Sunday, December 31, 2006
On this day:

50 Things We Know Now (That We Didn't Know This Time Last Year)

Check this out. Here are my faves:

1. U.S. life expectancy in 2005 inched up to a record high of 77.9 years. (Do these life expectancy numbers still apply only to those who are born today?)

6. Cheese consumption in the United States is expected to grow by 50 percent between now and 2013. (Scientists are now studying how the resulting increase in cheese-cutting will affect global warming.)

9. Scientists have discovered that certain brain chemicals in our tears are natural pain relievers. (I never knew that there were "brain chemicals in our tears." Does that mean that our brain leaks everytime we cry?)

19. Red wine contains anti-inflammatory chemicals that stave off diseases affecting the gums and bone around the teeth. (Just in case you need a reason for having that second glass of wine.)

20. A substance called resveratrol, also found in red wine, protects mice from obesity and the effects of aging, and perhaps could do the same for humans. (Or yet another.)

32. Just 30 minutes of continuous kissing can diminish the body's allergic reaction to pollen, relaxing the body and reducing production of histamine, a chemical cell given out in response to allergens. (Hmmmm...imagine what "just 2 hours" of heavy petting would do.)

36. DNA analysis determined the British descended from a tribe of Spanish fishermen who crossed the Bay of Biscay almost 6,000 years ago. (This particular tribe were notorious in their native land for their bad food.)

40. The queens of bee, ant and wasp colonies that have the most sex with the largest number of males produce the strongest and healthiest colonies. (Reason number 2567 why it may not be a good idea to establish human moral codes based on behavior of lesser animal species.)

41. By firing atoms of metal at another metal, Russian and American scientists found a new element - No. 118 on the Periodic Table - that is the heaviest substance known and probably hasn't existed since the universe was in its infancy. (The element has been named Barrium, due to its remarkable resemblance to Roseanne Barr's derriere.)

45. During the past five years, the existence of a peanut allergy in children has doubled. (Upset that you can't get peanuts on planes? Blame the children.)

46. Photos taken of Mars in 1999 and 2005 show muddy sand, indicating there may have been a flood sometime between those years. (Climate change on Mars? How could it be? Last I heard, there aren't any humans there.)

48. Red wines from southwest France and Sardinia boast the highest concentrations of chemical compounds that promote heart health. (Whaddya know? Yet another reason to have a glass of wine.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006
On this day:

Merry Christmas!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

-Luke 2:1-20

Farewell Southern Appeal

Hate to see you go, guys.

Thursday, December 21, 2006
On this day:

Christmas songs

Here are some of my favorites (all links are to YouTube):

O Holy Night

Version 1: Sung by Marantha Music (the accompanying video is great...Kate O'Beirne posted this one at NRO today.)

Version 2: Sung by Placido Domingo (No one could do it better than this.)

Version 3: Sung by Celine Dion (Not even Celine Dion, and she's awesome.)
O Come All Ye Faithful

Version 1: Sung by Mario Lanza (from 1950-something. I think you'll like it.)

Version 2: Sung by Twisted Sister (ummmm...what can I say?)

Ave Maria

Version 1: Sung by Luciano Paravotti (can you say "chills?")

Version 2: Sung by Luciano Pavarotti and Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries (just so you can hear Pavarotti again.)
Silent Night

Version 1: Sung by Enya (it's in Irish, but its beautiful and you know the words!)

Version 2: Sung by Stevie Nicks

Little Drummer Boy
Sung by John Denver (I miss John Denver. Such a great singer and such a genuinely nice guy.)
Away in an Manger
Sung by Johnny Cash (Johnny may not have had the perttiest voice in the world, but one thing's for sure - you could understand every single word he said. And on this song, that's all that matters.)

The First Noel

Sung by Clay Aiken (Only because I couldn't find anyone else...not too bad, though.)

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

Sung by Josh Groban
The Chrismas Song

Sung by Nat King Cole (did anyone else ever really sing this song better than Alabama's own Nat King Cole?)

Unless maybe it was his daughter Natalie

Blue Christmas
Sung by Elvis Presley (unplugged) (who else?)

White Christmas
Sung by Bing Crosby (again, who else?)

How Great Thou Art
Sung by Loretta Lynn (I know it's not a Christmas song, but somehow, it seems to fit.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
On this day:

Alabama higher ed gets big boost in funding

NRO's John J. Miller quotes from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A new national survey shows that state spending on higher education is continuing to rise in most of the country and is growing faster than kudzu in much of the South.

Total state general-fund appropriations for higher education are up by 7 percent, to $72.18-billion, in the 2006-7 fiscal year, according to an annual survey conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy, at Illinois State University. Detailed statistics from the survey, including state-by-state and institution-by-institution breakdowns, are available here.

Fourteen states experienced double-digit increases in their appropriations for higher education, the most since the center began tracking one-year fluctuations in such spending, in 1991.

