Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Haley's Blind Spot, And Ours

In conversations with folks about the now-infamous "Citizens' Council" remark made by Gov. Barbour to Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard, many have been surprised that a consummate politician like Mr. Barbour could commit such an obvious gaffe.

But consider this: maybe the Governor just has a blind spot in this area. Doesn't anybody remember the "whorehouse" comment reported by The Commercial Appeal by then-candidate Barbour during the 2003 campaign:


Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour scored points in DeSoto County on Monday regarding support for The Med but raised eyebrows with a comment about Head Start during a tour of Sacred Heart School in Southaven.

"Head Start is a godsend for Mississippi," the Republican told Sacred Heart principal Laura Clark. "Some of those kids in it would be better off sitting up on a piano bench at a whorehouse than where they are now."

Clark said she understood the context of the remark, though she was surprised by his choice of words.

"I think he was trying to represent an extreme situation," she said. "I wasn't offended by it. I believe I know what he meant."

And just as is happening now, Mr. Barbour's damage control team went into high gear. Again, from the Commercial Appeal's 2003 story:


Later Monday, Barbour's communications director said the candidate - who's a deacon in his church and a Sunday school teacher - meant no disrespect.

"It was just a figure of speech," said Quinton Dickerson "Haley was making a point about why Head Start is so important, especially for children who are in a tough situation."
Oh, ok. "Just a figure of speech." Sorry, but the choices one makes in speech -- conscious or not -- prove one's character by circumstantial evidence. In both the "whorehouse" and the "Citizen's Council" remarks, our Governor has exposed the fact that his worldview is distorted by Mississippi's racist past.

Now, there is a difference between active racism, which acts to hurt or oppress an insular minority group because of their race or ethnicity -- and passive racism, which accepts stereotypes about that minority group(for example, that children of impovershed communities would be better off in a whorehouse). The latter isn't good; but it's not the former, either.

Most of us born into the majority race, or into the more empowered economic sector of our society, have the same blind spot as Governor Barbour. The Governor's positive remark about the Citizen's Council shouldn't be (dare I say it) whitewashed. But neither should we take pains to remove the speck in Gov. Barbour's eye to repair his blind spot, before we've removed the log that blinds our own perspective.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gov. Barbour, the Avett Brothers have a message for you

Surely you've now heard about Haley Barbour's remarks concerning growing up in Yazoo City amongst the Citizen's Council. If you haven't, here's what he said:
"You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

I had some fun with this on Facebook, posting the following:
Governor Barbour as president after a trip to Afghanistan: "You ever heard of the Taliban? Back home they think it's like al Qaeda. Over here it's really like an organization of town leaders."

A good bit of back and forth ensued, so I thought it would be a good time to crank the blog back up to delve into this issue a bit more.

If you question whether or not Barbour's portrayal of the Citizen's Council might actually be accurate, go over to Tom Freeland's site and read his excellent work here and here. Then go over to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and search their Sovereignty Commission files on their website. (The general page is here, and the Yazoo County folder is here.) As a side note, MDAH never gets enough credit for putting this information online.

Now, what does all of this mean? Yeah, Barbour tried to backtrack from his statement by releasing another one. And the conservative blogosphere outside of Mississippi has decided his presidential campaign is over before it really began. But really, what's the larger lesson here? What's the takeaway?

In my humble opinion, it is this: Haley Barbour, current head of the Republican Governor's Association, has been widely regarded by GOP leaders across the nation as the next Republican president or vice-president. But until Barbour makes a decision about who he is, he's not going to be either of those things. Barbour's dilemma is, in a way, the dilemma of the Republican Party as a whole. The Republican Party since Nixon has had two types: those who go to the Citizens Council meetings to elicit votes and are genuinely ashamed of it, and those who go but aren't.

There's a line from the Avett Brothers' song "Head Full of Doubt" that applies here: "Decide what to be, and go be it."

The Republican Party, if it is to morph into something viable beyond the expiration date of Nixon's Southern Strategy, is going to have to quit playing footsie with racists. Any Mississippi politician who wishes to be taken seriously on the national level is going to have to display a commitment to understanding that what went on in this state was horrible, despicable, shameful and indefensible. They'll have to understand it and live it. Mississippi Republicans do neither, and it's past time they started.

In closing, I'm going to leave you with two things. First, an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report from Fall 2004 in which they explore the links between politicians and the CCC. (Guess who's featured?) Second, a picture from the CCC's annual convention at Black Hawk, MS, in 2003:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Senior Judge Green, and some predictions

Last month, I wrote that I was mulling over the changes I thought Judge Green would make when she becomes Senior Circuit Judge in Hinds County. The Hinds Senior Circuit Judge, as I mentioned, has some rather interesting and unique powers. For example, she can split the circuit into two divisions of two judges each, one handling exclusively criminal cases and the other handling only civil. She also has appointment power over the Hinds County Public Defender. I've had some time to think on it, and to read some tea leaves. Here's what I think will (and won't) happen:

1. As for splitting the circuit into two divisions, that's not going to happen. Judge Green, contrary to what some might believe, enjoys trying criminal cases. She's tried 3 in the past month or so, which is a fairly high number for Hinds.

2. Bill LaBarre will remain the public defender. A lot of speculation surfaced shortly after the election that Judge Green would make a change upon taking the bench. That speculation was uninformed, as Bill LaBarre's term coincides with Robert Shuler Smith's, not Judge Yerger's. (Yerger appointed him to replace Tom Fortner back in 2006.) There's still another year in LaBarre's term. It's possible that later this year, LaBarre could have some competition for his job. But that's a year off, so we'll see.

3. Judge Green will move to the big courtroom and into Judge Yerger's office. The audio equipment, I'm almost positive, is coming with her. (That's some excellent news.)

4. Drug Court may see an overhaul. The enrollment numbers have dropped precipitously, and I've heard that funding may have recently been cut as a result. Judge Green is known to care quite a bit about the future of the criminal defendants and actually attempting to rehabilitate them rather than simply punishing them. The falling numbers in Drug Court are sure to get some attention from Judge Green.

5. What will become of the Jackson Enforcement Team (JET) Grant judge positions? Judge Green was opposed to the creation of the two special judge slots and the JET docket altogether. The current JET grant program runs out of money in October of 2011. Don't expect to see it extended.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Google Public Data and Mississippi's jobs numbers

Some interesting jobs data here:



I can't help but notice something right off: There's the obvious Katrina bump in unemployment. But if you look closer, you'll see that things were getting bad even before Katrina, even as the national economy improved.

Speaking of Katrina, take a look at the comparison between Louisiana and Mississippi:



Interesting, huh?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turnout very light in Hinds runoff

It appears as though voter turnout in today's Hinds County judicial runoff will be a fraction of what it was on Nov. 2nd. The only race on the ballot is the race between Special Circuit Judge Melvin Priester and Brent Southern to replace retiring County Judge William Barnett.

Priester came close to winning the seat outright on Nov. 2nd, and would presumably be the winner of today's runoff. However, with turnout as low as it currently is (I was the 18th voter at Eudora Welty's Precinct 1 at lunchtime), it's up in the air.

My hunch is Priester pulls this out, due to his GOTV efforts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Checking in

So, I absolutely nailed the election predictions.  Every. Single. Last. One.  Don't have a read on the Priester-Southern run-off yet, but I'm thinking Priester was just too close not to pull it off.  That being said, I've seen plenty of run-off elections where the leader in the general election loses.  That usually happens because those who voted for one of the other candidates voted as much against the general election leader as they did for their candidate.  (Charlie Ross comes to mind....)  I think Priester is well-liked, and will most likely pull it out.  I don't expect a landslide either way, though.

