Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Friday, March 31, 2006

Jill Carroll

Have you kept up with some of the responses to her recent release? Think Progress collects them here, here, here, and here.

Some examples: "she was a willing participant;" "she’s wearing the terrorist headgear. She’s saying nice things about them.;" "She strikes me as the kind of woman who would wear one of those suicide vests;" "She's like the Taliban Johnny or something;" "Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me."

(Update. Don't miss the comments to this, expecially: "She gets no slack from me. She was anti-America when she went over there and I say the kidnapping was a put up deal from the get go. Poor translator wasn't in the equation but it made it look legit.")

As far as I know, the only information we have about her captivity is her very summary statement given just after her release. So, these guys do not have a factual record from which to draw their conclusions.

From what, then, did they draw them? You'll notice these commentators are all men. It could be they are a bit jealous that one of the 'fairer sex' could endure with good will such a trying time? Maybe they were worried that their manliness would have deserted them? Or perhaps they are upset that she did not immediately become a bit of anecdotal support for their anti-foreigner pro-war prejudices?

I do not know from what base emotions these conclusions sprung. I do know they tell us more about their holders than their object.

(Btw, how long before Jeff Sessions says Jill Carroll's statements are undermining our troops?)

Be Sure to Check the Volume

Or at least make sure no-one with more than an eighth grade sense of humor is listening before you click on any of these quotes.

Today's Censure Hearing

Here is an update. Did Jeff Sessions fight for our rights? Here are the reported quotes:

The "national spasm over the NSA wiretaps has had its run."

"Our President is an honest man. He is a candid man and the American people know it."

He also is reported to have said the motion for censure is inappropriate because it endangers our soldiers.

Senator, you are either a moron, a spineless lap dog, or both. In the face of a statute saying otherwise, the president has claimed unchecked authority to surreptitiously listen to our private telephone conversations. The best you can do is say trust him? You suggest we do not care about out freedom? You insult our military? How about investigating the president's actions and then taking appropriate remedial measures? Failing to even investigate is a betrayal of our nation's greatest ideals. (see this outstanding post).

Eminent Domain

The B'ham news has a report on a proposed law adding new restrictions to eminent domain. We already have one of those, passed after Kelo, but this one would further restrict when it could be used, and increase the amount paid.

This is an interesting issue. Everyone can agree that the facts in Kelo were outrageous: Big Company wants the property on which Little Guy's middle class home sits, so Crooked Local Officials condemn the property and give it to Big Company. On the other hand, I think everyone would agree that eminent domain is perfectly just when Absentee Landlord lets his property fall apart, dragging down the neighborhood with it.

The problem is how to write a law that allows the latter use, but not the former. How can you outlaw condemning middle class homes in favor of Stuf-Mart, without also outlawing the condemnation of crack houses in favor of new privately built residential homes? An absolute ban on using it for commercial purposes would cut out both. But an exception for 'blight' would eventually swallow the rule, because blight is in the eye of the beholder.

So, in my view, it comes down to what you think is the bigger problem. Do we have municipalities rampantly abusing eminent domain? If so, pass the strict law. Or do we have lots of slum lords whose laziness is ruining neighborhoods and devaluing the surrounding property? If so, keep the status quo. In other words, is eminent domain currently being used more for good purposes, or for bad purposes? If it is more often than not doing good things, then keep it fully available.

I have not seen any objective data on whether eminent domain in Alabama is being abused, or properly used. I know it goes against their normal modus operandi, but it would be nice if the legislature would try to discover all the relevent facts before they pass this law. Further restricting eminent domain may be a good idea, or it may be an overeaction to an out of state case that will primarily protect absentee slum lords while harming the property values of those living next to the derelicts.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

George Bush Joins the ACLU

In their quest to DESTROY AMERICA. So says Roy Moore.

He is mad that there is some pentagon policy requiring military

chaplains who volunteer to give a prayer at a non-religious service, such as a promotion ceremony, [to] give one that is non-sectarian because of the diversity of religious beliefs in the audience.

Outrageous. Just Outrageous. The nerve of these people. Moore responds:

We've got to recognize that the law does not forbid our chaplains in the military, in the Air Force, in the Navy, from praying in the name of Jesus. Indeed it contradicts our entire history and our law and it should be stopped and this president is responsible if it is not.

W are you listening? Act now or join the ACLU as an enemy of Amuhrika.

Dome Sweet Home

Today in the B'Ham news, we see these two headlines:

First,"Cost of dome up 10.2% to $68 million."

Second, "$350,000 Glen Iris project hits delay in commission."

The first, of course, refers to the never-ending attempts to build a domed stadium in B'ham. Never mind that we already have a fairly new, relatively large arena. Never mind that we have no permanent resident for a domed stadium. WE MUST HAVE ONE. Why? Because Atlanta does. Cost is no deterrent, as the story explains:

The potential cost for a domed addition to the BJJC has climbed nearly $68 million, its supporters will tell a Birmingham City Council committee today. And Mayor Bernard Kincaid will ask the committee to pledge $264 million over 30 years to help jump-start the project this year.

The second story refers to a proposed housing development. It would occur in what is now a littered, overgrown empty lot in the middle of a residencial area. The project will not only provide the new homes, but it will greatly improve the surrounding neighborhood. Trust me, I frequently ride my bike through the area. The reason for the delay is that, according to one of the commissioners, the commission does not have "a policy outlining when it should participate in for-profit residential developments."

I mention this because it illustrates why this town is such a dump. We will fall all over ourselves for a dome that might attract for a few days some out of town conventioneers who will stay in hotels and eat at restaurants who in turn send their profits back to out of state corporate hq. Meanwhile, we find every reason in the world to avoid a project that would remedy the biggest problem in B'ham - scarcity of decent housing. This project would draw permanent residents. People who will live in and commit to this city, who will have a vested interest in its success.

The pattern in this town for the last half century has been to neglect, or actively destroy, its neighborhoods in favor of 'economic development.' The result is a city that is neither a nice place to visit or live.

The Rosa Parks Act

This morning, WBHM had a good story on the proposed act. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is HB 592, and it provides a means for folks who were arrested for violating segregation laws to obtain a pardon. This is the essential part:

A person who has been convicted of violating a state law or municipal ordinance whose purpose was to maintain or enforce racial separation or discrimination of individuals, upon application to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles shall be granted a pardon of the conviction.

Sounds good, but as explained in the WBHM story, there are several problems with it.

First, why did this take so long? How many people have missed out on jobs or other benefits because they had a criminal record for breaking segregation laws?

Second, the bill is more than a little presumptuous. If I was someone to whom this bill applies, I would tell the state to kiss my butt. The state of Alabama is the one who needs to ask for a pardon.

Third, one of the principles of the non-violent civil rights activists was to calmly accept the penalty for breaking these unjust laws. In so doing, they were living witnesses to the absurdity of the laws. As the WBHM story explains, that these folks are still on the books as 'criminals' is a continual reminder of our sins. It helps to ensure these types of things won't happen again, and that we will work to correct them.

There is no way to fix the first problem, all we can do is beg forgiveness.

As for the second problem, the bill should change the language. Make the last sentence say "shall be recognized by this state as having been right, and the state shall provide an official personalized apology and provide all the benefits associated with an official pardon."

For the third problem, maybe set up some type of public record containing the names of all the unjustly arrested people and the punishments they endured. It could explain how wickedly the state acted, and promise to honor these folks by never doing so again.

Alabama To Legalize Public Nudity

Get the story here.

So maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but this still sounds like a stupid law. As far as I know, it is already perfectly legal for a mother to breast feed her child "in any location where she is authorized to be." It is also perfectly legal for a restaurant to enforce rules of common courtesy by telling the inconsiderate parent to go breast feed somewhere in private - a car, or a restroom. It sounds like this bill would prohibit the restaurant from doing so.

