Latest blog entries


July 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders... Frontrunner?

By Todd Stauffer

He may not be leading money totals or straw polls, but Senator Bernie Sanders apparently did something that no other candidate has done yet in the 2016 presidential race... he had a record crowd last night in Wisconsin, pushing 10,000 people. Interesting.

July 2, 2015

In 1860, 49% of White Families in Mississippi Owned Slaves, Who Outnumbered White Folks Here

By Donna Ladd

During the last couple weeks of talking about the Confederacy (and the state flag that celebrates it), we've encountered any number of historic inaccuracies in the arguments of those who don't want to change our state flag.

One of them is that (a) not many white Mississippians even owned slaves and (b) that only 6 to 10 percent of Confederate soldiers owned slaves.

Here are the problems with that argument as the chart and link before bring into full relief. As you can see in this excellent MPB documentary, many Confederates soldiers were just 17 or 18 years old. But many of the soldiers' families owned at least one or two slaves.

Based on 1860 Census results, 49 percent of Mississippi households owned slaves at the start of the Civil War, and more than half the population of our state—55 percent—were slaves. Slavery was massive here and directed affected nearly half the white families in Mississippi, including some who weren't as wealthy as the planters who owned many slaves (and who were at first exempt from fighting in the Civil War when the Confederacy instituted a draft, but that's another subject).

The chart below shows the number of slaves in all of the states that existed at the start of the Civil War.

Also, read my column this week, "Driving Old Dixie Down," for many links to historic sources about Mississippi and other Confederate states at the start of the war, including extensive evidence of why the Confederacy formed: in order to have a strong central federal government to force slaves on any new states, and to ensure that it got its runaway slaves back.

July 1, 2015

How Mississippians Voted in 2001 on the State Flag: The Numbers

By Donna Ladd

Jere Nash, co-author with Andy Taggart of "Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006," posted this information about the vote to change the state flag in 2001. It is from their book, and this is his verbatim post, with his permission, about the people who turned out to vote:

"As debate continues about what to do with the Mississippi Flag, I wanted to highlight some of the information Andy and I included in our 2006 book about the April 17, 2001 special flag election. More Mississippians went to the polls that day than voted in the 1999 governor’s election. The 1894 flag prevailed over the alternative new flag by 494,323 votes to 273,359. Of the 1,311 majority white precincts in the state at the time, only 43 supported the new flag. Of those precincts, eighteen were in the Jackson metro area and twelve were in university towns. According to the 2000 Census there were 43 precincts with no African American residents, and the margin in those precincts in favor of the 1894 Flag was 5,887 to 221, or 96.4 percent. In the 408 precincts which had 50 or fewer African Americans, the margin in favor of the 1894 Flag was 89,112 to 8,014, or 91.8 percent. Only two precincts at the time had no white residents. The margin in favor of the new flag in those two precincts was 421 to 5, or 98.8 percent. In the 94 precincts with 50 or fewer white residents, the margin in favor of the new flag was 23,098 to 1,115, or 95.4 percent. Our analysis of all the precincts showed that 90 percent of white voters supported the 1894 flag and 95 percent of black voters supported the new flag design."

July 1, 2015

3 Counties in Mississippi Are Not Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

By adreher

Update: Now there are only three counties in the state not issuing same-sex marriage licenses according to Unity MS. The Campaign for Southern Equality and ACLU of Mississippi have compiled a map of the counties that are (and aren't) issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. For updates see the list here. Counties not issuing licenses are either waiting for the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay on the Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant case or are waiting on new marriage licensing forms.

The counties currently not issuing licenses are:

Holmes and Issaquena counties are waiting for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the stay on the Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant case.

Smith County is waiting for an updated system and forms.

June 30, 2015

Resignation over Retirement: Circuit Clerk Resigns because She Won’t Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Due to ‘Religious Beliefs’

By adreher

The Grenada County circuit clerk resigned today because she did not want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. According to an AP report, Linda Barnette has served as the circuit clerk in Grenada County for 24 years, and was scheduled to retire after the November elections. She decided she couldn’t wait, however, because legalizing a same-sex marriage goes against her religious beliefs.

According to Campaign for Southern Equality’s Lindsey Simerly, as of Monday 49 counties in the state are issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Technically the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. on Friday should overrule the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that is expected to lift its stay on the Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant case soon. However, following a statement by Attorney General Jim Hood issued on Monday, some county clerks have decided to wait until the stay is lifted to begin issuing licenses. Regardless, Simerly also said that no one should have to drive more than an hour in Mississippi to get a marriage license now.

