Saturday, May 26, 2007
On this day:

Alabama to apologize for slavery

Gov. Bob Riley says that he will sign a resolution approved by the legislature on Thursday expressing "profound regret for [the state's] role in slavery" and apologizing "for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America."

The Huntsville Times reports here, the Montgomery Advertiser here, and the AP here.

Following is the complete text of the resolution:

WHEREAS, slavery has been documented as a worldwide practice since antiquity, dating back to 3500 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia; and

WHEREAS, during the course of the infamous Atlantic Slave Trade, millions of Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and millions more died during passage; the first African slaves in the North American colonies were brought to Jamestown, in 1619; and

WHEREAS, the Atlantic Slave Trade was a lucrative enterprise, and African slaves, a prized commodity to support the economic base of plantations in the colonies, were traded for tropical products, manufactured goods, sugar, molasses, and other merchandise; and

WHEREAS, some African captives resisted enslavement by fleeing from slave forts on the West African coast and others mutinied aboard slave trading vessels, cast themselves into the Atlantic Ocean, or risked the cruel retaliation of their masters by running away to seek freedom; and

WHEREAS, although the United States outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the colonies and illegal importation continued for several decades; and

WHEREAS, slavery, or the "Peculiar Institution," in the United States resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as Africans were captured and sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property or animals; and

WHEREAS, to prime Africans for slavery, the fundamental values of the Africans were shattered, they were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage, women and girls were raped, and families were disassembled as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons were sold into slavery apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, a series of complex colonial laws were enacted to relegate the status of Africans and their descendants to slavery, in spite of their loyalty, dedication, and service to the country, including heroic and distinguished service in the Civil War; and

WHEREAS, the system of slavery had become entrenched in American history and the social fabric, and the issue of enslaved Africans had to be addressed as a national issue, contributing to the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude on December 18, 1865; and

WHEREAS, after emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction dissipated by virulent and rabid racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement of African-American voters, Black Codes designed to reimpose the subordination of African-Americans, and Jim Crow laws that instituted a rigid system of de jure segregation in virtually all areas of life and that lasted until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, throughout their existence in America and even in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans have found the struggle to overcome the bitter legacy of slavery long and arduous, and for many African-Americans the scars left behind are unbearable, haunting their psyches and clouding their vision of the future and of America's many attributes; and

WHEREAS, acknowledgment of the crimes and persecution visited upon other peoples during World War II is embraced lest the world forget, yet the very mention of the broken promise of "40 acres and a mule" to former slaves or of the existence of racism today evokes denial from many quarters of any responsibility for the centuries of legally sanctioned deprivation of African-Americans of their endowed rights or for contemporary policies that perpetuate the status quo; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush stated, "At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human beings were delivered and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return. One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history ... Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice ... For 250 years the captives endured an assault on their culture and their dignity ... While physical slavery is dead, the legacy is alive. My nation's journey toward justice has not been easy, and it is not over. The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation ... and many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times ... We can finally judge the past by the standards of President John Adams, who called slavery 'an evil of colossal magnitude' ... "; and

WHEREAS, in Alabama, the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities; and

WHEREAS, European and African nations have apologized for their roles in what history calls the worst holocaust of humankind, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and racial reconciliation is impossible without some acknowledgment of the moral and legal injustices perpetrated upon African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help African-American and white citizens confront the ghosts of their collective pasts together; and

WHEREAS, the story of the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, the human carnage, and the dehumanizing atrocities committed during slavery should not be purged from Alabama's history or discounted; moreover, the faith, perseverance, hope, and endless triumphs of African-Americans and their significant contributions to the development of this state and the nation should be embraced, celebrated, and retold for generations to come; and

WHEREAS, the perpetual pain, distrust, and bitterness of many African-Americans could be assuaged and the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers would be affirmed, and great strides toward unifying all Alabamians and inspiring the nation to acquiesce might be accomplished, if on the eve of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, the state acknowledged and atoned for its pivotal role in the slavery of Africans; and

