Friday, December 31, 2004

Hope for a new year

2005 will arrive in a few minutes, and like every new year, it will carry with it the promise of a clean slate and a fresh dose of hope for a better tomorrow. Chances are, of course, that with people being the fallible creatures they are, not much will change any time soon. Still, each new year nonetheless feels like a new beginning, another opportunity to change directions, another opportunity to right our wrongs and heal old wounds.

This year was marked by division: red vs. blue, pro-war vs. anti-war, Yankees vs. Red Sox. The country is split in two, and we need healing more than ever before. For now, there's hope that we can leave the hatred and division behind and start anew in the days and months to come. It's the hope of every New Year's Eve. It's the kind of hope that all of us could use right about now.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best in 2005. Happy New Year, everyone.

Operation CYA

Want to place yourself above the law? Just get elected to Congress.

The Washington Post reports today that House Republicans are planning a rules change that would essentially allow House members to get away with egregious ethics violations as long as their party refused to investigate them. The proposal comes a little more than a month after the GOP voted to allow party leaders to retain their posts even if they are indicted on felony charges. That move, of course, aimed to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who is at the center of a criminal investigation that has led to the indictments of three of his associates on money-laundering charges.

The Post's story also reveals that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., plans to replace House Ethics Committee chairman U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., who led the committee when DeLay was admonished twice earlier this year. The likely new chairman? U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who just so happens to be one of DeLay's buddies from Texas.

How convenient. But hey, I'm sure our venerable elected officials have nothing to hide and are acting entirely in our best interests.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Un-American graffiti

It's one of the hottest new weapons in the U.S. military's war arsenal in Iraq. It can fire an almost non-stop barrage at the push of a button. And it's available for a few bucks at Wal-Mart.

You guessed it: It's spray paint.

When they have a spare moment, U.S. soldiers have taken to covering anti-American graffiti that encourages violence against troops or that seeks to intimidate Christians or potential voters or anyone who doesn't want to join the insurgency. The soldiers try to get shopkeepers and area residents to help them identify the graffiti artists, but everyday Iraqis, fearing retribution from their society's more dangerous elements, generally keep quiet.

The spray-paint operation, of course, is part of the much-hyped "battle for hearts and minds" in Iraq. And just like that battle, the graffiti probably isn't going away any time soon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Treason is punishable by death, you liberal

And if you forgot that fact, a number of barely coherent people with dubious critical-thinking skills are happy to remind you.

The story began when USA Today founder Al Neuharth, a World War II veteran, wrote in a Dec. 22 column that the best way for the U.S. government to support the troops would be to bring them home from Iraq "sooner rather than later." Editor & Publisher published a brief mention of the column shortly thereafter.

Then, as often happens, the Internet got involved. The column and the E&P piece traveled quickly through the blogosphere and prompted a huge number of responses, particularly from Iraq war proponents. I'm sure many of them were rational, but a good number were downright scary. E&P Editor Greg Mitchell shared a few of the most sickening ones in his column today.

How disturbing are the thought patterns of the letter writers, you ask? One resorted to the hackneyed accusation that Neuharth is "un-American," while another suggested that liberals supported World War II because their goal was not to defeat Germany and Japan but to protect communism. An Iowan, meanwhile, noted astutely that because of Neuharth, "the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now!" Oh, and they're going to bomb McDonald's. Maybe the mall, too.

At least four respondents accused Neuharth and/or Mitchell of treason, including the hands-down overreaction winner, who predicted, "The Patriot Act will put both of you on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business." The writer, always gracious in victory, went on to say, "We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with (sic) before we put you on death row after a fair trial."

Well, at least they'd get a fair trial before they were slaughtered for daring to disagree with some random dude. After all, he wouldn't want to be unreasonable.

Vacation -- all I ever wanted

Why is the United States initially pledging only about half as much as Spain to help the victims of the South Asia earthquake and tsunamis that killed more than 100,000 people this week and left millions homeless? And why did President Bush wait until today to make a public statement on the disaster? Both are good questions, but the answers lead in dramatically different directions.

The low initial relief aid number, which has been much bandied about in the press today, looks bad on the surface, but it likely isn't indicative of the amount of aid that the U.S. government intends to give. Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the few remaining Bush administration officials still held in wide international esteem, estimated that U.S. assistance to the tsunami victims will eventually exceed $1 billion, and I suspect he's right. Common sense also dictates that relief money can't be spent effectively before officials can set up the infrastructure to disburse aid where it is needed most. Bush's failure not to pledge hundreds of millions of dollars up front might be a public-relations gaffe, but it likely doesn't suggest an unwillingness to help.

What's more troubling is that Bush didn't comment publicly on the destruction until today, three days after the monster waves crashed down on thousands of unsuspecting people. Swift condolences from a U.S. president admittedly provide little direct comfort to disaster victims half a world away, but they mean a lot to those countries' leaders, and it's hard to underestimate their importance in maintaining our country's international image as a place full of caring, generous people. The United States has some fences to mend after the Iraq war, and a quick expression of sympathy for earthquake victims in Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation, certainly could have helped.

As it is, Bush's delay gives the world the impression that a natural disaster with a six-digit death toll just isn't enough for the leader of the most powerful nation in the world to interrupt his vacation.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Claim your free gift for reading the site

I have 10 Gmail invitations to give away, and my loyal readers -- i.e., anyone who has ever read the site -- will get first priority. Submit a comment below or e-mail me at the address below the links section to claim your prize.

I hope to begin the presidential candidate series tomorrow, so nominate someone in a hurry if you feel like it. If not, I'll continue writing for no one in particular.

Now for an overblown Rumsfeld non-scandal

It's sad that with all of the material abundantly available for stories questioning Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's job performance, the media have seized upon a non-issue instead.

During a surprise Christmas Eve trip to Iraq that seemed conveniently timed to counteract the growing criticism of his flawed war planning, Rumsfeld talked about United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a cornfield during the 9/11 attacks after passengers rebelled against the hijackers. In a poor choice of words, he said that "the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania" that day.

The conspiracy crowd immediately claimed the comment proved that the government shot down the plane. Um, right, except that the way I read the quotation, it would suggest that if anyone was shooting down planes, it was terrorists. There are Freudian slips and there are slips of the tongue. It'll be a sad day when people can no longer tell the difference.

Rumsfeld is in the middle of enough scandals as it is. Don't divert attention from the real ones to go on a wild goose chase.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Because I like tying up loose ends

Back in the olden days of this site's infancy, I vowed to you, my loyal readers, that I would provide some analysis of the major -- and not so major -- potential 2008 presidential candidates. I even put up a post to solicit nominations in the comments. A few of you graciously responded. And then, nothing.

