Thursday, January 31, 2008
On this day:

How did I get on the ACLU mailing list?

I got this invitation to become a card-carrying member of the ACLU via snail-mail today:
The President, Executive Director and Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union are honored to invite Lee P. to full-vested Membership in the American Civil Liberties Union with all the rights and privileges of Membership.
If the ACLU would stand up for the actual Constitution from time to time, as opposed to an emanated and penumbrated version of it that has no basis in the American legal tradition, I might consider the offer. As things stand at the moment, however, I must respectfully decline. Thanks.

Obama strong in Alabama

According to a recent poll, Barack Obama has taken a 5-point lead over Hillary Clinton among those likely to vote in next week's Democratic primary. The main reason for Obama's success appears to be that large numbers of black Democrats have recently switched their preference from Clinton to Obama.
(B'ham News) Potential black voters have surged to Obama's side, according to a poll by Capital Survey Research Center, the polling arm of the Alabama Education Association. Their latest poll, which includes data through Tuesday night, shows Obama with 68 percent of the vote among likely black voters, up from 54 percent three weeks ago and more than double the 26 percent of likely black voters who said a year ago they would support Obama.

Clinton's support among likely black voters has plummeted from a high in September of 41 percent to 16 percent in the latest Capital Survey poll. ...

Obama's support from white voters has slipped by 1 percentage point from earlier this month and is now at 17 percent. Clinton's support has increased by 4 percentage points and now stands at 51 percent.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the outcome of the Democratic primary in Alabama will look very much like it did in South Carolina. Even in a run-of-the-mill primary election, about half of the state's Democratic voters are black. Needless to say, this year's election is different, and Obama's candidacy will undoubtedly produce a bigger than usual turnout among black voters.

So, let me beat Bill Clinton to the punch. Jesse Jackson won the Democratic primary in Alabama in 1984 and 1988, just as he did in South Carolina. Barack Obama will do the same in 2008, but he'll do it in a one-on-one race and he'll do it with significant help from white Democrats. Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson.

One wild-card in all of this is that Alabama has an open primary. Voters are not officially registered by party; they declare their party preference on election day at the polling station.

Since Democrats in Alabama tend to be of the moderate-to-conservative variety, and since there is no center-right Democratic candidate in the running, it seems likely that significant numbers of Democrats will choose to vote in the Republican primary this year - probably for John McCain.

Independents tend to be either on the fringes or in the middle. The fringe voters (which include far-left socialists, far-right kooks, and forever-disgruntled libertarians) will probably stay at home shouting, sulking, and contemplating utopia, like they always do. No harm done there. The straddle-the-fence moderates will mostly split their votes between the two candidates - Obama and McCain - who have pledged to bring an end to "politics as usual." Self-described moderates may have no earthly idea what ending "politics as usual" would actually mean, just that it sounds good. And this year, Obama and McCain sound pretty good.

The upshot is that next Tuesday in Alabama will be a good day for John McCain and an even better one for Barack Obama.

Bubba's coming to town

Hide your women and children! Alert the Neighborhood Watch! Bill Clinton is coming to Huntsville.

Does belief in God cause violence?

Atheist authors like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith), and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) say "yes."

Fr. Edward T. Oakes, one of John Derbyshire's "favorite Papists," refutes them all with a very persuasive"no."

Tax rebates

Reaganomics or Carternomics?

Gloom, despair, and agony

How about a little music to capture the mood?

Two kids sing an old Hee-Haw fave:

Romney's problem

This Corner post by Jonathan Adler (who was then a fellow Fred-head) from a few weeks back pretty much nails my own reservations about Mitt Romney:
What's Romney's problem? For many folks (my self included), it is a perceived insincerity. I too often get the sense that Romney is saying what he thinks folks want to hear instead of what he believes. It isn't just the "evolution" of his views, it is also the small things: The small, subtle exaggerations that arise when Romney is trying to ingratiate himself with various groups. (Remember Romney the life-long hunter?) The blatant pandering to the auto industry in Michigan in a way that suggests some very unconservative views. Romney's MBA style does not help much here, as it reinforces the perception of Romney as someone who solves problems without much regard to underlying ideological principle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
On this day:

Tonight's Republican debate

Earlier this evening at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the four remaining Republican presidential candidates - John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul - engaged in their final debate prior to Super Tuesday.

Here are a few notes and observations:

1) When moderator Anderson Cooper announced that the only rule of the debate would be that "there are no rules," I was glad that I had made that trip to the ABC Store last week. Thankfully, though, it wasn't quite as bad as I had expected. Not that it wasn't bad. It was. But that had more to do with the candidates than the format.

2) I hate sit-down debates, especially when you can see the candidates' legs under the table. "Who's got the widest stance?" should not be a consideration in electing a President.

3) The best debater on the stage tonight was unquestionably Mike Huckabee. He kept his cool and stayed pointed and on message. I'm can't say that he won the debate, but compared to the ill-tempered John McCain and the excitable Mitt Romney, he was certainly the most pleasant to listen to.