Alabama had the largest one-year jump, with lawmakers there budgeting a whopping 18.7 percent more for colleges and financial aid. Increases of at least 13 percent were reported by Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Over all, 28 states increased appropriations for higher education by at least 5 percent for 2006-7.
That additional state funding comes on top of whopping tuition increases over the past five years at most of the state's colleges and universities. So, what are they doing with all this money? Are they using it to improve the quality of education, or are they spending the bulk of it on fancy new dorms, recreation facilities, parking decks, and Bus-a-Drunk services? Are they spending it to attract quality faculty members and improve classroom instruction, or to hire more do-nothing administrators? The answers to those questions are important, because you can rest assured that every one of these institutions will be back next year begging for even more of our tax dollars.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
On this day:

Riley talks sense on taxes

In a recent interview with the Huntsville Times, Gov. Riley suggested that the best way the government can guarantee adequate funding for public education is to promote wealth creation, not to stifle it by raising taxes.

To sustain the state's economic growth...,Riley said Alabama must improve its education system.

He said trying to raise property taxes at the local level is not the answer to improving education, especially in the state's poorer counties. Riley cited Wilcox County in the Black Belt, one of the nation's poorest counties, as an example.

"You could double the property tax in Wilcox county, but it wouldn't build a new school or even hire two or three new teachers," he said. "We put a little too much emphasis on that (local property taxes) being a cure-all to all the problems, and it's not.

"What you have to do is develop an economic base down there. You have to develop value in that county, and with the value comes resources that allow you to do some things that you can't do today. That value comes from creating jobs.

"You put in Wilcox County one plant that works 1,000 people at $20 an hour and, all of a sudden, you begin to transition the whole area."
The issue of how to address

Explorer bugs?

I installed the latest version of Internet Explorer yesterday, and today I am having connectivity problems. Now, it is possible that these two things could be unrelated. However, it appears that several critical .dll files have been mysteriously deleted since yesterday, and as a result, several processes used to maintain my connection to the internet are now unable to run. If this keeps up, I'll be uninstalling IE 7. Just not in the mood to put up with Microsoft screwups.

Cooking for commies

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks was in Cuba last week breaking (corn)bread with that nation's communist rulers.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Ron Sparks went from state agriculture commissioner to cooking instructor during his latest multimillion-dollar trade mission to Cuba. ...

While in Cuba, Sparks and his staff used Alabama products to prepare a traditional Southern meal for Cuban officials. It included fried catfish from Southern Pride Catfish, cornbread, butter beans, green bean casserole, coleslaw, pecan pie with ice cream, and Red Diamond sweet tea.

Wow! That's a meal fit for a king. Too bad it was wasted on tyrants.

Monday, December 18, 2006
On this day:

Just upgraded my web browser Internet Explorer 7. So far, it seems to suck less than the previous version. The tabbed browsing, RSS reader, and default search utility features seem like they could be quite useful. Let's just hope the good folks at Microsoft have worked the major bugs out. (And let's hope that I win the lottery tomorrow, while we're at it.)

I always dread software upgrades. Maybe this one will actually turn out to be worthy of the name "upgrade," but as you can tell, I'm not overly optimistic. At least this one was free. Most of the time, Microsoft charges you hundreds of dollars for stuff like this - all so you can have the opportunity to see just how many new ways they've managed to come up with to make your time at the computer more complicated.

For example, I could really do without ever having another version of Microsoft Office. Word has way too many bells and whistles already, in my opinion - most of which I never use and never will use. Thank goodness for Notepad and Wordpad.

One of my pet peeves when it comes to Word is the fact that spell check and grammar check are on by default. Grammar check is much worse than spell least using spell check generally improves your writing. Add in Word's AutoCorrect "feature," and it's enough to really send my blood pressure through the roof, especially when I'm sure that I've turned all unwanted annoyances off a hundred times already. I mean...gently suggesting that "Hey, you might want to reword this, capitalize this, or check your spelling" is one thing, but correcting someone's writing without asking their permission is just downright rude.

And don't get me started on that damned paper clip.

Friday, December 15, 2006
On this day:

Our iron lady

R. Emmett Tyrrell remembers Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Debate takes place in highly charged atmosphere

What debate, you ask? Heck...all of 'em!

Thursday, December 14, 2006
On this day:

The origins of Christmas

Was the decision to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25 merely a pragmatic attempt by the early church to "Christianize" an existing pagan holiday? That seems to be widely accepted as the most likely explanation, but Mark Shea makes a thought-provoking (although speculative) argument that it may actually have been the other way around. Interesting. (Hat tip: Ramesh Ponnuru in the Corner.)

Shea's hypotheses about how Christians may have come up with the date aren't exactly new, by the way. For example, scroll down to the "Origins of Date" section in this Catholic Encyclopedia article (written in 1908) on the history and customs of Christmas .

Consumer tip of the day

In the process of cleaning out my e-mail box today, I came across something that might be useful:
Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411 information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of a problem.

When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial 1 (800) FREE 411, or 1 (800) 373-3411 without incurring any charge at all.
As to its accuracy, says its true, although it might entail listening to a short advertisement.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
On this day:

Bama's new coach

At last, the wait is over.

I'm so not laughing

A friend of mine (an Auburn fan, of course) e-mailed this to me today. The accompanying caption read: "The Bama Search Committee." Ha...ha...ha.

