A Bama Blog
News and views from the Right side of Bama
Audemus jura nostra defendere
Friday, February 23, 2007
On this day:
Thursday, February 22, 2007
On this day:
Remembering George Washington
First in war - first in peace - and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.
- from General Henry Lee's eulogy for George Washington, delivered December, 1799
Today marks the 275th birthday of America's first President. George Washington has often been called "the indispensable man," but now, 219 years after he first took the oath of office, the country he fathered has all but forgotten just how indispensable he really was. As Richard Brookhiser wrote in Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, he "is in our textbooks and our wallets, but not our hearts."
That needs to change. Now more than ever, the nation needs to get reacquainted with His Excellency, George Washington.
For starters, we should stop calling Washington's Birthday "Presidents Day." Washington was not just our first President, he is first among Presidents. He's in a league of his own. So, as a word of advice to all future presidents, I would say: if you think you deserve a holiday, then go found your own damned country and leave Washington's Birthday and his country alone. (For more on the "Presidents Day" heresy, see this Snopes.com article.)
That said, we shouldn't turn George Washington the man into some mythological "larger-than-life" figure who we can never hope to understand. That would be almost as bad as ignoring him altogether. Washington wasn't a perfect man, but he was no ordinary one, either. To get a taste for just how extraordinary he was, go down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, by Richard Brookhiser, or His Excellency, George Washington, by Joseph Ellis.
Or just click on the following links:
"Moonshine Patriot: George Washington, whiskey entrepreneur", John Fund, Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2007.
Washington's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
Washington's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1793
Washington's "Circular to the States," June 8, 1783
The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition at the University of Virginia
More Papers of George Washington from the University of Virginia
George Washington's Papers at the Library of Congress
Saturday, February 17, 2007
On this day:
Joe Lieberman on the anti-surge resolution
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman issued the following press release Friday. Follow that link, also, for the full text of his speech on the Senate floor Friday. It's well worth reading.
Lieberman Warns of Potential Constitutional Crisis over Iraq
Urges Unity in War Against Islamist Extremism
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a statement on the Senate floor today concerning the non-binding Iraq resolution, Senator Lieberman stated:
"The non-binding resolution before us today, we all know, is only a prologue. That is why the fight over it - procedural and substantive - over these past weeks has been so intense. It is the first skirmish in an escalating battle that threatens to consume our government over many months ahead, a battle that will neither solve the sprawling challenges we face in Iraq nor strengthen our nation to defeat the enemies of our security throughout the world from Islamist extremists. That is to say, in our war against the terrorists that attacked us.
We still have a choice not to go down this path - it's a choice that goes beyond the immediate resolution before the Senate - a chance to step back from the brink and find a better way to express and arbitrate our opinion, and I hope we will seize the moment and take that chance."
Senator Lieberman called for nonpartisan cooperation:
"Whatever our opinion of this war or its conduct, it is in no one's interest to stumble into a debilitating confrontation between our two great branches of government over war powers. The potential for a constitutional crisis here and now is real, with congressional interventions, presidential vetoes, and Supreme Court decisions. If there was ever a moment for nonpartisan cooperation to agree on a process that will respect both our personal opinions about this war and our nation's interests over the long term, this is it.
We need to step back from the brink and reason together, as Scripture urges us to do, about how we will proceed to express our disagreements about this war."
Senator Lieberman argued that the non binding resolution, "proposes nothing. It contains no plan for victory or retreat... It is a strategy of "no," while our soldiers are saying, "yes, sir" to their commanding officers as they go forward into battle."
Senator Lieberman closed with a call for unity, "Whatever our differences here in this chamber, about this war, let us never forget the values of freedom and democracy that unite us and for which our troops have given and today give the last full measure of their devotion. Yes, we should vigorously debate and deliberate. That is not only our right, it is our responsibility. But at this difficult juncture, at this moment when a real battle, a critical battle is being waged in Baghdad, as we face a brutal enemy who attacked us on 9/11 and wants to do it again, let us not just shout at one another, but let us reach out to one another to find that measure of unity that can look beyond today's disagreements and secure the nation's future and the future of all who will follow us as Americans."
Friday, February 16, 2007
On this day:
Tryin' to lose the war
Alabama's two Democratic House members - Bud Cramer and Artur Davis - voted today in favor of a non-binding resolution condemning President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.
The resolution states:
(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; andWhether you're pro-surge or anti-surge, I just don't see what possible good can come about if this resolution is passed in both houses. Its only purpose seems to be to embarrass the President and to undermine his new Iraq strategy. While it's too early to tell whether that strategy will work over the long term, the news from Iraq in recent days has been quite encouraging.
(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
Below, I've included a few excerpts from stories which have appeared over the past week in the New York Times. In order to get a real feel for what's going on and for what challenges lie ahead, I suggest reading them in their entirety.
New York Times (2/17): "Baghdad Plan Is a ‘Success,’ Iraq Prime Minister Tells Bush"
BAGHDAD, Feb. 16 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki told President Bush on Friday that the increased effort to provide security in Baghdad had gone exceedingly well so far, Mr. Maliki’s office said in a statement.New York Times (2/16): "Dispute Over Iraqi Cleric, Said to Have Gone to Iran"
The two spoke via video link and, according the statement, Mr. Maliki said, “The security plan has been a dazzling success during its first days.” ...
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of the First Cavalry Division in Baghdad, told reporters on Friday that there had been a substantial reduction in violence in the past 48 hours, which he attributed both to the increased troop presence and the decision by Sunni and Shiite militants to keep a low profile.