4) It's disturbing that John McCain continues to stick by his misleading allegation that Mitt Romney supported a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. It's also disappointing that Mitt Romney couldn't seem to maintain his composure well enough to plainly state what was and is a very reasonable position - a position that differs only slightly, if at all, from that of Sen. McCain.

5) At one point, Ron Paul stated that "the country's in bankruptcy." That's simply untrue. Since I don't think that Ron Paul has a dishonest bone in his body, I can only conclude that he really believes it.

6) Rep. Paul also said that Republicans were elected in 1952 to stop the war in Korea. That's kinda sorta true - Eisenhower did promise to go to Korea to end the war - but the policy he pursued once he got into office was very different from the sort of non-interventionism that Ron Paul preaches today. Eisenhower ended the war short of total victory by signing a cease-fire agreement (after threatening to use nukes), but he didn't leave our South Korean allies to face a hostile neighbor alone. He signed a defense treaty with them, leaving American troops behind to ensure that the cease-fire was enforced and that the advance of Communism in Southeast Asia was contained. It was good that Sen. McCain at least attempted to correct Paul on this point, stating that "Eisenhower didn't bail us out of Korea."

7) Rep. Paul said of Iraq: "They never committed aggression." Oh, really? I seem to remember them invading Kuwait. Following the extraction of Saddam's army from Kuwait, I seem to remember the Iraqis consistently violating the cease-fire that they had signed with Coalition forces by harassing the Coalition planes that patrolled the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. That wasn't aggression?

8) The only candidate who had the right answer to the question about "what makes you more qualified than your opponents to manage our economy?" was Ron Paul. He basically stated that it's not government's job to manage the economy in the first place. Before Rep. Paul's stepped in to correct them, McCain and Romney had flibbed and flubbed and hemmed and hawed, both giving answers that could just as easily have been given by a Democrat. And people wonder why it's so hard to choose a candidate this year. Good grief. With Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

9) McCain and Romney both said they support a so-called fiscal stimulus package, agreeing that gimmicky tax rebates are a good idea to get the economy moving again. It was good to hear Mike Huckabee express doubt as to whether those rebates would be effective, but then he ruined what would have been a good answer by going on (and on and on) to advocate using the money to widen highways and build bridges instead. Then - lo and behold - Ron Paul stepped in with the right answer: cut taxes, cut regulation, cut spending, and get the hell out of the way so that the American people can go about their business.

10) Who won? Hard to say. I think that Mike Huckabee helped himself the most. Ron Paul was Ron Paul. Romney and McCain were almost equally bad, but I have to give McCain the edge in that contest: he seems to breathe utter contempt for the multitudes in his own party who dare to disagree with him.

11) I still don't know who I'm gonna vote for.

And there was great rejoicing

John Edwards is out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
On this day:

Guys who won't grow up

A piece in the latest issue of City Journal asks why so many of today's single young men "hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood." The answer? Because they can.
...this history suggests an uncomfortable fact about the new SYM: he’s immature because he can be. We can argue endlessly about whether “masculinity” is natural or constructed—whether men are innately promiscuous, restless, and slobby, or socialized to be that way—but there’s no denying the lesson of today’s media marketplace: give young men a choice between serious drama on the one hand, and Victoria’s Secret models, battling cyborgs, exploding toilets, and the NFL on the other, and it’s the models, cyborgs, toilets, and football by a mile. For whatever reason, adolescence appears to be the young man’s default state, proving what anthropologists have discovered in cultures everywhere: it is marriage and children that turn boys into men. Now that the SYM can put off family into the hazily distant future, he can—and will—try to stay a child-man. Yesterday’s paterfamilias or Levittown dad may have sought to escape the duties of manhood through fantasies of adventures at sea, pinups, or sublimated war on the football field, but there was considerable social pressure for him to be a mensch. Not only is no one asking that today’s twenty- or thirtysomething become a responsible husband and father—that is, grow up—but a freewheeling marketplace gives him everything that he needs to settle down in pig’s heaven indefinitely.
As the Village People once said, "Young can do whatever you feel."

Forget Generation Y, folks. Make way for Generation YMCA.

Obama in Birmingham

Fresh off his complete shellacking of the Clintons in the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday, Barack Obama visited Birmingham on Sunday, speaking to a packed house of 11,000 at UAB's Bartow Arena. The Birmingham News has more here and here.

The magnitude of Obama's victory in South Carolina will give him tremendous momentum going into Super Tuesday - especially in the South. He didn't just win South Carolina - that was expected - but he won decisively, walking away with a stunning 55% majority of the vote. In a three-candidate race, that sort of landslide is almost unheard of.

The Clintons are spinning Saturday's embarrassment by attributing Obama's victory to the fact that he won a huge percentage of the black vote in a state where most Democratic voters are black. In my view, that's part wishful thinking and part willful deception. Exit polls showed that while Obama did lag behind Clinton and Edwards among white Democrats, he still showed considerable strength - getting about 1/4 of the white vote. In a three-man race, that's not bad, especially considering that John Edwards had the favorite son factor going for him. The idea that Obama can somehow be painted into a corner as a "black candidate" who has little appeal to white Democrats is just not supported by what we've seen so far in this race.

