Tuesday, May 31, 2005


President Bush held a press conference this morning in the White House Rose Garden. Time for some cursory analysis.

On an Amnesty International report that criticizes U.S. conduct in the war on terrorism: "It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation."
Read the report for yourself and see if you agree.

On Senate Democrats' requests for more information about U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton: "In terms of the documents, I view that as just another stalling tactic."
So you aren't going to hand over what they asked for, right?

On the recent White House terrorism scare about which officials didn't tell him until it was over: "I was very comfortable with the decision they made."
I wasn't.

On plans to press forward with his Social Security privatization plan despite widespread public disapproval: "It's like water cutting through a rock."
If the rock were consistently growing more waterproof, yes.

On the increasingly deadly Iraqi insurgency: "What the insurgents fear is democracy because democracy is the opposition of their vision."
Might I suggest some summer reading, Mr. President?

On the meaning of the phrase "extraordinary circumstances" in the recent bipartisan Senate compromise to save the filibuster: "I guess we're about to find out."
Nah, it's not a veiled White House threat. Pretty open, actually.

On concerns about a second-term slump: "I don't worry about anything here in Washington."
But isn't that what we pay you to do?

On vocabulary: "Disassemble -- that means 'not tell the truth.'"
No, it doesn't.


Vanity Fair magazine has reported that 91-year-old W. Mark Felt, former deputy associate FBI director, has identified himself as the infamous "Deep Throat" from Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's Watergate stories. The journalists haven't confirmed Felt's claim, but they also haven't denied it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Check yes or no

Jurors are still out in former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy's criminal trial. They're working only a few hours a day, and they've taken to slipping notes to the judge to ask things like if they all have to agree on a verdict.

Ladder climb

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, wants to change his title to "U.S. Sen." or "Gov." soon.

Davis, speaking at his alma mater earlier this month, told The Harvard Crimson that he hopes to run for governor or U.S. senator in Alabama by 2010. Like any good politician, he knows the value of party loyalty and open seats, so he said he wouldn't run against an incumbent Democratic governor or an incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Davis is Alabama's only black congressman, but he told the Mobile Register that he doesn't think his race would prompt white voters to reject his message: "I think a black candidate who's talking about issues that resonate with voters all around the state would receive a fair hearing and could be elected."

In memoriam

Remember them. Remember all of them.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

He wasn't going to win anyway

Robby Gordon never planned to race in the Indianapolis 500 today, but that didn't stop him from drawing our attention to an important problem: Those uppity womenfolk have an unfair racing advantage because they weigh less.

I, for one, am outraged, and I hereby demand that the NBA stop the Eastern Conference finals until I reach the 7-foot mark and get a fair chance to hold Dwyane Wade under 40 points.

You just can't ignore history

More than half of the 402 Alabamians polled in a recent Mobile Register survey said the United States achieved either a win or a draw in the Vietnam War.

Poll director Keith Nicholls tried to connect the survey results to reality: "[S]ome people might want to point to this war as perhaps a foreign-policy defeat but not a military defeat. It's really the only way these results make sense, if you assume that people are really informed about these issues."

Even likelier: Some Americans think the very idea that the United States could ever lose, or that our leaders' decision to go to war could ever be bad, is unpatriotic or treasonous, so they simply put on rose-colored glasses and see what they want to see. Many of those citizens likely also feel that to support U.S. troops, one necessarily must support all wars in which they're sent to fight.

Refusal to learn from history is, of course, a sure-fire way to repeat it. The Alabama commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said it best: "As a nation, it doesn't seem that we learn our lessons very well."

Every little bit helps

Alabama's 10 Republican state senators have vowed to refuse compensation for this summer's special session on the General Fund budget and have asked Democrats to follow suit.

Sure, it's a publicity stunt to deflect attention from the fact that GOP senators were just as responsible for the Senate's inaction during the regular session as their Democratic counterparts. And sure, the move will save the state coffers only $600 a day during the special session, so it's largely symbolic.

But hey, it's better than nothing.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Riders on the storm

U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, had a tough choice this week: Either he could vote for "Buy American" legislation that could hurt his hometown's chances of landing a $600 million foreign aircraft plant, or he could be accused of hating the military and, indeed, freedom itself.

One of the flaws of the American legislative process is that you can get almost anything, no matter how silly or unpopular, passed into law if you attach it to the right bill. Thanks to riders, amendments don't even have to be relevant to the measure at hand; any tangential tack-on is just fine.

Riders often are used for pork-barrel spending, so they're common in appropriations bills. And because we're at war, the trend du jour is to add highly controversial or protectionist amendments to military spending bills. That's how Congress approved the national ID system earlier this month, and it's also how the House endorsed the "Buy American" provision that got Bonner in some hot water.

