Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In the aftermath of the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that have been spent on President Obama’s stimulus package, as well as bailouts for the nation’s financial institutions and automotive industries, I suppose that we should never be surprised over what will come next as the President and his congressional allies proceed to remake America to fit their own socialistic views. Still, I was astonished when I read the following headline of Michael O’Brien’s September 20, 2009, article in THE HILL, a Washington publication: “OBAMA OPEN TO NEWSPAPER BAILOUT BILL.” Surely, I said to myself, America has not come to this – where we must try to bailout newspapers or any other organization that takes our fancy, all in the name of “the vital interests of the nation”.

According to O’Brien’s article, United States Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) had introduced S.673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act”. This proposed legislation would provide tax relief to news organizations, such as the NEW YORK TIMES and others, if they would convert to nonprofit organizations with Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. In other words, if financially troubled news organizations would abandon the necessity of making a profit in order to exist, the government would come to the rescue. No doubt, the government would also impose restrictions or establish guidelines on what news could be reported or commented upon, just as it has established guidelines for the nation’s financial institutions and automotive industries.

President Obama was quoted as saying that he would be “happy to look at” the proposed legislation and that good journalism is “critical to the health of our democracy”. He was also “concerned” about the growing trend of reporting – especially the political blogs, which he stated result in “not a lot of mutual understanding”.

After reading O’Brien’s article, I put it aside for further consideration at some later date, hoping the whole concept would go away. Then, on October 21, 2009, I came across an article by Seth Lipsky in the WALL STREET JOURNAL entitled “ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO SUBSIDIZE”. He reported that Leonard Downie, a former executive editor of the WASHINGTON POST (and one who had once publicly refused to vote so that he would not be improperly influenced in his zeal to report the news) had issued a written report for the Columbia Journalism School and came out in favor of government subsidies for the press. His report was entitled “THE RECONSTRUCTION OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM”.

In reading Lipsky’s article, I learned that direct government subsidies are indeed given to newspapers in some European countries, and that advocates of such a practice argue that government support for news reporting should not be precluded “anymore than it has for the arts, the humanities, and sciences, all of which receive some government support”.

There is no doubt that many news organizations are suffering financially at the present time. There is also no doubt that a free press is vital to our society or that freedom of the press and free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In my view, a free press cannot be maintained in any news organization that accepts government subsidies of any kind. Whether Senator Cardin’s proposed legislation (or any similar legislation) should receive serious consideration is a subject that all of our news organizations, both locally and nationally, should be questioned about. They should publically comment on the subject – loud and clear – before any attempt is made to pass such legislation and before the general public is made fully aware of the implications of this latest attempt to “reconstruct” America

Friday, October 16, 2009



O Lord,

Let chaos ensue, so that thy servant might prosper. (Lawyer’s prayer)

It has been said that the redistricting process, through which controversies erupt among the political parties and various political factions in every state legislature, is a lawyer’s dream. And, in states which have bicameral legislatures, where the members fail to reach agreement on the reapportionment of both houses of the legislature (in compliance with one man, one vote guidelines), the courts will surely be asked to step in and do the job for them. The same is of course true for a unicameral state legislature as well.

Such a situation occurred in Mississippi in 1991, where, according to an article dated September 1, 2009, in the North Mississippi Daily Journal, “[r]acial politics, a speaker’s race and other factors prevented the Legislature from reaching agreement. The issue ended up in federal court with the legislators running in 1991 under the old districts and again in 1992 under the new districts.”

Court action was necessary again in 2001 when Mississippi lost a congressman and the boundary lines of Mississippi’s remaining four congressional districts had to be drawn, with each having roughly the same population figures. The Democratic House of Representatives in the State Legislature, and the Republican – leaning Senate, failed to reach agreement on congressional reapportionment and the courts, once again, drew the lines. However, the Democrats in 2000 and 2001 cleverly anticipated that the Mississippi Legislators would not agree on congressional redistricting and filed their lawsuit asking for judicial reapportionment prior to the time the legislators convened to consider redistricting. The Democrats also uniquely filed their case in the friendly confines of a heavily Democratic county judicial district and asked the locally elected judge to congressionally reapportion the entire State of Mississippi, should the legislature fail to agree on reapportionment when they convened months later.

After the Mississippi Legislature convened in 2001, the House and Senate deadlocked and failed, as anticipated, to agree on the new congressional boundaries. Another lawsuit was then filed by others in a federal court, and the State’s two major political parties were each named as defendants. The federal court was also asked to redraw the congressional boundaries.

All of the judicial maneuvering in 2001 resulted in two expensive trials - one before a local state court judge and the other before a three - judge federal panel. Both cases “went the distance” – one to the United States Supreme Court and the other to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Only after this titanic struggle were Mississippi’s current congressional boundaries finally drawn.

