Saturday, March 31, 2007
On this day:

Artur Davis and the flying imams

Back in November, six Muslim clerics were removed from United Flight 300 after fellow passengers and flight attendants complained that they were acting suspiciously. This AP report and this follow-up piece in the Washington Times have the details. (If you prefer primary sources, Rich Miniter at Pajamas Media has provided links to the police report and a letter from one of the passengers describing her experience.)

Here are some of the relevant details, from the Washington Times (link above):
Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.

Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted "Allah" when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix. ...

Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks -- two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin. ...

According to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials, the imams displayed other suspicious behavior.

Three of the men asked for seat-belt extenders, although two flight attendants told police the men were not oversized. One flight attendant told police she "found this unsettling, as crew knew about the six [passengers] on board and where they were sitting." Rather than attach the extensions, the men placed the straps and buckles on the cabin floor, the flight attendant said.

The imams said they were not discussing politics and only spoke in English, but witnesses told law enforcement that the men spoke in Arabic and English, criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush, and talking about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

The imams who claimed two first-class seats said their tickets were upgraded. The gate agent told police that when the imams asked to be upgraded, they were told no such seats were available. Nevertheless, the two men were seated in first class when removed.

A flight attendant said one of the men made two trips to the rear of the plane to talk to the imam during boarding, and again when the flight was delayed because of their behavior. Aviation officials, including air marshals and pilots, said these actions alone would not warrant a second look, but the combination is suspicious.

"That's like shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. You just can't do that anymore," said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal.
Earlier this month, these six imams filed a federal lawsuit against both United Airlines and those passengers who reported their concerns to authorities. The clerics claim that they were victims of religious and racial discrimination.

The notion that passengers can be sued for reporting suspicious activity in airports and aboard airplanes is unacceptable in the post-9/11 world. Any reasonable person who notices a group of people acting the way these six imams were acting has a moral duty to do something about it. The passengers and crew of Flight 300 did just that, and now they are paying the price for having acted responsibly.

Last week, Republicans in the U.S. House forced a vote on a measure to help bring an end to this sort of litigious nonsense. According to the Washington Times (3/27):
House Republicans tonight surprised Democrats with a procedural vote to protect public-transportation passengers from being sued if they report suspicious activity -- the first step by lawmakers to protect "John Doe" airline travelers already targeted in such a lawsuit.

After a heated debate and calls for order, the motion to recommit the Democrats' Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007 back to committee with instructions to add the protective language passed on a vote of 304-121.

Republicans said the lawsuit filed by six Muslim imams against US Airways and "John Does," passengers who reported suspicious behavior, could have a "chilling effect" on passengers who may fear being sued for acting vigilant.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, offered the motion saying all Americans -- airline passengers included -- must be protected from lawsuits if they report suspicious behavior that may foreshadow a terrorist attack.

"All of our lives changed after September 11, and one of the most important things we have done is ask local citizens to do what they can to avoid another terrorist attack, if you see something, say something," said Mr. King.

"We have to stand by our people and report suspicious activity," he said. "I cannot imagine anyone would be opposed to this." ...

The amendment is retroactive to activities that took place on or after Nov. 20, 2006 -- the date of the Minneapolis incident, and authorizes courts to award attorneys' fees to defendants with immunity.
All 121 House members who voted against this sensible amendment were Democrats, one of whom was Alabama's very own Artur Davis (D.-Birmingham). (The results of the final roll call vote are here.)

Thus, Davis has the distinction of being the only member of the Alabama delegation who voted to allow people like these six imams to continue hauling airline passengers into court for merely exercising their civic duties and alerting authorities when they see or hear things that raise concerns about their own safety.

Why? Perhaps Davis agrees with Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who seems to believe that passengers should filter their observations through the lens of political correctness:
Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, opposed the motion over loud objections from colleagues on the House floor, forcing several calls to order from the chair.

