Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Clintonism has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party. Only a revolution from within can lead to its resurrection


This column, which ran recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi, is a follow-up and elaboration on an earlier posting in which I declared “Clintonism is dead.” Clintonism—and President Obama’s embrace of neoliberalism was a continuation of it--has nearly destroyed the Democratic Party. The current fiasco—and President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet choices thus far show how much a fiasco this is—brings to mind the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress during Bill Clinton’s first term as president. This is worse, however. Much worse. The Democratic Party’s loss of vision, its Clinton-inspired rootlessness, helped put us in this mess. Only a revolution within the party can lead to its resurrection.

OXFORD, Miss. – I was surrounded by staunch Democrats who knew my leftist leanings and that I wanted Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination for president. The table between us was laden with drinks and food, but the air was thick with politics.

One by one, they made the case how it had to be Hillary Clinton, not a socialist-turned-Democrat like Sanders. One of them was a former Texas congressman with whom I had rarely before disagreed.

“Tell me you’ll vote for Hillary if she gets the nomination,” more than one asked.

It was the pressing question of the late-season Democratic primaries: Will Bernie’s troops support Hillary? I resisted answering long into the evening, but the pressure—or those drinks—finally wore me down. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll vote for her.”

And cast my vote I did—holding my nose--for a seasoned veteran politician backed by deep-pocketed financiers and a Democratic Party establishment that did its best to scuttle Sanders’ primary challenge, and she lost against a foot-in-the-mouth firebrand with zero political experience.

On the morning after election night, having gone to bed before the final results were in, my wife Suzanne woke me with an ominous, “Joe, he won.” For 20 minutes, I tried to rouse myself into the brave new world of the Trump era. It wasn’t easy.

Within 48 hours, I was reading post-Apocalyptic eulogies to the America that was before Nov. 8.

“America died on Nov. 8, not with a bang and a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide,” award-winning journalist and author Neal Gabler wrote. “We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity.”

Gabler wasn’t finished. “Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities?”

It was ridiculous, handwringing, nearly hysterical comments like these that finally cleared by head.

Look, I’ve got no illusions about Donald Trump. His promises to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure at the same time he’s going to oversee a massive tax cut to business and the wealthy ring about as true as Clinton’s election-season conversion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  His treatment of his own workers and contractors put the lie to his self-proclaimed role as champion of the working stiff.

And yes, many of those who voted for Trump are the same racists, neo-Nazis and misogynists who’ve crawled out from under their rocks since election day to taunt and threaten minorities and women.

Still, Gabler and many of the anti-Trump post-election day protesters are wrong when they issue a blanket indictment of all Trump voters, millions of whom voted out of an economic desperation that Clintonite neoliberals ignored for too long.  Those voters are not bigots. Many of them supported Obama in 2012, only to see him buddy up to the same Wall Street insiders and lousy trade deals that were part of the Clinton world. New Yorker magazine reported just before this year’s election that Wall Street executive Thomas R. Nides was well positioned for a place in President Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and possibly as her chief of staff.

At least Trump offered the illusion of change.

Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton looked and talked like a progressive, a politician who cared for the working stiff, the marginalized. Yet, as writer Ben Dickenson has pointed out, “every budget of his administration instigated Reaganite tax cuts, draconian law and order policies, privatization, and tens of billions of dollars on military spending.”

With Hillary’s strong support, Bill Clinton “cut welfare spending, gave tax breaks to corporations and established trade agreements to carve up the world for US business. Promised health reform was abandoned, civil liberties pegged back, and race issues were not addressed.”

Cornel West, in his post-election analysis in The Guardian, summed it up this way: “Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens.”

One of the great ironies of this election is that the Clintons’ “New Democrat” path was initially charted by the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council as a means to recapture the white vote, particularly in the South. The wrongness of that path became crystal clear on November 8 of this year.     

The saddest news from November 8, however, is that working folks likely will still be looking for a leader four years from now, a leader who truly wants to help and this time means it from the bottom of his or her heart.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Indie Memphis: Exploring new ways to tell stories in film, and blurring the line between features and documentaries

 
(Werner Herzog in 2009. Photo: Nicolas Genin)

MEMPHIS - The German filmmaker Werner Herzog, whose films range from his remake of the early horror classic Nosferatu to his documentary about wild man actor Klaus Kinski My Best Fiend, once had this to say about feature films versus documentaries:

“For me, there is no clear distinction between so-called documentaries and feature films. The boundary is always blurred. … For me, it has always mattered how truth is constituted in images or in the cinema.”

It’s an idea that goes back to the 1930s when the Worker’s Film and Photo League (known as the FPL and recently featured in a Turner Classic Movies showing) and later Nykino and Frontier Films produced film that showed the harsh reality of the Great Depression in a way that Hollywood couldn’t or wouldn’t. Eventually Nykino and Frontier Films pushed the boundaries that separated fiction and nonfiction by incorporating dramatic elements into real-life montages.

Documentaries today are rediscovering some of those old truths articulated by FPL, Nykino and Frontier Films founders Leo Hurwitz, Ralph Steiner and others, according to a panel of current documentary filmmakers at last month’s Indie Memphis film festival in Memphis, Tenn.

“What’s exciting in film now is everything is up for grabs,” said Tom Yellin, co-founder and president of The Documentary Group. In a reference to acting philosopher Constantin’s Stanislavski’s famous concept of the invisible wall separating stage and audience, Yellin said modern-day filmmakers are “breaking the fourth wall.”

“Some of our earliest documentaries were staged,” said Lisanne Skyler, a New York-based screenwriter. “We’re doing it more creatively, dynamically.”

