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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Washington State: A New Blanket Primary?

[Starting in 1936, Washington state used a blanket primary system. The names of all candidates were placed on the same ballot, with the top vote-getter from each party advancing to the general election. Thus, the voter was able to vote in one party's primary for one office and another party's primary for another office. A few years ago, the law which established this system was declared unconstitutional by the federal courts.

In September 2004, amid a great deal of voter anger, the state used a system of separate party primaries. In November 2004, however, voters passed, 60%-40%, an initiative for a Louisiana-style "top two" election system. This system would also allow voters to choose among all the candidates in the first round, with the top two finishers, regardless of party, proceeding to the final election.

On July 15, 2005, before the "top two" could be put into use, it was struck down by a federal district judge, who ordered the state to continue using the system of separate party primaries. The state and the Washington Grange have appealed this ruling to the Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Credit goes to my friend Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News (ballot-access.org), for introducing me to the concept embodied in the following letter, which I have sent to various newspapers in Washington.]

Since 2001, I have followed with great interest the controversy surrounding Washington's election process.

Clearly, most of your state's citizens would like to bring back a blanket primary. There is a way that this could be accomplished.

The federal courts have said that a state cannot force political parties to participate in a blanket primary. But nothing says that parties cannot voluntarily establish such a primary themselves.

As it now stands, you will have separate Democratic and Republican primaries in either August or September. One of the purposes of these primaries will be to elect precinct committee officers (PCOs) for each of the two parties.

Slates of pro-blanket primary candidates could be put together to run for PCO in each party's primary. Given its history, your state's Grange would seem to be the natural choice to spearhead such a campaign.

Once enough PCOs favoring a blanket primary were elected to control both parties, the Republicans and Democrats could simply agree to put all of their candidates on a single primary ballot.

You need only look to Alaska, where the state Supreme Court has held that two or more parties may enter into a blanket primary if they so desire-- whether the legislature approves or not. As a result, the Democrats and several smaller parties now list all of their candidates on the same primary ballot.

[The posts of these dates on this blog are relevant to this subject: October 15, 2004; November 23, 2004; and September 20, 2005.]

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Bait-and-Switch Monstrosity (Light)

[The Clarion-Ledger ran an abbreviated version of this letter on February 14, 2006. It's a response to Will Sullivan's column of February 5, "Tuck-Barbour contest shapes up," in which Sullivan salivated over a possible 2007 race between Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Tuck has given up on the original "tax switch" bill, and this week "tax switch light" was introduced in the legislature. My prediction: if this latest monstrosity passes, the governor will veto it. He has said that he's not in favor of raising anybody's taxes, and that presumably includes those evil, nasty cigarette smokers.]

Will Sullivan must have written his column before Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck said she wouldn't run against Gov. Haley Barbour-- and before it was reported that Barbour's political action committee made a sizable contribution to Tuck.

Sullivan says that "Ray Mabus (1988-92) was the first governor who could have served two consecutive terms." Actually, Bill Allain (1984-88) was the first governor since the late 1800s who was eligible to succeed himself. In 1987, Allain kept everyone guessing about his intentions until the filing deadline had passed.

Sullivan calls Barbour, in 2003, a "political novice... in elective politics..." In fact, Barbour ran a very respectable race as the 1982 Republican nominee against U. S. Sen. John Stennis.

When Tuck changed parties, I don't recall anyone predicting that she would run for governor in 2003.

Tuck obviously isn't confident about Senate support for overriding Barbour's veto of the "tax switch" bill. Otherwise, a vote would already have been taken.

It's interesting that the full increase would take effect on the evil cigarette smokers by 2007, while the full elimination (supposedly) of the sales tax on groceries wouldn't occur until 2014. Kudos to the governor for hanging tough against this bait-and-switch monstrosity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Washington's Birthday Eve"

by Ogden Nash

George Washington was a gentleman,
A soldier and a scholar;
He crossed the Delaware with a boat,
The Potomac, with a dollar.
The British faced him full of joy,
And departed full of sorrow;
George Washington was a gentleman.
His birthday is tomorrow.