As for me, I can say without a doubt that I won't be supporting Barack Obama for President, but I could easily support him as President. I'm not sure that I could say the same for the Clintons.

Bill Clinton played down Obama's win in South Carolina by reminding everyone that even Jesse Jackson won there twice, in '84 and '88. As the Clintons are finding out, though, Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson. More importantly - for Democrats and for the nation - he is no Billary Clinton.

Saturday, January 26, 2008
On this day:

Mystified city-slickers ask "is it safe to eat squirrels?"

Some folks really need to get out more. Of course it's safe. Not only that, it's tasty. (Just ask Mike Huckabee.) Bread it up real good, add a little salt and garlic, and fry it in a pan till it's golden brown. Make yourself a pot of greens and some cornbread, and you've got yourself a meal fit for a king. Just remember, though - squirrels are pretty small critters. You'll need more than one.

Straight talk?

Not so much, apparently.

The video of the Romney comment in question can be viewed at NRO here. I think that it - along with everything else Gov. Romney has said with respect to Iraq - supports Mark Levin's assessment that this is a low blow from Sen. McCain and a rather shameless mischaracterization of Romney's position.

Friday, January 25, 2008
On this day:

Few and defined?

At first glance, the following three stories appear to have little in common, aside from the fact that they all made news within the past week. Pay particular attention to the bolded sentences, though, and you may just see a common thread. (If not, there's a big hint at the end.)

B'ham News: "Alabama Gov. Bob Riley likely to appeal judicial ruling on Jefferson County Commission appointment"

MONTGOMERY - Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday said he likely will appeal a ruling by a panel of three federal judges that said Riley needed approval from the U.S. Justice Department to appoint George Bowman to the Jefferson County Commission, approval he didn't seek.

"Right now, I think we'll probably appeal it," Riley said, adding that he likely would decide for sure "within the next few days," after meeting with lawyers. ...

Riley on Nov. 21 appointed Bowman, a retired two-star general, to replace Larry Langford, who left the Commission's District 1 seat to become mayor of Birmingham. Langford won the mayor's race on Oct. 9 and took office Nov. 13.

Riley appointed Bowman more than three weeks after the Jefferson County Election Commission on Oct. 29 scheduled a special election Feb. 5 to fill the District 1 seat.

Fred Plump of Fairfield filed suit in November, saying Riley lacked the authority to appoint Bowman.

The three-judge panel on Tuesday agreed with Plump, saying Riley's appointment of Bowman was a change of practice from the early 1980s, when vacancies were filled by holding special elections. The panel said that change of practice, to be valid under federal law, must be approved by the Justice Department or a U.S. district court in Washington.

The department, under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, reviews changes in voting procedures and practices in Alabama. The department can block a change if it decides it would dilute blacks' voting strength.

AP: "Alabama Governor, Transportation Secretary promote toll roads"

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley joined Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Friday to promote toll roads as the answer to highway congestionrather.

Riley said Alabama must pursue toll roads because there is not enough money available through the federal gas tax to fund improvements in heavily congested areas of a growing state.

"We can't just keep waiting on the federal government to send us enough money to complete all these projects. It's not going to happen," Riley said at a news conference with Peters. ...

Peters pledged that the U.S. Department of Transportation will expedite the review of any toll road projects submitted by Alabama.

Huntsville Times: "Searcy purchase a 'win-win'"

Some blighted public housing units downtown will soon be removed as part of a plan to improve drainage and, potentially, line the widened Pinhook Creek with walkways and benches. Officials say the move may even make other flood-threatened land downtown more readily developed.

The City Council on Thursday night authorized a $2.3 million purchase of part of the Searcy Homes housing project near the Holmes Avenue/Pollard Street intersection behind the Coca-Cola building. The 3.73-acre tract includes as many as a dozen of the 22 residential housing units in Searcy. ...

Huntsville Housing Authority officials reported the city's interest in the Searcy property last March but needed an appraisal and HUD approval before proceeding with a sale.

City Planning Director Dallas Fanning said the buy is part of a city-led project to remove structures from flood zones to meet strict FEMA standards. Fanning said the structures will either be razed or relocated so the channel improvements can begin, subject to approval by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.

The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.

- James Madison, Federalist 45

Are you registered to vote in the AL primary yet?

If not, tough.

Washington Times: "Huckabee alienates GOP in Arkansas"

Sour grapes, legitimate gripes, or a little bit of both?

"The Democrats' favorite Republican"

I agree with Rich Lowry that putting an ad like this one on radio or TV would probably be quite effective. Sure, it's a negative ad, but it's neither malicious nor misleading. It's also not the sort of thing that would do great damage to Sen. McCain's chances in November, should he go on to win his party's nomination. Most importantly - at this stage in the race, at least - it would serve to remind Republican voters that Sen. McCain has parted ways with them on a whole host of key issues over the past several years. Like I said last week:
Some people say they're turned off by so-called negative campaigning, but as long as it involves drawing accurate distinctions between candidates, I don't find it objectionable. Mike Huckabee's record is more like that of a Southern Democrat than a Southern Republican, and Republican voters need to know that. Likewise, the press hails John McCain as a "maverick" for one simple reason - he has consistently sided with liberal Democrats on issues ranging from taxes to immigration to health care to global warming. Again, Republican voters need to hear these things. And not just from Rush Limbaugh.