The panelists noted that documentary makers today are breaking away from the “talking heads” style of filmmakers like Ken Burns and incorporating various dramatic elements, animation, and other techniques to tell their stories in fresh and exciting ways. “Bringing animation to a real story can get to a larger truth,” Skyler said.

“It doesn’t mean the old techniques don’t have value,” Yellin said.

“A documentary is about real people,” award-winning documentary filmmaker Jamila Wignot said. “You’re trying to be honest about the real truth of a person. The line is absolutely murky.”

“I come from old school journalism,” Yellin said. “It relies on the integrity of the people making the film about crossing the line. Everyone seeks truth.”

“When I shoot fiction, I make it like a documentary,” Skyler said. “Maybe there’s just more room in documentary to evolve. I’ve come to appreciate a well-structured story. I think documentary has become more personal (with) more expressionistic ways to tell a story.”

“It’s a question of authenticity,” Yellin said. “Character, character development, three-act structures, story arc, all are important in documentary today. … Just because there’s good information, it doesn’t mean there’s a good story.”

I thought about these comments as I listened to the panel and recalled how many of the great film noir of the 1940s and 1950s—The House on 92nd Street, Call Northside 777, The Naked City, and The Wrong Man—were told in documentary style although they dealt with fictional characters.

(Mike McCarthy)

Documentary film was a highlight of the 2016 Indie Film Festival in November. Noted Memphis filmmaker Mike McCarthy, whose credits include feature films like Cigarette Girl, offered his documentary Destroy Memphis, an 11-year project about the ultimately unsuccessful community effort to “Save Libertyland” and its Zippin Pippin ride in Memphis.

“Why not preserve the memory of Elvis Presley in any form or fashion?” McCarthy asked about the amusement park and ride that the famous singer used to enjoy. Despite an intense community-led campaign, the park was ultimately shut down, however, and the ride disassembled and reconstructed in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

(The Rev. John Wilkins, a blues and gospel performer featured in I Am The Blues, performing at Indie Memphis)

Daniel Cross’ I Am The Blues was another featured documentary that told the story of today’s blues artists in the Deep South and their dogged allegiance to an art form that laid the foundations of jazz and rock music.

Another highlight of the festival was Kallen Esperian: Vissi D’arte, a film directed by Steve Ross about Memphis’ own great soprano, Kallen Esperian, who sang with Pavarotti and Domingo before her career tumbled amid a variety of personal battles.

(To the right, Kallen Esperian at the Indie Memphis film festival)

None of these films veered too far from traditional documentary filmmaking. However, they did what all good films do. They sought and expressed a truth in compelling ways. In other words, they told a good story.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Clintonism is dead. Does the Democratic Party know it?

 
I’m an old protester. My first (in a long line) was way back in 1966 or 1967 when as a teenager I took part in a sit-in at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, something that makes me look back with pride. This was in Greenville, North Carolina, and we were taunted and spit on throughout, a badge of honor today.

Still I’m having a hard time ignoring my friends on the Right as they point today to the irony of the protests taking place in cities across the country as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. Didn’t a lot of those same protesters excoriate Trump when he said during the campaign that he might not accept the results of the election if he loses?

Of course, the protests are about much more than the election. They are about the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist comments and attitudes exhibited by Trump and his supporters during and since the campaign, and they are about the fear that now exists about the country’ future.

Still, a hesitation other than irony haunts me about these protests, and it has to do with Hillary Clinton and the idea of a protest that could actually be interpreted as saying, “Long Live the Status Quo!”

Let’s face it. Hillary Clinton was the quintessential embodiment of the political establishment, the status quo, the polar opposite of change. As bad as Trump was and is, and that’s really bad, he represented the only voice (by a major candidate) for change in the general election for millions of non-racist voters who cast their ballots for him.

How could a seasoned veteran like Hillary Clinton, backed by deep-pocketed moneymen and a Democratic Party establishment that helped scuttle Bernie Sanders' primary challenge, lose against a foot-in-the-mouth opponent with zero political experience?

Sure, Trump tried to appeal to the worst of many people with his “Build the Wall” talk and so forth, but he also tapped into a deep working class malaise that the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party has too long been too busy wooing Wall Street to see. When Trump talked about bringing jobs back home from oversees and ending lousy trade deals that Bill and Hillary Clinton both championed workers listened, and many of them defied their union bosses to vote for Trump.

I don’t expect Trump to deliver much on those promises or hopes. When you boil his big talk down, he’s still calling for tax cuts to big corporations and the rich, and his treatment of his own workers and contractors don’t bode well for an enlightened attitude toward worker rights.

Which means working class folks are likely still going to be left out in the cold once the dust settles. Malaise and frustration make fertile ground for demagogues—always have—particularly when the so-called party of the people decades ago began ape-ing the Republican Party in servitude to the rich and powerful.

The neoliberal establishment still doesn’t get it. The New York Times wondered this week whether losing Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine may be “the future of the Democratic Party.” Give me a break. New Yorker magazine conjectured in its latest edition that veteran Wall Street insider Thomas R. Nides was well-positioned for a major role and maybe even Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff had she won. Democratic National Committee interim leader and television commentator Donna Brazile has been unapologetic about her role in slipping the Clinton campaign debate questions.

If the Democratic Party s going to survive this debacle, it has got to reclaim its roots and turn to folks like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for guidance. Clintonism is dead. Dead. Even so, it is going to take a long time for the Democratic Party to reclaim the trust it has lost among working folks. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Labor South: Doing something I vowed I'd never do--Vote for a Clinton


OXFORD, Miss. – I drove back from my 50th high school reunion (yep, I’ve been around that long) in Sanford, North Carolina, Oct. 9, leaving behind the flooded creeks, downed power lines, and punishing rain Hurricane Matthew inflicted while my old school mates and I traded laughs and half-century-old memories.