That brings me to another matter, which I'm mulling over and am not ready to fully post about: what changes will Judge Tomie Green make to the Hinds County Circuit Court when she takes over as Senior Judge in January?  We already know she's moving into Yerger's current office and courtroom.  I hope she takes her modern audiovisual equipment with her, as the acoustics in "the big courtroom" are horrible.  (Ask anyone who was there for the special venire in State v. Stanley Cole.)  But what about the substantive changes? The senior judge in Hinds has some rather interesting powers.  She can, for instance, split the circuit into a criminal and a civil division.  She also has appointment power over the Public Defender.  She can also substantially influence the appointment of special circuit court judges by the Supreme Court. 

I also may have my hands on something concerning a former public official who's no longer with us.  We'll see.

So that's what's bouncing around my mind at the moment.  I'll post on it soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election predictions


 It's Election Eve 2010, and the above picture is of the boxes going out from the Hinds County Courthouse.  There are several contested races here in Hinds County, and I'm going to take a crack at predicting them.  Here we go:

U.S. Representative, 2nd District:  Bennie Thompson over Bill Marcy
U.S. Representative, 3rd District: Gregg Harper over Joel Gill

Mississippi Court of Appeals, District 2 Position 1 - Tyree Irving over Ceola James

Hinds County Circuit Judge, District 1 - Jeff Weill over Ali Shamsiddeen and Bruce Burton (no runoff)
Hinds County Circuit Judge, District 4 - Bill Gowan over Malcolm Harrison

Hinds County County Court Judge, District 1 - Brent Southern and Melvin Priester head to a runoff
Hinds County County Court Judge, District 2 - Houston Patton over Bridgett Clayton and Henry Clay
Hinds County County Court Judge, District 3 - Bill Skinner over Michael Williams

Guess we'll see how good I was at this tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Karen Irby settles with Dedousis and Pogue families; Plaintiffs agree to take care of Karen Irby's debts

The Pogue and Dedousis families settled their claims against Karen Irby on August 4, 2010.  Did I miss some discussion of this somewhere?  Google's telling me I didn't.  The interesting part of this is on the second page, where the plaintiffs agree to handle Karen Irby's debts.  Looks like Karen's handing them the keys to both her assets and her liabilities, and saying "have at it."

Karen Irby settles with Pogue and Dedousis Families

This is painful

This has to be one of the strangest interviews I've ever seen.  And I mean worse than poor Basil Marceaux:

http://tv.gawker.com/5621836/providence-mayoral-candidate-gives-worst-on+camera-interview-ever

Monday, August 9, 2010

Report: FEC says no foul in Pickering-Barbour-Vitter contribution circle

The Washington Examiner, not exactly a neutral publication, reports that the FEC has cleared Chip Pickering, Gov. Barbour, and Sen. David Vitter in an alleged campaign contribution shell game reported here in previous posts here, here, here, and here.  The Examiner says:
Federal authorities say there's no reason to believe Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's campaign violated the law by accepting a contribution from a political action committee of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Louisiana Democrats claimed the contribution from "Haley's PAC" was really from former Mississippi U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering and that it was illegally funneled through Barbour's PAC to avoid publicity.
But the Federal Elections Commission, in a ruling made public Monday, dismissed the complaint.
I haven't seen the FEC ruling yet, but I do note that this was originally made public back on July 16, 2010.  I'll say that this isn't a refutation of the original charge of playing a shell game with the contribution.  Instead, this reads as "neither contribution was over the limit, and there isn't sufficient proof of hijinks":
In its release, the FEC noted that both of the contributions in question were disclosed and that neither was "excessive or prohibited."

A World Without Lawyers

Here's a great video from Consumer Attorneys of California.  It's a short and sweet rebuttal to the years upon years of awful propaganda spewing out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Of course, much more is needed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Delbert declines to announce, touts need to "reorganize" state government

Delbert Hosemann chose not to make an announcement to run for Governor next year.  He focuses on the need to reorganize state government (whatever that means) and speaks a little about immigration. Now here's the kicker, and what will likely drive speculation for up to another 6 months: Delbert didn't say he was running for Governor, but he didn't say he wasn't, either.

h/t to Patsy Brumfield and her Twitter page, which is the best place for Neshoba updates

Sunday, July 25, 2010

WikiLeaks may have just changed the course of American history *UPDATED WITH LINKS*

WikiLeaks.com has just published the "Afghan War Diary," which is described as:
...an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.
The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related detail.
The question is this: if the American public hears the DoD's own accounts of civilian deaths, will the accepted become unacceptable?  How will this affect public opinion on the Afghan war, and on war in general?

*UPDATE* WikiLeaks' Twitter feed is a great source for links to media coverage of the War Diary.  The Guardian has a story up on civilian casualties listed in the War Diary that links the type of stories I was referring to in the body of this post above.  The New York Times has a section of its website dedicated to the War Diary, and its first story focuses on the link between Pakistan and the insurgents. Also, Der Spiegel has a section up as well, and they've subdivided what they've determined to be the most important information from the War Diary.  Topics include the problems with Predator drones, a secret group of warriors known as "Task Force 373", and problems with U.S. intelligence agencies.

Sunday mornin' quick hits

Jerry Mitchell and Molly Parker over at the Clarion-Ledger have several items today on our state's approach to mental health issues.  There's a heart-rending story about the suicide of a patient recently released from Whitfield, a detailed piece on the deep cuts to mental health funding, and an article on the lack of adequate housing for mental health patients.  I've had quite a bit of experience with people suffering from mental health problems, and I can't stress enough how strong the link is between crime and poor mental health.  If you doubt me, ask your local sheriff.

The New York Times has a study on the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roberts.  To no one's surprise, the study concludes that the Roberts Court is the "the most conservative one in living memory."  For those that don't follow the USSC that closely, there's an interactive feature that matches you to a justice based on your responses to several questions.

Dana Priest and William Arkin of the Washington Post have been working on a project for the past two years on our nation's intelligence infrastructure, and the fruits of their labor can now be found at "Top Secret America." The project has been widely praised.  I'd say that I look forward to reading what they've uncovered, but I'm not exactly sure I want to know...

Finally, if you haven't seen Inception yet, you're missing out.  I haven't had that much fun watching a movie in a long, long time.  The hotel hallway scenes alone are worth the price of admission, especially once you find out how it was done.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Here's what you need to watch re: Hosemann

Earlier this week, I posted word that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann would announce for Governor this Thursday.  It's next Thursday.  Here's a link to the Neshoba County Fair's schedule.  Notice that Delbert speaks just before Phil. That should be very, very interesting, as people close to the situation would be shocked if Delbert failed to announce a gubernatorial bid.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2011 Rumor Mill

Here's what I'm hearing is happening out there:

  • Sen. Billy Hewes has ordered signs that read "Lt. Gov. Hewes."  Folks think that's a bit presumptuous.
  • Stacy Pickering and Tate Reeves will round out the Lt. Gov. field on the GOP side
  • Most elected Democrats are staying put and running for reelection, in contrast to the fratricide about to occur on the GOP side
  • Tate Reeves should raise a ton of money at an upcoming Jackson fundraiser, to be held at Bravo! tomorrow night
  • The turnout at Phil Bryant's Thursday night fundraiser at the Jackson Country Club was sparse, and there could be a surprising reason for that...
  • That surprising reason is Delbert Hosemann's announcing he'll run for Governor this coming Thursday.

An uncomfortable morning for Commissioner Steve Simpson

Jerry Mitchell's got an article on a kerfuffle over the early release of a Gulf Coast businessman after he was charged with punching his wife several times in the face.  Long story short, John Ruble, head of the Gulfport Home Builders Association, was arrested for domestic violence, and Municipal Judge ordered him held without bond until noon the following morning, at which time Ruble could be released on a $1,000 bond.  The Harrison County Sheriff, Melvin Brisolara, released Ruble on his own recognizance into the custody of Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson at 8:41 a.m.  The Public Integrity Division of the Attorney General's office found there was no criminal wrongdoing, but did advise the municipal judge that he is free to pursue the civil contempt avenue as he sees fit. 

