when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for June 2016

There was a disparity between 3 judge panel rulings in the 5th circuit, both of which had examined abortion clinic cases and come up with a distinctly different result.  Both were on cert to the US Supreme Court, and the Court accepted the Texas case and ruled on it this week.  After it ruled on the Texas case, it denied cert on the Mississippi case.

While I will spend extra time over the weekend or early next week blogging on this, let me just say that both state legislatures were attempting to make it more difficult for women to obtain legal abortions by placing regulations on the clinic that appear not to be medically necessary.  So the Court reversed the 5th circuit’s Texas case.  State legislatures cannot “regulate” a clinic out of business in order to protect women as a pretext for simply denying a woman a right to an abortion.

More to come…


A CBS poll conducted the day after the Orlando shooting indicates that 57% of Americans want a nationwide ban on assault weapons. That’s up 13% since December of 2015.  Amazingly, the December ’15 poll, taken right after the San Bernardino shooting which killed 14 and wounded 21, marked the lowest level of public support for an assault weapons ban in 20 years of CBS poling on this issue.

Military style assault weapons, which appear to be the weapon of choice for public mass shootings in America, can hold lots of ammunition in one clip (usually 30 rounds) and can be reloaded with precision in just a few seconds.  These weapons are for killing people, not whitetail deer like we hunt in Mississippi.  A local journalist tweeted a day ago:  “My dad would have laughed in the face of any man who needed a semi-automatic weapon to hunt game.  Not a sportsman, nor a skilled hunter.”

We all know this.  NRA folks know that assault weapons are used to kill poople, not deer.  But their position is the “slippery slope” –a position many of us rail about when we fear we may lose a right we hold dear.

Democrats on the hill today attempted to bring up legislation supporting an assault weapon ban; they failed.  The last major assault weapon ban legislation was passed in 1994.  It expired in 2004 and no one seemed to notice.  Admittedly, most folks knowledgeable in both assault weapons and legislation indicated that the bill was poorly drafted and did not have the intended effect, which is why its expiration passed without much fanfare.

And then there is Donald Trump, saying that if folks at Pulse were carrying, the perpetrator would be dead at the hands of a Pulse patron and more other Pulse patrons would still be alive.  Of course, the confusion level at Pulse would have probably leveraged against the perpetrator being knocked off right away.  Fewer casualties?  We’ll never know.

I am a gun owner and have been trained in firearms technique.  And I truly believe that when you pull a gun on someone as a means of protecting yourself or others, you must be capable of shooting to kill.  Chest, chest, head. That’s what I was taught.   Always shoot 3 times.

But I don’t need a semi-automatic rifle to be a danger to myself or others.  I can do it with my 38, my car, that little chainsaw that I use for trimming the crepe myrtles; heaven knows how many other options I have.

The fact is– I don’t want to be a danger to myself or others.  And neither do most of you reading this post.

It is our culture that is at issue, not guns per se.  Do I object to a ban on assault weapons.  No.  (Well, I’d at least like to shoot one first just for grins — at a range.)  But I do object to crazy people with any type of weapon.

Looking at the mass shootings of recent years, actually starting with the Pearl school shooting, what we find is that it is the mental capacity of the shooter, not the weapon, that is the problem.

There are a lot of folks out there who have been shut out of the mental health care they need because of budget cuts — on the federal, state and local level.  I think ill people kill us — with guns or anything else they choose to use.

That is the problem to solve.

So, ladies and gentlemen, you may or may not like her, but we have a woman presidential nominee for the first time since the history of the nation.  The only thing that has come close to this in the past was in 1964 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco when Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s name was put in nomination for the GOP presidential post — being the first woman whose name was ever placed in consideration to be nominee of a national party.  Fifty-two (52) years ago.

I feel like standing on the rooftop and screaming:  “IN MY LIFETIME…”

Which leads me to my rant…

As many of you who follow this blog know, I am a lawyer.  And after I fought my own battles in the ’70s and ’80s, in the ’90s I felt like I had the time and expertise to try to give back to younger women lawyers if they expressed a desire for my help and advice.  I have always found this an extremely pleasurable experience.  In a field that still remains a “man’s” — I see these young women taking natural strides to become bar leaders in the twenty-first century.

But here is what I learned while I was trying to mentor these incredibly bright young women.  What they didn’t know…..