The second presidential debate came on the radio somewhere near the Alabama-Mississippi state line, and my wife Suzanne looked at me as if to say, “Out of one storm into another!”

Listening to the debate--rather than seeing it--we missed Republican contender Donald Trump’s menacing stalk as Democrat Hillary Clinton tried to deflect her opponent’s charges regarding the 33,000 missing emails from her time as secretary of state.

Actually, the number jumped to 39,000 a few minutes later, as Trump borrowed a leaf from ‘50s-era communist witch-hunter Joseph McCarthy, who would waive a list of “known communists” in the Department of State ranging in number from 10 to 205. It depended on which speech as to whether there were 10, 57, 81 or 205.

Clinton’s responses to Trump’s attacks weren’t always encouraging. Regarding WikiLeaks revelations about her secret speeches to Wall Street executives, she essentially resorted to an ad hominem charge against the Russians for “directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election.” She did the same in the third debate on Oct. 19.

Certainly the United States would never try to interfere in the elections of another sovereign state, right? Well, there was Honduras and the brutal coup there in 2009 that had the implicit blessing of Secretary of State Clinton. And, of course, there was Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that Secretary of State Clinton convinced President Obama to support.

Clinton’s frequent evocation of Trump’s alleged ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a little unsettling. “Clinton wants an air war with Russia,” Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein told hundreds of students and local citizens in Oxford earlier this month.

If Trump indeed is too buddy-buddy with Vladimir Putin, he’s also more than willing to go to war with Iran, vowing in a speech last month in Pensacola, Florida, that Iranian ships would be “shot out of the water” if they so much as inappropriately approach U.S. vessels. He also took aim at Iran in the third debate.

Chalk up another reason many American voters are profoundly unhappy with the candidates from both major parties this election. Fifteen years of war are enough, you two! Americans are sick of war.

Over the years, I have aimed my pen many times at the Clintons. I think President Bill Clinton’s so-called “triangulation” of politics was an effort to neuter any passion for social justice that might remain from the old Democratic Party that brought us the New Deal and the Great Society. His subsequent repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act deregulating Wall Street set the stage for the 2007-8 financial disaster. His wife has done little to distance herself from these policies of her husband.

Yet I’m going to hold my nose election day and vote for a Clinton, something I once vowed I would never do.

Donald Trump, for all his anti-system appeal and legitimate criticism of Clinton-pushed trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (Hillary Clinton now says she opposes TPP), is a reckless, dangerous demagogue, the crowning achievement of Fox News’ years-long, 24-7 intravenous injection of poison into American minds. Just like Fox News, Trump is perpetually factually challenged, hysterically biased, contemptuous of others’ ideas, so asphalted into his own mythos that he no longer can know what he doesn’t know.

Remember, it was Fox News that helped promote Trump’s ridiculous “birther” campaign to try and discredit President Obama by saying he wasn’t born in the United States.

It’s no accident that accused sexual predator and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has been in Trump’s camp, advising him in his debates with Clinton. For Ailes, Trump is a dream come true.

Not for me. Trump is so bad I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m hoping pressure from her primary opponent Bernie Sanders and the millennials who are forcing the Democratic Party establishment to shift away from the Bill Clinton model are going to keep Hillary Clinton from breaking the progressive promises she has made on the 2016 campaign trail.

At my recent high school reunion, I thought a lot about my own youth and youthful idealism. I like to think I’ve held on to a little of it.  Maybe that’s why I’m hopeful the United States is going to survive this political storm, just like my wife and I escaped Hurricane Matthew--with a lot of war stories but no serious bruises.

This column, which appeared recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi, is a folo-up to an earlier posting on Labor South.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Standing Rock protest by the Sioux and their supporters: an effort to break from a long, sad history

 
(Famed 19th Century Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed at Standing Rock in 1890)

The Dakotas lie outside the U.S. South, but the struggles of indigenous people such as the Sioux have parallels throughout the Global South.

In the 1934 Warner Brothers film Massacre, Joe Thunder Horse (played by Richard Barthelmess) tries to navigate the white majority world by playing an Indian in a Wild West show. After reconnecting with his Indian heritage and seeing the depth of injustice whites have done to that heritage and his people, he goes to Washington, D.C., to plead with the Indian Affairs Commissioner to do something about it.

“Every move I make is blocked by the same organized groups that have been bleeding the Indians for years,” the commissioner tells him. “Water power, oil rights, cattle ranges, timber—whatever the Indian happens to own, they manage to get it away from him. They control public opinion and legislation, and they’ve got me hog-tied.”

The same could be said today as American Indians from across the nation join in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Indians along the North and South Dakota border to protest plans by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners to build the so-called Dakota Access pipeline, part of which would be on Sioux land and under the Missouri River. The river is the tribe’s only source of water.

Tribal leaders say the pipeline seriously threatens the water supply on the reservation and could destroy ancestral lands considered sacred. In taking their stand, they and hundreds of their supporters have created the largest joint effort by American Indians in the nation’s history.

Company officials insist the Indians’ concerns have no foundation and that they have met with tribal representatives numerous times over the issue as well as provided the U.S. Corps of Engineers—which owns the land and approved the pipeline—with extensive data backing their claims. They say the pipeline meets and exceeds existing safety standards.

A federal judge denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction on the pipeline, but the Obama Administration proceeded with temporarily shutting down the part of the project that was a half-mile from the reservation.

The protest has led to dozens of arrests, including the filing of trespassing and riot charges against Democracy Now reporter Amy Goodman for filming a confrontation between Indians and the pipeline security officers. These confrontations have included the pepper-spraying of protesters and unleashed dogs lunging at them. The charges against Goodman were later dropped.