"Absolutely they should have the ability to seek redress in a court of law," said Mr. Thompson, who suggested that protecting passengers from a lawsuit would encourage racial profiling.

"This might be well-intended, but it has unintended consequences," Mr. Thompson said, before he accepted the motion to recommit.
Or maybe he agrees with Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Awad insinuates that the Flight 300 passengers and crew acted in bad faith, even though every shred of evidence shows that the imams' antics gave them more than enough reasons to be concerned:
The imams will not sue any passengers who reported suspicious activity in good faith, even when the 'suspicious' behavior included the imams' constitutionally protected right to practice their religion without fear or intimidation," Mr. Awad said.

However, Mr. Awad said that "when a person makes a false report with the intent to discriminate, he or she is not acting in good faith."
Congressman Davis has often indicated an interest in running for Governor or U.S. Senate one day. If so, he just handed his future opponent what is sure to be a very effective campaign ad.

Thursday, March 29, 2007
On this day:

Sen. Sessions on the Senate retreat bill

Statement of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions On Passage Of Iraq/Afghanistan Supplemental Spending Bill

Thursday, March 29, 2007

WASHINGTON-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) today issued the following statement after the Senate's passage of the Fiscal Year 2007 supplemental appropriations bill:

"I voted against the supplemental appropriations bill because mandating a withdrawal date from Iraq would undercut the authority of the President and General Petraeus. It mandates how and where soldiers must be deployed. If Senators really want to force American troops out of Iraq, Congress could withhold funding since it holds the power of the purse. President Bush has promised to veto any bill that includes a withdrawal date. This misguided attempt to micromanage the war will only delay the funding our troops need to fight the war.

"Though it is too early to express a certain opinion, some progress is being made in Iraq now. For Congress to order the pull-out of troops when substantial progress may be occurring this fall is irresponsible. I am very disappointed in this vote. The vote was very close and I hope this mandate may be reversed after the President's veto."

Lieberman: Setting a deadline for withdrawal would guarantee defeat in Iraq

Here's Sen. Joe Lieberman's op-ed on the Senate retreat bill that his colleagues passed today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
On this day:

How the West was won

I saw 300 over the weekend and thought it was excellent, regardless of what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says. And it's a true story to boot, albeit one that is told from a decidedly pro-Greek (i.e. our side's) point of view. And why shouldn't it be? The tremendous courage of the Spartans at Thermopylae provided a dose of momentum that rallied Greek armies to victory at Plataea and Mycale the following year, dealing the Persians a pair of final, stunning defeats and saving Western civilization in the process. The story of the 300 Spartans is one of the greatest in history, and thanks in part to films like 300, it's one that successive generations won't soon forget.

(As to the film's historical accuracy, I'll defer to Victor Davis Hanson, who also wrote this introduction to the book written to accompany the movie.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007
On this day:

Cramer, Davis vote to bring troops home

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday 218-212 to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by September 2008. Alabama's two Democratic Congressmen, Bud Cramer and Artur Davis, voted in favor of the bill, whereas all five Republicans voted against it.

(AP) ...Cramer, who voted to authorize the war and has previously resisted efforts to set war deadlines, countered that "we need to start looking at turning Iraq back to the Iraqis, and this bill allows that to begin."

Davis added that Congress has frequently attached conditions and set time constraints when authorizing war spending. He argued that the schedule provides plenty of time for an orderly withdrawal and said the battle against terrorism can't be won in Iraq.

"The reality is that radical Islamic fundamentalism has exploded into a civil war in Iraq and that (al-Qaida) will be a generation-long threat" Davis said. "These conflicts will rage on regardless of whether we are in combat in Iraq because they are rooted not in an assessment of our strength but in a permanent disdain for our values."