It's a Machiavellian tactic. It's not good for the republic. And without a doubt, it's very effective.

They just can't commit

Gov. Bob Riley says Alabama won't pledge money to build a domed stadium in Birmingham until the city and Jefferson County ante up their shares of the cost. Magic City leaders don't want to allocate their portion until the state and the county agree to come aboard. County commissioners have promised to chip in, but they haven't made it official yet.

As infighting and inaction continue, the dome, still nonexistent, keeps getting more expensive.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Baby steps

In their great beneficence, Alabama legislators approved a bill earlier this month to allow county commissions to regulate things like noise and weeds and stray animals. But only two county commissions. And only if the counties' residents vote to give commissioners that power. Seriously, don't you just want to wait on the Legislature to handle that kind of stuff?

Gov. Bob Riley grinned, bore it, called it "limited home rule," and signed it into law Thursday.

Harsh curve

If one of the 40 or so teachers who just graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile had failed an evaluation this year, its education school could have lost its state approval.

It sounds absurd, but it's true because of a quirk in the way the Alabama Department of Education grades teacher colleges. The schools are ranked based on the performance of recent graduates who teach in Alabama public schools. Because most of Spring Hill's graduates depart for other states, the college's assessment this year was based on only six teachers. Other small teacher colleges also face evaluations based on a small graduate pool, but the head of the state's teacher evaluation program said the process should be better in years to come.

For what it's worth, the University of Alabama batted 1.000 this year and beat Auburn University.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Yep, she's still a polarizing figure

A recent Gallup poll shows that 39 percent of Americans are "not at all likely" to vote for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., if she runs for president in 2008. That's a full 10 percentage points higher than the number of people who said they would be very likely to support her, though a majority of Americans said they'd be at least somewhat likely.

The poll didn't offer a breakdown of respondents by region, but based on anecdotal evidence, I'd venture that the "not at all likely" number is much higher in the South. Nonetheless, Clinton's name recognition and donor support make her the de facto front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination right now, but it's far too early to handicap the race with any degree of certainty.

Clinton has told reporters she's "focused on winning re-election" to the Senate in 2006, and she'll almost certainly cruise to victory unless former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani breaks with the conventional wisdom and enters the fray. Former President Richard Nixon's son-in-law just isn't the guy to knock off an incumbent with 67 percent support in New York.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Who isn't liberal to him?

Former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, a conservative member of the Federalist Society who last year received a recess appointment to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is just too liberal for Roy Moore's taste.

The former Alabama chief justice is upset because Pryor wouldn't let him offer a brief in a case about evolution warning stickers in Georgia textbooks. Moore says it must be because Pryor is "part of the problem of judicial tyranny and the erosion of our religious freedom." Pryor, who actually knows how the judicial branch is structured, says the denial came because Moore asked the 11th Circuit to overrule Supreme Court decisions, which it can't do.

A tangential question: Does anyone know when and why the media started referring to Pryor as William instead of Bill?

More fun with Blogger

Due to some quirks with the Blogger service, my blog settings have taken to changing themselves without warning for the last day or two. If you can't submit a comment, or if some links are suddenly broken, you'll know why.

I've contacted Blogger, so I hope things will be back to normal soon. Thanks for your patience.

Maybe he just likes cornfields

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, said he'll decide by early 2007 if he wants to seek the Republican presidential nomination. So if you don't mind, try not to read much into his recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Why we're broke almost every year

Breaking news: Alabama has a horrible tax system.

OK, you might already have heard that. Perhaps you read about it somewhere. Or maybe you've just encountered it in everyday life. But in case you weren't sure before, a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has confirmed that beating up on poor people and relying too much on too-high sales taxes isn't a formula for fiscal success.

You already knew that the Alabama income tax threshold is an absurdly low $4,600 a year for a family of four. Today's rather depressing fun fact: "[A] person making $30,000 a year pays the same income tax rate as a person making $300,000 a year."

Did someone mention constitutional reform?

Compromise localized

This week's U.S. Senate deal to block the nuclear option provides for confirmation votes for three of President Bush's federal appeals court nominees. As The Birmingham News reminds its readers today, included on that list is former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, who sits on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals thanks to a recess appointment last year.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wasn't a party to the compromise, but that hasn't stopped him from taking this chance to remind everyone that he's been Pryor's chief Senate proponent for two years. A few liberal advocacy groups plan to lobby against Pryor, but he'll almost certainly win a lifetime spot on the bench.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Need some free publicity for your church?