The dispute has gotten minimal attention from the mainstream media—no big surprise there—even during a presidential election when it would be interesting to hear the candidates’ positions.

It’s the latest chapter in the long, sad history of American Indians in this country. Four years ago, New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof traveled to the Sioux Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and called it “the poster child of American poverty and of the failures of the reservation system for American Indians in the West.”

Kristof said Census data showed that Shannon County there had the lowest per capita income in the nation in 2010 and that several other counties that included Sioux reservations were among the nation’s poorest. The jobless rate in Pine Ridge was 70 percent, 50 percent of the over-40 population suffered from diabetes, and as much as two-thirds of the adult population were alcoholics. Tuberculosis was rampant—eight times the national rate—and life expectancy was under 50 years of age.

The Pine Ridge reservation includes Wounded Knee, the village where the U.S. Seventh Cavalry slaughtered Chief Big Foot’s band in 1890, the last of the 19th century battles between U.S. military and American Indians.  Famous Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock that same year in a shooting melee related to government efforts to crack down on the so-called "Ghost Dance" movement. The Ghost Dance was a mystical ceremony Native Americans performed to rid their land of the white man.

Maybe it’s better if the mainstream media stay away from Standing Rock. When they do come, they tend to treat American Indian issues like a John Wayne movie, such as the coverage by many news organizations of the Wounded Knee protest and hostage crisis on the Pine Ridge reservation back in 1973,  the Navaho-Hopi land dispute near the Grand Canyon 10 years later, and the so-called “Navaho flu” health crisis in New Mexico in 1993.

“I feel a sadness for the white man,” American Indian Movement leader Russell Means once said. “He has no roots. No foundations.”

And too often, the white man, in his greed, attacks those who do have roots and foundations but stand in the white man’s way.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Labor South roundup: Trump & Joe McCarthy; prisoners strike & Native Americans protest; Jim Beam workers in Ky vote to strike; and longshoremen solidarity

 
It’s time for another Labor South roundup as the nation slouches toward election day, Jim Beam workers in Kentucky vote to strike, and the International Dockworkers Council meets in Florida.

Echoes of Joe McCarthy while no one’s talking about the nationwide prison strike and the Standing Rock protest

(U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin)

Back in February 1950, U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin appeared before a crowd in Wheeling, West Virginia, waving a sheet of paper that he said included a list of 205 communists in the U.S. Department of State. In later speeches, the number of communists he would cite ranged from as few as 10 to as many as 81 or even 205.

I was reminded of Joe McCarthy as I listened to Sunday’s presidential debate en route back to my home in Oxford, Mississippi, from a trip to North Carolina. At one point, Republican contender Donald Trump blasted his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for destroying 33,000 emails from her time as secretary of state. At another, that number jumped 6,000 to 39,000.

It’s the same old demagoguery, and Clinton herself is not above a certain degree of it. When asked about the Wikileaks revelations of her speeches to Wall Street financiers, she quickly went ad hominem by attacking the Russians for leaking the material to Wikileaks. My old logic professor would have flunked me if I had tried that trick in his course.

I served on a panel discussion titled “Civil Discourse and the Role of the Media in the 2016 Presidential Discussion” here at the University of Mississippi Wednesday of this week. I joined the other panelists in acknowledging the challenges facing journalists in holding the candidates’ feet to the fire of truth this election, particularly Trump. A group of reporters found that Trump either misspoke, mislead or out-and-out lied 72 times in a single speech back in March.

Fox News journalist Chris Wallace, chosen to moderate the Oct. 19 debate,  has now famously said “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad” when serving as moderator. In other words, Wallace sees himself simply as a referee. Granted it’s mighty hard for anyone to be a “truth squad” this election cycle, much less a debate moderator. However, writing for Moyers & Company, Todd Gitlin had this to say: “If the boxer comes out of his corner with his glove dripping with some unknown substance, is it not the job of the referee to interfere?”

Beyond lies and misstatements, perhaps the worst disservice to the public this election is what’s not being discussed. Where are the statements from Trump and Clinton on the nationwide prison strike against poor prison conditions and what is largely unpaid labor by convicts in prisons in Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and beyond? This is labor that benefits huge corporations such as Walmart and McDonalds.

What about the huge protest by Native Americans against the Dakota Access pipeline planned near Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands in North and South Dakota? It’s an issue that pits a Dallas-based private company against one of the most put-upon groups of people on the continent, Native Americans, who want to protect their ancestral lands against a potential environmental disaster.

Jim Beam workers in Kentucky vote to strike

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 111D voted overwhelmingly this week to strike at two Jim Beam distilleries in Clermont and Boston, Kentucky, after weeks of bargaining failed to produce a new contract to replace the one that ends Friday.

Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese company, owns Jim Beam. Company officials defended their offer of a contract that they said did away with a two-tiered wage system and included wage hikes.

Bourbon consumption on the whole is on the rise worldwide--most of it is produced in Kentucky--and the relative prosperity has led to generally good relations between management and labor in recent years. However, apparently all is not well with workers in bourbon land.

Dockworkers and longshoremen of the world unite!

Last month’s meeting of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) in Miami, Fla., provided an opportunity for many delegates to praise the 97,000-member organization that has kept its grassroots identity with the rank-and-file.

The IDC prides itself on international solidarity with dockworkers and longshoremen around the world and keeping alive the old IWW/Wobblies motto of “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

In yours truly’s 2008 book Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press (University Press of Mississippi), I wrote about the importance of such solidarity in the International Longshoremen’s protest against a union-busting Danish shipping line in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2000.