OK, so maybe it's a little funny and maybe I did crack a smile, but if I did, it faded quickly - much like Auburn's hopes of ever matching Bama's unrivalled record of national championships, bowl appearances, and general all-around greatness. But, dream on, guys. I hear that some Auburn agri-engineers are making great strides towards making pigs fly...anything is possible.

Barron says he's no longer running for President Pro Tem

Good news for Gov. Riley.

Colbert County

Alabama Moderate links to the three "Colbert Report" episodes on the opening - and closing - of the Stephen Colbert Museum and Gift Shop in Tuscumbia. Funny stuff. Kinda.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
On this day:

Lifting the veil of Roe

From the B'ham News:

A former administrator of Summit Medical Center has been charged with three misdemeanors for her role in abortions at the clinic, Alabama Attorney General Troy King's office announced Friday.

Janet Onthank King, 58, of Birmingham faces two charges of knowingly or recklessly performing abortions as a non-physician and one charge of making false entries into required equipment sterilization reports. ...

The case that led to her arrest began with a May 17 emergency order of license suspension against Summit. The suspension resulted from an incident in which a patient went to Summit on Feb. 20 and received an ultrasound administered by a non-physician. She was told by a Summit staff member that she was six weeks pregnant, even though she was near full term. The same day, the clinic gave her a dose of Mifeprex (RU-486), an abortion-inducing drug, also without a physician administering it as required.

The patient had a "critical and dangerously high" blood pressure reading of 182/129, the suspension order said. On Feb. 26, the patient walked into the emergency room of a Birmingham hospital "with the head of a baby protruding" and delivered a "stillborn, macerated, six pound, four ounce baby."

The fact that at least one member of the Summit staff is being held personally accountable for her role in this tragic episode is all well and good. Still, its worth noting that no one has been charged for the real crime that was committed here: aborting a "viable" fetus in the very latest stage of its prenatal development. Nor is it likely that anyone will be charged with that self-evidently heinous act, thanks to the United States Supreme Court and its thirty-plus years of abortion jurisprudence. As National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru stated in a piece marking the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
The true radicalism of Roe is still not sufficiently appreciated. Many educated people believe that Roe legalized abortion only in the first trimester, allowing it to be restricted in the second and banned in the third. In fact, Doe v. Bolton, handed down the same day as Roe, took back those apparent concessions. Abortions had to be allowed at all stages of pregnancy whenever continued pregnancy was said to jeopardize a woman's "physical, emotional, psychological, [or] familial" health. ...

The truth is that Roe was a breathtaking power grab by the Supreme Court, allowing abortion at any stage of pregnancy, nullifying laws in all fifty states, and going far beyond anything contemplated by public opinion before or since.
Ponnuru elaborated further on that point here:

There's a widespread myth that Roe allowed abortion to be prohibited in the third trimester so long as an exception was made for maternal health. The companion case Doe v. Bolton takes away that apparent concession, since it says that "health" has to be defined to include, among other things, emotional and familial factors. Casey did not modify this essential holding of Roe. States may be able to regulate abortion in some ways — they can pass some kinds of parental notification laws, for example — but they cannot prohibit abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Until Roe and Doe are overturned once and for all, tragedies like the one at Summit will continue to occur regularly and without remedy. Most of them will go unreported and unnoticed, concealed beneath a veil of deception woven from the threads of Roe v. Wade. Every now and then, we get a chance to peek underneath that veil, and the truth is revealed to anyone who cares to see. And what a horrible, ugly truth it is.

Stephen Colbert on the Pope's visit to Turkey

As y'all probably heard, Pope Benedict XVI recently visited Turkey. His mission had two primary objectives: 1) to move towards reestablishing full communion between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christanity, and 2) to open the door to meaningful and substantive dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

The degree to which those ecumenical efforts will succeed remains to be seen, although I think that objective #1 is much more likely to bear fruit than objective #2, for obvious reasons. More immediately, Benedict demonstrated on his trip that a phrase used frequently by Protestants to describe his predecessor also applies to him: "This is a Pope who knows how to pope." Before his trip, his reputation inside the Catholic Church was one of master theologian; he has now shown the whole world that he may just be a master diplomat, as well. Faced with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the decline of Christianity throughout Europe, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Anyway...Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has a bit of a different take on the whole thing. Watch it here. Pretty funny. (H/T Feddie at Southern Appeal.)

I've never watched Colbert's show, "The Colbert Report," mainly because I've never bothered to find out when it comes on. A few episodes I'd really like to see are the ones filmed in Alabama's Colbert County back in October. The Decatur Daily reported at the time:
TUSCUMBIA (AP) — The Stephen Colbert Museum and Gift Shop held its grand opening and not-so-grand closing on the same day in the county that honored Colbert by temporarily pronouncing its name like the Comedy Central entertainer does.

The event was staged — with the full cooperation of Colbert County officials — for future episodes of the news-program parody “The Colbert Report.”

Hundreds of residents turned out Wednesday to see Mayor Bill Shoemaker cut the red ribbon to open the museum, with actor Paul Dinello, who plays the role of “Tad” on the show, standing alongside him.