“They’re watching us carefully,” he said. “There’s an air of suspense throughout the city. We believe, there’s no question about it, that many of these extremists are laying low and watching to see what it is we do and how we do it. How long that will last, we don’t know.”
In the southern Sunni area of Dora, gunshots and mortar fire rang out all morning as American troops set up tanks on corners and surrounded parts of the neighborhood, residents said. In the northeastern Shiite districts of Shaab, Ur and Bayda, American troops with Iraqi policemen continued to search homes for weapons. About 300 Iraqi security forces worked in the area with 2,500 American troops, said Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team.New York Times (2/15): "Few Encounters in Sweep of Baghdad, the Americans’ First Under Bush’s Security Plan"
For the second day of their sweep, American troops found almost no resistance, instead mostly encountering compliant residents and children begging for attention. In the afternoon, some troops decided to cruise through nearby Sadr City. From the hatch of a 19-ton Stryker armored vehicle, the district appeared far less friendly than the three nearby neighborhoods had. There were lots of antagonistic hand gestures, hard stares and grimaces from young men.
About an hour later, near a restaurant in Sadr City, six people were killed when a minibus exploded outside a popular restaurant. With American troops on the neighborhood’s edges and Iraqi forces inside, witnesses said that the heightened security presence helped evacuate bombing victims more quickly.
Salaam Sabri, 35, a microbus driver who ran to the scene after hearing the explosion, said that police cars and army vehicles were hauling bodies to the hospital while policemen and soldiers searched cars and pedestrians for signs of who might be responsible for the attack.
“It wasn’t like before,” he said. “They surrounded the area and they checked all the cars and all the people walking by.”
BAGHDAD, Feb. 14 — Thousands of American troops in armored Stryker vehicles swarmed three mostly Shiite neighborhoods of northeastern Baghdad on Wednesday, encountering little resistance during what commanders described as the first major sweep of the new security plan for the capital. ...New York Times (2/14): "Iraqis Announce New Crackdown Across Baghdad"
For some Iraqis in Ur and in other neighborhoods searched in recent days, the question was whether such gains could last. The current security plan is the third major effort to bring peace to Baghdad, and in each case, initial progress was supplanted with a return to chaos.
“If the Americans keep doing it, they can make a difference,” said Ali Muhammad, 37, an ice cream shop owner who lives in Ur. “But they have to stay. Otherwise it will never work.” ...
At the border of Shaab and Ur, American troops encountered a warmer reception. Some residents in both areas seemed hopeful. Mustafa Jasim, 27, a Sunni, said that the idea of bases in the neighborhood convinced him that the Americans would not leave immediately. “With them here, now I can feel safe,” he said.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 — The Iraqi government on Tuesday ordered tens of thousands of Baghdad residents to leave homes they are occupying illegally, in a surprising and highly challenging effort to reverse the tide of sectarian cleansing that has left the capital bloodied and Balkanized.New York Times (2/11): "U.S. Troops Enter Eastern Baghdad as New Push Begins"
In a televised speech, Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, who is leading the new crackdown, also announced the closing of Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria, an extension of the curfew in Baghdad by an hour, and the setup of new checkpoints run by the Defense and Interior Ministries, both of which General Qanbar said he now controlled.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 — American troops locked down a large industrial area of eastern Baghdad on Sunday while Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, without indicating how he would do it, vowed to speed the deployment of Iraqi forces throughout the war-ravaged capital.The stakes in Iraq are high. I'm convinced that the troop surge and the renewed focus on securing Baghdad are the best of the many bad options we have at the moment. Other people - including many liberals and more than a handful of conservatives - have found fault with the administration's new strategy. These are all legitimate contributions to the broader debate over what America's goals in Iraq and the Middle East should be and about how best to achieve them.
American commanders described the operation in the area, the Rusafa district, as an early taste of the large-scale sweeps expected in eastern Baghdad to take back some measure of control from militias. Soldiers from the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, from Ft. Lewis, Wash., were fired on by insurgents with automatic rifles. The soldiers detained 10 Iraqis while searching for a car-bomb manufacturing site in the area, a violent sectarian fault line between a Shiite enclave and the insurgent-ridden Sunni neighborhood of Fadhil.
The operations in eastern Baghdad are to be a centerpiece of the so-called surge of 21,000 troops that many here view as a last-ditch effort to save the country from all-out civil war. Eastern Baghdad “is a focal point for us right now,” said Brig. Gen. John Campbell, deputy commander of coalition troops in Baghdad. American-led forces say they have conducted 3,400 patrols and detained 140 suspects in the past week. ...
Residents in and around Fadhil said they hoped the presence of American soldiers would quiet the fighting that has trapped some in their homes for weeks. They said their streets and alleys have become a frontline battleground for Shiite fighters from neighborhoods to the northeast, near Sadr City, and Sunni gunmen who have sought to protect their turf from the Mahdi Army, the militia based in Sadr city that is loyal to Moktada al-Sadr.
Deliberation among pundits, policy wonks, and armchair generals is fine and dandy, but when real bullets start to fly, not just rhetorical ones, those who serve in the two war-making branches of our government are called upon to play the role of statesmen. Our leaders in the executive branch and Congress have a moral obligation, if not a constitutional one, to reach as broad a consensus as possible on how the war is to be conducted. That's not to say that all their disagreements should be swept under the rug. Not at all. But, neither should they be trumpeted in such a manner that demoralizes our troops and gives hope to our adversaries. The resolution that Reps. Cramer and Davis voted for today does exactly that, while doing nothing to bring our troops home any sooner or to advance America's national security interests. Voting to undermine the President and the military at such a critical juncture in this war was unnecessary and grossly irresponsible.
