Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Crossed The Line, Kingfish

Ok, I know conservatives hate "political correctness" and all that, but it's over the line to refer to Italians as "dagos" as was done in today's Jackson Jambalaya post (which you can find here )

And it doesn't help that you claimed in a later post that
"Some of my best friends are Italians. In fact, some of the best sex I've had has been with female Italians."

It just makes you sound like an ignorant cracker. Or a peckerwood. Take your pick.

Senator Cochran Lauds Nomination of Gov. Mabus for Navy Secretary

The on-line version of the Mississippi Business Journal (which you can find here ) reports this morning that, in hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Thad Cochran has given a ringing endorsement for former Governor Ray Mabus to serve as Secretary of the Navy:

Cochran: Mabus 'excellent choice'
April 29, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee has begun the confirmation hearings of former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus as secretary of the navy. Mabus was introduced by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)

Cochran said, "This distinguished nominee has had a career of public service in our state that is quite impressive. After graduating summa cum laude from Ole Miss in 1969 and completing a Woodrow Wilson fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University in 1970, he served two years as a naval surface warfare officer onboard the USS Little Rock.

"After completing his active duty naval service, he attended Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude in 1976. He served as a law clerk to Judge J.P. Coleman on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and he also worked as legal counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.

"He returned to Mississippi to work in Gov. Winter's office and was elected Mississippi state auditor in 1983, where he served with distinction. Four years later he was elected governor of our state. He led a period of record economic development, streamlined the state government and improved Mississippi's public schools.

"Ambassador Mabus was appointed by President Clinton to be United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1994. He served there for two years before returning to the private sector, where he served on several corporate boards of international businesses and is a member of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy and the Council on Foreign Relations.

"I know that Ambassador Mabus will bring to this job the same high level of energy and skill that has been the hallmark of his career throughout the many responsibilities of public service that he has held. His academic credentials, his record of distinguished service to the State of Mississippi and to our country has been exemplary. His integrity and judgment will also serve him well and he will certainly prove to be, in my opinion, an excellent choice to be secretary of the United States Navy. I commend President Obama for nominating him, and I look forward to working with him in this new capacity."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter Defection Refects Seismic Shift in US Politics

AP, CNN and the Washington Post are all reporting the head-spinning news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

Conservatives, of course, will note that the pro-choice Specter has voted for years with the Democrats on social issues. I would agree.

But what strikes me as most important about this news is what it portends for the 2010 elections and the future of American politics. Quite obviously, Senator Specter does not want to run for re-election in the swing state of Pennsylvania as a Republican -- even though in an off-year election, the President's party usually loses Congressional seats.

In 1968, the election of Richard Nixon started a forty-year era of Republican dominance in American politics. Could it be that the 2008 election of Barack Obama has done the same for the Democrats?

Resurrection of the Tobacco Tax?

Clarion-Ledger reporter Natalie Chandler (you can find her blog here) reports that the Mississippi House and Senate conferees are close to a deal to raise the State tobacco tax:

Posted 4/28/2009 10:14 AM CDT on

House and Senate negotiators will meet at 1:30 p.m. to solidify an apparent agreement on the amount of the increase. Speculation is that the agreement will raise the current 18-cent per pack tax to 68 cents per pack. That would be a compromise between the 75 cents the House has proposed and the Senate's 64-cent proposal.

More later.

Now's the time to contact your legislator to express support for an increase in the tax -- to fund Medicaid and to impose an additional economic barrier to the purchase of this disease-causing product. It's not enough, but it's a start.

You can find your State Representative here

And your State Senator here

So what are you waiting for?

Is the Good Ship Melton Taking on Water?

Is the Melton re-election campaign losing steam? It may be, based on recent polling results released by Brad Chism, President of Zata 3. Brad's latest surveyed 507 telephone voter households across seven wards. Here were the results:

April 24th Zatapulse Survey

Harvey Johnson 27%

Crisler 26%

Melton 19%

Hohrn 11%

Fair 3%

Other Candidates 7%

Undecided 7%

Brad reminds us about the parameters of this poll:

Why we are doing this: We have several friends in the Jackson Mayor’s race but no candidates who are clients. We are intrigued by the dynamics of this race and have decided to do some survey work for public dissemination.