“Hundreds of battle-ready, black-clad police and highway patrol officers stood in formation, armed with riot helmets, wooden clubs, and plastic shields” to put down the protest. Before long, protesters were throwing rocks at the police, and the police were beating protesters with sticks and firing smoke grenades at them, according to varying accounts of the event.

As indictments were filed against the so-called “Charleston Five”, dockworkers around the world kicked into gear and joined the protest, including the West Coast-based International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) (which the legendary Harry Bridges formed in the 1930s) and workers as far away as Spain. Criminal felony charges eventually were dropped against the Charleston Five, and the Danish shipping line agreed to work with the International Longshoremen’s Association local (ILA) in Charleston.    



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The South tops the nation in union membership growth, and mainstream media could care less, labor writer laments

Below is a link to a compelling article by labor writer and newly arrived Southerner (from Pittsburgh) Mike Elk about the growing labor movement in the South and the dearth of reporters covering it (lamentably he doesn't mention Labor South).

"Just as attitudes about race are changing in the South, attitudes about organized labor are changing just as rapidly," Elk writes, pointing out the growing pro-labor attitudes of young people in particular.

Elk says union membership is growing faster in the South than any other region in the nation, and "five of the top 10 fastest-growing states for union membership" in 2015 were in the South. Hey, maybe Labor South helped moved that process along!

Here's the link

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trump denounces both TPP and its victims while a top Clintonista raises questions about Clinton's born-again opposition to it


An earlier posting touched on some of these issues, and this is the resulting column that ran recently in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Miss.

OXFORD, Miss. – I didn’t make it to the recent Donald Trump rally in Jackson, Miss., but I’m sure my ears would have perked up as soon as the Republican presidential candidate began attacking NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

“We will rebuild roads and bridges and infrastructure, and we will do it with our companies and our steel and our labor,” Trump told the cheering, chanting crowd. “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created!”

To add fuel to a long-simmering fire, one of England’s top “Brexit” leaders, Nigel Farage also took the stage and urged American voters to do like his fellow Brits and take their nation back from the “big banks” and the professional “political class.” The British vote to exit the European Union was in part a rejection of EU neoliberal policies that push free trade for corporations and “austerity” for citizens.

At this point, I might’ve had to pinch myself and ask: Is this a Republican rally? A fair question given the fact that the Republican Party has long been the party of “big banks” and big corporations.

It’s a topsy-turvy world this 2016 presidential election. On one hand you’ve got a populism-spouting billionaire real estate and casino magnate who’s also a former reality TV star. On the other, you’ve got Hillary Clinton, a Wall Street-friendly millionaire Democrat (net worth estimated in the neighborhood of $40 million) who once ardently championed the TPP but now says she opposes it.

Like NAFTA, the TPP agreement pretends to represent modern global reality, a world where capital should flow freely across barrier-less borders. Only problem is, the jobs flow with it toward bottom-feeder countries where low wages, sweatshops, and miserable workplace and environmental conditions are the rule.

The drain on jobs can work both ways. NAFTA dumped so much subsidized U.S. products onto Mexico that it displaced an estimated 1.3 million Mexican farmers, the same farmers and their progeny whom Trump rails against in his speeches. Back home in the States, NAFTA cost Americans millions of jobs that went overseas, most of them in manufacturing.

Mississippi was one of the states hardest hit by NAFTA, a 1994 trade deal that then-President Bill Clinton was only able to secure after arm-twisting fellow Democrats with promises of labor protections that were never delivered.

TPP has been described as NAFTA on steroids, and indeed it takes trade deals to a whole new level by allowing corporations to sue governments that pass laws and regulations that might inhibit profits. Furthermore, those suits are argued in special courts where the corporations have a powerful say in who presides. This is the kind of deal—enthusiastically supported by President Barack Obama—you get when the dealmakers meet in secret without input from the public.

It’s a sign of the tragic decline of the modern-day Democratic Party that its leaders have become champions of jobs-killing trade deals that also force untold millions of migrant workers to leave their native countries in search of work and survival. Those migrant workers are victims of the very trade deals that Trump denounces even as he also denounces the migrant workers.

One of Hillary Clinton’s closest political friends, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the quintessential Clinton insider, told POLITICO this summer that she’ll switch again on TPP once the election’s over and support it. “Yes,” he said when asked if she’d switch. “Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.” When a public outcry resulted, including a denial from the Clinton camp, McAuliffe did some of his own switching and insisted he only was saying what he wanted Clinton to do, not what she will do.

The Associated Press recently noted that “Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton (are) the two least-popular presidential nominees in the history of modern polling.” Indeed, a recent GenForward poll shows that as many as 72 percent of young people in the country feel neither major political party is doing a good job looking out for their interests. This includes whites, Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans.

Who can blame them? Saddled with unprecedented college debt and an uncertain future with limited options, they don’t know where to turn.

Trump talks big about being the “greatest jobs president,” but his record as a business executive includes a long, dismal trail of citations, lawsuits and liens for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and failure to pay workers and subcontractors.

Hillary Clinton’s husband railed against free-trade agreements as a candidate for president, then he became their biggest champion. Given her own record of switching back and forth, and those recent comments by major Clintonista McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton has given us little reason to believe she’ll be any different than Bill.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

UAW tilling what Sidney Hillman called the "unplowed fields" of the South with lopsided auto seating plant victory in Tennessee

The United Auto Workers continue to till what legendary Amalgamated Clothing Workers leader Sidney Hillman once called the "unplowed fields" of the South.

Workers at Magna Seating International in Spring Hill, Tenn., recently voted 192-1 to join the UAW, bringing a total of 230 workers into what UAW Region 8 Director Ray Curry called "the UAW family."