Scattered, smothered, covered
Thursday, February 15, 2007
On this day:
UA to continue racial discrimination in programs no one knows about
This writeup on last year's Multicultural Journalism Workshop at UA says: "While the focus is on attracting minorities because of their low representation in the media, students who are not a member of a minority group are also eligible to attend."
The Business Plan Competition for African-American Students that I mentioned last Friday isn't nearly so inclusive. Its eligibility requirements state that "the competition is open to all African-American UA students in good standing enrolled full time during the Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 semesters."
That's pretty transparent: race is the sole criterion by which full-time students in good standing can be disqualified from competing. They can follow the procedures and guidelines in every other way, but if they can't attest to their race based on the one-drop rule or its modern, politically-correct offspring, they need not apply.
If you find this University-endorsed policy to be as discouraging as I do, please direct your inquiries and concerns to:
Ms. Gwendolyn Hood
University Compliance Officer
171 Rose Administration Building
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0300
UA to end racial discrimination in summer journalism program
Last July, I asked why the University of Alabama Department of Journalism had required high school students applying to its Multicultural Journalism Workshop to list their race on the application form. Today, I may have gotten my answer.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The University of Alabama is one of twenty-seven urban journalism programs in the United States that will no longer use race as a criterion for enrollment under a settlement with a white high school student who was rejected by one of the programs.Inside Higher Ed has more here.The Center for Individual Rights's press release is available online here. CIR also provides some additional background on the case here.
Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and other principals agreed to the settlement in return for the Center for Individual Rights withdrawing its legal challenge of the programs.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
On this day:
A whole lotta love
You live in Huntsville and you haven't been to Soul Burger? Well, baby cakes, you just got to go!
I'm way serious, too. Best burgers in town.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
On this day:
Hooray for Big Gas!
This sounds like it could be a pretty big deal:
(B'ham News) Energy companies are scrambling for drilling rights in St. Clair County, where geologists have discovered a natural gas formation with the potential to rival any in the country.
Drillers have bought gas rights on 500,000 acres in and around St. Clair during the past two years, paying up to $500 an acre plus a share of potential revenues. They now want state permission to begin widespread production on 40 square miles in and around Ashville, according to Alabama Oil and Gas Board records. The new find's proposed name is the Big Canoe Creek Field.
Geologists compare the area's potential to that of a legendary Texas natural gas field called the Barnett Shale, which has grown to 5,000 square miles and produces more energy than any other onshore gas field in the country. Shale formations in St. Clair County run 9,000 feet thick, dwarfing the 1,500-foot shales in Texas. Thicker shale means more gas per square mile.
"There are many billions of cubic feet of natural gas per square mile in St. Clair County," said Phillip Meadows, an independent geologist based in Hartselle who performed the original analysis of the area. "Once production methods are figured out, we are talking about wells that could easily be in operation for more than 100 years."
Figuring out exactly what production methods are most suitable will undoubtedly be an expensive undertaking. Thus, the industry's interest has spiked only as natural gas prices have spiked:
The finds in St. Clair are part of a larger energy-rich geologic formation that runs north through Etowah County and into northern Georgia, said Meadows, who began studying the area in the late 1980s. The formation has been ignored until recent spikes in natural gas prices that have made it economical feasible to begin production.Similar forces are at work in other energy markets. As worldwide demand has soared, energy prices have soared with it. As an economic matter, that's not necessarily "good" nor "bad." It just is.
The holdup has been the shale rock. The natural gas is compressed into it, and getting it out requires more expensive production techniques than are used to access gas that's not so tightly bunched.
But things are rolling again after price spikes in 2005 that sent natural gas to an all-time high of $15 per million British thermal units.
Predictably, though, this situation has created a flurry of activity among a class of people that is uniquely unqualified to actually solve it, namely politicians. They are holding hearings, pushing pencils, and heating up the political climate with calls for greater regulation, increased handouts, and new taxes on "windfall" profits. Those who peddle nice-looking charts promising "new solutions" to our energy needs are rewarded with heaps of government money, while those who are actually solving the problems are bombarded with threats and accusations.
The latest discovery here in Alabama provides yet more proof that energy producers are responding to higher prices in precisely the way we would expect them to respond - by developing new technologies and investing large sums of money so that they can stay ahead of the competition and bring new energy supplies to the market as quickly as possible. Their principal desires aren't necessarily "to be liked" or even "to be nice." They seek only to provide value to their stakeholders. They are thus doing more to address the world's energy needs than any number of well-intentioned politicians and bureaucrats could ever do.
Some Dred Scott trivia
Dred Scott has ties to Huntsville:
[Oakwood College was] [f]ounded in 1896 as the nations only black Seventh-Day Adventist College[. It] was named Oakwood because of its 65 oak trees. A slave named Sam Blow - who captured the attention of the nation as Dred Scott, the name of a deceased brother he took later in life, was enslaved on the Peter Blow plantation in 1818 for 12 years, the property is now occupied by Oakwood College. In 1830, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri with his owner Dr. John Emerson. Scott lived for a total of seven years in areas closed to slavery. Scott's decade long quest for freedom began on April 6, 1846, and it shook the nation's legal system until he was declared a free man in 1857. Also on the Oakwood campus a plot of ground almost 100 feet square bounded by four granite stones marks a sacred spot on the campus where 40 to 50 slaves were buried. It is believed that descendants of Dred Scott were buried there. The last record of slaves living on this land was in the year 1821.I haven't been there, but apparently you can still visit the Dred Scott home site on the Oakwood campus.
