Archive for December 2006

Contest Winner And A Programming Note

December 22, 2006

Either I have no Over the Mountain readers, or else you folks need to get out more. I gave you one on your side of Red Mountain, and who gets it? Who else but Dystopos, a fellow B’hamian. Anyway, here’s the answer (note that the lines on the marker is not very well written):

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If you still don’t know where this is, the parking lot behind the sign belongs to the Tip-Top Grill in Bluff Park. And if you don’t know where that is, well, you really should get out more. Though I’d advise driving there, rather than going up West Oxmoor Road via bicycle, like I did just before taking this picture.

Now the programming note. Tomorrow morning we will pack up the family – Dad, Mom, Twins, and Dog – and hit the road for the holidays. We’ll spend part of the next week in Shreveport, La, and part of it in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Access to the internets will be spotty and motivation to read and comment on the news will be non-existent. Hence, little to no blogging until next year. 

So, I’ll see you then, and in the meanwhile, Happy HanaKwanzaaMass. Or whatever.   


State Supremes Restore Overhead For Indigent Defense

December 22, 2006

Here’s the decision. It was 9-0. The background is here. I think I pretty much called it correctly.

For now all I want to say is that – as has happened, more than one time, in the past – Troy King’s habit of putting politics above the law has cost us big bucks.

It was his stupid AG opinion a year and a half ago that stopped the overhead payments. I’ve explained that his argument was extremely weak, and today his reasoning was rejected by all nine Supreme Court Justices.

But today’s decision does not just expose his own stupidity. The state will soon have to pay for all the overhead expenses that appointed attorneys have carried on their own over the last twenty months. Plus interest. Just to give you an idea of what the state owes, one of the attorneys in my office – who does not take a lot of appointments – told me she is due about twenty five thousand dollars in overhead for the last twenty months. That’s one attorney.

Way to go Troy!

Religion, Politics, Virgil Goode, and DBT

December 22, 2006

Yesterday, I wanted to comment on the latest development in the Keith Ellison story, but because all I would have said was something like “Virgil Goode is a dumba** racist f**king P.O.S.” I decided to wait and comment on it today.

You know the background, Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and plans on taking his oath with his hand on a Quran. That has some folks extremely mad. Dennis Prager started it with his demand that Ellison swear on a Bible or not at all. Roy Moore upped the theocratic ante by saying Congress ought to ban Ellison from even serving in Congress. I’ve got links to all these stories, and refutations of Prager and Moore, here.

Then yesterday, this story broke nationally:

In a letter sent to hundreds of voters this month, Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., Republican of Virginia, warned that the recent election of the first Muslim to Congress posed a serious threat to the nation’s traditional values.

Mr. Goode was referring to Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat and criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a college student and was elected to the House in November. Mr. Ellison’s plan to use the Koran during his private swearing-in ceremony in January had outraged some Virginia voters, prompting Mr. Goode to issue a written response to them, a spokesman for Mr. Goode said.

Here’s Goode’s written response:

Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

   Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

Well, I waited a day to comment, and still all I want to do is agree with the Charlottesville Weekly, the paper that first broke the story, doing so with the headline “Goode makes complete ass of self.”

Really, where do you start? The ridiculous non-sequitur of using as a reason for restricting immigration the election to Congress of a person born and raised in the United States? The incredible hubris and ignorance displayed when Goode proudly declares that, though he represents an entire district of people, he has no concern for the religious beliefs of anyone except his fellow Christians? The clap-trap about traditional values?

And of course, Goode completely embraces the stupidity of Moore and Prager. An oath only matters if the swearer respects the thing on which he swears. So of course a Muslim ought to swear on a Quran and a Christian on a Bible. This is a non-issue. Besides, Congress is totally powerless to require one book or another, or that its members be one religion or another. The Constitution is clear: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

But this letter got to me even more than the idiocy of Prager and Moore. I’ve spent the last day thinking about it, and I’m not sure why. But here’s my best guess.