A Father's Heart

Rick Burgess is a familiar name to a lot of Alabamians. He co-hosts the popular syndicated radio show "Rick and Bubba." Through the years, he has brought joy, laughter, and an occasional burst of inspiration into the hearts of his friends and fans.

But saying "friends and fans" doesn't sound quite right, does it? "And" can be a very feeble conjunction sometimes. Everyone knows that a fan of Rick Burgess is also a friend of Rick Burgess. He's just that kind of guy.

This week, as he and his family mourn the loss of his 2-year-old son Bronner, we join them in gratefully celebrating the eternal and ever-loving Heart of a Father - Our Father.

Here's the description of the following three clips:
Rick Burgess, of the Rick & Bubba Show, took the opportunity to speak at the memorial service for his son William Bronner Burgess (also known as "Cornbread" on the show). Bronner had accidentally drowned in the swimming pool at their house. Rick delivers a powerful message showing his family's strong faith in God and helps us to understand what we can do to honor his Father and his son during this earthly tragedy.

In case you didn't already know

Republicans hate children.

The Right way to dispose of a rebate

Brian says he's gonna take his tax rebate and shove it...right into his bank account. And I'll probably do the same. Not necessarily to "send 'em a message," but because it just makes good sense.

Thursday, January 24, 2008
On this day:

The kiss of death for John McCain?

The New York Times has given him its endorsement, thereby managing to make a better case against his nomination than any of his opponents have done thus far in the campaign.
Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.
Hmmm...I didn't realize that big-spending, big-government Republicans were a "small, angry fringe," but if the Times says it, it must be true.
He was an early advocate for battling global warming and risked his presidential bid to uphold fundamental American values in the immigration debate.
Yes, if you believe, as the Times does, that placing additional regulatory burdens on the greatest economic engine the world has ever known is the best way to combat global warming, then Sen. McCain is the man to lead your Great Gaian fleet into battle. If, on the other hand, you believe that innovation and technology are the keys to developing cleaner and more efficient uses of energy resources, then you might consider another candidate.

Likewise, if you believe that "fundamental American values" include open borders, unlimited immigration, and amnesty for illegal aliens, then Sen. McCain is among the best the GOP has to offer.
He has been a staunch advocate of campaign finance reform, working with Senator Russ Feingold, among the most liberal of Democrats, on groundbreaking legislation, just as he worked with Senator Edward Kennedy on immigration reform.
The McCain-Feingold Act was indeed groundbreaking legislation. It was also Constitution-breaking legislation: a direct affront to the very core of free speech protected by the First Amendment. If you believe that the guarantee of free speech extends to strippers, porn peddlers, and New York Times editors, but not to those who engage in the old-fashioned American tradition of proclaiming their political preferences in public, then Sen. McCain is your hands-down best choice. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge that the First Amendment protects political speech above all other forms, then here's a word of advice to keep you out of the McCain memorial brig: just don't dare say so (at least not loudly enough for anyone to hear) within 90 days of an election.

I said the other day that in light of Fred Thompson's departure from the race, I'm taking a second look at Sen. McCain. That hasn't changed, but as you may be able to guess, if I do end up voting for him, I won't like it a bit.

Sen. Sessions on immigration

Alabama's Jeff Sessions has been an invaluable contributor to the ongoing intraparty debate among Republicans over illegal immigration. Concerned that the issue hasn't received enough attention in the campaign, Sessions has come up with a list of questions for the candidates. (H/T: Degree of Madness.)

Economists weigh in on the fiscal stimulus plan

Greg Mankiw:
"...given where the economy is right now and the best forecasts of where it is heading, the fiscal package seems unnecessary as a short-run measure, while in the long run adding to the debt burden without doing anything to improve incentives for economic growth."

Russ Roberts:
"...stimulus schemes based on giving people money have a poor track record of energizing the economy. Usually, the only thing that gets stimulated is a politician's approval rating."
Don Boudreaux:

"To no one's surprise, politicians are rushing in with various plans for helping the economy. Most of these plans involve "stimulus." The calls are loud to put more money into the hands of ordinary Americans in hopes that they will spend – not save – it, thereby boosting the overall economy.

"Such stimulus, however, is futile. Government cannot create genuine spending power; the most it can do is to transfer it from Smith to Jones. If the Treasury sends a stimulus check to Jones, the money comes from taxes, from borrowing, or is newly created. ...

"The best way for policymakers to foster... growth is to avoid panicking over any current economic downswing. Instead, they should focus on getting the economic fundamentals right. Such emphasis might not make things better – or even make things appear to be better – today, but it will make our tomorrows as bright as possible."
Alex Tabarrok:

"As the economy slows many people from Larry Summers to Martin Feldstein are calling for a fiscal stimulus. I am not convinced. Spending and tax decisions can rarely boost an economy.