Well, it's time to follow through on my promise. This week, I finally hope to churn out a series of posts replete with my analysis and commentary on the potential candidates, their chances of running, and their chances of success if they do. I'll start with the Democrats, then the Republicans, then a few wild card entries from the third-party and independent ranks. As I pledged, I'll include all of the possibilities submitted earlier. I'll also pick a number of candidates on my own.

Consider this post another chance for you to submit nominations. I'll consider and analyze the chances of anyone mentioned in the comments to this post in the next few days, so go to town.

Ever wonder why judges' robes are black?

Me neither. But in case you have nothing better to do, you can find the answer in this Mobile Register piece, which I assume was prompted by the ongoing debate over Covington County Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan's courtroom apparel embroidered with the Ten Commandments. Either that or Christmas Eve was a really slow news day by the bay.

And yes, as you might have suspected, the British are to blame.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

For the rest of us

No holiday season would be complete without a visit from our good friend Festivus.

The festival for the rest of us, popularized -- indeed, created -- by the sitcom Seinfeld, recently found itself at the center of a church-state battle in Polk County, Fla. Commissioners there decided to break the impasse by turning a public area near the courthouse into a public forum for all kinds of holiday displays, and a quick-witted TV fan swiftly erected a sign in honor of Festivus. Unfortunately, no one came forward to claim the sign, so it will survive no longer on the public square.

The spirit of Festivus lives on, however, aided in part by the tongue-in-cheek Associated Press story above, which devotes a full paragraph to detailing the holiday's traditions, including "accusing others of being a disappointment and wrestling."


Blogging may be light for the next couple of days thanks to the holiday festivities. (Then again, it may not, but I thought I'd cover my bases anyway.) In case I don't get another chance to say it to all of my loyal readers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kool Kwanzaa, Rockin' Ramadan, and, yes, Fabulous Festivus.

Know thine enemy -- but how?

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong played all kinds of dirty tricks on American soldiers. They rigged bamboo maces and crossbows to concealed tripwires. They placed "punji sticks," sharpened bamboo spikes dipped in feces, in hidden pits to pierce troops' feet and cause dangerous infections. And perhaps most notoriously, they often dressed like innocent Vietnamese civilians and ambushed unsuspecting American soldiers.

Sadly, it seems the Iraqi insurgents are quickly picking up on the VC's kind of thinking.

U.S. military investigators now believe the explosion that killed 22 people at a mess tent in Mosul, Iraq, on Tuesday is attributable to a suicide bomber dressed in an Iraqi army uniform. Authorities think the bomber was an insurgent who infiltrated the Iraqi army and somehow slipped through the background checks performed on Iraqis before they receive access to U.S. military installations. Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, blamed himself for the security holes that led to the bombing. I commend him for admitting he made a mistake, and I hope some senior Bush administration officials were paying attention to how this "accepting responsibility" thing works.

President Bush is clinging tenaciously to his self-imposed Jan. 30 deadline for holding an Iraqi election. I have to wonder, though, how Bush can expect Iraqis to vote in peace across the country next month when insurgents won't even let American troops have lunch in peace on their own base right now. In fact, it's getting ever tougher for our forces on the ground to tell the difference between civilians and insurgents, between allies and enemies, between uniformed Iraqi soldiers and terrorists in disguise.

The Jan. 30 deadline falls squarely between Bush's second inauguration and the first State of the Union address of his second term. Make of that what you will.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Burn, baby, burn

The Associated Press just poured some gasoline on the Bowl Championship Series formula and struck a match.

Tired of the intense public scrutiny and vitriol directed at the voters in its college football poll, the AP lawyered up Tuesday and officially asked BCS organizers to stop using the poll as part of their formula to determine the participants in the national championship game. The media poll represented one-third of teams' BCS rankings, and its departure leaves a devastating hole in the formula that even 1,000 computers just can't fill.

A large majority of college football fans -- myself included -- despise the BCS, and the AP's cease-and-desist letter expressed concern that "any animosity toward BCS may get transferred to AP." The wire service never agreed to be part of the BCS, and with the formula's bad reputation at an all-time high in a year when an undefeated major-conference team got shut out of a title shot, AP officials correctly decided to dissociate from the BCS.

This is certainly bad news for the BCS, and anything that's bad for that jury-rigged travi-sham-mockery of a postseason system makes me happy. BCS officials are now suggesting the creation of a human selection committee to pick the teams for major bowls. That'll be great, at least until scorned fans of the No. 3 team begin to direct their unadulterated rage and accusations of bribery or regional bias toward the few people foolish enough to agree to serve on the committee.

We won't see a playoff anytime soon, but thanks to the AP's decision, at least we can bide our time by laughing as the latest incarnation of the BCS formula burns gloriously to the ground.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A very bad day in Iraq

A mortar attack on a U.S. military mess tent in Mosul, Iraq, today killed at least 24 people and injured more than 60. The dead include members of the U.S. and Iraqi armies, as well as seven employees of Halliburton subsidiary KBR. Today's attack came close on the heels of two car bombings that killed 67 people Monday in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Iraq is a bloody place, and it looks like it's getting more dangerous by the minute. I'll have more thoughts later, but for now, I send my condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

Monday, December 20, 2004

'A caring fellow' indeed

President Bush called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "a caring fellow" during a White House press conference today. "I have heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way," Bush said. He also said that under Rumsfeld's "rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about our military and deeply about the grief that war causes."

Really? Because it seems odd that a man who cares so much about protecting American soldiers from harm wouldn't have ensured that the Defense Department met its self-imposed deadline almost five months ago to put armor on all vehicles used in war zones. And it's more than a little strange that a man who is so sensitive to the suffering of military families wouldn't even take a few seconds out of his day to sign the condolence letters sent to the families of troops killed in battle.

But Rumsfeld, who didn't anticipate the post-war Iraqi insurgency and who sent our soldiers to war without the proper safety equipment, isn't going anywhere soon. Bush made that clear today by giving the defense secretary a resounding endorsement. "I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart," he said.

Well, I feel better now. Let's just ignore the facts and go with that.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

How to win a war without going to war

That seems to be the idea at the core of a new U.S. European Command program known as "effects-based" warfare. EUCOM refers to the approach by the acronym DIME, short for "diplomacy, information, military, and economic." The program's main goal is to restore stability to developing nations on the brink of collapse before military action becomes necessary. In other words, it's a pre-emptive strike without the "strike," using the vast economic and diplomatic tools at America's disposal rather than armed intervention.