About the survey. This sample of 500+ voter phone households is a rough approximation of historical voter registration and turnout. While we do track the respondents self-identification by age, race, and gender we have not weighted the survey by these demographics or by voter frequency. . . . .

Methodology We used an interactive, automated call with keypad responses to record results. The numbers are scrambled and randomly dialed with a quota of respondents by ward. As the name suggests, our ZATAPULSE takes the pulse of the electorate. It is not an “MRI”. It is a useful tool for short surveys of this nature and we have used it for more than 200 races across the country. We employ a similar methodology as Survey USA or Rasmussen. Still, the tool has limits. We caution you that this race is fluid and that each candidate is likely to have a more robust, internal poll. Nonetheless, we are confident that this is the most accurate, timely information that is publicly available.

About Zata3 Zata3 is a political consulting firm for Democratic candidates and progressive causes. Company President Brad Chism splits time between his Washington, DC and Jackson, MS offices. For each of the last three years, Zata3 had won more awards by the AAPC for its telephone voter contact programs than any other firm in America. For more information, go to

My two cents: Let's see what happens when the Federal trial kicks back into gear. Will it create pro-Melton backlash?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dreams Come True: Will Texas Leave the USA?

Since February 1982, the great state of Texas has stood between my life in Mississippi and my friends and family on the Left Coast. I have traversed the length of the Lone Star State many, many times during the intervening years, and I have often thought: What if we gave Texas back to Mexico? Good-bye, Republican majorities in the Electoral College; good-bye, Bush family; good-bye, Karl Rove; good-bye, most of our immigration issues; good-bye, Dallas Cowboys . . .

And now, Texas Governor Rick Perry has suggested the next best thing: that Texas may secede from the Union. From CNN, courtesy of Y'all Politics:

(CNN) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't ruling out the possibility his state may one day secede from the nation.

Speaking to an energetic and angry tea party crowd in Austin Wednesday evening, the Lone Star State governor suggested secession may happen in the future should the federal government not change its fiscal polices.

"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

The CNN story (which includes a video) is here

Can it get any better than this? Maybe John Madden will be coming back to coach the Raiders.

I can dream, can't I?

Return of the House of Hypocrisy

The GOP Tea Parties have spawned another tide of hypocritical hand-wringing by Republican office-holders. But at least Democrats are fighting back. As reported by the Mississippi Democratic Party in a press release today:

JACKSON -- State Democratic Chairman Jamie Franks today responded to statements made by Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant during Wednesday's tea party at the state Capitol. Bryant told the crowd that President Obama's stimulus package was a waste of taxpayer money.

"The stimulus package is providing the State of Mississippi with millions of dollars for projects that will create jobs and improve the infrastructure of our cities and our counties," Franks said. "If creating jobs and rebuilding our roads is a waste of money to Phil Bryant, then perhaps we need to protest his leadership in the Senate."

Franks said the stimulus package will also provide tax cuts for working Mississippians, a fact he said Republicans like Bryant and Congressman Gregg Harper have repeatedly ignored. "Thanks to President Obama, working families will receive up to $800 in employee tax breaks," Franks said. "The reason you don't hear Republicans talking about this tax cut is because it helps the middle class, not the richest among us." The stimulus package will provide the following benefits to the State of Mississippi:

55,100 additional children will be provided health insurance.

997,000 workers will receive a tax credit on their paychecks.

30,000 jobs created over the next two years.

63,000 students aided by making the American Opportunity Tax Credit refundable.

"President Obama and Democratic leaders are offering workable solutions to the financial mess the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress got us into," Franks said. "Instead of posing for cameras in front of the Capitol, perhaps Bryant and Harper should go inside and figure out how to lend a helping hand to the people who are suffering because of the policies of their party."

Coincidentally, Y'all Politics pointed its readers yesterday to a blog post that reported the latest statistics on "earmarking" by Members of Congress, and guess who is the All-Star of Earmarking? A Mississippi Republican.

The Y'all Politics post is here

The story says:

Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group critical of pork-barrel spending, released a summary, called the Pig Book, of congressional earmarks at a news conference Tuesday.

