Monday, June 17, 2013
The Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings on the two cases by the end of June 2013.
Photos by Ashton E. Pittman.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
A Peek Into Pro-Life Paradise is a warning of what a Tea Party dominated Mississippi might someday mean for women in our state. If Proposition 26 – which Governor Phil Bryant championed – had passed in 2011, this story of one young woman in El Salvador could have easily become the story of women throughout Mississippi:
There, a woman named Beatriz spent months languishing near death. Her kidneys were shutting down. She has lupus. She's 22 years old with an infant and a husband at home in rural El Salvador.
The problem? A high-risk pregnancy exacerbating her existing health conditions, with a fetus that was anencephalic - meaning it was developing with only a brainstem and no brain, and was unlikely to survive for more than a few hours outside of the womb, if at all. Doctors confirmed that to save Beatriz, they needed to terminate her pregnancy. [...]
Most people would agree that Beatriz is a reasonable exception to abortion restrictions. But El Salvador legally abides by the pro-life manifesto that abortion is murder, and is never medically necessary to save a woman's life. On May 29, the country's highest court agreed, denying Beatriz the procedure - ruling that her death "is not actual or imminent, but rather eventual."
So since Beatriz would likely die in a few days or weeks instead of hours, it was acceptable to do nothing, the court said . . . For good measure, the court added that "the rights of the mother cannot be privileged over those" of the fetus.Meanwhile, Phil Bryant's abstinence-only policies have done nothing to reduce teen pregnancy in the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate. But now Phil, who last year eschewed the need for comprehensive sex-ed by blaming teenagers ("the problem is teenagers do not care enough" to use birth control), has another brilliant idea that totally avoids doing anything to actually reduce teen pregnancy. Once again, Bryant is proposing a policy that, instead of educating, seeks to punish sex in a way that is invasive to young women:
Mississippi will require doctors to collect umbilical cord blood from babies born to some young mothers, under a new law intended to identify statutory rapists and reduce the state's rate of teenage pregnancy, the highest in the country.
The measure, which takes effect on July 1 and is the first of its kind in the country, targets certain mothers who were 16 or younger at the time of conception. Under the law, doctors and midwives will be expected to retrieve umbilical cord blood in cases where the father is 21 or older or when the baby's paternity is in question.
Samples will be stored at the state medical examiner's office for testing in the event that police believe the girl was the victim of statutory rape. But they will not automatically be entered into the state's criminal DNA database.
Governor Phil Bryant said, "As governor, I am serious about confronting and reducing teen pregnancy in Mississippi. Unfortunately, part of this epidemic is driven by sexual offenders who prey on young girls. This measure provides law enforcement with another tool to help identify these men and bring them to justice."The Clarion-Ledger writes about the Democratic revival in Mississippi following the party's success in last week's municipal elections:
[T]he Democratic victories were notable. They showed the state party is getting its act together after years of disarray. It’s fielding better candidates and starting to raise money again, and it’s joining the modern century in technology and tactics. And, for the first time in many years, the party appears to be developing an overall strategy and formula to help campaigns. Plus, successful young Democratic mayors can be a “farm team” for future, higher offices, something the party has lacked in recent years.
“I’m not going to oversell it,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole. “Democrats had a great day, but we have a great way to go. It’s an exciting time. There’s never been on the Democratic side any concentrated, organized focus from the state level, at least since I’ve been involved. I think we are seeing the healthy maturation in Mississippi to a two-party system.”Mississippi is the third deadliest state in the country for teen drivers, but the number of deaths has gone down since the introduction of the texting ban that took effect in 2009. From the Clarion-Ledger:
Mississippi is ranked the third deadliest for teen drivers in the nation and the deadliest among the Southern states.
The leading cause of death for Mississippi’s teens is auto accidents. The next two leading causes — homicide and suicide — combined don’t come close to the numbers.
Yet as damning as those facts are, the number of teen traffic fatalities actually has gone down over the last few years. [...]
Mississippi has seen a decline in fatalities of 15- to 19-year-olds for the last several years, from 103 in 2009 to 52 in 2012. Some highway safety officials have credited the decline to the state’s graduated driver’s license program for youth and the texting ban for drivers with permits or intermediate licenses, both measures that went into effect in 2009.The Economist has an article examining the rapid depopulation of the Delta, pointing to globalization as a possible source of problem:
THE imposing synagogue on Main Street in Greenville, with its classical portico, raised cupola and shimmering stained glass, was built in 1906 to accommodate several hundred worshippers. In a good week these days, a custodian says, 12 people show up for Friday service, and several of them are in their 90s. The four classrooms for religious instruction now cater to just three children. The rest of the Jewish community has died or drifted away to other, richer parts of the country.