Just ignore Christianity's calls for love and tolerance of your fellow man by erecting a sign that reads "The Koran needs to be flushed!" Then brace yourself for the influx of new congregants.

Passers-by: Please note that this church is not in Alabama.

Instant accountability

Loyal blog reader Nicholas Roussos has passed along a link to Plogress, a brand-new blog that offers daily updates on the legislation that every U.S. senator and representative introduces or sponsors. It's a very useful tool, and I've added a permanent link to the site's Alabama section in the sidebar.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Crisis averted

I was putting the finishing touches on a lengthy post about how dangerous the nuclear option would be for the future of our republic when I got the news tonight: The nuclear option is dead.

I've never been happier to discard a post.

Under the compromise reached by 14 U.S. senators -- seven Democrats and seven Republicans -- the Democratic seven will allow confirmation votes on three of President Bush's appellate court nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. In return, the GOP seven agreed not to vote for the nuclear option, which flagrantly would have broken Senate rules and precedents by allowing a simple majority to change the rule allowing filibusters for judicial nominees instead of the 2/3 majority required for a rules change.

The deal has left partisans on both sides dissatisfied, which is the mark of any good compromise. More importantly, it prevents an atmosphere in which politicians break or ignore long-standing rules and precedents whenever they stand in the way of a little temporary gain for the majority.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., looks like the political loser in this battle, as his potential 2008 presidential run took a major hit tonight. Frist's failure to force a vote to ban judicial filibusters will cost him among leaders of the religious right, who strongly pushed for the nuclear option and upon whom he hopes to rely as a support base.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading 2008 GOP presidential contender who was the spokesman for the group of compromisers, emerges from this dispute looking like a strong, rational leader and a force for moderation. The two-thirds of Americans who opposed the nuclear option will remember that he was the voice of reason when it counted.

Political machinations aside, this controversy wasn't about Democrats against Republicans; it was about ensuring that we still live in a country ruled by laws, not by men. Tonight, the rule of law won. As Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor shortly after the deal was announced, "This is a victory for the American people."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Buyer's remorse

President Bush's approval ratings, as they have for several months, continue to fall. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that Bush's overall job approval rating has plummeted to 43 percent. Even in Alabama, which was solidly in the Republican column in the fall, Bush's job approval rating has fallen by 10 percentage points in the last year.

Why the decline? Much of it likely is attributable to buyer's remorse from independents who, believing Bush was the lesser of two evils, reluctantly voted for him in November but who dislike what they have seen since then.

A recent Gallup poll found that 57 percent of Americans now think the Iraq war wasn't worth fighting. Only 29 percent like how Bush is dealing with Social Security. And a full 82 percent of Americans disliked how Republicans turned the Terri Schiavo situation into a circus. The GOP-led showdown over the nuclear option, which almost two-thirds of Americans oppose, just adds fuel to the fire.

For the last few months, Bush has made the mistake of buying into his own hype, of believing that 51 percent of the vote truly was a national mandate rather than a narrow victory and a call for compromise. A few months into his second term, the reality of what happened in November is creeping back to the surface.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Now there's a novel theory

The Alabama Legislature is headed for a special session soon, thanks largely to the Senate's inaction during the regular session. Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper, for one, knows who to blame.

"The ironic thing is, the bill that held up the Senate is the same bill that a lot of people who are complaining, they sponsored and pushed through the House," Lee said. "Everybody knows the House. If you send them a bill, they'll pass it."

Damn nefarious House members. How dare they complicate our senators' lives by passing bills?

Not counterproductive in the least

Sure, our country may be facing a military recruiting crisis while fighting simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And sure, those wars are the kind of conflicts where the front lines are fluid, meaning any uniformed U.S. soldier could be thrust into combat at any time. But why should that stop House Republicans from passing legislation that says women really, really shouldn't be allowed in ground combat without congressional approval?

The forgotten epidemic

Update: It seems The Birmingham News' story was meant for the Sunday paper but inadvertently and temporarily was posted online a day early. I've fixed the links accordingly.

Research indicates that up to 10 million people worldwide may die in the next 20 years from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The Birmingham News today puts a human face on some of the thousands of Alabamians, mostly blue-collar workers, who have died and are dying from mesothelioma, a brutal form of cancer that's especially tough to treat with chemotherapy, and other asbestos-related diseases.

Congress is considering legislation that would establish an asbestos victim's compensation fund, similar to the system set up to pay family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, in exchange for ending asbestos-related lawsuits. President Bush's callous reference to "frivolous asbestos claims" while touting the measure during this year's State of the Union address would lead one to believe the bill is rather business-friendly.