The approach has been around for centuries, of course, and the United States has adhered to the policy for much of its history. So why the renewed focus on resolving conflicts through non-violent means? Stars and Stripes gives the answer in a paragraph buried in the middle of the story, where it paraphrases a EUCOM official as saying that "[i]n the past, the U.S. government sometimes used too much of the military portion of the approach and not enough of the other elements." In the past, of course, which is certainly not to be confused with the present.

Stars and Stripes is subtle sometimes, but that's why it's so good.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Fear and loathing live on

A full 27 percent of Americans scare the hell out of me. That's the percentage of respondents in a recent Cornell University poll who said all Muslims should be required to register where they live with the federal government. Forty-four percent of respondents agreed that Muslims' civil liberties should be restricted in some way. That's right: These people think all Muslims, including millions of innocent, hard-working Americans, should be subject to constant government monitoring or be treated like second-
class citizens just because of their religious beliefs or skin color.

Not surprisingly, people who watch lots of sensationalistic television news were more likely than others to be petrified by fear of imminent terrorist attacks and to believe that police should lock up all of the dark-skinned people. Republicans and "highly religious" people were also more likely to call for limiting Muslims' liberties than Democrats and "less religious" people were.

Does anyone even pay attention to history anymore?

Because you need more Himalayan news

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom in the middle of the Himalayas, has banned smoking and tobacco sales. This is huge news if you happen to live in Bhutan, but if you do, you probably aren't on the Internet right now anyway, and if you are, you certainly aren't reading this blog.

But what about those poor Bhutanese who are hopelessly addicted to nicotine, you say? Well, it'll do your heart good to know that King Jigme Singye Wangchuk -- no, I didn't make that name up -- has their well-being in mind, too. Addicts can still bring tobacco into the country for personal use, provided that they pay a 100 percent tax and limit the puffing to the comfort (or perhaps discomfort) of their own homes.

I wonder how long it'll be before some American politician reads this story and starts having some really bad, unworkable ideas.

Hotty Toddy? Gosh almighty

OK, I'm just checking one more time to make sure I've got this straight: Ole Miss fired head football coach David Cutcliffe, whose teams played with class and went 44-29 over six years, including 10 wins and a Cotton Bowl victory last year, just so it could hire some no-name with a history of woman-beating?

I have one fewer SEC school whose administrators I can respect.

And in news that surprises no one...

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose sole claim to national fame is hugging a giant piece of rock, has emerged from hiding to announce the obvious: He's considering a run for governor in 2006, probably as a Republican, maybe as an independent or a third-party candidate. That's assuming, of course, that he's done with his Granite Calf '04 World Tour by then.

Oh, and did I mention that Moore's book, So Help Me God, comes out in March? Not that he'd ever try to exploit people's deeply held religious faith for personal gain or anything.

Revenge of the beavers

When last we checked in with the beavers of the Tennessee Valley, a retired woman was winning a months-long battle with them and writing a book about the experience, with hilarious results.

Now, a week later, the Huntsville area's beavers are relishing the sweet taste of vengeance. The Huntsville Times, which has yet to fail at keeping me abreast of the beaver situation in north Alabama, reports today that a Madison County circuit judge has upheld a $30,000 jury award against a landowner over flooding damage caused by beaver dams on his land. The landowner's attorney unsuccessfully argued that it was unfair to punish his client for out-of-control beavers. After all, he said, the state just couldn't keep the beavers in line. Neither could federal agencies.

Beavers 1, Humans 1. As always, I'll be here with complete coverage of the series.

Friday, December 17, 2004

This 'Internet' just might catch on...

As it turns out, basic HTML code isn't as hard as I thought.

After some trial and error, I figured out how to navigate the labyrinthine Blogger template and add an external links section below the archives links. I've included a few bloggers I've found with Alabama ties, as well as some news sources and general-
interest sites. Also, there's now a link button to's Alabama Bloggers page. If you're aware of any fantastic state blogs that aren't yet on the list, please tell me and I'll add them.

I'll keep taking baby steps to spruce this place up a little for the regular visitors, so let me know if there's anything (within reason) I can do to improve your occasional stays here. Though I've said it before, thanks again for reading.

Thou shalt look upon this robe

I wrote Wednesday about Covington County Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan and the Ten Commandments robe that makes him the greatest judge ever. After a bit of Web surfing, I found a follow-up: a picture of the infamous black garment on the Alabama-based blog War Liberal, which is nowhere near as militant as the name might lead you to believe.

Time to discuss the topic du jour

With President Bush talking up Social Security privatization this week, I figured now is as good a time as any to offer a clear, cogent, and compelling commentary on the controversy. (Don't you just love alliteration?) Unfortunately, I have neither the educational background nor the research time to produce a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of removing a multibillion-
dollar government program from the public sphere.

But fear not, loyal readers: This guy with a Ph.D. in economics from MIT does, and he has some interesting ideas about our nation's social insurance program. Most strikingly, he thinks that, contrary to their current positions, liberals should support privatizing Social Security, and conservatives should oppose it. The gist of his argument is that privatization would lead to Social Security being funded by progressive income taxes rather than regressive payroll taxes, thus reducing the tax burden on the poor while shoring up the system for future generations.

Is he right? Who knows? But this article is about as pain-free and accessible a read as a cost-benefit analysis can be, and it's always fun to see traditional debate positions turned on their heads.

Plus, Winnie the Pooh fans will love it. Don't ask; just click.

It's the least he can do

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's cavalier attitude toward our troops never ceases to amaze me. He was a key player in sending them to war based on a threat that was uncertain at best. His department, after almost two years, still hasn't fully equipped our military with the protective armor it needs in Iraq. And now we learn that Rumsfeld couldn't even be bothered to sign the condolence letters sent to the families of soldiers killed in battle.

I can't even put into words how disgusting that is. Courageous men and women are giving their lives for our country every day, and this guy thinks he's too busy to scrawl his name on a piece of paper that tells their loved ones "sorry for your loss"?

The Stars and Stripes story in the link above -- mega-props to that newspaper's staff for confronting the Pentagon on this issue, by the way -- reveals that Rumsfeld has pledged to start personally signing every condolence letter after he faced public criticism from grieving military families who received letters with his signature stamped on them. In typical Rumsfeld fashion, though, he had to throw some spin into the mix by claiming that though he didn't sign every letter, he "wrote and approved" all of them.

