Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hunting the great white whale

Whale sightings aren't unheard-of in Mobile Bay. But for decades, one of Alabama's most notorious whales has been an allegorical one: the widespread poverty plaguing the state's Black Belt region. As the 21st century arrived, the area had endured years of rising unemployment with no turnaround in sight. The population had dwindled. Hope for recovery had begun to fade in some corners.

So how do you eat a whale? One bite at a time, of course. In August 2004, Gov. Bob Riley followed up on a campaign promise by creating a bipartisan Black Belt Action Commission to look for some way, any way, to reverse the negative trends.

The commission's members patted themselves on the back Tuesday as they observed the task force's 15-month anniversary. (The obvious question is why they didn't celebrate the one-year anniversary in August. Maybe Hurricane Katrina interrupted. Or maybe they wanted to wait until the fall to get more attention or to get more done. Or maybe they just forgot. Who knows?)

Politicians always love to take credit for all sorts of positive developments, but the commission undoubtedly can point to some victories during its brief existence, such as the Black Belt's new job-training and vision-screening programs. The commission also took some credit for the region's plummeting unemployment rate, which, while still close to double that of the rest of the state, fell almost 3 percent in one year. (How much of that is due to the group's efforts and how much is attributable to independent economic forces is debatable, but the commission's work certainly couldn't have hurt.)

The panel also plans to promote Black Belt tourism next year, but perhaps most significant for the region's long-term future is Riley's proposal to extend Interstate 85 from Montgomery to the Mississippi line. The project is years away, but if and when it comes to fruition, it will provide the area with the necessary road infrastructure to attract more major employers and tourism dollars to Selma, Demopolis, and other places near the new I-85.

The Black Belt for years has been tagged with the appellation "Alabama's Third World." (It's a misnomer, in my view, but that's a rant for another post.) Slowly but surely, Riley's commission is reaching across party lines and taking some baby steps toward making that moniker, not to mention the state's whale problem, a thing of the past.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just keep talking

A speech that says Americans have to stay the course in the Iraq war? We've never heard that before. That should take care of this.

Good defense attorneys cost money

As he promised last week, former Gov. Don Siegelman filed an ethics form Monday to disclose that he made more than $250,000 in "professional or consulting" income last year. Siegelman, who is under indictment on a racketeering charge and who saw a separate set of fraud and theft charges against him dismissed last year, also claimed more than $250,000 in debt to his legal defense team.

To rehash old news, Siegelman still pledges to unveil all of his tax returns since he took public office in 1978, and he still isn't very fond of what he calls "politically crazed prosecutors."

That's a lot of deer

An Alabama wildlife official says anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 deer die annually in the state from car collisions. One problem is that many deer in newly suburbanized areas don't move deeper into the woods, and they stop fearing vehicles after they see enough of them.

Monday, November 28, 2005

H: The Hackneyed

Those trendy black "W: The President" stickers that started to appear on the back windshields of SUVs a couple of years ago have created a monster. These days, you can't drive anywhere without seeing them and their derivative forms -- "M: The Moron," "J: The Savior," "F the President" -- at every turn.

Now the phenomenon has gone local. The latest incarnation, in Gov. Bob Riley's honor: "BR: The Governor."

Someone please make it stop.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Scratch and win?

Confident that public opinion has shifted these days, former Gov. Don Siegelman is riding the education lottery train again six years after Alabama voters rejected his lottery plan. His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, remained noncommittal on the concept, saying she wouldn't stand in the way of a lottery but wouldn't tout one either. But that didn't stop her from calling Siegelman's original lottery a bad idea.

Here's the part where I'd ordinarily offer original analysis, but fortunately, a University of Alabama political science professor has done the legwork already. He says the lottery proposal will help Siegelman among black voters, while Baxley's position leaves her in the uncomfortable spot of trying to seem decisive while not hurting her standing among blacks and conservative Democrats.