"First, the money for any new spending or tax cuts has got to come from somewhere, right? Thus there is usually substantial crowding out of any stimulus.

"Second, by the time the new spending or tax cut gets through the political process the economy has moved on and the stimulus is no longer relevant except by accident.

"Third, there just isn't that much discretionary spending to play with and even a large increase in spending, say tens of billions, is too small to make much of a difference in a 13 trillion dollar economy.

"Fourth, in their desperation to "do something" politicians will often do something foolish. If a spending increase or tax cut isn't worthwhile on its own merits then it's highly unlikely to be worthwhile once we add in the benefits of "stimulus." Thus, it's one thing to argue for extending unemployment benefits as a matter of welfare it's quite another to think that an increase in unemployment benefits will so increase spending as to reduce unemployment! (The implicit view of Larry Summers.)

"Economists may call for "temporary," "conditional," and "targeted" stimulus but they won't be the ones designing the plan. Spending increases and tax cuts are policies with long term consequences that we need to think about carefully.

"Thus, I do not favor a fiscal "stimulus" package."

Bruce Bartlett:

"In short, there is virtually no empirical evidence that tax rebates are an effective response to economic slowdowns. The increased personal saving doesn't help the economy because the federal budget deficit, which can be thought of as negative saving, offsets all of it in the aggregate. The main benefit of a tax rebate would seem to be political -- giving politicians a way of appearing to be doing something about the nation's economic problems that is superficially plausible.

"A new rebate probably won't do much harm. But anyone who thinks it will prevent a recession -- if one is actually in the pipeline, which is not at all certain -- is dreaming."
Arnold Kling:

If unemployment were to spike up toward 10 percent, I would be very sympathetic to attempting Keynesian remedies, including monetary expansion and deficit spending. But for now, the main "crisis" motivating "stimulus" is the fact that this is an election year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
On this day:

Stimulate this

The President and Congress have apparently reached an agreement on a fiscal stimulus package. I haven't seen the details yet, but I heard it may involve a $300 tax rebate for most taxpayers and plenty of other such gimmicks and goodies, all of which will do more to stimulate politicians' poll numbers than they will to stimulate the economy.

Roe v. Wade at 35 years

Tuesday was the 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. While I'm on the topic of federalism, I would be remiss not to mention the obvious: that the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade was an egregious violation of the federalist principles of the Constitution. It should be overturned, and the power to regulate (or not to regulate) abortion should be returned to the states, where it rightfully belongs.

Why not Mike Huckabee?

One of the things that bothers me about Mike Huckabee is that he seems to underestimate the importance of federalism to American liberty. Huckabee is by no means alone in holding this view, nor is he the worst offender. The modern Democratic Party often seems almost contemptuous of federalism at times. Likewise, President Bush proved that he was no federalist when he proposed and signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, which vastly expanded federal power over education policy.

Anyway, back to Mr. Huckabee. The following is from a Christian Post article dated Tuesday, January 22:

The “Rediscovering God in America” pastor's conference, hosted by the influential American Family Association, featured Huckabee Monday and will present former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as Tuesday’s keynote speaker.

Huckabee, who said he was not there as a presidential candidate, warmed up his conservative audience by declaring that overturning the Roe v. Wade court ruling was not enough because it would leave individual states to decide their own laws on abortion – a moral issue where there is a right and a wrong, he contends. He argues that a constitutional amendment that defines life at conception is necessary to prevent “50 versions of right and wrong.”

“How could we expect God’s future blessing on this country if we cannot come to the logical conclusion that every life He creates He creates with the same equal intrinsic value and worth as another?” Huckabee asked.

I'll give Huckabee this much. At least he supports actually amending the Constitution in order to achieve his social objectives instead of seeking to impose them by judicial fiat. I can't say the same of most liberals. But, the idea that it is somehow a bad thing for the states to decide what to do about contentious social and legal issues such as abortion should be heresy to conservatives.

Restoring the proper balance between the federal government and the states is important not because it is part of some partisan ideology that we conservatives have embraced in order to smite and oppress liberals, but because it serves the long-term objective of preserving the Union.

We don't talk much about "preserving the Union" these days, because there aren't very many people who openly advocate disunion. That hasn't always been the case, of course, and one would be naive to believe that it will continue to be the case in the future. One virtue of federalism - of a constitutionally-enforced balance of power between sovereign governments - is that it provides political stability. In an extended republic like the United States, that is extremely important. James Madison touched on this topic in Federalist 10. I won't quote from it, but if you haven't read it, you ought to. It has a great deal of relevance to the Red State-Blue State divide that is so prevalent in our politics today, and it suggests that the means by which that divide should be addressed lies in adhering to the Constitution and to its principles.

One of those principles is federalism. In the United States, federalism doesn't encompass just "states' rights," nor is it limited to "federal supremacy." Its essence - as it was so artfully crafted in the U.S. Constitution - lies in achieving a proper balance between the two.