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has not yet announced how it would respond to a withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Thursday, March 22, 2007
On this day:

The Democratic Deadline for Defeat

Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill that would force the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Iraq by September 1, 2008. In the heading of one of my recent posts, I implied that this deadline for withdrawal would amount to little more than a "deadline for defeat." Apparently, at least one blogger thought that was a little too harsh. I think it was about right. Here's why:

1) It would be very unwise to tell our adversaries and potential adversaries the specific date that our troops will be leaving Iraq. The clear message that such a statement would send is: you only need to wait us out another year and a half and we'll be gone; make your plans now. As House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote in an op-ed that appeared in today's Washington Examiner:

Back in February on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” I warned that Democrats’ non-binding resolution was merely a first step towards mandating failure in Iraq. Now they’re taking the next step. It’s been called the “slow-bleed” strategy — an attempt to micromanage the war and choke off resources for American troops in harm’s way.

Their plan consists of a series of constitutionally-suspect, politically-charged deadlines and conditions that purposely undermine our generals on the ground and telegraph a timeline for withdrawal to our enemy. ...

Our troops themselves are appealing to Congress not to pull the rug out from under them. On, American soldiers are asking Congress “to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat.”

Four years ago, Democrats and Republicans agreed that fighting in Iraq was a worthy cause. As current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said at the time: “The risk of inaction today in my opinion poses previously unfathomable dangers for tomorrow.”

Today, Democrats are almost unanimous in their desire to abandon Iraq to al-Qaida, but the consequences of doing so are staggering. Our enemies understand the stakes — do Democrats?

2) Some have said that strict deadlines and timetables are necessary in order to pressure the Iraqi government to get its house in order. I wish that were the case, but in all likelihood, the results of such a strategy would be exactly the opposite. The current Iraqi government is a fractious entity that is struggling to work out the political compromises that are essential to securing peace and stability. The continued deployment of U.S. forces is absolutely critical to allowing these diplomatic efforts to succeed. If the various sectarian and tribal leaders believe that we will leave the country before the Iraqi government is capable of defending them on its own, they will be less inclined to settle their differences through peaceful negotiation, not more.

3) Early withdrawal will leave behind a power vacuum that will inevitably be filled by local militia groups and by Iraq's neighbors - principally the Saudis and Iranians. Iran is already providing financial and military support to various Shiite groups inside Iraq, and there's every reason to believe that they will increase that support in the event of an early U.S. withdrawal. As for the Saudis, they have restrained themselves thus far, but they have indicated that they will not stand idly by while Sunni Arabs in Iraq are slaughtered at the hands of Iranian-backed Shiite militias. In the worst case, this could disintegrate into a broader Sunni vs. Shiite conflict that embroils the whole Muslim world - an unappealing scenario in any event, but even more so in an era when the proliferation of nuclear weapons is such a pressing concern.

4) The Machiavellians among us might say, "So what? Let's get out of Iraq and let 'em fight it out. As long as they are fighting each other, they're not fighting us." As we are reminded every time we fill up at the gas station, however, things just aren't that simple. A widespread Sunni-Shiite war (or an Arab-Persian war, for that matter) would be a disaster for everyone - one that would likely require a coordinated Western response that would make the Iraq War look like a game of cowboys and Indians. Even if nuclear weapons were not so easily obtainable, the prospect of Muslim armies facing off in a hot war is not something we should welcome.

5) A convincing case can be made that we should not have invaded Iraq to begin with. Ten years from now, maybe I'll have an opinion one way or another on that subject, but right now, when there's no way to know how things will turn out, it's too soon for me to form a judgment. In any event, we're there now, whether we like it or not, and the duty of American politicians and military men is to defend American interests. That means we have to finish the job. General Petraus and the troops under his command deserve our support. Al Qaeda will not be withdrawing its forces from Iraq anytime soon, and neither should we. We have to persevere; there's too much at stake not to.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
On this day:

Astronomical spending

For thirty-seven years now, visitors to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center here in Huntsville have had to rely on a pre-space-age mode of transportation, i.e. walking, to cover the short distance between the parking lots surrounding the center and the ticket booths inside. Now, thanks to Sen. Richard Shelby and his colleagues in the U.S. Congress, visitors will soon be able to travel that few hundred yards in style.