WHEREAS, acknowledging that there is a difference between what is wrong and right, and that slavery as an American "Institution" was a wrong committed upon millions of Black Americans and that their ancestors are the beneficiaries of such wrongs, including, but not limited to, segregation under Jim Crow, housing discrimination, discrimination in education, and other ills inflicted upon Black people; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama, the Gov., and its citizens are conscious that under slavery many atrocities and gross violations of human rights were imposed upon Black people, and that acknowledging these facts can and will avert future tragedies, be they in the Sudan, or other parts of the world; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama has a long history of civil rights involvement and is on the cutting edge of effective measures to promote racial tolerance, such as the Birmingham Pledge; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we express our profound regret for the State of Alabama's role in slavery and that we apologize for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America; we express our deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to those who were enslaved and the descendants of slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and we encourage the remembrance and teaching about the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That it is the intent of the Legislature that this resolution shall not be used in, or be the basis of, any type of litigation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution shall be known and referred to as the "Moore-Sanders Apology for Slavery Act."

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to each state elected official; the Executive Director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education; the Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Alabama Chapter; and the Executive Director of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Chapter; requesting that they further disseminate copies of this resolution to their respective constituents so that they may be apprised of the sense of the Alabama Legislature in this matter.

Eleven-year-old Alabama boy kills 1051-pound hog

Holy hamhocks, that's one big boar. The kid's dad has posted more pics and info on a new web site -

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
On this day:

Alabama Democrats headed to Havana

A group of Alabama state legislators are headed to Cuba later this week to discuss trade. This might not be so troubling were it not for the fact that the delegation is made up entirely of Democrats - who tend to be a bit more sympathetic towards Fidel Castro's regime than I think is warranted. From the Associated Press:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Another Alabama trade mission is scheduled to arrive in Cuba on Friday with several legislators planning to accompany officials from the state Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Department spokeswoman Christy Rhodes Kirk said the state-funded delegation will assist Alabama companies in negotiations for the sale of a variety of products, including poultry, lumber, utility poles, cotton, peanuts, fish and snack foods.

Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks has led some trade missions in the past, but Kirk said this one will be led by the department's director of international trade, John Key.

She said several legislators are planning to attend, although the list is subject to change due to last-minute developments in the Legislature. The legislators are Rep. Jack Page, D-Gadsden, and Sens. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; Kim Benefield, D-Woodland; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Pat Lindsey, D-Butler; Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; and Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.

The legislators plan to return to Alabama on Monday to attend to their legislative duties, but the remainder of the delegation will remain in Cuba until June 1.

Trade with Cuba is a thorny issue among conservatives and libertarians. While there are lots of sub-issues underlying this debate, they mostly boil down to this: "What is the best way to promote Cuba's transition into a free and freedom-loving society?" Some on the right contend that continued isolation of the Castro regime - including the current bans on trade and travel - is the correct answer to this question; others say that the embargo hinders Cuba's transition to democracy more than it helps.

I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that the U.S. should gradually ease the 46-year-old trade embargo - not because Fidel Castro and his Communist government have become any less loathsome, but because I believe the embargo no longer serves the national interests of the United States.

I'm not suggesting that unrestricted trade with Cuba is possible or even desirable at present; there are a whole host of hurdles to overcome before that can happen. I just think that with the end of the Cold War and the decimation of Cuba as a strategic threat, it would be more productive to bombard the island with capitalism than to continue enforcing an embargo that Castro has seized upon as an excuse for his own failures.

Here are two items that illustrate the nature of the debate on the right: 1) The Cato Institute has an excellent article in favor of ending the embargo here. 2) The late Sen. Jesse Helms (R.-N.C.) argues that lifting the embargo would be a futile endeavor here.

Sad to say, there is very little meaningful debate about trade with Cuba among liberals; they are practically unanimous in their support for an immediate end to the embargo. I can only presume that this is because they don't have the same qualms - both moral and practical - about dealing with Communists that more rational people do. Maybe that's why the prospect of a herd of Alabama Democrats hopscotching about the streets of Havana is so worrisome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
On this day:

Huntsville Times: Influx of illegals puts police in bind

The federal government's outright refusal to enforce the immigration laws we already have has led to enormous strains on local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including here in Huntsville. The city's public safety director said last week that "the undocumented illegal alien poses the most serious problem to law enforcement today."