* * * *

Sen. Thad Cochran, R- Miss., reported more than $650 million for earmark projects such as research of dietary supplements, mosquito trapping and for the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference. He was the recipient of "The Super Thad Award," for being the senator with the highest value in earmarks.

There you have it. On the one hand, Republicans grandstand to fight against Big Government Spending. On the other hand, they bend over backward to spend the most money.

Miss. Center for Justice to Gov. Barbour: Take Our Money!

The blog Facing South is reporting that the Mississippi Center for Justice, a non-profit organization in Jackson (to which many of my dearest friends have ties) has started a campaign to urge Governor Barbour to take all of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds targeted for Mississippi.

The Mississippi Center for Justice is here

The Facing South story is

Facing South says:

The federal stimulus package contains a $7 billion fund to expand unemployment benefits to a half-million more people across the country, including part-time workers. . . . . When Barbour rejected Mississippi's $56 million in unemployment insurance benefits, he argued that the funds would cost business owners an additional $16 million each year once the federal government's money is spent. The Mississippi state legislature had the power to overrule Barbour's decision with a joint resolution -- while the Mississippi State House passed a resolution to take the federal dollars, the similar resolution failed in the Senate.

Barbour and the other Southern governors have been accused of using federal stimulus money to score big points with GOP fiscal conservatives and to gain clout as up-and-coming leadership in the Republican party. Barbour himself has been on the national stage frequently during the past few weeks, giving addressees that have been critical of the economic recovery stimulus package and the president's budget plan.

Facing South's story continues:

The Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, launched a new online campaign called "Standing With Mississippi" that includes a petition urging Barbour to accept the $56 million in unemployment insurance benefits, pointing out that the aid could help some 40,000 people weather the recession and generate more than $120 million in economic activity in the state.

"Thousands of Mississippi families are in desperate need of funds to purchase food, pay for shelter and provide basic necessities for themselves and their children," the online campaign says "Please join us in standing with Mississippi and asking Governor Barbour to accept these much-needed Unemployment Insurance funds. We, in turn, pledge to keep the pressure on our elected officials and hold them accountable for providing every opportunity for a fair and equitable recovery for all Mississippians."

Community advocates have also rejected Barbour's claim that the aid would commit the state to any future tax increase, underscoring that the UI benefits can be done on a temporary basis to provide much-needed relief, and when the funds run out the state can eliminate or scale back the reforms to ensure the system remains solvent without raising taxes on businesses.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

You can find the Petition here

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For all you Teabaggers out there . . .

For all of my friends who are participating in Tax Tea Parties today . . . you might want to check out the definition of "Teabagging" on the great site, "Urban Dictionary." NOTE: this is not for the prudish or feint-hearted . . .

So to all of you who are upset at the New New Deal, may your teabags always be full . . .

Updike's Magnificent Easter Poem

My friend and law partner Luther Munford sent me this fantastic piece by the late John Updike, one of 20th Century America's greatest authors, and active practitioner of Protestant faith and freedom:

Seven Stanzas at Easter
By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961 by John Updike.

WTF??? Obama SG to SCOTUS: Let Cops End-Run Lawyers of Suspects

SCOTUSblog reports a disappointing development: the United States of America, through Obama Administration's Solicitor General, is arguing that law enforcement should be allowed to question suspects even after they have had lawyers appointed for them. As SCOTUSblog explains:

"The U.S. Solicitor General, speaking for the federal government, urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to overrule its 1986 decision in Michigan v. Jackson. Seeking to assure that the right to counsel is not lost during police interrogation, the Court ruled in Jackson that, once an accused has claimed that right in court, any waiver of that right during police questioning would not be valid unless the individual initiated communication with the officers."

The Government's amicus brief was filed in the case of Montejo v. Louisiana (07-1529), which was argued last January. The Supreme Court, in an unusual move, asked for supplemental briefing on whether Jackson should be overruled. The Obama Administration said it should, explaining:

“Although the Sixth Amendment affords criminal defendants a right to counsel at certain critical pre-trial stages, the Amendment should not prevent a criminal defendant from waiving that right and answering questions from police following assertion of that right at arraignment. Jackson serves no real purpose and fits poorly with this Court’s recent precedent; although the decision only occasionally prevents federal prosecutors from obtaining appropriate convictions, even that cost outweighs the decision’s meager benefits.”