(Huntsville Times) The steel skeleton of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's new visitors complex, which includes an "intermodal" transport terminal and the exhibition hall for the restored Saturn V rocket, can be seen rising next to the museum.

Invisible, for now, is a system of trams that will carry visitors from the new building to parking lots, the museum and other areas of the center. The U.S. Department of Transportation last week provided $226,710 for the project as the second installment of $1 million for the trams to be awarded over four years, said Space Center CEO Larry Capps.

The Space Center plans to buy two trams initially and have them running when the visitors center opens in November or December, Capps said. Manufacturers are still submitting proposals for the project, but it is expected each tram will have a van-like front car pulling open-sided cars, carrying 50 or 60 passengers when fully loaded. ...

Capps said they are certainly thankful to Congress for the $1 million to get the little buses rolling, but he pointed out the original request was for more to take the tram service farther.

"Eventually, we would like it to go all the way from here to the Botanical Gardens," he said.

That will take another $1.3 million. The Space Center asked for that in 2007 and plans to ask again in its 2008 budget request to Congress, Capps said.

Paula Steigerwald, CEO of Huntsville Botanical Garden, pointed out Tuesday that they have more than 300,000 visitors a year and the Space Center has more than 400,000.

"To be able to tie the two together, we see all kinds of possibilities," she said. "It would be a huge thing."

Within a family or group of tourists or other visitors there will be some people who want to see the Space Center, some who want to visit the gardens and some who would like to visit both, she said. The tram would make it easy.

"All we're waiting for is funding," Steigerwald said.

Apparently Mrs. Steigerwald has been working for the Botanical Garden far too long. She seems to think that money grows on trees.

Al Gore's not so bright idea

On Capitol Hill today, former Vice President Al Gore told Congressmen that they should enact a federal ban on light bulbs. Why? To combat global warming, of course. "Give industry time to deal with the change. They'll do it,'' said Gore.

If Al Gore really believes that light bulbs pose such a pressing threat to civilization, then why on Gaia's green Earth did he invent them in the first place?

Signs of hope from Iraqi Kurdistan

Michael Totten reports.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
On this day:

Why the surge is working

While Bud Cramer and his fellow Democrats are yelling "Retreat!" from every corner of Capitol Hill, General Petraus and America's armed forces are busy winning the war.

Bud Cramer: Congress should impose deadline for defeat in Iraq

Last Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $124 billion supplemental appropriations bill that would force the administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by March 2008 and require that all troops be out of the country by September 1, 2008. The vote was 36-28, with Rep. Bud Cramer (D. - Huntsville) voting in the majority.

From the Washington Post:
Democratic legislation to set timelines for the removal of troops from Iraq headed for a showdown on the House floor next week after the Appropriations Committee approved a $124 billion war funding bill yesterday that would end the U.S. role in the conflict by next year. ...

The 36 to 28 vote in the House committee was [...] largely along party lines, except for a no vote from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), an ardent opponent of the Iraq war who wants troops out by the end of this year. ...

Under the House bill, the Iraqi government would have to meet strict benchmarks spelled out by Bush in January, including quelling sectarian violence, disarming sectarian militias, approving a law on sharing oil revenue and setting in motion new local elections.

If by July 1 the president could not certify any progress, U.S. troops would begin leaving Iraq, to be out before the end of this year. If Bush did certify progress, the Iraqi government would have until Oct. 1 to meet the benchmarks, or troops would begin withdrawing then. In any case, withdrawals would have to begin by March 1, 2008, and conclude by the end of that summer. ...

The bill also would mandate that troops could be deployed to Iraq only if they are deemed thoroughly trained and equipped. Soldiers would need at least one year's rest between deployments, although the president could get around those requirements by justifying a waiver in writing. ...