According to the Huntsville Times:

Rex Reynolds, Huntsville's public safety director, said Friday that the influx of illegal immigrants into the city is taxing law enforcement's ability to fight crimes they commit and provide services to them. ...

"We're in a catch-up mode," he said.

On one hand, federal laws and local jail capacities handcuff local police in deporting illegal immigrants. On the other hand, illegal Hispanic immigrants are hesitant to report when they are victims of crime because they're afraid they will be deported.

Language, cultural and trust barriers often come between police and Hispanics, Reynolds said.

Officers have trouble taking statements from or interviewing Hispanic suspects, witnesses or victims who don't speak English, Reynolds said.

But the Huntsville Police Department is trying to break through that barrier, with community relations officers attending Hispanic activities, providing Spanish translations of forms and officers learning at least basic commands in Spanish. ...

A turning point for Huntsville police was the 2005 shooting death of officer Daniel Golden in a grocery store parking lot. An illegal Hispanic immigrant was arrested and charged with Golden's death.

Reynolds said many Huntsville officers were angry immediately after the shooting. He ordered officers not to retaliate against Hispanics, but a few weeks later he noticed that the arrests of and citations issued to Hispanics had risen. The city judge told Reynolds that all of the cases were legitimate.

Reynolds later contacted the federal Homeland Security Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, about giving Huntsville police the authority to enforce immigration laws.

A 1996 immigration law passed by Congress allows local or state law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws.

But, Reynolds said, he and Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning could not sign an agreement with ICE giving the police that authority because there was not enough jail space to house illegal immigrants.

Reynolds said the police don't have the means or the authority to conduct mass deportations. An illegal immigrant whom the police want to deport has to be taken to a jail in Gadsden, which takes police off the streets here, Reynolds said.

ICE has assigned two officers to Huntsville full time, which has helped police, Reynolds said.

Because there are so many illegal immigrants in the area and police resources are so stretched, the department requests deportation only for illegal immigrants involved in gangs, drug trafficking, violent crimes or violent acts against an officer, Reynolds said.

The department averages three to four deportation requests a month, he said.

Sessions on Senate immigration bill: "I don't think it's workable"

Sen. Jeff Sessions has firmed up his opposition to the immigration reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. From the Birmingham News:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Jeff Sessions, who at one time was hopeful for a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform, said Monday he'll fight the deal that has been struck, which he believes is too lenient and expensive.

After a weekend of research and deliberation, Sessions, R-Ala., came out swinging Monday in opposition to the legislation, similar to his posture on last year's version. ...

The White House and Democratic leaders had been pushing for a quick Senate vote, possibly before the Memorial Day holiday recess. In a schedule change announced Monday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada agreed to extend the debate into the first week of June, which is still short of the month Sessions said the issue needed.

Despite the extending of debate, Sessions remained opposed, his staff said. He still planned to use three hours of time he had reserved on the Senate floor to voice his objections.

Although Sessions said he would prepare amendments, his first strategy is to stop the bill in its tracks. ...

"I don't think it's workable. The more I look at it, the more uncomfortable I've become about it," Sessions said. ...

Sessions this spring said behind-the-scenes negotiations on immigration reform were promising, but his optimism had vanished by Monday.

"I'm disappointed, almost heartbroken, because we made some progress," Sessions said on the floor of the Senate. "But the political wheeling and dealing and compromising and splitting the baby ... resulted in a circumstance where it just didn't get far enough."

Monday, May 21, 2007
On this day:

Unemployment in Alabama at record low

From the B'ham News:

Alabama's jobless rate in April was 3.3 percent, matching the all-time low recorded in February.

Last month's figure dropped from 3.4 percent in March and from 3.5 percent in April 2006, the Department of Industrial Relations said Friday.

The number of unemployed Alabamians was 72,431 in April, down from 74,439 in March. The state created 30,800 jobs between April 2006 and April 2007, the agency said. ...

Alabama's April unemployment rate was eighth-lowest in the nation, tied with North Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Montana had the lowest rate last month, 2.2 percent, and Michigan had the worst, 7.1 percent.

