Archive for January, 2006

Alito Confirmed

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I apologize to my daughters for what may happen over the next thirty years. Samuel Alito has been confirmed by a 58-42 vote. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT) voted no. Robert Byrd (D-WV), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted yes. Geez, I guess I should be glad all the Democrats at least showed up to cast a vote.

For the fifteen senators who voted to end the filibuster but voted no on Alito, I repeat what I said below. You’re cowards. For the four who voted yes on Alito, thanks. For NOTHING!

No Filibuster

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Blogenfreude has a list of the nineteen Democrat senators who voted to end the filibuster of the Alito nomination yesterday. As I noted in the comments there, I wonder how many of them will go on to vote against Alito’s confirmation.

I guess it’s possible that some of these senators actually think Alito will make a fine Supreme Court Justice. Some of them may subscribe to the notion that the President has the right to nominate anyone he chooses, and that the Senate’s “advise and consent” role should tilt toward the “consent” side. If that’s the case, then they should vote for confirmation. Screwing over your own party on the filibuster and then voting “no” in a feeble attempt to cover your ass is nothing but cowardice.

I Gotta Get Out More…

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. I was actually quite pleased to note that I’ve already seen two of the Best Picture contenders, Brokeback Mountain and Crash, and that I really want to see the other three, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich. It’s a rare year when that happens.

In the category of really neat but off-the-wall facts, I just discovered that Dan Futterman wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Capote. He is one multi-talented guy; he played Amy’s writer-brother Vincent, my favorite character on Judging Amy.

Rest In Peace

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Coretta Scott King has passed away at 78.

Brokeback Mountain — Finally

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

I know I’m a little behind the times here, but scheduling “grown-up” movies is hard with two kids. My friend Renee and I finally saw Brokeback Mountain this afternoon. We really need to stop going to movies together; the last two we saw were Hotel Rwanda and Crash, and I’ve barely recovered from them. Both are incredible movies, powerful and wrenching, and they require large numbers of Kleenex.

If you’re avoiding Brokeback Mountain because it’s a cowboy movie, or if you’re avoiding it because it’s a gay movie (I know there are plenty of progressive straight guys who are hesitant), just let me say DON’T. This movie is amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking. It is even better than I expected. The story is complex and tragic, and the acting is stellar. If Heath Ledger doesn’t win an Oscar, I’ll be shocked. Go see it — and be sure to see it on the big screen; the scenery is breathtaking.

It’s Not All Bad News — Part 2

Friday, January 27th, 2006

On Wednesday, Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform and Greater Birmingham Ministries sponsored a “Let the People Vote” rally on the steps of the state capitol building. It’s not easy to draw a crowd on a weekday, but there were around 350 people in attendance. There were also boxes full of petitions signed by more than 65,000 registered voters, asking our legislature to allow the citizens of the state to vote on a call for a constitutional convention. Under our current (and horrible) constitution, only the legislature can call a convention, and that’s not going to happen without tremendous public pressure.

College students from around the state began reading the constitution aloud at 9:00. After a three-hour public hearing, several senators and representatives joined the rally around 11:30, including Sen. Ted Little (D-Auburn) and Rep. Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham), the sponsors of SB52 and HB109 respectively. The students were close to the 100th amendment at that point. They only had 670+ to go.

Among the speakers was Mrs. Johnnie Carr, president of the Montgomery Improvement Association since 1967. Mrs. Carr turned 95 yesterday, but age hasn’t dimmed her enthusiasm or her commitment to justice. She is an inspiration, and as I listened to her speak, I could only hope to have half of her energy and passion.

I’m always surprised by opposition to constitutional reform. After all, wouldn’t anyone want to dump a document that was written to be racist and exclusive, that was almost certainly ratified by a fraudulent vote, and that hamstrings progress in this state every day? But, as usual, the “Christian” Coalition and Alfa are up in arms about anything that would help the average citizens of the state. Coalition head John Giles is convinced that this is a ploy to raise taxes (it’s absolutely ridiculous that our tax code is imbedded in the constitution, making it almost impossible to update, so we currently have families here who start paying state income tax when they earn $4,600/year). Alfa is afraid that its constituents might have to pay reasonable property taxes (timberland currently makes up more than 70% of land in Alabama but produces less than 2% of property tax revenue).

A new constitution would provide the opportunity for real tax reform, and it might mean that those who have the most to spare would have to pay a bit more. Shouldn’t the citizens of Alabama, most of whom claim to be Christians, be willing to lift the burden off the poor and to provide stable funding for our public schools, knowing that education is the best way out of poverty?