One myth to dispense with right away is that corporations had no indication that asbestos was bad for you until the last few decades. Centuries ago, ancient Greeks and Romans noted lung problems in people who worked with asbestos.

Friday, May 20, 2005

It even has its own website

If "created two years ago by a UAB medical student" is on your checklist of must-have qualities for a religion, The Birmingham News today reveals that you're in luck.

The race is on

Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley on Thursday became the first of the big four contenders in the 2006 Alabama governor's race to make her candidacy official. Voters don't know much about her stances yet, but that hasn't hurt her mammoth favorability rating.

Fun with real audio

Jury deliberations will continue today in the criminal trial of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, who could face a lot of prison time if convicted. During the first day of deliberations Thursday, the panel asked to rehear some tape recordings at the heart of each side's case. Jurors also decided Thursday that they will end their sessions each weekday at 2:30 p.m., probably to prevent burnout from a case that's lasted four months.

It's unclear what impact, if any, the closing arguments will have on the jury's decision, but Scrushy's defense team put on a show to remember Wednesday. Among the notable moments were one attorney's empassioned story of his struggles as a black boy during the civil rights era and another attorney's use of "a visual display of a giant cartoon mouse with a block of cheese on his head."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Another message from Elvis

Tuscaloosa developer Stan Pate announced today that he will sell 30 of his real estate holdings, including the planned site of the Midtown shopping center and his Tuscaloosa homes. He's long been angry at the City Council's lack of support for his projects and has threatened to do this for months, so it's not much of a surprise.

Pate also spoke vaguely today about Tuscaloosa's municipal election in August and the 2006 governor's race. He considered running for governor in 2002 before opting instead to mount advertising campaigns against Gov. Bob Riley's initiatives.

Armed with spitballs?

Former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., will come to Birmingham in June to show off his credentials as a lifelong Democrat by speaking at a fundraiser for Republican legislative candidates. No word yet on where he'll speak, or whether he'll call for another duel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pomp and circumstance indeed

The principal of Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School in Montgomery has declared that the valedictorian, who took part in a senior prank and has already received her punishment for it, can't speak at tonight's graduation ceremony. Officials at St. Jude Educational Institute, also in Montgomery, tried unsuccessfully to bar a pregnant student who completed all of the requirements from even participating in Tuesday's graduation ceremony at all.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

One fewer post I have to write

In bite-size, blog-ready format, the Mobile Register examines the winners and losers in this year's regular session of the Alabama Legislature. One other loser: state taxpayers, who have to pay for a special session because lawmakers can't finish their jobs on time. This will be the sixth year since 1997 with a special session.

I suppose you have a better idea

Shelby County officials plan to blast a 125-decibel, propane-fueled cannon at scattered intervals from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily at the county's airport. Hey, birds don't scare themselves away, people.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Well, I am a political blogger

In foul-mouthed, humorous fashion, loyal blog reader King Cockfight details the four types of bloggers. Find your niche.

Question time on Capitol Hill

British Parliament member George Galloway's denials of charges that he received ill-gained profits from Iraq's oil-for-food program may or may not be true. Either way, he livened up the proceedings during his U.S. Senate subcommittee testimony today.

One notable zinger: Galloway said he met former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "exactly as many times as [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld has met with him. ... The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and give him maps. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering, and war."

The rational option: detente

A few U.S. senators are trying once more to defuse the impending showdown over the nuclear option.

A bipartisan group is working on a deal that would allow confirmation votes for five of President Bush's judicial nominees while upholding Democrats' right to filibuster three others. The compromise would be imminently reasonable, and it would protect the filibuster as a way to block a bare majority from running roughshod over the minority. The stumbling block, though, is that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is imminently unreasonable and unwilling to compromise at all.

Frist also has a short memory. In a statement Monday, he said, "Republicans believe in the regular order of fair up or down votes and letting the Senate decide yes or no on judicial confirmations free from procedural gimmicks like the filibuster." Conveniently, Frist forgets that just a few years ago, Senate Republicans used "procedural gimmicks" to block more than 60 of President Clinton's judicial nominees from receiving "up or down votes."

Everyday Americans would call it hypocrisy at its finest. In Washington, they call it business as usual.

'They failed'

Alabama legislators fulfilled their destiny: not doing their jobs.

Lawmakers didn't pass the $1.5 billion General Fund budget on Monday, the final meeting day of this year's regular session. That means Gov. Bob Riley will have to convene a special session, which could cost up to $430,000, according to The Birmingham News. Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said it all: "The constitution really requires very little out of the Legislature: Pass two balanced budgets. They failed."