The Mississippi case will likely move forward after both sides have filed briefs requested by July 1.

June 29, 2015

Pothole Report (and Resurfacing) for June 29

By Todd Stauffer

Here's the report for the City of Jackson -- I can attest to the resurfacing on Jefferson; looking pretty good!

Crews repairing potholes on areas of N. Roach Street, Rose Street, First Avenue, Keele Street, E. Manor Drive, Meadowbrook Road, Harrow Drive, Northpointe Drive.

Crews resurfacing on S. Jefferson Street.

June 26, 2015

NAE Takes Jesus Out Of Context on 'Definition' of Marriage

By Tom_Head

In response to the Supreme Court's ruling today on same-sex marriage, the National Association of Evangelicals sent a statement to media, that begins:

God designed marriage for humanity. As first described in Genesis and later affirmed by Jesus, marriage is a God-ordained, covenant relationship between a man and a woman. This lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship brings children into the world and thus sustains the stewardship of the earth. Biblical marriage —­­ marked by faithfulness, sacrificial love and joy — displays the relationship between God and his people. [1] While commentators, politicians and judges may revise their understanding of marriage in response to shifting societal trends, followers of Jesus should embrace his clear vision of marriage found in Matthew 19:4-6...

The most interesting thing about the NAE's statement is that it gives Jesus' answer to a question (Matthew 19:4-6) while omitting the question itself (Matthew 19:3). The passage in question has to do with divorce, not with same-sex marriage. Here's the NIV translation of the full exchange:

(19:3) Some Pharisees came to him to test [Jesus]. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

(19:4-6) “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

While the NAE takes this statement to prohibit homosexuality (a topic Jesus never addresses), the National Association of Evangelicals does not take it to completely prohibit divorce. There are compelling pastoral reasons why it would be a bad idea to interpret it in that way.

The possibility that there may be similarly compelling pastoral reasons not to read the passage out of context as a condemnation of homosexuality does not seem to occur to our friends in the NAE at this time.

That said, it is worth mentioning that support for same-sex marriage among white evangelical Protestants has nearly doubled—from 14% to 27%—in the past ten years.

If this trend continues, the NAE is likely to follow Jesus' example and stop condemning homosexuality sometime around 2025.

June 24, 2015

Rev. C.J. Rhodes' Open Letter to Speaker Philip Gunn

By Todd Stauffer

Cross-posted from CJ Rhodes' WordPress blog by permission:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. My name is CJ Rhodes and I am a resident of our Capital City. I also pastor Mt Helm Baptist Church, Jackson’s oldest historically black congregation, which is situated within Downtown’s Farish Street Historic District. We are in the shadow of the State Capitol and this year we’re celebrating 180 years of ministry. Our establishment dates back to 1835 when our enslaved ancestors worshiped under watchful eyes in the basement of First Baptist Church, Jackson. We remained a part of First Baptist’s congregation until 1865. At that time we were delivered from bondage by the Almighty’s outstretched arm. With the benevolence of Thomas and Mary Helm, members of Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church, Mt Helm (named in their honor) was founded as an autonomous Baptist congregation and has played a vital role in religion and racial uplift ever since.

Brother Gunn, it was with great joy that I read your Facebook status about how your Christian convictions caused you to reconsider the Confederate flag following the tragic massacre that occurred at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. I salute your courage and thank you for publicly sharing your change of heart. I know that you are a Southern Baptist elder and I assume that has something to do with your pastoral and political concerns for that flag’s offense to my people. I am blessed to see how the SBC is having a great awakening regarding race in the country. To God be the glory!

In recent days several members of your denomination have taken prophetic stands against the idolatry of white superiority and have called for the removal of the Confederate flag. Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where you serve as a Trustee), wrote, “Racial superiority is a sin as old as Genesis and as contemporary as the killings in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The ideology of racial superiority is not only sinful, it is deadly.”[1] Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd prophesied at the 2015 Convention that now is the time to lead racial justice and reconciliation, decrying all racism as sin.[2] Dr. Russell Moore, Mississippi Gulf Coast native and President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, powerfully avers:

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.[3]

Before these public proclamations another great Southern Baptist was led of the Holy Spirit to respond once again to racial reconciliation. Dan Jones, the former ...