Really? You wrote them all? Because it seems like it wouldn't be much more time-consuming to take a few seconds to sign a letter that you spent so long writing. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a guy who thinks this Pentagon gig might not be the thing for you.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Finally, some compassionate conservatism

It looks like I just had the wrong impression about Hoover's new Department of Homeland Security and Immigration, the first such local-level organization in the state.

I foolishly thought it primarily would be a vehicle to round up the illegal Hispanic day laborers who gather daily on Lorna Road in the mostly white Birmingham suburb. But the agency's director let everyone know this week that his department will do much more than detain people who don't have green cards.

"It's not going to try and load up every single illegal immigrant ... on buses and send them away, because you'd have more the next day," he told The Birmingham News in a story Wednesday.

I'll let that one speak for itself.

The anti-Rumsfeld chorus grows

I've called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as secretary of defense several times, most recently last week. Now, finally, it looks like some congressional Republicans may agree with me.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., joined the growing number of GOP leaders attacking Rumsfeld when he told members of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that he thinks the defense secretary does not listen enough to soldiers and should be replaced within the next year. Lott, as you know, is the former Senate majority leader, and his opinion still carries a considerable amount of weight on Capitol Hill.

Lott is the third Republican senator this week to issue a public statement condemning Rumsfeld. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., got the ball rolling Monday by criticizing Rumsfeld's failure to send more soldiers to Iraq, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, complained in a letter Wednesday that Rumsfeld has done too little to try to get armored vehicles to American troops in war zones. Also, two Democratic senators -- Joe Biden of Delaware and Jon Corzine of New Jersey -- have been vocal recently in calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Will President Bush force Rumsfeld out of the Pentagon any time soon? It's unlikely, but these developments would certainly provide him some political cover if he chose to do so.

The guy does have a point

Matt Hutaff at The Simon raised an interesting question recently: Why are the American media providing heavy coverage of voter-fraud accusations in the Ukraine while ignoring those accusations on the home front? The column is a week old and more than a little bitter, but it's still thought-provoking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bible study

OK, Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan, here you go. Here's the attention you wanted when you had the Ten Commandments embroidered on your judicial robe and walked into your Covington County courtroom to hear some minor drug cases this week. Here's your shout-out.

Aren't you happy? We all know your name now. We all know that you're proud of your hero, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, and his courageous stand against repeated federal court orders. And most importantly, we all know what a good, moral Christian citizen you are, thanks to the bright gold tablets stitched on the front of your robe.

Since you obviously love Scripture so much, I thought it'd be a great idea for us to swap some of our favorite Bible verses. Here's one of mine: "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."

That's Matthew 6:5. The words are printed in red in my copy. I'm sure an upstanding Christian man like you knows what that means.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What generation gap?

I flipped around the radio dial as I drove to dinner about an hour ago, and as usual, the offerings left a bit to be desired.

Alternative station: Overplayed, overwrought Creed song? You're right; you did create your own prison. Now I wish you'd stay there. Click.

Rap station: Lil' Jon got the beat to make ya booty go clap? Good for him, but I've heard that about 1.7 million times in the last month alone. Plus, Dave Chappelle is nowhere in sight. Click.

Another alternative station: A commercial that doesn't involve Bud Light saluting Real Men of Genius? Click.

Country station: That same whiny, annoying pop song that all "country" artists have produced since 1997? Click.

Oldies station: "Stuck in the Middle With You." OK, I could live with this, but let's see what else is on before I decide. Click.

College station: "Stuck in the Middle With You." What the-- ?!? It's the same song!

That's right: A station with a target audience born before the Korean War and a station run by staffers who barely remember the Reagan presidency were playing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Knowing this moment might come only once in life, I relished it. And then I changed lanes.

I still had to drive, you know.

An update on the forgotten war

Afghan authorities apparently have captured the former security chief of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace. I can't help but wonder how many more terrorists we would have rounded up in those mountains and caves by now had the Bush administration sent 140,000 troops to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

Setting aside any policy differences, I commend the Afghans for the police work that led to the security chief's arrest, and I also give thanks to the U.S. soldiers who bravely search the rough terrain and patrol the streets of Afghanistan every day. You don't hear much media discussion of Afghanistan these days, especially after the recent presidential election there, but that country still isn't exactly as safe as suburbia, and it's a long way from being a democratic utopia.

Soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan face the prospect of sudden death every day, just as they do in Iraq. Their sacrifices are no less important just because fewer television cameras are there to record them.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I haven't forgotten this story either

Democratic congressmen have asked Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to delay his state's Electoral College voting until questions about irregularities in the Nov. 2 election can be answered. Taft, a Republican, says he will do no such thing.

Democrat John Kerry almost certainly did not win Ohio, but the voting-machine and registration woes there are nonetheless troubling for the electoral process. Especially worrisome are the electronic voting machines that produce no independently verifiable paper trail to confirm that the vote totals they produce match the votes cast on them. If an election can be decided by a hacker or a computer bug without anyone ever knowing it, we've lost our republic.

For an overview of some of the major problems that arose in Ohio during last month's election, click here. For continuing updates on the matter, I recommend MSNBC host Keith Olbermann's blog, Bloggermann. Olbermann is the only mainstream broadcaster who has investigated this story since day one, and like a true journalist, he's still aggressively pursuing new leads.

If any major developments arise on the recount story, I'll address them here. But until then, Olbermann is your best bet.

2005... Final answer?

Regis Philbin, the greatest hyperactive Irish television personality this side of Conan O'Brien, will fill in for 237-year-old Dick Clark this year as host of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2005. Clark is still in the hospital after a stroke, which I was unaware androids could have.

"Singer" Ashlee Simpson is still scheduled to appear live during the West Coast portion of the broadcast. By "live," of course, the producers mean she'll be moving her lips near a microphone as sounds of some sort -- perhaps even "music" -- are transmitted over the air waves. Other than that, no promises.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Another one bites the dust

Cabinet nominees just can't get enough of hiring illegal immigrants to perform household chores, and they usually pay a political price when the public learns about it. The latest victim of a "Nannygate" is Bernard Kerik, who withdrew his name as the nominee for homeland security secretary Friday after questions arose about his former housekeeper's immigration status. Kerik wasn't my top choice for the job, but it's sad to see him lose his chance at a Cabinet post because of a petty scandal.