Come together

No, Birmingham and its suburbs won't merge under the auspices of a metro government any time soon. But they may cooperate in the near future on a host of cost-sharing measures, including common courts, jails, and emergency dispatch services. It's good to see.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve French, R-Mountain Brook, wants to create a voluntary regional authority to oversee water and sewer services, but Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid isn't keen on the idea of the city surrendering control of the water system.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Yes, he's incorporated

Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore, ousted as Alabama chief justice in 2003, made more than $250,000 from book sales and speaking fees last year as he toured the country, sometimes accompanied by his beautiful granite baby. OK, the money technically went to Roy Moore LLC, whose purpose is "educational/religious," but he's still doing all right.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman hasn't filed the required ethics update to reveal his 2004 earnings yet, but he said he will soon. Also, he'll unveil all of his tax returns since 1978 if he can locate them. And, as ever, he'll complain about "politically crazed prosecutors."

Friday, November 25, 2005

The price they pay to play the game

The Huntsville Times reports today that Alabama politicians are engaging in heavy-duty fundraising already, a whole year before the 2006 general election. It may seem too early, but it's not; a UAB political science professor estimates that gubernatorial candidates will spend $10 million during the general election alone, not to mention their primary battles.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

And before I forget...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you're fortunate enough to be spending the day with your loved ones.

Say anything

With the traditional kickoff of the Christmas shopping season just hours away, former Gov. Don Siegelman today stood in front of Montgomery Mall to compare Gov. Bob Riley to the Grinch for reasons that aren't entirely clear. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Siegelman also called on Riley to make the day after Thanksgiving a tax holiday, even though "he knows Riley can't do that since tax holidays need legislative approval."

No garden shears were wielded during the press conference.


A bare majority of Alabama's likely voters still approve of President Bush's job performance, even though most of them disapprove of the job he's done with the Iraq war and a sizable plurality thinks the nation is headed in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll by the Capital Survey Research Center.

Bush's numbers are still higher in Alabama than in most other places, but the poll still reveals a notable erosion of support in a state that's voted for the GOP in every presidential election since 1980 and that Bush carried by a 25-point margin last year. As poll director Gerald Johnson said, "If the Democrats had a position or positions or issues that would attract voters, voters are in a position to be attracted."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Entirely distinguishable

Last week, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., asked President Bush to announce a timetable for withdrawal from the Iraq war and was accused of wanting to embolden terrorists. Now Pentagon officials have announced a partial withdrawal and face no such charges. The difference, of course, is that they don't hate freedom.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pesky Brits

President Bush probably wishes the British would quit leaking memos about him. Especially ones that say he either joked about bombing an Arabic television network or was serious about it.

Johnny Mac and Junior sit a spell

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came to Alabama on Monday. Ostensibly his main purpose was to lend a fundraising hand to GOP lieutenant governor candidate George Wallace, Jr., but McCain mostly talked about the Iraq war and his anti-torture measure.

That leads me to believe McCain's visit may have been less about Wallace and more about making himself visible in a state that may move its 2008 presidential primary from the back of the line to near the front. In an indication that he's already trying his best to show himself as a bridge-building moderate, McCain expressed disappointment upon learning he had missed a chance to chat with anti-war protesters who were outside his Huntsville book signing.

Those comments didn't stanch the flow of Democratic criticism of McCain's decision to stump for Wallace, who has an NAACP Freedom Award but also has delivered two speeches to an organization that warns of the dangers of racial mixing and massive non-white immigration. Wallace said he "doesn't research every group that invites him to speak," according to The Birmingham News. (But for future reference, it might not be a bad idea to have a staffer run a quick Google search now and then.)

Submitted without comment is Wallace's response to criticism of his choice of speech forums: "My father worked too hard and suffered too long to bring all of the people of Alabama together, especially in his later years, and I love him too much to do anything to mar that legacy."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Maybe they'll start trying that here

Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he won't talk to the media for the rest of the year. But the decision has nothing to do with the criticism about his efforts to squelch press freedom or his handling of an internal insurgency. No, it's all Mercury's fault.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Not even against a good WAC team

Sorry, pollsters, but the nation's No. 1 team doesn't surrender 42 points at home against a WAC team in November. That is all.

A classy decision

A Republican congressman clearly wanted Gov. Bob Riley to score some partisan points during last week's meeting of the House committee investigating Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, according to The Birmingham News, but Riley declined to slam Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco.