The entire event — like the show itself — was done tongue-in-cheek, with the premise that Colbert County was named for the show’s host, Stephen Colbert, who recently appeared at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Residents, and even the Deshler High School band and Colbert County High School cheerleaders, played along.

My arteries are clogging already

Steak 'n' Shake is coming to Huntsville.

Another Democrat joins anti-Barron forces in Senate

From the AP today:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State Sen. Jim Preuitt picked up another vote for president pro tem Tuesday, virtually guaranteeing that he will replace Sen. Lowell Barron as the Senate's top member if Preuitt can hold his coalition together.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a Birmingham Democrat who had been part of Barron's leadership group for eight years, announced he will support Preuitt, D-Talladega, for president pro tem when the new Senate meets for its organizational session on Jan. 9.

Smitherman has been one of the Senate's most influential members during the last eight years, serving as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He is the second black senator to announce his support for Preuitt. The first was Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield.

This is an interesting development. I think it's fair to say that Smitherman has consistently been one of the Senate's most liberal members. He voted against bills to restrict the government's eminent domain authority; he supports a constitutional convention to rewrite the Alabama constitution; he has received a large percentage of his campaign cash from the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Trial Lawyer's Association; as Judiciary Committee Chairman, he single-handedly held up committee action on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act last session; he supports an Alabama Bar Association plan that would make appellate court judges be appointed by a committee largely composed of ABA-approved lawyers; and he has repeatedly threatened to hold up Senate proceedings unless his colleagues agreed to provide state tax dollars to construct a domed stadium in Birmingham.

It's odd that he would now decide to cast his lot with an overwhelmingly conservative group of legislators. But, this is Alabama politics. You try to figure it out.

A course is a course, of course, of course

The AP reports that "Bush seeks advice on a new course in Iraq."

In other news, the incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman could really use a first course on Iraq.

Who are the realists?

Michael Barone asks whether the leaders of the the Iraq Study Group, James Baker and Lee Hamilton, are really "realists":
Baker and Hamilton have been labeled foreign policy "realists" in news stories and columns in the run-up to the release of the ISG report. But it doesn't seem very realistic to expect that we can get regime change in Iran and Syria through negotiations. Nor does it seem very realistic to expect that negotiations between Israel and Palestinians can reach a mutually acceptable solution when the Hamas government rejects Israel's right to exist.

Encouraging signs from Iran

Students there are expressing impatience with the revolution.

Monday, December 11, 2006
On this day:

Kudos to Cramer and Davis

Never thought you'd hear me say that, did you? Neither did I, but I guess there's a first time for everything.

Alabama's two Democratic Congressmen - Bud Cramer and Artur Davis - voted "yes" on a measure passed by the House that will reduce trade barriers with Haiti and Vietnam. Good for them.

Alabama's five Republican Congressmen - Terry Everett, Mike Rogers, Spencer Bachus, Robert Aderholt, and Jo Bonner - all voted against the bill, thereby conceding the protectionist argument that free trade with developing nations is bad for America. Faced with a choice between good politics and good economics, they chose the former.

Just when I was beginning to realize how positively awful this new Democratic majority in Congress would be, Alabama's Democratic Reps surprise me by doing the right thing, while the Republicans do the wrong thing.

This was an interesting vote. Most House Republicans voted for it, and most Democrats voted against it, just as you'd expect, given the two parties' historical stances on free trade. In Alabama, though, the party alignment was flip-flopped for one simple reason: our Republican Congressmen yielded to the influence of the state's shrinking textile industry, in complete disregard of the multitudes who spend good money to buy textiles.

More on the Senate power struggle

From the Montgomery Advertiser and the Decatur Daily.

Folsom's power play

I mentioned last week that six conservative Democrats in the Alabama Senate have teamed up with the twelve Republicans in a bid to wrest control of that body away from a more liberal faction led by President Pro Tem Lowell Barron (D.-Fyffe).

Well, it seems that Lt. Governor-elect Jim Folsom, Jr. doesn't care much for the idea. He is doing everything he can to prevent a schism in his party, including offering himself up to replace Barron as the leader of Democrats in the Senate. If Folsom's proposal is accepted, it will require the Senate to hand back to the Lt. Governor at least some of the broad powers that it stripped away in 1999, when Steve Windom became the first Republican in over a century to hold that office. (In 1999, most of the powers formerly exercised by the Lt. Governor were given to the President Pro Tem - currently Barron.)

From today's Huntsville Times:
The [six Democratic] dissidents, who call themselves the Senate Leadership Group, have - with GOP approval - already named Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, as their candidate to lead the Senate.

Leaders on the other side predict that the Senate will be organized around Democratic Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., who will try to reassert the more traditional powers of that office for himself.
Let's hope that Folsom and Barron's efforts fail, not just because the bipartisan "6-plus-12" group would be friendlier to both Governor Riley and to Alabama taxpayers, but more importantly, because taking away the Lt. Governor's extraconstitutional powers in 1999 was one of the best things the Senate has done in recent memory. Prior to that time, the Lt. Governor had been far too powerful for his own good and for the good of the state. He basically acted as a super-legislator, with more control than anyone else over moving legislation through the Senate.