No doubt, breast feeding is "a natural act." So is a bowel movement. Neither should occur in public.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If You Have Ever Owned A Cat

Then you will agree with me when I say this is the funniest thing I have ever seen. Today anyway.

I Am Fair Minded

I have used several posts to slam U.S. Christians for their martyr complexes. However, they are not the only folks with thin skins. As proof that my posting is motivated by the complex, and not the Christianity, I invite you to laugh with me at this story from Minnesota:

A toy rabbit decorating the entrance of the St. Paul City Council offices went hop-hop-hoppin' on down the bunny trail Wednesday after the city's human rights director said non-Christians might be offended by it.

If the Easter Bunny offends you, all I can say is you need to get a job, or at least a hobby, because you have too much free time.

"Some Voices Got Treble,

Some voices got base, we got the kinda voices that are in your face."

Nothing to do with Alabama law or society, but if you want to hear the voices of the Beastie Boys, check out the interview on today's fresh air.

War on Christians Update

This may qualify as espionage, but here and here are two reports from yesterday's War on Christians conference. (If you don't want to register, get other commentary here and here).

No mention of Jeff Sessions. And lest you think I indulged in hyperbole in that post, compare my language to this quote from the conference:

"Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance!" he warned. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will. . . . It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."

Those were the inspiring words of Tom DeLay.

A Rising Tide

Lifts all boats.

So we should be happy that, as the B'ham News reports, "Alabama ranked No.5 on a list of the nation's most business-friendly states in a study by Chicago's Pollina Corporate Real Estate."

Meanwhile, only eight other states have a higher percentage of their population living in poverty than does Alabama. Only eight other states have a lower median family income than Alabama.

I guess Alabama has a lot of leaky boats. Or people with no boats at all. What does the rising tide do to them?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jeff Sessions Persecutes Christians!

Really, I'm not kidding, read all about it here.

Surely this outrageous conduct, this open hostility, this blatant attempt to trivialize the all powerful Word of God, will not go unnoticed by those who risk their very lives defending the poor, helpless, persecuted Christians. Yes, certainly, these valiant warriors of truth, will call on the Lord to help them defeat Jeff Sessions and all the other earthly evil doers who conspire to carry out the War on Christians.

New Judicial Nominees

These guys should run for the Alabama Supreme Court:

Two North Alabama ministers say their faith led them to join hundreds of clergy handcuffed together in a Washington, D.C., protest Monday against proposed immigration laws.

"God's people are called to welcome the stranger," said the Rev. Gene Lankford, a Methodist minister from Marshall County, quoting Bible verses from Leviticus and Matthew. "You are to love the alien as yourself." . . .

The House bill would make it a felony to be in this country illegally and make it a crime to assist illegal immigrants.

"We came to declare our intent to defy any law that forbids us to offer humanitarian services," Lankford said. "Not to offer those services would be to defy the law of God."

Placing God's law above man's law, as we all know, is job requirement numero uno for the state supreme court.

I guess the Moore-ons would reply that these ministers have misread God's law. Everyone knows Leviticus is about killing gay people. That Jesus guy was a naive idealist; you can't make real world decisions based on what he said or did. Hence, the ministers are nothing but garden variety rabble rousers.

The ministers could respond that God's law requires us to 'love our neighbor as ourself.' From that premise, they deduce that immigration laws should be helpful, not punitive. Further, the precept leads them to believe each person should be free from state influence as to what, if any, god he will follow. Hence no state-sponsored ten commandments monuments.

A third party could observe that she does not care if these ministers put God's law above man's law. That is their decision. They are the only ones who will face the negative legal consequences. She does, however, insist that the Moore-ons put man's law first, because if they, as judges on the state's highest court, ignore the law everyone in Alabama will suffer.

Pick Your Poison

Imagine that you live in an old house. It is small, but well cared for. It sits on a pleasant, quiet, shaded lot just outside a small town. You and your family have lived in it for over a decade. You have raised your children in it. Though you don't have a fancy job, or get a big paycheck, you are just a year or so from owning the house free and clear.

One day you leave home in mid-morning to go visit your in-laws. When you return, your house is no longer habitable. In fact, it is barely standing because a construction crew set off over one hundred pounds of explosives within twenty feet of your front door.

How would you feel? Depressed? Angry? Confused? Do you think you would have trouble sleeping? Concentrating? Working? You loved your home, and now it is gone.

Wouldn't it be fair to require the construction company to pay for your house and your suffering?

The Business Council of Alabama thinks you should not recover for the suffering unless you go get professional help for the emotional pain. I suppose their argument is that unless you went to get professional mental help, you must have been faking it. Remember, though, that you don't have a fancy job or big paycheck. So you cannot afford to get professional help. Or maybe you were raised to think prayer and faith were all that was needed to overcome pain. Under this bill, supported by the BCA, your poverty and faith not only would prevent you from getting help, but would also protect the construction company from being held responsible for their actions.

I bring this up because today we receive news that yet another Moore-clone has entered the state supreme court race. I've explained why Moorites are bad news. (See here and here). But they are not the only dangerous candidates out there. The BCA spends big money on supreme court elections because it wants judges to share its views. The BCA may talk about fairness, but it is just that - talk. They want their constituents to be able to act with impunity. So if the BCA endorses a candidate - as they have Drayton Nabers, Lyn Stuart, and Glenn Murdock - what does that say about the candidate? And how would you feel as an individual standing before judges who recieved very large campaign contributions from a group supporting your opponent's position?

The impact of pro-business judges is not as dramatic as that of the theocrat judges, but it will be much more painful.

Liberal Media Alert

Clearly the Tuscaloosa News is staffed by god hating, homosexual agenda advancing, city dwelling, liberal commies. Because only a person totally hostile to, and unfamiliar with, our proud agricultural and conservative heritage could author the following article title:

"One church has tougher road to hoe following fire." (emphasis added).

No, they do not. They have a tougher row to hoe.

Monday, March 27, 2006

"Meet Me at Mary (Jane's?) Place"

An observant e-mailer has pointed out that my gubenatorial-related posts have left out Loretta Nall. My apologies. And let me say now that she has the lead in my book, if for no other reason than her website properly quotes Bruce Springsteen. (compare this, in the platform section, about half way down, with this, and the title to the present post).

Crime and Punishment

The B'ham news, in this story, summarizes a study on Alabama's drug free school zone laws, which add a mandatory five years to the sentences of drug dealers.

Alabama's "drug-free" zones, which extend three miles from every school, college and public housing project, are the largest in the country, researchers found. . . . "There is no evidence, nor has any come up since the report's been released, showing any deterrent affect as a result of the laws," said author Kevin Pranis. "The evidence that we found all points in the other direction, no deterrent effect."

Criminal laws serve purposes other than deterrence: Punishment, Incapacitation, Rehabilitation. No one would argue that Alabama's prisons rehabilitate anyone. That leaves punishment and incapacitation, which the drug laws certainly accomplish.

But do they accomplish it too well? I mean, is a mandatory five year sentence disproportionate to the crime of selling drugs within a specified zone?

The answer would be no if the seller was an adult, the buyer an elemetry school student, and the location a school. On the other hand, the mandatory additional years seem excessive if the sale is between adults in a private residence. The crime is not the most serious type while five years in prison will destroy the lives of the imprisoned and his family. (Read this if you want more information on the human costs of the 'war on drugs.').

The problem with these laws is that they do not take account of the specific facts of each case. If you sell within the zone, you get the extra five years regardless of whether you sold in your home to an adult, or at a school to a child. That is, you face the penalty whether or not what you did actually deserves it.

What do Appellate Courts Do?

Taking the show on the road is a good way to help answer that question. Some states broadcast oral arguments on the web. We don't do that, but having oral argument in front of a bunch of students is still a good idea. I think it does two things.