Riley, for his part, made two good decisions Monday. First, he vetoed the Legislature's education measures, which give teachers a badly needed raise but rely too heavily on one-time money to do so. Second, he rejected them in time for legislators to override his vetoes, realizing that a less-than-ideal education budget is better than no education budget at all.

On the bright side, state senators broke a filibuster by Jefferson County lawmakers and voted 32-3 to approve an $80 million allocation to expand the Mobile docks. The expansion will give Mobile a huge edge in its efforts to land a $600 million aircraft plant and other similar projects. Unlike our legislators' sad inaction on the General Fund budget, that's good for the state.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Buckling under pressure?

Something seems fishy about the Newsweek retraction fiasco.

The tale began when a "longtime reliable" U.S. government source told reporter Michael Isikoff that a Southern Command report would include information about an incident in which a U.S. interrogator flushed a Koran down a toilet at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. Several detainees had complained of such behavior in the past, but this would be the first official confirmation that a flushing incident occurred.

Newsweek contacted two Defense Department officials about the story. One declined to comment; another questioned another part of the story, which the magazine corrected before publication, but did not say the item about the Koran flushing was inaccurate. Based on a tip from a reliable source and an implicit confirmation of the information from a senior Pentagon official, Newsweek printed the story.

Then all hell broke loose. The story spread quickly through the Arab world, and protesters took to the streets in Afghanistan, resulting in 16 deaths and prompting some Muslim clerics to call for jihad against the United States. On Thursday, several days after the story went to press and after deadly protests began, U.S. officials said an internal investigation turned up no evidence that the incident occurred.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that day that U.S. commanders thought the violence was fueled less by the Newsweek story than by local political tensions. Nonetheless, two days later, Isikoff's source, no doubt shaken by the fiery reaction to the story, backed away from his original statement. The source said he remembered reading investigative reports about Koran flushing but couldn't recall if the incident was mentioned in a SouthCom report.

This detail is crucial, and no mainstream U.S. media outlets have emphasized it thus far in their blowout coverage. We now know Newsweek's story was wrong in saying a SouthCom report mentioned a Koran flushing incident. Without more information, we don't know if it was wrong in saying the flushing incident occurred, or even in saying the incident was mentioned in a government report.

It's unclear just how prominent of a role that pressure from the Bush administration played in Newsweek's decision to retract the story today. With that being said, it wouldn't be unprecedented for a media outlet to back away from a controversial story, true or not, after facing administrative heat. These words from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seem both telling and a little ominous: "People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do."

The truth in this situation is nuanced. Sadly, nuance doesn't fit into a 10-second television soundbite.

Trouble for Troy

Alabama Attorney General Troy King could have a big problem.

A recent Mobile Register poll found that King's likely Democratic opponent, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr., would have the support of at least 60 percent of his constituents if he ran for AG, including 55 percent of Republicans in a county dominated by the GOP. Tyson's job approval stands at 68 percent, a number attributable at least in part to his office's aggressive prosecutions of the county's sheriff and school board president, which show his willingness to hold powerful people accountable.

It's early yet, and the poll doesn't address Tyson's support or name recognition in other parts of the state, but it shows he would have a solid support base at home from which to build if he throws his hat into the AG ring.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All that they can't leave behind

Alabama legislators will convene Monday for their final meeting day of this year's regular session. As always, plenty of important work remains undone, most notably passage of the $1.5 billion General Fund budget.

Other significant measures include bills to fight back against the methamphetamine problem that plagues rural Alabama, to exempt the state's college-savings plan from state income taxes, and to move our presidential primary to the first Saturday after New Hampshire's vote.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Emergency surgery

A few Alabama legislators may cut off the state's nose to spite its face. If they do, Gov. Bob Riley will force them to reattach it.

That's the word from Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson, who said the governor will order the Legislature back into special session if it doesn't allocate $80 million for an expansion of the state docks in Mobile on Monday, the final meeting day of the regular legislative session. Jefferson County legislators have threatened to kill the bill if Riley doesn't promise them some money to help build a domed stadium in Birmingham.

Mobile is one of four finalists for a $600 million aircraft plant that would bring more than 1,100 jobs to the state, and it must submit its bid later this month. If the docks money isn't in place by then, the plant could go elsewhere. As Riley told The Birmingham News, "We can't jeopardize the future of the state of Alabama's economic growth because of parochial politics."

Loose lips get dragged before the bar

The Wall Street Journal recently had a nice chat about a dismissed juror with two unnamed lawyers in the criminal case against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. The judge, whose gag order forbade such conversations, was not amused.

