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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Short History of Cleavage

The Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho ran this story on August 27, 2007. Red-blooded American males were disappointed to find no accompanying photographs.

By Jim Shea
The Hartford Courant

The last time I wrote about this subject, I got grief.

What I said was that men watch the Academy Awards for only two reasons - cleavage.

Times have changed. Cleavage has gone mainstream. These days cleavage is like motorcycles; they're everywhere.

Public cleavage once was reserved for specific social occasions like fancy cocktail parties. Now, there is no such thing as a cleavage-free zone, no escaping the great divide.

Cleavage also has become controversial. Hillary Clinton recently created a bit of a stir when she showed up on the Senate floor in pants, a pink jacket, black blouse and cleavage. This prompted a fashion writer from The Washington Post to criticize the quality of Clinton's cleavage, writing: "Just look away!"

Obviously, the Post fashion writer was a woman. To the male, there is no such thing as "look-away" cleavage.

Which is not to suggest that all cleavage is created equal.

You have your common cleavage, your above-average cleavage, your overachieving cleavage and your "Star Trek" cleavage, which has the power to take men where no man has gone before.

Then you have your long cleavage, your stubby cleavage, your wide-body cleavage, your shallow cleavage, your mesa cleavage, your shy cleavage, your full-disclosure cleavage, your full-contact cleavage, your pumped-up cleavage and your reined-in cleavage yearning to breathe free.

Age-wise, there's your late-model cleavage, your middle-age cleavage, your senior cleavage and your vintage cleavage, which is sometimes referred to as "over-the-hills" cleavage.

All of which is suitable for viewing, with one exception, male cleavage. Male cleavage is always "look-away" cleavage, unless, that is, you happen to find Jell-O with hair on it appealing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Response to College Newspaper Story

Miss. to adopt voter registration system - News

U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper's ruling will be reviewed by the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which will possibly set aside the August 31, 2008 deadline. Appeals have been filed by the state, the Mississippi Democrats, the NAACP, and, most recently, the Mississippi Republicans.

Pepper ruled that our state-mandated open primary system is unconstitutional, and I believe that that part of the ruling will be upheld on appeal. This will mean that each party will be free to determine who votes in its primaries. The Republicans have said that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters-- even if party registration is enacted. The Democrats, in contrast, have indicated that they will invite independents but block Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries.

This is the first time that any court has ever ordered voter ID on a state. The likelihood is great that that part of the ruling will be reversed, as voter ID is the legislature's prerogative.

Sen. Terry Burton says that he favors eliminating party primaries and having all candidates run in the same election. Since he has been chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, why has Burton not introduced such a bill?

Good commentary on this topic is at Yall Politics.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Brief History of Nonpartisan Elections

In a nonpartisan election, all candidates are listed on a single ballot, and the parties have no way of officially nominating candidates. Most U. S. judicial elections are nonpartisan, as is the big majority of municipal elections. California, e.g., has had nonpartisan municipal and county elections for nearly 100 years.

Efforts to enact nonpartisan elections at the state level have had limited success. California voters rejected such a proposal in 1915 and another in 2004, as did North Dakota voters in 1925. A campaign to get an initiative for nonpartisan state and congressional elections on Oregon's 2006 ballot failed, as did such a measure in the 2007 session of the Beaver State's legislature. The proponents will try again to get an initiative on the November 2008 Oregon ballot.

Washington state's voters, who had a long history of being able to choose among all the candidates in the first round of voting, overwhelmingly passed an initiative for nonpartisan state and congressional elections in November 2004. (This is popularly called the "top two" system, since the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the runoff.) Washington's "top two" has not been implemented, however, as it has been tied up in federal litigation. On October 1, 2007, the U. S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in State v. Republican Party of Washington State. I predict that Washington will wind up with some version of the "top two."

Between 1966 and 1979, the Mississippi legislature enacted measures for nonpartisan state and local elections five different times. The measures were blocked three times under the Voting Rights Act and twice by gubernatorial vetoes. In 1975, Louisiana began using nonpartisan elections for all of its state and local officials and in 1978 for its congressional officials.