Mike Huckabee claims that there can't possibly be “50 versions of right and wrong.” As a moral absolutist, I agree with that absolutely. However, I also believe that man possesses a free will and a somewhat defective conscience. That means that he is prone to disagree with his fellow man about what is right and what is wrong. The Framers of our Constitution understood that fact quite well, and they provided us a way to relieve the tensions that they knew would arise from time to time. It's called federalism, and I think all of us - whether we're liberals or conservatives or fence-straddling moderates - ought to rediscover it.

Why not Ron Paul?

Here's a hastily-written comment I made to the previous post:
I do love Ron Paul, but I won't be supporting him for President. He advocates a foreign policy of radical "non-interventionism" that would leave our allies to fend for themselves. Everyone knows that he supports an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. What some folks don't know is that he also supports the unilateral withdrawal of American troops from South Korea, Europe, and Japan. He believes we should withdraw from NATO and that we should repeal the Taiwan Relations Act.

Rep. Paul advocates free trade, but he doesn't seem to understand how the global American military presence and our treaty obligations are essential to actually securing free trade. If the U.S. withdraws from NATO and brings our troops home, as Rep. Paul would have us do, what does that do for Europe's ability to deal with a Russian Bear that is waking from its temporary hibernation? If the U.S. withdraws its forces from South Korea, how on earth does that serve to promote commerce between our two nations when the immediate impact of such a withdrawal would be to allow South Korea's more militarily powerful neighbors - North Korea and China - to fill the void created by the U.S.'s absence?

Let's not forget that today's world is one in which an all-out nuclear exchange between adversaries would take place in the space of minutes, not hours. Defense and deterrence require military alliances. International knitting clubs and global flea markets are fine and dandy, but it takes guns and armor to protect them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008
On this day:

Dad-gummit, Fred!

Wouldn't you know it? Not two weeks after I endorse someone for President, he goes and drops out of the race.

I'm not alone in believing that the Republican nomination could have been Fred's for the taking. He is a conservative in both political philosophy and personal temperament: the sort of conservative who could unite the various factions of the Republican Party in a way that is simply inconceivable with any one of the other candidates. Those who listened to Thompson on the campaign trail and in the debates know him to be a passionate and effective advocate of limited government, federalism, free markets, and a thoughtful, balanced foreign policy of peace through strength. They also know him to be a man of quiet confidence in American exceptionalism, willing and able to challenge those who call for radical changes to American society and government, even when those changes stand recklessly opposed to good reason and good government.

Unfortunately, Fred Thompson didn't catch fire with Republican voters. They liked him. They were intrigued by him. But they apparently weren't convinced that he had what it took to make it to the White House. Some say he got into the race too late...a few even say he got in too early. Either way, pretty much everyone agrees that he failed to campaign aggressively enough. While he won voters' sympathy, he didn't win their votes.

I'm disappointed that Thompson decided to drop out before I had a chance to vote for him on February 5, but I don't regret giving him what little support I could - even if it was for only two weeks. I still think that of all the candidates running this year - Republican or Democrat - Fred Thompson would make the best President. In fact, if the Alabama Republican Party's ballots have already been printed up, I'm good-minded to vote for him anyway, whether he likes it or not.

But that would be a symbolic vote...maybe even a protest vote...and certainly a wasted vote. And I prefer not to waste my vote. I guess that means it's back to square one, and it's a really tough decision.

As bad as I hate to say it, I'm leaning towards McCain. There are lots of reasons why I can't get excited about John McCain. First and perhaps foremost, I view the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act as one of the most brazen attacks on the First Amendment since the Sedition Act. He also opposed the Bush tax cuts, condemning them with just the sort of class-warfare language we've come to expect from Democrats. His preferred response to climate change is to enact regulations that would impede the private sector's ability to develop new technologies to combat it. Just last year, he supported an immigration policy that would amount to amnesty for illegal aliens, all but accusing the many opponents of his plan of racism. A year ago, I would've been in the "Anyone But McCain" crowd, but I can't say that anymore. As things stand now, I'm giving him a second look, for three reasons:

1) I am convinced that a McCain presidency would be vastly preferable to a Clinton or Obama presidency, 2) I'm almost convinced that McCain has the best chance of any of the remaining Republican contenders to win the election in November, and 3) I reject the self-defeating notion that somehow electing a Democrat in 2008 would actually be good for conservatism.

Coalition politics is a nasty thing sometimes, but in a republic such as ours, I don't see much of an alternative besides sitting on the sidelines symbolically protesting with a stream of wasted votes. In today's world, with all its threats and challenges, that's just not a responsible alternative.

Sunday, January 20, 2008
On this day:

Obama gives a sermon

But we don't dare call him a "Christianist," do we Andrew?

Know hype.


In Sister Act, there were singing nuns. Here are some signing nuns.

Saturday, January 19, 2008
On this day:

Who made Huckabee?

Was it Conan or Colbert?

Farewell to the Houndstooth

They demolished the #1 college bar in America this week. Now, all that's left is memories. Sure, they're building it back, but it'll never be the same. And they call this progress?