When approached by fellow patriots,
And asked for his opinion,
He spoke in accents clear and bold,
And, probably, Virginian.
His winter home at Valley Forge
Was underheated, rather.
He possessed a sturdy Roman nose,
And became his country's father.

His army was a hungry horde,
Ill-armed, worse-clad Colonials;
He was our leading President,
And discouraged ceremonials.
His portrait on our postage stamps,
It does him less than justice;
He was much respected by his wife,
The former Mrs. Custis.

He routed George's scarlet coats;
(Though oft by Congress hindered)
When they fortified the leeward side,
He slashed them from the windward.
He built and launched our Ship of State,
He brought it safe to harbor;
He wore no beard upon his chin,
Thanks to his faithful barber.

George Washington was a gentleman,
His birthday is tomorrow.
He filled his country's friends with joy,
His country's foes, with sorrow.
And so my dears, his grateful land
In robes of glory clad him.
George Washington was a gentleman.
I'm glad his parents had him.

-- Ogden Nash, I'm a Stranger Here Myself (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938), pp. 155-156.


"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible
I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity,
of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.
He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good,
and a great man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter
Jones, 2 January 1814)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America

Friday, February 10, 2006

Trivia Quiz

[Danny J. Boggs, a federal circuit judge, administers trivia tests to his prospective clerks. This copy of the 2000 test comes from The New Yorker magazine by way of underneaththeirrobes.blogs.com.]

The following questions are just for me to get some idea of your range of interests and knowledge. There are no particular gradings or cut-offs.


1. What does the Herfindahl-Hirschman index measure?

2. Who sprang full grown from the head of Jupiter? Who sprang from the sea foam off Cyprus?

3. Who wrote the "Ode to Joy"?

4. Name one work by Margaret Atwood.

5. For what was Willie Sutton noted?

6. Who is your favorite historical figure (deceased)?

7. Complete the line: "Once upon a midnight dreary ______."

8. How many U.S. states had new all-time high temperatures in the last twenty years?

9. Who or what were "Fat Man" and "Little Boy"?

10. What are the chances of ten straight of the same side coming up in ten consecutive tosses of a fair coin?

11. What country's capital is Kuala Lumpur?

12. Who wrote "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats"?

13. Freetown is the capital of what country?

14. Name the most populous country in Africa; in South America.

15. What is measured by an anemometer? A sphygmomanometer? A hygrometer?

16. Who gave the famous speech "Ain't I a Woman"?

17. Give the decimal value of the number 212110, which is in base 3.

18. Distinguish Cabeza de Vaca from Vasco da Gama.

19. Name two works of Kipling.

20. Distinguish Roy M. Cohn from Roy G. Biv.

21. Distinguish Rimsky-Korsakov from Kolmogorov-Smirnov.

22. Within a factor of 2, what was the United States population at the time of the Civil War? The total number of military deaths in the Civil War?

23. Why is Eli Whitney famous?

24. What capital of a European country is the farthest north? The farthest south?

25. Name a poem that you can recite by memory.

26. Who killed: Duncan? McKinley? Cock Robin? Ron Goldman? Vaudeville?

27. Who wrote "The Jew of Malta"?

28. Where did Michael Jordan play college basketball?

29. Name three quarks.

30. What countries were headed by: Amin? Kaunda? Nkrumah? Kenyatta?

31. What country had a group of authors known as "The Generation of '98"?

32. Name three members of Washington's first cabinet.

33. How many members are in the U.S. House of Representatives? In what year did it first have this number?

34. Who was Thorstein Veblen?

35. Who was Cinque?

36. Name two Shakespeare plays beginning with "King."

37. Who was Matthew Brady?

38. What work of art has most profoundly affected you?

39. Who was Hector Bywater?

40. Complete the line: "Is this a dagger______?"

41. When was Liberia founded? What was the original name of its capital?

42. Locate: Lake Baikal; the Salton Sea; the Aral Sea; the Sea of Tranquility.

43. Name a work by H. L. Mencken.

44. Who wrote: "Sunset and evening star and one clear call for me"?

45. Who is Eudora Welty?

46. What is the capital of Chile?

47. What was the last city in Spain relinquished by the Moors?

48. In what work do Caliban and Prospero appear?

49. Who were the Burghers of Calais? Who sculpted them?

50. Who was the "Galloping Ghost"?

51. How long does it take for light from the surface of the sun to reach the earth?

52. Who pardoned Debs? Nixon? Mandela?

53. Who was Atahualpa?

54. How did Samson die?

55. When was King Phillip's War?

56. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite work by that author?

