Archive for April, 2007

Some Good News

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) is home from the hospital four months after suffering a brain hemmorhage.  He’s been in rehab (not that kind of rehab) since February and continues to improve.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is set to leave the hospital this afternoon, a bit over two weeks after a serious car accident.  Jon, honey, next time wear your seatbelt!

And White House Press Secretary Tony Snow returns to work today five weeks after surgery that showed a recurrence of his cancer.  He’ll start chemotherapy soon.  I never thought I’d miss him, but a few weeks of Dana Perino’s speed-spinning were more than enough.

Here’s to good health for all of them.

Happy Birthday, Don!

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Blues reader Don is 74 today — and still working hard to encourage the Alabama legislature to pass initiative and referendum for our citizens.  Have a great day, Don!

Alabama House Fails To Pass Bill To End Judicial Override In Capital Cases

Friday, April 27th, 2007

I shouldn’t be surprised.  Alabama is one of only four states that permit judges to override jury recommendations in capital cases, and it is the only one of the four that chooses judges in partisan elections.  And 90% of the time, the override goes in the direction of imposing the death penalty when the jury has recommended life.

Rep. Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham) had proposed a bill that would require judges to follow the juries’ recommendation in these cases, but the House failed yesterday to pass a Budget Isolation Resolution that would have permitted a vote on the bill, effectively killing it.

Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, the bill’s sponsor, said he believes circuit judges too often impose the death penalty when juries recommend life in prison because of political pressure. Judges are elected in Alabama.

But Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, said judges need to override juries when they clearly disregard the law and suggest an improper punishment.

Oh, please.  This is Alabama, where over 70% of the population strongly supports the death penalty.  Not only that, I’m pretty sure that prosecutors “death qualify” juries, excluding those who would refuse to vote for the death penalty under any circumstances.  (Wheeler, feel free to jump in here as this is your area of expertise).  So just how likely is it that Alabama juries are going to be soft on crime?

And how likely is it that Alabama judges will override a jury recommendation of death when they know that their opponents in the next election will paint them as criminal-loving bleeding heart weenies?

Let’s face it — most criminal defendants in Alabama don’t have the resources to hire Johnny Cochran.  Alabama jurors aren’t likely to be dazzled by the star power of defense attorneys.  If they convict a defendant of a capital crime, they’re already predisposed to impose the death penalty.  If they recommend a life sentence instead, they probably have good reason for doing so.  And they don’t have to run for re-election.

But legislators do.

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Wheeler and Dan have posted on this story as well.

Shout!

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Shout, Birmingham’s second annual gay & lesbian film festival, kicks off tomorrow night (Friday, April 27) at WorkPlay.  This year’s festival features a documentary film about our own Rep. Patricia Todd and her historic campaign.  It also highlights actor Alan Cumming (X2:X-Men United) and Alabama’s own Jeff Key, whose one-man show, The Eyes of Babylon, is one of the most powerful and beautiful plays I have ever had the honor to experience.

Joe at Bessemer Opinions has a wonderful in-depth post on Jeff Key, his service in Iraq, and the Mehadi Foundation, which he established to help the children of Iraq.

Shout promises to be a great event.  Don’t miss it!

OHM

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

It may sound like something I chant when my children are driving me crazy, but it’s actually Open Hearts and Minds Lectures, coming up this weekend at Auburn University Montgomery.  This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock.  Dr. Brock will focus on the theme of “Our Common Good and the Care of This World” in her addresses on Friday and Saturday evening.  During Saturday morning’s mini-conference, Dr. Brock will be joined by Birmingham author James Douglass and AUM professor Dr. Rosine Hall to explore “greening the soul”.

The lectures are free; the mini-conference is $15 (you can pay at the door).  All the events are held in the Nursing School building at AUM, which has ample free parking.

I attended the last two OHM Lectures, featuring Bishop John Shelby Spong in 2004 and Dr. James Forbes and Dr. Charles Marsh in 2005, and I can tell you the organizers only bring in the best – engaging speakers with powerful messages.  If you can get to Montgomery on Friday and Saturday, it will be well worth your time. 

“They Should’ve Considered Actions”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Blues reader Don pointed me to this excellent editorial in the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle, addressing a couple of the people in the center of the two-year college scandal.  The two-year system has turned into a jobs program for the Alabama legislature, and everything was rocking along just fine until Brett Blackledge of the Birmingham News broke the story (and won a Pulitzer Prize).