After closing arguments wrap up 16 weeks of testimony, the jury will begin its deliberations Thursday. Scrushy could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of 36 criminal counts, including mail fraud, securities fraud, and wire fraud.

Later, having found no oil, he left

Vice President Dick Cheney, much to his credit, kept politics out of his commencement address to Auburn University graduates Friday. Instead, he gave a classy, feel-good speech that poked fun at Auburn's parking woes and gave props to its 13-0 football team.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, he's still calling for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to detonate the nuclear option and kill the judicial filibuster "within a few weeks," which, as I've explained several times, is a very bad idea indeed.

As Cheney spoke at a $250-per-plate fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, across campus Friday afternoon, nine anti-war protesters gathered outside. One called the Iraq war "an overt act of immorality," but no one inside heard him.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Excellence in bloviation

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who inexplicably made the Discovery Channel's top 100 list for the title of "Greatest American," singled out an Illinois high school during his Tuesday show, blasting the school for its required "global perspectives" classes and saying its students "don't know anything about World War II" and have "probably never heard the name Adolf Hitler."

A few students promptly challenged Limbaugh to a debate on American history. You might think such a fearless defender of truth, justice, and the American way would jump at the chance to show off his superior knowledge and to demonstrate the futility of public education. Strangely, though, Limbaugh has yet to accept the challenge, probably because he's too busy fending off Florida prosecutors or, even worse, Feminazis.

But it was a great bike ride

Is anyone else concerned that "the protocols in place after Sept. 11" don't involve interrupting President Bush's bike ride to tell him security personnel fear an airplane may be about to ram into the White House? As Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory writes, "It all begs the troublesome question that will dog his next three years in office: What else doesn't the president need to know?"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Surely politics wasn't involved

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Tuesday that other Bush administration officials often raised the color-coded terrorism alert level from yellow to orange despite his objections that the intelligence didn't justify the changes. "There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'" Ridge said during a Washington forum.

The unanswered questions, of course, are which people were "really aggressive about raising it" and why. I'd hate to think any executive officials would play politics with terrorism alerts.

Hi, Mr. O'Reilly

If you don't know the difference between a hoe and a ho, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has your hook-up in the first footnote of this decision. The panel also sends a Dirty South shout-out to Ludacris. For added fun, enjoy some chicken and beer while reading the ever-so-riveting opinion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Legion Field won't last forever, you know

Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid wants Alabama legislators to commit $75 million now or $5 million annually over 30 years to help build a domed stadium in the Magic City. Gov. Bob Riley, wisely, has asked the city and Jefferson County to show how they plan to pay for their share of the costs before the state starts pouring money into the dome project.

As inaction reigns, the dome, as it has for more than a decade, remains little more than a glimmer in an architect's eye, an idea that might help revitalize Birmingham if it were built in the next few years but that may not spring into existence in time to have much economic impact.

In case you aren't yet thoroughly disgusted with government, dome posturing may lead Jefferson County legislators to kill an $80 million allocation to the Mobile docks that they support, thereby seriously damaging Mobile's bid to land a $600 million aircraft plant that would bring more than 1,100 jobs to the state.

It seems there's some confusion

While we're discussing religion, I thought it'd be useful to clear up some ambiguity. Contrary to what these things might lead you to believe, President Bush is not, in fact, the risen Lord and Savior.

A revelation about Revelation

It's time to subtract 50 from the mark of the beast.

That's according to a team of scholars whose analysis of a third-century Greek version of the New Testament, the oldest surviving copy of the text, has discovered that the Antichrist's number in the Book of Revelation is not 666 but 616. A University of Birmingham (the British version) professor told The Independent that the number is a thinly veiled reference to Caligula, an early Roman emperor who was big on cruelty but low on sanity.

Any bets on what kind of twisted searches will appear in future meter readings because of this post?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fannie Flagg will be pleased

Newsweek this week has named Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School in Irondale as the nation's No. 1 public high school this year.

The ratings are based on the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests that students take in a given year, so it's not surprising that a magnet school with two of those words in its name would capture the honors. From the looks of the index ratings, JCIB blew its nearest competitor out of the water.

The ratings don't seem to take account of how students did on those AP or IB tests; nor do they consider other measures of a school's quality. Still, regardless of methodological deficiencies, it's great to see Alabama at the top of a national list of good things.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lest I be remiss

The German surrender that ended World War II in Europe came on May 7, 1945. Most of the Western world observes V-E Day on May 8. Russia commemorates the event on May 9, and President Bush was in Moscow today to attend a ceremony recognizing the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism.