To delegate such broad authority to the Lt. Governor was a fundamental violation of the separation of powers doctrine, and it was arguably a violation of the Alabama constitution, as well*. While returning to those bad old days might serve the interests of liberals in the legislature, it would represent a full-scale assault on the interests of the people they represent.

* The Alabama Constitution makes the Lieutenant Governor the "ex-officio President of the Senate" and gives each house the power to determine its rules of proceedings, but it also states that "the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the exectutive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

Cow farts

The United Nations has a message for the world's meat-eaters: let them eat cake.

From the Independent:

Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane, or even George Bush: it is the cow.

A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs. ...

The report concludes that, unless drastic changes are made, the massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases.

Mobile Press-Register: Show Moore the door

From their editorial today:
MIKE SHULA is a nice guy, but he couldn't win, so he got fired. Mal Moore is a nice guy, too, but he can't win, either, when it comes to hiring a solid football coach for the University of Alabama.

The Press-Register's editorial board has said before that it's past time for Mr. Moore to retire as athletics director. The Rich Rodriguez fiasco confirms that Mr. Moore needs to step down right now, or, like Coach Shula, be fired.

Sunday, December 10, 2006
On this day:

Kirkpatrick on blaming America first

Here's an excerpt from her 1984 speech to the Republican National Convention: each step of the way, the same people who were responsible for America's decline have insisted that [President Reagan's] policies would fail.

They said we could never deploy missiles to protect Europe's cities.

But today Europe's cities enjoy that protection.

They said it would never be possible to hold an election in El Salvador because the people were too frightened and the country too disorganized.

But the people of El Salvador proved them wrong, and today President Napoleon Duarte has impressed the democratic world with his skillful, principled leadership.

They said we could not use America's strength to help others - Sudan, Chad, Central America, the Gulf states, the Caribbean nations - without being drawn into war.

But we have helped others resist Soviet, Libyan, Cuban subversion, and we are at peace.

They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do - they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians - they blamed the United States instead.

But then, somehow, they always blame America first.

When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the "blame America first crowd" didn't blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.

But then, they always blame America first.

The American people know better.

They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn't cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.

The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.

They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.

He wrote: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

With the election of Ronald Reagan, the American people declared to the world that we have the necessary energy and conviction to defend ourselves, and that we have as well a deep commitment to peace.

And now, the American people, proud of our country, proud of our freedom, proud of ourselves, will reject the San Francisco Democrats and send Ronald Reagan back to the White House.

And that they did, by one of the largest electoral college landslides in American history.

Funny how the message of the San Francisco Democrats has changed so little in the 22 years since then. But then, they always blame America first.

Remembering Jeane Kirkpatrick

Lots 'o' links follow.

Writings by Ambassador Kirkpatrick:

"Dictatorships and Double Standards" (Commentary Magazine, November 1979)
This one got the attention of the man who would win the presidency a year later - Ronald Reagan

"Why not abolish ignorance?" (National Review, July 9, 1982)
Kirkpatrick on human rights and foreign policy

"Speech to the 1984 Republican National Convention" (republished at CNN)
Kirkpatrick's controversial speech on the "Blame America First"

"Target America" (National Review, Feb. 22, 1999)
On the necessity of missile defense

"U.N. human rights panel needs some entry standards" (IHT, May 14, 2003)
The unfortunate makeup of the U.N Human Rights


William F. Buckley, Jr (from Jan. 27, 1984 issue of NR): "St. Jeane of the U.N."

The American Enterprise Institute

Commentary Magazine

National Review Online Symposium (Anne Bayefsky, William Bennett, Frank Gaffney, Newt Gingrich, Seth Leibsohn, Jay Nordlinger, Michael Novak, Claudia Rosett, Pedro Sanjuan, Vin Weber)

Washington Times Editorial

Norman Podhoretz: "A True American Hero" (Weekly Standard)

Bill Bennett: "America's Iron Lady" (National Review Online)

Cliff May: "In Memoriam: Jeane Kirkpatrick (1926-2006)"

Claudia Anderson: "Life With Jeane" (Weekly Standard)


New York Times

Washington Post

Wall Street Journal

Baltimore Sun

L.A. Times

International Herald Tribune

Associated Press

Friday, December 08, 2006
On this day:

Lady Liberty

Jeane Kirkpatrick has died.

To see why I like Mitt Romney

Watch him on Don Imus - St. Patrick's Day, 2006. (YouTube alert...just in case you're behind a firewall.)

Romney sets his sights on Alabama

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is laying the groundwork for a likely presidential campaign here in Alabama.

I have to say that out of all the potential Republican candidates for President in 2008, Romney is the one who impresses me the most. He's smart, he seems to be a genuine conservative, and he gives off a sense of optimism that I think voters will find very attractive. And he won a Governor's race in Massachusetts as a center-right Republican. That's saying something.

I also like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. They are both solid conservatives, and I hope they run just to make things interesting, but I just don't see either of them as being electable. Newt because he's Newt, and Brownback because he's boring. I'm not writing off Rudy Giuliani, either, but in order to secure the nomination, he'll have to convince a lot of Republicans, myself included, that he won't govern as a liberal in the mold of fellow New York Republican Nelson Rockefeller.