Located near the General Motors Manufacturing Plant in Spring Hill, the 122,500-square-foot Magna Seating International facility builds seats for the GMC Acadia and Cadillac XT5. It's a new, state-of-the-art facility touted by company officials for its commitment to good environmental conditions and open working relations.

The UAW has been slowing building a foundation in what has come to be called "Detroit South" for years, connecting with community leaders and area university students to change the traditionally anti-union hostility that Southern political, religious and economic leaders have fostered for decades. It has waged a nearly 12-year effort at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., that could produce a vote in coming months.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Americans: Facing a choice between the billionaire and the millionaire, and desperately needing a friend

 
It’s time for Labor South to check the nation’s temperature as we enter the Fall political season. The diagnosis? Blood pressure is up, people are nervous and they’re suffering from more than a little disillusionment. No surprise as they face a choice in November between a loud-mouthed billionaire demagogue and a long-compromised Wall Street insider-turned-“I feel your pain” Democrat for president.

(To the right, the billionaire (from Reuters' Lucas Jackson) and the millionaire)

A GenForward poll that was released this month shows that as many as 72 percent of young people in the country feel neither major political party is doing a good job looking out for their interests. This includes whites, Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans. The Democratic Party gets a little better numbers than the Republican Party, but neither can take much consolation. An Associated Press article on the poll noted that “Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton (are) the two least-popular presidential nominees in the history of modern polling.”

Young people have reason to be skeptical. Many are entering the workplace after college saddled with mind-boggling debt, the result of a political leadership that long ago lost interest in the post-World War II dream of a higher education system that can be a gateway to success for the non-millionaire class.

Both parties have also failed to push for an economy that means plentiful good jobs for those young people, embracing instead the neoliberal mantra of free trade and free flow of capital across borders. Trump’s speeches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are enough to make even a lefty like me stop and listen, but then I remember this is the guy who also demonizes the migrant workers caught in the trap of TPP-NAFTA-like agreements.

J.D. Vance, author of the recent book Hillbilly Legacy: A Memoir of Family and a Culture in Crisis, makes the case that poor white people are embracing Trump because they feel abandoned by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Yes, Trump may be a demagogue, but at least he is paying attention to them and their concerns. “Trump’s candidacy is music to their ears,” Vance told Ron Dreher of The American Conservative. “He criticizes the factories shipping overseas. His apocalyptic tone matches their lived experiences on the ground. He seems to love to annoy the elites, which is something a lot of people wish they could do but can’t because they lack a platform.”

Then there’s Hillary Clinton (net worth estimated at roughly $30 million to $45 million), once a champion of TPP who now says she opposes it. Her old buddy, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the quintessential Clinton insider, told POLITICO last month that she’ll switch again once the election’s over and support TPP. “Yes,” he said when asked if she’d switch. “Listen, she was in support of it. There were specific things in it she wants fixed.”

When a public outcry followed his comments, including a denial from the Clinton camp, McAuliffe did some of his own switching and insisted he only was saying what he wanted Clinton to do, not what she will do. Hmmmmm.

People wonder why the British rejected the European Union with their June “Brexit” vote. Racist anti-immigrant fools, many of my friends on the Left called them. Those friends seem to have no clue that the EU has become the flagship of neoliberalism today, a global economic policy that has been the prime mover in forcing people to migrate to other countries so they can find work and simply survive.

Oh, well. Bernie Sanders will never be president. The next president will either be a billionaire real-estate/casino magnate or a Wall Street-loving pol who pals around with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein when she’s not kissing babies on the campaign trail.

(To the left, my friend)

I think I need a friend to help me deal with my own high blood pressure, nervousness and disillusionment.  Old Jack Daniel’s, you haven’t failed me yet. Yet.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The "Sans-Culottes" in Canton, Miss., get French support to organize at Nissan's Mississippi plant

 
(The Sans-Culottes in revolutionary France)

JACKSON, Miss. - A longstanding French tradition upholds the rights of working people—and it goes back as far as the 1789 revolution with the so-called “sans-culottes” who were too poor to afford the fashionable silk knee-pants of the nobility.

It’s that tradition that recently brought prominent French National Assembly member Christian Hutin to Jackson, Miss.

“For me, I believe there is something in the genes of the French people, in the French republic there is something that is human rights,” the vice president of the Commission on Social Affairs and mayor of Saint Pol Sur Mer told me during an interview at the ornate Fairview Inn near downtown. “It is very difficult for the French government not to react in this situation.”

(To the right, French National Assembly member Christian Hutin in Jackson, Miss.)

The situation Hutin referred to was the ongoing resistance by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn to unionization efforts at the company’s 5,000-plus-employee plant in Canton, Miss.. In April of this year, Hutin asked the French National Assembly in Paris to use its leverage with Nissan’s partner company, Renault, to pressure the automaker to step back and allow Canton workers to decide without intimidation whether they want to join the United Auto Workers.

His trip to Mississippi was to fulfill a promise to see first-hand what is happening here.

With nearly 20 percent of Renault stock and 32 percent of its votes, the French government indeed can wield a heavy hand in Nissan affairs. Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan shares. Ghosn is chairman and CEO of both Nissan and Renault.

In Jackson and Canton, Hutin met with worker after worker at the Nissan plant who told of management’s arbitrary control over health and safety issues, how injured workers must go to the company’s medical personnel who tend to dismiss their claims and order them back to their jobs. Other complaints range from shifting work hours without notification, unsafe speed-up productions on the assembly line, and threats against and intimidation of pro-union workers.