Included in the legislation is a lot of money to help win support. The price tag exceeds the president's war request by $24 billion and lavishes extra money on military and veterans' health care, the war in Afghanistan, aviation, border and port security, Gulf Coast assistance and levee repairs, agricultural assistance, and wildfire fighting.

Democrats in the committee chose to emphasize items such as $900 million to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Republicans spotlight less politically popular items, such as $25 million to bail out spinach farmers hurt by E. coli and $74 million for peanut storage.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
On this day:

More Worley stories

Here's a round-up of Alabama press reports on the Worley indictment.
AP: "Worley surrenders on state charges of using office in campaign"

The Montgomery Advertiser: "Nancy Worley booked at Montgomery jail", "Worley alleges GOP 'witch hunt'"

The Huntsville Times: "Former Secretary of State indicted"

The Birmingham News: "Worley faces campaign charge"

Decatur Daily: "Grand jury indicts Worley: Ex-Secretary of State, former Decatur teacher faces charges"
As I said in the last post, it appears that the charges against Mrs. Worley stem from a letter she sent to her employees in April of 2006. The text of that letter follows:
Working together, we have been able to achieve MANY successes in the Secretary of State's office over the past three years. We have also faced several challenges, yet our office is stronger today, more productive, more service-oriented, and more respected than ever before! THANK YOU!

You have probably heard by the state government "grapevine" that I am running for re-election, but I want to ask for your support and your vote in the June 6, 2006, Democratic Primary Election. In 2003, when I entered the Secretary of State's Office, I requested that we not discriminate against anyone because of his/her politics, race, religion, social status, etc. Thus, if you choose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me.

I am enclosing an envelope on which you may volunteer, request a yard sign, etc.; however, you may also choose to destroy this envelope. You will be given the same professional respect you have previously been given if you choose the latter.

I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window. If you need additional bumper stickers, please call my home/campaign number (555) 555-5555 and leave a message.

Thank you again for your hard work to make the Secretary of State's Office one of the best in state government - in Alabama and throughout the nation.

Sincerely yours,

Nancy Worley
The envelope that Worley included with her letter contained a form that recipients could mail in to her campaign if they wanted to volunteer or contribute money.

Whether any of that violates the law depends - I'm guessing - on how strictly the law is interpreted. The particular law in question states
It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee to solicit any type of political campaign contributions from other employees who work for the officer or employee in a subordinate capacity. It shall also be unlawful for any officer or employee to coerce or attempt to coerce any subordinate employee to work in any capacity in any political campaign or cause.
As I said yesterday, Mrs. Worley should have known better. Still, we need to put this into perspective. From what we know so far, Worley's actions seem to be relatively minor violations of Alabama election law. If this whole case is based on one relatively innocuous letter, a bumper sticker, and a campaign contribution form, it certainly isn't the type of crime that should rise to the level of a felony. If it is a felony, then the law should be changed. Nancy Worley deserves a public rebuke and a slap on the wrist, not time in the slammer.

Nancy Worley indicted

From the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley has been indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from her unsuccessful campaign for re-election last year, her attorney told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Montgomery attorney James Anderson said he received a call from the attorney general's staff informing him that Worley had been indicted on five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts accusing her of soliciting campaign funds from employees in the secretary of state's office.

Hmmm. I've often heard that you can indict a ham sandwich, but I never knew that you could go after the whole hog.

(AP - continued) Asked about the indictment by a Montgomery County grand jury, Worley said she had not received anything official from the attorney general's office, but "nothing would surprise me" when "you've got a Republican attorney general appointed by a Republican governor."

The Secretary of State is Alabama's highest elections official. Having served in that position for four years, Mrs. Worley certainly knows the campaign rules as well as anyone, and she knows full well that she broke them. Section 17-1-7(c) of the Code of Alabama states it very clearly:
It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee to solicit any type of political campaign contributions from other employees who work for the officer or employee in a subordinate capacity. It shall also be unlawful for any officer or employee to coerce or attempt to coerce any subordinate employee to work in any capacity in any political campaign or cause.
Mrs. Worley now has the nerve to attack Attorney General Troy King (and Gov. Riley by mere association) for challenging her less-than-legal campaign activities. They don't call her Surly Worley for nothing.