Then, there's this from the Wikipedia article on Florence (Alabama, not Italy):
Dred Scott also once resided in Florence, where as a slave, he worked as a hostler at the Peter Blow Inn on Tennessee street. A plaque at the former site commemorates his time there.
The old-fashioned kind. (YouTube alert.)
Alito at UA
Justice Samuel Alito spoke at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa earlier today. The AP has this report: "Alito: Getting a word in not easy for new justices."
Monday, February 12, 2007
On this day:
Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln
It goes without saying that whenever you start a discussion of President Lincoln or the Civil War, you're practically begging for a fight. Or at least an animated debate. Seeing as how I'd much rather have an animated debate about the Civil War than about the Dixie Chicks, here goes.
1) President Lincoln was not an abolitionist. Lots of people - friend and foe - have tried to make him into one, but the man himself just won't cooperate. As he stated in a letter to Horace Greely in 1862:
If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.
3) In Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, created a federal constitutional right to own slaves. Although a thorough search of the Constitution will uncover no such right, Justice Taney and those who concurred in his decision found one in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Dred Scott decision meant that Congress could no longer regulate slavery in the territories. More ominously, it meant that a political compromise was no longer possible. Perhaps more than any other single event, it set the stage for the rise of the Republican Party, secession, and the Civil War. (I'll note - for good measure - the similarity between the Court's reasoning in Dred Scott to that of at least two of the Twentieth Century's most noteworthy decisions - Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade.)
4) The relevance of "states' rights" to the debate over Southern secession, at least with respect to the slavery question, is often exaggerated. No one, save a few radical abolitionists (and certainly not President Lincoln), ever proposed that the federal government could or should have acted to abolish slavery in those states where it then existed. The focus of debate at the time concerned the right of the federal government to restrict the introduction of slavery into the territories, lands which fell under the sovereign authority of Congress.
5) The secessionist appeal to "states' rights" becomes even more suspect once you consider that it was the Southern secessionists who demanded the exercise of federal power in enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act.
6) The tariff issue was undoubtedly a concern for the South. The Republicans had proposed a protective tariff to insulate Northern businesses from foreign competition. The South objected to increased tariffs because it was both a large consumer of foreign manufactured goods and an exporter of raw materials (especially cotton). Again, though, this was not an issue of "states' rights," nor was it an abuse of federal authority. The Constitution places the power to regulate foreign trade exclusively with the U.S. Congress. That the South wanted freer trade and the North wanted to protect home-grown industries presented an opportunity for compromise, not a cause for war.
7) In my opinion, the blame for secession and Civil War rests much more heavily on the Southern fire eaters than it does on President Lincoln or the Republicans. The Republican Party platform of 1860 explicitly recognized the "right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively." There was no reason to suspect that anything more was intended, or could be enforced, even if it were. Nonetheless, Southern politicians weren't satisfied. They insisted upon a federally guaranteed right to carry their peculiar institution into any territory they chose, regardless of whether a constitutional majority in the U.S. Congress agreed.
8) Southern secession is easily the greatest political miscalculation in American history.
9) Upon taking office, President Lincoln was justified in supplying and defending those properties that belonged to the people of the United States, in the absence of a negotiated settlement. That includes Ft. Sumter.
10) Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was more an act calculated to win the sympathies of foreign powers than it was an act of moral righteousness.
11) It's interesting to think about how different things would have been had Lincoln had the opportunity to serve his full term in office. Would the Southern states have been treated as conquered territories, and Southern citizens as subjects, as they were under the Radical Republicans? Or would Lincoln have provided a moderating influence?
12) Right or wrong, had I been around during the Civil War era, there's little doubt as to which side I would have been on. Oh, I might have remarked that "all these rabble-rousers just need to keep their mouths shut, before they get us and them into a big ol' wa-ah." And I might've said how "that damned William Yancey is just blowin' smoke." But once war came, I'm sure that I - like so many others - would have had no choice but to defend my family, my home, and my way of life.
In war, it's sometimes impossible for mere humans to figure out who is right and who is wrong. President Lincoln acknowledged as much in his second inaugural address, when he said:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Dixie Chicks win five Grammys
Friday, February 09, 2007
On this day:
Segregation today, segregation tomorrow...
From the University of Alabama Office of Public Relations:
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama African-American Graduate Student Association’s 2006-2007 Business Plan Competition for African-American Students has named the top seven finalists who will present their plans to a panel of judges on Friday, Feb. 23 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in 111 AIME Building. ...Can we therefore conclude that this competition was open exclusively to African-American students? Surely not, right? Wouldn't such an overt race-based requirement be against the law? At the very least, wouldn't it would contradict the Univeristy of Alabama's own equal opportunity policies, which state:
The winning business plans will be announced and prizes given at an awards banquet sponsored by the Centre for Entrepreneurship, to be held during African-American Heritage Month and Entrepreneurship Week, Feb. 24-March 3.
“The goal of the event is to encourage the idea of entrepreneurship among African-American students at the University of Alabama,” explained Del Smith, president of the AAGSA.
The University of Alabama provides equal opportunity in education and employment for all qualified persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status. ...
The University of Alabama complies with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination, including Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Executive Order 11246, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Vietnam Era Veterans Adjustment Assistance Act, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability or veteran status in admission or access to, or treatment of employment in, its programs and services.