First, it gives folks a chance to see that, contrary to the rhetoric spouted by mini-Moore and his kind, being an appellate judge is a pretty mundane affair. The two cases being argued at Samford involve contract interpretation and time keeping issues. Maybe that somehow also implicates the cosmic battle between good and evil in which mini-Moore is the courageous leader of the god-fearing, secular humanist destroying, family values loving people of Alabama. But probably not.

Second, these two cases also reveal how a judge's beliefs can impact a decision. The timing issue, for instance, is a frequent question in lawsuits: Does the statute of limitations start to run when the injury occurs? Or when the victim discovers the injury? There are good arguments either way, which is why the issue has made it to the state supreme court. You can boil it down to whether you want businesses to run smoothly without constantly fearing lawsuits, or whether you want to protect an injured person's ability to recover. A pro-business judge will tend to favor the former, a pro-people judge the latter.

In short, appellate judge's opinions do matter, but not in the way mini-Moore wants you to believe. That a judge told St. Roy to get rid of the rock might have drawn the ire of the almighty, but it did not impact anyone's day to day life. On the other hand, little decisions like starting the clock with the injury rather than the discovery probably won't attract any special heavenly attention, but they can leave a lot of people injured without a remedy.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Frivolous Lawsuits

Poser has already noted that State Attorney General Troy King is appealing the case of Renaldo Adams hoping Scotus will overrule last year's Roper decision that banned the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. He correctly notes that the two new justices replaced two Roper dissenters. Thus, the head count is still 5-4 upholding Roper.

That means this case has no legal merit. A.G. King's arguments are all very persuasive, and they may be correct. However, Scotus considered them last year and rejected them. The five justices who did so are all still on the court.

Then if he has no legal justification for this appeal, why is he bringing it? My initial plan for this post was to slam the A.G. for using the legal system solely for for personal political gain. As an attorney, when you sign the brief, you are telling the court that this is a good argument, submitted for proper legal reasons. I would think twice about signing this brief, because it is patently meritless.

On the other hand, the victim's surviving relatives have suffered unbelievably, and the A.G. does represent their interests. They need to know someone is fighting for them. The fight is futile and a waste of taxpayer's resources, but understandable.

In sum, the A.G. is wrong to file this brief, but I won't impute the baser motives to him. I'll assume he is acting at least partly out of compassion for the victim, rather than solely out of his own self-interests.

"Ooooh That Smell"

I had a great day yesterday (see previous post). In order to have that great day, I had to put off some household chores. Generally that is no big deal, failing to do the laundry or vacuum will not usher in the apocalypse.

However, as I discovered when I pulled back the shower curtain this morning to find a very smelly surprise, there is one chore that cannot be ignored: The cat box.

Hopefully that is not an omen for the rest of the day.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"I Am Not Drinking Merlot"

But I am drinking Turbo Dog. Finished the merlot about an hour ago. Listening to the Drive By Truckers. Memorializing this outstanding day by posting about it.

Awake about six. Laid in bed until sevenish. Got up, wrote a few posts, made some breakfast - mmm, breakfast burritos, mmm. Drank my coffee and listened to Car Talk.

Then packed lunch in the camelback, loaded dogosaurus in the truck and headed to Oak Mountain for the day. Hiked in the woods, enjoying the blue sky, blooming dogwoods and solitude.

Nine miles later, got back in the car and headed to the house. Stopped for an ice cream sundae.

Got home, saw LSU put the smack down on Texas - geaux Tigers. Then over to our best friends' house for dinner - mmm Alfredo's Pizza - mmm. There we had the merlot.

Now at home, see first sentence. Nothing on the schedule tomorrow other than mass in the morning and a good bike ride in the afternoon.

"I have to say it was a good day."

Go and Teach No More

This case, in which a Christian school fired a teacher for being unmarried and pregnant, raises three interesting questions.

First, as a matter of policy, did the school act according to its own theological principles by firing the teacher? Sure, in their view she sinned. But after firing her she is not only a sinner, but a sinner without a job, insurance or support group. They made an example out of her, but at what cost to the teacher, and the child? Pro-life? Merciful? Kind, even?

Second, did they fire her for having sex outside of marriage? Or for being pregnant? The latter reason is prohibited by law.

Third, if they fired her for an illegal reason, does their status as a religious institute excuse them from the legal repercussions?

The jury answered the second question: Yes, the school fired her because she was pregnant. How did the jury decide that? Who knows, maybe she offered evidence that other employees sinned on occasion but still kept their jobs.

The third question is going to be the issue on appeal. How will it be decided? I do not know. There is no general you-are-excused-from-the-penalty-because-you-acted-from-a-bona-fide-religious-conviction card. However, the particular statute at issue here may have such a provision.

The first question is for the school's conscience. All I can say is at least they didn't stone her.

"I'm Not Dead Yet"

Well Roy, you may not be, but your campaign sure is. Because in the same week you, a populist candidate, told the voters they were too dumb to re-write our state constitution, you also suggested that state officials somehow created the recent mad cow incident so that they could use it as support for an animal tracking bill.

"I feel happy."

The Silvertron Cafe

I never met the owner of that restaurant, but I said in this post he must have been a great person. Since then, this blog has had an enormous (for it) increase in traffic. Most of it is from google searches for Alan Potts. I take that as more proof of what I said earlier. Again, I hope they catch the culprit soon.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Amen Sister

Speaking about a rally of over 10,000 people in front of Senator Jon Kyl's office opposing his bill that would require illegal immigrants to leave the country within five years, Malissa Greer had this to say:

"They're here for the American Dream . . . God created all of us. He's not a God of the United States. He's a God of the world."

Thats all I have to say about that. Go read the whole thing.

Congrats Samford

The title to this article is somewhat misleading, but the substance is accurate. Samford picked the right man for their 18th president.

I am an alum of OBU - Dr. Westmoreland's current school - so I know from experience that he is a great person. Samford can look forward to a bright future with Dr. Westmoreland as president.

"Hey, Where Are the White Women At?"

The B'ham News reports today that State Rep. Micky (Hedley) Hammon, a first-term representative has a plan to take advantage of racial animus for his own political gain:

[Hedley] is sponsoring five illegal immigration bills, more than any other Alabama legislator this year. Hammon's first and failed attempt at immigration reform last year would have charged $5 fees for money transfers to try to curb the high rate of money Hispanic immigrants send home.

Four of Hammon's bills this year have sailed through House committees with virtually no opposition. All are in line to be scheduled for full House votes, which Hammon expects in the next few weeks.

The bills would allow authorities to impound vehicles and seize personal property of immigrants who are verified to be here illegally - similar to policies for drug dealers. Other bills would deny non-emergency services to illegal immigrants and make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to attempt to vote.

Lets not do this half way. How about legislation that prohibits Hispanic males from talking to white females? Or prohibits Hispanics from using the same restrooms as do white folks? Or makes all businesses have designated Hispanic only seating areas?

Because we know all Hispanics are nothing more than drug dealing, terrorist supporting, immoral, unclean, ignorant, lazy burdens on the white man's society.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Geaux Tigers

Does Tyrus Thomas have to contract his muscles to jump, or does he just think 'I'm four feet in the air?'

This was sweet on a number of levels. First, once UAB goes down I switch to the sec, but never Florida. That leaves LSU. Second, there isn't much to like about Duke. Even if there was, who wants to see them in the final four again - boring. Finally my bracket has LSU beating Duke in the sweet sixteen.

This sets up the possibility of the typical march madness dilema. I've got Texas beating LSU in the next round. So, if the 'Horns beat the Pittsnoggles tonight, I'll be forced to choose between my heart and my bracket.

