all ethnic groups whenever and wherever they have been tried: high taxes, expansive government, a softer criminal code, and a devotion to government-managed "anti-poverty" programs that have served to reinforce, rather than alleviate, the desperate cycle of dependency among the poor. If Reed were truly interested in helping solve the problems facing the black community, he would be promoting policies conducive to economic growth, entrepreneurial initiative, and individual responsibility. Maybe he'll surprise us all in the coming weeks by coming up with an agenda that does those things, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006
On this day:

Building "a culture of life"

Evangelicals and Catholics together.