Apparently, the competition's sponsors don't think so. The eligibility requirements for applicants, as stated in the "official guidelines and application form," are as follows:
1. Eligibility: The competition is open to all African-American UA students in good standing enrolled full time during the Fall 2006 and Spring 2007 semesters. Students may enter as individuals or teams of up to five students; however, an individual or team may not submit more than one business plan. The plan must be the students’ original idea for a new business. Students must meet all competition guidelines and deadlines.Were this competition being sponsored by student and faculty organizations, independent of the University, this might not be such a big issue. However, one of its sponsors is the UA College of Commerce and Business Administration, which will be providing prize money to one of the winning teams:
Awards will include a grand prize of $2,500, made possible by the UA African American Graduate Student Association; the first runner-up prize of $1,000, made possible by the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration; and the second runner-up prize of $500, made possible by the UA Black Faculty and Staff Association.Aside from race-discrimination concerns, the limitation of eligibility to "African-American" students raises a host of other questions and observations.
1) Four percent of UA students are international students who hail from over 86 countries. Some of those students are undoubtedly from Africa, but they are not Americans, so it follows that no international student can participate. Unless, perhaps, "African American" is intended to mean "black."
2) If "African-American" is intended to mean "Americans of African heritage," then that would include those whose ancestors were North African Arabs, Berbers, and Moors. It would also include South African Boers. And let's not forget the Jews, who have settled in Africa since at least the time of Abraham. Unless, perhaps, "African American" is intended to mean those of African heritage whose ancestors were from sub-Saharan Africa and who were brought to America as slaves.
3) If "African-American" is intended to mean "black," then an entirely different set of questions arises - questions that held a great deal of importance not long ago. Things like, "how black is 'black enough?'" If, for example, there had been some uncertainty with regard to an applicant's race, would his eligibility have been determined based on the one-drop rule or something else?
4) If Barack Obama were a student at UA, would he be eligible to participate in this competition? What about Colin Powell? Tiger Woods? Teresa Heinz Kerry? Sally Hemings?
5) Would it be acceptable for the University to sponsor a competition in which the applicant pool was limited to European-Americans or Asian-Americans or Mexican-Americans or Italian-Americans?
6) Why limit eligibility to African-Americans to begin with? Do the sponsors believe that African-Americans are somehow incapable of competing against students of other ethnic backgrounds?
It's terribly sad that we have to ask such questions forty-four years after Martin Luther King, Jr. invited us to share in his dream of racial equality. In a system where important decisions are based on racial classifications, though, there is no other choice.
Where is Ward Connerly when you need him?
Thursday, February 08, 2007
On this day:
On a lighter note
Q: What do you call it when someone says that "Yankees should start eating grits."
A: An add hominy argument.
Ba-dum-dum. Yes, folks, I am available to do my stand-up act evenings and weekends.
Response to Alablawg #3: On federalism and Knight v. Alabama
My position is that the U.S. Constitution affirms that both the national and state governments have certain inherent powers that cannot be abridged by the other without amending the Constitution. I am no less a proponent of the rights of the national government than I am of the rights of the states. An adherence to the proper constitutional balance between the two serves to protect individual liberty and more generally, to preserve and enhance the benefits of union. It is entirely appropriate that those who would upset that balance - and who have actively attempted to do so - should be held up to public criticism.
In Knight v. Alabama, the plaintiffs asked the federal courts to force the State of Alabama to raise taxes on its citizens, claiming that such a course was necessary in order to eliminate continuing de facto segregation in the state's education system. I objected that the proposed remedy finds no basis whatsoever in the text or historical understanding of the Constitution, and that it would itself be an unprecedented and unconsitutional usurpation of power by the federal courts. As I stated in Monday's post on the Alabama professors who supported the plaintiffs in Knight:
Maintaining the proper constitutional balance between the federal government and the states is essential to the Republic’s survival under the present Constitution. That these seven respected and influential professors of law and history would have us deviate so radically from that balance - while caring not a whit for the consequences - is really quite disturbing.Wheeler responds to that with a jab intended to discredit me based on guilt by association - an association which he makes, not me.
What I wanted to say was “Well, thank the Lord we have knowledgeable folks like Lee - who have studied at the feat [sic] of historical and legal scholars like Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’souza, Ramesh Ponnuru and Ann Coulter - to save us from the silly mistakes made by people like Charles Gamble, Wayne Flint [sic] and Howard Walthal [sic].” But that would just be snarky.While I'm sure that Limbaugh, D'Souza, Ponnuru, and Coulter are staunch defenders of federalism and that they would find the idea of court-imposed taxation without representation just as appalling as I do, that is entirely irrelevant to my argument. If Wheeler had intended to make a plausible case for his side (whatever that is - your guess is as good as mine), he would have discussed the two quotations I cited by Mister Federalist himself - Alexander Hamilton - the only constitutional scholar whose opinion I appealed to in either of Monday's posts.
Now, Hamilton was often accused by his detractors of being a monarchist; he certainly cannot be accused of having an excessive concern for states' rights. Even so, Hamilton sought to alleviate the fears of those who were concerned that the Constitution would allow the national government to run roughshod over the states. I found Federalist 28 and 32 particularly relevant to the current discussion, but Wheeler ignores them altogether and instead sarcastically implies that I'm a con-law ignoramus, without ever saying why.
In criticizing the Knight plaintiffs and the seven friendly professors, I pointed out that their views on federalism are quite radically different from what the Constitution establishes. The "tone" of my posts, to which Wheeler objects, was indeed a bit harsh, but harshness was entirely appropriate, in my view. When a group of distinguished lawyers and professors attempts to interpret the Constitution in a manner that its framers agreed it would never be interpreted, I find it disturbing. Wheeler implies that my "tone" is a sure indication that I endorse a more radical view of states' rights which I in fact adamantly reject:
Lee, though, following in the footsteps of George Wallace, Roy Moore, and Tom Parker, seems to think that even if the allegation was true, no federal court could do anything about it. Alabama, in his view, would be perfectly free to violate the constitution. That’s where I get off the boat. If Alabama was using its tax structure to perpetuate segregation, then I agree wholeheartedly that Alabama’s funding system would have to be radically changed, even if that meant changes in the tax code. Alabama is subject to the law just like you and I are subject to the law.Again, Wheeler has set up a straw-man argument and attacks that, rather than responding to my position. So, let me be clear: if a state law contradicts the federal Constitution, then the federal courts are entirely justified in overturning that law in accordance with the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution. No state is free to violate the Constitution. Period.