"Given the amount of devastation we had ... compared to Mississippi and Louisiana, that's not a fair comparison," Riley said, responding to a question about why Alabama lacked the "chaos" seen in other states. "We were fortunate we didn't lose any people. If we had had the catastrophic effect they did, I'm not too sure that wouldn't have been the case."

Katrina effectively wiped out an area that was home to more than 1 million people. It was such a tremendous disaster that even had state and local officials prepared and responded perfectly, which they certainly didn't, the devastation still would have outstripped their ability -- indeed, any state's or city's ability -- to handle the recovery without swift and substantial federal help.

Kudos to Riley for recognizing that but for a few miles' difference in Katrina's trajectory, Alabama could have found itself in much the same boat as its neighbors to the west.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It's the little things

Does this feel bad? Yes.

Do this and this make up for it? Almost.

The cost of freedom

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., understands that illegal immigrants would never try to climb over a 2,000-mile fence along the Mexican border. And that the fence wouldn't destroy America's relations with our second-largest trading partner. And that people around the world wouldn't get the wrong idea if they saw us erecting a giant Berlin Wall-type barrier to separate ourselves from one of our closest allies.

Maybe it should have electrified barbed wire, too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

In which I bleed crimson

Considering that the Iron Bowl is fewer than 20 hours away, please indulge the following roundup of all things Crimson Tide today.
Roll Tide, everyone.

It's not the fringe anymore

U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., called on the Bush administration on Thursday to withdraw American troops from Iraq as soon as practicable. Below is a sample of the Republican response.

U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, referring on the House floor today to Murtha, a 37-year Marine who won two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star and was the first Vietnam veteran in Congress:
"[C]owards cut and run, Marines never do." (Schmidt was just relaying a message from another Marine, she was quick to say.)

White House press secretary Scott McClellan: "[T]he eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.: "They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world."

One has to wonder how the majority of Americans who support a withdrawal from Iraq at some point in the next year, according to a recent Gallup poll, feel about accusations that they want the terrorists to win.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's finally OK to disagree again

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic." -- U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., decorated Vietnam War veteran, on Tuesday

Why do uppity liberals like Nebraska's GOP senator hate freedom?

Tomorrow's politicians today

Sure, the University of Alabama's student government could send Senate meeting agendas to the campus newspaper or post them online in advance so its constituents could make an informed decision whether to attend a given meeting.

But where would be the fun in that?

Do what's right, legislators

If Alabama is going to have a hate crime law -- and it is, because the law is already on the books, and no legislator in his or her right mind would dare to suggest its repeal -- then crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation should be included within its scope.

That's especially true when you consider that FBI statistics show that sexual orientation is the third most common motivator of a hate crime, trailing only race and religion, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. If there's going to be a hate crime law, it's illogical to exclude more than 15 percent of all hate crimes.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, plans to sponsor a bill to address the oversight, and it's tough to think of a reason it shouldn't pass. Of course, these are the same lawmakers who fell all over themselves last year to make gay marriage double-plus illegal, so I wouldn't be shocked if it didn't.

The commish

Brand-new Mobile County Commissioner Juan Chastang said Wednesday that he's sorry he didn't tell Gov. Bob Riley that the county's personnel board "suspended him from his job as a Mobile police officer after determining that he tried to bribe another officer" more than a decade ago.

Chastang, appointed by Riley to fill a commission seat vacated when Sam Jones became Mobile's mayor, denied the bribery allegation, saying "he relayed the offer in jest" and that "[t]here was no bribe on [his] part, only on the part of the criminal," the Mobile Register reports today.

Chastang also assured that he has lived in a 500-square-foot apartment in the district he represents since June, despite the fact that he had claimed a homestead exemption on a 2,400-square- foot house in another district. He said Tuesday that the house was an investment; the next day, he said it had been a residence, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Truly nothin' like 'em nowhere

Sure, the prospects of an Iron Bowl victory, a 10-1 regular season, a potential BCS bowl bid, and an outside shot at an SEC title should be more than enough motivation for Alabama to want to stomp a mudhole in Auburn this weekend. But in case they're not, now the Crimson Tide also could be playing to quench Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox's thirst.

For the record, I've had both Dreamland ribs and Toomer's Drugs lemonade. No offense to the Toomer's people, but Auburn Mayor Bill Ham's potential prize is definitely better.