An Election Guide

As noted here, like a gremlin in a rainstorm, Roy Moore continues to produce new offspring. First it was mini-Moore, now Ben Hand. Let me try to shine some light on these little monsters.

You, Mr. and Mrs. Alabama, should not vote for mini Moore for state supreme court justice, nor should you vote for Mr. Hand. That is so regardless of whether or not you agree with them that the ACLU is the cause of all life's problems, that they should be able to use your tax dollars to fund monuments to their religions, or that they do not have to answer to the federal government. Two reasons for this conclusion.

First, they are both judicial activists. Like it or not, the LAW clearly prohibited Roy's rock. Roy ignored the law. These guys have vowed to do the same thing. In fact, Mr. Hand has decided to run against an incumbent because that incumbent voted to uphold the law in St. Roy's case. The incumbent probably did not like the result, but he followed the law. To rule according to the law when you dislike the result is the essence of being a good judge. These guys have rejected this standard.

Second, they are both dishonest. I am not saying their positions are positions only a dishonest person could hold. To the contrary, there are good arguments in support of them. There are also good arguments against them. These guys went to law school, they know the arguments on both sides. So, in my opinion, to stand up and loudly shout their own side, while denouncing as wicked all who disagree, is dishonest. They are intentionally misleading people.

Some Advice

Pro-choicers often accuse pro-lifers of actually being motivated by anti-misogynistic feelings. (see, e.g. here).

Here is my advice to the pro-lifers if they want to defuse that criticism. APPLY YOUR PRINCIPLES EVENLY. Do not cry about life when the subject is (arguably) nothing but a collection of cells inside a woman's body, and then stand mute while the state kills people in an unjust war, or through an unjust criminal justice system. And for God's sake, you of all people should oppose torture. At least you should not be more supportive of it than is the general public.

Have you seen this poll (hat tip Andrew Sullivan)? The question posed was: "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?" Surely, if you really believed in the value and dignity of every person, your answer would be 'never' or 'rarely.' But the majority of Catholics - 56% - said 'often' or 'sometimes.' How many secular people said often or sometimes? 35%

"And now these three remain, wealth, power and security. But the greatest of these is security."

Public Service

I need to get to work, but I feel like it is my duty to point out a few major constitutional errors in this article.

First, the basic rule is that the cops can not come in your house without a warrant.

Second, that rule holds even if the cop can see drugs in your house. If johnny law is walking down the street and happens to look through your window and see fifty tons of marijuana, or even a fully functioning meth lab, he can NOT just barge right in and search your house. He must go get a warrant. The article is wrong to suggest that 'plain view' justifies a warrantless search. It does not.

Third, there are well recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. He can ask you for permission to search, and you can consent. It must be voluntary consent, so he can't ask you while pointing his gun at you. But if he just asks, and you say yes, he can search. He can also search without consent and without a warrant if he must do so to prevent serious harm to another person, or if he is chasing you and you run into the house, or if you are in the process of destroying evidence. Those situations are all called 'exigent circumstances.'

Those exceptions are a big reason why the article incorrectly reports, and Justice Roberts dishonestly suggested in his first dissent (get all the opinions in Georgia v. Randolph here), that requiring a warrant when one occupant consents to a search while the other occupant refuses to allow a search will hinder domestic violence investigations. If the victim is in imminent danger, or if the accused is about to destroy evidence the cops can enter the house under the exigent circumstances exception. On the other hand, if there is no danger, and if the evidence is secure, then what hindrance is it to go get a warrant?

Cops think everyone is a crook. If they got to decide whose house was subject to a search, no-one could sleep peacefully in their homes. The warrant requirement protects our homes by ensuring that the decision to search is made in a calm and reasonable manner by a detached and neutral judge. It ensures that the sanctity of the home is only violated when truly necessary.

Where to Start

With the title to this article: "Beer girls, racy video, $50,000 jolt rock-paper-scissors world?"

With the fact that there is a rock-paper-scissors world?

With the fact that there is an organized league, headquartered in Canada?

Or that it was founded "a decade ago by two brothers who set out to bring decorum to the child's hand game?"

Or that the rival U.S. league is "enticing members with Bud Light girls, a racy Web video and a $50,000 prize?"

Or that the original Canadian group thinks the U.S. group is cheapening "the grand sport of rock-paper-scissors?"

Or that the U.S. group calls the Canadian group "highbrow and intellectual?"

I don't know. Go read the whole thing, it only gets better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Attn: City of Hoover

And Judge Cahill. From the Seventh Circuit today (hat tip Decision of the Day):

States do not have the power to banish people from the United States. “[T]he regulation of aliens is so intimately blended and intertwined with responsibilities of the national government that where it acts, and the state also acts on the same subject, ‘the act of Congress, or the treaty, is supreme; and the law of the State, though enacted in the exercise of powers not controverted, must yield to it.’ ” Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 66-67 (1941).

Congress has acted, specifying in great detail the grounds on which aliens are permitted or forbidden to remain in the United States. Congress could permit those grounds to vary from state to state, but it would be unlikely to do so (and it has not done so), because this would empower the states to determine matters that are at the heart of the federal immigration laws. “[O]ver no conceivable subject is the legislative power of Congress more complete than it is over the admission of aliens” Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977); see Gerbier v. Holmes, supra, 280 F.3d at 312.


Was a tattle-tale. Scientific proof, right here:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals. . . .

The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.

Birmingham Cafe Owner Found Shot to Death

If your work is a reflection of who you are, then the victim - Alan Potts - of this crime must have been a great guy. The Silvertron Cafe is one of the best restaurants in town. It has all the atmosphere and great food that places like T.G. O'AppleTuesday's only wish they could mass produce. I will always think of it as the place where I saw Johnny Damon hit the grand slam that finished the Yankees in game seven. I hope the cops catch the culprit soon.

The Brody Act

Is the name of the bill that would change the definition of 'person' for purposes of criminal homicides or assaults to include "an unborn child at every stage of gestation in utero from conception to birth, regardless of viability."

Bama Blog has a good summary of the ways in which this bill is already being used for its real purpose: electioneering.

As for any actual criminal purposes, all it does is change the definition of person. That means it could be a crime if an unborn child is killed during a homicide or assault. The state would still have to prove all the elements of the crime. I.e. To prove murder, the state would have to prove that the defendant intended to kill the unborn child. That would not be so difficult in a case like the one for which the bill is named, where the woman was eight and a half months pregnant. It would have been obvious the woman was pregnant, and doing something when it is obvious that harm will result is doing something intentionally. The bill, though, defines person from conception. How is the state going to prove the defendant knew a woman was six weeks pregnant? In short, unless the victim is obviously pregnant, I just cannot imagine many successful prosecutions under this law.

That doesn't mean it is a bad bill, but maybe the definition should start at a later time period. Doing so would calm the (justifiable) fears of the pro-choice crowd without really watering down the bill.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Can't Change

It doesn't matter that it is ridiculously overplayed. It doesn't matter how many times I go to a concert by a different artist and some dufus shouts for it. It doesn't matter that it is the ultimate redneck party anthem while I am the ultimate middle aged office dweller.

The radio will always get turned up, the accelerator pressed down, and the air guitar pulled out when I hear it.

Oh no, I can't change.

Christians v. The Godless, Evil, America Destroying People Known as Liberals, Democrats or Progressives

I frequently rant and rave about the conflation of christianity and republicanism, so I thought I would point out a provocative post on the subject. Here is the conclusion:

If evangelical Christians take their faith seriously, along with the assumptions underlying it, it's very hard to square those assumptions with the great majority of the positions taken by the Republican Party. What exactly is Christian about immigrant-bashing (illegal or no)? Under Christian theory, these people have the same spark of the divine, so what's the justification for nativism? Same deal for gay people. Same deal with Muslims. Same deal for poor people. What's the Christian justification for either ignoring them or actively harming them in words or policy?