The answer to this argument was put rather well by Justice Souter and four other members of the Court just last Monday. In Corley v. United States, the Court refused to overrule another longstanding rule -- the exclusion of confessions taken when the suspect has been detained for an unreasonable amount of time without being taken to Court for an initial appearance. [Note: this is called the McNabb-Mallory rule]. The Court's majority opinion, written by Justice Souter, said:

"In a world without McNabb-Mallory, federal agents would be free to question suspects for extended periods before bringing them out in the open, and we have always known what custodial secrecy leads to. No one with any smattering of the history of 20th-century dictatorships needs a lecture on the subject, and we understand the need even within our own system to take care against going too far. Custodial police interrogation, by its very nature, isolates and pressures the individual, and there is mounting empirical evidence that these pressures can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed, see, e.g., Drizin & Leo, The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World, 82 N. C. L. Rev. 891, 906-907 (2004). "

Justice Frankfurter's point in McNabb is as fresh as ever: "The history of liberty has largely been the history of observance of procedural safeguards."

Thanks, Justice Souter. In real life, unlike Law & Order, law enforcement can not be sure they have the right suspect. Letting them question someone in custody after they already have a lawyer -- which violates the whole raison d'etre of the right to counsel -- leads all too often to the conviction of the innocent.

This is a very distressing sign that it's "business as usual" at the Obama Justice Department -- that it's more important to show solidarity with prosecutors than it is to seek justice. What a shame.

Correction -- Error in Post on Paul Minor case

In yesterday's post about the Fifth Circuit's denial of Paul Minor's renewed motion for release pending appeal, I stated that "[t]he Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Paul Minor's request for bond pending appeal, then also denied his request for a brief furlough to visit his wife."

As Alan Lange of Y'all Politics has pointed out, that is not correct. The Fifth Circuit denied Minor's first request for release on bond pending appeal, and then more recently, denied a renewed motion for release on bond based on the circumstances of Mrs. Minor's illness.

Y'all Politics' post on the issue is here:

I wish the Court had granted the motion; it seems to me that the original offense for which Minor's bond was revoked in the District Court -- using alcoholic beverages -- has long sense been adequately punished. Serious issues regarding the jurisdiction of the Federal courts have been raised, and although questioning during appellate argument is not an indicator of the ultimate result of any case, it appears that, at least, the judges on the Fifth Circuit panel are concerned about this question.

However, my statement about what the Fifth Circuit denied was erroneous. I regret the error and stand corrected.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is The President Tough Enough For You Now, Kingfish?

Kingfish, the host of local blog Jackson Jambalaya, posted a rather incendiary suggestion on Sunday, titled, "Dear POTUS, Here's How a REAL Leader Dealt With Pirates." The whole post is here:

His general notion is that the President should follow the example of Julius Caesar, who according to Plutarch, had pirates executed by cruxifiction. Kingfish finishes:

"Perhaps the pussy-in-chief should take some lessons from Caesar instead of finding this 'annoying' as Reuters reported. Several crosses with pirates hanging from them on the Somali coast will get their attention more quickly than will a nuanced discussion about habeas corpus or other fancy Latin lingo."

I don't think the words "Navy SEAL Snipers" can be considered "fancy Latin lingo." But I'm sure the operation (personally approved by the President) won't be enough to convince our friends on the Right. They'd rather have a Caesar: a military dictator who ruled by force. Great plan.

Innocent Victims of the Criminal Justice System

Sylvia Minor, who had celebrated 41 years of marriage to her husband Paul, died today. The story from the Clarion-Ledger is here:

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Paul Minor's request for bond pending appeal, then also denied his request for a brief furlough to visit his wife. Predictably, some folks are posting that this is just what he deserves. One visitor to the Clarion-Ledger even said:

"His actions probably contributed to the growth of the tumor with all the stress he caused her. She was better off by him not being there & he got exactly what he deserved."

I rather doubt Mrs. Minor would have said that. She was the innocent victim in all of this.

