Sunday, July 31, 2005

They don't want Roy

Almost three-fourths of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee's members would prefer that their party's 2006 gubernatorial nomination go to Gov. Bob Riley instead of former Chief Justice Roy Moore, according to a recent Birmingham News survey. One promised to leave the state if Moore won.

The results reflect a divide between the party's economic conservatives, who are lining up behind Riley again now that their hurt feelings over the 2003 Amendment One referendum are passing, and social conservatives, who love Moore. The survey also shows that many party leaders know a Moore nomination probably would fracture the Republican vote enough to put a Democrat in the Governor's Mansion.

There's no guarantee that the GOP rank and file will agree with their leaders' sentiments, of course, but another poll that showed Riley's approval rating almost 20 percentage points higher than Moore's among Republican voters indicates they might.

But what about his shears?

A downtown Montgomery billboard supposedly paid for by a Hoover Republican endorses former Gov. Don Siegelman over his Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, and Republican incumbent Gov. Bob Riley: "I'd rather have Don's lottery than Bob's or Lucy's taxes. Wouldn't you?"

Saturday, July 30, 2005

How many of these things are there?

Astronomers at California's Palomar Observatory said Friday they have discovered what they called the solar system's 10th planet. Unless, of course, you consider Sedna the 10th planet. Or Quaoar. Or 2004 DW. The latest discovery has the advantage of being bigger than Pluto, which is still the ninth planet, as third-graders gladly will tell you if you try to claim otherwise.

Dissension in the ranks

President Bush's stance on embryonic stem cell research has been contradictory and illogical from the start.

Early in his first term, Bush banned federal funding of research on stem cell lines created after Aug. 8, 2001. In a prime-time televised address, he said the allocation of public money for future lines would cross "a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life."

If embryonic stem cell research is the immoral destruction of life, as Bush seemed to assert, then it should be immoral regardless of its funding source. But Bush hasn't pushed Congress to outlaw private embryonic research, which leads one to wonder how "fundamental" that moral line really is to him.

Most Americans want fewer restrictions on federal funding for the research, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Friday that he does, too. So what prompted Frist's decision to ignore social conservatives' outrage and support a bill that would allow publicly funded research on embryos that fertility clinics otherwise would discard after in vitro fertilization?

Was it a return to his original stance? Was it a former heart surgeon's effort to reclaim his mantle as a defender of medical research? Was it an attempt to get moderate voters to forget about his involvement with the Terri Schiavo case and the nuclear option before a possible 2008 presidential run?

In a word: Yes.

Definitely not a music video

After months of negotiations, the Hoover school board Friday finally gave an MTV production company the green light to film a documentary about the Hoover High School football team this fall. The 4-1 vote came after board members received a few more assurances that the school won't be portrayed negatively and a guarantee that the system would receive more money than the original contract offered. If the ratings are high enough, the company could film a total of three seasons.

The board's lone dissenter thought it wasn't such a good idea to give MTV editorial control over a series that could define how the nation views Hoover, but no one ever listens to lone dissenters.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Nature strikes with a fury

The western Indian city of Mumbai -- you may know it better as Bombay -- received 37 inches of rain in 24 hours earlier this week. More than half of the area's average annual rainfall accumulated in just 12 hours. Almost 750 people are dead, with the death toll almost certain to rise, and disease could kill more.

Unreal. All the best to India as it recovers from the monsoon.

Time for a timeout?

A recent poll found that while a large majority of Alabamians support the death penalty, 57 percent would back a moratorium until studies assure the state administers capital punishment fairly and reliably. Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, has pushed for such a suspension for years, but those efforts haven't gained traction. This poll probably won't change much on that front.

Among other survey findings, according to The Birmingham News: 96 percent of respondents "support the use of DNA in cases where it might prove guilt or innocence."

You really have to wonder about the other 4 percent.

Seriously, birds, they aren't kidding

The 125-decibel, propane-fueled cannon at the Shelby County Airport hasn't driven away the egrets, who love the easy fishing too much to leave the runway area. They have until the fall to straighten up and fly right (off) before facing dire consequences.

