Saturday, April 30, 2005

Just the facts

The Mobile County school board president got his driver's license back after prosecutors filed charges that he ran over an 8-year-old girl's foot while drunk. The judge who restored his license is his cousin, friend, and fraternity brother.

When humor becomes prescience

When I jokingly referenced the Gettysburg Address in a post about the homecoming of Roy Moore's rock, I had no idea that the former Alabama chief justice would actually say these words Friday: "It is altogether fitting and proper that this monument is displayed here in Etowah County, where the battle over the public acknowledgment of God began."

That sentence is notable for two reasons. First, it means I deserve some sort of speechwriting fee. Second, it suggests Moore, who's campaigning for governor even if he hasn't yet made it official, would have the audience believe he was a sort of martyr, the first public official ever with the courage to stand up to the evil, nebulous them and use the word "God" in public, consequences be damned. Ego check on aisle two.

One thing Moore did get right: He said the monument is "not a violation of the First Amendment," which is correct, because churches are free to have as many religious displays on their own property as they'd like.

See there? The Constitution isn't so bad after all.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Drop the shovel and stop digging the PR hole

Hey, Crimson Tide fans, don't worry about Daniel Moore anymore. The University of Alabama has found a brand-new painter who's willing to pay licensing fees, so you can buy those paintings instead and stop talking about how boneheaded it was for UA to sue an alumnus whose artwork glorified the school.

So, um, yes, Roll Tide (© 2005 University of Alabama).

Meter reading #11

As promised, it's time for another installment of the ongoing Site Meter saga. This post was supposed to be written about a week ago, but alas, it wasn't. Thanks to my procrastination and to a recent readership increase, there's enough extra fun stuff to justify another edition right after this one. Quickly, feign excitement!

All right, enough chitchat. Here are some more ways people have gotten here since Friday, March 25:

Two Yahoo searches and a Google search for "Secretaries Day."
Technically, it's now called "Administrative Professionals Day," but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. It was Wednesday, which means I forgot to remind you of one obscure holiday this week. I won't make the same mistake with Arbor Day.

Google searches for "chimp attacks" and "retired 'chimp attacks.'"
Foolish mortal! Retired chimps can be just as lethal.

A Google search for "'gunslinging' '-Mingus' '-bird.'"
Why can't the bird and the Mingus play with firearms, too?

A Google search for "caribou Gmail."
Well, if he really wants an invitation, I'll give him one.

A Yahoo search for "Ted Sexton."
For a limited time, you can read this post for only 5 cents a word.

Four Yahoo searches for "paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me."
Four searches? Wow, why so edgy?

A Yahoo search for "scientific creationism social agenda."
Nah, that can't be it.

A Yahoo search for "Ultimate Warrior 2005."
Well, he's pretty scary, but you can't be that afraid of him.

A Yahoo search for "Roy Moore book signings."
OK, I see your point.

Visitors from spam blogs for Florida tourism, sports camps, motivational speakers, sneaker inserts, proms, home loans, and coffeemakers.
Now there's a memorable spring break.

A Yahoo search for "Locust Fork school approval ratings."
Yes, there's a school there. I approve. Anything else?

Three Google searches for "plausible deniability."
Who could possibly need that much public-relations cover?

A Yahoo search for "UA vs. Daniel Moore, Alabama."
Never mind.

A Google search for "Redding Pitt."
For the first time, the Redding-Twinkle showdown is deadlocked.

Visitors from Iowa and Wyoming.
The state total is up to 40, plus Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, Arkansas has yet to make an appearance.

Visitors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.
No Arubans this time, so you'll have to make do with Danes.

A Google search for "pixelate the morality police."
Sounds like we have a real activist on our hands.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This won't stop being funny

Wish you could have a cool pseudonym all your own? Now you can, courtesy of the Ron Mexico Name Generator.

Stark Zambia will see you now, ladies.

Just imagine if he were actually elected

Paul Hubbert runs Montgomery, and don't you forget it.

The Alabama Education Association executive secretary, who has been hospitalized for the last two weeks after heart surgery, returned to the state capital on Wednesday to meet with key legislators. Within hours, the Senate's deadlock over the education budget ended, and the special session that looked almost certain just a few hours earlier suddenly became improbable. Gov. Bob Riley probably will veto the budget, which he calls irresponsible, but legislators plan to pass it in time to vote to override a veto.

Under the compromise, teachers will get a 6 percent raise, which is 1 percentage point less than what Hubbert originally wanted but 2 percentage points more than the amount for which Riley called. The deal's pledge of annual $18 million increases for higher education in the future was enough to persuade Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, to end the stalling routine.

In other legislative news, the state Christian Coalition finally managed to kill the bill that would have forced it to disclose its donors. As The Huntsville Times observed, the measure "seemed an afterthought after the breakthrough of five weeks of filibustering." Which, of course, was the entire point.

The exodus ends

After a nationwide tour, Roy Moore's rock is coming home.

The chunk of granite that landed Roy a book deal made the former Alabama chief justice a household name will be installed Friday at a Gadsden church. Moore will be there to dedicate, to consecrate, to hallow that ground, and maybe to campaign for governor if he has a spare moment in between.