Hutin said he asked for but was denied a meeting with the plant’s manager, Steve Marsh, and he was denied permission to visit the plant. “They hired security guards to prevent me from entering,” Hutin told me. “This is a sign that there is no dialogue at this plant and no transparency.”

I contacted the office of Nissan Corporate Communications Manager Parul Bajaj in Franklin, Tenn., and this is the statement I received:

“In every country where Nissan has operations, we follow both the spirit and the letter of the law. Nissan not only respects labor laws, but we work to ensure that all employees are aware of these laws, understand their rights and enjoy the freedom to express their opinions and elect their representation as desired.”

As for Hutin’s request for a meeting with Marsh, the statement said, “due to the demands of the business, we were not able to accommodate the request.”

Indeed, Nissan workers are represented by unions at the company’s other plants around the world. Ghosn told French National Assembly members in February that “Nissan has absolutely no tradition of not knowing how to cooperate with labor unions nor does it consider that it is a bad thing.” He also said that unions are present in all Nissan plants.

In other words, given the testimony of the workers in Canton, Ghosn lied. Born in Brazil of Lebanese descent, a British knight as well as French citizen, Ghosn has a long history of antipathy to unions—at least unions at plants his company operates in the U.S. South.

“It is unbelievable,” Hutin said about Ghosn’s statements. “It is not acceptable. To lie to a commission of Parliament is something that is unacceptable.”

Hutin said he wrote a letter to Ghosn that was co-signed was 35 members of Parliament asking the company to allow a fair vote if workers choose to decide on whether to join a union. Ghosn never responded. “Not to react to a letter signed by 35 members of Parliament is also something totally unacceptable,” Hutin said. “This reflects an attitude of contempt, of political contempt, of human contempt when you consider what is happening at the plant. I believe they can only respond to pressure.”

Nissan and Ghosn will soon be feeling pressure on a number of fronts. Not only did Hutin return to France with a renewed commitment to expose conditions at the Nissan plant in Canton—the issue has already gotten considerable media attention in France--but also protesters staged major public demonstrations against Nissan at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero this week. The IndustriALL Global Union says the company’s sponsorship of the Olympics is hypocrisy considering its treatment of its workers in Mississippi.

This column appeared recently in the Jackson Free Press of Jackson, Miss.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"The Free State of Jones", a film about Southern rebels against the rebellion known as the Confederacy

 
(Newt Knight)

OXFORD, Miss. – Newt Knight is described as a “deserter, renegade, and assassin” on the Web site of the local Sons of the Confederate Veterans chapter in Jones County, Miss., but Lew Smith in the nearby town of Sumrall has a different view.

“Old Newt is a big hero to me personally,” says Smith, who describes himself as a “life-long union man, white guy” who has been married to an African American woman for 45 years. “His willingness to stand tall for his ex-slave wife and bi-racial family.”

Add to that Knight’s willingness to challenge the “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight” that essentially was the Civil War.

Smith hasn’t seen the new film “The Free State of Jones”, starring Matthew McConaughey and Mississippi-bred talent such as Oxford’s own Johnny McPhail. “In a way I’m hesitant to watch the movie. … So often Hollywood screws things up.”

He needn’t worry. I’ve seen the movie, and it’s excellent. Director Gary Ross, whose credits include the now-classic “Seabiscuit”, spent two years researching the complex history of Jones County, Miss., during the Civil War, research that included Victoria E. Bynum’s book, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War.

It’s a 150-year-old story that resonates today as Mississippi still wrestles with the Confederate symbolism that rests on its flag as well as on its countless courthouse lawns. It’s a story that’s also still current in its challenge to the racial divisions that have forever haunted Mississippi and the South.

Newt Knight was a tee-totaling backwoodsman from southeast Mississippi who volunteered to serve in the Confederacy. He began his own rebellion against the Confederacy after passage of the so-called “Twenty Negro Law”, which allowed Southerners to avoid conscription if they owned 20 slaves or more. Most of the small farmers who dominated rural Jones County and surrounding counties owned no slaves and had little interest in preserving slavery.

Furthermore, the Confederacy allowed troops to confiscate small farmers’ crops and livestock as a kind of insidious “tax” to support the war effort. “You think they do that to the plantation owner in Natchez?” McConaughey’s Newt Knight tells his fellow Southerners as he launches his rebellion. “We got no country. We are the country. No man ought to stay poor so another can get rich.”

Knight leads an armed and violent resistance against the Confederacy that declares Jones County a “free state”. His break with Southern tradition extends to his personal life when he enters into a long-term relationship with a slave named Rachel and sires children by her. Their descendants still live today in the Jones County area.
  
“The Free State of Jones” stands out in the recent crop of Civil War or slavery-related films—“Lincoln”, “12 Years a Slave”, and Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation”. Each challenges the myths and stereotypes embedded in Hollywood classics like D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” in 1915 and David O. Selznick’s “Gone With The Wind” in 1939.

What distinguishes “The Free State of Jones” is its direct challenge to prevailing myths such as what Ross calls the “monolithic” ante-bellum South. “There were areas of Southern unionism all across the South,” he says in a Huffington Post Facebook video.

Jones County may one of the more famous examples, but another is the entire state of West Virginia, which exists because it refused to follow Virginia’s secession from the union. Many of the small farmers and mountain folk in the western portion of my own native North Carolina rebelled against the Rebels. They didn’t own slaves and saw no reason for the fight.

“The Free State of Jones” points to a dark consistency in Southern history that stretches from ante-bellum day until today. Soon after the Civil War, a landowning elite returned to power and instituted the so-called “Black Codes” that allowed black children to be taken into a forced “apprenticeship” that meant back to the fields. Of course, Reconstruction was eventually followed by Jim Crow, sharecropping and tenant farming, the entire retinue of the Southern elite’s insistence on cheap and, if possible, free labor.