June 23, 2015

Ole Miss: Change the Mississippi State Flag

By Donna Ladd

The University of Mississippi's Acting Chancellor Morris H. Stocks just issued this verbatim statement:

"The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values such as civility and respect for others. Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag."

June 23, 2015

Mississippi Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden Agrees With Speaker Gunn: 'Reconsider' State Flag'

By Donna Ladd

"I believe any state flag should be a common symbol citizens can unite behind and proudly embrace as their own. If our flag is no longer useful for those purposes (to instill pride and unity across the broad spectrum of citizens), then we should reconsider its current status. I certainly agree with Speaker Gunn that the time has come to have that conversation."

June 23, 2015

Haley Barbour Is Not Offended By The State Flag

By Todd Stauffer

Glad we got that straight.

In a segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Haley Barbour (looking disturbingly like he'd swung by a mortician's office on his way to the broadcast) opined—in the dulcet tones of that version of his accent that he uses for national TV—that he's not particularly offended by the Mississippi flag ("or the Confederate flag for that matter"), but he'll be happy to let "the people" decide.

He also pitched his apology to the freedom riders and the civil rights museum that "we're" building as evidence of the progress under his administration.

Also... is it me, or is it super interesting that they all just call him "Haley."

I almost wonder if he pitched this segment while they were all sitting around his bar last night.

After that exchange, stick around for a little whitewashing of his "leadership" after Katrina and a pitch of his new book.

Lord have mercy.

June 21, 2015

Confederates Speak: Yes, We Fought the Civil War Over Slavery

By Donna Ladd

If you grew up in the South, and especially if you're white, you've likely been told repeatedly (maybe even in a classroom) that "the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery." (They might have even called it the "War Between the States" or even the "War of Northern Aggression.") "It was about economics," they might say. Or, almost always, "It was over state's rights," as if that somehow means that it wasn't actually over a state's right to allow its white citizens to own and abuse black human beings. It's remarkable how many white southerners, and others around the country, actually believe this myth. And it is regularly used as an excuse to justify keeping the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy and the "lost cause" of slavery imbedded into government, public and private schools, and some state universities in every way possible—especially in the taxpayer-funded state flags that still adorn several state capitols, including Mississippi's.

But the problem is: The Confederate leaders themselves had no reason then to hide what they were fighting the Civil War over. They were forthright about both why they were seceding into the Confederacy and their beliefs about the white supremacy (and its spoils of wealth) that they were willing to fighting to keep in place. Ever since I first read Mississippi's Declaration of Secession, I've used it as a response to someone who decides to spread these myths in my presence.

Now, in the wake of the Charleston massacre by an apparent white supremacist, and as the country is engaging in a welcome conversation about the Confederate flag, I've compiled a list of primary sources from the mouths and pens of the Confederate leaders themselves that could prove useful as you deal with the myths that continue to be used to justify racism and racist symbols. (Hat tip to Kristy Wittman Howell who had posted several of the more obscure links on Facebook.) Please suggest others in the comments.

Mississippi's Declaration of Secession: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."

All the Declarations of Secession by southern states that did them: From Texas' Declaration: "In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of ...

June 18, 2015

Pothole Watch: Thursday June 18, 2015

By toddstauffer

Verbatim from the City of Jackson:

Some COJ Department of Public Works Activities Thursday, June 18, 2015

· Crews repairing potholes on areas of Tulane Street & Lowery Lane, Cabaniss Circle, Maddox Road, Missouri Street, Fernwood Drive, Woodsia Drive, John Street, Revels Street, Cynthia Road, Squire Lane.

· Crews cleaning up on Fairmont Street & Winter Street.

June 17, 2015

City Council Recap: Uber, Bongs and Food Trucks

By R.L. Nave

The absence of three council members and Mayor Tony Yarber made last night's meeting of the Jackson City Council, unnervingly efficient.

Before going into executive session to discuss personnel issues and litigation around 8 p.m. -- a recent best for the ordinarily long-winded body -- the council adopted a new ordinance to regulate food trucks. Previously, food-truck vendors had to pay the city $500 per location, but under the new ordinance, operators pay a yearly license fee of $500 and can go anywhere in the city, but cannot set up within 300 feet from a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The council also adopted an ordinance regulating the sale and display of tobacco paraphernalia, a move in response to complaints from community groups and citizens about local stores selling bongs, clips and pipes that can also be used to smoke marijuana.