However, Alabama's tax code does not violate the Constitution, and those who have suggested otherwise should be slapped in the face with a wet noodle. Which is pretty much what the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals did in its Knight decision - a decision which Wheeler says he agrees with, as do I.
If Wheeler puts forth any specific objections to what I have actually argued with regard to federalism and the Constitution, he should state clearly what those objections are, and I'll be happy to respond. If he instead insists on attributing to me views that I do not hold, and then proceeds to proclaim a debate victory after attacking those straw men, I'll probably still summon the will to respond, but please pardon me if my "tone" isn't very cordial.
Response to Alablawg #2: On a debating technique I find to be particularly foul and obnoxious
Next, Wheeler considers a few of my more recent posts. He says that he had intended initially to respond to this post ("Court: Alabama's tax code is Alabama's business")
...and to this one ("Give These Professors an 'F'")
...but decided instead to discuss this one ("Indoctrination 101")
...since it was even more "idiotic" than the first two.
Nonetheless, he spends four paragraphs discussing the two posts that he explicitly said he wasn't going to discuss. Interspersed in those four paragraphs are little ditties like: "What I wanted to say was...", and "I also wanted to take him to task for...", each of which are followed by lengthy diatribes on why I'm such a moron.
Well, I will refrain from discussing how obnoxious this kind of ploy is when you're trying to have a reasonable debate. If I had a mother-in-law, it would remind me of her. I can hear it now: "You know, Lee, I would tell you that you're a big fat lazy slob, but since you're part of the family and all, I can't possibly do that. Still, if I weren't such a nice person and your mother-in-law, I would tell everyone I know that you're a big, fat, lazy slob. And that you hang out with even bigger, fatter, lazier slobs. You disgust me. You're turning gray, too, you know..."
Spare me the condescension, please.
Response to Alablawg #1: On whether Western Civilization and Christianity should be considered "gifts" to the New World
First off, Wheeler regurgitates his response to a post I made last Columbus Day, in which I said that "Columbus and those who followed in his wake brought the gifts of Western civilization and Christianity to formerly savage and heathen lands." He objects to my use of the word "gifts," suggesting that "our ancestors did not 'give' western values to the natives, they slaughtered the natives and then continued to live as westerners but in a new location."
Here, Wheeler sets up a straw man argument - one that I didn't make to begin with - and then proceeds to attack the straw man. He never once refutes my actual position.
I never intended to claim that Columbus, et. al., gave Western civilization and Christianity to the native American peoples. In fact, I tend to agree with Wheeler that such an assertion, were anyone to make it, would be inaccurate, to say the least. Many natives died as a result war and disease that can be directly attributed to the Western colonists. Their civilizations were eradicated and their cultures destroyed. It is hardly fair to call coercion and forced assimilation a "gift." I didn't intend to imply that it was.
My point was that Western civilization and Christianity were "gifts" that the explorers and settlers possessed before they ever set sail, and that they brought those gifts with them to the lands of the New World. It's as simple as that.
Now, I can see why some people wouldn't view Western civilization and Christianity as "gifts," but I do. Christianity, I believe, is a gift from God, while civilization is a gift that finds its origin in our human nature (which is itself a gift from God) and that passes down from generation to generation. Whether the civilization and religion of Western man have always been employed for good purposes is a different question altogether, and while it's an interesting topic, it's one that I did not address.
Quick! Fetch me a paper bag!
Alablawgger Wheeler thinks that I'm hyperventilating.
He basically says that my last three posts have dispelled any lingering doubt that I am an idiotic nitwit worthy of relentless ridicule. And so to defend the honor of ridiculous, idiotic nitwits everywhere, I will now offer a series of responses in which I intend to address Wheeler's arguments (or the lack thereof, as the case may be) as directly and thoroughly as possible.
Fool that I am, I believe that those who engage in civil discourse should generally refrain from making ad hominem arguments against those with whom they disagree. This type of argument - which is directed "against the man" rather than against his argument - is ineffective as a tool of logic and impolite as a tool of rhetoric, tending to escalate even minor disagreements into personal animosity.
Unfortunately, Wheeler hasn't extended me the courtesy of politeness, as a quick reading through his lengthy post* will show. This would only be a minor annoyance if it weren't for the fact that it makes it quite difficult to sift through all the personal insults and name-calling to find the real arguments to which a response is due.
Oh well, I'll try my best. On with the show.
* I hope all will agree that the "length of the post" is quite unreliable as a measure of the man.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
On this day:
To find the latest example of leftist ideology masquerading as scholarship, we don't have to go very far. Undergraduates at the University of Alabama had an opportunity this semester to register for a new class called "Modern Gay America." From the Crimson White:
Suzy Chandler found an accepting community in her history class.It's clear that by "allies," Miss Chandler doesn't mean those among her fellow students who share a love of history. She means her ideological compatriots.
The sophomore in New College, who is gay, said she is enrolled in a Modern Gay America class at the Capstone. Chandler said she heard about the class through Crossroads Community Center, and decided to enroll. She said being able to see where she fits into history is one of the many benefits of the class.