Minnesota elected its legislature on a nonpartisan basis, 1913-1973, and Nebraska elects its unicameral legislature that way today. But Louisiana is the only state that has nonpartisan elections for all of its state officials. The Bayou State, which alone has also used that system for its congressional elections, is restoring party primaries for those elections, starting in 2008.

Louisiana’s Republicans are allowing only Republicans to vote in GOP congressional primaries. Louisiana Democrats have not yet said whether they will invite independents to vote in Democratic congressional primaries. (The legislature exercised its prerogative to prohibit the parties from inviting members of opposing parties to vote in their primaries.)

“... the Legislature allowed the political parties to determine whether they would allow independent voters to participate in the closed party primary.”

The legislature had no choice here, since, in 1986, the U. S. Supreme Court gave parties the right to invite independents to vote in their primaries. (Tashjian v. Republican Party of Connecticut)

Mississippi Republicans say that they will keep ALL GOP primaries open to ALL voters-- regardless of the outcome of the Democrats’ lawsuit against the state's primary election law. Mississippi Democrats, in contrast, have indicated that, if their suit is successful, they will invite independents but block Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries.

Louisiana, by the way, has had party registration since 1916.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mississippi GOP Finds the 5th Circuit Appealing

The state Republican Party has also appealed U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper’s ruling to the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Since the Republicans were not a party to the lawsuit, they would have to have been approved as intervenors in order to be able to file an appeal.

“The Mississippi Republican Party claims it was never involved in the lawsuit and should be exempt from the final ruling.”

If the unconstitutionality of our current primary election law is upheld on appeal-- as I believe it will be-- the new laws that are enacted will obviously apply to all political parties in the state. Each party will then be free to say who votes in its primaries, and the Republicans have said that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters-- even if party registration is enacted.

The purpose of party registration is to identify voters. The Republicans have no need to identify any voters, since they are going to keep their primaries open. However, if the legislature enacts party registration, all voters will obviously have to indicate whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or independents.

The Democrats have said that they will invite independents but exclude Republicans from their primaries. Thus, Republicans will be the only voters who will need to be identified. There is a way that the Democrats could identify Republicans without party registration-- which I won’t detail in this post.

“In June, Pepper… mandated a closed primary system...”

UGH. 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’s primary is closed, it’s because that party closed it.

Here’s the Associated Press story on the Republican Party’s appeal.

There’s nothing here claiming that Judge Pepper “ordered” or “mandated” closed primaries.

Ballot Access News has commented on the Mississippi Republicans’ appeal.

This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.

An Excellent Review of Books

I have a sneaky suspicion that you love to read. If so, I highly recommend Alan Caruba's great monthly report on the best in books. Whether you favor fiction or non-fiction, you owe it to yourself to check out Bookviews.com.

Alan's weekly commentaries are posted Wednesdays at The National Anxiety Center. His new book is Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy.

If you need editorial and/or public relations services, visit Caruba.com to learn more.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shattering Illusions

The Iraq War is a wake-up call for two conservative bloggers.

by James Leroy Wilson
August 2, 2007

Two popular bloggers and self-described conservatives, Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher, recently repented of their support of the Iraq War. Sullivan writes:

One of my own errors before the war was a function of being steeped in Washington policy debates - and neo-conservative arguments - for years. I had been so conditioned to suspect Iraq after 9/11 that my skepticism deserted me. I mentioned Saddam on September 12. The result was that the prelude to the Iraq war was far too easily framed by the information and biases of the Beltway elite, the Pentagon establishment, and the neocon brain-trust. Worse, we were unspeakably condescending to those on the outside who were right. We trusted far too much, and people much further away from the levers of power saw more clearly than we did.-->-->-->-->-->--> Read more-->-->-->

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An Ancient Gripe From Mississippi Voters

A commenter named Frances wrote at Yall Politics: “Is it fair to ask candidates for the House and Senate whether they are for an open or closed Primary? Is it fair to ask that question of Eaves and Barbour [the two nominees for governor in November's election]? Does anybody have any idea that it is possible to circumvent [Judge Pepper’s] order?”