This matters because Simpson has frequently confirmed that he is looking at a race against Attorney General Jim Hood.  Simpson would certainly like to be able to attack Hood for not pursuing state charges against those involved in the Scruggs scandals due to his relationship with some of them.  Simpson's ability to do that just took a major blow, as Hood could now easily and effectively respond: "I declined to waste state resources on a useless state prosecution; you violated a judge's order to get an alleged wife-beater out of jail early."  It also could contribute to a very uncomfortable meme about Republicans in light of Gov. Barbour's, um, misguided use of his pardon power.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SAYS BP: WELL IS CAPPED & CAP IS WORKING.

According to WLOX.com, BP is saying the well has been capped, and that no oil is flowing into the Gulf.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the live feed of the wellhead and a story on the cap.

An option I'm sure Chip Pickering is relieved Leisha Pickering did not pursue

As far as I know, the alienation of affection matter between Leisha Pickering and Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd is still ongoing, and Chip Pickering's diary is still providing presumably colorful in camera reading.  But, there's some good news for Chip and his alleged paramour: at least they didn't get arrested.  The Columbus Dispatch is reporting on a Noxubee County case where cheating husband and his supposed mistress were arrested for adultery and fornication:

Lashawn Williams, 33, of 294 Pilgrim Rest Road in Noxubee County and Roshanda Jackson, 30, of 183 Oliver Road, were arrested July 1 when Williams' wife, Cortiga, pressed charges on her allegedly unfaithful husband and Jackson.
Lashawn Williams and Jackson were charged with adultery and fornication, respectively; both crimes carry the same penalty, up to $500 and jail time up to six months. Both were released July 1 on $1,000 bond, according to the Noxubee County Jail.
"We do have to follow the legal process," (Columbus Assistant Police Chief Joe) Johnson said. "If A and B are married, and if B signs an affidavit on A and C because they are involved, they all have to come to court."
 The story goes on to detail some of the odd laws that are still on the books, most of which have to do with some sort of frowned-upon act of intimacy, and the chances of any of them being repealed.  From my point of view, I see the chances of Leisha Pickering causing arrest warrants to be issued for Chip and Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd as being only slightly higher than the chances of the Legislature repealing a single criminal statute.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's taking so long on the Richard Birkhead case?

The hand down lists from the Mississippi Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are often noted in the blogosphere for what they contain, not what they lack.  But quite a bit of intrigue is currently swirling around what the MSSC's recent hand downs have been lacking.

First, here's what a hand down contained back in February, 2009: Birkhead's conviction for capital murder was affirmed.  The main issue (as far as the dissenting justices and I see it, at least) was whether or not the admission of the death certificate at trial was proper.  Justice Randolph wrote the 6-vote majority opinion, which held that the death certificate (with its attendant declarations concerning the timing of the injury and death) was admissible under MRE 902(4).  The majority opinion relies on what I believe to be problematic logic.  On one hand, the majority says the defense had (and capably exercised) ample opportunity to discredit the veracity of the death certificate's allegations concerning the times of injury and death.  On the other, the majority relies on 902(4), which is founded upon the belief that certain official documents, such as the death certificate in this case, have a reasonable degree of trustworthiness.  (Which in this case is an exhibition of the ipse dixit fallacy, from which this blog gets its name.  Funny how that worked out.)

Justice Dickinson hit the nail on the head when he called the times in the death certificate "pure, rank, unadulterated hearsay provided by a police officer who was neither identified nor produced for cross-examination" which "emasculated Birkhead’s theory of the case."  Justice Kitchens drives it home with authority when he reminds the majority that Rule 902(4) deals with authentication, not admissibility, and that the two are very distinct things. 

Now, here's what's not on the hand down lists: A decision on Birkhead's Motion for Rehearing, which was filed on March 5, 2009.  That's 1 year and 4 months ago.  (Here's a copy of the docket in Birkhead.)

Why the 16 month delay? Well, my guess is that Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts and Briscoe v. Virginia being decided in the interregnum had at least some effect on the MSSC. Melendez-Diaz was decided on June 25, 2009, and may well have given some majority justices doubt about their vote in Birkhead.  As those justices pondered their vote on the rehearing, Briscoe loomed.  Briscoe was to be the opportunity for the Court to limit its holding in Melendez-Diaz, and I'd bet that the MSSC justices were waiting on that decision.  Briscoe dropped on January 25, 2010, and in it the USSC reaffirmed its reliance on the reasoning in Melendez-Diaz.

Well, now that Briscoe's answered any questions about whether Justice Sotomayor would look to disturb the Melendez-Diaz reasoning, one has to wonder how much longer it will be until we see Birkhead back on the hand down.

(For more blogging on Birkhead, see Will Bardwell's posts here and here.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just who is J. Christian Adams?

WorldNetDaily and other Right-wing media outlets are all aflame over the testimony of J. Christian Adams, a former employee of the Department of Justice. In essence, Mr. Adams accuses the DoJ under Attorney General Eric Holder of refusing to investigate claims of civil rights abuses against whites.

I just want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of who J. Christian Adams is. According to MainJustice.com:
Adams was hired in 2005 by then-Civil Rights Division political appointee Bradley Schlozman, according to a person familiar with the situation. Schlozman was found in this joint investigation of the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to have violated civil service rules by improperly taking political and ideological affiliations into account when making career attorney hires.

Before coming to the Justice Department, Adams volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association, an offshoot of the Republican National Committee that trains lawyers to fight on the front lines of often racially tinged battles over voting rights.
The report referenced by Main Justice was one of the more staggering indictments of the Bush-era Department of "Just Us."  (New York Times article on the report may be found here.)  It details (with emails and voicemail transcripts) Schlozman's iron grip on hiring in the Special Litigation, Employment Litigation, Voting, Criminal, and Appellate sections of the DoJ's Civil Rights Division:  It also documents Schlozman's forwarding of emails containing racist jokes.  We also find out that Schlozman only wanted "real americans (sic)," not "politburo (sic) members" who'd actually demonstrated some concern over civil rights, and that he actively recruited Federalist Society members.  (Not only did Schlozman innovate the use of one of Sarah Palin's favorite terms, he also apparently tried to start an anti-capitalization fad as well.)


So, guess who hired Adams?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nearing completion on the new office

I apologize for the light posting lately. I've been quite busy with the new practice, which is a great problem to have. Add in the task of renovating the new office, and posting has been difficult. We're getting close to the finish line on the new office, which will free-up some posting time. So, over the next few weeks, expect a return to normal.

Thanks for bearing with me,

Matt

WTF, MDOT?

There is a TOTAL blockage of I-55 Southbound traffic just after the Lakeland Drive exit. Although the lighted sign says that the left two lanes are closed, in fact the ENTIRE freeway is closed. Those benighted drivers who believed MDOT are now completely stuck.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Caught on tape: the GOP attempts to block the investigation into the oil spill

You know, I never thought I'd say this, but I think the GOP might actually lose their grip on the South. Why? Because they're doing things like apologizing to BP. And this:



Seriously? Republicans don't want the Oil Spill Commission to have subpoena power? What are they afraid the Commission will find?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This is one fantastic idea!

The website Israel 21C has broken the news of one helluva breakthrough in birth control: the Pill for men. The site reports:

Prof. Haim Breitbart of Israel's Bar-Ilan University authored a breakthrough paper in 2006 describing how sperm survive in the uterus. Now the biochemist is taking those findings and using them against sperm. He's developed a number of novel compounds that have no affect on male sex drive, but succeed in impairing the reproductive ability of the sperm. If all goes according to his plan, a new male birth control pill could be on the market within the next five years.

* * * *

"The mice behaved nicely," Breitbart reports, "they ate and had sex; they were laughing, and everything, so all I can say is that we couldn't see any behavioral side-effects - all their sex behavior was retained, which is a very important consideration for human men. A man who takes this pill could also be sexually active later on and have children."
AWESOME!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Half-wits, hyperbole, and the Jackson water "crisis"

As the Jackson-area readers of this blog surely know by now, the City of Jackson is under a "boil water" notice throuh the weekend. The chief water main from the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant ruptured, sending water pressure through the floor across the city. Mayor Harvey Johnson and his administration have responded extremely well to the event, and pressure's already back to normal.

