.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, July 27, 2007

Remembering Peggy

I've been thinking of Peggy because another of our high-school classmates, Helen Cross Rodriguez (one of our cheerleaders) was buried today. I wrote the following at Natchez Rebels on November 10, 2005.

These are my memories of Peggy O'Neil "Poppy" Pruett, who was in my high-school class and was a super-special person. One of my biggest regrets about losing my yearbook was that it contained the long and wonderful entry she wrote. I don't think I realized that she thought so much of me until I read that.

The first time I recall being in the same room with Peggy (as I always called her) was when we were in junior high. It was a discussion group at Westminster Presbyterian Church and the topic was moonshine liquor. She didn't know me from Adam and she surely didn't realize that I knew that her grandfather had contracted "jake leg" from drinking moonshine. Anyhow, she asked the moderator a ton of questions about the effects of moonshine.

Once in one of our high school classes, she was called on to read aloud. The passage contained "d----d," which meant "damned." When she got to that word, she paused and in a somewhat irritated tone said, "d dash d." (I think this was Mary Bellan's English class, which would've been our junior year.)

Peggy had leading roles in every musical in high school, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Bye Bye Birdie. Isaac Musselwhite directed all of them.

She hosted a senior party in the backyard of her home on Pine Ridge Road; she matched me with Jean Pless, whose father had been director of the YMCA, as my date. There was a speaker system for music, and I especially remember "Ferry Cross the Merzey."

I actually had a date with Peggy our senior year. I recall standing at her door, trying to raise the courage to kiss her goodnight. She finally stuck out her hand and shook with me. Wouldn't I love to have that to do over!!

I think the big majority of boys were as intimidated by Peggy as I was-- by her great intelligence, her quick wit, and her beauty. It would have taken a fellow with supreme self-confidence to handle her.

Despite not ever seeing her after high school, I tried to keep up with her activities. My late mother told me that she once encountered Peggy and her mother in Vidalia. Peggy, who was preparing to return to New York, was napping in the car.

Once when I was eating at Morrison's Cafeteria here in Jackson, I overheard someone at the next table say that he had heard Peggy sing in New York. [She was an opera star.] I boldly interrupted the conversation and proudly informed him that I had attended high school with her in Natchez.

I did not learn of Peggy's passing until last year: I was shocked and very sad for several days afterward.

The long conversation that I had for years fantasized about having with her would never be.

Paraphrasing William Shakespeare:

When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

The End of Party Primaries in Mississippi?

July 23-- Lillian Shaw of Okolona, Mississippi had an interesting letter in today’s Clarion-Alleger.

“Yellow dog, red dog, blue dog! The correct response of the Legislature to U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper’s ruling that the state must change its primary election laws is to simply stop having state supported and sponsored primaries.”

The legislature could certainly either 1) eliminate primaries and provide other nominating option(s) or 2) not specify any nominating options for the parties at all. Since number 2 would leave the parties to their own devices, the parties would be very unlikely to hold primaries, as they would be unable/unwilling to bear the expense. And since our citizens are accustomed to party primaries, the legislature will surely continue to mandate and finance primaries, regardless of the outcome of the Democrats’ lawsuit.

Another thing to remember is that some elections are decided in one party’s primary, e.g., the elections for county officials in Hinds and Rankin counties. If we had, say, nominating conventions instead of primaries, grassroots voters would have no say-so in those elections.

“Let the Democrat Party and the Republican Party select the candidates they wish to place on the general ballot in the same way the Reform Party, the Green Party, and the Libertarian do.”

Since 1903, Mississippi’s only nominating option has been the party primary. If any of our seven small parties ever have more than one candidate for the same office, they will have to conduct a primary. I think the legislature should give the small parties the option of nominating by convention, but, again, the need has not arisen, since those parties do well to come up with one candidate for an office.

By the way: we’ll soon have two more parties, the Southern Party and Unity08. Our state has some of the easiest requirements for new parties to register, and I hope that doesn’t change.

This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ruling in Mississippi Democrats' Open Primary Suit: the Sequel

July 18-- Near the middle of page three of U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper’s July 17 memorandum opinion, he misconstrues the Elections Clause of the U. S. Constitution. Either 1) he doesn’t realize that this clause refers to U. S. senators and representatives, or 2) he’s not aware of the 1872 federal law which established the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years as federal election day.