Goode’s letter was in response to letters and e-mails he received from his constituents. I understand their concern. Like it or not, fair or not, reasonable or not, for plenty of people Muslim is a proxy for theocratic insanity. Based on the behavior of some Muslims as reported in the news, I do not think that is an entirely unreasonable presumption. Nor would I think it unreasonable for someone to presume Christians are violent, ignorant bigots. Or that Mormons are fools.

I think what makes me mad about Virgil Goode is that he heard this concern and inflamed it. Instead of trying to explain how oaths work, and that our Constitution gives people of all religions – or none – equal treatment, and that the people of Minnessota chose Mr. Ellison as their representative just like the people of Virginia chose him, rather than any of that, Goode encouraged his constituents’ prejudices.

A real leader would have explained that in America, we judge people as individuals. Sure, some Muslims are insane. So are some Christians. And no, I would never, ever vote for a Muslim who thought the Quran was the Supreme Law of the Land, any more than I would vote for a Christian who thinks the Bible is the Supreme Law of the Land. But I would not draw from those particular examples of lunacy the conclusion that no Muslims or Christians can serve in public office. There are far too many rational believers to make such a rule.

As for Keith Ellision the individual, unless the people who elected him are truly foolish, I think we can assume he is not one of the wackos. And he certainly sounds like a reasonable person:

Mr. Ellison dismissed Mr. Goode’s comments, saying they seemed ill informed about his personal origins as well as about Constitutional protections of religious freedom. “I’m not an immigrant,” added Mr. Ellison, who traces his American ancestors back to 1742. “I’m an African-American.”

Since the November election, Mr. Ellison said, he has received hostile phone calls and e-mail messages along with some death threats. But in an interview on Wednesday, he emphasized that members of Congress and ordinary citizens had been overwhelmingly supportive and said he was focusing on setting up his Congressional office, getting phone lines hooked up and staff members hired, not on negative comments.

“I’m not a religious scholar, I’m a politician, and I do what politicians do, which is hopefully pass legislation to help the nation,” said Mr. Ellison, who said he planned to focus on secular issues like increasing the federal minimum wage and getting health insurance for the uninsured.

“I’m looking forward to making friends with Representative Goode, or at least getting to know him,” Mr. Ellison said, speaking by telephone from Minneapolis. “I want to let him know that there’s nothing to fear. The fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.”

So there is nothing to fear about Mr. Ellison’s election.

That’s what Goode ought to have said. But he did not. Instead of educating people, he reinforced their prejudices, assuring them he does not like Muslims either.

I do not know if he actually believes the ignorant garbage in that letter, or if he just used it to pander. Ultimately it does not matter. As DBT says about George Wallace:

Now, he said he was the best friend a black man from Alabama ever had,

And I have to admit, compared to Fob James, George Wallace don’t seem that bad

And if it’s true that he wasn’t a racist and he just did all them things for the votes

I guess Hell’s just the place for “kiss ass politicians” who pander to assholes.

Oh well, at least Goode isn’t from Alabama.

If Politicians Were College Football Teams

December 21, 2006

On the Daily Dish today:

Reader JT with too much time on his hands uses college football to handicap the 2008 Presidential race:

John Kerry = Alabama, for some reason still thinks he should be considered an elite organization but each season becomes more and more embarrassing.

Hey now! He includes all the possible candidates, but after reading this, I doubt many tide fans will have the composure to keep reading. But are they angrier that their team is called delusional? Or that it is likened to Kerry?  Which is worse? Or is the combination too inflammatory to permit further analysis?

Anyway I guess this makes Auburn GWB in 2004: Enjoying success largely because their main opponent sucks. And UAB is any libertarian candidate: Lots to offer, but never going to overcome the entrenched big boys.

Woo Hoo!

December 20, 2006

This makes me happy:

Scott Register’s popular “Reg’s Coffee House” radio show will return to the air less than a month after it went away.

His Sunday-morning show was one of the casualties when Citadel Broadcasting pulled the plug on Birmingham alternative rock station The X at 100.5 (WRAX-FM) to make way for sports talk station WJOX-FM.

This Sunday, though, “Reg’s Coffee House” will come back on another Citadel station, Y 94.5 (WYSF-FM), which is also weekday home of syndicated “Rick & Bubba Show.”

