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Free Citizen

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

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Texas Democrats Kill Voter ID

Associated Press | May 27, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Democrats are declaring victory in the partisan battle over tightening voter identification laws, but their 5-day filibuster left hundreds of bills dead.

And it threatened to spark a special session this summer.

But a midnight deadline Tuesday night for the voter ID bill came and went in the House, and leaders from both parties said the controversial election reform had gone down in flames.

Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, leader of the House Democrats, said the measure appears to be dead in the House this session.

Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, of San Antonio, maintained his trademark hands-off approach as midnight approached and mostly left the public relations job to Republican Rep. Larry Taylor, chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

Taylor said Democrats would pay a hefty price for killing off the voter ID legislation and inflicting "a lot of other casualties in that process."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Messiah Anoints Sotomayor

From CNNPolitics.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama has chosen federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.

Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice if confirmed.

Obama plans to announce his nominee at 10:15 a.m. ET Tuesday, sources told CNN.

Sotomayor, a 54-year-old judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was named a U.S. District Court judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and was elevated to her current seat by President Clinton.

Supporters say that appointment history, along with what they call her moderate-liberal views, would give her some bipartisan backing in the Senate.

A senior White House official said that Sotomayor was "nominated by George Bush -- then Bill Clinton -- [and has] more judicial experience than anyone sitting on the court had at the time they were nominated."

But she has suffered through recent stinging criticism in the media and blogs from both the left and right over perceived -- some defenders say invented -- concerns about her temperament and intellect.

"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written," said Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.

"She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one's sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench. ... She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

However, the senior White House official said Sotomayor has had "99 percent of her decisions" upheld by a higher court.

Some Hispanic groups expressed concern after a skit last week on "Late Show With David Letterman" compared Sotomayor with a noisy Spanish-speaking judge on a popular TV courtroom show that settles petty legal disputes.

Obama said Saturday he wants intellectual firepower and a common touch in the next Supreme Court justice and said he doesn't "feel weighed down by having to choose ... based on demographics."

Obama's nominee will replace retiring Justice David Souter, who announced this month he would step down when the court's current session ends this summer.

There had been wide speculation that Obama would name a woman to the court, which has one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Obama also had been under pressure to nominate a Hispanic justice to the court.

Obama's nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate.

The nominee is not expected to have difficulty being confirmed in the Democratic-controlled Senate in time for the new court session in October.

The president has said he hopes to have hearings in July, with the confirmation completed before Congress leaves for the summer.

Cows, the Constitution, and the Ten Commandments


Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic, our government could track a single cow, born in Canada almost three years earlier, right to the stall where she slept in the state of Washington? And they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they've been unable to locate 15-20 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of the aliens a cow...


Instead of helping Iraq draft a constitution... why didn't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and, besides, we're not using it anymore.


The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this: You cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal,' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,' and 'Thou Shalt Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians... It creates a hostile work environment.

~~ Author unknown

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Closed Primary in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, which registers voters by party, had party primaries last Tuesday. The Scranton Times Tribune editorializes against the state's closed primary system.

"[Voters registered as independents or with minor parties] are allowed to vote in primaries only on ballot questions, rather than for candidates. There were no statewide questions to be answered by voters Tuesday, and only a few local questions in isolated jurisdictions.

"The Legislature, which comprises only Republicans and Democrats, continues to restrict primary voting to only Republicans and Democrats. ... ."

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). Neither major party in Pennsylvania does. Thus the legislature cannot stop the parties from letting independents vote, but it can prohibit the parties from inviting members of opposing parties into their primaries. The Pennsylvania legislature obviously does prohibit the latter.

"Even though the primary technically just nominates members of each party, the parties don't pay for the process; the taxpayers do. Registering with a minor party or as an independent does not exempt disenfranchised voters from their share of the primary election's cost."

In 1995, the 8th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, when the state compels parties to hold primaries, the state, in effect, must pay the costs of those primaries (Republican Party of Arkansas v. Faulkner County). If a state were to stop requiring parties to conduct primaries, the parties would likely stop doing so, due to the expense. They would instead nominate by convention or some other method, and grassroots citizens would only be able to vote in the general election.