Road warriors

Alabama would get more than $200 million in earmarked federal transportation money under a highway bill that Congress probably will pass today. Included are $100 million for the Interstate 85 extension through the Black Belt, which Gov. Bob Riley has ordered the state Department of Transportation to place on the fast track, and $8 million for Birmingham's northern beltline, which continues to be very much nonexistent despite decades of discussion.

Also in the bill is $100 million for bus rapid transit in Birmingham, which would allow for construction of a 25-mile reversible HOV lane. The allocation depends on local officials finding some matching money for the system, which they haven't done for years despite the availability of an $87 million federal earmark. Jefferson County Commission President Larry Langford says the situation "almost borders on absurdity."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mixed bag

First, the bad news: Alabama's child poverty rate surged 14 percent between 2000 and 2003, according to the annual Kids Count study. In 2003, roughly 81,000 poor Alabama children were growing up in homes where no adult had been employed in the previous year, a rate above the national average.

Now for the good news: The study found that the state's high school dropout rate and teen birth rate both fell. So did the infant mortality rate, bucking an unfortunate national trend.

Child poverty is a multifaceted problem, but one step toward a solution is to ensure jobs are readily available to lower-income parents, many of whom live in the relatively undeveloped Black Belt region. That's one reason the Interstate 85 extension and other efforts to attract employers to the area are so important.

Of course, the state also should ensure lower-income Alabamians receive a quality education that gives them a shot at climbing the economic ladder. But that relates back to our education funding system, which relates back to our broken tax system, which is another topic for another novel post.

Shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad...

Alabama legislators spent hours Tuesday night debating whether to appropriate more money to tout the state's rabbit and shrimp industries and, if so, how much more. The winning figure was $25,000 apiece, but the compromise didn't come without some amusing, enlightening one-liners.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who wore a "Got shrimp" sign: "This is not pork. It's shrimp."

Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, who wore a "Got rabbit" sign: I'm pretty sure the sign speaks for itself.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, who went with the classic no-sign look: "I like shrimp better than I like rabbit."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

At least someone noticed eventually

"We're not familiar with Alabama up here in Massachusetts. We wouldn't know the shape of Alabama if it were sitting right in front of us, which it was."

They're finally done for the year

For $108,000, Alabama taxpayers got a five-day special session in which the Legislature accomplished more than it did during the entire regular session.

Before ending the special session Tuesday, lawmakers passed, among other things, the General Fund budget, a 6 percent across-the-board pay raise for non-education state employees, and a bill to bar the use of eminent domain for private development except in cases of blight. They also liberated Attorney General Troy King's ankle by approving tougher penalties for child molesters.

Why did we have to pay extra for that kind of productivity?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

One last check

It's been more than six weeks since the U.S. Senate lynching apology passed. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has had ample time to sign on as a co-sponsor by now. For the record, he and nine other senators are still not on the list. That's that.

At least analogies require subtlety

Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr., who wouldn't mind being the Democratic nominee for Alabama attorney general, promised Monday during a speech in Huntsville to continue fighting "domestic terrorism," which the rest of us know as "crime." Meanwhile, his prospective opponent, AG Troy King, continued volunteering to be tracked by satellite.

Also overheard during Tyson's speech to the Huntsville Education Association was this exchange:

Tyson: Can you imagine a psychotic 10-year-old?
Elementary Teacher: Yes.

Once, they actually showed music videos

An MTV production company wants to tape a documentary about Hoover High School football players this fall. School board members haven't given their final approval yet, but most of them seem OK with the idea as long as it doesn't embarrass the students and it doesn't interfere with the learning process. Also, a little more money would be nice, but hey, it's still an honor either way.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Fire up the VCR

If you missed Jon Stewart's polite verbal thrashing of author Bernard Goldberg a couple of weeks ago, you also missed one of the most hilarious Daily Show exchanges in quite a while. Of course former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was involved; you'd expect no less.

As entertaining as that episode was, tonight's show might top it. Stewart's guest: U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who's been known to say outlandish things now and then.

None of the others dated Sheryl Crow

Lance Armstrong won his seventh straight Tour de France on Sunday. He's an inspiration to cancer patients and cancer survivors everywhere, and he's easily the best cyclist of all time. My question: Would you rank him among the greatest athletes of all time, and if so, where? Above or below Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Pele, and Babe Ruth?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Upon further review

I promised several days ago to write more about U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts after I learned more about his record, but it's tough to find many specifics to discuss.