I wonder how many of the people who are squawking about not being able to vote for candidates of both parties in last Tuesday's primaries have ever said anything to their legislators about this subject. This has been a recurring issue in Mississippi since the 1960s, and if the past is a guide, nobody will get excited about it again until the next election cycle.

I’m convinced that Pepper’s ruling striking down our current primary election law will be upheld on appeal. The likelihood is great, however, that his order for voter ID will be reversed, since that’s the legislature’s prerogative.

Once the dust settles, Democrats and independents will have their choice of either party’s primary-- just as ALL voters do now. Republicans, on the other hand, will only be able to vote in the Republican primary.

How I arrived at this is detailed here in several earlier posts.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Galveston Says "Adios!" to Social Security

In 1964, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, a presidential candidate, proposed making Social Security voluntary. He even talked about his plan in Florida, of all places. Predictably, Goldwater was crucified by the mainstream media and others, including his principal rival for the Republican nomination, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller said that the system would collapse if it were not government-mandated.

In the early 1980s, a number of jurisdictions, including three south Texas counties, took advantage of a "window of opportunity" and opted out of Social Security, which they replaced with a private plan for their government employees. Fearing a "snowball effect," Congress moved quickly to close this window.

President Ronald Reagan and Congress set up a blue-ribbon commission, headed by Alan Greenspan, to "fix" Social Security. Years later, when Kansas Sen. Bob Dole was running for president, he bragged that he had been a member of the commission that had "fixed" Social Security in 1983. What Dole failed to mention was that the "fix" was a huge tax increase.

When former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont sought the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, he courageously proposed privatizing Social Security for younger workers. In a debate moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw, Vice President George H. W. Bush sarcastically addressed du Pont as "Pierre" and called his proposal "a nutty idea."

The piece below was written when President George W. Bush was promoting his proposal for partial privatization of Social Security. One fact that is omitted is that in such a private plan, unlike Social Security, drawing benefits does not limit a recipient's other earnings.

How many young people do you know who truly believe that they will ever draw the first dime from Social Security?

Winston Churchill, whose mother was an American, once said, "Americans always do the right thing-- after they have exhausted every other possibility."

The current debate over Social Security reform is reminiscent of the discussions that occurred in Galveston County, Texas in 1980, when county workers were offered a retirement alternative to Social Security: At the time they reacted with keen interest and some knee-jerk fear of the unknown. But after 24 years, folks here can say unequivocally that when Galveston County pulled out of the Social Security system in 1981, we were on the road to providing our workers with a better deal than Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.->->->->->-> Read more...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Does Mississippi Need an Election System Like Louisiana's?

The Clarion-Ledger’s editorial says ”... the Legislature which convenes in January must craft a new voting system which conforms to [Judge] Pepper’s order.”

All federal district court rulings are entitled to be reviewed by a mid-level court, so the 5th Circuit will definitely hear the appeals in this case. It’s possible that the 5th Circuit will set aside the August 31, 2008 deadline for implementing Pepper’s ruling.

“What if lawmakers did away with… separate primaries altogether?”

“In 1999, the issue arose in the secretary of state race, since it was said that having one primary [ballot] where all could vote regardless of party...”

Nick Walters, the GOP nominee, proposed that all candidates of all parties be listed on the same primary ballot, which would enable the voter to cross party lines from office to office. But each party would still be able to have one candidate per office on the November general election ballot.

California had a primary system similar to that, which the U. S. Supreme Court struck down in its landmark 2000 ruling. Ironically, that ruling is the main precedent for the Mississippi Democrats’ challenge of our current primary election law, which Pepper declared unconstitutional.

“Mississippi has played with the idea since 1966 and even adopted an open [elections] law in the early 1970s, but the federal government killed it under the Voting Rights Act. Louisiana then adopted the same law a few years later and it was approved.”