Conventional wisdom says that Romney's biggest problem will be the fact that he's a Mormon. That seems to freak some people out, including many of the socially conservative voters who form the base of the Republican Party. The fact that it's being talked about so soon, though, will give voters plenty of time to realize that we're electing a President, not a preacher, and I think that the "Mormon issue" will end up fading faster than many people think.

One interesting fact about Mitt Romney: his father, George Romney, ran for President in 1968, losing the Republican nomination to none other than Richard Nixon - a Quaker.

Thursday, December 07, 2006
On this day:

It's great to be Rich!

The Birmingham News is reporting that West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez has agreed to become the Crimson Tide's new head football coach.
TUSCALOOSA — University of Alabama officials and West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez have reached an agreement in principle for Rodriguez to become the Crimson Tide’s next head football coach, two sources close to the search told The Birmingham News tonight.

After Rodriguez’s representatives negotiated with Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore for most of today, Rodriguez has told Alabama officials he is ready to take the job offer he received this morning.

Sources close to the search said Rodriguez will make over $2 million per year with incentives and will have one of the highest-paid coaching staffs in the Southeastern Conference.

Update (12/8/06 4:45 PM): Ummm...never mind. Rodriguez isn't leaving WVU.

University of West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez decided this morning that he would not accept the University of Alabama’s offer to become the Tide’s head football coach.

Rodriguez informed his Mountaineers team of the decision at a meeting at 2 p.m. Central time.

Representatives of Alabama and Rodriguez reached an agreement in principle Thursday night on a 6-year, $12 million contract.

Rodriguez and his agent indicated to Alabama officials Thursday night that Rodriguez would accept today.Rodriguez met this morning with the University of West Virginia president, and met with the athletics director several times. Rodriguez’ wife, Rita, was in his office for several hours this morning.

"Yes I'm staying," Rodriguez said as he walked past reporters.

In a statement released about the same time as the West Virginia team meeting, Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore said: "I received word this afternoon that Coach Rodriguez has chosen to remain the head football coach at West Virginia. I fully respect his decision and wish him the best. I want to remind everyone of what I said at the outset of this process: My only objective is to get the best person available to lead the Alabama football program. I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials. While I am hoping to conclude the search soon, following a timeline is not my main priority. Hiring an outstanding head coach to lead our players is the most important thing, and that will continue to be my only objective."

West Virginia plans a press conference at 4:30.

More here.

Riley proposes another cut in income taxes

Gov. Riley is proposing that legislators take another step towards easing the burden of taxation on the state's poorest citizens.

Bama may plan to "get Rich quick"

From the Huntsville Times today:
Tide AD says 'things are going well' day after Rodriguez meeting

Alabama could announce it has found a new football coach as early as today and the heavy favorite appears to be West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez.

One source said Wednesday that the school is close to locking down a successor for Mike Shula, who was fired on Nov. 26. And athletic director Mal Moore told reporters Wednesday that "Both sides are working."

Water (and maybe life) on Mars

This is an awesome discovery, one that promises to verify over a century of speculation with actual scientific observations. Remember those Martian "canals"?

Water doesn't necessarily mean life, of course, but still- even if life doesn't currently exist on the Red Planet, the presence of water would vastly increase the chances that it could sustain itself there in the future. Mark this date down in the history books.

The Guardian has more on this story here.

Justices Scalia and Breyer debate

One-on-one debates between sitting Supreme Court justices are always worth watching, especially when Antonin Scalia is one of the participants. Orin Kerr's got a link to the latest Scalia-Breyer debate over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Don't miss this one.

The Left's new war against the South

This article in the New Republic by Richard Perlstein is bound to raise the ire of a lot of Southerners - conservative, liberal, and in-between. The headline is "Why does the GOP control the South? In a word, racism." Read it and let me know what you think.

The article is also available here...just in case the New Republic requires you to register.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
On this day:

Payday loans

I'm undecided as to what, if anything, legislators ought to do to regulate these so-called "payday-loans,"but I do know that if anything qualifies as usury, this type of lending certainly seems to fit the bill.

Nonetheless, it is perfectly legal to lend money at interest (as it should be), and experience has shown that the free market has served as a much better regulator of interest rates than the government. My first inclination, then, is that the payday loan market should be left to operate on its own, without any additional government intervention.

Still, I can't help feeling that this is a dirty, dirty business. It provides little, if any, economic benefit to society, and it reinforces personal irresponsibilty among those who can least afford its consequences. If legislators do decide to take on this issue, then perhaps the best thing they could do is to require that part of the loan fees be devoted towards purchasing copies of "Personal Finance for Dummies" for all who willingly give their money to these modern-day ripoff artists.

Milton Friedman online

Great news, great news!

From Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution:
The entire TV series of Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" is at Thanks to Paul Winfree for the pointer.
That means that ten hours of sheer intellectual bliss lie ahead, folks, if you choose to click on that link. The only thing that'll top this will be when someone makes all of William F. Buckley's Firing Line episodes available online. Happily, the Hoover Institution has made a start of that worthy task here.