57. Who said "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line"?

58. Name three famous Leopolds.

59. Distinguish chukkers from Chequers from Checkers.

60. Who dragged Hector around the Walls of Troy?

61. Who wrote "We are the hollow men. . ."?

62. Who, what, or where is Vaduz?

63. What is the sum of the interior angles of a pentagon?

64. Who had a famous "Last Theorem"? "Last Tape"? "Last Stand"?

65. Identify Rigoberta Menchú.

66. Whose name is the first line of the following complete poem: "______/slept under the dresser./When that began to pall,/he slept in the hall"?

67. What does the Constitution say about the number of members of the Supreme Court?

68. What state currently has the third most members of Congress?

69. Who wrote "The Ballad of the White Horse"?

70. If the moon were made of green cheese, and if green cheese floats in water, what is the most that the moon could weigh (within a factor of 10)?

71. Edit:

Sam Stevens, et. ux, brought suit against their clother for selling defective suits. The suit was resolved by Stevens v. Jones, 71 F. 3d. 362. The district court had granted summery judgement against the Stevens', but on appeal, the Court decided that the plaintiff's claims deserved a trial.

1. industry concentration

2. Minerva; Aphrodite

3. Schiller/Beethoven

4. e.g., "The Blind Assassin," "Alias Grace"

5. robbing banks

7. while I pondered, weak and weary

8. seven

9. the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, respectively

10. 1/512

11. Malaysia

12. T. S. Eliot

13. Sierra Leone

14. Nigeria; Brazil

15. wind; blood pressure; humidity

16. Sojourner Truth

17. 633

18. Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer. Vasco de Gama was a Portuguese explorer.

19. e.g., "The Jungle Book," "Kim," "Gunga Din"

20. Roy M. Cohn was a lawyer who worked on McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade. Roy G. Biv is a mnemonic device for remembering the colors of the rainbow.

21. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer. Kolmogorov-Smirnov is a statistical test.

22. 32.3 million; 558,052

23. He invented the cotton gin.

24. Reykjavik; Valletta

26. Macbeth; Leon Czolgosz; the Sparrow; unknown; radio, movies, television, stale material

27. Christopher Marlowe

28. University of North Carolina

29. up, down, strange

30. Uganda; Zambia; Ghana; Kenya

31. Spain

32. e.g., John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, Edmund Randolph, Samuel Osgood

33. 435; 1913

34. American economist and social critic, author of "The Theory of the Leisure Class"

35. Symbionese Liberation Army leader who kidnapped Patty Hearst; also, a slave from Sierra Leone who led the Amistad Rebellion

36. King Lear, King John

37. 19th century American photographer, celebrated for portraits of politicians and photographs of the Civil War

39. a western naval journalist who wrote "The Great Pacific War"

40. which I see before me

41. 1847; Monrovia

42. Siberia; California; Central Asia; the moon

43. e.g., "A Book of Burlesques"; "Damn: A Book of Calumny"; "Happy Days"

44. Tennyson

45. American short story writer and novelist; won Pulitzer Prize for "The Optimist's Daughter"

46. Santiago

47. Granada

48. "The Tempest"

49. six figures representing the city fathers of Calais, who offered themselves as hostages to end Edward III's siege of the city; Rodin

50. Harold "Red" Grange, a football player

51. about 8 minutes

52. President Harding; President Ford; F. W. de Klerk released Mandela

53. Inca Emperor of Peru

54. He pulled down the two supporting pillars of the temple and killed himself.

55. 1675-1676

57. W. E. B. DuBois

58. e.g., Aldo Leopold, King Leopold, Leopold Bloom, Nathan Leopold

59. Chukkers are periods of play in polo; Chequers is the British Prime Minister's official country residence; Checkers was Nixon's dog.