For an example of an evangelical who takes his faith seriously, see this post by the esteemed and very conservative New Testament scholar Ben Witherington. Here is a sample:

I think as Christians we are called to be totally pro-life, not just pro-life when it comes to the unborn. Did Jesus not say that he came that we might have life and have in abundantly? Does John 3.16-17 not say that it is not God's desire that any should perish but all should have everlasting life? What are the logical consequences of these theological ideas?

I cannot speak for others, but for me it means we should be totally pro-life-- opposing war, capital punishment, and abortion. I realize these three issues are not identical and one can make a reasonable case for supporting one sort of ban on taking life, while not objecting to others. I simply find this an inconsistent point of view. Are the unborn of more sacred worth than the born? I don't think so.

Make sure to read the comments to both of these posts, especially the latter.

Holloway Update

The B'ham news reports that Aruba may prosecute the Kalpoes and Joran van der Sloot. No indication if that is because they have actually found some evidence, or if they have just gotten sick of listening to Beth Twitty.

If you want to read the civil complaint and the motion to disimiss, they are here. (Hat tip Appellate Law and Practice).

My guess is the New York judge will dismiss it. Like the motion says, New York has no interest whatsoever in the case. The incidents occured in another country and not a single party is a resident of New York.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Book Review

Check it out. It should sell well in Hoover.


Will be light this week. Not, alas, because I am going on vacation, but because my boss is going on vacation. You may think that should lead to more blogging, but in this instance I have to take up the slack while he is gone.

I guess this week will determine whether I am a social blogger, or a blogaholic.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hoover, the Judge and the Immigrants

I vented in the previous post. Here are some semi-rational thoughts.

First, I haven't read the lawsuit, but my semi-educated guess is that it alleges the City and this judge conspired to target a specific ethnic minority. That would be tough to win, because the plaintiffs would have to show that the City selectively enforced the law against hispanics. Unless the plaintiffs find some type of internal memo, or a whistle blower or some other type of smoking gun, that will be tough to prove. The numbers laid out in the story are pretty persausive, but courts are not very sympathetic to arguments relying on numbers.

Second, in my opinion this judge has acted improperly - legally and morally - regardless of any conspiracies. Legally, he is a state judge, and the lawful penalties for state crimes like jaywalking do not include exile. Maybe they were illegal immigrants under federal law, but he has no jurisdiction to enforce federal law. Morally, even if this judge had the authority to exile people, no Catholic judge should impose such a ridiculously disproportionate sentence. An eye for an eye doesn't mean punish as harshly as possible, it means the punishment should fit the crime. If it is a serious crime, that means a serious punishment. If it is a lesser crime, that means a lesser punishment. What have these 'illegal immigrants' done wrong? Left their own country in search of a better job, home and life? Worked hard all day for low pay so they could support their family? Hoped? Dreamed? Imagined? And for this you are going to exile them? Exiling someone for jaywalking is not dispasionately applying the law. It is manipulating the law for some extra-legal purpose.

Third, where have the lawyers been? Did any of these folks even have lawyers? Why has no-one appealed this? And if they have, what happened to the case?

Fourth, the following quote may be the most outrageous part of the story: "Cahill says he works hard to be accessible to officers when they ask him for search warrants or no-bond orders. 'You don’t sit and play 20 questions when you have developed a rapport with them; if they have a reason, you accept it,' he said."

Wrong, your 'honor.' Playing twenty questions is your constitutional, and therefore, legal obligation. You are supposed to be a neutral and detached decision maker, not a rubber stamp. You are not law enforcement; you are a judge. Act like one.

Fifth, the 'you can't act like this and be a Catholic' comment just expresses my frustration with church leaders who only want to condemn sins committed by democrats. Our bishop, on the front page of the local catholic newspaper, condemned the recent statement by Catholic congressional democrats that their faith informed all their policy choices. The bishop told us that you can not be pro choice and Catholic. Well this week the president reiterated his war-for-regime-change foreign policy. Where is the statement that you can't be Catholic and support unjust wars? This judge is accused of breaking the law in order to punish impoverished immigrants? Where is the statement that you can't be Catholic and oppress the poor?

Progress and Equal Treatment

I've been reading 'Parting the Waters.' It really gets my blood boiling when I read about how those opposed to the civil rights movement manipulated the criminal justice system for political purposes. I'm glad we don't do that anymore.

Oh, wait, maybe we do.

Our local Catholic newspaper had a special message from the bishop this week: "You can not be pro-choice and Catholic."

O.K., whatever, but how about in response to allegations that the City of Hoover and a Catholic county Judge decided to create their own immigration departmentl: "You can't be a racist, corrupt p-o-s and be a Catholic."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Silver Linings

One and done for the Blazers. Oh well, it was a great season, and this was an outstanding group of seniors. I'd still vote for Squeaky for at least governor. Besides, if they'd made another deep tourney run, I'm sure Coach Anderson would have moved on to bigger things (upcoming vacancy at Arkansas?).

As for the rest of the bracket - 22/32. But of the ten I missed, I had six losing in round two. That means 12 of my sweet sixteen picks are still alive. Not bad for me, especially in light of last year, when half my sweet sixteen picks lost in round one.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Beware The Dome

As reported, and rightly bemoaned, here, the dome just will not go away.

Even worse:

In a short statement issued from his throne room Representative John Rogers has revealed that although his forces have not yet completed construction on the proposed Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center expansion, the new dome is fully armed and operational. Addressing Gary White, the rebellious swing voter on the county commission, he added "As you can see, your constituents have failed. Now you will witness the final destruction of home rule, and the end of your insignificant rebellion."

The Fox is Guarding the Chicken Coop

Or he will be if congress passes the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006. Essentially, it would be congress saying:

"Mr. President, you have been illegally wiretapping our citizens, and arrogantly telling us congressfolks that we can't do anything about it. Well, just to make sure you understand who is in charge here, today we passed a law that makes everything you did legal. So there."

You can find more thorough analysis here, and here. Glen Greenwald sums it up nicely:

Critically, this bill defines who the Administration can eavesdrop on without obtaining a warrant. That means that all of the determinations as to who qualifies to be eavesdropped on are no longer with a court, but with the Administration to make unilaterally. The bill allows eavesdropping on anyone deemed by the Administration to be "working in support of" terrorist groups. It expressly allows First Amendment activities to be taken into account and even be the substantial basis for such a determination. In essence, then, the bill thus vests in the Administration the unchecked power to eavesdrop on whomever it wants.

For yet another example of why it is a bad idea to let law enforcers decide the limits of their own authority, see this post on Sui Generis.

I've already written to Sen. Shelby urging him to support the censure. I will write him again and voice my opposition to this bill. Ditto Sen. Sessions. When they respond, I'll post the responses and my letters.

(update)This story should calm all our fears. It explains just how serious the administration is about protecting our rights. Here is a quote:

"A White House civil liberties panel created more than a year ago to monitor the effects on ordinary citizens of the war on terrorism took its first significant action this week.

It met."

Poor People Suck

My suggestion for Homewood's city motto, because the town continues to rejoice as affordable housing and 'blighted' (i.e. black) areas are plowed under to make room for the sterilized pseudo-urban experience desired by self-indulgent empty nesters and hip young office workers.

To the dislocated and rejected: We've got plenty of available housing in B'ham. Don't worry, this will never be a cool place to live. And it's not an offense to drive while black.

Election News

I moved to Shreveport Louisiana in the summer of 1991, just in time for the Edwin Edwards v. David Duke gubernatorial race.

I don't think this year's Alabama race will be quite that interesting, but it is going to be entertaining. We've got a guy whose mailing address may as well be the federal court house, another who would like to blow up the federal courthouse, and a gal whose whole platform is that she is nice. If the incumbent was someone other than the oh so vanilla Bob Riley, this would be one for the ages.