The paper is referring here to the system in which all candidates, including independents, run in the same election. If no one gets 50%-plus, the top two, regardless of party, have a runoff. That system has absolutely no chance of getting enacted for our state or congressional elections. However, in my view, it’s a great idea for our local elections, but even that would be difficult to get adopted.

It’s worth noting that that’s the way we now elect our state and county judges and county election commissioners. It’s also like the special elections that we hold to fill vacancies in offices.

All of this is covered in detail here.

This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Power of Commitment

Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
And splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one's favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material assistance,
Which no man could have dreamt
Would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

~~ W.H. Murray, from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Saturday, August 04, 2007

"Massive" Re-registration of Mississippi Voters?

Some of those commenting on U. S. District Judge Allen Pepper's June 8 decision need to actually read the ruling.

The ruling declares Mississippi's primary election law unconstitutional. If this is upheld-- as I believe it will be-- each party will be free to say who votes in its primaries. The Democrats have indicated that they will invite unaffiliated voters but exclude Republicans from Democratic primaries. The Republicans, in contrast, have said that they will keep their primaries open to ALL voters-- even if party registration is enacted. Thus, Republicans will be the only voters who will have fewer choices than they have today.

Party registration and voter ID are the legislature's prerogatives. In the unlikely event that the courts ultimately force those measures on Mississippi, it will be the first time that either has ever been mandated on any state. The notion that party registration and voter ID go hand in hand is belied by this fact: of the 29 states with party registration, 19 do not have voter ID.

The purpose of party registration is to identify voters. Louisiana, for example, has had party registration since 1916. On Louisiana's voter registration form, there is a "party affiliation" box. The applicant circles either the name of one of the parties, "none," or "other." An applicant who leaves the "party affiliation" box blank is registered as "none."

Mike Sayer [June 26 letter to The Clarion-Ledger] writes of "a massive re-registration of all... voters." We have Motor Voter, and the one-page registration form can also be downloaded and printed from the secretary of state's website. The applicant fills out and signs the form, addresses it to the county circuit clerk, and drops it in the mail. By return mail, the circuit clerk sends a voter card that tells the registrant where to vote.

If party registration is enacted, a "party affiliation" box will be added to the registration form, and each registrant's affilation will be noted on the voter card and the voter roll. Hardly "massive."

There's no way that party registration will be ordered for the August 2007 primaries. Period.

The Clarion-Ledger ran this letter on July 2, 2007.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Open Primary Ruling: An Ex-Congressman's Notions

Wow! If someone as knowledgable and experienced as David Bowen has some of the notions that he has, what must the rest of our citizens be thinking?

The respected former congressman says, “A federal judge has ruled… that we must register by party, Democratic, Republican or independent, and be admitted only to the party primary where we are registered.”

No judge, no court has the power to say who can vote in which party’s primary. As I have written several times previously-- on this website and in letters to The Clarion-Ledger-- the ultimate outcome of the Democrats’ lawsuit will be that the two major parties will replace the state as the decision-makers in who votes in which primary. Democratic and independent voters will have the same choices on primary day as ALL voters now have, while Republicans will only be able to vote in the Republican primary.

The purpose of party registration is simply to identify voters, and I’m guessing that the legislature will exercise its prerogative and enact party registration.

“... Louisiana… has a system… in which all candidates run in the same [election], with a runoff if needed to determine a majority winner. It plays down party affiliation and gives voters total access to all the candidates.”

By eliminating party primaries, it also takes away the parties’ ability to officially nominate candidates. That’s one of the big reasons why only one state-- Louisiana-- uses that system to elect all of its state officials.

But it’s a great idea for municipal elections, as illustrated by the fact that the large majority of U. S. municipalities-- including most of the big cities-- already use it. It would take a grassroots organization to get the Mississippi legislature to enact nonpartisan municipal elections, popularly called “open primaries.” The powers that be, of course, would fight such an effort.

I, for one, am willing to get involved in such an organization.

This commentary is also posted at Yall Politics.