(Apparently the city council doesn't realize you can make a bong out of just about anything, including, um, sources say, apples (see photo below); no word on whether this new ordinance means Granny Smiths will be disappearing from supermarket shelves).

An ordinance to lower the number of vehicles needed to be considered a cab company was held to allow for more discussion. Council President De'Keither Stamps or Ward 4 said his motivation was to lower the barriers of entry so that a person with one cab could start their own company. In Stamps' mind, the move would somewhat level the playing field with services like Uber, an Internet-based sort-of ride-sharing company similar to a taxi service.

Uber, often a cheaper option for getting from Point A to Point B, has been giving cabbies fits all over the world. Jackson is no exception, and representatives from local taxi companies showed up a city hall to state their case. Tyra Dean, with Deluxe Cab Co. in Jackson, cited "safety concerns" with Uber.

Since the company's rise in popularity and profile, a number of allegations of sexual assault have risen against Uber drivers in several American cities and abroad, according numerous media accounts.

Ward 2 Council Melvin Priester Jr., an attorney, said it would be hard for the council to regulate Uber because the company is a web service.

"We don't regulate the Internet as the city council," Priester told the taxi drivers present at the meeting.

With the absence of the mayor and so many members -- including Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who was in Houston attending to his brother, who is ill, Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman -- a number of interesting items were either pulled or held.

These included the city's lobbying contracts in Washington D.C. and Jackson and an item from Stokes to discuss the need for a downtown mall. In the coming weeks, the council will also consider an ordinance requiring Jackson police to report hate crimes to help make hate-crime reporting more uniform. In addition the council will consider renaming the basketball courts at Tougaloo Community Center in honor of Jesse ...

June 12, 2015

#RachelDolezal's Jackson Ties

By R.L. Nave

Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who Keyser Söze'd the hell out of all of eastern Washington State and parts of Idaho by passing herself off as a black woman, apparently went to undergrad in Jackson.

According to her LinkedIn, Dolezal, whom the homie Be Mock aptly noted "out Teena Marie'd Teena Marie", by convincing people she at least might have some black in her, received her bachelor's degree at Belhaven in 2006.

Dolezal claims to have graduated magna cum laude before obtaining Latin honors in what could go down as history's most famous case of racial identity theft. The jig was up for Dolezal, the head of the Spokane NAACP, yesterday, when a Spokane-area reporter confronted her and asked her flat-out about her cultural background.

"I don't understand the question....," responded Dolezal, who as a professor of Africana studies, likely understands that race is socially constructed and probably needs a whole PowerPoint to explain exactly what is going on with her.

While at Belhaven, Dolezal listed being involved with the following campus activities:

"Campus & community development through volunteerism and research. Petitioned for first annual celebration of MLK Day & led coordination for 250 student volunteers to work with Habitat for Humanity, Petitioned & developed first African American History course on campus with Dr. Ronald Potter as instructor, held first one-woman art show at Smith Robertson Museum with Black Poet's Society performing works inspired by my art. Tutored 25 kids ages 6-12 after school to help single moms in West Jackson. Taught Black History, Math & Art to students at Veremiah House summer camp. Taught drawing at Classical Christian Academy. Won Michelangelo Award (most prestigious art award given). Worked with the college president, Dr. Roger Parrot, for recruitment & retention of diverse student populations."

Dolezal is the second person with Jackson ties to become a viral Internet sensation in the past few days. Earlier this week, video of a young man named Courtney Barnes who purportedly witnessed a crash involving a JPD cruiser, also went viral. Barnes later turned himself into police in Ridgeland for warrants related to traffic tickets, according to media reports.

It is unclear whether talks are in the works for a reality show featuring Dolezal and Barnes. In the meantime, to borrow a phrase from Barnes, Lord be with them both. They need a blessing.

June 11, 2015

Clarion-Ledger Publisher, 3 Employees Depart

By R.L. Nave

The Clarion-Ledger is reporting that president and publisher Jason P. Taylor is leaving the company.

On Wednesday, three employees--two sales people and one circulation staffer--also departed in the latest round of cuts at the C-L.

Taylor's announcement came less than one year after the announcement that he would take over operations at the Jackson daily as well as the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, succeeding Publisher Leslie Hurst.