Nannygates have become increasingly common in the political world. During Bill Clinton's presidency, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood lost their shots at becoming attorney general because of such scandals, and Bobby Ray Inman missed out on a chance to be defense secretary. The Bush administration got its own taste of Nannygate in 2001 when Linda Chavez, the would-be labor secretary, had to step aside after media reports revealed that her maid was an illegal immigrant.

Hiring undocumented immigrants is against the law, of course, and so is failing to report their income to the IRS. But in the grand scheme of things, America's dirty little secret is that, barring a depression that causes mass unemployment, it needs immigrants willing to work cheaply at less-desirable jobs to keep the economy humming. Anger over immigration seems to be en vogue lately, and we should do more to ensure that terrorists don't enter the country through our porous borders. (More money for the U.S. Border Patrol, anyone?) The outrage over Cabinet nominees hiring illegal immigrants, though, just seems a little forced.

But hey, let's look on the bright side: With all of these illegal nannies roaming around out there, Hoover's new homeland security director should have all kinds of busy work.

Am I immature for laughing at this?

Sure, it's just a feel-good newspaper feature about a retired lady who won her fight with nature and then wrote a children's book about it. Still, I have to wonder if The Huntsville Times could have picked a better headline than "Feisty Lady won her beaver battle."

Somewhere, copy editors are laughing heartily.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The price of a free press

The next time you hear your family or friends complaining about "that damn liberal media," gently offer two reminders: 1) Without reporters, they would have no idea what's going on in the world, and 2) the people about whom they're complaining are often putting their lives on the line in pursuit of the truth.

2004 was the bloodiest year for journalists in a decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Fifty-four reporters and photographers were killed on the job this year, including 23 in Iraq. Twenty-two journalists were also taken hostage there. Fortunately, though many of the reporters who died were working for American media outlets, no journalists were murdered in the United States this year.

Thank you to the people who gave their lives this year while working to keep the public informed. You'll be remembered.

Now's a good time to be afraid

State Rep. Gerald Allen, sponsor of the infamous Fahrenheit 451 plan that would ban public funding for any book "promoting" homosexuality, will meet President Bush on Monday.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The news comes from a story published Thursday in The Guardian, a London-based newspaper. The story also sheds some light on the thought process of the Republican legislator from Cottondale. Or, should I say, the lack thereof.

"Traditional family values are under attack" in Alabama, Allen said, despite being unable to give a specific example of any such assault. His advice to a reporter who asked him to name a single instance of the "homosexual agenda" at work? "Some time when you've got a week to spare, just go on the Internet. You'll see."

Oh, sure thing, Gerald. I just won't be surfing to any of those websites that you seem to have been browsing.

Allen also tried -- and failed -- to draw some kind of brilliant analogy between his proposal and the necessity for traffic signals. "[T]here's a reason for stop lights," he said. "You're driving a vehicle, you see that stop light, and I hope you stop."

Wow, someone sure did pass Driver's Ed with flying colors! But apparently the Constitutional Law exam was a little harder.

The unconstitutionality and utter stupidity of Allen's proposal are manifest. His demagoguery also is contributing to a poisonous atmosphere for thousands of hard-working gay Alabamians who are making great contributions to the state. University of Alabama dance professor Cornelius Carter, who is gay, told The Guardian, "I don't know if I belong here anymore."

Did I mention that Carter was named U.S. Professor of the Year three years ago? Thanks, Gerald, for doing your damnedest to eviscerate the dance program at your state's flagship university.

Allen is a small-timer who has hopped aboard the discrimination train and hopes to ride it all the way to prominence. And now he's meeting with the leader of the free world.

Sleep tight tonight.

Here's why Rumsfeld has to go

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised last year that the Pentagon would equip every U.S. military vehicle in Iraq with sufficient armor by July 31. More than four months later, that hasn't happened. Instead, many of our troops have had to jury-rig their transport trucks with "hillbilly armor," scrap metal and glass shards they dig out of landfills. John Zimmermann, a senior official with the Tennessee National Guard, told ABC News that 95 percent of his unit's trucks don't have adequate armor.

When a soldier in Kuwait asked Rumsfeld during a question-and-
answer session Wednesday to explain why so many vehicles are still unsafe nearly three years into the Iraq war, the crowd of U.S. troops cheered. The defense secretary fumbled for words, asked the soldier to repeat the question, and then sputtered out some lines that simply had to be good for morale. Rumsfeld's finest moment at the Q&A? "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up."

Wow, you don't say, Don. Glad you could provide such words of comfort to thousands of soldiers about to be deployed to Iraq.

Other fine work from our venerable defense secretary: "You go to war with the Army you have." That's true, but let's keep two points in mind: 1) This war was launched not in response to an attack but as a pre-emptive action, which means the Bush administration could have taken its time to ensure the military had proper equipment before the war began, and 2) even if we did have to hurry off to war immediately, we've had almost two years now to shore up our defenses. So why are 19 of every 20 trucks used by a National Guard unit in a war zone still unarmored today?

Rumsfeld emphasized Wednesday that Pentagon officials are doing all they can to get contractors to churn out new armor as quickly as possible. Which would be great, if it were true. The Boston Globe decided to make a couple of calls on the subject, and it reported today that defense contractor Armor Holdings increased its production capacity months ago but has been sitting on its hands since then, waiting for the Pentagon to order more trucks. Apparently embarrassed into action by the story, the Defense Department increased its order for armored Humvees today. But it shouldn't require a media blitz to convince our defense planners to do everything possible to keep our soldiers safe.

Rumsfeld was a major player in launching the Iraq war before we confirmed the status of those elusive weapons of mass destruction. He didn't anticipate the post-war Iraqi insurgency. He sent our troops into a war zone without the armor they need to keep them safe. And now, almost two years after the war began, his department apparently can't even order that armor on time, four months after his self-imposed deadline to have it all installed.

Maybe Rumsfeld can explain to the family of Pfc. John D. Hart why he didn't keep his promise. Hart died in March, a year after the war began, in Kirkuk, Iraq, during an ambush on his unarmored Humvee. The vehicle had no bulletproof glass. It didn't even have metal doors. Hart fought the ambushers valiantly, exhausting his ammunition in the process. But his Humvee left him practically defenseless, and his attackers killed him. He was 20 years old.