It is not just Jews who have left the Delta, a fertile alluvial plain in Mississippi and adjacent parts of Arkansas and Louisiana. Since 1940, the region’s population has fallen by almost half. In some counties it has fallen by much more (see map). That makes it the most glaring example of a growing trend around the country: rural depopulation. Over the past two years the total population of rural America has fallen for the first time since the Census Bureau began tracking it in the 1970s, albeit by just a fraction. The majority of rural counties—1,261 out of a total of 1,976—had shrinking headcounts. [...]
More recently local factories have been closing, overcome by foreign competition. Greenwood, another Delta town, lost piano, zipper and tyre factories, among others. Chicot County lost several catfish farms, a factory making catfish feed and another making gloves. The advent of several casinos, two on riverboats and one on dry land, brought some hope of revival to Greenville. But one of them recently closed and the others are bringing fewer visitors and less revenue into the city than residents hoped.The Sun Herald declares that print journalism isn't dead – at least, not in Mississippi:
A study of Mississippi media usage just completed by American Opinion Research for the Mississippi Press Association found seven of every 10 Mississippi adults read a newspaper, either in print or online. That's pretty consistent with national research and reflects the Sun Herald's own documented South Mississippi audience, which has never been larger.
Moreover, half of all Mississippi adults read a printed daily or Sunday newspaper, which will surprise many who thought print was dead.
The Sun Herald has never bought into that notion and remains committed to delivering a print edition every morning to homes across South Mississippi.I also highly suggest reading The Washington Post's beautiful reporting by Eli Saslow reporting on life after Newtown for the parents of Daniel Barden. It's a terribly heart-wrenching read: After Newtown Shooting, Mourning Parents Enter Into the Lonely Quiet.
That's it for the roundup for today. If you know of any interesting, relevant articles that should be added to this roundup or a future round up, feel free to post a link in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
|Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R)|
The program costs $7.6 million a year to operate, but saves the state around $38 million a year in inmate housing and related costs. But without action from the Governor or the state legislature, felony drug courts will receive a 25% reduction in funding while juvenile drug courts will be cut 58%. Municipal, Justice, and Family Drug Courts will no longer receive funding, The Clarion-Ledger Reports:
“It is a sad day for juveniles in the state of Mississippi, as the children who need our services the most will receive the least,” [Rankin County Judge Tom Broome] said.
The committee has asked that funding for the drug courts be included in any special legislative session call. But Broome said no one from the governor’s office has indicated that a call for a special session will be made or that drug court funding will be included.
Increased funding for drug courts was attached to two bills this past legislative session, but the legislation didn’t survive, leaving a roughly $3.6 million deficit in the drug court program for the upcoming budget year.In moral and pragmatic terms, the decision by our Tea Party dominated state legislature and the Governor not to act to save these programs is wrong. Not only do our state's drug courts keep thousands of Mississippians out of our oftentimes barbaric prison system, but they save our state many times what they cost us.
Logically, it makes no sense not to save the drug court program. Unless, of course, allegiance to Mississippi's for-profit private prison industry is more compelling for our "leaders" and lawmakers than keeping our state's youth off drugs and out of prison.
Governor Bryant, if you truly believe in "Christian values" or "family values," you will act to save our state's drug courts. The same goes for our "Christian" legislature.
The solitary confinement unit of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility is a house of horrors where "prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their basic human rights are violated daily," according to a class action lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In some ways, the transgressions at EMCF dwarf those of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Rats crawl out of broken toilets and into the beds of prisoners. Prisoners engage in extreme forms of self-mutilation, such as ingesting glass shards or electrocution. Feces, urine, vomit, and other wastes cover the floor. Prisoners are forced to use trash bags for months at a time in absence of functioning toilets.
Prisoners with medical emergencies frequently set fires to get the attention of guards, who otherwise ignore them. The frequency of the fires causes black mucous to flow from the noses of inmates. Prisoners who are not already severely insane are eventually driven there, and many attempt or succeed at committing suicide.
Those are just a few of the "gross inhumane conditions" described by the ACLU and SPLC in the lawsuit filed against the EMCF on May 30. The lawsuit alleges that high-ranking officials from the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) have been aware of these conditions for years, but have done nothing to remedy these clear human rights abuses.