It won't happen

In an ideal world, Birmingham and its suburbs could merge into one big happy family and work together to promote economic development, governmental efficiency, and quality-of-life improvements for the entire region.

But in this world, municipalities bicker at each other all the time. In this world, many people in the greater Birmingham area care about the Magic City only to the extent that it's a place to go to work five times a week. In this world, the region's residents, like the inhabitants of many other major metropolitan areas across the country, still are divided largely along racial and class lines, even though no one much likes to talk about it.

For those reasons and more, the metro-government referendum bill that state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, will propose next year won't make it very far.

Not a bad gig if you can get it

Sue Bell Cobb wants to take Alabama Chief Justice Drayton Nabers' job next year, but she'll have a tough time getting it.

Cobb has been a judge since 1981, shortly after she graduated law school, and that gives her a huge judicial experience edge on both Nabers, who has been a judge for a little more than a year, and Nabers' prospective Republican primary opponent, Tom Parker, who's spent even less time on the bench and has issued far fewer decisions than his fellow associate Supreme Court justices.

The most critical factor, however, could be that Cobb has a D after her name in a state that increasingly finds itself in the R corner. Because a lot of voters pay little attention to judicial candidates, many vote for judges based on little more than their party affiliation, and the GOP is the dominant party in Alabama these days. There's a reason why the state Supreme Court consisted of nine Democrats a couple of decades ago and why it consists of nine Republicans today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pointless TV rant time

Steven Taylor at PoliBlog doesn't much like fast-food commercials that make men look like buffoons, such as the McDonald's ad featuring the goof who keeps missing the "girls are like McGriddles" signal from his eager female friend.

Those ads are annoying, yes, but they absolutely can't compare to the worst commercial in history: the Just for Feet ad that ran once -- and only once -- during the Super Bowl in 1999. The ill-fated spot for the Birmingham-based company that filed for bankruptcy later that year involved white people in pith helmets pursuing a barefoot Kenyan runner, whom they knock out. He then wakes up, looks down at his new sneakers, and runs away screaming in horror. Somehow, it was even more offensive than it sounds.

Still, there may be some hope yet for this magical talking box that we call "television." Sometimes I'll see things like the Family Guy episode that takes the FCC to task for trigger-happy indecency fines, or things like the live West Wing debate that puts real presidential debates to shame with its meaty discussion of major issues, and I'll start to think that maybe -- just maybe -- there's a secure place for smart, incisive, well-written programming on TV.

Then I'll see Arrested Development on the brink of cancellation, and I'll wonder what I was thinking.

Note to religious conservatives

Gov. Bob Riley feels just as comfortable speaking at a church as his opponent Roy Moore does.

Priorities redux

It's not like poor people ever actually need medicine anyway, right? Especially if they're in the way of further tax cuts during a time of record budget deficits.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Either way, it's over

If you want to know why the Senate Ethics Committee decided Sunday to close its investigation of allegations that U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., leaked classified information last year, or whether it determined that he did or didn't leak, too bad.

That's two too many

Only two Republican members of the Alabama House say they support gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore. Neither wants to speak on the record about it.

Cue the apocalypse

Soon, women wearing tight shirts and shorts will be literally within yards of "a God-fearing community" where such sinful, lascivious behavior has never, ever happened. Ever.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

He lied, he cheated, he stole

And no one did it better. Rest in peace, Eddie Guerrero.

A thought experiment

The Crimson Tide defense that deserved to win a national championship finally tasted a loss Saturday thanks to the perfect storm of Alabama's inexperienced offensive line, questionable clock management, and several dropped or overthrown passes, along with the requisite few bad officiating calls, the College GameDay curse, and most importantly, a damn good LSU team.

Still, it's a much better season than almost any Tide fan expected back in August, and it's one that, in theory if not in fact, still could end with a national title. The odds of all of these things happening in tandem over the next three weeks are astronomical, but just for fun, let's see how it could happen.