Evidence that it's a small world after all: The son of the Gadsden church's pastor is Christopher Word, the man who lost his job at the Hoover Chamber of Commerce last year after wearing a Ten Commandments lapel pin to work and, according to the chamber's attorney, making pro-Moore statements at work.

Evidence that very little on this little blue planet is black and white: Word founded the state's first chapter of Alabama Students for Constitutional Reform while attending Samford University.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Accountability wins a round

Score one for ethical government.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., pushed his Republican colleagues today to reverse GOP rules changes that had gridlocked the House Ethics Committee. Tonight, by an overwhelming 406-20 vote, the House deleted the provisions that would have forced the committee, composed of five Democrats and five Republicans, to dismiss cases that didn't receive a majority vote to proceed.

The changes came in January as part of a GOP effort to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who received three ethics admonishments last year and who has developed a real taste for warning judges about repercussions for their decisions. Now that the rules yet again forbid one party from blocking ethics investigations unilaterally, the committee's investigation of DeLay can proceed, as well as examinations of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democratic House members.

More accountability from elected officials can't be a bad thing.

Another day, another wasted dollar

They aren't even going through the motions anymore.

Alabama senators went home early Tuesday after they failed to reach a quorum. All 10 Republican members boycotted because they were mad about the budgets. Several Democrats boycotted in a show of solidarity with Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, and the unofficial movement to paint the Legislature red in 2006. Combined with a couple of Democratic members who were just running late, the motley crew managed to waste yet another business day and to make a special session a virtual certainty.

As Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley said, "The taxpayers got cheated today."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Never mind

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said today that he won't compromise on judicial nominations and the filibuster. In other words, you can ignore my previous post on the subject.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How to dismantle a nuclear option

After weeks of bloviation and bluster from both sides of the aisle, U.S. senators may be about to strike a deal to save the filibuster.

Under the proposed compromise, reported by The Associated Press today, Democratic senators would allow confirmation votes for two 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees who were blocked during President Bush's first term. In return, Bush would offer a less controversial nominee for a third 6th Circuit vacancy, and Republican senators would withdraw their threats to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations.

The compromise sounds eminently reasonable, and most importantly, it would preserve the filibuster, a crucial procedural check on the majority that both parties have used to their benefit in recent years. Kudos to Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., if they can make the compromise a reality.

A down-home humor site

Courtesy of a commenter at War Liberal, today I discovered The Birminghamster. It's what The Onion would look like if it moved to Jefferson County and published more infrequently. Enjoy.

Funny how this 'disclosure' business works

Thousands of Chinese have taken to the streets this month in violent anti-Japanese protests fueled by Tokyo's approval of a junior-high history textbook that glosses over Japan's World War II-era atrocities. Chinese President Hu Jintao has warned that if the Japanese want to maintain good relations, they must do better than apologizing for their wartime behavior 17 times since 1972; they must take action in some vague, unspecified way that probably includes opposition to Taiwanese independence.

What China's Communist leaders probably haven't told the protesters is that the textbook in question is used in only 18 of Japan's 11,102 junior high schools and that Chinese history books also omit a few inconvenient details, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 30 million deaths during Chairman Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward.

Those revelations might spark a few protests, too -- just not the kind that Chinese leaders would like.

Fun with statistical aberrations

The good news: The population in Alabama's overcrowded prisons fell by almost 7 percent last year thanks to more paroles of nonviolent offenders. The bad news: Our prison population is increasing again, and the state's prisons still operate at more than double their capacity.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

There is no such thing as infighting

John Bolton, perhaps the only American nominee for United Nations ambassador ever to say "[t]here is no such thing as the United Nations," will have to wait a little while longer to learn his employment future.

Several Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have begun to waver in their support of Bolton as more allegations about his past come to light. Some of the recent charges the committee has heard include an assertion that Bolton tried to orchestrate the firings of intelligence analysts who didn't change their findings to jibe with his views and a claim that he chased a woman through a hotel, threw things at her, and spread malicious rumors about her. In addition, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has expressed concerns about Bolton's ability to get along with others, The Washington Post reported Friday.

If the White House doesn't decide to withdraw Bolton's nomination, things could get ugly in a hurry within the GOP. Already, a conservative group is buying radio ads in Ohio to accuse U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who voted to postpone the committee vote, of "stab[bing] the president and Republicans right in the back." Three other GOP committee members who are uneasy about Bolton -- Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- may face similar attacks.

Can you still be a good Republican if you disagree with something that's very important to the Bush administration? The Bolton confirmation battle soon may answer that question.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The recency effect

There's no other way to explain how some of the Discovery Channel's top 100 nominees for the title of "Greatest American" made the list. Rush Limbaugh? Dr. Phil? Michael Jackson?!?

Among the notable Americans not on the list: James Madison, who was the Father of the Constitution; Woodrow Wilson, who led the United States to victory in World War I and planted the seeds for the modern United Nations; and Philo T. Farnsworth, who invented television when he was still a teenager.

Greatest American debuts June 5. Feel free to suggest other deserving nominees and offer your top 10 list in the comments.