Roberts has been a judge for all of two years; before then, he bounced back and forth between private practice and work in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. His intelligence and litigation skill are unquestionable; anyone who argues 39 cases before the Supreme Court has to be doing something right.

With that being said, Roberts' long tenure as a lawyer and short tenure as a judge leave plenty of questions about where he stands on many key issues. Attorneys' job is to set aside personal politics and to argue the best case possible on their clients' behalf, so it's illogical to assume, as some have, that Roberts must be pro-corporation because he represented lots of big businesses -- that kind of work pays the bills -- or that he must be pro-life because his name was on a brief arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overruled, which was his employer's official position.

So we're left with Roberts' opinions from his brief tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. USA Today has a good summary of his positions on issues like the environment and police searches, and The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen suggests some questions that could help U.S. senators shed more light on Roberts' beliefs, particularly his stance on the scope of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause.

Roberts is not a nominee who will provoke fiery opposition, and his confirmation is a virtual certainty. That eventuality makes it all the more important now to discover what kind of philosophy and temperament he will bring to the highest court in the land.

Please leave the shears at home

The Birmingham News hit the road recently to follow former Gov. Don Siegelman across central Alabama on his "listening post" tour, which is like an ongoing political campaign but allegedly different. Siegelman, who roamed the state Tuesday in a state-owned SUV, said he may hold off on joining the 2006 gubernatorial race, if at all, until next year.

That late entrance would give his Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, almost a year's head start on fund raising and could help her build the kind of lead that even the reddest garden shears couldn't touch.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Just another day in Montgomery

Former Gov. Don Siegelman, who probably already would have declared for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary if Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley weren't so popular, asked the Alabama Legislature during a press conference Friday to pass a House-
approved bill calling for mandatory castration
of child molesters.

Actually, he'd like to "give them the death penalty on the first offense," but he'd settle for strapping them into the death chamber upon the second offense. And in case you still weren't sure where Siegelman stands on sex offenders, he snapped shut a pair of red garden shears at the press conference, presumably to show they indeed would be an effective way of removing a man's testicles.

The state Senate, aware that any such legislation probably would be struck down as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, chopped the castration provision Thursday and restored the bill to the version Attorney General Troy King proposed. By the way, if you're interested in King's whereabouts, hurry up and click this link before he takes off the electronic ankle bracelet he wore while testifying before Congress this week.

Friday, July 22, 2005

This should have happened long ago

Who's the most annoying person on ESPN? Two men endeavor to find out with the interactive Road From Bristol tournament. First-round voting is nearing an end, but it's still not too late to join.

Among the surprises so far: College GameDay analyst Lee Corso is already out, and 12 people actually voted to keep eminently unoffensive college football studio host and Alabama native Rece Davis in the field instead of NFL analyst Chris Berman.

As for my top pick, two words: Dick Vitale.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


In a wise use of limited public resources, the Shelby County district attorney is waging a valiant effort to liberate vulnerable citizens from the wretched scourge that is Texas hold 'em poker. He started with the coffee shop that advertised weekly games a block away from his office.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Helpful job advice

If you're a college instructor, no matter how "incredibly hot" one of your students is, don't post that thought on the Internet.

This is probably a first

Alabama Attorney General Troy King told U.S. senators on Tuesday that he wants them to make it easier to end consent decrees, which courts often impose to force state officials to obey federal law. Yes, he actually testified before Congress while wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

We have a name

President Bush's U.S. Supreme Court nominee will be John Roberts of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The official announcement will come at 8 p.m., but someone already has leaked the big news.

Roberts, 50, has been a U.S. circuit judge for a little more than two years. Before then, he was principal deputy solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush and worked in the White House Counsel's Office during the Reagan administration. Roberts also clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist while he was still an associate justice in the early 1980s.

I'll weigh in with some thoughts on the nomination after I've had some time to read up on Roberts' record.

Or it could be none of the below

Operation Change the Subject will begin during a prime-time press conference tonight when President Bush names his nominee to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The emerging online consensus earlier today was that Bush would pick University of Alabama graduate Edith Clement, a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but ABC News now reports that Clement won't get the nod.