Another said, "The BOP doesn't let inmates out for this kind of thing, as a general rule. The inmate or family have to pay for transport and pay for guards to travel with the inmate."

True enough. But is that the right policy?

Does anyone understand what incarceration is supposed to accomplish? If so, perhaps they can explain how extinguishing all family ties and feelings will serve whatever the purpose is supposed to be.

And let's not forget . . . the Fifth Circuit has raised some very serious questions about whether the Federal courts have jurisdiction over this alleged offense. The two judges who were allegedly bribed were STATE court judges, who allegedly skewed STATE court proceedings in Paul Minor's favor. Pray tell, why is this a Federal offense?

And if Minor has a strong argument that he should never have been tried by the Federal Court, and is later released, how can his wife's loss of his comfort in her dying months be justified?

I think we are a better nation than this.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Paul Minor Oral Argument: Reports

The Jackson Free Press and the blog NMissCommentator have written helpful summaries of the oral arguments in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. paul Minor, et al.

The JFP story is here:

NMC's story is here:

Jackson's Groundhog Election Day? Opinion Poll By Neutral Consultant Shows H. Johnson, Crisler, and Horhn chasing Mayor Melton for Lead

My friend Brad Chism, President of the political consulting firm Zata3, has just released the results of a 500+ person poll in the Jackson mayoral race. Brad says that:

"We have several friends in the Jackson Mayor’s race but no candidates who are clients. We are intrigued by the dynamics of this race and have decided to do some survey work for public dissemination.

Wednesday night we conducted a random sample survey of 500 Jackson voter households. We asked about candidate preference and strength of support."

The main results:

Melton is in first place with 27% of total respondents. 35% of his supporters are "absolutely sure" they will vote for him.

H. Johnson is the lead challenger, with 20% of the total. 21% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

Crisler is in a close third with 18% of total. 13% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

Horhn is at a surprising 6%, with only 5% of his supporters saying they are "absolutely sure" they will vote for him.

Fair is right behind Horhn with 5% of the total; 6% of his supporters are "absolutely sure."

All Others split 11% of the total; 12% were undecided.

Brad gives us some brief observations:

"The race is very fluid. Based on this work and other surveys we have seen, at least four people are seriously in contention for the runoff."

"As Jere Nash observed recently, Frank Melton’s trial and the flap over his residency may have boosted his numbers considerably. (This survey occurred on Wednesday-- Melton hired a new police chief that day) ." Note: this is a point that several of us have already made. See

Brad continues:

"If the election were today, Melton would almost certainly be in the runoff. A rematch from 4 years ago is not implausible.

This will all change a lot when the candidates go up on TV and radio and hit the streets with canvassers.

Again, this is all fluid. For example, a few minutes ago Crisler got McMillan’s endorsement and we understand that fundraising is beginning to pick up for Crisler, Hohrn and Johnson.

About the survey. This sample of 500 voter phone households includes 70 completed surveys in Ward 1 and 65 in each of the other wards. This is a rough approximation of historical voter registration and turnout. We have not weighted the survey by voter frequency, gender or age. The pivot tables in the attached chart may be manipulated to see ward-by-ward results. We caution you not to draw too many conclusions by ward as these sample sizes are small. You can also adjust the pivot tables to see survey results by race.

Methodology. We used an interactive, automated call with keypad responses to record results. As the name suggests, our ZATAPULSE takes the pulse of the electorate. It is not an “MRI”. It is a useful tool for short surveys of this nature and has been used in more than 200 races across the country. We employ the same methodology as Survey USA or Rasmussen. Still, the tool has limits. We caution you that this race is very fluid and that each candidate is likely to have a more robust, internal poll. Nonetheless, we are confident that this is the most accurate, timely information that is publicly available.

About Zata3. Zata3 is a political consulting firm for Democratic candidates and progressive causes. Company President Brad Chism splits time between his Washington, DC and Jackson, MS offices. For each of the last three years, Zata3 had won more awards by the AAPC for its telephone voter contact programs than any other firm in America.

For more information, go to"

The Takeaway Point From the Survey: So if the election were held today, the Democratic runoff would be between Mayor Melton and former Mayor Johnson. A "Groundhog Day" election . . . which Jackson may be doomed to repeat again and again?