Because the war ended before most of today's Americans were born, it can be tough for many to comprehend just how much carnage it wrought worldwide. Up to 68 million people died during World War II, including more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives fighting in what many have called "the last good war." As Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Sunday, "Our debt of gratitude is too great to express in words. They gave us the most precious gift -- freedom."

Thank you to every Allied soldier who served in World War II, and thank you to the U.S. soldiers who continue to put their lives on the line in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Must be more victims of the gay agenda

They tried to warn you that gay marriage would undermine the very moral foundations of the republic, but you didn't listen.

Well, let's hope you're happy now that its corrosive effect has led U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Penn., who has voted steadily to protect the institution of marriage and the Ten Commandments from those dangerous same-sex types, to carry on a long-term relationship with a woman less than half his age.

And it looks like gay marriage's destructive penumbra reaches from New England all the way to the Pacific Northwest, where Spokane, Wash., Mayor Jim West, a Republican who has consistently opposed gay-rights bills since his days as a state Senate majority leader, was found frequently hitting on who he thought to be a 17-year-old boy in online chats.

Fortunately for the tender creatures who suffer chronic pain from the very existence of homosexuality, the leaders of the Food and Drug Administration are about to retaliate with some gay bashing disguised as science to make it all feel better.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Rumors on the Internet(s)

The Huntsville Times today gives us an update on the sheriff who's not so fond of gay people: "Marshall County Sheriff Mac Holcomb denied Friday rumors that he was caught recently in an act of infidelity with a woman whose husband beat him severely."

Holcomb, who will run for a fourth term in 2006, called the rumors "lies" and noted that while the gays may not be the source of the untruths, they certainly aren't helping.

Friday, May 06, 2005

History does have a sense of humor

Helen Keller, a heroine for the disabled, is on the back of the commemorative quarter for Alabama, one of the nation's most conservative states. She was also a member of the Socialist Party, an ardent anti-war feminist, and a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

You won't hear much about those things at Ivy Green, her childhood home in Tuscumbia. The people there prefer to tell about her father's service in the Confederate army and the water pump where she learned the concept of language as a child.

Auburn University history professor Wayne Flynt provides the necessary context: "She was very politically liberal for her time, and that's what makes her controversial in Alabama today. Does Alabama really want an extremely liberal woman who was a suffragist, who was a pacifist and didn't want to go to war, who attacked big business for child labor?"

Child labor is controversial?

Wash it away

The Alabama Legislature on Thursday approved a bill by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, designed to keep Marshall County's water from going to Blount County, and Gov. Bob Riley has promised not to stand in the way.

Meanwhile, one of Blount County's legislators, Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta, has threatened to respond in the future to Marshall County's water protectionism bill with a Blount County water protectionism bill. That bill would hurt Birmingham, which draws a lot of water from Inland Lake, something fierce.

The answer to all of the petty squabbling is a statewide water policy that doesn't leave counties at each other's throats. Thomas said as much to The Birmingham News, which makes you wonder why he didn't propose to write a bill to create a statewide policy instead of seeking vengeance with another protectionist measure.

Then again, vengeance is rather tasty.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Maybe they just don't like landlords

It seems many Shelby County suburbanites object to allowing new apartments. After all, they left the big cities to get away from apartments in the first place, and besides, all of those apartments can hurt a neighborhood's property value. Some apartments are OK, of course, as long as they keep to themselves and don't make a big deal out of being there.

A milestone of sorts

This blog turns six months old today. Already, the readership has surpassed any expectations I had when I entered the blogosphere one lazy Friday afternoon; I have all of you to thank for that.

My sincere appreciation and gratitude go to my regular readers and to everyone who's paid a visit over the last half-year. I hope you stick around, and I hope you have half as much fun reading this stuff as I do writing it.

Legislative graveyard

The Birmingham News on Wednesday had a good roundup of a number of bills -- some good, many bad -- that have died in the Alabama Legislature this year. Among the notable casualties were a bill calling for the ticketing of red-light runners via traffic cameras, any effort whatsoever at a badly needed landlord-tenant law, and a measure calling for a constitutional convention to rewrite the antiquated 1901 state constitution.

The best news, of course, is that Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, won't get his gay-bashing censorship extravaganza after all.

Jolly good show

By all accounts, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party will win a third term in power in today's election despite public disapproval of Blair's decision to send troops to Iraq and embarrassing recent revelations that he entered the war after his foreign minister warned him the justifications for war were "thin."

Due in large part to his pre-war statements, about two-thirds of the British say they don't trust Blair, which ordinarily would be a sure-fire recipe for defeat. But members of the Labour Party's main opposition, the Conservative Party, also supported the Iraq war, and a majority of voters said they think Conservative leader Michael Howard is dishonest, too.