Friday, May 18, 2007
On this day:

Jeff Sessions on the immigration negotiations

Press Release of Senator Sessions

Statement of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions on Immigration Negotiations

Friday, May 18, 2007

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) made the following comments today regarding comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the Senate:

"I will not vote for, and will actively oppose, immigration legislation that does not meet the expectations of the American people on important issues such as border security, citizenship, and a transition to a merit-based 'points' system.

"I am deeply concerned with the compromise announced yesterday. Both the process by which the bill will be considered in the Senate and the content of the proposal are troubling. Supporting an agreement on such a complex and important issue cannot be justified when legislation has not yet been written. I will be carefully reading the bill, expected to be about 800 pages, to determine whether the details of the legislation have merit."

Speaking of Orthodoxy

The big-O kind this time.

This is a very Big Deal: the 80-year schism in the Russian Orthodox Church is over. More from the New York Times here and from the AP here.

From the NYT:

MOSCOW, May 16 — The atmosphere was tense, laced with nearly a century of mistrust and bitter feelings, when President Vladimir V. Putin met in New York in 2003 with leaders of an émigré church that had broken with the Russian Orthodox Church after the Bolshevik Revolution. The breakaway church had vowed never to return as long as the “godless regime” was in power.

“I want to assure all of you,” Mr. Putin said at the meeting, “that this godless regime is no longer there.” Then, recalled the Rev. Serafim Gan, a senior priest of the breakaway church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, he added, “You are sitting with a believing president.” ...

Church members are calling the signing, which coincides with the feast of the Ascension, the symbolic end of Russia’s civil war and the confirmation of the Russian Orthodox Church’s central role in post-Soviet society.

The orthodox and the infantile

Andrew Sullivan - one of the blogosphere's most insufferable crybabies - says that G.K. Chesterton is "infantile."

Mark Shea replies:
To describe a mind as subtle and lithe as Chesterton's with this sort of bumper sticker dismissal just beggars my powers to reply. All I can think of is that fatuous bit of European noble flotsam in Amadeus telling Mozart his music has "too many notes."
I've been slowly making my way through Chesterton's Orthodoxy over the past couple of weeks. (You can be read it online for free here.) Chesterton calls the book a "sort of slovenly autobiography," an account of how his personal search for truth led him back to the faith of his fathers. Here's a passage from the first chapter:
I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne. I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it. I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine. When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion. The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.
Chesterton, of course, was speaking of how he came to embrace orthodox Christianity. But one need not be a Christian, or even believe in God, to accept the "orthodox" belief that - in the words of Russell Kirk - there is "a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience." This moral order rules over us whether we like it or not, and it applies to the whole species of man even if entire societies do all that they can to reject it. It is immutable and unchanging, arising out of our own human nature. As luck would have it, either nature or nature's God (whichever you prefer) has chosen to leave the delicate inscription of this "natural law" on our hearts.

This sort of orthodoxy - the belief that there is a natural moral order that governs all of humanity and that we should adhere to it, or at least refrain from trying to overturn it - is neither old-fashioned nor oppressive. It is essential to realizing our full potential as human beings. Ever since Adam and Eve in the Garden, man has rejected what's good for him. Is it really so "infantile" to seek after this long-lost treasure? Or to rejoice when at long last we find it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
On this day:

B'ham News: "Black Democrats split on candidates"

Liberal media shocked to discover that not all black people think alike.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
On this day:

UA commencement speaker condemns war in Iraq

If I had to come up with a few simple rules that every college commencement speaker should follow, they'd be something along the lines of: 1) Know your audience; 2) Remember the occasion; 3) Keep it short; 4) Avoid controversy; and 5) Keep it positive.

This year's speaker at the University of Alabama's graduation ceremonies seems to have violated every one of those rules, using the occasion to deliver a diatribe against the war in Iraq.
(B'ham News) TUSCALOOSA - Caps and gowns filled the floor of Coleman Coliseum twice here Saturday as the University of Alabama held its spring commencement. ...

James T. Stephens, former president and current chairman of the board of EBSCO, addressed the graduates and challenged them to do better than previous generations. He then challenged them to question the nation's motives for going to war in Iraq.

"I would like to ... convey thoughts in two domains," he said. "No. 1 is your family domain. No. 2 is our national and global domain."