Register’s show, which features lighter alternative music from such artists as Pete Yorn, Shawn Colvin and Ben Harper, will air every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., an hour longer than before.

Here, here, and here, are my previous posts on the death of the X and the loss of Reg. I’m so happy that his show is back that I think I’ll go buy a new cd after work today. Rock.

UPDATE: Reg says Sunday’s show will be a Christmas special. He also says this:

Also, mark your calendar for February 17th as that is the date for the Reg’s Coffee House 10th Anniversary Party at the historic (and freaking gorgeous) Alabama Theater. Patty Griffin will be headlining the show and we will be announcing other acts and more details in the coming weeks so keep your eyes and ears open.

The End Of The Latest Monkey Trial

December 20, 2006

The Cobb County sticker case is over:

The Cobb County evolution saga is finally over, more than four years after school officials ordered stickers warning that evolution is “a theory, not a fact” pasted into thousands of science textbooks.

The end came Tuesday, when the Cobb County school board announced it had settled a lawsuit filed by parents who said the disclaimer violated the constitutional prohibition against government-established religion. . . .

In the settlement, the school system agreed not to take out or edit materials on evolution in textbooks and to pay $166,659 toward attorney fees in the case.

This is certainly a “W” for the plaintiffs. I’ve previously commented on this case, after the 11th Circuit remanded it back to the District Court for further hearings. I did not think the sticker itself was all that harmful, though I recognized the motives behind it were probably one hundred percent bad. Today’s story confirms my belief about the motives:

Marjorie Rogers, the Cobb parent who led the drive that resulted in the stickers’ placement, said she was disappointed.

“The stickers were just a compromise the school board made to satisfy those of us who were offended by the material in the textbooks,” said Rogers, a creationist.

Once again, the nefarius right not to be offended trumps education. Even better is this reaction:

Larry Taylor, one of the parents who originally lobbied the school board for the stickers, expressed frustration at the decision to settle. He blamed the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the parents who sued the school district.

“They were trying to do the right thing,” said Taylor, a parent of three Cobb students. “It’s terrorist organizations like the ACLU that are hijacking our country’s educational system by imposing their own secular agenda on the rest of us.”

Speaks for itself, huh? Yes, an organization that uses courts to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, that’s just like an organization that flies planes full of people into crowded office towers in order to impose its barbaric religious views on another country. And who is “hijacking our country’s educational system?” The organization that tries to make sure school science classes teach science? Or the religious nut jobs who want science withheld from all students whenever that science conflicts with their own bad theology? What an idiot.  Someone was trying to do the right thing here, but it wasn’t Larry Taylor or the Cobb County School Board.

Activist Courts Are Bad, Unless They’re Good

December 20, 2006

How many times have you heard this? “Gay marriage is an issue for the legislature, not the courts, to decide.” 

Here’s one example, Mitt Romney, in 2004:

No matter how you feel about gay marriage, we should be able to agree that the citizens and their elected representatives must not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to society as the definition of marriage. . . .

The Legislature is our lawmaking body, and it is the Legislature’s job to pass laws. As governor, it is my job to carry out the laws. The Supreme Judicial Court decides cases where there is a dispute as to the meaning of the laws or the constitution. This is not simply a separation of the branches of government, it is also a balance of powers: One branch is not to do the work of the other. It is not the job of judges to make laws, the job of legislators to command the National Guard, or my job to resolve litigation between citizens.

That’s what he said when the SJC mandated gay marriage. Back then, it was all about separation of powers, and deferring to the legislature. But now the legislature is reluctant to ban gay marriage. So does ol’ Mitt still believe in separation of powers and deference? Of course not:

Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday he would ask the state’s highest court to order an anti-gay marriage amendment question onto the ballot if legislators fail to vote on the matter when they reconvene in January.

Wow. Legislature good, Court bad. Until Legislature displease Mitt. Then Legislature bad, Court good.  

Honesty is the best policy. If his goal is eliminating the gays by any means possible , he ought to just say so and quit hiding behind high minded principles. Then he’ll just be an idiot, instead of an idiot and a flip-flopping hypocrite.