Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hiatus notice

I haven't posted in a while. It may be a while longer. Occasionally you just run out of new things to say. After more than a year, that time has arrived.

I'll be back soon. It may be in a few days, or it may be in a few weeks. Thanks to everyone for reading, and take care until then.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Someone notify the sports talk shows

It looks like another year without a football team at Alabama's Home School High School.

And then there were eight

Justice Tom Parker cast the deciding vote last month in a 5-4 Alabama Supreme Court ruling that a 10-cent tobacco tax in several Jefferson County cities was constitutional. Shortly thereafter, the lawyer for the losing side, having noticed that a city attorney for one of the municipalities in question was Parker's first cousin, asked for the case to be reheard.

Parker responded by recusing himself from consideration of the rehearing motion, but not before he criticized the lawyer for what he considered a personal attack: "Such impropriety should not be overlooked or allowed to continue. I will not condone similar actions by other parties that come before this court in the future."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Death be not furry

In the latest edition of The Auburn Plainsman, a columnist dives headfirst into one of the hottest, most compelling debates of our time: assisted squirrel suicide.

Monday, February 06, 2006

PAC mentality

For years, Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, has tried unsuccessfully to get the Legislature to ban monetary transfers between political action committees, calling them "a way to hide the true source of the money." He's back again this year with a stiff version of the measure that would apply even to legislative caucuses. The state Senate passed similar legislation in 2005, but it died in the House.

A key question is how receptive Alabama politicians may be to such a bill in an election year, considering that many of them receive lots of PAC money. Today's Birmingham News reports that the state's number of PACs has almost tripled since 1988, and many of them are run by the same people.

Another McLaughlin bill that may face an uphill battle is a proposal to institute nonpartisan judicial elections. In past years, Democrats strongly opposed the idea because they dominated statewide polling; today, the GOP is against the plan for much the same reason. As House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said, "The one who is doing better wants to keep it like it is."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Open thread XL

The Terrible Towels are waving tonight after the Steelers' fifth Super Bowl title, and that's a good thing. It would have been nice to see Shaun Alexander get a ring, but tonight probably wasn't the Seahawks' last chance at that, and it's fun to see a sixth seed like Pittsburgh plow through the playoffs for the victory.

Feel free to talk about the game or the commercials or the musical entertainment or anything else related to professional pigskin.

Other tough things to understand

It's safe to say that people are overreacting when they light embassies on fire over a cartoon that upsets them.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Some things you can't understand

As people around the world have heard by now, six churches burned in central Alabama in what looks to be a spate of arsons on Thursday afternoon and early Friday morning. Here's hoping that those terrible crimes are solved and that the congregations are able to rebuild stronger than ever.

Say it ain't so

As a child, I fairly easily came to terms with the nonexistence of Santa Claus and the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. But the public announcement that there's no such thing as Birmingham Bill? Well, that's just a little tougher to take.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Insert appropriate humorous comment here

Attention Auburn University students: Thought you left standardized core-subject competency tests behind when you graduated high school? Your trustees want you to think again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Turtle power

Roy Moore isn't big in Baltimore. His spokesman blames terrapins.

On loan

If you're looking to take out a student loan any time soon, you'll probably be paying more thanks to a domestic spending bill that the House approved by two votes Wednesday. On the plus side for Alabama, the state's Medicaid program stands to receive about $125 million under the legislation to defray higher costs associated with Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Please don't say 'Mickey'

It looks like only a matter of time before Pluto isn't the solar system's most distant planet anymore, thanks to far-off 2003 UB313, the discovery of which was announced last summer. Humiliatingly for Charon's best friend, German scientists have confirmed that the alphanumeric orb is "decidedly larger" than Pluto, which should ease the icy rock's road to planethood.

So why doesn't our newest planetary pal have a proper name yet? Because the international body that decides what is or isn't a planet hasn't weighed in on the matter yet, meaning 2003 UB313 will remain saddled with its clunky moniker unless and until it gets a favorable verdict. Allow co-discoverer Mike Brown, an Alabama native, to explain: "It can't get an official name until it has an official status and right now it doesn't have an official status, so it can't get a name."

Well, maybe not officially. But that won't stop me from soliciting proposed names in the comments. Go to town.

The state of the post is hurried

Oddly enough, Republican members of Alabama's House delegation seemed to like President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night. And equally as surprising, Democratic congressmen like U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, weren't big fans of what he called "almost the same speech as last year."

I missed most of the speech and haven't had a chance to read the transcript yet, so any commentary I could offer would be cursory at best. Fortunately, The Washington Post pays people to analyze things, so I'll simply offer the link and be done with it.

Interestingly, The Post also did a word count of key phrases in the speech and compared it to the word counts from previous years. The biggest differences since 2005? Bush mentioned "world" a lot more this year, and "Social Security" a whole lot less.

For the record, I do know that Tuesday saw Samuel Alito get confirmed as a Supreme Court justice and Alan Greenspan clean out his desk after almost 19 years as Federal Reserve chairman. I also know that both of those events had been inevitable for months and that anything I could say about them already has been said dozens of times and far more eloquently by others, so I didn't feel I should waste your time with a content-free post on them when I could just waste your time with a content-free paragraph on them instead. You're welcome.

Here comes the money

Gov. Bob Riley accumulated $3.8 million in contributions last year, giving him a tremendous financial advantage over his Republican challenger, former state Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose $310,000 in available campaign cash places him slightly behind former Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat. Riley's closest competitor in the money race is Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, who still trails more than 3-to-1 in the contributions game even though she collected $1.2 million of them last year.

Down the ballot, Attorney General Troy King has a monetary edge on his Democratic challenger, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr., though the contributions disparity is nothing like the one between Riley and his opponents.

Cash doesn't always decide elections, of course, but it seldom hurts to have too much on hand.

So now we know

An Alabama circuit judge ruled Tuesday that sweepstakes machines like the ones at the Birmingham dog track aren't gambling after all because they aren't games of chance and people are free to get an entry without paying.

That means the operation, which the judge called "a sham," is officially legal, unless the state Supreme Court decides otherwise, or unless the Legislature opts to outlaw them. For his part, state House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, said the latter action probably won't happen this year.