Time to make more babies

Alabama's population is growing, but an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Census Bureau projections shows that the state nonetheless may lose one of its seven congressional seats in the next round of redistricting in 2010. Unless Alabama's growth surges rapidly in the next five years, two incumbents will face each other soon.

Federal voting rights laws ensure that Alabama's only black congressman, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, will have a very safe seat. U.S. Reps. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, and Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, likely are also safe because they live so far away from any other incumbent. The free-for-all likely will come between two of the state's other four incumbents, assuming someone doesn't lose or retire before then.

Enjoy a map of the state's congressional districts here. Note that U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, live perilously close to adjacent districts.

Can you work yourself stupid?

A new study of 1,100 Britons suggests you can. The research, commissioned by Hewlett Packard, says employees "distracted by phone calls, e-mails, and text messages" can see up to a 10-point IQ drop in one day.

Maybe Tom DeLay was on to something after all.

Friday, April 22, 2005

At least he's employed

Mike DuBose, the former Alabama head football coach best known for leading a team with national-championship caliber talent to a 3-8 record in 2000, has been hired as the defensive coordinator at Millsaps College, a Division III school in Mississippi.

The hiring is a coup for Millsaps, which likely will pay DuBose much less than the Crimson Tide did to pace up and down the sidelines and clap at highly inappropriate times.

One step closer

Zacarias Moussaoui, the infamous "20th hijacker," took one more step toward the execution chamber today when he pleaded guilty to six conspiracy charges related to the 9/11 attacks.

Unless the judge is willing to endure indescribable levels of public outrage or unless the government botches its case in the penalty phase, Moussaoui has a lethal-injection appointment in his future.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

When slang goes mainstream

Which is more entertaining: A CNN reporter overhearing the chairman of the House Resources Committee calling hydrogen fuel research "bulls---,"* or using the word "disses" in the headline for a story about the incident?

*Edited to preserve my tax-exempt "family blog" status.

He can't help it if they just show up

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who would never dream of exploiting people's deeply held religious faith for political gain, was in Mobile on Wednesday to tour the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. In a shocking twist, he lingered in front of the Ten Commandments display. In an even more shocking twist, the media somehow knew to be there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

One more post on the new pope

I've received lots of visitors from Catholic blogs today due to my previous post on Pope Benedict XVI's election. I appreciate every reader who stops by, but I fear that many people are visiting because of a misunderstanding about what I said. A few points:

1) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not a Nazi. He didn't sympathize with them. He did everything he possibly could to avoid being associated with them.

2) Despite those facts, some bloggers nonetheless tried to portray Ratzinger as a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer. Those suggestions are unfair and unfounded, and I condemn them.

3) From a public-relations standpoint, Ratzinger's election was a bad move because it allows the church's opponents to distract from the pope's doctrinal teachings and to try to hurt the church's image by raising unfair, misleading questions about his teenage years in Nazi Germany. Still, if the cardinals believed Ratzinger was the right man for the job regardless of those concerns, then they made the right choice.

4) It's not unreasonable to suggest that Benedict XVI's reign will be a short one, especially since he told cardinals the same thing.

5) Benedict XVI said all the right things today about reaching out to other religions, which I hope is a sign of things to come. He deserves a chance to chart his own course as pope, and I think he has the ability to be a good one.

Six more days of inaction

After that, the Alabama Legislature yet again can achieve its goal of failing to pass budgets that it's required by law to pass. In the latest development, Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, on Tuesday officially joined the unofficial movement to hand the Legislature to Republicans in 2006 with his promise to kill the multi-billion-dollar education budget unless lawmakers increase higher education spending by an extra $46 million next year.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, is resting easy as Montgomery businessman Winton Blount III spends his money on infomercials to place Riley above the fray.

Damn liberal Internet

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who is desperate to distract your attention from his numerous ethical problems, criticized Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Tuesday.

Why? Well, it seems Kennedy occasionally glances at international laws -- and, even worse, he may be using the Internet.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Provisional pontiff

Update: This post's fourth paragraph should have done a better job of explaining that my criticism was directed not at Ratzinger, who did everything he could to avoid association with the Nazis, but at the cardinals, who could have avoided the distraction by electing another man. I've clarified the remarks accordingly.

Pope John Paul II was a towering, charismatic figure, the public face of the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years, and perhaps the single most recognizable person on the planet at the time of his death. After his papacy, the Vatican was due for a breather.

That's what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's tenure as Pope Benedict XVI will provide. Ratzinger is 78, which means his stay in office likely will be far shorter than that of his predecessor. For the cardinals, the election of "God's Rottweiler" is a way to prevent any drastic doctrinal changes in the next few years as they debate the church's long-term direction after John Paul II's lengthy reign.

Many observers' complaints about Benedict XVI -- he's too socially conservative, too intolerant of dissent, too hostile toward other religions -- will be neutralized by his comparatively short tenure. The next pope, not this one, will determine the church's long-term future.

Some bloggers today have blasted Ratzinger's membership in the Hitler Youth as a German teenager, and those criticisms are understandable. However, it's unfair to label Ratzinger a Nazi sympathizer, considering that he only joined the group reluctantly when required by law to do so and that he risked execution by deserting in 1944. With that being said, the cardinals made a public-relations blunder by electing a pope whose history contains even the appearance of support for the Nazis.

