Saturday, January 26, 2008

The GOP Myth Machine

You've got to hand it to conservatives. With almost eight years of George W. Bush behind us, we now can conclusively say that conservatives can't govern. Yet numerous myths persist, indicating that good government and conservatism can go hand in hand--and an alarming number of Americans still buy these myths.

Here are three of my favorite myths about conservatives:

* We are strong on foreign affairs. (After Dubya's Debacle in Iraq, does anyone still take this seriously?)

* Our judges are "strict constructionists" who treat the written law with reverence. (Guffaw, guffaw.)

* We are careful, indeed conservative, with your tax dollars.

Let's ponder this last one for a moment because two recent news item bring it to mind.

First, we learned that Alabama Governor Bob Riley's efforts to appoint George Bowman to a seat on the Jefferson County Commission were unlawful. A three-judge federal panel ruled that Riley should have obtained federal approval before filling the seat, and now it looks like Bowman's short-lived appointment will end February 5, the date set for a special election. No one, least of all Riley, should be surprised by this outcome. The case is almost identical to a 2005 case in which Riley made an appointment to the Mobile County Commission, and a panel of federal judges ruled that he had violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Riley already is appealing the Mobile case to the U.S. Supreme Court and might also appeal the Jefferson County case. How much money is Riley spending on this effort to prove that his appointment power transcends the rights of the public to elect county commissioners? Is that really a good use of taxpayer funds?

Second, we learn that Sue Bell Cobb, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, says our court system will need an extra $9.2 million next year to avoid layoffs. Now, I'm a Sue Bell Cobb fan. She's the only Democrat on the high court and also probably the only honest justice. But our court system is awash in waste, and now Cobb is forced to claim taxpayers should feed the beast with even more money. My own Legal Schnauzer case is a classic example of waste in our courts. The case started with a fraudulent lawsuit that, by law, had to be dismissed in a few months time. Instead it dragged on for five years and even went to a bogus trial. My sources in Montgomery tell me that such cases of butchery by trial-court judges are common. My guess is that this costs the state millions of dollars a year, and the problem doesn't end with trial courts. The Alabama Supreme Court proved it is corrupt with its ruling to overturn almost all of a $3.6 billion award for the state and against oil giant ExxonMobil. Cobb issued a stinging dissent in that case, all but calling her colleagues on the court a bunch of crooks. But now she wants us to send them more money.

Sue Bell Cobb is only one person, and it is unfair to think that she alone can clean up the sewage that emanates from our court system. But Alabamians should write their state legislators and demand that action be taken to clean up our courts before another dime is spent.

Let's hope citizens will remember these stories the next time they hear a conservative crowing about being careful with tax dollars.

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