An ironic side show to the congressional litigation in 2001 occurred when the State Legislators did agree that year on the reapportionment of the Legislative Districts of their members in both the State House of Representatives and the State Senate. Through remarkable compromises among the legislative representatives of the two political parties and the Legislative Black Caucus, the Legislators drew crazy-quilt district lines for themselves that totally ignored regional and historic boundaries or geographical communities of interest.

The end result of the efforts of the State Legislators to redistrict themselves was shocking, to put it mildly. Over 100 “split voting precincts” were created in the legislative races in the Republican–friendly State Senate and over 400 such split precincts were created in the Democratic–dominated House of Representatives. Some of these “split voting precincts” were split four ways, which means that those precincts were split or fragmented in the legislative races to require four separate ballots for four separate legislative elections to be voted on in a single precinct, depending on the fragmented voter rolls prepared for that precinct – all in the name of the one man, one vote reapportionment guidelines. The end result, of course, was voter confusion, a nightmare for election officials, and an open invitation for voter fraud.

In summary, the Mississippi Legislature in 2001(also the year of the September 11, 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center)incredibly created Legislative Districts that resulted in split precincts in no less than one-fifth (1/5) of the State’s 2000 voting precincts. Additional precinct splits occurred later when the State’s 82 Counties were also forced to “reapportion” their local government boundary lines for the county elections occurring simultaneously with the legislative races.

Mississippians have had to live with the reapportionment actions of the Mississippi Legislature in 2001, and the same forces are in positions of leadership in the Legislature as they face a reapportionment of their Legislative Districts in 2011. Will the State Legislators in Mississippi in 2011, or the state legislators in any state, make statesman–like efforts to respect historical boundaries and geographic communities of interest as they approach redistricting in 2011 and 2012? Only their barbers and hairdressers know for sure.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I had intended to continue today my discussion of the redistricting process that will affect how we vote when the new census figures arrive in 2011. However, alarm bells went off for me when I read the October 5, 2009, article in the POLITICO by Manu Raju and Jonathan Martin, which is entitled “ GOP LEADERS TO MICHAEL STEELE: BACK OFF”. “According to multiple people familiar with the meeting”, several Republican leaders in Congress, including House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, delivered a “blunt message” to Michael Steele, recently elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee, to quit meddling in policy issues such as health care, and focus on fundraising, the upcoming governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia, and other political matters.

According to “unnamed sources”, Steele was “taken aback” by the criticism of his actions and grew defensive in a “heated discussion”. He said that he was getting asked where the GOP stood on a range of issues and “wanted to respond to those questions.” Later, Republican Senators downplayed the differences of the participants in the meeting, but Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee stated that the “point” of the discussion was that elected Congressional Republicans should set policy, while the RNC’s role was to “create an environment in which Republicans can be elected to set policy.” He expressed confidence that Chairman Steele understood the proper role of the RNC and that…“ I think we see eye to eye on it.”

In a follow-up article in the POLITICO on October 6, 2009, Chairman Steele said that “the continuing unease over his leadership owed to some [Capital} Hill aides ‘who clearly had a bug up their you know what.”

Only those present know precisely what was said at that “private” session of our Republican leaders, which was apparently leaked to the press to further someone’s private agenda. However, one thing is crystal clear: if Republicans want to make large gains in the congressional elections in 2010, Congressional Republicans and the Chairman of the RNC (and their aides) must find a way to effectively work together to achieve that goal.

It is true that vast numbers of Americans are extremely upset and frustrated with the direction our country is taking under the leadership of the Obama Administration, both on the domestic front as well as in the foreign policy arena. Enthusiasm is building toward a consensus that we made a terrible mistake in the last election by placing our trust in leaders that wish to replace the principles upon which the nation was built with a socialistic form of government. Still, the people will not fully place their trust in 2010 in a political party where its leaders are not fully united and seem to be more intent on bickering among themselves, rather than on responding to the pleas of those attending the tea parties.

In the period leading up to the midterm congressional elections during the first term of the Clinton Administration, Congressional Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, sounded the alarm and trumpeted their “contract for America” – a clear manifesto of what they were for and what they were against. They were aided in this effort by Haley Barbour, who was serving at the time as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. There was no highly publicized internal bickering because they were united in an urgent effort to re-establish Republican principles and defeat the Democrats. The Congressional Republicans and the RNC Chairman embraced each other and praised each other. They were united.

The leadership and unity displayed by the Congressional Republicans and Haley Barbour during the Clinton Administration is the type of leadership we need today in Washington. Without it, the Republican Party – and the nation – will continue to suffer.

Search This Blog