Benedict XVI's doctrines certainly won't help the church rebuild bridges in the United States, where many lay Catholics disagree with the church's positions on contraceptives, female priests, and other social issues. The new pope could take a big step toward solidifying Western Catholics' support with a categorical apology for the church having turned a blind eye toward the pedophile priests in American parishes, but such a mea culpa is highly unlikely from the same church leaders who allowed Bernard Law to remain a cardinal after his cover-ups of sex abuse in Boston.

I'm not Catholic, but I know several of my readers are or once were. I welcome your thoughts on today's events.

Habemus papam

The white smoke went up much more quickly than I expected, and I must say that the bells are a nice touch. I'll check back in later today with some thoughts once we know the new pope's identity.

How telling

The Alabama Senate is expected to vote today on a proposal to increase the higher education budget by an extra $46 million next year. As The Birmingham News notes, the battle likely will be won based on who has the better lobbyists: the Alabama Education Association or the state's universities and community colleges.

Whether the plan is good public policy seems to be irrelevant.

Meter reading #10

It's been way too long since I checked the Site Meter, so I'm going to divide the latest reading into two installments. Here are some ways people have gotten here since Friday, March 25:

Nine Google searches for "Blount Countian."
I also received searches for "Blount Banner," "'Blount County' blog Alabama," "'Blount County' 'Southern Democrat,'" "Blount 'Inland Lake,'" and "Blount County Water Authority." Just imagine the traffic I'd get if I actually wrote about things that occurred there on a semi-regular basis.

Three Google searches involving "Guntersville."
Looks like I'll need to expand my virtual coverage area.

A Google search for "Magic City Democrats Birmingham."
OK, enough already. I can't cover the entire state for free.

A Google search for "Emanuel Cleaver controversies."
I was only aware of one, actually.

A Google search for "'body paint' 'Washington Redskins.'"
Sorry, sir, not even your bare chest can lure back Steve Spurrier.

A Google search for "Eufaula Auburn national champion."
Hey, don't forget the Peoples National Championship. Oh, and one-third of the inaugural RSD Memorial Football Trophy, which I just inaugurated, and which doesn't actually exist.

A Google search for "Auburn dean administrative leave."
Do I have to give him a national championship, too?

An All the Internet search for "video arcade Jefferson County Alabama 2005."
I'm required by law to report this incident, as well as any involving an armadillo or a houseplant, to Alabama Attorney General Troy King. Thank you for your understanding.

A Google search for "hotty toddy gosh almighty."
Who in the hell are you? Flim flam?!? Bim bam?!? That's it; I'm reporting you to Troy, too.

A Google search for "Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuk."
Yes, I did write about him once. No, I won't apologize. And yes, that's his real name.

A Dogpile search for "chimp attacks."
Seriously, do not mess with these things.

A Yahoo search for "Bevill Heflin."
Two men who did good things for Alabama.

Five Google searches for "Gerald Allen."
One man who's doing terrible things in Alabama.

Three Technorati searches for "Dobson."
One man who fears gay sponges and liberal activist Klan judges.

A Yahoo search for "punji stake infections."
Get off the Internet and seek immediate medical attention.

A Yahoo search for "red state male."
Hey, baby. What do you want to know?

A Yahoo search for "red state stereotypes."
Well, see, it depends on which ones really interest you...

A Yahoo search for "militaryescortm4m."
This conversation is over.

Two Google searches for "Twinkle Andress."
Your new score: Twinkle 3, Redding 2.

Visitors from Montana and New Hampshire.
My constitutional amendment! My... my precious!

Visitors from Aruba, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Estonia, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.
Don't worry; I stopped reading after Aruba, too.

A Yahoo search for "War Diaries of Homosexual boys."
OK, it's definitely time for this installment to end. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, April 18, 2005

C'est la vie

With 23 days of this year's 30-day regular session in the books, the Alabama Legislature has passed only a handful of bills. The Senate is bogged down over a bill that would force the state Christian Coalition to reveal its contributors. Democrats are eating their own over a proposal to increase higher education funding by $46 million next year. Legislators still haven't passed the education and General Fund budgets, as they're required by law to do.

Special sessions cost this cash-strapped state about $500,000 apiece, which seems like a lot until you realize that legislators so consistently fail to do their jobs that special sessions are pretty much an annual occurrence. These days, it's just business as usual.

I can't hear you...

When you were in first grade, that's what you would say as you plugged your ears while someone said something you didn't like. Now it seems to be the Bush administration's official policy on the increasing number of terrorist attacks worldwide.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Can anyone justify this?

The next time President Bush gets in front of the television cameras and starts talking about the need to support our troops, see if he mentions his administration's proposal to cut veterans' benefits by $293 million next year.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I must have missed that verse

Why do Democrats vehemently oppose a few of President Bush's judicial appointees? Well, because they hate Jesus, of course.