1) Alabama wins the Iron Bowl.
2) LSU loses to Ole Miss or Arkansas, allowing Alabama to win the SEC West and the SEC title game. In the alternative, LSU beats the Rebs and Hogs, and Georgia (or South Carolina if Kentucky pulls a miracle against the Bulldogs) tops the Tigers to win the SEC.
3) USC loses to Fresno State and UCLA.
4) Texas loses to Texas A&M and the Big 12 North champion.
5) Penn State loses to Michigan State.
6) Miami loses to Georgia Tech, Virginia, or Florida State.
7) Virginia Tech loses to Virginia, North Carolina, or Florida State.
8) Notre Dame loses to Syracuse or Stanford.
Optional: Oregon loses to Oregon State; Georgia loses to Georgia Tech; West Virginia loses to Pittsburgh or South Florida; Fresno State loses to Louisiana Tech.

The fallout after that improbable chaos: Alabama and UCLA playing for all the marbles on Jan. 4 in the Bruins' home stadium.

It won't all happen. But it's fun to dream.

Assuming you could drive over oceans

Work has been under way on Corridor X, the $1 billion interstate that eventually will connect Birmingham to Memphis, for 22 years. If you had driven at 50 mph for eight hours every weekday for 50 weeks a year from 1983 until the time the whole thing is finally done (2011 at the earliest), you could have circled the equator roughly 112 times.

But you wouldn't have seen Tupelo even once.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn't a big fan of the modern Senate confirmation process. Wonder why?

Good job, Bob

Alabama have been operating at twice their capacity for far too long, and the problem isn't getting any better through inaction. Early next year, Gov. Bob Riley said, he plans to open the legislative session by pushing for a much-needed set of overhauls, including new sentencing standards, community corrections, and prison drug-rehabilitation programs that consist of more than inmates playing chess.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thanks to you all

Happy Veterans Day to all of our service members, whether they served during World War I or the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or any time in between. May humanity one day get along well enough that we don't have to send people off to war anymore.

Peel off the stickers

For the last time: Evolution isn't a controversial theory, no matter how many stickers the Alabama Board of Education puts in science textbooks. You'll find no disagreement about the basic concept among serious members of the scientific community, and it's dishonest to suggest otherwise.

Furthermore, evolution says nothing about whether God exists or created the universe, and it poses no threat whatsoever to Christianity. Science education shouldn't be overhauled based on a faulty belief that science and religion are in conflict.

On the plus side, at least the state board didn't go the Kansas route and vote to teach "intelligent design" as science. And on a side note, it's funny how proponents of intelligent design present the idea as science, not as repackaged creationism, right up to the point where people vote to cut it from the curriculum. Then, suddenly, they claim God's wrath is at hand for the disbelievers.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

OK, got it

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., speaking today about what may or may not occur in the secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe and elsewhere: "I am not concerned about what goes on."

Frist on an unnamed source's disclosure of those prisons' existence to The Washington Post: "My concern is with leaks of information that jeopardize your safety and security, period."

Frist on the Bush administration's 2003 leak of the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative who monitored the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: The Senate won't investigate.

His logic is flawless

Televangelist Pat Robertson, no longer content merely to suggest which world leaders should be assassinated, today revealed his hypothesis of how God reacts to school board elections.

Cause and effect

Did you know Alabama's offense has scored only one touchdown in the last 13 quarters against SEC opponents? It's true! And it's all because wide receiver Tyrone Prothro got injured!

Of course, they've also only scored one SEC touchdown since Harriet Miers got nominated for the Supreme Court. And since Roy Moore announced his candidacy for governor. And since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to her home state.

I'd hold a vast right-wing conspiracy responsible for the Crimson Tide's offensive woes, but the dry spell also has persisted since former President Clinton came to Alabama and since former Gov. Don Siegelman told prosecutors to plant a kiss on his posterior, so it's clear that a bipartisan cabal is to blame.

Turnovers, lower rushing production, and an inexperienced offensive line might play a part, too, but hey, that doesn't make for a flashy headline. Truth, like teams with a good defense, is boring.


Jordanians, enraged by terrorist attacks that killed at least 56 people in Amman on Wednesday, justifiably want Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist responsible for the murders, to "[b]urn in hell." If we're lucky, maybe he'll take a cue from this Malaysian terrorist and send himself there.