The prison is operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a private, for-profit prison corporation which is contracted by MDOC to operate the facility. Previously, it was operated by another private company, the Florida-based GEO GROUP. According to EMCF Warden Frank Shaw, the facility is a "much better place" under MTC management than it was under GEO GROUP. Plaintiffs find this characterization ludicrous:
“We were there two weeks ago,” said Jody Owens, director of the SPLC’s Jackson office. “This is happening right now.”
[MTC spokesperson Issa Arnita] and Shaw don’t deny that there are present issues at the prison but stand strong with their position that conditions have improved.
“Do we still have issues? Sure. It’s a prison. It’s the nature of the business,” said Shaw. “But we do everything we can to make it better for the offenders and the employees.”The lawsuit describes a culture of violence that officers allow to fester and even encourage:
[Within 24 hours of arriving] in the zone, [William Eastwood] was met by eight prisoners who escorted him into an empty cell where they beat and robbed him. His assailants told him that if he reported the beatings, they would place him on KOS (kill-on-sight) status. Later, he was taken to a different cell where he was forced to perform oral sex on one of his assailants. He was later anally raped four or five times by an attacker who held Mr. Easterwood captive with a store-bought butcher knife while snorting lines of cocaine between the rapes to help maintain an erection. When Mr. Easterwood attempted to get help from an officer, his assailant intervened and told the officer that everything was OK. The officer left and the violence continued.And because the very nature of private businesses like MCT includes cutting corners to maximize profit, inadequate medical staff results in patients with obvious medical emergencies going untreated and dying in the facility:
Medical staff has ignored gangrenous wounds. One prisoner's scrotum swelled to the size of a softball before revealing a hard knot in his testicle. He was denied timely proper care for weeks and was later diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his abdomen. Another prisoner is now legally blind after being denied treatment for glaucoma. Last month, staff placed a prisoner with a large, open wound in a cell in a filth-ridden solitary confinement unit. He developed life-threatening infection and required emergency surgery.The lawsuit describes numerous other incidences of mentally ill patients being forced to suffer in deplorable conditions at the hands of the private for-profit monster with no action from our well-aware state officials.
Correctional News notes:
Shaw also commented in a statement that many of the inmates that are listed on the lawsuit are among the prison’s most severe cases and described them as men who have assaulted staff, been caught with contraband and don’t function well in the normal inmate population.So, Shaw is saying, the treatment described in the lawsuit is defensible because those particular mentally ill patients "assaulted staff" or "had been caught with contraband." Clearly, Mr. Shaw has no understanding of the meaning of "human rights" nor of the United States Constitution.
"Evil" seems to be the only word that is sufficient to describe the depravity of a system like the one at the corporate controlled East Mississippi Correctional Facility. Where is the accountability, and how can our government continue to allow such atrocities to continue in the name of corporate profit?
Friday, June 7, 2013
The American Prospect this week began its Solid South series, which focuses on the South's emergent progress majority. In this inaugural entry, the Prospect exams why the South is a ticking time bomb for Republicans:
The final rally of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign took place on symbolically charged ground: the rolling fields of Manassas, site of the first major battle of the Civil War. It was the last stop on an election eve spent entirely in the South: Jacksonville, Charlotte, and finally Northern Virginia. In the autumn chill, an estimated 90,000 people spread out across the county fairgrounds and waited for hours to cheer a new president—and a new South. [...]
That emerging South was arrayed in the dark hills around Obama as he flashed into the spotlight. On soil where whites once fought to the death for the right to enslave blacks, this throng had gathered to hail the soon-to-be first black man to be elected president. The next day, Obama carried all three of his Southern targets—55 electoral votes for the party. For Southerners, the message was unmistakable: The future has arrived. The Solid South is dead.The Washington Post published an intimate article about Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, following the invocation she gave at the University of Mississippi's graduation ceremony in May:
“We have been linked together through all that has happened in this state of Mississippi,” she says from behind the podium at Ole Miss, her contralto soaring over the multiracial crowd of 21,000. “There are those who worked and who still work to see that Mississippi rises from the very bottom of what people think to the very top of what America can be, and that is what you represent.Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey L. Cole has called for Governor Phil Bryant to apologize for his sexist comments about working moms. He is also calling for Bryant to start by supporting a Lilly Ledbetter Act for Mississippi:
. . . I choose to think, [you are] not a part of the problem but a part of the solution because education-wise you are at the top. Emotionally that’s still being worked on. And let’s be honest, we know that. But I believe. I believe in the state of Mississippi, that it can become a better place.”