But his lack of spunk is, in my opinion, the reason he is going to win. It could be that Lucy Baxley is the most honest and kind person in the world, and if she was running against an incumbent plagued by scandals her character might get her the victory (for B'hamians, think Kincaid v. Bell a few years ago). Riley, however, is just boring. As for the other two, delusional is the best description of any argument in their favor.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

By Any Means Necessary

Go over to Red State Rabble for a comparison of some Parkerish rhetoric with some of David Duke's rhetoric. (Hat tip Dispatches from the Culture Wars). Here is a teaser:

both groups share a false sense that they have been unjustly discriminated against -- both are nursing a grievance that can't be addressed by ordinary, rational means.

So what means will they use? Go read the post to find out.

Educational Opportunity

If you want what is in my opinion a pretty good explanation and illustration of how the whole right to privacy thing works (as opposed to a parkerish diatribe about how it is destroying civilization), read this opinion from the Northern District of Alabama. (hat tip How Appealing).

The court discusses on pages eight through ten some of the horrific unnamed rights opposed by courageous judicial warriors like Justice Parker and Roy Moore. You know, the ones that aren't expressly in the constitution, the recognition of which is delivering this country to hell in a handbasket. Here they are, read them, and call our heroes today to join them in opposing these rights:

Thus far, the Supreme Court has characterized the following, non-textual liberty interests as “fundamental” and, as such, rights that should prevail if in conflict with governmental authority or other, less valued, liberties:(i) the right to marry;(ii) the right to procreate; (iii) the right to purchase and use contraceptives; (iv) the qualified right to an abortion; (v) the right to custody of one’s children; (vi) the right to keep a family together; (vii) the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children; (viii) the right to marital privacy; (ix) the right to bodily integrity; (x) the right to refuse unwanted, lifesaving, medical treatment; (xi) the right to travel within the United States; (xii) the right to vote; (xiii) the qualified right to control the dissemination of private information; (xiv) the right of all persons to equal access to the courts; and arguably (xv) the right of adults to engage in private, consensual, non-commercial, sexual activity common to a homosexual lifestyle.

Pork Busters

From the Montgomery Advertiser:

State Rep. Gerry Allen and Mike Ball and the Alabama Bicycle Coalition will lead the first Legislative bike commute at 8 a.m. today. Legislators and coalition members will start in front of the State House at Pelham and Union streets. The 4-mile ride will travel through downtown on Ripley Street and into Old Cloverdale. Then the group will travel back to the State House using a different route, said Jamie Miernik, president of the Alabama Bicycle coalition.Miernik said everyone is invited to participate and hopes that people will discover how easy it is to establish a safe route to work or school.

Biking to work is more than a great way to trim the fat. It is very liberating to get around without the car. It introduces you to your city; you just can't appreciate things when you zip by them at fifty miles an hour encased in a metal box. It is very pleasant to meander along enjoying the spring growth and saying hello to folks out jogging or walking their dogs. On the way home you burn off the bad work vibes and get recharged for the evening.

If I sound like an evangelist it's because I am. Everyone should ride a bike. We'd all be much happier.

More Sedition

This time voiced by those black robed tyrants, the United States Supreme Court. Just read this anti-American garbage.

First, from Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 14-17 (1948):

Whether or not an officer may search a dwelling is not determined by whether the officer thinks the action is necessary, it is determined by Fourth Amendment law. An officer gaining access to private living quarters under color of his office and of the law which he personifies must then have some valid basis in law for the intrusion. Any other rule would undermine ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects,’ and would obliterate one of the most fundamental distinctions between our form of government, where officers are under the law, and the police-state where they are the law.

Crime, even in the privacy of one's own quarters, is, of course, of grave concern to society, and the law allows such crime to be reached on proper showing. The right of officers to thrust themselves into a home is also a grave concern, not only to the individual but to a society which chooses to dwell in reasonable security and freedom from surveillance. When the right of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search is, as a rule, to be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or Government enforcement agent.

Then from Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961):

There are those who say, as did Justice (then Judge) Cardozo, that under our constitutional exclusionary doctrine ‘(t)he criminal is to go free because the constable has blundered.’ . . . In some cases this will undoubtedly be the result. But . . . ‘there is another consideration--the imperative of judicial integrity.’ . . . The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence. As Mr. Justice Brandeis, dissenting, said in Olmstead v. United States . . . ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.’

What is our government teaching us?

Morning Inspiration

Check out Glen Greenwald today:

That's what the world of Bush followers looks like. Reporters should be thrown into prison. Citizens should be removed from political events for wearing political t-shirts. The President has the right to break the law for our own good. Politicians who criticize the Administration are traitors and should be imprisoned, or worse. And Supreme Court Justices should be impeached -- or worse. Does any of that sound like America to you?

And, oh - it's vital that we fight The Terrorists so that we don't lose our freedoms. And the principal objective our foreign policy is to run around teaching other countries how to be democratic and free.

Then watch this video.

The debate in this country is no longer over what we should do or not do; it is about who we are. "Give me liberty or give me death?" Or "Take my liberty so I'll be safe from the terrorists?" "A government of laws, not men?" Or "An all powerful leader to whom we dutifully submit?" "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it?" Or "If you disagree with me you are aiding the enemy and must go to jail?" "It is better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to go to prison?" Or "One out of ten may be connected in some remote way to a terrorist, so its best to lock up all ten of them without trial, or even charges?" "With liberty and justice for all?" Or "With liberty and justice for those white heterosexuals who support the president?"

I am going to contact our senators today and tell them to support Sen. Feingold.

I Stand Corrected

I recently suggested that 'it would comfort our enemies/hurt our troops morale' is not an acceptable reason for our two senators to denounce Sen Feingold's censure resolution. On this topic, a respected and always insightful national publication disagrees:

take the other night when my husband and I were watching Leno. He cracked this wiseacre one-liner about the president, and it just busted Ted and me up. Then suddenly, we both trailed off and stared at each other in ominous silence. I'll admit the joke seemed harmless enough, but just imagine those poor soldiers, covered with the arid dust and sand of a foreign land, huddling for cover, engaging in pitched small-arms firefights with enemy insurgents on a daily basis. What would they think if they saw me sprawled out on the living-room sofa set, eating pretzels, cackling with irreverence at the expense of their commander in chief? . . . Maybe they're saying, "Who does this lady think she is? She doesn't know what she wants! Our morale is sapped! We're losing our will to fight!" America would be defeated by Iraq, and terrorists would rule over us.

So please, lets not critisize our dear leader anymore.

"Oh, by the way, I was being sarcastic."

Fair and Balanced

To prove it, this post will now approvingly cite Roy Moore:

he says it's wrong for the state to offer drivers license tests in multiple languages. "It's common sense. If you can't read the test, how can you read the sign that says `bridge out'?" Moore says.

Good point.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Terrorists in Mobile

As reported on Birmingham Blues, and elsewhere the ACLU (those evil bastards) has forced the FBI to release several documents that show "the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq."

For instance, the center is described in a memo entitled "International Terrorism Matters." Why is it included under the label 'terrorism?' Because it "has been determined to be an organization which is opposed to the United State's war with Iraq."

Even worse is the fact that "more than a few Muslims and people of Middle eastern descent [are] among the regulars attending meetings at the Merton Center's East Liberty headquarters"

Let me get this straight. If you are middle eastern and advocate for peace, you might be a terrorist. Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don't.

So what does this have to do with Alabama? First, my black cat's name is Merton, so I am going to have to turn him over to the FBI. Second, the fibbies need to get to Mobile quick because "More than 100 peace activists from this area and across the nation left Mobile on foot for New Orleans Tuesday morning to protest the war in Iraq and what they say is inadequate aid for Hurricane Katrina victims."