"Judicial and school board candidates are allowed to 'cross-file' - to seek Democratic and Republican nominations - under the theory that allowing them to do so will diminish political influence in those races. The practical result is that many candidates win both nominations, effectively being elected to office in the primary."[1]

Pennsylvania's primaries are in May (April in presidential election years), and independent candidates have until August 1 to qualify for the November ballot. Also, the state allows unrestricted write-ins in both the primaries and the general election.

Many U. S. jurisdictions have nonpartisan judicial elections: there are no party primaries, and all candidates run in the same election. Mississippi, for example, has nonpartisan state and county judicial elections.

A Pennsylvania citizen who wants to vote in a major party's primary should simply register with that party. In 2004, several thousand union members changed their registrations from Democratic to Republican in order to vote for Senator Arlen Specter in the GOP primary.

Ironically, Pennsylvania is the state where the direct primary election originated in 1842. The pioneers were the Democratic Party of Crawford County, in the northwestern part of the state.


[1] California allowed cross-filing from the early 1900s until 1959. Two well-known politicians who took advantage of it were the Republicans Earl Warren and Richard Nixon. Warren won both major party nominations for governor in 1946, while Nixon did likewise for the U. S. House in 1948.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Doomsday for the Republicans"

Someone named "TurnLeft" had the comment below on a post at YallPolitics about the possibility that Mississippi governor Haley Barbour will run for president in 2012. My response to his comment follows.

"All this talk of Barbour for President is so silly. He wouldn’t have a chance, besides ANY Republican wouldn’t have a chance against President Obama thank goodness. Republicans want a new image but it would only be a wolf in sheep's clothing, same ole white Sunday school voters crowd. Republicans have excluded everyone else. Everything I read is doomsday for the Republicans. I think alot of people are in denial over a Republican comeback. It’s not going to happen."

You must have one hell of a crystal ball, since you know for certain what will happen in 2012. Look for Obummer’s multi-trillion dollar spending orgy to cause major inflation, starting 12-18 months from now. If, as seems likely, the economy is in the tank by 2012, the Republicans may have a cakewalk against the Big B. O.

“Everything I read is doomsday for the Republicans.”

Where did you read that-- in the Daily Kooks? Those of us who were around in 1964 remember similar dire predictions about the Republican Party after Senator Barry Goldwater lost 44 states to President Lyndon Johnson. In 1966, the Republicans gained 47 U. S. House seats and also picked up Senate seats and governorships. And the GOP regained the White House in the 1968 election.

According to the current polls, the Republicans have an excellent chance of retaking the Virginia and New Jersey governorships this fall. If they do, that will be a harbinger of more electoral successes.

Democratic senator George McGovern lost 49 states in the 1972 presidential election, and President Ronald Reagan carried 49 states over the Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984. It’s a funny thing: We didn’t hear cries of “doomsday” for the Democrats back then.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The "Democrat" Party

Certain people-- lots of them nowadays-- routinely refer to the party founded by Thomas Jefferson as the "Democrat" Party. Not only is this petty, it's also historically inaccurate.

Jefferson started it as the Republican Party, and it later was known as the Democratic-Republican Party. Andrew Jackson was the first president (1829-1837) to be called a Democrat, and the delegates to the 1840 national convention officially gave it the name it has had ever since: the Democratic Party.

Two Mississippi newspapers, the Natchez Democrat (1865) and the Woodville Republican (1823), are named for the same party (several other papers in the Magnolia State feature "Democrat" in their titles).

To be sure, if the Democrats were completely honest, they would call themselves the Socialist Democratic Party.

Which reminds me: The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks made up the Social Democratic Party in Russia. The Bolsheviks ("the larger") were the majority and more extreme wing, while the Mensheviks ("the littler") were the minority wing. I suppose if the Mensheviks had become the majority, the two factions would have had to trade monikers.

At any rate, in 1919, the Bolsheviks were renamed the Communist Party.

Today's Republican Party, incidentally, was founded in 1854. The site and date most generally credited are Ripon, Wisconsin, on March 20 of that year.