I'm usually not one to promote conspiracy theories, but I'll bet you a helping of the most outstanding barbecue nachos in the world (from that little place next door to the Tooth whose name I always forget) that the University had its weasely hands all over this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
On this day:

Thompson's latest (and last?) South Carolina campaign ads

South Carolina Republicans go to the polls this Saturday, and Thompson's latest ads look pretty effective. See here and here.

Polls of South Carolina Republicans still show Mike Huckabee and John McCain well ahead of Thompson, but both Huckabee and McCain are vulnerable on a host of issues that Thompson has been making it a point to talk about on the campaign trail. He's been hitting John McCain on immigration and Mike Huckabee on damned near everything (except perhaps the Confederate flag). I still can't figure out why Fred and others haven't made more of Huckabee's atrocious record on pardons, though, especially the Wayne Dumond case.

Some people say they're turned off by so-called negative campaigning, but as long as it involves drawing accurate distinctions between candidates, I don't find it objectionable. Mike Huckabee's record is more like that of a Southern Democrat than a Southern Republican, and Republican voters need to know that. Likewise, the press hails John McCain as a "maverick" for one simple reason - he has consistently sided with liberal Democrats on issues ranging from taxes to immigration to health care to global warming. Again, Republican voters need to hear these things. And not just from Rush Limbaugh.

Huckabee: Decision to fly the Confederate flag is for SC'ians to decide

As, of course, it is. And I don't see how saying so amounts to "repulsive pandering."

Rudy Giuliani faced a similar controversy last April when he visited Montgomery.

Like Alabama, South Carolina has reached a moderate and altogether reasonable compromise on this issue. In both states, some version of the Confederate battle flag now flies on the grounds of each State Capitol alongside memorials to Confederate troops. That seems to me to be an appropriate way to display it. (It's also very much preferable to flying it above a state Capitol, and I'm glad that both Alabama and South Carolina have decided to stop doing that.)

I'm not sure exactly what those who accuse Huckabee and Giuliani of "pandering" with respect to the flag would prefer for them to say. Neither the President, nor Congress, nor the federal courts have the constitutional authority to do anything about it one way or the other. As far as the federal government is concerned, it's a moot issue. In fact, if either candidate had said the flag should be removed, they could rightly have been accused of pandering to those who unreasonably object to any display of the flag.

NASA visits Mercury for first time in 33 years

There are lots of pictures and info from NASA's Messenger mission here.

Snow in the forecast

Guess it may be time to head to Wal-Mart to stock up on milk and bread.

From the National Weather Service:



Wednesday, January 16, 2008
On this day:

The 305

This has potential.

Sunday, January 13, 2008
On this day:

New York Times: A combative Thompson sways voters

I can't help thinking (and hoping) that there are many more stories like this one out there:
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — John and Ann Berenberk dutifully watched the umpteenth Republican presidential debate on television on Thursday night and had an epiphany. It was about the candidate they had previously referred to as the tall, silent one. Fred D. Thompson.

The last of the candidates to enter the race, Mr. Thompson, 65, a former Tennessee senator, has so far seemed to distinguish himself mainly by a laconic style that has made him almost invisible beside the others on the stage in past debates, the Berenberks said.

“But then last night — we hadn’t even been thinking about him — all of a sudden it was clear he was the one,” said Mr. Berenberk, a retired teacher. “The bluntness, the forcefulness. He was really impressive.”

Mike Huckabee: Holy roller?

Note to Andrew Sullivan (re: this post):

Mike Huckabee is a Southern Baptist, and Southern Baptists are most certainly not "holy rollers."

Allow me to explain.

If a Southern Baptist so much as claps in church, he'll feel guilty about it all week. If, on the other hand, he gorges himself afterwards at the covered dish dinner in the fellowship hall, he'll only get a tad of heartburn.

All good Baptists will extend the right hand of fellowship to Brother So-and-So who says "Amen" at the high points of the preacher's sermon, but the deacons may suspect that he's a Charismatic.

In a Baptist church, you should never wave your hands during a worship service. Tapping your feet to "Power in the Blood" is one thing, but hand-waving during of these new-fangled praise hymns is quite another. Occasionally, you may be asked to raise one hand in response to a question from the preacher, but only while "every head is bowed and every eye is closed." For born-again Baptists, this part of the service can sometimes be quite uncomfortable, depending on the question. It's kind of like meeting another Baptist in the liquor store. The rule - understood by all - is "don't peek," but if you do, at least don't tell anyone what you saw.

Anyway, Brother Andrew, if you're looking for the holy rollers, you'll have to go down the street a little ways from Brother Huck's church. You'll find them at the First United Pentecostal Apostolic Holiness Church of Oneness in Jesus's Name. Hope you're not scared of snakes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008
On this day:

Fred's best movie moments

Well, "best" is a relative term. But hey, Ronald Reagan was the Erroll Flynn of B movies, right?

Here's a shot from one of those movies ("Barbarians at the Gate") that I'm sure we'll be seeing more of if the Thompson campaign takes off:

Thompson: Kill the Terrorists, Protect the Borders, Punch the Hippies


Fred on freedom and federalism

Of all the candidates for President, Republican or Democrat (with the possible exception of Ron Paul), I think that Fred Thompson best understands the proper constitutional role of the federal government. This video shows why. (YouTube alert.)