As his father said, "He would have been better off in a Toyota Highlander." Heroes like Hart deserve so much better.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Spotted at 8:30 tonight in a Tuscaloosa restaurant: Alabama football coach Mike Shula. He looks about the same as he does on camera, but he's taller than you think. After waiting a few minutes without saying much -- apparently even the head football coach at Alabama can't get immediate takeout -- he left the store, climbed into an SUV with his order in tow, and drove away into the night.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been in the presence of greatness. Or maybe mediocrity. Either way, it's tall.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

That'll show them there terrorists

New Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos has begun his tenure the right way: by overreacting to a minor threat. Petelos on Tuesday promoted the city's former police chief to be the director of Hoover's brand-new Department of Homeland Security and Immigration, the state's first city-level homeland security agency.

After all, when those wily terrorists give up on New York and D.C. and begin to target over-the-mountain Birmingham suburbs, Hoover doesn't want to be unprepared.

What you'll note in the chief's new job title, which will come with a $7,000 salary increase, is the word immigration. One of the things for which Hoover has been known lately is the large number of Hispanic day laborers who gather on Lorna Road every day looking for work. Many Hoover residents have complained loudly that the laborers' presence is lowering their property value and increasing the risk of violent crime.

The director, for his part, said the department will help the city further reduce its admittedly negligible vulnerability to terrorism. He also asserted that the city likely won't pursue mass deportation of the Hispanic workers on Lorna Road.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

He stands to profit handsomely from it

In case you missed the memo, Jon Stewart is the man. The Daily Show's host serves up some of the best comedy -- and, oddly enough, some of the best reporting -- on television. He memorably berated CNN's loudmouth, bowtie-wearing commentator Tucker Carlson on Crossfire a couple of months ago. And now, Stewart is an award-winning author.

Publishers Weekly announced Monday that Stewart's America (The Book) has been named Book of the Year. The magazine commended the faux textbook as "a serious critique of the two-party system, the corporations that finance it and the 'spineless cowards in the press.'" Plus, from what I've managed to read of this satire, it's brilliant and funny as hell.

Read America (The Book). Watch The Daily Show. Do your part to keep a comedic genius off the street.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Looks like someone talked out of turn

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who the Bush administration touts as an ally in the war on terrorism, broke from the party line Sunday. Asked if the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Musharraf told CNN host Wolf Blitzer, "With hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more trouble, yes." Musharraf also noted that though Iraqis hated former dictator Saddam Hussein, "[p]eople at the lower level don't like the visibility of foreign troops who are in their country." The Pakistani president also predicted that if the United States withdraws from Iraq before the country is stabilized, the security situation in the Middle East will only get worse.

In essence, Musharraf's points are that 1) everyday Iraqis are glad Saddam is gone, 2) they wish we were, too, and 3) they're all in trouble if we leave before they get their country under control. It seems like a pretty accurate assessment of the situation there, but Bush and his aides have a habit of acting aggressively to discount suggestions that their policies are anything short of immaculate. Since international politics are at stake, Musharraf had his people call our people and say he didn't really mean what he said. See, he wasn't categorical in labeling the war a mistake. Besides, he meant to say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the real problem.

Don't worry, Gen. Musharraf. We know what you meant to say.


Tens of thousands of Alabama football fans are rejoicing at the possibility of Auburn going 13-0 this year and having no shot at the national championship. Allow me, if you will, to invite those Crimson Tide supporters to join Random Bama Fan on a magical trip to a world where everything that went wrong for the Tide this year went right...

Shula! Shula! Shula!

Wow. Just wow. I didn't think he could do it, but he did it. Mike Shula did it. This year is so totally awesome!

Everyone figured we would start 3-0 -- I mean, come on, Ole Miss? They're nothing without Eli Manning. Utah State? Western Carolina? Do they even have teams? -- but no one thought we would just wipe them out like that. We were so far up on that I-AA school that Brodie Croyle didn't even bother to go back in at quarterback after halftime.

Then there was that Arkansas game. I was getting scared for a while, but when Shula went for it on that fourth down and Ray Hudson took the handoff and streaked down the sideline into the end zone, I knew we were in for something special. Those Hogs never had a chance after that. Neither did South Carolina or Kentucky or Southern Miss. Sure, I was nervous when Hudson hit his knee in that Kentucky game, but then he just got up and shook it off and it was all good.

And then... Oh, man, we killed Tennessee! At Rocky Top, too! We were up 28 at halftime and just hit cruise control. Brodie just could not be stopped! That was his best game ever. I think I saw Phil Fulmer crying.

And then, after Mississippi State laid down for us like they always do, it was time for the main event. Alabama-LSU. The SEC West on the line, just like it should be. Those Cajuns kept trying to take that game from us, but we wouldn't let them. Could you believe when they tried to get away with shoving down our receiver in the end zone? I don't think so, guys -- oh, sorry, I forgot: "I don't think seaux." And then, at the end, they missed that extra point with a chance to tie... I just knew it was destiny.

Auburn played us a good game like they always do, but we still took them out. Brodie and Ray just rolled over their defense in the second half. The worst part was having to hear all of those Barners talking about how they would have been so much better if Jason Campbell and Cadillac Williams hadn't been hurt. I don't buy it. Auburn just sucks, and they know it. Our defense owned them.

Then -- can you believe it? -- Tennessee actually wanted some more. We took them out again and won the SEC Championship Game. 12-0, baby! Here comes national title No. 13! Bring it on, Orange Bowl!

What? WHAT?!?

What do you mean we can't go? We won the best conference in the country! We're undefeated! Auburn and LSU are the only ones that even came close to us! We're not No. 3; we're No. 1!

What do you mean we had a weak schedule? We're in the SEC! And we played Southern Miss, too! You're telling these boys who played their hearts out and overcame all of these coaching controversies and won every game they played that they aren't good enough to play for the national title? Just because these other teams were ranked higher when the year started?

We got screwed. Everyone knows it. This is so unfair.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

12-0 and nowhere to go

Well, the final sellout of Auburn football has begun. After the Tigers notched a 38-28 win over a better-than-expected Tennessee team to win the SEC Championship Game and finish a perfect 12-0, they got no love whatsoever from the vaunted ESPN football analysts. Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, and Kirk Herbstreit all touted USC and Oklahoma as the unquestioned top two teams in the country, even though the Sooners garnered two wins this year due to last-play errors by 7-4 teams and the Trojans actually would have lost today to UCLA, a very mediocre team, if a referee hadn't blown the call on a USC fumble just before halftime. One of ESPN's analysts actually had the gall to say USC's victory today was much more complete than the 5-point margin suggested. We clearly weren't watching the same game.

Auburn didn't blow Tennessee out of the water, but so what? The Vols are a top-15 team that won nine games this year. Auburn already destroyed Tennessee on the road earlier this season, and the difficulty of beating a quality team twice in one year shouldn't be underestimated. (I'd like to see how USC would fare in a second game against California. And why don't we give Texas another shot at Oklahoma while we're at it?)