Also, the judge is clearly not familiar with Reed v. Democratic Party of Washington State (2004), which follows the precedent set in California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000)-- and in which Washington state defended its primary election system by noting that, unlike California, Washington does not have party registration. The Ninth Circuit opined, “These are distinctions without a difference.” Pepper nevertheless contends that party registration-- along with voter ID-- is necessary for a party to disassociate from nonmembers.

The notion that party registration and voter ID are conjoined is belied by the fact that 19 states have party registration but do not have voter ID. And another 14 states have voter ID but do not have party registration.

Astonishingly, the judge admits that, when he wrote his June 8 opinion, he was not aware that Mississippi’s federal primaries were scheduled for March 2008, not to mention that some of our municipalities also have primaries slated for spring 2008.

I could make quite a list of other errors in the two rulings, but the ones above really stand out. Pepper, in my view, does answer the Big Question correctly-- that our current primary election law is unconstitutional-- but even at that, he gives incorrect reasons for its unconstitutionality.

An individual in a black robe issues an opinion, and many people react as though the tablets just came down from Mount Sinai.


This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.


July 20-- The Clarion-Ledger's July 19 editorial leaves me feeling like a mosquito in a nudist camp: I hardly know where to start. The editorial writer either 1) doesn’t read Yall Politics or 2) thinks that we don’t know what we’re talking about here.

“The Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee had sued to force a closed primary system...”

Closed primary: a party’s primary ballot is only available to that party’s members. No judge, no court can close a primary, and neither can the state. If a party has a closed primary, it’s because that party closed it.

If our state-mandated open primary system is ultimately struck down-- as I believe it will be-- it does not automatically follow that we will have closed primaries. What will follow will be that each party-- rather than the state-- will determine who votes in its primaries. The Democrats have stated that they will invite independents but exclude Republicans from Democratic primaries. (That’s a semi-closed primary.) The Republicans, in contrast, have said that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters-- even if party registration is enacted.

Accordingly, Republicans will be the only voters who will have fewer choices than they have today. To put it another way: Democrats and independents will have the same choices as ALL voters have now.

“Requiring voter identification is not negotiable.”

It’s certainly not negotiable with Judge Pepper, but it is “appealable"-- to the 5th Circuit, where the likelihood is great that both the voter ID and the party registration parts of the ruling will be reversed. Those two items are the legislature’s prerogatives.

The editorial writer alleges that Pepper’s “logic is impeccable” in ordering voter ID and party registration. In my view, his logic is practically non-existent. Case in point: 19 states have party registration but do not have voter ID. In 16 of those 19 states, both major parties exclude some voters from their primaries. In each of another two of those states, one party excludes some voters.

In the U. S. Supreme Court’s ruling in California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000), which is the main precedent for the Mississippi Democrats’ lawsuit, there is absolutely no mention of voter ID.

Consider this: a state does not have to mandate that political parties nominate candidates. But if it does, it’s up to the state to tell the parties which method(s) of nomination they may use-- primaries, conventions, caucuses, etc. If a state cannot be ordered to mandate party primaries-- or even to require that parties nominate candidates at all-- how in the world can a state be ordered to enact voter ID or party registration?

A judge who aspires to be a legislator should put his black robe in mothballs and hit the campaign trail.

This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mississippi Open Primary Case: U. S. District Court Ruling

Bobby Harrison’s July 5 article on Judge Allen Pepper’s ruling is an improvement over his previous writing on the subject.

“... a lawsuit filed by Democratic voters...”

Actually, the suit was filed by the state Democratic Executive Committee, the party’s governing body.

“Clark and Barbour are asking U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper to order the Mississippi Legislature to enact a voter identification requirement.”

If indeed that is what the secretary of state and the governor are requesting, it proves that Pepper is suggesting-- not ordering-- voter ID in his ruling. This is further evidenced by the fact that Pepper orders the state to submit its plan for implementing his ruling to the U. S. Justice Department for approval (pre-clearance).

If a federal court in fact orders something, it is not necessary for it to be pre-cleared by Justice. In any event, if Pepper does order voter ID, the 5th Circuit will likely reverse that part of the ruling. The same is true of party registration, which, again, I say Pepper is merely suggesting. Such things as voter ID and party registration are the legislature’s prerogatives.

“... to ensure that a person has a party registration, Pepper has ordered a photo voter identification.”

Again, I say that Pepper has suggested-- not ordered-- photo voter ID. And party registration and voter ID are not linked, as illustrated by the fact that, of the 29 states with party registration, 19 do not have voter ID. And 14 states have voter ID but do not have party registration. The purpose of voter ID is simply to prove that the voter is who he says he is.