Stephens said graduates should take care of themselves and their families, they should focus on things they can do something about, they should be open-minded and curious; and should realize a call to open-mindedness is not a call to be valueless. "Have values, be judgmental, and ... find the strength to live them and to expect them within your society," he said.

Stephens then quoted James Madison and Dwight Eisenhower about the dangers of military power and conflict. "While we need to be strong, our society must be willing to question how much is necessary and what else could be done with (money spent on the military)," he said.

"We ... are now engaged aggressively in addressing Iraq," he said. "We are asking whether our minds are being led by a good heart. We are asking whether this is good global citizenship. Most importantly, we are asking: Is this the behavior of a good and virtuous society?"

Stephens said he finds two elements of the war painful to the nation's character. "First, we stepped outside our national character when we started the war," he said. "The second pain is the combination of the loss of life and the large number of crippled young men and women of our armed forces, but the greater number is the 65,000 absolutely innocent children, women and men, all Iraqi civilians, who have died from the disturbances created.

"We can relate easily to the family pain from the killing of innocents at Virginia Tech. Fifty civilians died in Iraq that very day."

I disagree with several of Mr. Stephens's remarks.

First off, I don't believe that the U.S. spends too much money on its military. Given the threats the West currently faces and the fact that American defense spending as a percentage of GDP is well below what it was during the Cold War, a very good case can be made that we need to spend even more money on defense, not less.

Secondly, I don't think that we "stepped outside our national character" by removing Saddam Hussein from power. The benefit of hindsight may eventually show that it was unwise to use war as a means for achieving that objective, but it is well within "our national character" to oppose the devious intentions of tyrants when they use their power to threaten our interests. Furthermore, saying that "we started the war" ignores over a decade of history that preceded the 2003 U.S. invasion. It was Saddam Hussein who invaded Kuwait back in 1990. It was Saddam Hussein who refused to abide by the cease-fire agreement he signed at the end of that conflict. It was Saddam Hussein who ordered his military to routinely and illegally interfere with coalition enforcement of the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. It was Saddam Hussein who gave safe haven to terrorist leaders inside Iraq - including Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and others. It was Saddam Hussein who ordered an assassination attempt against former President George H.W. Bush 1993. And Mr. Stephens says that we started this war?

Finally, I think that comparing civilian deaths in Iraq to the murder of students at Virginia Tech is problematic, to say the least. To review, here's what Mr. Stephens said:
"The second pain is the combination of the loss of life and the large number of crippled young men and women of our armed forces, but the greater number is the 65,000 absolutely innocent children, women and men, all Iraqi civilians, who have died from the disturbances created.

"We can relate easily to the family pain from the killing of innocents at Virginia Tech. Fifty civilians died in Iraq that very day."

Now, I don't think that Mr. Stephens was suggesting that the U.S. is directly responsible for the 65,000 civilian deaths in Iraq. At least I hope he wasn't. Nor do I think he was implying some sort of moral equivalence between the U.S. military and the Virginia Tech shooter. He seems to be saying that the pain experienced by families who lose loved ones to violence is horrible, no matter what the circumstances.

That's fine, but how many more Iraqi civilians will lose their lives each day if the U.S. withdraws its forces before Iraqi leaders are able to reach a political settlement? It is precisely because we are a "good and virtuous society" that we must do everything we can to prevent the untold horrors that would result from our early departure. It is because we are "good global citizens" that we have to see this thing through. The alternatives are simply not acceptable - either strategically or morally.

OK...almost done.

Now that I've pointed out where I disagree with Mr. Stephens, I should say that none of that is really the reason I find his speech so troubling.

The thing is...Stephens wasn't invited to deliver a speech on U.S. foreign policy. If he had been, his remarks would have been entirely appropriate, albeit ridiculously wrongheaded. This was a graduation ceremony, and this was the wrong sort of speech to give. These graduates have had to put up with more than enough left-wing drivel from administrators and professors to last them a lifetime. Surely, it's not too much for them to ask that their commencement address be free of America-bashing claptrap.

According to one commenters at Free Republic, at least a few people in the audience weren't amused by the speech, either:

I have heard from a good personal source that Stephens was literally booed off the stage for these comments. According to the source he did not finish the speech.
Another says:

After the 9am ceremony, he received what I’d characterize as ‘normal’ applause. I heard one boo and about 15 people - primarily faculty - stood up and clapped.