It's time for the number-crunching, so be sure to skip the next two paragraphs if you hate math. Auburn has beaten four ranked teams this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (three). Auburn has won four games against teams with at least nine wins this year, more than USC (two) or Oklahoma (one). Only two teams, LSU and Alabama, have held the Tigers to a single-digit margin of victory. USC had four single-digit wins over Stanford, California, Oregon State, and UCLA. Oklahoma also had two single-digit victories, over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Some football commentators have tried to justify Auburn's lower ranking by saying the SEC is weaker than normal this year, but it still produced seven bowl-eligible teams -- the same number as the Big 12, and two more than the Pac-10. We haven't even mentioned undefeated Utah, which hasn't played a close game all year and which dismantled the same Texas A&M team that took Oklahoma to the wire. And who's to say that unbeaten Boise State, little-
regarded or not, doesn't deserve a shot at the brass ring?

The moral of the story? The BCS is a miserable, pathetic failure, and Auburn and Utah -- my picks for No. 1 and No. 2 -- are about to pay the price for its ineffectiveness. Even worse, those teams won't get to face off in a shadow national title game in the Sugar Bowl. Instead, Auburn will draw two-loss Virginia Tech, and Utah will go to the Fiesta Bowl to play Pittsburgh, which needed overtime to beat a I-AA team this year. At least the Virginia Tech matchup will give Auburn a common opponent with USC. If the Trojans win the Orange Bowl, pollsters can compare their win over the Hokies to the Tigers' showing.

If Auburn finishes 13-0, it unquestionably deserves a share of the national title. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the voters are too obstinate to agree. USC and Oklahoma are at the top of the polls not because their play this year justified it but because they started the season there. Many poll voters are so stubborn that they wouldn't jump Auburn to No. 1 if it defeated the New England Patriots by three touchdowns.

This Auburn team looks like the best one ever on the Plains, but since university presidents think a playoff is the devil, the Tigers probably won't bring home a national title this year. It's a damn shame they won't get the chance they've earned.

Instant karma for a football factory

I love when people get exactly what they deserve.

Notre Dame officials went over athletics director Kevin White's head to force head football coach Tyrone Willingham out of his job with two years remaining on his contract after he took the previously struggling Fighting Irish to two bowl games in three years. Many commentators have questioned whether race was a factor in the decision -- Willingham was the first black head coach under the Golden Dome, and white coaches with similar records were allowed to keep their jobs longer -- but the clearest impetus behind the firing was the school's all-consuming desire to hire Utah coach Urban Meyer, a hotshot former Irish assistant who led the Utes to a perfect season and a major bowl berth this year.

Meyer loves Notre Dame and its traditions. He speaks of the Catholic school in reverent terms. He was even named after a pope. So what did he say when the Irish offered him the keys to the football kingdom? "No, thanks, I'll be in Gainesville."

It's a brilliant decision on Meyer's part. Florida is stocked with talent and plays in a strong conference, so he'll be coaching a national title contender from day one. Plus, the institution's president is the same guy who hired Meyer at Utah, so the comfort level will be much higher than it would have been at a place where the administrators fired a good coach for no other reason than to pursue the latest hot coaching prospect.

Notre Dame is left humiliated after destroying its football program's long-term stability to make a play for a guy who told the school to go fly a kite. Meanwhile, Willingham has already been contacted about filling the coaching vacancy at Washington, a Pac-10 university with a rich football tradition of its own.

Thank you, karma. You've done right by Willingham, and you've given Notre Dame officials the slap in the face that they deserve.

Thanks for the humiliation, Roy Moore

Guess what people around the world are reading right now when they visit the main page on CNN's website? That's right: People in Alabama had a chance to vote against segregation, and they didn't. Deep down in the story, you find the real reason behind the vote against Amendment 2 -- former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his false assertions about how the measure would "raise taxes" -- but the headline is all that most people will read. An unfortunate side effect of the recount law enacted after the 2002 gubernatorial election saga is that the recount results are putting the segregation amendment in the news twice in a month.

Nearly 140 years after slavery became illegal in this country, Alabama is still being associated with support for segregation in the national media. The days of fire hosings and lynchings are still casting a dark shadow over our state's worldwide reputation, and this vote did nothing but make our image problems worse. This vote was an embarrassment to all morally decent Alabamians, and I hold Moore and all Christian leaders who campaigned against this necessary amendment personally responsible for the damage.

Good-hearted, clear-thinking Alabamians are tired of your games, Roy. The electorate will prove that if you run for governor.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Secretaries Day

Today hasn't been a very good one on the Cabinet front. First, President Bush nominated Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police chief, to be the new secretary of homeland security. Bush sent Kerik to Iraq last year to help set up the Baghdad police force, but Kerik left just three and a half months later with the insurgency growing as quickly as ever. His stint as commissioner of the New York Correction Department also was marred by scandal, including the diversion of more than $1 million in rebates on inmate cigarettes bought with city money to a nonprofit group headed by -- you guessed it -- Kerik.

In Kerik's defense, he did an excellent job of cleaning up crime in New York as police chief, and on a personal level, he overcame long odds to succeed. Like the protagonist in a great Horatio Alger "rags-to-riches" story, Kerik transformed himself from a high-
school dropout who grew up without his mother into one of the nation's most influential lawmen. For those accomplishments, he is to be commended. For the country's sake, I hope Kerik dispels all of my concerns about him by turning the Department of Homeland Security into a strong and effective defensive force that does more than call occasional press conferences to change the warning color from yellow to orange and then back again.

By far the most disheartening news today is that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- the man who didn't anticipate the Iraqi insurgency, the man who didn't send enough troops to secure the streets of post-war Iraq, the man who oversaw our nation's military during the embarrassing Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison scandals -- will not be held accountable for his failures. Instead, inexplicably and unacceptably, Rumsfeld will get to keep his job for a second term. Poor planning and poor performance should not be rewarded under the guise of "staying the course." Even though he won't, Rumsfeld should do the right thing for his country and resign immediately.

Also today, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans on Bush's Cabinet, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, rotated out of the White House's revolving door. In a surreal touch, he seems to have given our enemies an idea in his departure speech: "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do. We are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

I appreciate the openness and full disclosure, Tommy, but I think you just made our new homeland security guy's job a little harder.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Does Gerald Allen want to ban the Bible?