If Bush opts to replace O'Connor with another woman, the nomination could go to Janice Rogers Brown of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, or to Edith Jones or Priscilla Owen, both from the 5th Circuit. Meanwhile, if he decides to pick the first Hispanic justice, the likely selections are the 5th Circuit's Emilio Garza or Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who reportedly cut short a trip to New England on Monday to hurry back to Washington.

Other possibilities include the 3rd Circuit's Samuel Alito, the 4th Circuit's Michael Luttig and Harvie Wilkinson, the 10th Circuit's Michael McConnell, the D.C. Circuit's John Roberts, and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

Whoever the pick is, tonight's announcement at least will serve one purpose for the White House: "[I]t helps take [Karl] Rove off the front pages for a week."

Well, all right then

The Tuscaloosa News today devotes almost 500 words to a mailbox vandalism incident. The victim calls it "a hate crime."

He'll take it off soon enough

The satellites know where Alabama Attorney General Troy King is today. That's because he's adorning his ankle with an electronic monitoring bracelet until legislators, whose special session begins tonight, approve a law to strengthen the registration requirements for sex offenders. The law is a good idea, but the publicity stunt is a bit much and more than a little bizarre.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Justice finally served

Terrorist Eric Rudolph received two life sentences today for his deadly bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998. In case that doesn't do the trick, he'll get even more prison time next month for three other bombings in Atlanta, including a lethal one during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The widow of the police officer killed in the Birmingham bombing called Rudolph a "monster." She's right.


A Mobile City Council candidate wants you to know "he does not urinate in public." This has been a public service announcement.

Maybe they'll tour the depot

Former State Auditor Susan Parker apparently leads a pack of candidates to take charge of the Alabama Democratic Party after chairman Redding Pitt resigns. Parker says she doesn't plan to campaign for the job, which leads one to wonder what she'll be doing as she hangs out with the Rocket City Democrats this week.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hey, the story was easy to miss

Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said Saturday that she expects "the new group of legislators," in The Huntsville Times' words, will have to react to the U.S. Supreme Court's eminent domain ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. That should surprise the current legislators who are about to do just that during next week's special session.

Three lawyers, a developer, and an auditor

Five contenders to replace Redding Pitt as the Alabama Democratic Party's chairman will speak to the Rocket City Democrats in Huntsville on Wednesday in hopes of winning an endorsement. Among the invited candidates are former State Auditor Susan Parker and former party chairman Joe Turnham.

They actually polled this

At least 55 percent of Alabamians don't think sharks automatically deserve death if they get too close to public swimming areas, according to a recent Mobile Register poll. Hey, not all polls can be about politics or the Civil War.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Maybe I missed something

Gov. Bob Riley wants the Alabama Legislature to take care of at least 10 pieces of business, including the passage of a General Fund budget, during the special session that begins Tuesday. Some legislators are disappointed he didn't include even more bills in his call for the session.

The bills, which deal with everything from film production to landfills, are mostly uncontroversial and likely will pass. Of course, our lawmakers should have taken care of these things during the regular session, but in their defense, they were too busy filibustering and outlawing things that are already illegal.

Raise the shields

Magazines aren't newspapers. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said so Friday.

Logically, Alabama's reporter's shield law should protect journalists who work for magazines. Illogically, the Legislature, which is still pretty good at illogic, forgot to include the word magazine in the law, so it doesn't. Lawmakers should close that coverage gap next year, but until then, the court's reading unfortunately was correct.

Friday, July 15, 2005

They do get nice robes

Chief Justice William Rehnquist likes his job title. He said Thursday that he intends to keep it for as long as he can.

His announcement came after a bipartisan group of four U.S. senators asked Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to stay on the bench to become the first female chief justice if Rehnquist retired. That request came amid growing speculation that thyroid cancer might force the 80-year-old chief justice to step down.