The 1pm ceremony was more charged. During the 2nd half of the speech, when he was citing figures about how much the US spends on defense ($0.40 of every tax dollar, more than next 20 nations combined, etc.) a group began to boo. Immediately others began to respond to the booers, telling them to “let him finish.” Somebody who was sitting on the stage later told me that they could not hear this. When Stephens said, “In conclusion” towards the end of the speech, a good number of people clapped and laughed. When he finished, there was polite applause, some booing, and again some standing ovation from faculty...exactly what you’d expect.

He sat on the stage for the next hour (seemed like an hour) as graduates came up and received diplomas. Afterwards, at the foot of the stage, he was approached by a graduate and her family who were offended by the speech. They spoke for several minutes. Afterwards, he walked out with several other people.

If anyone was actually at UA on Saturday, be sure to leave a comment.

This is pretty amazing

If you live in Alabama and you smelled smoke in the air today - as I did here in Huntsville - chances are that it was due to the wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Florida and Georgia. The Mobile Press-Register has more here.

Monday, May 14, 2007
On this day:

The wrong way to treat illegal aliens

From last Thursday's Mobile Press-Register:
MONTGOMERY -- Members of a House committee Wednesday appeared to be leaning toward passage of a bill that would allow law enforcement officials in Alabama to seize the property of illegal aliens. ...

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, is modeled on laws allowing police to seize the property of drug dealers. The legislation allows law enforcement to seize from illegal immigrants any property not needed for "basic living necessities," but gives law enforcement agencies broad scope in determining what is and isn't necessary.
Here's what the bill says (H/T Alablawg):
Property of a person present in this state who is in violation of the immigration laws of the United States, except property needed for the basic living necessities of the person as determined by the local law enforcement agency, acquired by the person directly or indirectly while in violation of the immigration laws of the United States shall be subject to forfeiture in the same manner as provided in Section 20-2-93 of the Code of Alabama 1975. The forfeiture shall be governed by and shall conform to the procedures set out in Section 28-4-286 through 28-4-290, Code of Alabama 1975, except as modified by Section 20-2-(h), Code of Alabama 1975.
I'm all for cracking down on illegal immigration, but to deprive hard-working people of the fruits of their labor strikes me as a terribly unjust way to go about it.

One of the basic tenets of the American creed is that government exists to protect property, not to take it away arbitrarily without just cause. As Adam Smith said in the Wealth of Nations:
The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable.
Anytime government proposes to expand its authority to confiscate private property, we should be on our guard. I see no reason why we should be any less vigilant when the property to be confiscated belongs to illegal aliens.

Violating immigration laws and misrepresenting one's own immigration status are not insignificant offenses, but the punishment proposed under this bill seems vastly disproportionate to the harm these crimes inflict. Given the federal government's abdication of its responsibility to make and enforce immigration law, I can't fault state legislators for their desire to act. I just wish that in their rush to craft new laws to address the problem, they would pay a little more attention to the old one that says "Thou shalt not steal."

Thursday, May 10, 2007
On this day:

Follow-up to the last post

Columnist George Will, whose son Jon has Down syndrome, laments the rush to abort Down syndrome babies here ("Golly, what did Jon do?") and here ("Eugenics by abortion: is perfection an entitlement?").

Patricia E. Bauer comments here ("The abortion debate no one wants to have") and here ("What's lost in prenatal testing.")

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
On this day:

A real downer

People with Down Syndrome always seem to create a certain level of discomfort whenever they come into contact with polite society. They don't inspire hatred or even dislike - just discomfort.

They don't look like us. They don't think like us. They don't act like us. And for all we know, they may not even feel like us.

More often than not, we view them as a burden and an inconvenience. Some of us have concluded that since we would never want to live our lives with Down Syndrome, then no one else could possibly desire or deserve to live their lives with Down Syndrome.

It's that sort of empathy (or is it false empathy?) that now brings us to a great moral dilemma.