Should We Abolish Second Primaries?

The more I consider instant runoff voting (IRV), the more I like it. Simply put, it's a way to guarantee that a candidate gets 50-plus percent in a party primary without requiring the voters to make a second trip to the polls. IRV can also be used in general elections. Moreover, it saves the taxpayers thousands of dollars per election cycle as well as reducing the costs of campaigns.

Mississippi is one of only 10 states that has party runoff (or second) primaries; all except Kentucky and Oklahoma are in the South.[1] In the early 1900s, when states began mandating that parties hold primaries, most elections in the South were decided in the Democratic primary. Hence second primaries were necessary to ensure that no one was elected with a small plurality of the vote.

An op-ed in The State newspaper advocates replacing South Carolina's second primaries with IRV. Its authors are state Rep. Bill Herbkersman and Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote.

"... tested out with good results in North Carolina, instant runoff voting determines a majority winner in one efficient election."

As I recall, North Carolina has been experimenting with IRV in 10 counties, which strikes me as a good approach.

"Voters gain the option to rank candidates in order of preference rather than select only one choice. If no candidate wins with a first-choice [50-plus percent], the two candidates with the most votes advance to the instant runoff. Ballots that were cast for eliminated candidates are added to the totals of the runoff candidates according to which runoff candidate is ranked next on the ballot."

From what I've read of the working of IRV in various places, the candidates are generally more respectful of each other in the campaign, since each hopes to be the second choice of the other candidates' supporters.

"Instant runoff voting is used in countless private organizations because it is recommended in Robert’s Rules of Order. It has been adopted to replace two rounds of voting in jurisdictions in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina and Tennessee."

Some 70 percent of Memphis's voters recently approved IRV for that city. Memphis already had nonpartisan municipal elections, in which all candidates run in the same election. So IRV will reduce the total number of voting rounds from two to one.

As the article details, there is almost always a big drop-off in the turnout for the second party primary.[2]

It's also worth noting that Mississippi Republicans have only had one second primary for governor-- the 1991 runoff between Kirk Fordice and state auditor Pete Johnson. Of course, for an office other than president, the Republicans' very first contested primary was the 1972 U. S. Senate race, in which Gil Carmichael defeated James Meredith.

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link to the op-ed.


[1] Kentucky's party runoff provision is for the office of governor only. It took effect in 1995 and has never been used; it's likely to be eliminated before the 2011 state elections. Louisiana only has party runoffs for the U. S. Congress, since that state does not have party primaries for local or state offices.

[2] Georgia is the only state that has party primaries AND runoff general elections. In the hotly-contested December 2, 2008 runoff general election for U. S. senator, the turnout was 54 percent of the turnout for the November 4 general election.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hawaii Republicans Fail to Act on Open Primary

The Hawaii Republican Party held its state convention on the weekend of May 15-17. Ballot Access News is now reporting that a proposed resolution calling for a semi-closed primary did not reach the floor for a vote. Some party members want to be able to block Democrats from voting in GOP primaries.

Hawaii is currently one of eight states with "open primary, private choice." There is no party registration, and each primary voter picks a party in the secrecy of the voting booth.

The challenge of Idaho's state-mandated open primary (Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa) is pending in U. S. district court. A ruling should shortly be handed down in that case.

Also, the Greenville County (SC) Republican Party recently filed suit in federal district court against South Carolina's open primary law (Harms v. Hudgens).

Hawaii's Republican state executive committee could bring a lawsuit against the state-mandated open primary. So could the Hawaii County GOP, which unanimously approved a resolution for a semi-closed primary. It seems unlikely, however, that any such action will be taken before a decision comes down in the Idaho case (both Hawaii and Idaho are part of the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals).

From the Hawaii Free Press: "A second proposal backed unanimously by the Hawaii County Republican Convention — to establish a [semi]-closed Primary system for the [nomination] of non-Presidential Republican candidates – was not forwarded to the State Convention by the Hawaii GOP Rules Committee. Its backers are continuing to work for approval at a future convention."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pete Hamill on A. J. Liebling

The Library of America interviews Pete Hamill about A. J. Liebling (1904-1963):

Liebling: The Sweet Science and Other Writings is The Library of America’s second Liebling volume. The first collected his wartime correspondence and his postwar memoir, Normandy Revisited. This new volume collects the five non-war books Liebling wrote after returning from overseas. How is his writing here different from the first volume?