(AP - continued) During Worley's re-election campaign last year, one of her employees, Ed Packard, ran against her in the Democratic primary and filed a complaint with the attorney general's office. The complaint involved Worley sending an envelope to her employees that had a place on the outside for them to mark whether they would like to volunteer in her campaign, post a bumper sticker on their vehicles, or make a contribution. ...

State law prohibits state officials from soliciting their employees for help in a campaign. Violations can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, with the felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine and a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Ed Packard's complaint against Mrs. Worley is available online at his old campaign web site here.

The sad thing about all this is that Mrs. Worley had every opportunity to put this issue to rest back during her campaign. All she had to do was say, "Sorry, folks. I made a mistake. I sent out a letter to employees of the Secretary of State's office asking them to contribute to my campaign. However, the law says that I am not allowed to solicit campaign funds from my employees. I will correct this oversight by refusing and/or returning any and all contributions from my subordinates." Simple as that.

Mrs. Worley refused to take that easier route, though, so the two main questions that she now has to address are: 1) Did her letter to SOS office employees actually "solicit" campaign contributions? and 2) Does the law consider the employees who received the letters in question to be "subordinates" to the Secretary of State?

Another question - a bit more far-fetched, but maybe worth considering - is whether the solicitation of campaign funds from whatever source is protected as free speech under the federal and state constitutions. I'd actually be sympathetic to someone who argued that it should be. Even if that "someone" were Nancy Worley.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
On this day:

Legislature may liberalize law on libations

The Huntsville Times has this report: "Beer bill backers can taste victory."

MONTGOMERY - A group called Free the Hops wants Alabama retailers to be able to sell beer with more than double the alcohol content that state law allows. ...

State Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, has introduced a bill that would change Alabama's long-standing 6 percent alcohol limit for beer to 14.9 percent. That would permit the sale of what he calls "specialty" or "gourmet" beers.

"It's just one of those things that a city as sophisticated as Huntsville should have because we have such a cosmopolitan group of people coming in and out," he said.

A companion bill to Griffith's was introduced in the House by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville.

Similar legislation failed in the 2006 legislative session, but Griffith said he isn't expecting major opposition this year.! Needless to say, I wholeheartedly approve.

I do not, however, approve of Huntsville's state senator - the honorable Dr. Parker Griffith - who manages to come off as quite the uber-snoot when he talks about how Huntsvillians deserve better beer because they are so sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Give me a break. We're talking about beer, dude. Good beer, yes, but it's still just beer. Just vote for the bill and keep the whine to yourself.

Anyway, if you, too, would like for Alabama to Free the Hops, the Free the Hops web site has lots more info.

The Inconvenient Truth

As the New York Times reports today, the science of global warming isn't nearly so solid and certain as Al Gore and other alarmists would have us to believe.
Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

Read the whole thing.

An interesting note: One of the global warming "skeptics" quoted in the Times article is Dr. Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Times quoted Dr. Spencer from this June 2006 TCS Daily article in which he took issue with an AP reporter for giving the false impression that scientists have been virtually unanimous in endorsing Gore's film. As today's Times article plainly shows, nothing could be further from the truth. It is also a welcome sign that the mainstream press is finally beginning to pay attention to the real science of global warming, rather than the propaganda. As Dr. Spencer pointed out in a recent editorial he wrote for the New York Post, there's a lot about that science, and about climate change more generally, that we simply don't know yet.

Spencer's biography and a full archive of his TCS Daily articles are available here.

Hillary's "conversation"

What Jonah says.

Court: Second Amendment means what it says

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Washington, D.C.'s gun ban is unconstitutional. The case is Parker vs. D.C., and the court's opinion is here. The Washington Post reports here and here. The AP report is here.