That'll be the undercurrent at "Justice Sunday," an event in Kentucky where organizers will suggest that Senate Democrats who threaten to filibuster a handful of Bush's nominees will do so because they are "against people of faith." Among the scheduled speakers are Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who said some judges are mighty similar to Klansmen, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who presumably wants nothing more than to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees.

The filibuster has existed in some form for almost 200 years, because it's the main device to ensure the Senate remains the "cooler head" that prevents a bare majority from forcing its whole agenda down the throats of an unwilling minority. Both parties have taken full advantage of the filibuster in past decades, as they had the right to do. At least one GOP senator, John McCain of Arizona, has said he would vote to save the device; I hope he can persuade others to join him.

The emerging theocratic spin on the filibuster debate is both unsurprising and disgusting. Politicians who would paint those who disagree with their policies as anti-Christian are disingenuous slime, plain and simple. As U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "No party has a monopoly on faith."


Friday, April 15, 2005

Interstate love song

Corridor X has cost too much and has taken too long to build. It's still not done. It won't be done for another seven years.

But that won't stop highway officials from designating the corridor as Interstate 22 on Monday. The "interstate," which abruptly ends in bucolic Walker County right now, eventually will replace U.S. 78 as the main Birmingham-to-Memphis thoroughfare at a cost of a mere $1 billion and counting just for the portion in Alabama. It'll be convenient when it's finally finished, assuming it ever is.

Should have stayed in the pocket

"Ron Mexico" is fake, but that hasn't kept NFL fans from wanting a jersey with his name on it. Alas, what the league's online shop giveth, the league's online shop taketh away.

I laugh. Ron Mexico, a Michigan auto parts supplier who does exist, is somewhat less amused.

Clearing up a misconception

One of the arguments I sometimes hear from gay-marriage opponents is that the government is free to bar same-sex unions because marriage isn't a fundamental liberty but just a privilege. Of course, the same folks also often turn around and assert that marriage is fundamentally sacred and central to society, so you have to wonder about the logical disconnect.

From a legal standpoint, marriage is very much a fundamental liberty. Several U.S. Supreme Court opinions, including Loving v. Virginia (struck down interracial marriage ban) and Turner v. Safley (struck down regulation barring prisoners from marrying without superintendent's approval) have made it clear that marriage falls within the zone of privacy protected by constitutional guarantees against government intrusion.

The Court has yet to rule if the preservation of the traditional male-female nature of marriage is sufficient grounds for states to ban gay marriage, and it's unlikely to do so in the near future, for reasons I've already mentioned. But it's safe to say that even if the justices upheld a ban, they wouldn't do so by finding that marriage is nothing more than a privilege subject to arbitrary limitations.

So just how many legal rights does marriage affect? Hundreds, ranging from child custody to inheritance to testimonial immunities. You can find a summary here and a full roster here.

That was odd

For the record: If you're calling here from a mental hospital and you want Kool-Aid, you dialed the wrong number.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pound puppy

The University of Tennessee unveiled its new athletics logos Wednesday, which begs the question: Am I supposed to fear this?

The slow march of history

One day, gay marriage will be legal nationwide. Scientific findings that sexual orientation is primarily genetic and each successive generation's greater tolerance of gay people will see to that.

Until then, society will encounter a lot of "firsts" along the way. One of those firsts will come in a matter of days, when Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, signs a measure to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. The state House passed the bill Wednesday, 85-63, and state senators, who already approved an earlier version, will OK the new bill next week. Connecticut will be the first state to establish civil unions without a court order.

The precedent will be a powerful one. Gay-marriage opponents no longer will be able to portray the issue purely as a battle between activist judges and the "tyrannized" majority. Once Connecticut lawmakers, of their own free will, approve same-sex civil unions, opponents' blanket assertion that most Americans everywhere oppose marriage rights for gay people will be eviscerated.

States' rights advocates will be in a tough position: Do they support a state's right to govern marital benefits as it sees fit, or do they abdicate their core values and call for federal intervention to prevent an undesirable outcome? Regardless, it seems the only way that a constitutional amendment against gay marriage will escape Congress is if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act or a state gay-marriage ban in the next few years. Because the justices realize what the political fallout from such a decision would be, they almost certainly won't touch the issue any time soon.

In the next couple of decades, many more states likely will permit civil unions as a matter of basic fairness. As they do, the public will get a chance to see that civil unions won't drive up divorce rates or otherwise "harm" traditional marriages. Everyday life will belie doomsayers' warnings that gay marriage will lead society into irreversible moral decay.

After Americans hear, year after year, gay people casually referring to their unions as "marriages" and their partners as "spouses," the distinction between "marriage" and "civil union" gradually will fade and eventually will become impossible for most people to justify. Somewhere along the way, once anti-gay forces have lost the power and influence they now wield, the Supreme Court probably will extend constitutional protection to gay people's right to obtain the benefits of marriage.

The result, decades from now, will be that society either 1) applies the word "marriage" to both heterosexual and homosexual unions or 2) calls both kinds of unions "civil unions" and gets the government out of the marriage business altogether. Either way, gay people will receive equal protection under the law, and thanks to the First Amendment, religious leaders will remain free to decide which unions they will or won't recognize.