"Most of us have found community in this class," Chandler said. "And there are straight people here, but they are our allies."
In fact, this course has little to do with the scholarly study of history, but is instead entirely devoted to the advocacy of a very narrow view of history in which truth is less important than dogma. The course syllabus lists the following "expected learning outcomes":
1) To acquire an appreciation of the diversity of American identities and experiences particularly the lost history of Gay and Lesbian history, identity, and growth in a culture that ignored, or forget them.Those are the "expected learning outcomes" of a support group, not a history class.
2) To understand a range of cultural artifacts: novels, plays, autobiographies, memoirs, photography, film, painting, and music that one can utilize in the study of the development of an individual and unique Gay and Lesbian community during the 20th century.
3) To understand the connections between such diverse cultural spheres as popular entertainment, consumer culture, the fine arts and broader American cultural values. We also want to look at how Gay and Lesbian people working in secret helped to shape the different emerging American cultural moment that was the 20th century.
"Modern Gay America" may be a topic worth studying, but only in an environment free of ideological blinders and removed from political advocacy. Furthermore, it should be a subject reserved for graduate or post-graduate work. The focus of undergraduate education should be exposure to a broad-based curriculum in the humanities, the sciences, mathematics, and history. For college students to be familiar with the text of the U.S. Constitution is essential. For them to be familiar with the subtexts of the Wizard of Oz is optional.
The introduction of hyper-politicized elective courses into the college curriculum detracts from more serious intellectual pursuits and undermines public confidence in higher education. For those undergrads who are keen to learn about modern gay America, I'd suggest buying a subscription to The Advocate.
Give these professors an "F"
It seems that whenever there is a proposal to raise taxes in Alabama, the most vocal cheerleaders are to be found at the state's major universities. One of the most obvious examples of this occurred back in 2003, when Alabama and Auburn set aside their athletic rivalry to issue what amounted to an institutional co-endorsement of the Amendment One tax increase package proposed by Governor Riley. At the time, some people questioned whether it was appropriate for state-owned institutions to be so heavily involved in a political campaign, but that criticism quieted down after voters dealt the measure a resounding defeat at the polls the following November.
It's neither surprising nor particularly upsetting that so many university faculty members and administrators support higher taxes. Like everyone else, they tend to advocate policies that they perceive to be in their best interests. Many of them also argue that a comprehensive reform of Alabama's tax code would serve the broader public interest. Some of those arguments are very reasonable, others less so, but in any event they contribute to a lively debate. That's a good thing, in my opinion, although I might think otherwise if the would-be tax-hikers were to be more successful at the ballot box.
Or if they were to mount an effort to circumvent the ballot box altogether. Which is exactly what some of them are doing.
A few distinguished professors from Alabama's universities now seek to impose by judicial fiat what they have been unable to accomplish through democratic processes. Last year, seven of them signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiffs in Knight v. Alabama.
In their brief, they argued that Alabama's tax code violates the U.S. Constitution, and that the federal courts should therefore step in to force the state to rewrite those policies, without regard either to the wishes of Alabama's citizens or to the established procedures for amending the state constitution. Luckily for Alabama taxpayers, their arguments were unanimously rejected by a three-judge panel on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but it's worth noting for future reference just who these professors are:
Judge John L. Carroll, Dean and Ethel P. Malugen Professor of Law, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama;These seven professors have sided with a view of the U.S. Constitution that would open the door to permanent and direct federal oversight of tax policies in all fifty states, not just in Alabama. They advocate an unprecedented expansion of federal authority that finds no basis in the text or historical understanding of the U.S. Constitution. In fact, such a federal role was adamantly rejected by those who wrote and ratified the Constitution. If the plaintiffs in Knight and their distinguished friends were to succeed, the states would be relegated to little more than agents of the federal government when it comes to tax policy.
Wayne Flynt, Distinguished University Professor, History, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Charles W. Gamble, Henry Upson Sims Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Susan Pace Hamill, Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Professor Hamill was the primary author of the Brief Amici Curiae in Knight)
Harvey H. Jackson III, Professor and Head, Department of History and Foreign Languages, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama
Norman Stein, Douglas Arant Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Professor
Howard P. Walthall, Sr., Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.
This matters not least because the states serve as crucial intermediaries between individual citizens and the national government. As Hamilton stated in Federalist 28:
Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.
Maintaining the proper constitutional balance between the federal government and the states is essential to the Republic's survival under the present Constitution. That these seven respected and influential professors of law and history would have us deviate so radically from that balance - while caring not a whit for the consequences - is really quite disturbing.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
On this day:
Court: Alabama's tax code is Alabama's business
The latest attempt by the state's would-be tax-hikers to achieve in court what they can't achieve at the ballot box has been rebuffed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Birmingham News reports:
The case is Knight v. Alabama, and the court's opinion is available online here.
A federal appeals court upheld a district court ruling Wednesday that Alabama's property tax system does not cause "the continuing segregation of its colleges and universities."
The ruling was in response to the challenge of the tax system filed by plaintiffs in Alabama's 25-year-old higher education desegregation case, which was settled in December. After a 2004 hearing on the challenge, the presiding district judge in the higher ed case, Harold Murphy, rejected it, and a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with his reasoning.
"We cannot permit federal lawsuits to be transformed into amorphous vehicles for the rectification of all alleged wrongs," wrote 11th Circuit Chief Judge James Edmondson and Judges James Hill and Phyllis Kravitch.
That comment reflected the basic argument of Robert Hunter, who represented the state in the higher ed case and in the property tax challenge.