Rehnquist's decision isn't a big surprise because 1) he knows two simultaneous U.S. Supreme Court vacancies could propel the kind of Washington frenzy we haven't seen in years, 2) he enjoys his job, and 3) justices his age tend not to fare so well after they leave the Court. Still, it's a sign of the times when a Supreme Court justice feels compelled to issue a statement to say he won't resign.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Now we have a number

Conservative activists have rounded up signatures from about 122,000 people who think President Bush should nominate former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his job in 2003 after disobeying a federal court order, to the U.S. Supreme Court. The fact that pretty much anyone would be nominated sooner than Moore hasn't deterred the activists; as one said, "Whatever his prospects may be, Roy Moore personifies the standard against which other prospective nominees ought to be measured."

One hundred twenty-two thousand people.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Someone has to like auditing

Samantha Shaw, chairwoman of Montgomery County's Republican Executive Committee, has announced her candidacy for Alabama auditor in 2006. Her declaration lends greater credence to talk that the current state auditor, the GOP's Beth Chapman, will run for secretary of state next year against Democratic incumbent Nancy Worley. This has been your electoral machinations update.

Red shift

Redding Pitt, one of Alabama's two political party leaders with a quirky name, told the Mobile Register on Tuesday that he will resign as Alabama Democratic Party chairman later this year. Pitt survived calls for his ouster last year after his party was trounced in the state judicial races, but upon further consideration, he decided to hand over the reins to someone else before 2006.

Republicans have seen growing electoral success in Alabama since Pitt became chairman in 2001, capturing the governor's office, consolidating their hold over the judiciary, and cutting into Democrats' legislative majority. But correlation doesn't imply causation; greater responsibility for those results likely lies with President Bush's coattail effect in the state and the national Democratic Party's relative neglect of its Southern affiliates for the last few years, a situation new Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has pledged to remedy.

No word yet on who will succeed Pitt in what a state Democratic Executive Board member called a "thankless job," but the party's executive director says communication skills are a must.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Day tripper

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, says the Guantanamo Bay prison camp reminds him of the Calhoun County Jail in Anniston. Also, after spending a few hours touring Gitmo with other congressmen Monday, he's pleased to report that "[n]one of these abuses are really occurring," which surely puts Amnesty International in its place. Oh, and how dare you even ask if things might be any different when politicians aren't visiting.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Near miss

Hurricane Dennis, which looked rather fearsome before it came ashore this weekend, weakened slightly before landfall Sunday. Also, it largely missed the Alabama coast. Now that you know those two bits of good news, we interrupt our nonstop storm coverage to return to regular programming.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

This one isn't playing

Hurricane Dennis, which already has killed at least 32 people, likely will plow into the Alabama coast this afternoon or tonight. It has 125 mph winds now, but it could grow into a Category 4 storm before landfall. It'll be the second major hurricane to strike the Mobile Bay area in less than a year -- Hurricane Ivan tore into the state in September -- which could make the results even more devastating than they otherwise would be.

Gov. Bob Riley on Saturday ordered mandatory evacuations of all of Mobile County and the southern part of Baldwin County. A word of caution: If you live in the area and haven't fled yet, you may have trouble finding somewhere to stay upstate. But whatever you do, please stay safe.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Blown call

The International Olympic Committee on Friday cut baseball and softball from the 2012 Summer Olympics, apparently because North American athletes are too good at them. How petty.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Another vacancy?

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak wrote Thursday that Chief Justice William Rehnquist probably will resign later today, following close on the heels of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation last week.

A second U.S. Supreme Court opening may give President Bush political cover with his social conservative base to preserve the Court's ideological balance by appointing an ultra-conservative to replace Rehnquist's vote and a more moderate conservative, perhaps longtime Bush friend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to replace O'Connor's vote. That, of course, assumes Bush wants to do any such thing, which is a rather big assumption.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Now it's official

The server is back up and running today, and it brings the long-expected news that Gov. Bob Riley will call the Alabama Legislature into special session beginning July 19. Passage of a General Fund budget is the main thing on lawmakers' plate, but Riley likely also will ask them to consider other measures, including a state employee pay raise, more money for prisons, and welcome legislation blocking local governments from using eminent domain powers for private economic development.

A horrible scene

London is under attack.

At least two people are reported dead this morning after a series of explosions blew up a bus and shut down the city's subway system. The culprit is still unclear, but the blasts' coordination and their occurrence during rush hour point to terrorism. Further evidence is that the attacks came during the ongoing G8 summit in Scotland and just one day after London was named to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. On the home front, Washington, D.C., officials have stepped up their subway security today in response.