Here's my beef: if you read Facebook Thursday morning, you would have been bombarded with alarmist proclamations about the main break, and more than a few comparisons to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I can't think of a more misguided, hurtful statement than that. We have to drink bottled water for a few days and that somehow is on par with the massive damage to the Gulf Coast's wildlife and beaches?

The next time I hear that comparison, the person who makes it is getting the inaugural "Ipse Blogit Idiot of the Year Award." You've been warned.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back to the private sector...

Yesterday marked my last day in the employ of Hinds County. This morning, my old friend P.J. Lee and I formed Eichelberger & Lee, PLLC.

P.J. has extensive premises liability and auto accident defense experience. We'll be focusing our efforts on criminal defense and plaintiff's premises, 1983, and auto cases.

This should be fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Renaissance Building in Ridgeland Survives Appeal

The Mississippi Supreme Court today affirmed the Circuit Court of Madison County, which upheld the October 10, 2007 ordinance of the City of Ridgeland permitting construction of the 13-story office building at the Renaissance on Highland Colony Parkway.

The decision is here:Ridgeland Opinion

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Laurie David Asks The Right Questions About the Gulf Oil Spill

I stumbled across this piece on The Huffington Post that asks the questions I've been pondering over the last 50 days:

Why are we giving oil companies a free pass to drill a mile below the ocean's surface, where the pressure is so intense it causes oil to shoot out like a rocket, when we don't know how to fix major leaks?

* * * *

Why haven't more heads rolled at the Minerals Management Service, where our officials have cozied up with oil executives for over a decade? (I bet they forgot to discuss giant oil spills in all of Cheney's secret energy meetings.) How has only one person been fired, while the other 1,700 MMS employees -- the same people who let BP bypass safety tests - are still in their jobs and have approved over 30 new drilling projects since the Deepwater Horizon sank?

* * * *

Why are we using dismal and inadequate boom technologies from the 60's to try to stop the biggest oil slick in U.S. history from suffocating our coastlines? With all the billions of dollars that have been poured into new 21st century drilling technologies, are absorbent pads really the best we can do? Really? Where are Shell's ideas, or Chevron's?
Good questions, all. I hope we get some answers.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kenneth Stokes, the Clarion-Ledger, and signs made by 3rd graders

Walking home for lunch today, I spotted Councilman Kenny Stokes holding a press conference & protest outside of the Clarion-Ledger headquarters.  The reason behind the protest is the Clarion-Ledger's investigative reporting into Councilman Stokes' taxpayer-funded trips.  According to a June 4th article by Chris Joiner, Councilman Stokes has been flitting around the country on the taxpayer's dime without any real justification.  The Clarion-Ledger summarized Joyner's story with an editorial the following day.  An excerpt:

A Clarion-Ledger check of travel records show that Stokes went to Chicago last August, spending $2,745.54. The tab included a hotel with a $275.81-a-night fee.
When asked about the trip, Stokes had trouble remembering what it was about. Actually, it was about streets, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials Subcommittee.
Worse, those contacted at the conference could not recall Stokes being there.
He also went to a Chicago trade show of the mobile broadband industry and attended another on real estate in New York. He traveled to Washington, D.C., in March, but didn't join the mayor and council members in meeting with the state congressional delegation. Stokes says he avoids interacting with other city officials on such trips to avoid appearance of collusion. He apparently did a good job. Nobody saw him.
 Marshall Ramsey added a cartoon:

All of that led to this:


The signs were repetitive and childish "Clarion-Liar", "Clarion-Cesspool", etc.  The laughable ones were "Yo Hampton! Your dress is showing" (a bit chauvinistic, don't ya think?) and "Hey Ramsey, your momma's fat!"  (Apparently an entry from Ward 3 elementary school children home on summer break.)

Stokes says he wants the city to hire attorneys to sue the C-L for libel.  I'd like to think that has a slim-to-zero chance of happening.

(By the way, isn't that Enoch Sanders holding the Ramsey sign above?)

Friday, June 4, 2010

A new definition to the phrase "riding a prosecutor's a**"

The ABA Journal brings word of a breakdown in negotiations in a Chicago courthouse between a public defender and a prosecutor:

Police said Henry Hams, 47, put a 50-year-old Cook County prosecutor into a "choking headlock" this morning at the criminal courthouse at 26th and California, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
"He had his hands wrapped around his throat and was just kind of riding him down the wall," an unidentified source told the Chicago Tribune.
You stay classy, Chicago.

Hey Evening Standard: Bugger off

London's Evening Standard has seen fit to give us its two pence over the oil spill and BP's relationship to it.  In a screed entitled "BP spill crisis affects British pensioners," the British tabloid pitches what will, no doubt, soon be talking points for lawyer-hatin' Republicans.

Here are the lowlights:
  • "..a characteristically American reaction to a crisis: if something goes wrong, sue."
  • "...there was an accident and there can be no doubt that BP, which has most to lose from this crisis, has done everything possible to put things right." (Emphasis mine)
  • "An attempt retrospectively to get tough with BP by bringing criminal charges will not help us now."

The editorial finishes with one of the more selfish comments I've seen in awhile:
 "One in every six pounds that UK institutions earn in dividends is derived from BP: a reduction will have a direct, adverse effect, not just on fat cats, but on British pensioners. This is bad for all of us."
So, the Evening Standard's take is that BP simply couldn't do more to help, and that by attempting to punish BP for possible criminal acts is wrongheaded because the perennially-suffering, downtrodden British pensioner won't be able to afford his afternoon spot of tea.  I'm sorry, but I'm about as sensitive to the Evening Standard's concerns for the British pensioner right now as Tony Hayward is to the people of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BP says the top kill procedure seems to be working

AL.com has a blog post up describing the cautious optimism BP's doling out this morning.  Apparently, the well's no longer spewing oil and gas.  Which all makes me wonder: why on Earth wasn't this Plan A?

My cynical answer is "Because this plan prevents BP from getting oil out of this well, while the others would allow them to keep producing it."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Willie Morris warned me there'd be days like this

The morning after the Transocean-sponsored memorial to the 11 fallen oil rig workers here in Jackson, the New York Times brings us word that there were signs of impending trouble on the Deepwater Horizon in the hours before the blast.

Meanwhile, PBS brings us word that an upcoming Live from the Artists Den will feature The Black Crowes from The Lyric in Oxford.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some thoughts on Bardwell's post regarding Flowers v. State

Will Bardwell's got an interesting post up on his blog about the Mississippi Supreme Court granting cert on Ronregus Flowers v. State.  What interests me the most isn't Will's post per se, as I believe he's correct on the law.  What really grabbed my attention was a comment by "gogsalks."  This "gogsalks" person may or may not practice criminal law in some form in Mississippi, but he/she puts forth a line of reasoning I've seen pushed by prosecutors before, and it's time to put it to rest.

Essentially, the prosecution argument goes like this: "Judge, deny this jury instruction on a lesser included offense/defense, as there's no credible testimony/not enough testimony in the record to support it."  And that's the argument the commenter seems to be making on Will's post when he/she says "his story makes no sense."

Here's where, in my opinion, that's wrong.  Settled law in Mississippi says that, if there is any evidence in the record to support the giving of an instruction on a lesser included offense (or defense), then that instruction must be given.  McGowan v. State, 541 So. 2d 1027, 1028-29 (Miss. 1989).  Furthermore, the evidence in the record concerning the lesser included offense must be viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant.  Mease v. State, 539 So.2d 1324, 1330 (Miss. 1989) (quoting Harper v. State, 478 So. 2d 1017, 1021 (Miss. 1985)).  It's certainly not the trial judge's job to pass judgment on the believability of that evidence.  Rather, the trial judge's job is to determine whether or not that evidence, if believed, could provide the basis for a vote of not guilty amongst fair-minded jurors. Graham v. State, 582 So. 2d 1014, 1018 (Miss. 1991).