And history, as it always does, will march on unabated.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I couldn't make this stuff up

By his own admission, Michael Schwartz, chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is somewhat out of the mainstream.

"I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist," Schwartz said last week at a Washington conference on "judicial tyranny" and liberal activists and other such topics. "I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"

Cousin Vlad would be proud. Coburn, an obstetrician who touts the death penalty for abortion doctors despite having performed two abortions himself, probably won't complain much either.

But no overview of wild-eyed overreaction would be complete without Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who alerted us a few months ago to the latent homosexual dangers of a cartoon sponge. Now Dobson wants to warn us about another enemy: those homosexual-enabling liberal activist judges, most of whom are both liberal and activist. I'll let him explain:

"I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrongs to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about."

Any explanations? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Death for the 'death tax'?

While we're on taxation, it's appropriate to discuss congressional Republicans' renewed efforts to abolish the estate tax.

If you've listened to a few of President Bush's speeches, you may have come to know the tax as the "death tax," an emotionally charged term designed to appeal to listeners' fundamental senses of fairness and justice. Many prominent Republicans have decried the estate tax for forcing inheritors to sell their small businesses and family farms to pay an overwhelming tax bill assessed by greedy bureaucrats who laugh malevolently as they ruin lives.

What estate-tax opponents de-emphasize is that the tax is assessed against only about 2 percent of all estates, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The tax, which due to a legislative quirk will disappear entirely in 2010 before returning the next year, applies only to individual estates worth more than $1.5 million or couples' estates worth more than $3 million. By 2009, those exemptions will rise to $3.5 million and $7 million, respectively.

Were the drive to abolish the estate tax truly motivated by a desire to protect family farms and small businesses, Congress could create additional estate-tax exemptions for such assets or permanently exempt the first $8 million or $10 million of an individual estate to ensure the long-term security of small farms and businesses. But when 51 senators in 2001 voted against legislation that would have increased the individual exemption to $100 million -- far above the amount needed to secure a small farm or business -- they revealed themselves to be concerned not with the little guy but with pure ideology.

A debate over whether inheritances should be taxed at all is a debate worth having. But GOP leaders' assertion that the abolition of the estate tax is the only way to protect family farms and small businesses is a fallacious argument that distracts from the real issues at hand.

It'd be funny if it weren't real

The Cliffs Notes on the Alabama taxation system: Our property taxes are the lowest in the country. Our sales taxes are some of the highest in the country. And we begin to collect income tax from a family of four once they earn $4,600 a year, more than $10,000 below the federal poverty line.

Sounds pretty immoral to me. So where's the state Christian Coalition? Oh, that's right: fighting to retain segregation-era language in the constitution.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Yee-haw, y'all

Alabama: Home to hog-dog rodeos and a Confederate flag flying 100 feet high as travelers approach the state capital.

Some days are better than others.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Programming note

The Short Bus is about to hit the road again.

Long-time Bus driver W.C.G. plans to relaunch his blog, described by one knowledgeable reviewer as "a thought-provoking laugh riot," on May 18. A link is available in the right-hand column if you wish to acquaint yourself with his work before the big day.

What hath judge-bashing wrought?

Lawyer Edwin Vieira said Friday during a Washington conference on "judicial tyranny" that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." It therefore is ironic, not to mention terrifying, that Vieira cited Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin for his "bottom line" on dealing with Kennedy: "no man, no problem."

Stalin's full quote, as The Washington Post notes: "Death solves all problems; no man, no problem."

Why law enforcement didn't immediately visit Vieira after he made a comment like that is beyond me. Vieira ostensibly was referring to the ridiculous idea that federal judges who make a decision or two with which he disagrees should be impeached, but considering the recent spate of violence against judges and their families, his ill-considered remark easily could send a mentally unstable person over the edge.

Also on the conference's guest list: everyone's favorite granite lover, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Surprise!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Time to dispel another rumor

From a seventh-generation Madison County resident, quoted in a Huntsville Times story about a family who gathered in a cemetery Saturday to honor an ancestor who fought in the War of 1812:

"Lots of people, especially from up North, think of us down here as illiterate, barefoot, and pregnant. Not everybody is barefoot and pregnant, though I have been both at the same time."

The Southern equivalent of Howard Stern

Did you ever want to pick up Alabama's largest newspaper to read nearly 3,000 words about a bald sports-radio host? Now you can.

Yes, we do like college football here. Why do you ask?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Simply breathtaking

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, took the House floor Wednesday and delivered the best-reasoned, most scathing critique of the Bush administration's Iraq policy that I've ever seen or heard. It's tough to pick just a few lines to quote, because the whole speech is filled with gems, but here are some highlights:

"[C]onceding that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein is a far cry from endorsing the foreign policy of our own government that led to the regime change. ... The real question ought to be: 'Are we better off with a foreign policy that promotes regime change while justifying war with false information?' ...

"But there's another question that is equally important: 'Are the American people better off because of the Iraq war?'

"One thing for sure, the 1,500-plus dead American soldiers aren't better off. The nearly 20,000 severely injured or sickened American troops are not better off. The families, the wives, the husbands, children, parents, and friends of those who lost so much are not better off.