“... the original lawsuit to close the primaries...”

There’s only been one lawsuit. It asked the court to declare our primary election law unconstitutional-- which Pepper did-- so that each party will be able to say who votes in its primaries.

“Under a closed primary system, a political party would have the option to keep voters from another party from participating.”

Closed primary: a party’s primary ballot is only available to that party’s members. If a party’s primary is closed, it’s because the party closed it-- not the courts or the state.

“... 29 states have closed primaries.”

29 states have party registration, but there are variations among these states as to what types of primaries the parties have. In Utah, for example, the Republicans invite independents to vote in their primaries, while the Democrats have open primaries: all voters-- even registered Republicans-- are invited. (Of course, a voter may only vote in one party's primary.)

"[Gov.] Barbour called the vote of the [state Board of Election Commissioners] urging Pepper to enact voter identification in a ‘timely fashion’ historic.”

“Enact” usually refers to lawmaking. That’s the role of legislative bodies-- not courts.

The board could have taken this “historic” vote at any time during the last three and 1/2 years-- instead of a few weeks before the primary elections.

Good commentary on this topic is at MississippiPolitics.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sen. Trent Lott Commended for Backing Immigration "Reform" Bill

This is Sidney Salter's column of June 27, 2007, which was not posted on The Clarion-Ledger's website. It was titled "Lott's immigration compromise vote was tough vote for sanity."

After getting pounded in Washington and here at home for his past support for the U. S. Senate compromise immigration reform bill, Mississippi's Republican junior senator stepped up Tuesday [June 26] and voted to support it again.

U. S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Pascagoula, voted Tuesday to resume Senate debate on a stalled immigration measure to grant legal status to some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living and working in this country. [Note: The number is probably closer to 20 million.]

Lott's GOP colleague, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Oxford [who is up for re-election next year], voted against reconsidering it. The Senate vote was 64-35 to revive the controversial legislation, which still faces formidable obstacles in the Senate from conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats who want to amend it.

Supporters needed 60 votes to pass the bill. A similar test vote earlier this month only got 45 votes, only seven of them Republicans. But on Tuesday, 24 Republicans joined 39 Democrats and one independent in support of the measure. Opposing the bill were 25 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one independent.

The Associated Press reported key elements of the bipartisan immigration measure [Anything that's "bipartisan" is bound to be a good deal-- right?]:

~~ Allows illegal immigrants who were in the country as of Jan. 1, 2007 to gain a "Z visa" if they pay fees and fines and pass a background check. Allows them eventually to get on a path to citizenship after waiting in line, paying more fines, holding down jobs and learning English. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries to apply for green cards.

~~ Creates a new temporary worker program that would allow up to 200,000 guest workers per year to enter on two-year Y visas that could be renewed twice, provided they returned to their home countries for a year between each stint. It sunsets the program after five years.

~~ Prevents the Y and Z visa programs from taking effect until security and enforcement triggers are met, including adding 20,000 border agents, 370 miles of fencing, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, and a new worker verification system to prevent hiring illegal workers. It provides $4.4 billion to fund the measures.

~~ Creates an employment-based point system for new immigrants to qualify for green cards based on their education and skill levels, and eliminates or limits visa preferences for family members of U. S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Criticism of Lott on the immigration issue has been across the board from conservatives and liberals alike. But Lott has not been deterred from his position that America can no longer afford to ignore immigration or wink and nudge at it.

On the FOX News Sunday TV program with Chris Wallace on June 24, Lott said: "We need to make sure we know who these people are, where they're going, that there's a job for them, that they are not treated like animals, and that they have to go back to their homes of origin.

"I really haven't changed. But I am trying to get a result here. Look, the people in-- I have been in Congress for 35 years representing the people of Mississippi.

"They know that I would not consciously do anything that would hurt my state, but also I want to do the right thing for my country. And I do think they are compatible in this instance."

The Senate compromise immigration bill is just that-- a compromise designed to bring sanity to an insane proposition-- that borders that have been porous for more than 200 years can be made secure with the stroke of a pen. They can't.

Immigration reforms like the Senate bill are a good start. Lott's decision to forego political popularity for sound public policy should be commended.

Contact Perspective Editor Sidney Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger.com.

I can't imagine why 1) this outstanding column was not posted by the paper online, or 2) such a wonderful bill was defeated by the Senate.

Sidney must be a male, since one rarely encounters a bald-headed female.