Put more simply, a trial judge can't say "I don't believe you, Mr. Defendant, so I'm denying your instruction."  The trial judge CAN, however, say "your testimony, if believed, does not meet the elements of the defense you seek to offer through your instruction."

Hopefully the MSSC will shed a little more light on this issue, and help clear up any confusion down here at the trial level.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

State Killing Makes Strange Bedfellows

Yesterday's Clarion-Ledger story on preparations for the two executions at Parchman this week had this interesting bit on Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps:

Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said he will start today with a prayer.

"An execution affects different people in different ways," said Epps, who has been commissioner since 2002 and has overseen six executions to date. "I've seen people faint when we had the gas chamber."

"I'm a Christian and a deacon. There's a certain preparation I have to do to get ready. I pray, is the first thing I do. I talk to my family and my pastor and I ask for faith to carry out my duties as commissioner."

Guess what, Commissioner Epps? Osama Bin Laden did the VERY SAME THING in preparation for the September 11, 2001 killings of the Americans he considered murderous infidels. In a September 2006 report, CNN said:

A video has been released showing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden meeting with suspected terrorist Ramzi Binalshibh, purportedly as they prepare for the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to Al-Jazeera, which aired the tape Thursday.

* * * *

In one of the segments of the tape, bin Laden tells his compatriots that the news from "the brothers who went out for martyrdom operations ... is delightful."

"And I strongly advise you to increase your prayers for them and beseech Allah the Exalted in your prayer to grant them success, make firm their foothold and strengthen their hearts," the al Qaeda leader says.
Now, I would prefer to think that the God that Mr. Epps prays to is different from that worshipped by Mr. bin Laden. But assuming that by identifying himself as a Christian, Mr. Epps believes that the Supreme Being became a human person named Jesus of Nazareth, that pre-execution prayer must have been an interesting conversation. You recall when the Pharasees brought Jesus a woman who had broken a law punishable by death, he responded, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." John 8:7.

Do those of us who call ourselves "Christian" really think that this same Jesus is God? Or do we, instead, worship a God who allows us to take revenge in a haughty spirit of hatred?

WAPT Jumps the Gun on the Holland Execution

As of 3:50 pm today, WAPT has posted a website story claiming that Gerald James Holland has been executed. Actually, the Mississippi Supreme Court's Order does not allow the State to kill Mr. Holland until 6 p.m. tonight.

I guess the website editor wanted to leave early? Or maybe they've become so addicted to exit polls that forecast elections that they think they can report future facts?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More on Karen Irby's assertion that Stuart Irby assaulted her in the car that night

Yesterday, I took a minute and examined the court's files on State v. Karen Irby. and the wrongful death action  In the criminal case file, there were some motions, in limine and otherwise, that were interesting, but the plea petition itself shed a bit of light on things as well.

As was rumored, there was a defense motion to obtain the "blackbox" from the Irby Mercedes.  It was granted, so we can assume that angle was explored by the defense prior to plea.  Also, there were two motions in limine concerning beverage containers found at the scene.  The defense wanted to keep the State from mentioning a beer can apparently found outside of the Mercedes, and a "drinking glass" found in it.  In addition, there was a defense motion to prevent the State from mentioning Karen Irby's prior DUI conviction from the late 90's.  The conviction was overturned on appeal.

Then it gets interesting.  In Mississippi plea petitions, the defendant states what he or she believes the elements of the crime to be.  Then, the defendant states what actions he or she took, and swears that those actions meet the elements of the crime.  In Karen Irby's petition (filed March 29), she says that while she was driving the car Stuart Irby began yelling at her and assaulting her.  She then says she sped up and crossed into oncoming traffic, and that she had consumed two glasses of wine, and that her BAC was .09. Oddly enough, she doesn't make a causal nexus between the supposed assault and the bad driving in her plea petition.


We flash forward to May 11, and Karen Irby's claiming that she's not liable for civil damages because of what she alleges in the plea petition.  In addition to that, the families of the victims are right there with her, blaming this whole ordeal on Stuart Irby.  That's disjunctive to me.  So what happened between March 29 and May 11?  Well, in the wrongful death file, there's a notice of deposition for Karen Irby, set for May 10 in Courtroom 6 of the Hinds County Courthouse.  My guess is that the families were in attendance, and that they heard Karen Irby's allegations there in detail, and believed them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A note on HBO's Treme

HBO is absolutely killing it right now with The Pacific and Treme, two shows I've enjoyed as much as any I've ever seen.  I have two observations about Treme that I want to share and hopefully get some feedback on.  First, I have an overwhelming sense of foreboding in nearly every scene of every episode.  It feels like all hell is about to break loose at any moment.  I'm pretty sure that's intentional. If so, well done, David Simon.  The suspense adds to the edginess of post-Katrina New Orleans, and wears on the viewer in a way that makes you appreciate the grittiness of life there at that time. 

The second observation is grounded in the first, and, according to my NOLA-based friends, has been floated as rumor around the city ever since these two characters appeared in Episode 2.  Are Annie and Sonny, the street musicians, bound to be the fictionalized version of Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen?  In one of the most gruesome homicides I know of, Zackery Bowen strangled his girlfriend, Addie Hall, and then proceeded to dismember and cook her remains.  Zackery was a worthless layabout, and seems to mirror Sonny in some ways.  Zackery and Addie actually did "rough it" in the French Quarter immediately after the storm, as Sonny loves to tell everyone he and Annie did.  In real life, Addie flashed the police to get them to stick around, providing extra protection for her area.  In Treme, Sonny tells of how Annie did the same.

There are differences between Zackery and Sonny, and certainly between Annie and Addie, however, that might mean we're not about to witness a rather shocking and horrifying twist to Treme.  Zackery and Addie were bartenders, while Sonny and Annie are musicians.  (NOLA tip: Zackery tended bar at Buffa's, which serves a mean breakfast.)  Zackery was from L.A., while Sonny's Dutch.  Addie had a bit of a drug problem and a quick temper, while Annie seems to be a rather calm and nice straight arrow.  In the end, there certainly are more differences than similarities.  But I can't help getting that feeling this will end terribly for Annie.  I, for one, hope that Annie strangles and cooks Sonny, as he's easily my least favorite character on TV.  I guess we'll watch and see.

P.S. - Here's the Times-Pic's blog on Treme.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interesting development in the wrongful death cases against Karen & Stuart Irby

Today, Karen Irby filed a cross-claim against Stuart Irby in the Hinds County Circuit Clerk's office.  She did so pro se, meaning without a lawyer.  In it, she claims that Stuart Irby "screamed at, threatened, attacked and assaulted" her, "causing and/or contributing to" the wreck that killed Drs. Dedousis and Pogue.

That's odd to me, because that sounds like a possible defense to the charges she pled guilty to...

Monday, May 10, 2010

My first thoughts on the Kagan nomination, and a plea for information

In a post below, my blogmate sagely anticipates a coming meme amongst those Republicans opposing the Kagan nomination.  He's no doubt correct, as most Republicans are now hard-wired to combat President Obama at every turn.  That being said, I'm not sure that I'm exactly thrilled about the President's choice.

It's not that she hasn't been a judge.  Actually, I kind of like that about her.  It's not that she's got some gossamer-thin connection to Goldman Sachs.  I'm concerned about her deference to executive power, and what that may well portend for important issues of personal liberty and police power.  I haven't found anything that speaks directly to her thoughts on Miranda, search and seizure, confrontation, etc.  Anyone know anything regarding her stance on these issues concerning liberty?

Mark My Words . . .

The Christian Right will be up in arms over President Obama's choice of a Jewish Supreme Court nominee. We will hear about how there are now no Protestants on the Court. It will be conveniently forgotten that President George W Bush replaced two Protestants (Rhenquist and O'Connor) with Catholics (Roberts and Alito)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill!