Yeah, that's not happening

Larry Darby wants to be Alabama's attorney general, but he faces a few obstacles on his road to electoral success.

First, he'd have to win a Democratic primary race against Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr., a very formidable opponent who's popular in an area of the state that ordinarily trends heavily Republican.

Second, he founded the Atheist Law Center, which won't play too well with hundreds of thousands of Christian conservatives.

Third, he hosted a speech by a Holocaust denier this summer, which won't play too well with anyone at all.

Psst, Bob: People don't like Brownie anymore

Gov. Bob Riley told a congressional committee Wednesday that former FEMA director Michael Brown did a good job of communicating with Alabama officials in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. That may be so, but the damage in Alabama, while intense in a few areas, was nowhere near the large-scale destruction in Louisiana and Mississippi, where Brown did considerably worse in the communication department.

Riley also asked the federal government to do more to preposition supplies and generators before hurricanes hit, which is smart disaster planning. In addition, he defended Alabama officials' decision to run background checks on Katrina evacuees before they moved into trailers in state parks. Civil libertarians complained, but more than 30 other states did the same thing, so it didn't do them much good in this case.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wednesday night punditry

Democrats fared better than Republicans in Tuesday's elections, but it's hard to find many surprises in the results.

Yes, the blue team took the checkered flag in the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races, but in New Jersey, it would have been a huge upset if a Democrat didn't win. The Virginia victory is more impressive, considering how solidly the state went for President Bush last year. But Tim Kaine had popular incumbent Gov. Mark Warner campaigning on his behalf, so it's tough to know whether the vote was more of a referendum on Bush or Warner.

The message was clearer in California, where voters rejected all four of the ballot initiatives that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed, signaling that he's well on his way to becoming a one-terminator as Californians slowly realize they elected the Last Action Hero as their governor.

But the clearest mandate of all came in Dover, Pa., where voters resoundingly rejected their school board's decision to include intelligent design in the science curriculum by ejecting eight of the nine members who voted to do so. The six Kansas state school board members who voted Tuesday to redefine the word science might want to pay attention.

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh, I wanna take ya...

What's there to say about Gov. Bob Riley and his Aruba boycott?

I'm sorry the young lady is missing, and I'm sure the investigation could have been handled much better. But the island has 66,000 residents, and the vast majority of them aren't responsible for what happened to her.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Um, sure, guys

If you were an illegal immigrant in the United States, would you ever -- ever -- in a million years apply voluntarily for something called "mandatory departure"? U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., apparently think you would.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Again, it all makes perfect sense

You shouldn't worry that the Patriot Act allows the FBI to use national security letters to gather information on Americans not alleged to be spies or terrorists.

Really, who cares whether federal agents know where an ordinary citizen "makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work?" Surely you don't expect that whole "liberty" thing to keep government officials out of any of those aspects of your life just because you aren't doing anything wrong.

Besides, investigators can't send the letters without promising they have a really good reason. After all, it's your fault if you misdial a number and happen to appear on a terrorism suspect's phone log by mistake, so you should forfeit your privacy rights accordingly. You also should surrender any expectation that you'll ever learn about the surveillance of you, because that's what you get for being a dirty, misdialing terrorist enabler.

Despite your leaders' assurances that no one has reported a Patriot Act abuse, some whiners claim there might be more complaints if the law didn't forbid anyone from ever notifying the targets of national security letters that they were targets, ever. They're trying to confuse you with "logic." You must ignore them.

Just listen to uppity liberals like former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.: "The abuse is in the power itself. As a conservative, I really resent an administration that calls itself conservative taking the position that the burden is on the citizen to show the government has abused power, and otherwise shut up and comply."

Limited government? Who ever heard of such?

It all makes perfect sense

President Bush said today that when it comes to terrorism suspects, "We do not torture." And that's precisely why his buddy Vice President Cheney has been fighting for so long to block a congressional ban on torturing terrorism suspects.

But if uppity liberals like U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., somehow were to get their way and slip a torture ban into law, Cheney would like it if the CIA's secret prisons in eastern Europe and elsewhere were exempt. Not that those prisons necessarily exist, of course. And not that any torture occurs there to necessitate an exemption in the first place. Just do what Uncle Dick tells you.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another Sunday, another Register poll

Love him or hate him, few Alabamians don't have an opinion about former Gov. Don Siegelman.