Get down there and stop those terrorists! Keep America safe!

Justice Parker to the Rescue

An update on the ethics complaint filed against Justice Parker:

Parker said the complaint was an attack by the American Civil Liberties Union 'to force political-correctness on all Alabamians and turn us into another San Francisco.'

OH NO! It would be just plain horrible if that wicked ol' ACLU succeded in turning us into a clone of what is by all accounts one of the nicest places in the country. (see here, here, here, here, and here). Please Justice Parker save us from becoming one of the healthiest, wealthiest and cleanest places in the United States!

Oh, wait, there's more:

Joel Sogol, a Tuscaloosa lawyer who filed the complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission, said the ACLU is not involved in it. A state ACLU official also said the civil liberties group is not involved.

Whew, we're safe.

Really, has this guy ever had an original thought in his life? What would he say if he was suddenly unable to use phrases like 'judicial tyranny' or 'political-correctness' or 'tradition values?' Does he have any comprehension of the occasionally meritorious ideas behind these misleading terms? Or is he limited to spouting inflamatory rhetoric?

If he was serious about judicial reform, he would concentrate on making solid arguments rather than on making loud noises. If all he wants to do is scream, he should relinquish his robes and get a blog.

Rejoicing in Other's Troubles

I know you are not supposed to, but let me explain. I live in Birmingham, the actual city and not the so called 'over the mountain' suburbs. Living within the city proper means several things: You have no public schools to which you can send your kids; you drive on barely better than dirt roads; the grass in the parks gets mowed twice a year whether it needs it or not; the police pay no attention to your neighborhood, and; those responsible for these basic services are more interested in calling each other names than in providing them.

The burbs do not have these problems. They are run by (mostly) competent people and more than adequately provide for community needs. However, suburban commuters have to endure major traffic issues. The metro area is not that big, but it is divided by several mountains and there are only a few major thruways. Once you get into the sprawling burbs, the secondary roads are also bad because none of the bazillion subdivisions were coordinated in any way. They aren't connected, they all just dump their cars onto a secondary road that leads to a thruway. The result is that a five mile rush hour commute from the burbs into the city will normally take forty five minutes. Double that if it rains.

Now for my point. The one big advantage to living in the city is that you get to avoid the traffic. That's all we get, so I take a twisted pleasure in listening to the traffic reports and hearing about all those lucky suburbanites sitting in their cars on the interstate. Even better, today I read that you can now go to the DOT website and view live video of these highways. Now I get to actually see them stuck there, wasting their lives away. This makes me happy. That is probably wrong, but oh well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Moore Censures

Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics 2A says "A judge should respect and comply with the law."

As reported in many places (see, e.g. this post ) Alabama Supreme Court Justice Parker recently wrote in an editorial piece that Alabama's Supreme Court was under no obligation to follow a recent US Supreme Court decision (Roper v. Simmons) because:

"State supreme court judges should not follow obviously wrong decisions simply because they are precedents. After all, a judge takes an oath to support the Constitution -- not to automatically follow activist judges who believe their own devolving standards of decency trump the text of the Constitution."

This might sound good as a matter of policy, but the law is that the Supreme Court alone has the prerogative to overrule its own decisions. (See this case and this case ). Justice Parker's job was simply to apply Roper. If the state did not like the result, the state could have appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Maybe then Scotus would have overruled Roper. That is their choice. It was not Justice Parker's. Thus, by saying he would disregard binding Supreme Court precedents, Justice Parker has said he will act in a manner directly opposed to the law. If that is not a failure to 'respect and comply with the law' nothing is.

Furthermore, Justice Parker insulted the justices of the Supreme Court by calling them 'activists' and by saying their standards of decency are 'devolving.' Insulting fellow jurists violates Canon 2B, which states:

A judge should at all times maintain the decorum and temperance befitting his office and should avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute.

Was Justice Parker's screeching attack on the integrity of other judges conduct in accord with 'the decorum and temperance benefiting his office?' Surely not.

For these reasons, the ethics complaint filed against Justice Parker (hat tipBamacrat) is anything but, as Justice Parker described it, frivolous. He did not publish a law review article fairly critiquing the relationship between Scotus and the State Supreme Courts, rather in a newspaper editorial he personally attacked his fellow jurists and arrogantly claimed to be above the law. This man, like his mentor Roy Moore, has brought shame on his office, the practice of law, and the State of Alabama. Regardless of whether his beliefs are reasonable or not, he should be reprimanded for his lack of class and professionalism.

The Censure Issue

I am under no delusions that either of our senators would even momentarily dare to defend our rights by signing on to Sen. Feingold's rebuke.

However, I hope they will at least explain to us their reasoning.

"This just gives aid and comfort to our enemies" is not acceptable. No one on either side of the war (whether the one in Iraq, or the global one on terrorism) is going to change their minds based on the senate's rebuke of executive hubris. What terrorist is going to wake up in a funk, thinking America is just too powerful, only to be rejuvinated by the news that the senate slapped the president's wrist? And what U.S. soldier is going to want to sit in his tent and cry rather than go out and fight because folks dislike W? Besides, even if calling the president an arrogant liar could undermine the war effort, given W's poll numbers and the world's view of this country, wouldn't this just be cumulative evidence? It can't do any more harm than W himself has already done.

Nor is it acceptable to say "this is just petty politics." Sure the motives are probably mixed. Every democrat hopes to benefit at the poles. But the that does not necessarily mean the charges are frivolous. On the contrary, the allegations are very serious. Living in a free society means living in a society where everyone is subject to the law. So if W decided he is not subject to the law, he has undermined an essential component of our free society.

No, if they want to maintain even a semblance of integrity, the Alabama senators must argue that the charge is not true. They must explain to us why W acted lawfully and properly by spying on Americans without warrants and misleading congress about what he was doing.

If these charges are true, Sen. Sessions and Sen. Shelby have a choice: They can dare to defend our rights, or they can be lap dogs for the president.

Doesn't This Stuff Bother Anyone?

Aren't we supposed to be the people who dare defend out rights?

If so how do explain that, as reported by Between the Links, every Alabama representative has agreed to let the federal government regulate food labels in our state?

And why does no-one care that Montgomery schools are conducting random searches of their students? Here is one parent's observation:

"I had just dropped [my son] off after a doctor's appointment, and there were officers and dogs searching lockers and backpacks and clothing. Some students were patted down."

No warrant. No probable cause. No reasonable suspicion. Not even a hunch. You step through the school door, you shed your fourth amendment rights.

The congressmen don't defend our rights because they get paid to ignore them. As for the rest of us, things like random searches in schools train us from an early age that we should bow down and grovel before authority figures. We are conditioned to be servile.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the training in unquestioning obedience occured at Robert E. Lee High School. Make of that what you will.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Its Only Monday

But I feel pretty certain that Jessie Scott will be the winner of the dumb criminal of the week award. The Eleventh Circuit states the facts (emphasis added):

In October 2001 at the age of eighteen Scott was convicted of carjacking in the Southern District of Alabama. He was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Charles R. Butler to sixty months imprisonment. Scott was unhappy with the sentence he received and mad at the judge who imposed it.

On September 13, 2004, while serving his sentence at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, Scott mailed an envelope to Judge Butler at the United States District Courthouse for the Southern District of Alabama. The envelope was marked with a return address which included Scott’s name and inmate identification number.

Inside, there was a letter that stated: “I get out in 2007, So U need to watch Your back Every Step Of The Way . . . I Will Get you Killed One Day.” It was signed, “TIME BOMb.”