They didn’t know that there was not a woman in the US Congress until 1916 (Jeannette Rankin, who voted against going to both WWI and WWII); that there was not a woman Governor of a state until 1922 (Nellie Tayloe Ross, WY); that there was not a woman US Senator until 1931 (Hallie Carraway); that there was not a woman presidential cabinet member until 1933 (Frances Perkins); that there was not a woman US Supreme Court Justice until 1981 (Sandra Day O’Connor); and that there was not a woman Speaker of the US House of Representatives until 2007 (Nancy Pelosi).

Moreover, they didn’t know that in 1873 our US Supreme Court ruled that married women can be excluded from practicing law; that the term “feminism” didn’t exist until 1911;  that the first birth control clinic in the US was established in 1916; that the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced into Congress in 1923; that women could not serve in the military until 1942; that women were not “allowed” by the US Supreme Court to serve on juries until 1947; that birth control pills were not approved for sale in the US until 1960; that the Civil Rights Act and Title VII, which prohibit employment discrimination based on (among other things”) sex, was not adopted until 1964 — nor that the the Senator who amended the legislation to add “sex” intended for this addition to cause the legislation to fail.

They don’t know that the US Supreme Court didn’t rule that married couples could use birth control until 1965; that the first state in the US to legalize abortion was California, in 1967; that MS Magazine debuted in 1971; that Title IX was passed in 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in public education; that Roe v. Wade granted all women in the US abortion rights in 1973; that in 1973 the US Supreme Court ordered a ban on sex categorizing in newspaper employment ads; that in 1974 the Equal Credit Opportunity Act forbade sexual discrimination in the credit industry (before that, your mom or grandmom — if lucky enough to have credit in her own name — used the name of Mrs. Tom Jones, not Lucy Jones); that in 1975 the US Supreme Court ruled that states MUST allow women jurors; that the US military academies opened admission to women in 1976; or that Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to prohibit job discrimination against pregnant women.

They didn’t know that in 1981 the US Supreme Court ruled that women could be excluded from military draft; that in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space; that in 1984, the Supreme Court forbade sex discrimination in social and other organizations (Jaycees, Rotary, etc.); that a hostile work environment was not recognized to qualify as sex discrimination until 1986; that the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993; that in 1994, obstruction of an abortion clinic became a federal crime; that in 1996 both the Citadel and Virginia Military Academy (VMI) had to begin to admit women..and that was only 20 years ago.

X-ers and Millennials just don’t know how really recent and hard fought are the things that they take for granted.  They don’t realize that America is one Supreme Court Justice away from outlawing abortions in this country.

So as much as I want to see a woman president of the United States in my lifetime, I also want to see a group of X-ers and Millennials who understand and appreciate the fight that continues for their rights and for mine.

Ladies, DO NOT TAKE IT FOR GRANTED.  Get involved.

Just this morning, I was reading an introduction that Greg Iles had written to a book, Must See Mississippi:  50 Favorite Places, text by Mary Carol Miller and photographs by Mary Rose Carter.  Iles was talking about growing up in Mississippi, where most contemporary “styles” appeared here about 15 years late.  About movies that our picture shows wouldn’t run…about music that our radio stations wouldn’t play — even if Mississippians were making that music.

So, we have no need to worry about UBI, but I just want to take a minute to blog about it anyway.

Several months ago, I started a series of (much interrupted blogs) about how we really can’t put a name on ourselves (Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc.) because we feel very different things about different issues, making most of us a jambalaya of thoughts, feelings and positions — would that we examine ourselves closely. And while this is, in many ways, a slight deviation (one of many) on this series, let’s take a moment to think about UBI.

Yesterday Switzerland voted on a referendum which, had it passed (which it did not) would provide approximately $2,500 a month for adults and $625 for children — a baseline income (a “universal basic income” — UBI).

So we won’t be there in Mississippi for the 15 years Iles talks about — or maybe even 150 years — but what in the world?