Forty-four percent of them want Siegelman to drop out of the 2006 governor's race, while 42 percent hope he stays, according to a recent Mobile Register poll. His favorable/unfavorable ratings, meanwhile, stand at 42/45.

The numbers may look bad on the surface but aren't necessarily fatal to his campaign ambitions, poll director Keith Nicholls said, especially if Siegelman gets acquitted of federal criminal charges and successfully portrays himself as the victim of a political witch hunt. Regardless, Siegelman has vowed to remain in the race unless his head and heart are removed forcibly, so it's fair to assume the poll will change nothing.

In other news, Siegelman's Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, said she doesn't plan to focus on his indictments during the campaign, but she sure doesn't mind if everyone else does. And in a shocker along the lines of the Indianapolis Colts beating a Sun Belt team, the Register poll found that former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy's popularity among many Alabamians is, well, kind of low.

No one can take these guys seriously

Call me a homer if you will, but I think it's fair to ask just what the hell the AP voters think they're doing by ranking a one-loss team ahead of an undefeated major-conference team in November.

Sure, Miami had a great showing against Virginia Tech, but that's just one game. I don't care if one team had a better weekend than another; I care about the team's body of work throughout the season and whether that team gets the job done -- wins -- when it must. In the end, Alabama has done its job nine out of nine times this year, but Miami has done it only seven out of eight times.

Thankfully, the AP poll took its ball and went home after the 2004 installment of the annual Bowl Championship Series fiasco, so its foolishness won't affect Alabama's BCS ranking. Still, it's a transparent joke to disrespect an unbeaten SEC team -- even one that wins ugly and leans heavily on its defense -- by leapfrogging a once-beaten team ahead of it.

The AP voters should be ashamed of themselves.

At least no one's overreacting

Alabama has about 35,000 illegal immigrants, according to an estimate in today's Birmingham News. One might think many of those immigrants' willingness to work more cheaply than American citizens deprives native-born or naturalized residents of jobs, but the numbers say one would be wrong: Alabama's unemployment rate is at its lowest point in decades even with the recent waves of Hispanic immigrants looking for a better life.

With that out of the way, let's examine some other possible reasons why illegal immigration must be shamelessly exploited for fear-based votes by opportunistic politicians stopped in its tracks:

They drive uninsured. Fortunately, no one has been in a traffic accident with an uninsured American citizen since 1993.

They form gangs. And native-born youths never would have done the same without those outside agitators. (Seriously, police must stop gang violence regardless of who's perpetrating it, but gang members constitute a small minority of any given race or nationality, so it's unfair to paint everyone with a broad brush.)

They take jobs from hard-working Americans. Few Americans are applying for the entry-level jobs that illegal immigrants take in the construction and poultry industries, but that's beside the point.

They lower property values with "front lawns worn bare or filled with parked cars, scattered toys, and furniture; Christmas lights left hanging from eaves; and other signs of neglect." Nope, never known of any white people whose houses look like that.

As a nightcap, here's an actual quotation from noted populist U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.: "The business community is shameless."

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What do you want to do tonight, Brain?

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to burn down the world!"

One of the most disturbing things about the French riots over the last week and a half -- above and beyond how disturbing it is to see any kind of rioting -- is how organized and protracted they are. Short-term, spontaneous outbursts are one thing, but riots that take daytime off only to resume every time the sun sets are quite another. Based on news reports, it seems a lot of troubled young people are rioting not because they want to try to make a political point but simply because they see a chance to destroy things.

If they hope to prevent a recurrence of the violence, French officials need to restore order soon and begin to address the entrenched racial tensions that provided the riots' initial spark.

One year ago today...

Hundreds of thousands of people who died in Asian earthquakes and tsunamis were still alive. New Orleans was still a thriving port city. People figured 21 hurricane names would be more than enough for a year. Wars raged on in Iraq and Sudan.

President Bush was still in his first term. John Ashcroft and Colin Powell were still in the Cabinet. Pretty much no one had heard of Patrick Fitzgerald or Harriet Miers or Terri Schiavo.