Take a look around. If you're a school teacher, how many Down Syndrome kids do you see in your classes? If you're a doctor or a nurse, how many Down Syndrome babies do you see day-to-day in the maternity ward? Compare your observations with those of your co-workers who have been around long enough to see generations of children come through their schools and hospitals.

Now, take another look around. Make it a point to get to know those Down syndrome kids. Hold on to every ounce of wisdom you can gain from helping them through their struggles. Show them all the love they can handle, and cherish all that they return, because children like them may not be with us much longer. It seems that they have become too burdensome, and we have become too selfish.

As the New York Times reported today (try the link here if that one requires registration):
Until this year, only pregnant women 35 and older were routinely tested to see if their fetuses had the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. As a result many couples were given the diagnosis only at birth. But under a new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a new, safer screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age.

About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.
The Times goes on to discuss the practical and ethical ramifications of the ACOG's recommendation. Here's one of them, and it is chilling - not so much for what it concludes as for what it assumes:
A dwindling Down syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain.
Note that no one in the Times story contests the underlying assumption that a large majority of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis will choose to have an abortion. If that assumption holds true and it is accompanied by Down syndrome screening for all pregnant women, then a whole category of human beings may be destined for systematic eradication. Not by curing them, but by killing them.

That is, of course, unless something changes, either in the law or in our hearts.

Yes, people with Down syndrome make us uncomfortable. They force us to deal with issues we would rather avoid while we are busily creating this new world of ours.

They don't look like us. They don't think like us. They don't act like us. And for all we know, they may not even feel like us.

But they struggle with us. They hope with us. They love with us. And they are us?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007
On this day:

Kling: The real solution to poverty

Economist Arnold Kling has some thoughts on the subject over at TCS Daily, and reminds us of just how good we have it here in 21st Century America:

In the United States, the poverty threshold for a family of four is just under $20,000 a year in income. However, consider what would happen if you were to force every family of four all over the world the world to live on $20,000 a year. The majority of families would say, "Thank you." Outside the United States, there are more people living under our poverty threshold than over it. Perhaps as many as one billion people are living on less than one-tenth of our poverty threshold, or less than $2000 a year for a family of four.

If $500 a year per person represents extreme poverty, then consider that in the year 1800 the average income per person in the world was half that. What we consider extreme poverty today would have been considered upper-middle-class two hundred years ago. If that seems implausible, consider that even in Africa longevity has more than doubled over the past hundred years. This reflects better nutrition and public health, even though African economies on the whole are doing very poorly. William Nordhaus, in The Health of Nations, argues persuasively that if improvements in longevity were included in GDP, then our estimates of growth over the last century would roughly double.

Overall, as David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper wrote three years go for TCS, virtually every American alive today is in the top one percent of income, if one takes a worldwide historical perspective. It would be better to live on $20,000 a year in America today than to be a relatively wealthy person living here one hundred years ago.

His conclusion? That "decentralized capitalism, in which no one sets out to broadly reduce poverty, is the best anti-poverty program." Lots of good stuff. Read the whole thing.

"Thousands strip off for world's biggest nude photoshoot"

The real story here isn't that photographer Spencer Tunick found 18,000 Mexicans willing to bare it all for his latest work of "art." It's that he was able to find that many south of the Rio Grande.

UA student group meets to discuss Iraqi "resistance"

From the Crimson White:
SDS hosts antiwar activists' presentation

Students for a Democratic Society at Tuscaloosa will host Report Back: A Meeting With the Iraqi Resistance with Kosta Harlan on Saturday at 4 p.m. Harlan is an antiwar activist and member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization who recently traveled to Italy to attend the international conference With the Resistance for a Just Peace in the Middle East.

The conference marks the first time that leaders of the Iraqi national resistance have been able to speak in the West. Harlan will report on who the resistance is and why they fight; the current conditions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq; the birth and development of the Iraqi resistance; and the tasks of the U.S. antiwar movement.

This event is free and open to the public with a suggested donation of less than $5. The event will be held in 301 Morgan Hall.
So what sort of people do you suppose would welcome a Marxist to campus to deliver a talk on the virtues of the Islamo-Fascists in the Iraqi "resistance" - the ones who are at this very moment trying to kill and maim as many American soldiers and innocent Iraqis as possible?