"The families and the 40,000 troops who were forced to re-enlist against their will -- a de facto draft -- are not feeling better off. ...

"The American taxpayers are not better off having spent over $200 billion to pursue this war, with billions yet to be spent. ...

"We have lost our way by rejecting the beliefs that made our country great. We no longer trust in trade, friendship, peace, the Constitution, and the principle of neutrality while avoiding entangling alliances with the rest of the world. Spreading the message of hope and freedom by setting an example for the world has been replaced by a belief that use of armed might is the only practical tool to influence the world -- and we have accepted, as the only superpower, the principle of initiating war against others."

Remember, these words didn't come from an angry Democrat or an embittered liberal; they came from a member of Bush's own party from Bush's home state. Read the whole speech and see if you still can back this administration's foreign policy afterward.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Justice at last

Eric Rudolph, one of the country's most notorious domestic terrorists, will plead guilty next week to a string of four bombings in the late 1990s, including lethal attacks on Atlanta's Olympic Park in 1996 and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998. He'll serve four life sentences but will avoid the death penalty.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

From the Alabama legislators who brought you a constitutional amendment to ban something that's already illegal and a law that says they can't pass a law comes a bill that would impose the death penalty on murderers who kill with a federally banned assault weapon, except that no such ban exists because Congress allowed it to lapse last year.

Seriously, folks, stop passing ineffectual laws and start doing stuff that has a meaningful, positive impact on people's lives, like stabilizing our education funding sources, or easing the burden on our overcrowded prisons, or naming an official state groundhog.

I nominate Birmingham Bill.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

So this is why it's free

Blogging will resume when the Blogger "service" once again works well enough for me to remove those quotation marks. Until then, might I recommend the archives? You can find some lively discussions there, assuming Blogger hasn't crashed completely and deleted this entire blog by the time you get there.

Democracy inaction

Most states adopted a landlord-tenant law decades ago to ensure that rental housing meets a minimal level of habitability. Alabama is one of only two states without such a law, and from the looks of things in Montgomery, that's unlikely to change this year.

Legislators who support rental companies and lawmakers who sympathize more with renters have yet again hit a stalemate over competing versions of the law. Not surprisingly, the most notable disagreement is over whether tenants should ever be allowed to withhold rent. Landlords want a blanket ban on withholding rent, while renters' advocates call for allowing renters to withhold up to a half month's rent if landlords don't fix problems after notice.

The rental companies are correct that renters shouldn't be able to hold landlords over a barrel with repeated complaints about the sorts of minor imperfections inherent in any residence. But an absolute bar on withholding rent would practically eviscerate enforcement of a landlord-tenant law.

If the law barred tenants from ever withholding rent, no matter how deplorable the living conditions, I don't see what, other than market pressure or aggressive government enforcement of health and safety regulations, could motivate landlords to keep their rental property in habitable condition. That problem would be worse in smaller towns and rural areas with few rental options.

Compromise would be the logical solution, but don't get your hopes up. After all, we're talking about Alabama legislators and the cash-rich lobbyists who own strongly influence them.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Plausible deniability

We finally know who wrote the infamous memo that called the Terri Schiavo case "a great political issue" for Republicans.

Courtesy of loyal blog reader J.B.G., who provided the update in the comments on a previous post, we learn that Brian Darling, legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., admitted today that he drafted the document. Martinez immediately accepted Darling's resignation, The Washington Post reported.

Martinez, a freshman senator from Schiavo's home state, asserted that he never read the memo, that he doesn't know how he obtained it, and that he passed it on inadvertently to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. If that CYA theory doesn't do the trick for you, you can go with Harkin's account, in which Martinez handed him the memo and referred to it as "talking points -- something that we're working on here."

Though this story further confirms the Schiavo memo's existence and authorship by a Republican staffer, it leaves unanswered a more disturbing question: Is this memo an aberration, or does it reflect how GOP congressional leaders think?

But I thought you liked accountability

What's wrong, Tom DeLay? Got a problem with consistency?

Last week you were talking about how "arrogant and out-of-control" judges should be held accountable for their decisions. But now that The New York Times has revealed that your political action and campaign committees have paid your wife and daughter more than $500,000 since 2001 -- multiple times what other congressional relatives have received for similar campaign work -- you want to blame your behavior on the Damn Liberal Media (© 2005, Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, all rights reserved).

Oh, and then there's the question of whether you violated U.S. House ethics rules by accepting free trips to Russia and South Korea and the United Kingdom that just so happened to be indirectly funded by foreign agents and registered lobbyists. But hey, a question like that is "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass" you, right?

With these concerns added to his past run-ins with House ethics rules and the ongoing criminal probe of his associates in Texas, DeLay has become a huge political liability for the Republican Party. Despite DeLay's formidable prowess as a fundraiser, it seems it will be only a matter of time before party leaders decide to cut their losses and force him out as House majority leader.

The writing is on the wall for DeLay, and judging from his recent behavior, I don't think he likes what he's reading.

Ah, priorities

Alabama legislators don't have enough time to support a bill to allow voters to call a convention to rewrite the state constitution, which straitjackets county governments and offers the added advantage of being the longest constitution in the world. But they do have time to name an official state tree fruit.