My best wishes and condolences go to the British. May they find and severely punish whoever did this.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

They'll still keep the Chunnel open

London beat Paris today for the privilege of paying lots of money to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. It's an upset of sorts, and the contest apparently has reminded the British and the French that they used to kill each other all the time but now they don't.

And hey, it's still free

A power outage has knocked the servers for a loop, which means the local blog fodder is somewhat sparse this morning. It's tangential, but this is as good an opportunity as any to commend Blogger for its smooth service in the last month or so. I've griped before when things didn't go so well, so it's only fair to offer praise when it's due. Good job, Blogger.

Not the football conference

Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy was acquitted in his criminal trial last week, but he still isn't off the hook with the federal government.

Securities and Exchange Commission officials will go ahead with their almost $800 million civil fraud lawsuit against Scrushy, an SEC spokesman said Tuesday. The agency also wants a judge to block Scrushy from being a director or officer for any public company. Notably, the government can satisfy its burden of proof in civil lawsuits more easily than in criminal cases.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Who listens to committees anyway?

Secretary of State Nancy Worley has picked Diebold to set up Alabama's voter registration system, even though a bipartisan advisory committee required by federal law said it preferred two other bidders.

Worley, a Democrat, said she chose Diebold, whose bid was the lowest by more than $1.5 million, due to "quality and product and cost." Meanwhile, the committee, whose job was "to pick the system most adaptable to Alabama," unanimously endorsed another vendor and didn't talk about Diebold after the first cut.

Worley's decision caught many committee members, including state Rep. Sue Schmitz, D-Toney, off guard. Schmitz's reaction: "When I got the letter, I said, 'Wow, that's way out in left field.'"

Monday, July 04, 2005

Somewhat heartening

A recent poll found Gov. Bob Riley's approval rating among Alabama Republicans is almost 20 percentage points higher than that of former Chief Justice Roy Moore. The same survey also showed Riley leading Moore by 7 percentage points in a hypothetical GOP gubernatorial primary showdown. Neither contender has officially announced his candidacy, though, so it's still too early to predict an outcome with much certainty.

229 and counting

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The explosion is just a fringe benefit

In a few hours, a NASA probe will slam an 800-plus-pound projectile into a comet at 23,000 mph, marking the first time humans ever have made contact with a dirty snowball. The impact will help scientists learn more about the universe's nature and also will offer the advantage of looking cool.

Politicians will be politicians

Congressional Republicans talk a good game about supporting states' rights, the Mobile Register reports today, but they're fine with greater federal control if it advances their agenda on any given issue, like the Terri Schiavo case or the location of natural gas terminals.

As a Tulane University law professor says, "If there is an important policy objective that they really care about, states' rights just doesn't deter them." And when it comes to corporate regulation, a University of Alabama law professor observes, "[P]eople are mighty selective of how interventionist they want the federal government to be."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Don't worry about it

Yes, the Christian Coalition received an $850,000 donation from Mississippi Choctaws, via an anti-tax group, to fight video poker at Alabama dog tracks in 2000. And yes, the tribe makes a lot of money from casinos that many Alabamians frequent. But you can sleep easy tonight, because the Christian Coalition of Alabama says the donation came from the tribe's non-gambling enterprises.

So there.

Friday, July 01, 2005

This should be fun to watch

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court today, which ensures non-stop judiciary coverage from the media for at least the next few weeks. O'Connor, a moderate conservative, often was the swing vote in close cases, so President Bush no doubt is eager to replace her with someone who will push the Court to the right.

The conventional wisdom is Bush wants to replace the Court's first female justice with its first Hispanic justice. The front-runner is Emilio Garza, a very conservative member of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Another possibility is Bush's friend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but many social conservatives think the man who called parts of the Geneva Conventions "obsolete" and "quaint" is too liberal, especially on abortion and affirmative action. Ed Prado, another 5th Circuit judge, is a moderate Hispanic conservative who'd likely sail to confirmation, but that moderation probably will preclude him from receiving the nod.

NPR has a list of other possible nominees, written a couple of days ago when some observers thought Chief Justice William Rehnquist would be the one to offer the Court's first vacancy in 11 years.