The Liberal Democrats opposed the Iraq war and offer a true alternative for disaffected voters, but they're a third party, and third parties never win without a professional wrestler.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Maybe he's not so bad after all

I agree with Roy Moore on something.

Yes, it's shocking but true. The former Alabama chief justice said something very wise while speaking in Huntsville on Tuesday: "It's about God and the government and the relationship between the two. Our philosophy is limited government. One thing it is limited from is telling us how to think."

Amen, Brother Roy! If only you'd taken your own advice before using your power as a public official to install a gargantuan Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building and then to forbid other religious displays there, we'd get along fine.

Also spot-on was Moore's wife, Kayla, who had this to say about her husband's likely gubernatorial run: "It's something to pray long and hard about."

It sure is.

Goodbye, 'scholarship pageant'

The Junior Miss pageant, an annual staple in Mobile for almost 50 years, will end this summer due to financial problems and falling participation. Those excuses are all well and good, but Mobile Mayor Michael Dow has pegged reality television as the real culprit: "It's almost like if you can't eat bugs or take your clothes off, you have nothing from the standpoint of ratings."

Hypocrisy abounds

David Espo of The Associated Press has written a fantastic piece revealing the hypocrisy on both sides of the U.S. Senate debate over the filibuster and the nuclear option.

Espo reveals the fallacy of Republican senators' claim that they never filibustered any of President Clinton's judicial nominees who had majority support -- they just used other procedural devices instead -- and the inconsistency of Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who called for the abolition of the filibuster when they were in the majority but are staunch supporters of it now that they're in the minority.

The GOP blocked 60 of Clinton's judicial appointees from 1996 to 2000, including 20 appeals court nominees. By contrast, more than 95 percent of President Bush's first-term judicial picks were confirmed. Getting Bush an extra 5 percent isn't worth eliminating the filibuster, which is one of the few tools that prevents a bare majority from running roughshod over everyone else and thus is a good thing to have around regardless of who's in power.

Scopes trial redux

See, it's not that members of the Kansas Board of Education object to the teaching of evolution per se. It's just that they want you to know that, like every other scientific theory known to mankind, it can't be proved 100 percent as pure fact, which is why we attach the novel word "theory" to it, but that's really beside the point.

Anyway, Kansas schoolchildren, like those in Grantsburg, Wis., apparently aren't learning enough about holes in the theory of evolution -- I mean, have you ever seen a live archaeopteryx? -- so their elders have decided on the only proper response: six days of political grandstanding related to something called "intelligent design," which is like creationism, only with a cooler name and a slightly less explicit government endorsement of Christianity.

Say what you will about the Kansas school board, but at least none of its members have ever danced around in public like a monkey, unlike some former Alabama governors I could mention.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The DA who isn't afraid

A few years ago, the government allocated $1.75 a day to feed each Mobile County prisoner. The sheriff spent about $1.45 per prisoner and kept the rest for himself, using $100,000 of the money to buy a personal CD and building a bank account worth more than $236,000, according to the Mobile Register.

The Mobile County district attorney, John Tyson, Jr., sued the sheriff Monday to get the money returned to the public. The lawsuit is the latest indication that Tyson is glad to hold powerful people accountable for their actions. His prosecutors already have gotten the sheriff indicted on five felony charges, including theft and perjury, and they also are pursuing unrelated felony charges against the president of the Mobile County school board.

The word on the street is that state Democrats think Tyson is the man to unseat Attorney General Troy King next year. Whether Tyson is interested in being AG remains to be seen, but there are much worse ways to gear up for a campaign than by showing that public officials aren't above the law.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Not that he's bigoted or anything

Pat Robertson doesn't think Muslims can be trusted with gavels.

"They have said in the Koran there's a war against all the infidels," the televangelist said on ABC's This Week. "Do you want somebody like that sitting as a judge? I wouldn't."

Of course, in his view, not even Muslims are as dangerous as those liberal activist judges who are engaged in "an all-out assault on Christianity." In fact, Robertson said, judges have hurt America more than the 9/11 terrorists: "I think that the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."

Really, Pat? I know a few thousand people who might disagree.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Denying history doesn't change it

The good news: More than 140 years after the Civil War ended, a Mobile Register poll has found that Abraham Lincoln has a higher approval rating among Alabamians than Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. The bad news: More than half of the state's adults believe states' rights, not slavery, was the war's main cause.

A follow-up question I wish the pollsters had asked: The states' rights to do what? Sorry, Confederate apologists, but a review of 1860s secession documents makes the answer pretty clear.