Anyway, Ed Howell, the editorial writer, does what some Democrats in the Legislature are starting to do — calls out House Majority Leader Ken Guin (D-Tuscaloosa), who until recently was employed as an unregistered lobbyist by two different community colleges, Shelton State and Bevill State.  Guin resigned his position at Shelton State but is still on the payroll at Bevill State, and Bevill State President Harold Wade thinks that’s just fine.  Ed Howell does not.

I think the Guin and Wade camps are mystified at what all the fuss is about. Supporters point to all the improvements on campus. They wonder why similar situations concerning legislators with the four-year system haven’t been discussed. They point out the methods that led to the fuss have been around for years. They say it is wrong to exclude some and include others in a citizen Legislature.

The ends, however, do not justify the means, no matter how long the system has been in place. It is a Wallace-era system that should have been changed long ago. At some point, you have to draw a line and say, “Wrong — change it.”

What makes Mr. Howell’s challenge different from some of the others we’ve seen in newspapers around the state?  He makes it clear that both of these men are friends of his.  It’s easy to point out problems when the perpetrator is a stranger who has no direct influence in the writer’s life.  It can be a lot harder when the wrongdoer is not only a longtime friend, acquaintance, or business contact but may also be a go-to source for important stories.  Mr. Howell stepped up and did the right thing.  It’s time for Ken Guin, and others in the legislature who are feeding at the community college trough, do so as well.

Good Christians Don’t Question Authority?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Since when?  Pat Tillman’s family wanted the truth about their son’s death.  The military lied to them, and they refused to accept that and go quietly home like good little Bushies — or like good little Christians, at least according to Army Lt. Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, who handled the initial investigation:

“But there [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, ‘OK, it was an unfortunate accident.’ And they let it go. So this is — I don’t know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs.”

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he’d learned Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother’s body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family’s unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: “When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans’ religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, “I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.”

I guess this guy thinks Dr. King and the other Christian leaders in the civil rights movement should have just accepted segregation.  Pat Tillman volunteered to serve in the military.  He and every other soldier deserve honesty and respect from the government that sends them into battle.  Their religious faith, or lack of it, makes no difference.

via Crooks and Liars

House Oversight Committee Votes to Subpoena Rice

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

The Committee is seeking the Secretary of State’s testimony on the now discredited claim that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa.  The Republican meme on this seems to be that it was four years ago, water under the bridge, nothing to be gained by understanding what went wrong, etc.

Next door, the House Judiciary Committee granted immunity to and approved a subpoena for AG counsel and White House liaison Monica Goodling.  The Senate Judiciary Committee, as part of its ongoing investigation into the firings of eight US Attorneys, approved a subpoena for Sara Taylor, an aide to Karl Rove.  And Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter sent a letter to Alberto Gonzales telling him he needs to take his ginkgo biloba and provide real answers in place of the 71 “I don’t recall”s from last week’s hearings.

Interesting times.

Rove Under Investigation by Office of Special Counsel

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

But will it be a White House whitewash?  Melissa McEwan has more on Scott Bloch.  Thanks, Tom!

This is coming from inside the Bush administration, and that is huge.  The larger investigation came out of two narrower ones:  the firing of US Attorney David Iglesias and a political PowerPoint presentation given to GSA employees by Rove aide Scott Jennings.

…the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.

First, the inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the splintered inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.

And it sounds like they’re deadly serious.  We can hope. 

“We will take the evidence where it leads us,” Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday. “We will not leave any stone unturned.”

Bloch declined to comment on who his investigators would interview, but he said the probe would be independent and uncoordinated with any other agency or government entity.

The decision by Bloch’s office is the latest evidence that Rove’s once-vaunted operations inside the government, which helped the GOP hold the White House and Congress for six years, now threaten to mire the administration in investigations.

The question of improper political influence over government decision-making is at the heart of the controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys and the ongoing congressional investigation of the special e-mail system installed in the White House and other government offices by the Republican National Committee.

All administrations are political, but this White House has systematically brought electoral concerns to Cabinet agencies in a way unseen previously.

Wow!  I can’t believe Bush is letting one of his own appointees get away with this.  Anyone want to place bets on how soon he’ll try to fire Scott Bloch?  Or could it be that he’s finally realized Rove’s machinations have become more of a liability than an asset?

Nah, this is the man who still has confidence in Alberto Gonzales.

Scientists Find Kryptonite

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Yes, I know I’m a hopeless nerd — 13YOD tells me at least once a week — but this is cool.  Just keep it away from Dean Cain and Brandon Routh, please.