Friday, January 11, 2008
On this day:

Human Events endorses Thompson


Thursday, January 10, 2008
On this day:

Tonight's Republican debate

Who said politics can't be fun? Tonight's South Carolina debate was just good entertainment. These guys really looked like they were enjoying themselves. The questions were good and there was lots of give-and-take between the candidates, all of which will be very helpful to those Republican voters who are still undecided about which candidate to support.

I'm also pretty pepped because my guy - Fred Thompson - had a superb performance. He was calm, cool, and collected, and he once again proved himself to be as conservative in demeanor as he is in politics. That's why I like him, and I think that lots of Republicans - including the good folks over at National Review (who have endorsed Gov. Romney) - may be rethinking their endorsements after tonight. I'm feeling pretty darn good about mine, though.

Fascism with a smiley face

I'm looking forward to reading Jonah Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism, which I picked up at Barnes and Noble today. It must be selling pretty well here in Huntsville, since mine was the last copy on the shelves.

I've often wondered how Fascism and Nazism have become so widely viewed as Rightist ideologies when on their face they seem to have had much more in common with the political philosophies of the revolutionary Left. For instance, wasn't the Nazi party the National Socialist German Worker's Party? How on God's Red Earth can socialism of any brand be rightfully labeled as conservative? And how can any intellectually honest person associate mainstream American conservatism with either Fascism or Nazism?

Those are among the questions that Goldberg addresses in his book. The following paragraph is from the introduction:
If fascism does come to America, it will indeed take the form of "smiley-face fascism" - nice fascism. In fact, in many respects fascism not only is here but has been here for nearly a century. For what we call liberalism - the refurbished edifice of American Progressivism - is in fact a descendant and manifestation of fascism. This doesn't mean it's the same thing as Nazism. Nor is it the twin of Italian Fascism. But Progressivism was a sister movement of fascism, and today's liberalism is the daughter of Progressivism. One could strain the comparison and say that today's liberalism is the well-intentioned niece of European fascism. She is hardly identical to her uglier relations, but she nonetheless carries an embarrassing family resemblance that few will admit to recognizing.
That's serious stuff, and this is a serious book. While it may serve as red meat for conservatives, it should also provide food for thought for thoughtful liberals. For more, see Jonah's new Liberal Fascism blog over at National Review Online.

Fred Thompson for President

I feel like the Fred Thompson of Bama blogging these days. It seems that I've been blogging about as much as he's been campaigning. It should come as no surprise to anyone, then, that I've decided to support a fellow slacker for the Republican presidential nomination. You call that identity politics, I guess.

Fred Thompson is somewhat of a dark horse in the Republican race at the moment. As things stand, his prospects look pretty grim. Huckabee's win in Iowa, McCain's win in New Hampshire, and Romney's second place finish in both states have put Fred at the bottom of the bottom tier of candidates, at least according to the piffle that passes for conventional wisdom these days. We'll soon see how accurate that conventional wisdom turns out to be, but at some point you have to put the various media and poll-driven factors like "electability" and "likeability" into their proper perspective and go out on a limb for the guy who you can endorse with a clear conscience. For me, that's Fred Thompson.

So, why Fred?

Because I'm a Reagan conservative. That doesn't mean that I've spent these last several months searching high and low for the next Ronald Reagan from among the Republican candidates. I haven't been doing that because that man doesn't exist. Only Reagan was Reagan. He was a man uniquely suited to the era in which he served. The times have changed since then, and our politicians have changed with the times.

However, the conservative coalition Reagan helped to build is still a viable force in American politics and one that can still win elections, for the simple reason that its principles are still viable, being firmly rooted in the American constitution and having as their highest goal none other than the preservation of American liberty. Of all the candidates seeking the presidency, it seems to me that Fred Thompson is the one whose vision most solidly adheres to those principles.

Many people nowadays have bought into the notion that conservatives are mainly concerned with "God, guns, and gays," as Howard Dean famously quipped a few years back. Anyone who has paid the least bit of attention to what "movement conservatives" actually talk about knows that that's not remotely accurate, although I have to admit that it could seem otherwise to those whose views of conservatism are shaped by the loudmouths who regularly appear on the 24/7 news networks and who inhabit the remote corners of the right-wing blogosphere. It's not that disputes over God, guns, and gays don't raise important questions of public policy. It's just that the broader issues of freedom, federalism and foreign policy are much more important to most mainstream conservatives. And it's on those issues that I think Fred Thompson shines.

Anyway, I'll have plenty more to say on all of this in the coming weeks with the approach of Super Tuesday on February 5, the date when Alabamians are set to cast their votes in the presidential primaries. For now, if you're interested in what Fred has to say, see his campaign web site.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008
On this day:

Happy New Year

I hope everyone has had plenty of time to recover from the holidays. If you're like me, you ate too much, drank too much, and your wallet's nursing a hangover. It was loads of fun, but thank goodness it's over. Now, we can all return to normalcy. It's in with the old and out with the new! Happy 2008!