On September 19, 2004, Scott mailed a second envelope to Judge Butler at the federal district courthouse with the same return address. That envelope contained a letter which made reference to blowing up the “fed building,” and killing “all feds, judges” among other things. Also inside that envelope was another envelope containing yet another letter that stated: “I shall kidnap your kids and blow up your luxury car up [sic] . . . Heres [sic] a surprise HAPPY HALOWEEN [sic].” The “surprise” was that this inner envelope also contained a white powder. The powder was later identified as a cleaning substance. Judge Butler’s staff promptly notified the United States Marshals Service of the written threats.

Depending on how the district court feels on remand, Mr. Scott's threats bought him anywhere from three to ten more years in the federal pen. (Btw, for 'carjacking' spell check suggested 'churchgoing.')

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus"

Decision of the Day summarizes the facts of this case:

This Ninth Circuit appeal revisits the complicated issue of free speech in a school setting. The administration of Juneau-Douglas High School thought it would be a nice idea to release the students from school one morning so that they could watch the Olympic torch pass by. Senior Joseph Frederick did not make it to school that day, but he did make it to a viewing point across the street from the school, where he unfurled a banner reading, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The principal was not thrilled with this display, so she confiscated the banner and suspended Frederick for ten days. Frederick filed suit alleging that his rights had been violated.

The case has nothing to do with Alabama, but the facts are very funny.

It also makes a serious and timely point: The essence of free speech is the right to say things other people find upsetting, offensive or disagreeable. The school thought it could suspend Mr. Frederick simply because his sign expressed disagreement with the school's anti-drug policy. The school was wrong and faces the prospect of money damages as a result.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Legislative Update

Here is an update on Alabama's latest 'Academic Freedom' bill.

In the past, similar bills have been explicit in their attempt to get creationism into science classrooms. This one is so subtle that it probably accomplishes nothing.

The bill states:

public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.

O.K., great, they already have that freedom. Unless 'full range of scientific views' means the freedom to make religious criticisms of evolution. In that regard, the bill later states:

The rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins.

However, the bill goes on to say:

Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate. Likewise, the protection provided by this act shall not be restricted by any metaphysical or religious implications of a view, so long as the views are defensible from and justified by empirical science and observation of the natural world.

What does this mean?

If they wanted to get religion into science classes, this bill ain't gonna do it. It will not protect creationism/intelligent design because so far those two theories have lost every case in which they tried to prove their scientific bona fides. They just do not have 'published empirical or observational support.' Or at least they have no more than does the flying spaghetti monster.

If the bill is not supposed to get religion into science classes, the bill means nothing. In other words, if it does not include religion this bill gives science teachers the right to teach science. Wow.

Good to know our representatives are spending our resources wisely.

Bear Bryant Drank Wild Turkey

and peed domesticated chicken. There is more here.

Black History Month, Frogs, Serfs and Eminent Domain

Ever read the forums on If not here (at number 7725.2) is what you are missing:

My middle school boy has to have more home instruction than usual to contradictor explain the true slant and the reason for Black History Year instructions.Put a frog in a pan of cool water, it will be comfortable and not realize it when the heat is turned up slowly. Before he realizes it, he’s done. ....The same with the serfs occupying the US with the designation of citizen.. These serfs will work to make the rope to hang themselves. They also didn’t even realize that the insiders were working to dilute their strength by giving others a little and continuing until their strength is gone and they(we) have no choice other than to accept their demise as citizens of the United States. The illegal immigration , was allowed long before attention was drawn to it, as shown by commercial enterprises converting to accommodate with the conversion to Spanish and the state also accommodating with licenses and qualifying in Spanish which in effect, make them members of our community, a citizen. How long will it be before English is eliminated? The insiders are also in the midst of further taking away property ownership with eminent domain where the authority decides who can best use the property that Alabamans have paid their franchise fee to obtain title to occupy . At the present time. Right now. There is a bill in the House (called the French Bill) to do away with unjustly taking private property butit will not reach the floor because the leader of the house, a former mayor of Gadston Alabama will not allow it. Riley and some others think the authority can make the best decisions as to the best use of property to generate more taxes and this supercedes private ownership rights. WE, the citizens are as the frog, sitting comfortably in a cool pan of water and letting those in authority indoctrinate us and our children with “social studies” , invite illegal guest to take over our infrastructure, and take our private property over in pretense of “serving the people” . All property belongs to the people, the state, the commune, in a communist country.

The Next Loser

Yesterday, Joe Scarborough validated my cynicism by manipulating the church arsons for his own political goals.

So, here is another cynical question. Who will be the first republigelical to use the arsons as evidence that all Muslims are losers? I.e. who is going to be the first person to say: "We've seen angry protests, violence, even killings over a cartoon, meanwhile in Alabama Christians, whose churches - sacred places of worship and centerpieces of family and community history - were viciously burned to the ground, offer nothing but forgiveness and even sympathy towards their assailants."

I don't know. I do know that that folks like Rick Scarborough, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Richard Land are cut from the same cloth as are the Muslim thugs. They all have their faith in power, and are more than happy to use their religion as a means to power. The difference is of degree.

The arson victims appear to be a completely different kind of person. Is that because Christianity is better than Islam? Who knows. Whatever the answer, thus far they, and not the thugs or the republigelicals, are true witnesses to virtue.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

We Have a Loser

When I first posted about the capture of the church arsonists I almost included a question along the lines of 'who will be the first person to take political advantage of this?' But I thought that would be too cynical.

Today, I read this (from this guy):

Everywhere I turn in the media I see attempts to turn this horrendous crime against Christianity into a mere "prank." Every news outlet from Fox to CNN has reported this as a teenage "prank." Let's get something straight here: rolling a house with toilet paper is a prank, torching nine churches is NOT a prank.

The War against Christianity is raging across this nation like an Alabama Church Fire. Some want to minimize this war, others want to explain it away. I will do neither. We must understand the times and we must have the courage to look at the facts and respond accordingly. I hope you can join us at the "War on Christianity" Conference where we will discuss these issues in depth and will help you defeat this War against all that we hold dear.

No argument is necessary to reveal the absurdity.

(Hat tip to Dispatches from the Culture Wars, which has some excellent commentary).

"Alabama Restores Slavery"

"'Death to tyrants,' were the last words of an historic decision by the Alabama Supreme Court today. Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker uttered the words in a sweeping decision restoring slavery to the Southern state."

The whole story is here.

Sounds crazy right? Like I said here, and here, under Justice Parker's jurisprudence anything is possible.

George Bush is an Atheist

Well, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck.

Remember Prof. Hamill? The Alabama tax prof who said Alabama's tax laws contradicted basic Christian teachings? Who endured the personal attacks of the Christian Coalition as a result? Here's a quote from the abstract of her most recent work:

the moral values driving the Bush Administration's tax policy decisions reflect objectivist ethics, a form of atheism that exalts individual property rights over all other moral considerations. Given the overwhelming adherence to Christianity and Judaism, I conclude that President Bush, many members of Congress and many Americans are not meeting the moral obligations of their faiths, and, I argue that tax policy must start reflecting genuine Judeo-Christian values if the country is to survive in the long run.

On Concurring Opinions, one of her colleagues has this to say:

Susan joined the Alabama faculty as a tax scholar in the mid-1990's. About five years ago, on sabbatical, she pursued graduate work at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School - not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. These recent pieces reflect a marriage of scholarship with personal passion. Not surprisingly, people from many perspectives can find ways to disagree with Susan. On the other hand, she exemplifies a professor who believes her scholarship must have practical consequences. I have tremendous admiration for both her work and the way she has chosen to structure her professional life.

I agree. Whether you agree with her ultimate conclusions or not, it is heartening to see an 'ivory tower intellectual' descend with her knowledge to help the rest of us.

Tax Prof Blog has more coverage, as well as links to her previous work, and scholarly (as opposed to 'oh yeah, well you favor abortion')responses.