60. Achilles

61. T. S. Eliot

62. the capital of Liechtenstein

63. 540 degrees

64. Fermat; Krapp; Custer

65. Guatemalan Indian-rights activist awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1992; wrote "I, Rigoberta Menchú," the accuracy of which was later disputed

66. Edward the Confessor

67. Article III, Section One states that there will be one Supreme Court but does not specify the number of members. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six.

68. Texas

69. G. K. Chesterton

70. 10 (to the 21st) pounds


Sam Stevens, et ux., brought suit against their clothier for selling defective suits. The suit was resolved by Stevens v. Jones, 71 F.3d 362. The district court had granted summary judgment against the Stevenses, but on appeal, the court decided that the plaintiffs' claims deserved a trial.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Gov. Haley Barbour: "One of the Smoothest Operators Ever"

[This column is from BayouBuzz.com of February 3, 2006. Its author is Jeff Crouere of Metairie, Louisiana. Thanks, Jeff, for the kind words about the Magnolia State!]

Yesterday, it was painful to watch the testimony of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. As she was grilled by Senators over issues such as the lack of a plan to evacuate those citizens most in need, particularly nursing home patients, the Governor did her utmost to communicate the position of her administration. She claimed that her staff did the best job they could under incredibly difficult circumstances. Through it all, the Governor was defensive and somewhat shaky, giving committee members the view of a leader who was slightly unsure, not entirely composed.

Sitting next to her was one of the smoothest operators ever to sit in any Governor’s Mansion. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was confident in his responses, always promoting how his state has recovered since Katrina. He reiterated the positives of his citizens, such as their incredible resiliency. Barbour was articulate, poised and made his state proud, everything that Kathleen Blanco was not because, unfortunately, our governor was not especially articulate or poised and certainly did not make our state proud.

In fact, in conversations with Democrats and Republicans yesterday, the response was very similar. I heard people say, “I still can’t believe she is our Governor,” or “What an embarrassment!” Negative comments abounded, not solicited from yours truly, who was just doing an unscientific survey of concerned Louisiana voters. To say the least, it proved to me that Louisiana voters are very concerned right now.

Governor Blanco is certainly doing her best in trying times. She is not a crook and seems to have her heart in the right place. Unfortunately, in post-Katrina Louisiana, extraordinary leadership is required. Through this crisis, we have seen nothing extraordinary about Kathleen Blanco, just an ordinary person in a position that requires incredible skill, visionary thinking and demonstrable leadership abilities. Mississippi has a Governor who possesses those traits and, as a result, the state is much further along than Louisiana right now. Their citizens want to come back home to the Magnolia State and as Barbour stated yesterday, “99%” of its children are back in Mississippi schools. Mississippi will come back bigger and better and more confident about their state and a large part of that rebound should be credited to their leader, Haley Barbour.

In the neighboring state of Louisiana, there is disunity, distrust and despair. People are anything but confident. They are not sure if the state will recover. They are upset and unhappy about government at all levels. Some have fallen into utter hopelessness. In the midst of the crisis, they saw a governor who did not inspire them, did not lead and waffled while the crisis became more acute. There is no confidence that Kathleen Blanco can lead Louisiana to recovery, which is why there has been a recall campaign mounted against her and her approval rating is the third lowest in the country.

Despite all the complaining, Louisiana voters have no one to blame but themselves, since they placed Blanco in office. Given a choice between a Rhodes Scholar with a formidable intellect and endless ideas on how to improve the state and Blanco, voters inexplicably chose Blanco. It shows again that elections do matter. Maybe next time, Louisiana voters will weigh their choices more carefully and more fully comprehend the importance of their role in determining the future of the state. The good thing about elections is there is always another opportunity to do the right thing, although now the stakes have never been higher. [Blanco's 2003 runoff opponent was the Republican Bobby Jindal, who is now a congressman.]

Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 8:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:30 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and Noon till 2 p.m. weekdays on several Louisiana radio stations. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at jeff@ringsidepolitics.com.