Da Bearsssss

They're here. From the B'ham News:
Black bears are regularly appearing in the Talladega National Forest, leading biologists to speculate that the rare animals have moved into north Alabama for the first time in at least a century. ...

"One of the things that interests me about Alabama is that it's a large state with a lot of forest and relatively few people," said Joe Clark, a bear expert for the U.S. Geological Survey in Knoxville. "I think once bears find it, they're probably going to do well there."

Hmmm...guess they're kinda like Yankees in that respect. :)

The battle for the state Senate

It's looking more and more likely that Gov. Riley's allies will take control of the State Senate next month when it meets for its organizational session. Twelve Democrats have joined with the six Senate Republicans in calling for new leadership in the legislature's upper house. At the top level, this means that current Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron will be ousted from that position; his most likely replacement will be Sen. Jim Preuitt.

If this all plays out, Lt. Governor-elect Jim Folsom, Jr, who is actively seeking to thwart the efforts of the twelve Democratic "rebels," could end having even less power in his new office than Lucy Baxley did. Should be fun to watch.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
On this day:

New York Times hits on economic good sense

Too bad they didn't actually intend to. From the Times:
More than a year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, life is still precarious and unpredictable for many evacuees, especially those who have depended on the government for a modicum of stability.
Really? Thank goodness we have New York Times journalists to tell us what conservatives have been trumpeting for years; namely, that those who depend on the government to provide a "modicum of stability" in their everyday lives will be sorely disappointed, with few exceptions - all of which derive from the legitimate exercise of government's primary mandate: to ensure that laws are enforced and order is maintained. If you rely on it to do much more than that, you'll end up in a heap of hurt. For better results, turn to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, charity, and church.

Are you an Austrian?

Take this von Mises Institute quiz to find out. You better hope you paid attention in Econ 101, though. I scored 90/100 on the short version, having given the "Chicago school" answer on two of the ten questions.


Over the weekend, someone broke into the building housing the Ludwig von Mises Institute at Auburn. This article in the Opelika-Auburn News doesn't say whether anything was stolen, only that "Mises Institute Director Jeff Tucker said it appeared as though someone came in to trash the building."

The von Mises Institute is one of the nation's most well-known libertarian think-tanks. According to the Mises Institute web site: "The Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics." The Wall Street Journal carried this very good (and very positive) profile of the Institute back in August.

Needless to say, many of the policies advocated by the Institute and its scholars are quite controversial. Makes you wonder whether this was just a run-of-the-mill break-in or if there's more to it than that.

Monday, December 04, 2006
On this day:

Mike Shula, Condi Rice, and my missing Tennessee ticket

According to the Mobile Press-Register, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions heard that UA head football coach Mike Shula had been fired from an unlikely source - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

News of football coach Mike Shula's firing traveled fast and far last week.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, was attending a NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, where he heard it from a high-ranking source -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice, a Birmingham native, is known as an avid football fan. In 2005, she hosted British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on a visit to Tuscaloosa, where they attended the Crimson Tide's game against rival Tennessee. Alabama beat the Volunteers 6-3 on a last-minute field goal, one of the biggest wins of Shula's four-year tenure.

Sessions, a graduate of UA's law school, was asked if Rice appeared disappointed by the news that Shula had been fired.

"No comment," he said with a chuckle. "But she was smiling when she said it."

At least Condi got to be at Bryant-Denny for the Tennessee game last year.

I wasn't there.

I ended up watching it on TV here in Huntville - over 150 miles away.

Not that I didn't have a ticket, mind you. I did.

However, the Friday before the game, as I was about to leave town for Tuscaloosa to hear (who else?) Condi Rice speak at the University, I found that I had misplaced it. I don't know exactly what curse words I uttered that morning, or in what order I uttered them, but I do know that my elderly neighbors got quite an earful.

Anyway, after embarking on a frantic search to find my lost ticket, I was ultimately faced with a gut-wrenching choice: either give up the search so as to make Condi's lecture on time, or keep looking in what would most probably be a fruitless effort, given the organizational state of my apartment.

I paused, took a deep breath, looked at the door, and then looked back - contemplating the many crannies and nooks where my ticket could have hidden itself. Deciding on the path of least resistance, I hit the road for Tuscaloosa, sans ticket.

After Ms. Rice's lecture, which was wonderful*, of course, I came back to Huntsville, still intent on finding my ticket so that I could return to Tuscaloosa in time for the game on Saturday. But in spite of my most valiant efforts - assisted by an ad-hoc liturgy of prayers, curses, and an appeal to St. Paul "Bear" Bryant himself - I still couldn't find it, and so I ended up watching what was possibly the best Bama game in a decade - and one of Coach Shula's finest moments - alone on my couch.

(Or maybe I watched it with a few friends at a bar...I don't really remember, but you get the picture.)

As fate would have it, that once-valuable ticket finally turned up about six months later, buried under a stack of crap that should've been thrown away years ago. Not that I'm bitter. At least I got to get my picture made with Condi. (Good luck finding me in the picture, though.)