Because as this story in The Crimson White points out, the unconstitutional, book-banning, anti-gay bill that Allen plans to sponsor next year is just vague enough to allow such an outcome. After all, the Old Testament goes on and on about homosexuality, and we don't want our young'uns getting any ideas, right? (Odd that Jesus didn't engage in any gay-bashing. Could it be that maybe we're not supposed to hate people?)

Allen, a Republican state representative from Cottondale, graciously volunteered this week to be Alabama's self-appointed moral arbiter. Perhaps foolishly, we have yet to fall to our knees to accept his inspiring, selfless, not-politically-motivated-in-the-
least offer. I mean, who doesn't like a good book-burning party now and then? Besides, the heat from all of those melting bleeding-heart publications will come in handy as temperatures start to drop this winter. Who's bringing the marshmallows?

Oh, sorry about that. Back to reality, where Allen has formulated the most laughable scheme I've seen coming from the Legislature in many years. (That includes former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and his urination jug.) Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery had this to say about Allen's Fahrenheit 451 bill: "I think it's a jackass proposal, to put it plainly."

I couldn't have said it better.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Sick cycle carousel

Big-time college football programs have become parodies of themselves this year. They can't decide the national championship properly. They can't keep their players out of brawls. And they most certainly can't stop firing head coaches who win but who don't contend for the national title every single year.

This week's casualties include Notre Dame's Tyrone Willingham, who was the National Coach of the Year two years ago and led a Fighting Irish team that was struggling when he arrived to two bowl games in three seasons, and David Cutcliffe of Ole Miss, whose team won 10 games last year but struggled through an inevitable rebuilding year after superstar quarterback Eli Manning graduated. Ron Zook, who also lost his job earlier this season, just led Florida to a 7-4 finish and has recruited one of the most powerful offenses in the country during his tenure.

Zook engaged in a few antics at a fraternity house that could have been the real reason behind his firing, but I see no excuse for Notre Dame and Ole Miss to treat their coaches as they did. I won't even touch the undercurrent of racism in Willingham's dismissal, except to note that Bob Davie and Gerry Faust, two white coaches who after three years had records similar to Willingham's mark, each got five seasons under the Golden Dome. Willingham, the first black head coach in school history, only got three years to try to install a whole new offense and style of play at Notre Dame.

What's behind all of these coaching changes? Big money, of course, and the ultracompetitive environment that big money produces. guest columnist Alan Grant has an excellent analysis of the hypocrisy and win-at-all-costs mentality that resulted in Willingham getting the ax.

Today's college football fans are more impatient for success than ever before. Fans want instant gratification, and lots of it. God forbid that you have a down year in the middle of an extended period of success; you'll be out of work. And sometimes even a long stretch of success isn't enough if it isn't perfection. Just ask Frank Solich, who got canned at Nebraska last year during a season in which his team won 10 games. (The Cornhuskers, you'll be glad to know, were on the wrong side of karma this season and finished 5-6.) That firing sent a clear message to college football head coaches: Forget about graduation rates and playing with class and all that other nonsense that we used to prattle on about endlessly. Go to a BCS bowl every single year or we'll find someone else to put on the cover of the media guide.

We've forgotten that patience is a virtue, and in few places is that clearer than in the sports world. Until we can find a way to remember that success doesn't come overnight, college football's coaching carousel will just keep spinning on and on.

Why is our AG praising Ann Coulter?

OK, here's where I draw the line, Troy King. I know you're proud of your job as Alabama attorney general, and though I think many people are better qualified for that office than you, I was perfectly willing to give you a shot at doing the job. I was even willing to write off your terribly bigoted and hateful comments about gays in the early 1990s -- you once suggested that "many homosexuals would mislead society into believing that three men, an armadillo, and a houseplant create a functional family" -- as the naive ramblings of someone who had not yet seen scientific research indicating that sexual orientation is genetic, not a choice.

But you topped yourself Tuesday night in a speech in Tuscaloosa. Not only did you brag that Alabama was the first state to refuse to recognize gay marriages after the Massachusetts high court legalized them -- "Yay, we're the best at discriminating against people for who they are!" -- but in that same speech you also approvingly cited the work of hard-right "commentator" Ann Coulter, one of the most vitriolic, hate-filled dividers in our nation. (I put "commentator" in quotation marks because her "comments" are little more than a string of personal attacks and straw-man arguments strung together into some barely coherent sentences. Here's an example of the garbage she tries to pass off as legitimate political observation.)

Mr. King, you should realize that a woman who refers to Democrats, who constitute more than a third of your state's population, as the "Spawn of Satan" is not someone with whom you should associate yourself. A woman who writes and profits from books riddled with factual errors and distortions that hurt people is not someone with whom you should associate yourself. A woman who asserts that almost half of all Americans are traitors just because they disagree with her political views is not someone with whom you should associate yourself.

I'll remember your sad display of pandering at election time, Mr. King. I gave you a chance, and you blew it.

No, I'm a better demagogue!

State Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, refuses to quit introducing ludicrous, symbolic legislation. First, it was a bill aimed at punishing the NCAA after my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide's football team was put on probation. Then it was a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Now we have Allen's crowning achievement of stupidity and regression: a bill calling for books with gay characters to be banned from every public library in the state.

Allen says the measure is needed to defend our children from the "homosexual agenda" and books that "recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." And what to do with all of the banned books? Ah, he's got a plan for that, too: "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them." Well, at least he didn't call for a Fahrenheit 451-style bonfire.

In Allen's defense, the "homosexual agenda" of which he speaks is omnipresent in this liberal love-in that we call Alabama. I can hardly go outside without having to fight the traffic jams caused by the twice-daily gay pride parades. I can't go to sleep out of fear that roving bands of homosexuals will break into my home and turn me gay. Worst of all, I think some of them might not be going to church every Sunday.

So yes, you have a capital idea on your hands, Gerald. Let's allow you -- and you alone -- to decide what more than 4.5 million Alabamians should and should not be able to read. I hear that Shakespeare guy might have been a little fruity, if you get what I'm saying, so he's gotta go. While we're at it, we might want to ban stuff by that Darwin character, who was a renowned hater of freedom. And all of those liberal newspapers? Why, if we let them continue to publish, the terrorists have already won.

Gerald, just in case your eyes come across this post, what appeared above is known as "sarcasm," and you're what is known as a "demagogue," and not a very original or skilled one at that. I know those are big words with lots of syllables, but you can check the dictionary to see what they mean.

Unless, of course, you've banned it, too.