Just exactly how out of touch with reality does a candidate have to be in order to become the Republican governor of Mississippi? Throughout the two hundred year history of our state, most mothers have been forced by necessity to work as breadwinners for their families. Whether that work took place in the fields, in the logwoods, as domestic workers, as teachers, as nurses, as factory workers, in food service, in retail or in many other fields of arduous work, the mothers of Mississippi have been bringing home the bacon since Mississippi began. The 1950’s “Father Knows Best” picket fence middle-class family myth has never been an option for most Mississippians. A lot more Mississippi mothers have had callouses of hard work than have ever had manicures. The “happy housewife” has always been the exception in hard-times Mississippi, and if Mr. Bryant had been paying attention to most of the lives of most of the people of this state, he would know that.
On behalf of Mississippi Democrats, I salute and express profound appreciation to the generations of working mothers who have done so much to build the economy, society and culture of our state. It has been the working mothers who have seen to the education of their children and the children of many others, as well. It is the working mothers of today who are providing the labor and leadership essential to making Mississippi a better place, when even now working women are making only seventy-seven cents on the dollar when compared to men. The working mothers of our state deserve a state leadership that will fight for equal pay for equal work, instead of allowing this insulting income gap to continue while blaming hard-working mothers for the failures of our educational system.
Phil Bryant owes the working mothers of our state an apology. A good first step in that apology would be for him to support a Lilly Ledbetter Act for Mississippi.The Daily Beast thinks Mississippi's Governor Has Some Bad Ideas. We can't really disagree there:
By several objective measures, Mississippi is one of our worst states. It has the nation’s highestpoverty rate, its second-highest teen pregnancy rate, and its highest teen birth rate. AnEducation Week report ranks its schools 48 out of 50. Only Louisiana locks up a higher percentage of its people. Its infant mortality rate—9.67 deaths per 1,000 live births, the highest in the nation—is close to Botswana’s. Its life expectancy is the lowest in America and lower than those of Guatemala or Pakistan. Few states invest less in public education or public health. If it were an independent country, we’d consider it part of the Third World.Bob Wing at the Institute for Southern Studies has an intriguing article on Jackson's newly elected African American mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, whose Civil Rights era activism caused a divide among progressives in the area:
Chokwe Lumumba -- a founder and leader of the Republic of New Afrika, the New Afrikan People's Organization and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, defense attorney for Tupac Shakur and others, and a first-term city councilman -- is the new mayor of Jackson, Miss.
His June 4 victory is a stirring tribute to the courageous Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers who 50 years ago on June 12, 1963 was gunned down at his Jackson home.
In a stunning turn of events, Chokwe defeated Jackson's three-term incumbent and first African-American mayor, Harvey Johnson; the white Republican-financed young Black businessman Jonathan Lee; and others to win leadership of the city with the second highest percentage of Black people in the United States. [...]
The runoff campaign quickly got nasty, as Lee choked the airwaves with claims that Lumumba was an "un-Christian" (read Muslim) "militant" non-Democrat who would "divide the city." Lumumba regularly introduced himself as "the Christian brother with an African name" and claimed a track record of fighting for change in the "militant" tradition of Dr. King and Medgar Evers. He called himself a Freedom Democrat in honor of Fannie Lou Hamer.That's it for the roundup for today. If you know of any interesting, relevant articles that should be added to this roundup or a future round up, feel free to post a link in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
|Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree|
Well, no, not exactly. While Jackson's Jim Crow history is far better known, Hattiesburg has its own history of racial strife. We may feel like we're the enlightened hub of Mississippi, but really, we've just done a better job of sweeping it under the rug than the rest of our state.
At the tail end of the campaign between black Mayor Johnny DuPree and white challenger Dave Ware, some of that suppressed racial tension came bubbling to the surface, despite DuPree and Ware both having run honorable campaigns, and despite the fact that most of the supporters of both men had good intentions and supported their candidates on the basis of policy, not race.
After Dave Ware led the race for much of the night Tuesday, the final precinct – a mostly black precinct – cut his lead down to a mere 148 votes. And after two grueling days spent counting absentee and affidavit ballots, Johnny DuPree appears to have won re-election with a razor-thin 37-vote victory.
But some Hattiesburg residents who were apparently more excited about the prospect of returning a white man to power than they were about Dave Ware – and who certainly weren't representative of Dave Ware's supporters – have taken to the Facebook page of Hattiesburg Patriot – which seeks to be Hattiesburg's own Fox News – to express their anger and dissatisfaction.