I'm pleased to see that Alabama Attorney General Troy King sided with the plaintiffs in this case, arguing in this amicus brief that the ban is unconstitutional.

Thursday, March 08, 2007
On this day:

Legislators vote to give themselves a 60% pay raise

From the AP (emphasis added):

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Members of the Alabama House and Senate voted Thursday to give themselves a pay raise of about 60 percent.

Gov. Bob Riley promised to veto it, but said he expects it to be overridden in both chambers.

"We know that we don't have the votes," he said.

The House approved the resolution raising the annual compensation for lawmakers from $30,710 to $49,500 in an unrecorded voice vote shortly after going into session, and many members said they were not aware the pay raise was going to be introduced.

The Senate quickly followed by passing the measure, also on an unrecorded voice vote. Several Republican senators tried to get a recorded vote, but the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., ignored their shouts and raised hands.

The resolution also provides for legislators' pay to be adjusted annually to reflect increases in the cost of living as indicated by the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index. Legislators got their last pay raise in 1991. The Labor Department's index has gone up 54.2 percent since 1990. ...

The measure, sponsored in the House by Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, raises the monthly expense allowance lawmakers receive from $2,280 to $3,850. Their other daily compensation for legislative meeting days remains the same.

To be honest with you, the only objection I have to this pay-raise resolution is the way it was passed. For legislators to refuse to record their votes is just plain cowardly.

Substantively, I don't have a problem with it. Indexing legislative pay to the CPI seems to me to be a very reasonable idea. Essentially, it establishes a new rule: legislators will get an automatic yearly pay raise that is based on an objective measure of cost-of-living. That should make it much more difficult politically for legislators to justify additional pay raises - on top of the automatic increase - in the future. I hope the Governor will reconsider his promise to veto.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
On this day:

Ether-eaten blog post prompts furious flight to Firefox

I had never gotten the dreaded blue screen of death on my Dell Dimension computer until I "upgraded" my browser to Internet Explorer 7 a few months ago. Ever since then, I've been getting it with increasing frequency, to the point that it now occurs about twice a week.

The last time this happened, two days ago, was the last straw. I was working on what was to be my greatest, most brilliant blog post of all time when BAM! A blue screen pops up with a typical Microsoft-speak error message that was filled with pure-D gobbledy-gook. My whole unsaved work of blog-art got eaten up in the electronic ether, and you, dear readers, were deprived of what was sure to be one of the all-time masterpieces of blogdom. I would attempt to piece together the post from memory, but unfortunately, such originality simply can't be reproduced.

Studies have shown that such moments of meta-inspiration occur only once every 2.35 years. That just happens to be almost exactly the amount of time that I've been blogging. (I should note that these studies were conducted on chimpanzees, but my science advisor assures me that their conclusions can be validly extended to bloggers.) I guess that means I will be serving out the usual amateurish drivel for a while longer. Sorry, folks. I tried.

Never fear, though. I downloaded Mozilla Firefox today, and hopefully it will perform better than IE7. (It certainly can't do any worse.) So, 2.35 years from now, be sure to come back for a visit, K?

I'm not entirely convinced that the browser was the problem, by the way, but it seemed the logical place to start troubleshooting. I'll keep you informed. I think there may be some weird interplay going on between my web browser, firewall, and ISP connectivity software. Whatever it is, it's pretty frustrating. I actually liked some of IE7's features. Too bad Microsoft is so seemingly deficient in the quality control department.

Which raises a question. Has anyone else had this much trouble with IE7 or am I the only one?

A United Kingdom?

This story from the New York Times is pretty interesting. Seems that genetics is lending itself to some new hypotheses about the ancestral origins of our friends across the pond (and therefore many Americans, as well).
Britain and Ireland are so thoroughly divided in their histories that there is no single word to refer to the inhabitants of both islands. Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to the country’s western and northern fringes.