The Social Security privatization tour hadn't begun. No state had passed legislation to allow gay marriage. Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby, and Don Siegelman weren't under indictment.

Pope John Paul II still headed the Vatican. Rosa Parks was still among us. So were Johnny Carson, Howell Heflin, Peter Jennings, Vivian Malone Jones, Arthur Miller, and Simon Wiesenthal.

Gerald Allen had yet to explain what to do with books that "promote homosexuality." Hank Erwin had yet to explain why God sends hurricanes. Troy King had yet to clamp a tracking device around his ankle. Roy Moore's rock had yet to find its permanent resting place.

Stephen Colbert was a mere Daily Show correspondent. Ken Jennings was dominating Jeopardy every night. A college football team from Alabama was on pace to be jobbed out of a national title shot even if it finished undefeated. (OK, that hasn't changed.)

Least significantly of all, I started this site on a lazy Friday afternoon. Many of you have become regular readers and active commenters since then, and I can't thank you enough for your support. I'll do my best to keep offering reasons for you to hang around as this place heads into year two.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I said to get the smelling salts

Bare breasts and alcohol at the same time? Don't worry, everyone; Alabama Attorney General Troy King is here to save us all.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

You win some, you lose some

Cool: Pluto may have two moons previously unknown to mankind, and NASA could get a good look at them in a few years thanks to the New Horizons mission scheduled to launch next year.

Not cool: It's quite likely that the center of our Milky Way galaxy is a huge black hole devouring everything in its vicinity.

Flippant much?

The day Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, then-FEMA director Michael Brown e-mailed a FEMA official to ask, "Can I quit now? Can I come home?"

A few days later, as tens of thousands of Americans were stranded in their homes or shelters or were left homeless on the streets of New Orleans and elsewhere without food or clean water, Brown e-mailed an acquaintance with the following: "I'm trapped now, please rescue me."

A heck of a job indeed.


Forget about free school lunches for poor children of legal immigrants, assistance to state child-support collection efforts, and aid for foster parents who take in their relatives' children. What we really need from Congress is $70 billion in tax cuts.

So true

From today's Birmingham News: "There aren't a lot of rappers on campus who wear dreadlocks and believe it is God's plan for them to be in Boaz and at Snead State."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Because there's nothing better to do

Now that murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, theft, and fraud have been eradicated within Alabama, it's time to focus on the next wave of dangerous, subversive criminal activity: "topless dancing at places where alcohol is served."

When they get behind closed doors

Say what you will about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., but he's not afraid to take a chance.

Yes, the Reid-orchestrated temporary shutdown of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday was a stunt, but it got Democrats what they wanted -- a promise that senators will continue an investigation into the deceptions and bad intelligence that led the country into the Iraq war -- and it did so in just a couple of hours. It also left Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., blustering about "an affront to the United States" and looking embarrassed about being tactically one-upped by Reid.

It's important to note that Democrats' decision to force a closed session, while furtive and provocative, is a permissible tactic under Senate rules. That stands in stark contrast to Republicans' renewed threats to invoke the nuclear option if Democrats try to filibuster Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, in that the nuclear option would clearly violate a written Senate rule that requires a 2/3 majority vote to change the rule allowing filibusters of judicial nominees. (Frist, by the way, is a huge supporter of the nuclear option, which, if you're worried about affronts, would be a pretty big one to the rule of law.)

Reid took a calculated risk with the closed session. The temporary shutdown invited the danger that the GOP's frequent accusations that Democrats are extremist or obstructionist would gain firmer traction in the mainstream media and that the charges would entrench themselves in the public's psyche.

But on the upside for Democrats, the closed session secured a promise that Congress will continue to probe prewar intelligence and, just as importantly, brought that issue back into the public limelight. The shutdown also served as a shot across the GOP bow to signal that Reid wouldn't take the nuclear option lying down.

Reid wagered that the tactic's positives outweighed its negatives, and though it's too early to know for sure whether the Democrats will profit from the move in the end, it at least seems improbable that the move caused them much damage among swing voters.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Get the smelling salts

Nudity? In artwork? On a college campus? In an exhibit that warned easily offended visitors not to enter if nudity offended them? Clearly, this mustn't stand.