One month later, Brian Tolley, then executive editor, said he was leaving the company; Tolley was eventually replaced by Sam Hall.

According to a story on the C-L's website, Taylor will go to work for Fairport, NY-based GateHouse Media as president and publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and serve as chief-executive officer of GateHouse Media Live and Virtual Events. In addition, he will oversee GateHouse Media's Western U.S. Publishing Operations as president.

"Over the past year, Mississippi Media has emerged and set a path to elevate The Clarion-Ledger, and our suite of products and services. This team has come together to accomplish a true resurgence of a brand in motion," according to a quote attributed to Taylor.

Gannett East Group President Michael Kane said the Virginia-based company is working on a transition plan.

Taylor was the sixth C-L publisher since 2004.

May 29, 2015

Kenny Stokes Wants a Bridge Named for Frank Melton

By R.L. Nave

Buried deep within the city council's 78-item agenda for Tuesday, is a proposed resolution from Jackson Councilman Kenneth Stokes to name the Pearl Street Bridge for the controversial late Mayor Frank Melton.

It's unclear what Stokes's motives are beyond the fact that he was an ally of Melton, who died on Election Night in 2009, and he seems to enjoy prolonging city council meetings as long as possible.

We'll try to find out more next week.

May 29, 2015

Has 'Us vs. Them' Politics Taken Its Toll on Conservatism?

By Todd Stauffer

Call it "us vs. them politics"—like National Memo does in this piece—or what I call the "virtue of selfishness" that has been pushed for the last 30 years by conservative think tanks and pundits, but it boils down to this—social conservatives in this country like to blame the "other" for societal ills.

From the American Family Council calling an open-door campaign in the wake of anti-gay legislation "bullying" of Christians, to the persistent bellyaching here in the JFP comments about crime and social safety net programs, you see this "us vs. them" argument over and over again.

But here's what's interesting... the "us" may be getting smaller and smaller all the time.

For the first time since Gallup started asking the question in 1999, there's a tie between people who identify as "socially liberal" and those who identify as "socially conservative." The number is pinned at 31 percent each. Up until now, conservatives had led in that poll.

Likewise, on specific "moral" issues, again as measured by Gallup, the country has showed large left-ward shifts since 2001 on questions such as gay and lesbian acceptance, sex and childrearing out of wedlock, divorce, and stem cell research; smaller shift show on issues such as abortion rights, doctor-assisted suicide and against the death penalty.

Going into an election year in Mississippi, we probably won't feel that shift; most likely the we'll hear more about conservative wedge issues such as immigration, marriage equality and irrational rallying cries against expanding Medicaid and education.

But on a national stage going into the 2016 elections, this tilting landscape could spell trouble for the GOP, especially as it seems largely intent on trotting out the same candidates and many of the same tropes that have failed them in previous presidential election cycles. From the Salon piece:

Gen-X dreamboats Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, on the other hand, are offering young people a bleak vision of endless war, antiquated social values and economic hardship and they know it. It matters little if that dark picture of the future is offered by a youthful fellow with an ethnic name. It’s embarrassing for the Republicans that they don’t understand that.

If the country continues on its path to the left on social issues, it does seem that the clever politician who can marry a fiscally moderate position (strong economy plus strong safety net plus modern education and workforce) with a leftward social platform will likely continue to win outside of the gerrymandered districts of Congress.

From there, it's a question of rallying voters to the cause of fixing broken Congressional districts and campaign finance, so the voice of the people truly be heard at all levels of government.

May 12, 2015

Thinking About Drinking - This Friday

By Todd Stauffer

Got this e-mail from Trost Friedler at Harbor House Jackson about an event this Friday that looks to be a fairly unique experience.

For many years, I have been collecting Vintage Alcohol and Drug Prevention items. I have some fantastic pieces and a lot of outreach in the 1960’s and 1970’s was about giving information and allowing people to make their own decisions. I am having a showing this Friday night at Pearl River Glass from 5pm to 8pm. It has been a great way to create dialogue about a deadly disease that destroys communities. I should of emailed your earlier but have no budget for Advertising. I am hoping that after you look at the picture you will get a better understanding of how Art played a role in helping combat addiction. I know you release items on your website and the show may be listed. If you are free Friday night please come and join us.

He sent over a couple of examples of the images:

Again, it's at Pearl River Glass Studio this Friday (May 15) from 5-8pm. Check it out!