Wow. We have uber-conservatives like Rush Limbaugh calling the Gulf Oil Spill "Obama's Katrina," and the infamous Michael "Brownie" Brown opining on FOX News that the President "delayed" on purpose for political gain:


I think the delay was this: It’s pure politics. This president has never supported big oil. He has never supported offshore drilling. And now he has an excuse to shut it back down.
Of course, the whole idea of a "delay" that is similar to President Bush's on Katrina is ludicrous. In the first place, as Media Matters has thoroughly documented, there was no "delay" by the Administration, especially in light of the information provided by BP in the early days of the spill. In the second place, Hello Capitalists! The BP rig was PRIVATELY OWNED, unlike the levees.

But wait, there's more . . .

Sarah Palin, the half-term former Governor of Alaska (there's a lot of stress running a sparsely occupied state, you know) still believes that the ANSWER to all our problems is to DRILL, BABY DRILL . . . according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Los Angeles Times. The Times reports:

The Alaskan who made "Drill, baby, drill" a standard term in the modern American political lexicon says the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, potentially the worst ever off-shore from American coastlines, is no cause for giving up on off-shore drilling.

Sarah Palin, whose home state suffered the worst spill before this, the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989, has reached out to the 1.5 million followers of her Facebook page with an expression of sympathy for the working people along the gulf facing loss of livelihood.

* * * *

Yet, Palin contends, "even with the strictest oversight in the world, accidents still happen. No human endeavor is ever without risk -- whether it's sending a man to the moon or extracting the necessary resources to fuel our civilization.

"I repeat the slogan 'drill here, drill now' not out of naivete or disregard for the tragic consequences of oil spills.... I continue to believe in it because increased domestic oil production will make us a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful nation."

DAMN.





Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Congratulations Carlton Reeves!

It's official -- President Obama has nominated Carlton Reeves to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Carlton is a fantastic guy and a serious lawyer. He'll make a GREAT District Judge.

Congrats to Carlton!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Where it's at

With apologies to Beck, I've got two websites and a microphone.  I passed along the two websites to "Doloroso" in comments on the Kay Cobb post below, but I didn't want them to get lost in the shuffle.

First, we have Hungry Blues, which is where Ben Greenberg explores the South his father knew during the Civil Rights Era.  Ben is active in the Civil Rights Cold Case Project, and has worked with Jerry Mitchell in the past.  He dug through some newsletters of the Mississippi CCC, and posted interesting tidbits he found.

Next is C.W. Roberson's Mississippi Political, a website subtitled "News, Essays, Opinion, Progressive Views."  A list of Mississippi politicians attending or speaking at CCC functions appears on his website.

That's two websites, now for the microphone:  "Editor" of the Mississippi CCC website, I want to ask you to do two things for me, neither of which would be a problem, I don't think.  First, please tell us who you are.  You know who I am, and it's nice to be able to call someone by their Christian name when having a conversation.  Second, would you have any problem giving me access to any archives the CCC may have? Old newsletters, photos, programs, etc.? I'd like to be able to learn more about your organization, its beliefs, and political affiliations so that I don't mischaracterize them in any way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kay Cobb on her ties to CCC

In a post below, I pondered the connection, if any, between former Justice Kay Cobb and the racist organization Council of Conservative Citizens.  A comment from "Reasonably Prudent Person" encouraged me to call her and ask her about her ties to CCC, so I did. 

She said that she did, in fact, attend a CCC rally in north Mississippi back in 2000 as part of her campaign.  She stated that she had a policy of speaking to any group that invited her, regardless of what views the group itself may hold.  That, she says, is the extent of her dealings with the CCC.

As I expressed to her in the phone conversation, she certainly was not alone in attending CCC events in the past.  It has been standard operating procedure for many white Mississippi politicians, both Republican and Democrat, to attend Blackhawk and other CCC rallies.  (Although, to be fair, it's been mostly Republicans since the 80's.)  The uniform response of these politicians is what former Justice Cobb maintained: I don't agree with them, but I'm not going to shun them. 

Well, Mississippi politicos, it's 2010, not 1864.  Appealing to the racist vote was a damned good way to win office in Mississippi in the past.  That's no longer the case, and it's time we moved on.  It is perfectly permissible to decline an invitation to attend a rally being held by the civic arm of the Ku Klux Klan.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that most Mississippians would be grateful if you refused to go.  The vast majority of us Mississippians aren't racist.  Yet every time we turn around, one of our elected leaders is hanging out with some group that embarrasses the hell out of 99% of us.  (I'm looking at you, Gov.)

The Scott Walker Breakdown

Here's something shocking:  Former Ocean Springs Republican mayoral candidate Scott Walker has, in the past 10 days, been arrested for DUI, simple assault, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon.  Walker had been the darling of Coast Republicans, drawing fervent support from the GOP party brass across the state in his bid to unseat Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran last year.  (Walker's former bosses, Sens. Trent Lott and Roger Wicker, were instrumental in drubbing that up.)  Now Walker's working with Pascagoula mayor Robbie Maxwell in some sort of consulting outfit.  And, it appears, beating up women and chasing guns in D.C., and passing out behind the wheel in Ocean Springs. (As an aside, that's the biggest smile I've ever seen in a mugshot.)

The coup de grace for Walker's political career comes at the hand of his alleged D.C. victim, Eleanore Kelly, who also works for Sen. Wicker: "I'm terrified of Scott Walker."

Walker lost the Ocean Springs race by 96 votes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just in case you were wondering, yes, the racists can work a computer. And they like T.E.A.

While doing the research concerning Haley Barbour's connections with the Mississippi Council of Conservative Citizens for a previous post, I found the CofCC's Mississippi website.  It's, um, interesting in a disgusting way.  Being of the mindset that sunlight is the best disinfectant, I've decided to pass it along.

One thing you should take note of is their involvement with the Mississippi T.E.A. Party.  Which brings to mind another question: Anyone know if former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Kay Cobb is a member of the successor to the White Citizens' Council?

VERY interesting entry into the 2011 Governor's race

According to the Hattiesburg American this morning, Mayor Johnny DuPree (D-Hattiesburg) announced his candidacy for governor in 2011.  DuPree is the third-term, popular, African-American mayor of Mississippi's fourth-largest city.  DuPree gives the 2011 gubernatorial field something two things it currently lacks: a candidate with executive experience, and an African-American.

It's Mississippi, of course, so race will no doubt play some part in the 2011 cycle.  Mississippi has the highest percentage of black population of any state in the Union, but it's still 60.6% white, according to 2008 projections.  That being said, DuPree has been able to win election three times in a city that is 49.95% white and 47.34% black, according to the 2000 census.  DuPree will have to conduct a campaign focused on racial unity to have any chance of getting elected, and that promises to be a very good thing for Mississippi going forward, considering the tendency of our elected leaders to do things like visit Blackhawk.  (Recognize the guy in the middle?)

Heard on the Street

I'm hearing that Felicia Adams, a dedicated career government lawyer with the US Attorney's Office, will get the nomination from President Obama for the top spot in that Office in the very near future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I know we have our share of dim bulbs in the Capitol, but...

...at least we're not Georgia.  I just got this in an email today, and I would be robbing humanity if I didn't share it.

In short, the Judiciary Committee of the Georgia House of Representatives has ok'd a Senate bill that would make the involuntary implantation of microchips into people a misdemeanor.  (Yes, you read that correctly.)  The Pride of Kennesaw, Rep. Ed Setzler (R), sponsored this Coast to Coast A.M.-approved legislation in the Georgia House.  Setzler spoke, and then this happened:
He was followed by a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County. “I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.
Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”
She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”
She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.
It was not funny, and no one laughed.
Well, maybe not in the committee room, and certainly not at the lady with the obvious mental health issues, but I'm pretty sure folks are laughing at Setzler across Georgia tonight.