* Ms. Rice's speech was indeed wonderful, as I said. In it, she recalled her childhood in Birmingham, and how, when she lived there, it had become known in some quarters as "Bombingham." Thanks to the many triumphs of the civil rights movement, our largest city has been relieved of that awful nickname, so that today, we find that hard feelings have been replaced by pride in the fact that the struggle for civil rights had its beginnings and its greatest moral victories right here in Alabama. Great battles for freedom were won in cities like Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Anniston, and we should never forget it. The fact that Condoleezza Rice now sits in the Secretary of State's office is one of the greatest testaments of all to that joyous fact.

While I'm at it, I should also mention that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who accompanied Rice on her trip to Alabama, also gave a very entertaining and moving speech - a difficult task for a Labourite - although Straw, like Prime Minister Tony Blair, seems to be of the non-pinko variety.

At the end of the program, Coach Mike Shula presented both Rice and Straw with autographed footballs. A nice, diplomatic gesture, I thought. Speaking of which, I hear President Bush is looking for a new U.N. ambassador. Maybe Coach Shula should apply.

Those old Atari games

If you liked 'em, you might enjoy this.

The minimum wage

Greg Mankiw asks, "Can 600 economists all be wrong?"

Sunday, December 03, 2006
On this day:

Longhaired football players

In the grand scheme of things, this one probably isn't too, too, important, but...

It's a trend that I wish would die out sooner rather than later. Have coaches become such pushovers when it comes to enforcing team discipline that they can no longer bring themselves to demand that players put sportsmanship above showmanship?

Not only does long hair add an unnecessary risk of injury to an already dangerous sport, it also looks ridiculous. Not too long ago, collar-length was the unwritten rule - for high school, college, and the pros. Now is as good a time as any to turn back the clock. It seems to me that all the good coaches out there should give their players an ultimatum: you can either cut your hair to a reasonable length, stuff it in your helmet, or sit on the bench.

In football, a deep-seated desire to mop the floor with your opponents is a good thing. Using your hair to send that message isn't.

Adios Castro?

The Independent reports that "another no-show from the Cuban leader sparks serious fears for his health."

Fears for his health? How about hopes for his demise?

Saturday, December 02, 2006
On this day:

A sign of political health

The AP reports: "Cost of winning Alabama legislative seats skyrockets."

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Members of the Alabama Legislature make about $30,000 a year for a part-time job that requires them to work three days a week during the three-month session, and occasionally a few extra days for special sessions or committee meetings.

So how come more than $1 million was spent by candidates in five Senate races — and in one House race the two candidates spent more than $75 per vote?

The cost of advertising, as well as the amount of money special interest groups are willing to spend to get their candidates into office, has escalated the cost of winning a House or Senate seat into the hundreds of thousands of dollars — a level one candidate in this year's elections described as "absurd."
No, it's not absurd. It's a healthy sign that candidates for public office in Alabama are finally having to compete for our votes.

For well over a century - since the end of Reconstruction - Alabamians overwhelmingly chose to elect their politicians from one party - the Democratic Party. However, over the past 30 years or so, political trends in the state have favored Republicans, who have only recently managed to convert their rising grass-roots popularity into prolific fundraising.

The rising cost of political campaiging doesn't bother me at all. If anything, it's a sign of new-found political health. That's certainly the case here in Alabama. For too long, politicians in this state were accustomed to winning election to public office on the cheap, for no other reason than that they either ran unopposed, or were challenged by candidates who were financially incapable of mounting competitive campaigns. Now that that has changed, some politicians - primarily incumbents - are complaining.

Tough luck. Competition is a good thing, in business and in politics. The proper reaction to this is for candidates to spend the money they have more effectively, not to implement campaign finance "reforms" that serve no other purpose than to restrict free speech and protect incumbents.

Friday, December 01, 2006
On this day:

Unsafe, illegal, and far too common

Another Alabama abortion clinic has been found in violation of multiple state laws, including one that requires clinics to record the ages of fetuses which they kill.

From the Huntsville Times:

A Huntsville abortion clinic that is a frequent target of protesters got poor marks on its most recent state inspection.

Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives, 612 Madison St., was cited by state inspectors last month for violating 10 state laws governing abortion providers. Among the most serious findings:

Patients who called the clinic after hours because of heavy vaginal bleeding and other complications were connected to an administrator rather than a doctor.

The clinic routinely failed to document the age of fetuses being aborted.

Patients may have been sent home before the required 20-minute recovery period.

Rick Harris, director of the state health department's Bureau of Health Provider Standards, said the clinic's failure to keep some mandatory records "indicates a kind of sloppiness."

"It makes you wonder, what else are they failing to document?" Harris said this week. "It's not a sign of bad care, but it's an indicator."

Even so, the clinic probably will not be penalized by the state because it has submitted a plan for correcting its mistakes.

The unannounced Oct. 5 visit by state health regulators was the Alabama Women's Center's first inspection since April 2001, records show.

This abortion clinic was caught in violation of at least 10 state laws...and there will be no penalty? No fines, no nothing. If this is the best the state health department can do, then it's time to clean house.

Sit back and relax

Researchers have found that sitting up straight places unnecessary strain your back.