Monday, May 07, 2007
On this day:

The French Revolution

Nicolas Sarkozy has been elected President of France. This is great news for the United States, for transatlantic relations, and for the people of France.

And so to celebrate this great victory for freedom...

"Play La Marseillaise! Play it!"

Vive La France!

Saturday, May 05, 2007
On this day:

Al-Qaeda responds to Democrat deadline for defeat

Bud Cramer, are you listening?

Friday, May 04, 2007
On this day:

The Republican debate

I didn't watch it. But I will. Here's the link.

Thursday, May 03, 2007
On this day:

He's Sikh?

I may be going out on a limb here, but if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that number of Sikhs in Cullman County, Alabama (pop. ~ 73,000) is somewhere between about 2 and 20.

Apparently, one of them is a shaggy-headed - as opposed to "nappy-headed"- high school student with the unlikely surname (for a Sikh, at least) of DeForest. From the B'ham News:

MONTGOMERY - A Cullman high school student was sent home for having long hair but was allowed back into school Wednesday wearing a headdress after telling school officials he was a Sikh.

The Sikh religion requires that followers do not cut their hair and requires that they wear a distinctive head covering much like a turban.

Cullman School Superintendent Hank Allen said the student, Tommy DeForest, was sent home from Good Hope High School because the length of his hair violated the school's dress code.

Allen said he was surprised when DeForest later professed to be a Sikh and said his long hair was part of his religion.

"We didn't have any idea he would return a Sikh," Allen said.

Efforts to reach DeForest failed Wednesday.

Officials with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent Allen a letter Monday saying the school system was violating DeForest's constitutional rights.

"The school literally forced Tommy to choose between his education and his faith," Derek Gaubatz, director of litigation for the Becket Fund, said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Allen said DeForest was not wearing a headdress when he was sent home from school. But he returned with information showing he had become Sikh and was following the practice of wearing a headdress and not cutting his hair, Allen said.

Allen said that, after research and communication with other Sikhs about the requirements of the religion, DeForest was allowed back in school and is attending classes wearing his headdress.

Now, I hate to be insensitive - I really do - but young Mr. DeForest's recent and seemingly all-too-convenient "conversion" leaves me just a wee bit skeptical of his intentions. It sounds like Principal Allen ("We didn't have any idea he would return a Sikh") may have been a little suspicious, too, but concluded that fighting a lawsuit to make such a hard-headed (again, as opposed to "nappy-headed") kid follow the rules just wasn't worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007
On this day:

Let's bring an end to the death penalty...for diplomacy's sake (and our own)

While visiting Alabama last week, EU ambassador John Burton took the opportunity to lecture Alabamians - including Gov. Bob Riley - on how to improve their state's image abroad.
(B'ham News) MONTGOMERY - Alabama "is a state that has turned the corner in many ways," European Union Ambassador John Bruton told a Montgomery audience Wednesday, but "all of that can be spoiled if one fails to deal with excessive incarceration and the death penalty." ...

In terms of foreign investment in the state and the growth of its exports, Alabama has been one of the most successful U.S. states in recent years, with the bulk of that coming from European companies, Bruton said.

Alabama and the states of the Deep South have overcome deep negative impressions to achieve that, Bruton said. "The location of the companies here is due in no small part to a changing perception."

But the death penalty is one issue that stills shadows the impression of the United States in general and Alabama in particular, he said.

I agree with the ambassador. It is deplorable that such a large number of people in Alabama are locked up behind bars, many of them on death row. This situation is not only a stain on our image; it also indicates a deep and abiding stain on our souls. Therefore, I believe that it is incumbent on each and every one of us to help reduce the state's incarceration rate and bring an end to the death penalty.

As my personal contribution toward this lofty goal, I offer the following:
I hereby pledge to refrain from committing any anti-social crime that might warrant my long-term incarceration, particularly one that might subject me to the death penalty. I humbly implore all other residents of this great state to similarly refrain from committing such crimes.
Now, if only we could convince the criminals and would-be criminals among us to take that same pledge (and to honor it), then our European friends might soon be able to divert their attention to more pressing concerns. Like global warming, for instance.

The L-Word

It ain't "lipstick."