P.S. - Gotta love Gov. Roy Barnes' response to this legislation: "If somebody holds me down and puts a microchip in my head, it'd better be more than a damned misdemeanor."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama, the National Day of Prayer, and an Idea

It's Spring, so that must mean it's time for another round of internet hoaxes regarding President Obama and the National Day of Prayer.  You'll likely see someone claim over the next few weeks via Twitter, Facebook, or email that President Obama has canceled the National Day of Prayer.  It's not true.  Last year, President Obama declined to hold a large party at the White House in recognition of the day as Reagan and the Bushes did.  He still signed the proclamation declaring the Day, just as every president since Truman has done.

But you know what? I've got a better idea.  Why stop at a day, a month, or even a year?  I want President Obama to declare this new millennium the National Millennium of Prayer.  That would, obviously, make him the most super-awesomest amazing Christian of all time, and would show Satan that America means business.  In fact, I think we should even proclaim that real Americans should pray three times a day, every day, on their knees like we did when we were kids.  (Think of all of the money businesses could make off of selling special mats for folks to pray on!!!)  We could even have National Prayer Leaders, whose voices could be heard three times a day from towers strategically placed in all of our major cities! 

Think about it!  Great nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt already do this!!!  We're falling behind, America!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My friends never cease to make me proud

For whatever reason, I have been blessed with a collection of the most successful friends a guy could ever have.  In the latest attempt to outdo the rest of us, Ernest Myers has landed a gig as movie reviewer for Rupert Murdoch's Sky Movies, the British equivalent of HBO.  Here's a link to his blog, Our Man In New York.

I guess I need to go save a kindergarten class from a pride of lions or something now.  Thanks, Ernest.

A comment on efforts to "create" attempted murder in Mississippi

I've heard several Mississippi politicos (generally Republican) complain that we don't have a crime entitled "attempted murder" in our state. In fact, some Mississippi legislators even try every year to create a code section that would "fix" the problem. (Just this year, Reps. Bill Denny, Tracy Arinder, and Jessica Upshaw tried to amend SB 2923 and authored HB 273 & HB 547.)

The gist of the efforts each year is to bifurcate our aggravated assault statute, which currently provides for a 20 year maximum penalty for an individual who either a) "attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life" or b) "attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm." The attempted murder legislation cited above would make the "attempt to cause or purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm" part the definition for attempted murder, and proscribe a mandatory sentence of 20 to life.

There are two substantial problems with legislation like this, described after the break.

Confirmed: Weill Alone in Race for Yerger's Seat

I have confirmed that Ashley Ogden will not be facing local mediator and Jackson city councilman Jeff Weill in the upcoming race for retiring Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger's seat. Ogden will sit the race out and continue his efforts to fight crime in Jackson.

The filing deadline is May 7th. We'll be waiting to see if Weill draws an opponent.

Not Guilty in Rankin County Culpable Negligence Manslaughter Case

Got word this morning that Mike Scott and Brad Mills got a not guilty verdict over in Rankin County in the case of State of Mississippi v. Terry Williams. Mr. Williams had originally been charged with murder for running over the decedent, but was later re-indicted for culpable negligence manslaughter.

Congrats to Mike and Brad for some strong work in a tough jurisdiction. It reportedly took only 45 minutes for the jury of 10 women and 2 men to return a unanimous verdict of "not guilty."

In honor of Confederate History Month

"Our new government is founded on exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition." -Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization." - A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

"It was very much discussed whether the South would carry out its threat to secede and set up a separate government, the cornerstone of which should be, protection to the 'Divine' institution of slavery." -Ulysses S. Grant

"The question before us is, whether [people of African ancestry]...compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."
– Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Dred Scott v. Sandford

"In spite of all disclaimers and professions there can be but one end to the submission by the South to the rule of a sectional Antislavery Government at Washington; and that end, directly or indirectly, must be the emancipation of the slaves of the South....the people of the non-slaveholding North are not and cannot be safe associates of the slaveholding South under a common Government." - South Carolina's Address to the Slave-Holding States

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Found an excellent Jackson-area food blog

Carpe Jackson, birthed 6 months ago, is a Jackson-area food blog. Its author, unknown to me, apparently moved to Jackson from Durham, NC, where said author wrote for a similar blog, CarpeDurham.com. In just 6 months, the author has covered some pretty substantial gastronomic territory, and has uncovered some restaurants that I haven't even heard of. In addition to the frequent food reviews, Carpe Jackson also thankfully posts restaurant openings.

Carpe Jackson is some excellent work, folks. I'm bookmarking this one and checking it daily. Oh, and you can now find it in our links to the right.

h/t Triple M from book club

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who's running for Judge Swan Yerger's seat?

Philip Thomas has an article up on a rumor I've been hearing for a few weeks. In short, Ashley Ogden had been indicating that he would run for the post being vacated by Judge Swan Yerger this year. But recently, word had been making its way around the legal community that Ogden would sit this race out.

That leaves Jackson City Councilman Jeff Weil (R) as the only declared candidate. Surely another candidate will step forward. People not pleased with Weil as a candidate for Yerger's seat will undoubtedly be disappointed that Ogden waited until so late in the game to make a decision.

Which brings us to the title of the post: Who's running for Judge Swan Yerger's seat? We know Weil's in, but outside of that, I haven't heard a whisper. Anyone hear anything?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Robes for Rob??

With today's (somewhat expected) resignation of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, there have been literally thousands of news stories and blog posts suggesting possible nominees.

So let me be the first to add a practicing attorney in Jackson, Mississippi to the list.



Robert B. McDuff would be the first attorney since Lewis Powell to ascend directly from the advocate's role to the High Court. A recent program at Harvard Law School (where McDuff graduated in 1980) describes his impressive resume as follows:

[McDuff] is a civil rights and criminal defense attorney practicing in Jackson, Mississippi. His practice includes trial and appellate work in cases throughout the country, including four cases that he has argued in the United States Supreme Court. He has represented black voters in several cases in the south seeking to increase the number of black-majority election districts for public officials, including members of congress, state legislators, and state court judges. He has handled cases involving voting rights, police misconduct, free speech, indigent defense funding, access to the courts, abortion rights, school prayer, and discrimination in employment and housing.

McDuff’s criminal practice is comprised of both retained and appointed cases, including several death penalty cases. He presently is representing one of the “Jena 6" defendants in Jena, Louisiana. He is a recipient of the Pro Bono Service Award of the International Human Rights Law Group of Washington, D.C.; the NAACP Legal Award of the Mississippi Conference NAACP; the Ernst Borinski Civil Libertarian Award presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi; and the 2006 Trial Lawyer of the Year award of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. He is vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Center for Justice and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Prior to opening his practice in Jackson in 1992, McDuff was an attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, DC and, before that, a member of the faculty of the University of Mississippi Law School, where he taught and also directed a federal court public defender program. He was a law clerk for U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice of the Eastern District of Texas.

So WTF Not, Mr. President? Let's put a real lawyer on the Supreme Court!!



Thursday, April 8, 2010

Glenn Beck Admits: "We're An Entertainment Company"

I have long wondered why conservatives take media-moguls like Rush Limbough, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck seriously. It seems obvious to me that they make their extreme claims primarily to drive sales and advertising revenue their way.

Now Glenn Beck has admitted this, and in a favorable forum -- Forbes magazine (Forbes, in fact, has its own show, Forbes on Fox, on Beck's home network). In an article titled "Glenn Beck Inc.", posted online today, Forbes quotes Beck as follows:

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says. He has managed to monetize virtually everything that comes out of his mouth. He gets $13 million a year from print (books plus the ten-issue-a-year magazine Fusion). Radio brings in $10 million. Digital (including a newsletter, the ad-supported Glennbeck.com and merchandise) pulls in $4 million. Speaking and events are good for $3 million and television for $2 million.
So who can believe this guy?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trial Lawyer and Republican State Senator File Class Action Against Health Care Reform

On Friday, Hattiesburg plaintiff's lawyer and blogger K. Douglas Lee and Mississippi State Senator (and host of the Ride Side Radio Show) Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), filed a Federal class action lawsuit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief against the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Complaint makes an interesting argument that the Health Care Reform Legislation violates the privacy rights of Americans. As Mr. Lee explains in his post about the lawsuit (which includes a copy of the complaint):

We believe that the PPACA is DOA for several equally important reasons, but only one of which has received much attention. Most folks know by now that Congress has invoked the Commerce Clause to justify this massive expansion of governmental power. Our “Good Friday” Complaint spends many pages discussing how Congress has clearly exceeded the limits of its power under the Commerce Clause. I strongly urge you to read the entire Complaint. What I really want to point out, though, are some things you probably don’t know, and definitely will not like — even if you consider yourself a “Liberal.”