One commenter wrote,
Doesn't matter what the new totals are. We, The People, demand a re-election! These votes have the possibility of being tampered with with them being unsecured last night and we demand the true voice of the people be heard! [Hattiesburg City Hall was left unlocked last night with ballots still inside, but it was confirmed that the ballots were not tampered with.]So, since DuPree won, it "doesn't matter what the totals are." "We, The People" demand a re-election. And in case four years of Tea Party rhetoric hasn't taught you anything, "We, The People" in the context of a black leader is now codeword for "white people."
Another commenter wrote,
You can bet if it had turned out for Dave Ware, Jessie [sic] Jackson, & Al Sharpton, or how you spell his name, would have already been in Hattiesburg!!! Tell the truth, & put the reverse spin on it!!!Because, you know how black people are! They've all sworn oaths of allegiance to Jesse and Al! In reality, until Barack Obama came around, Jackson and Sharpton were the only black leaders that your average white Mississippian knew about. In Mississippi, reference to Jackson and Sharpton is codeword for the more archaic phrase, "uppity niggers."
(And every white person who uses that code language will be outraged – outraged I say! – that a liberal writer dared to spell out the "n-word" without even using an asterisk! Hey guys, I'm just quoting the word you're actually thinking since you don't have the guts to say what you actually mean. See Lee Atwater.)
Another commenter wrote,
As most of you know, blacks vote for blacks regardless of who or what they are. It is time the Hattiesburg citizens take another look at the local politics.And, by "citizens," she means "White Citizens." Because all the black citizens who voted for Johnny DuPree aren't really citizens, right?
I won't dispute the commenter's observation that, oftentimes, "blacks vote for blacks." That was certainly true in this election. But let us not pretend that black people in Hattiesburg are voting on the basis of skin color while white people, judging solely based on the content of character, all just happened to break for Dave Ware. Most of Dave Ware's supporters were genuine and not racially motivated. Let's not misunderstand what I'm saying. But it's also true that the Hattiesburg electorate was racially polarized.
Fellow white people: As long as some of you vote against black candidates simply because you fear the idea of black men in positions of leadership over you, black people will continue to stand in solidarity with other black people. If we are going to bring an end to electoral polarization, it has to start with white people confronting racism instead of comfortably pretending it no longer exists.
The racial intolerance that has come out of this process is shameful. Neither Johnny DuPree nor Dave Ware ran that campaign; they both ran honorable campaigns and I believe that both men were qualified candidates with good ideas for the City of Hattiesburg. Neither Ware nor DuPree sought to exploit racial animosity, and there were plenty of legitimate reasons to support either man on the basis of policy – and I believe that most Dave Ware supporters did so. But in the final days of ballot counting for what may be the closest mayoral election Hattiesburg has seen, the underlying racial tension reared its ugly head on social media. That isn't representative of the city I know.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Saying that now is "Not the Time for Bryant to Go Off Message," Frank Corder at right-wing Y'all Politics writes:
A snippet of Bryant's statements at a Washington Post live event on the importance of children reading by the end of third grade caused the blogosphere and liberal groups to go ballistic, opening the Governor up to criticism on something that's not even really on his current political agenda.So, you see, the problem here is that Bryant "opened himself up to criticism" by delving into misogyny. And really, Phil, woman-hating isn't even currently on the priority list! Stick to the program, man. We'll get around to explaining why Mississippi women are the root of all our problems later.
Mississippi has had a tremendous session and there are lots of great things to highlight about the changes that Mississippi (and particularly the new Republican majority) are putting in place - that's the message.
Yes, the "great things" that Republicans are doing in Mississippi is the message. You know, like denying poor Mississippians access to healthcare that the federal government will soon be providing providing to citizens in almost every other state in the country. Or like violating the separation of church and state and reminding non-Christian Mississippians that the Christian majority hates them. Or like re-affirming the right of Mississippians to "eat 20 Big Macs" and guzzle "1,000 sodas" if they so choose. You know, important, great achievements like that!
The political reality for Bryant is that this simply is a distraction he didn't need... He's fought hard not to expand Medicaid and continue the efforts to stall Obamacare. All of that is good policy and good politics.
Yes, leaving Mississippi's uninsured to die without access to 21st Century healthcare even as millions of other Americans gain access is considered "good policy and good politics" in these circles. And if there's any place where the Republican willingness to spread misogyny stops, it's at the point where misogyny threatens to impede their efforts to keep the poor uninsured, uneducated, and unable to rise above poverty. Because, as much as women need to know their place and stay in it, it's even more imperative that the poor know and stay in theirs.