This should be a no-brainer, but even Ted Little doesn’t expect his bill to pass during an election year. It’s up to the citizens to keep the pressure on our legislators. After all, they are supposed to representing us, not special interest groups. Yeah, I’m naive and idealistic, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

Demetrius Newton; Ted Little; GBM’s Democracy Quilt

It’s Not All Bad News — Part 1

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

This week saw a couple of great events here in Alabama. The first was here in Birmingham. Rev. James Evans, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church and author of the syndicated column “Faith Matters”, spoke as part of the Over the Mountain Democrats’ “A Conversation With….”

A Big Crowd Gathered To Hear Jim Evans At the Chabad Center In Mountain Brook

As our fearless leader John Crenshaw said, this was pretty amazing: a Baptist minister speaking at a Jewish center, sponsored by a group of Democrats in the heart of Mountain Brook (a very red suburb of Birmingham). Jim Evans is a powerful progressive voice of faith in our state, and he drew a crowd of 250-300. He spoke about the proper relationship between faith and politics, using the story of Jesus answering the question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” He said that people of faith have three responsibilities: to ensure that the government works for the common good, to help the government maintain proper boundaries so that citizens meet government officials as equals, not supplicants, and to say “no” when the government oversteps its bounds.

We, as people of faith, or as people of no faith but with good hearts, have to speak out. When religious leaders get political power, their capacity for spiritual growth starts to die. They end up doing and saying whatever is necessary to remain in power. And when political leaders co-opt religion, they distort it beyond recognition. Either way, we end up with officials who twist the truth and use scare tactics to keep their constituents in line. The two most important things we can say are “baloney!” and “fear not!”

Jim Evans (r) with Equality Alabama Chair Howard Bayless

OTM Dems founder John Crenshaw

Jim did his best to be nonpartisan, and I think he really is. I’m with him; I rarely vote a straight party ticket in local races. There are good people in both political parties, and they deserve our support. But power corrupts, and the citizens have to be responsible for reining it in. Those with money and influence have to speak up for those without. We are all entwined, all part of a community, and we can’t allow differences of class or race or belief to divide us.

Too Busy To Filibuster

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-oh, really?) thinks the Senate has too much to do right now to consider filibustering the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Hey, lady, this guy will likely sit on the highest court in the land for the next thirty years or so. I consider that pretty damn important. But you’re just too busy to think about it right now. Great, Mary. Thanks for nothing.

UPDATE: John Kerry is calling for a filibuster. I just emailed Sen. Landrieu and asked her to look at the long-term implications. Feel free to do the same. We’ll see if it makes any difference.

Non Sequitur

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

If you’ve been reading here long, you know I’m a big supporter of rewriting Alabama’s obscenely racist and ridiculously unwieldy constitution. The constitution was ratified by a fraudulent vote in 1901, and its stated intent was to disenfranchise everyone who wasn’t white, male, and rich. It’s been amended ad nauseum, and quite a few articles have been nullified by federal civil rights statutes, not to mention the 15th, 19th, and 24th amendments.

Today, the House held a public hearing to discuss a bill that proposes allowing the citizens to vote on a constitutional convention. Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform also held a “Let the People Vote” rally on the Capitol steps (more about that later, with pictures).

I spoke to several reform supporters who attended the hearing, and it sounds like the rhetoric got a bit heated. They were told they were “enemies of the state” and accused of being paid by the Ford Foundation to push for a new constitution. Hey, I’ve been collecting petition signatures and teaching classes, but I never got my check. No fair!

But by far, my favorite quote was this one:

“You say [the] constitution is long and old. Well, so is the Bible,” said Patricia Godwin of Selma.

Yeah, but the Bible hasn’t been amended 772 times.

The Sleaze Just Gets Deeper

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

The Birmingham News reports today that Richard Scrushy threatened to fire HealthSouth’s investment bankers if they didn’t make a substantial donation to then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery campaign. Scrushy of course claims that this is just “business as usual”.

Former HealthSouth Chief Financial Officer Mike Martin testified that Scrushy initiated the quest for a $250,000 donation from a Maryland company – a check that federal prosecutors contend was part of a bribe to former Gov. Don Siegelman for seats on a state health board.

Scrushy’s trial is scheduled to start May 1. I hope this jury isn’t as easily fooled as the last one; Scrushy was acquitted of charges that he falsified HealthSouth’s financial statements by claiming that he had no idea what was going on in his own company.