This is at least the 2nd time Switzerland had such a referendum (another was held in 2014, but it was defeated, also).  Granted, it is fairly easy to get a referendum on the ballot in Switzerland (it only takes 100,000 petition signatures), but the point is that the idea has not gone away from 2014 to 2016. And the news about Switzerland’s referendum results only highlights a consensus in America that our current welfare system is not working.  Michael Tanner says that local, state and federal governments spend about $1 trillion a year on anti-poverty programs that seem not to make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

There is no doubt that, with the Sanders’ influence on the Democratic party, UBI or some of its counterparts (universal grants, negative income tax, wage supplements, enhanced minimum wages, vouchers) will make an appearance on the political stage in the US.  But let’s be sensible.  We don’t want to make a bigger mess in an attempt to assist the lowest income folks in our nation.  Let’s watch until we find several examples of implementation that have significant follow-through studies.  Let’s find out how to do it right, or not do it at all.  Let’s find a working model before we worry about finding a method for implementation and payment.

Perhaps cutting off all methods of assistance except a UBI would be the thing to do.  It would be recognizing that Americans believe all Americans are responsible beings.  They aren’t.  It would recognize that — aside from the UBI — there would be no safety net except what might be provided by eleemosynary institutions.  Do we trust ourselves and our fellow Americans that much?  Because once we find a way to fund a UBI, there will be no money left for other services.

So, how do you feel about UBI?  And does that make you a liberal, a conservative, a do-good-er or a cynic?

This started out to be a “patriotic” blog — I missed Memorial Day this year, and thought it fitting to do a Memorial Day blog late.  After all, we should remember those who have paid the price for our freedom every day.

But I think what happened is really a motivation blog — urging you to attack what you can in your little neck of the woods.  I want to share 3 quotes from 3 very different individuals:

“America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”  Harry S. Truman

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”  Robert F. Kennedy

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”  Ronald Reagan

The fact is that each of us can do a little something to improve our little neck of the woods.  What is important to each of us is not similar.  But if it is important to you, it needs to be dealt with.  Each of us, acting individually and as a group, make the changes that change the world.

What are you talking about at your dinner table?

The case of McDonald v. Chicago (2010) is the reasonable followup to District of Columbia v. Heller.  After the dust settled from the Heller opinion, individuals began to wonder if the opinion applied to the isolated and individualistic federal jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, or whether it also applied to the states.  McDonald answered that question.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms is incorporated and applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.  In other words, YES, Heller applies not only to DC but to the 50 states.

McDonald challenged a Chicago ordinance that was established to prevent a person from possessing “any firearm” unless the person was the holder of a valid registration certificate for that particular firearm.

The dissenters noted 4 reasons that the majority (in applying the 2nd Amendment to the states through the due process clause) erred:

  1.  Private gun regulation is the quintessential exercise of state police power.
  2. Determining the constitutionality of a particular state gun law requires finding answers to complex empirically based questions of a kind that legislators are better able than courts to make.
  3. States and local communities have historically differed about the need for gun regulation as well as about its proper level.
  4. Although incorporation of any right removes decisions from the democratic process, the incorporation of this particular right does so without strong offsetting justification.

So, how do you feel about the McDonald decision?  It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  The “left” on the Court is championing states rights, while the “right” on the Court is imposing an overreaching  federalism on them.

Have you ever heard that name?  Elizabeth Jennings Graham sued the New York Third Avenue Railway Company in 1854 for ejecting her from a train-car because she was an African American.  At this particular time in the history of transportation in New York, an African American could ride on New York City streetcars only if no white passenger protested.

Although no white passenger protested the presence of Elizabeth or her African American friend, Sarah Adams — both young women headed to church, the conductor attempted to eject them both.  Elizabeth resisted.  A policeman came on board to help the conductor, and both of them were able to push her off the streetcar and onto the street.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham didn’t take her ejection lying down.  She wrote a letter about this experience to Frederick Douglass, who published her letter in a number of abolitionist publications he managed.  Horace Greeley published the letter in his New York Tribune.

Graham hired a young attorney, Chester A. Arthur, to sue the Third Avenue Railway Company.  The case was duly won and Graham awarded $225 in damages.  However, it was another 20 years before segregation was ended on New York’s streetcars.

This action occurred a full 100 years before Rosa Parks took action which began the Montgomery bus boycott.  Yet, her name is not nearly so familiar to us today.  Graham died in 1901.  She had been a teacher, had established one of the first kindergartens for African American children in Brooklyn, New York, which she continued to run until her death.

So the next time you think of Rosa Parks, remember Elizabeth Jennings Graham as well.

June 2016
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