In this volume we see Liebling’s writing expand with the confidence, delight, and exuberance of the years after the war. In some ways, the style is more baroque, perhaps idiosyncratic, but that was true to Liebling’s character. He was a gourmand of words, in addition to food. He could be feisty: you see that in "The Wayward Pressman" columns collected in The Press. And he retained his taste for "low" culture too: boxers and corner men, con men and cigar store owners, political hacks and hack drivers. They’re all celebrated in these pages. It was no accident that when Albert Camus came for the first time to New York in 1946, Liebling didn’t guide him through the Metropolitan Museum. He took him to Sammy’s Bowery Follies. Camus was enthralled.

In January 2003 Sports Illustrated ranked The Sweet Science as #1 of the 100 best sports books ever, hailing Liebling as "pound for pound the top boxing writer of all time.… Liebling’s writing is efficient yet stylish, acerbic yet soft and sympathetic." What makes Liebling’s writing on boxing so great?

Above all, he had sympathy for the fighters, and those rogues and craftsmen who helped shape them. As a young man, Liebling had taken his own lessons as a boxer. He learned the hard way how difficult an apprenticeship each fighter must serve, how much skill was involved, how much discipline and will. He knew that the toughest prizefighters could be the gentlest of men. He knew that the toughness they exemplified was not the same as meanness, nor still another version of the loudmouth with a pea-sized heart. The prizefighter was a living example of the stoic virtues Liebling saw growing up in New York, then during the Depression, and most of all, among those who fought World War II. He expressed that sympathy without ever lapsing into sentimentality.

The period The Sweet Science covers, from June 1951 to September 1955, seems to have been a golden age of boxing. Liebling gets to witness the twilight of Joe Louis, the rise of Rocky Marciano, the comeback of Sugar Ray Robinson, the enigma of Archie Moore, and the dramatic ups and downs of the careers of Jersey Joe Walcott and Floyd Patterson. Liebling contends that television’s success in popularizing boxing also killed its local farm system. Do you agree? And is it the dramatis personae who make The Sweet Science so special?

Liebling was absolutely right about the collapse of the farm system. I was a young fight fan during that same period and saw fight cards at St. Nicholas Arena, the Eastern Parkway Arena, Sunnyside Gardens, and Fort Hamilton, in addition to the old Madison Square Garden. Within about ten years, most had vanished. Television was just one of the reasons. But also, the times had changed. The hard times of the thirties were good for boxing. The Great Depression toughened people. Fighters developed "heart," which meant learning how to absorb pain, not just inflict it. After the war everyone felt competitive and it took dozens of bouts for a fighter to get established. The great Sugar Ray Robinson had 70 fights over seven years before he got a title shot. The old pool of talent was changed too. Poor kids who might have become fighters now had other options, many of them flowing from the GI Bill. In the slums, heroin was working its evil ways.
By the 1970s, kids with 15 professional fights were fighting for championship titles and ending their careers at the age of 22. The level of skill that comes with experience inevitably began to fade. There’s no bench anymore and no way to find out who’s coming along. Almost nobody now can name the heavyweight champion of the world (there seem to be about four of them). The era of The Sweet Science was certainly a glorious and memorable time, but it wasn’t the only golden age. Unfortunately, Liebling only got to cover Ali’s early career and never witnessed the fierce tragedy of Mike Tyson.

There are so many choice pieces in this collection I have to ask whether you have any favorites?