"We were not trying to solve all the problems of the world or even all the problems of Alabama," Hunter said. "While this may be a problem in Alabama, it's not one that was to be addressed in this litigation." ...
According to the 27-page decision issued by the three-judge panel, the plaintiffs argued that, because Alabama's constitutional limits on property taxes did not provide sufficient funding for K-12 schools, the state had to make up the difference with funds that should have gone to higher education. As a result, colleges and universities had to raise tuition and fewer dollars were available for student aid, and that meant lower black enrollment. ...
The Birmingham News article fails to note just how radical a remedy the plaintiffs sought in this case. For that, we have to read the Court's opinion:
...plaintiffs request an injunction ordering Alabama to fund adequately its system of lower education, and to do so by developing an entirely new method of public school finance in the state. Plaintiffs contend that only the complete reformation of Alabama’s school finance system for lower education –including the invalidation of certain provisions of the Alabama Constitution that limit both the rates and actual revenues from property taxation – will allow the State to raise the revenue necessary to adequately fund its K-12 schools. And, only when Alabama’s public schools are adequately funded, according to plaintiffs, will there be sufficient other funds to achieve the remedial goals of this lawsuit. Therefore, plaintiffs asked the district court to invalidate the property tax limitations of the Alabama Constitution and to enjoin the State to reform its method of public school finance within one year to provide adequate and equitable funding for its K-12 schools.Read through that again and let it sink in. The plaintiffs were asking a group of unelected federal judges to order the State of Alabama to completely rewrite its tax code, without regard to the wishes of the state's citizens, and without regard to the legislative processes established by the Alabama Constitution. There's a old but familiar name for that approach to governing: it's called taxation without representation, and we fought a war over it one time, in case anyone has forgotten.
The idea that the federal courts or any branch of the federal government can compel a state to overhaul its system of taxation is at odds with the U.S. Constitution, both in letter and spirit. The plaintiffs' attorneys in this case should know better. Didn't they attend law school? Haven't they ever read the U.S. Constitution? Are they familiar with the term federalism?
The states are not agencies of the national government. They are sovereign entities which by virtue of their existence possess certain powers that cannot be taken away by any other sovereign authority, including the federal government. Among those inherent powers is the power to tax. In Federalist 32, Alexander Hamilton wrote:
...I am willing here to allow the justness of the reasoning which requires that the individual States should possess an independent and uncontrollable authority to raise their own revenues for the supply of their own wants. And making this concession, I affirm that (with the sole exception of duties on imports and exports) they would, under the plan of the convention, retain that authority in the most absolute and unqualified sense; and that an attempt on the part of the national government to abridge them in the exercise of it would be a violent assumption of power, unwarranted by any article or clause of its Constitution.Did you get that? Under the U.S. Constitution, the states' authority to tax is "independent and uncontrollable," and any attempt by the federal government to control it "would be a violent assumption of power." Mr. Hamilton didn't mince words.
In a footnote to yesterday's opinion, the Eleventh Circuit Court reiterated Hamilton's sentiment by quoting the following from the 1973 Supreme Court opinion in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez:
The consideration and initiation of fundamental reforms with respect to stateIn spite of all this, the lead plaintiff's attorney, Jim Blacksher, is threatening to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt seriously that the Supremes will take the case, but in a way, I hope they do. It'll be fun watching Justice Scalia rip it to shreds.
taxation and education are matters reserved for the legislative processes of the
various States. . . . the need is apparent for reform in tax systems which may well
have relied too long and too heavily on the local property tax. . . . but the ultimate
solutions must come from the lawmakers and from the democratic pressures of those who elect them.
A winter wonderland
Where is all this global warming when you need it? We've got about 3/4 inch of snow on the ground in Huntsville right now.
"A whitewash on global warming?"
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Washington — The Democratic chairman of a House panel examining the government's response to climate change said Tuesday there is evidence that senior Bush administration officials sought repeatedly "to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming."Well, maybe that's because there is still a great deal of doubt surrounding the science of global warming. Few, if any, climatologists would dispute that global temperatures are rising, but as to why that is occurring or the degree to which human beings have either influenced it or can alter its course are questions that science has yet to answer. That's not because the scientists studying Earth's climate are lazy or incompetent. It's due to the fact that their research involves many uncertainties, and it is only recently that they have been supplied with the tools to necessary to turn interesting hypotheses into theories supported by real evidence.
I'm convinced that most climatologists are driven by a sincere desire to uncover the truth about climate change. Further research into the forces that influence the Earth's climate - whether they are natural or the result of human activity - should be welcomed, regardless of our political inclinations. However, there has to be a clear line drawn between the science of global warming and the politics of global warming.
Let's assume for a moment that global warming is a reality and that human activity is a significant cause - both of which seem to be at least somewhat likely. What is the appropriate way for us to react? Although that question should be informed by good science, it is ultimately a political one.
As a conservative, I'm wary of any solution that involves restricting the economic liberties of Americans. That doesn't mean that I am unalterably opposed to government intervention should it become clear that such a course is absolutely necessary, but until then, I'm hesitant to surrender even one degree of liberty in order to prevent a few of degrees of warming.
The Left's proposed solution to global warming involves an unprecedented expansion of government control over the economy. I think that is exactly the wrong solution. It would restrain the economic forces that hold the key to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists say are the culprit for our climatological maladies. If anything, we need a Global Warming Tax Cut and Regulatory Relief package that unleashes the powers of industry to develop cleaner sources of energy and fill production lines with energy-efficient goods.
Free market capitalism has brought a level of material prosperity that extends deeper and wider than ever before in history, and it has consistently proven its superiority to socialism as a means to overcoming technological challenges. Why would we abandon it now?