Also, we apparently have an official state "renaissance faire," spelled with an extra, unnecessary letter just to fuel your craving for wanton, medieval violence.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What's in the water on Capitol Hill?

First we heard House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, say there would be political repercussions for judges who make decisions he didn't like. Now U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, says a recent spate of courthouse shootings might be related to people's anger with "unaccountable" judges who "make raw political or ideological decisions."

Not that he endorses such violence. No rational person could.

I issue no fictional endorsement

Why did a pollster ask more than 5,000 people last month about who should be the next president on The West Wing? I have no idea, but fictional Democratic candidate Matthew Santos has a 16-percentage-point lead over fictional Republican candidate Arnold Vinick among regular watchers of the show.

The pollster adjusted its results for political affiliation, so there's really only one explanation: Ladies love Jimmy Smits.

Monday, April 04, 2005

You may read this blog for a small fee

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ted Sexton didn't want to release the front page of incident reports to the public, as Alabama's Open Records Act requires him to do. Now that a judge has ordered him to obey the law, Sexton wants to charge people $1 per page for copies of public records, which is reasonable, plus $38 an hour if he or his chief deputy take longer than 15 minutes to find them, which is simply outrageous.

Sexton's new policy is contrary to a state attorney general's opinion that public documents can be inspected for free. It also flies in the face of the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the Open Records Act. The sheriff's intransigence is certain to waste even more public money and even more judicial resources on a matter that should be common sense.

It's a sad day when a designated law enforcer openly flouts a court order. Voters should remember this plan during the next election.

Yes, I am a history nerd

Former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, who received a recess appointment to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, is a member of the Federalist Society. So are the state's current AG, Troy King, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

Am I the only one who's amused that a bunch of conservative lawyers who believe in strict constructionism named their group after the original proponents of loose constructionism?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Who's next at the Vatican?

Pope John Paul II, who visited more countries than any other pope in history and is credited with helping to hasten the downfall of eastern European communism during his 26-year tenure, will be a tough act to follow. Someone has to do it, though, and Vatican observers have begun to speculate about potential successors.

If you'd like a list of papal contenders presented in an objective, straightforward manner, CNN has you covered. (Scroll down and click on "More potential successors.") And if you'd prefer a list offered with a little bit of attitude, has what you need. The early favorite, though by no means a lock: Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, Italy.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Godspeed, pontiff

"Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. ... Do not believe in violence; do not support violence. It is not the Christian way. It is not the way of the Catholic Church. Believe in peace and forgiveness and love, for they are of Christ."
The world lost a good man today. May he rest in peace.

It's time for DeLay to go

Courtesy of loyal blog reader Susan of Local Tint, we learn that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, warned federal judges on Thursday that they could face repercussions for upholding the law in the Terri Schiavo case.

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior," said DeLay, who wouldn't mind if you'd forget all about his ethics brouhahas and the criminal indictments of his associates. He also whined about "an arrogant and out-of-control judiciary that thumbs its nose at Congress and the president" and spoke in vague terms about impeachment proceedings against the judges involved in the case.

(I wonder if he'll call for the ouster of the entire U.S. Supreme Court, which declined at least five times to hear appeals in the case? Or maybe he's just talking about Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, an extreme liberal leftist purveyor of... Oh, never mind, he's a Republican and a Southern Baptist.)

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., rebuked DeLay, noting that "at a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone." Standing alone, DeLay's rhetoric would have been reckless in a country where we've recently seen the murders of a judge's family and of a judge in his own courtroom. Those ill-considered words begin to border on incitement when you consider that a man has already been arrested for plotting the murders of Greer and Schiavo's husband, Michael, and that a Michigan militia leader was ready to storm Schiavo's hospice at a moment's notice.

I've long suspected that some in the GOP were using the Schiavo situation as a test case to see just how much public resentment they could stir up against the courts. Now, with DeLay calling for a Judiciary Committee investigation of "the failure of the judiciary on the federal level," it appears that theory may hold some water. However, considering that 82 percent of the public opposed politicians' intervention in the Schiavo case, any attempt to tinker with the courts based on that situation will face very long odds. The Republicans' best political strategy at this point would be never to talk about the Schiavo case again.

The GOP also would benefit from reining in its No. 2 man in the House. DeLay has received three admonishments from the House Ethics Committee. Three of his associates have been indicted on money-laundering charges. Now he wants to put political pressure on the judiciary because judges didn't do what he wanted.

For the good of his party, for the good of his countrymen, and for the good of the Constitution, DeLay should resign as House majority leader.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Irrefutable science

If you thought the thunderstorms in Alabama have been bad lately, just wait a couple of years until the tsunami hits.

OK, fine, roll your eyes if you will, but we'll see who's laughing when the warnings within an Islamic scholar's groundbreaking research spring to life in the form of a giant, vengeful wall of water that consumes every American man, woman, child, dog, cat, and aardvark in its hyperextended path. Further inquiry is necessary to determine if giraffes, which truly don't affect geopolitics outside of running into the occasional power line, shall be immune from the unstoppable, awe-inspiring liquid judgment.