The level of excellence is so high, I really don’t have a single favorite. Often, in need of a shot of vitamins, I take down any Liebling book, open it to a random page and start reading. Now I can do that with just this single volume or its predecessor containing his marvelous reporting on World War II. I cherish the entire Earl Long book, most of Between Meals, and the portrait of Colonel Stingo. Each boxing piece is superb, although I am always knocked over by his account of the Marciano-Moore fight ("Ahab and Nemesis") and his introduction to The Sweet Science. Even now, with newspapers vanishing everywhere, there is still much to be learned from his press pieces, not simply about the imperfect craft of writing and reporting, but about close reading. Joe Liebling died when he was 59. I wish he had lived to be 80.Read more>>>>

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Wheels for Welfare" in the People's Republic

The People's Republic of Massachusetts has a program called "Wheels for Welfare."

"... the keys to donated cars loaded with state-funded insurance, repairs and even AAA membership are handed out..."

The state is missing a great opportunity here to put unemployed chauffeurs to work driving these cars for the welfare recipients.

"... those who end up back on welfare [get] to keep the cars anyway.

"'It’s mind-boggling. You’ve got people out there saying, "I just lost my job. Hey, can I get a free car, too?"' said House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading)."

[... .]

"The state pays for the car’s insurance, inspection, excise tax, title, registration, repairs and a AAA membership for one year at a total cost of roughly $6,000 per car.

"The program, which started in 2006, distributes cars donated by non-profit charities... which also [do] the repair work on the car and [bill] the state."

Mitt Romney was still governor in 2006. He's also a big booster of the Massachusetts program which mandates that everyone have medical insurance.

"... about 20 percent of those who received a car ended up back on welfare, and while they lose the insurance and other benefits, they don’t have to return the car.

"'Given the state’s fiscal condition, paying for AAA and auto inspection costs is outrageous,' said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield). 'There are so many families out there trying to deal with layoffs and pay cuts. You have to wonder what the state’s priorities are at this point.'"

[... .]

"'I can’t believe there are no restrictions on how they use the car,' Jones said. 'I just don’t see this as a core function of government.'"

Since government furnishes food stamps, doesn't it make sense that government should also provide the recipients personal transportation to the grocery store? And once the medical care system has been nationalized, people are going to need a way to get to the doctor's office.

This article doesn't say anything about the makes of the cars. I wonder if Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Mercedes are available...

Here's the PDF of the Wheels for Welfare application process.

Thanks to Victor Jeffreys for the link.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Discovery of Freedom

From Mises.org:

What an American original was Rose Wilder Lane! What a treasure! She lived from 1886 until 1968, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and widely considered a silent collaborator on the Little House series. Regardless, she was a great intellectual, writer, and editor in her own right, and was even one of the highest paid writers in the US during her days as a journalist, war correspondent, and novelist.

[The Discovery of Freedom] is her non-fiction book (1943), one that had a huge impact on American libertarian thought in the 20th century. In fact, Robert LeFevre called it "one of the most influential books of the 20th century." [An excerpt]:

For sixty known centuries, multitudes of men have lived on this earth. Their situation has been the everlasting human situation. Their desire to live has been as strong as ours. Their energy has always been enough to make this earth at least habitable for human beings. Their intelligence has been great.

Yet for six thousand years, most men have been hungry. Famines have always killed multitudes, and still do over most of this earth. Ninety-five years ago, the Irish were starving to death; no one was surprised. Europeans had never expected to get from this earth enough food to keep them all alive.

Why did men die of hunger, for six thousand years?

Why did they walk, and carry goods and other men on their backs, for six thousand years, and suddenly, in one century, only on a sixth of this earth's surface, they make steamships, railroads, motors, airplanes, and now are flying around the earth in its utmost heights of air?

Why did families live six thousand years in floorless hovels, without windows or chimneys, then, in eighty years and only in these United States, they are taking floors, chimneys, glass windows for granted, and regarding electric lights, porcelain toilets, and window screens as minimum necessities?

Why did workers walk barefoot, in rags, with lousy hair and unwashed teeth, and workingmen wear no pants, for six thousand years, and here--in less than a century--silk stockings, lip sticks, permanent waves, sweaters, overcoats, shaving cream, safety razors. It's incredible.

For thousands of years, human beings use their energies in unsuccessful efforts to get wretched shelter and meager food. Then on one small part of the earth, a few men use their energies so effectively that three generations create a completely new world.

What explains this? Read more>>>>