Consider for a moment that you have now been commanded to enter into a contract with an insurance corporation, whether you want to or not, whether you need to or not. Yes, there are many who actually choose to be uninsured. For most, it is simply an economic decision that often works out to the uninsured’s economic advantage. Not always, of course, but that’s the beauty of liberty — you get to make the decisions, and live with the good or bad that comes of them.

Now that you realize that a dictate has been handed down, compelling you to contract with an insurance corporation or else, consider what you have to do. It’s not like you can go to a vending machine, swipe your debit card and pull out a policy. You still have to apply. True, they cannot turn you down, but so what? You still have to give a big, scary, mean corporation a lot of private medical and psychological information about yourself and your family. Then, forever after, the insurance corporation’s bureaucrats will gather this private information without even bothering to let you know.
I have to admit, that's pretty unique "out of the box" thinking, and I kinda admire it. But it seems to me that the whole conservative/Fox News argument that the "mandate" is some kind of imperial command is misplaced. The Act provides for a penalty or tax to be paid by persons who don't obtain health insurance. And as Mr. Lee points out, the tax is unlike most other Federal taxes, in that there can be no levy or criminal prosecution of persons who fail to pay the tax:

If the feds cannot levy or lien you, then what can they do to get your money? Write scary letters to you? Just what happens to the authority of the federal government when people laugh at these scary letters?

* * * *

If the government admits, or the federal judiciary declares, that there is no enforcement mechanism for the individual mandate, millions will be free to ignore it.
Setting aside whether the IRS could file a lawsuit against non-payors, or take it out of tax refunds, and also setting aside the idea that the point of this lawsuit seems to be to encourage non-compliance of the law (an oddly un-conservative notion) . . . .

It's interesting that the authors of this lawsuit think:

The alternative, of course, is for the feds to admit that there is no enforcement mechanism. Consider what that means for a minute: the pièce de résistance of the PPACA is the individual mandate. Without an enforcement mechanism, the individual mandate fails; without the mandate, the entire legislative act fails utterly.
Well, no, it doesn't. Without the individual mandate, the Act still requires insurance companies to cover applicants, with or without pre-existing conditions. If the insurance carriers can't have the pool of healthy persons to collect premiums from, then the folks who have pre-existing conditions (but who in the past did not buy health insurance) will bankrupt the insurance companies? The ultimate result? A single-payer national health insurance plan.

So you want "socialized medicine?" Then sue to have the individual mandate struck out of the health care act, or encourage folks not to comply with it.

If you're interested, some good analyses of the constitutionality of the Act are here, here, and here.

An Open Letter to My Neighbor, Gov. Haley Barbour

Dear Governor Barbour,

As I sit here at home during this noon hour, gazing out over the manicured lawn of your ceremonial home, I can't help but ponder the monumental strides we as a nation made last month with the passage of health care insurance reform, and your subsequent response.  It deeply troubles me, and I'll explain why.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents who could protect me with health insurance coverage.  That insurance coverage gave me access to health care that, on two separate occasions, saved my very life.

This morning, I spent some time at Callaway High School here in Jackson. As I spoke to the children assembled there about making responsible choices in life, I could not help but think of the high likelihood that most of them would benefit greatly from the passage of health care insurance reform.  Afterwards, driving back through Jackson towards my office, I considered how some of the children I laughed with this morning would no doubt face medical problems that would now be addressed adequately only because of the legislation Congress passed last month.  And I was grateful.

Shortly after I returned to the office, I received word of a T.E.A. Party rally in Tupelo, at which a reported 1,500 people gathered to complain about taxes and the loss of their "freedom."  This growing movement of people dissatisfied with what they perceive to be unnecessary taxes fueled by wasteful government spending is no doubt appealing to you as an aspiring 2012 GOP presidential nominee.  I do not begrudge you that.  I do, however, take issue with you fighting the health care insurance reform that will forever improve the lives of the children I met with this morning.

As leader of one of our nation's most impoverished states, it must be troubling to you to be forced between taking positions that are best for Mississippi, and those that are popular within your party.  Health care insurance reform is undoubtedly a blessing for our fellow Mississippians.  It is equally certain that supporting it would damage any hopes you have for national office.  I truly empathize with you, and wish that you were not forced to choose between your personal aspirations and the good of your people.  However, my empathy, and almost certainly the compassion of history, fades when you choose poorly.

Governor, I ask that you not make the poor of Mississippi blood sacrifices on the altar of your presidential campaign.  End your threat to join the Florida lawsuit, and support the program that ensures our fellow Mississippians will have access to the medical care that will save their lives.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Daily Journal runs a story on the Itawamba prom "bait-and-switch"

NMC was first to report on this last night, and the internet media jumped all over it.  Now it's going mainstream.  Chris Keiffer over at NEMS360.com has his story on the saga online now, and gives us the location of the "secret" prom: the Evergreen Community Center in Evergreen, MS.  He also confirms that there were only 7 people at the Fulton Country Club prom when Constance McMillen attended.

Here's a map for those of us unfamiliar with Itawamba County geography.  Constance was led to believe the prom was at "A" when it was actually being held at "B":

NMissCommentor.com crashes under weight of visitors to McMillen story ***UPDATED*** NMC BACK ONLINE

Last night, NMC over at NMissCommentor.com posted an account of what happened this weekend regarding Constance McMillen's ongoing prom saga. In short, all indications are that the prom at the Fulton Country Club was a ruse, and that the "real" prom was held at a secret location, unbeknownst to Constance, her date, and 7 other students.

I copied a portion of his post in a brief post of my own, and I'm glad I did. Perez Hilton, Democratic Underground, and Gawker all linked NMC's story, leading to north of 4,000 hits by 11:30 a.m. today. As a result of the influx of visitors, nmisscommentor.com went down, and to my knowledge, is still down. I imagine it'll be back up in the next few hours. I also imagine that this issue will garner fairly substantial media attention in the next couple of days.

Stay tuned for updates on the status of NMC's blog.

***UPDATE***

As of 3:07 p.m. today, www.nmisscommentor.com is back online.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christ in Heaven, I hope this is not true

Last night was prom night in Itawamba County, Mississippi.  Most of you who follow this blog are well aware of the saga of Constance McMillen, an openly-gay student at Itawamba Agricultural High School.  Tom Freeland over at NMissCommentor.com is reporting the following about last night's events:


Here’s the news, from a source I view as extremely reliable.  The prom the school district promised at the country club in Fulton was a ruse.  Only seven kids, Constance, and her date showed, and at the same time, everyone else held a “real” prom at a secret location out in the county.
This is all after the school district had represented to Judge Davidson that Constance was invited to a parent-sponsored prom to be held at Tupelo Furniture Market.  The school represented that Constance was invited in court filings, testimony, and representations by the school district and its lawyers.  In reality, Constance had not been invited, but, based on the representations by the district and its counsel, Judge Davidson denied Constance’s request for a preliminary injunction that she could go to the prom.
The school reneged, or possibly didn’t ever intend to follow through on its representations to the court.  The parents didn’t want Constance at the prom and didn’t want to be sued (as they told the Clarion Ledger), and so on Tuesday announced the cancellation of the prom.
But what they’d done was secretly relocated it.
These reported actions, if true, are an affront to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a great shame to us all.  My hope is that the information Tom is receiving is somehow erroneous.  My fear is that it is not.