But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. The implication that the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh have a great deal in common with each other, at least from the geneticist’s point of view, seems likely to please no one. The genetic evidence is still under development, however, and because only very rough dates can be derived from it, it is hard to weave evidence from DNA, archaeology, history and linguistics into a coherent picture of British and Irish origins. ...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007
On this day:

John Edwards - Trial Lawyer Extraordinaire

A commenter to my previous post asked, "Why the knock on trial lawyers?" Well, I didn't mean to knock on all trial lawyers - except to suggest that poking fun at them is fairly easy and often entertaining - and that Ann Coulter would have been in far more respectable company had she made a joke about John Edwards the trial lawyer as opposed to John Edwards the sexual being.

Lawyers have been the butt of jokes since the dawn of lawyerdom. Since we obviously can't (and probably shouldn't) kill them all, as proposed by Dick the Butcher in Henry VI, we might as well make jokes about them. I don't see any harm in that, really, as long as we understand that - like toilet paper - lawyers are among the many tools necessary for civilization to clean up its messes. If they didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. The same goes for lawyer jokes.

Which brings me to John Edwards. I noted in my last post that "He owes his rather large fortune to his success in capitalizing upon the misfortunes of others." I believe that to be an entirely defensible statement, given his record as a plaintiffs' attorney in North Carolina, where he made his millions suing doctors and hospitals over often-dubious medical malpractice claims. (See here (CNS News) and here (Washington Times) and here (New York Times), for example.) Edwards is the type of guy who could buy a brand new Ferrari and write it off as a plausible business expense - an "upgrade" required to keep up with today's speedier ambulance fleet.

The other day, Edwards said, "I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs." There's a lot of truth in that, I believe, but for John Edwards to say it with a straight face shows that either he's had a change of heart or that he's just as insincere now in seeking votes from the American electorate as he was back in North Carolina when he was seeking the votes of jurors.

Monday, March 05, 2007
On this day:

Ann Coulter

She's a talented, intelligent, and attractive woman. I hesitate to say "lady," because that would seem too obvious an exaggeration - much like calling John Edwards "one of America's most respected politicians."

Miss Coulter, though, never shies away from exaggerating in order to make a point, even when a bit more subtlety would be more effective. As Florence King wrote last August in National Review amidst another Coulter controversy:

Wondering what life in America would be like if Coulter used a stiletto instead of a sledgehammer is a tempting but futile excursion into dreamland. ...

At her best, Coulter writes well, but the chief source of her success is that she is a perfect match for the American ideal: smart as a whip but dumb as a post, educated but not learned, sexy but not sensuous, all at the same time. She would not hesitate to choose a sledgehammer over a stiletto because her instincts would pull her back from what the 18th century called “demolishing your enemies without raising your voice.” She would know that if a writer uses a stiletto, a lot of people might not get the point, but they would definitely get the loftiness that accompanies irony and understatement. And so, knowing that being called an elitist spells ruin, she opted for a sledgehammer and raised the roof instead.
And why use a sledgehammer to bust open a mushmelon? There are as many ways to make fun of John Edwards as there are hairs on his perfectly-coiffed head. Edwards is a wealthy Southern trial lawyer, for crying out loud. He owes his rather large fortune to his success in capitalizing upon the misfortunes of others. Even so, in a recent interview Edwards had the gall to denounce his fellow Americans for their selfishness.

While Edwards seems to have made a good living promoting this kind of class envy, I'm not sure how well that message will sell in the upcoming presidential election. Most people look forward to earning their own wealth, not confiscating it from their fellow citizens. As for me, if I'm envious of anything, it's John Edwards's hair. I mean, what can I say? It's just so doggoned pretty.

Friday, March 02, 2007
On this day:

Yes, I'm still here

No, I haven't given up blogging for Lent. Just decided to take a week off. I hope to be back blogging full-speed next week. In the meantime, I've got a little catching up to do.