Mississippi and the South as a whole are still dealing with the legacy of what forced Newt Knight to rebel against the Southern rebellion. Witness the ongoing controversy about the Confederate flag emblem in Mississippi’s state flag. At the University of Mississippi, a plaque is being placed next to the Confederate statue on campus that says the monument may honor Confederate soldiers’ sacrifice but it “must also remind us that the defeat of the Confederacy actually meant freedom for millions of people.”

Newt Knight’s story reaches beyond the South. His statement in the movie that “no man ought to stay poor so another can get rich” could be a rallying cry for the entire nation.

This column ran recently in the Jackson Free Press of Jackson, Miss.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Labor South roundup: Brexit & neoliberalism; a visit with veteran Hollywood character actor Nehemiah Persoff; and Nissan hypocrisy in Mississippi

 
It’s time for another Labor South roundup, plus a heads-up on things to come.

The Brexit vote and neoliberalism

The British vote this week to exit the European Union is causing huge disruption in U.S. and international markets while being treated to a lot of handwringing by a head-scratching mainstream press. Yet Enrico Tortolano of openDemocracyUK says the following:

“Voting to leave the EU is a no-brainer for the Left. The European Union is remote, racist, imperialist, anti-worker and anti-democratic: It is run by, of, and for the super-rich and their corporations. A future outside austerity and other economic blunders rests on winning the struggle to exit the EU.”

Furthermore, “Neoliberal policies and practices dominate the European Commission, European Parliament, European Central Bank, European Court of Justice and a compliant media legitimises (sic) the whole conquest.”


Of course, anti-immigrant forces have also been on the Brexit side of the issue in this complex development. What we’ve seen in Britain is some of the same populism that has helped drive the Trump and Sanders presidential campaigns in the United States—a deep disdain for the longstanding collusion of Big Banks, Big Corporations and Big Government, yet on the Trump side one that is confused by an equal disdain for the migrant workers victimized by that same collusion.

Still, it is hard to argue with Tortolano’s description of the EU and its worship of the “neoliberal Holy Trinity of public spending cuts, privatisation (sic) and the removal of trade union rights.” Witness European leaders’ hard-fisted policies toward Greece and other economically struggling countries in Europe.

 Tortolano believes migrants actually suffer more under the EU because it supports the policies that force workers to leave their home countries in an often tragic search for better work and a better life.

In California with veteran actor Nehemiah Persoff

(To the right, Nehemiah Persoff in 1960)

Yours truly recently returned from a week-long trip to California, where I, among other things, interviewed veteran character actor Nehemiah Persoff, approaching his 97th birthday, at his Cambria, Calif., home. I’m doing a profile of Persoff for Noir City magazine.

Jerusalem-born Persoff, a painter for the past quarter century, was once one of Hollywood’s most familiar faces in film and on television, beginning with his brief appearance in On the Waterfront (1954) to major roles in Humphrey Bogart’s last movie, The Harder They Fall (1956), Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man (1956), and—my favorite--as Nazi Carl Lanser in the segment “Judgment Night” on television’s Twilight Zone (1959). Each of these films addressed important social justice issues without being didactic. Persoff also was memorable as Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot (1959) and Barbara Steisand's father in Yentl (1983)

 Persoff began his career with theater and acting groups in New York City, including the famed Actors Studio, and recalled during my interview his early work performing for striking union members and for workers on the picket line.

Be on the lookout for Noir City’s next issue at the end of the summer!

UAW fighting Nissan hypocrisy in Mississippi

Students and activists will join with the United Auto Workers this weekend in bringing attention to the hypocrisy of the Nissan corporation’s sponsorship of a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of civil rights activist James Meredith’s 1966 “March Against Fear”.

Many among the predominantly black workforce at the company’s Nissan, Miss., plant have complained of its virulent anti-unionism, its use of temporary workers at lower wages and benefits, arbitrary decisions regarding work hours and medical treatment, and the overly restricted use of its air-conditioning units during Mississippi’s hot summer months.

Popular Resistance, a University of Mississippi student organization led by rising sophomore Jaz Brisack, is among the groups planning to bring light to Nissan’s hypocrisy this weekend.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The heart of darkness: Mississippi and North Carolina politics


(To the right, my front porch. It's dark in Mississippi.)

This column, which appeared recently in the Jackson Free Press, in Jackson, Miss., is a follow-up to an earlier Labor South posting in which I republished the original 2011 column cited below. Here I take a look at Mississippi and my native North Carolina, both the heart of darkness in their politics these days.

OXFORD, Miss. – I told you so.

Yes, I did. It was way back in November 2011 when the Republicans took over the Mississippi Legislature as well as the state’s Governor’s Mansion.

At the time, I was telling you about relatives coming to visit me and one of them remarking how “it sure is dark in Mississippi.” She was referring to the long, unlit roads and highways they traveled during the night to get here. “It’s about to get a lot darker,” I told her.

And then I told you, my column readers, this:

“Better roads and highways? Not on this watch. Better public transportation? Education? Health care? Mental health services? Social services? Are you kidding? It’s going to be Tea Party heaven down here. People finally get to see what it will be like in a Tea Party world.”

Thank you, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and state House Speaker Philip Gunn for proving what a prophet Joe Atkins is. I always knew it. Now the world does!

In the poorest, most woe-begotten state in the United States, the Mississippi Troika and their loyal minions have managed to cut even deeper into woefully underfunded state education, health care, mental health care, roads and highways maintenance. As they slashed away at agency budgets like machete-wielding tribesmen clear-cutting a scraggly forest to make way for more desert, they even found they had overestimated revenue projections by $56.8 million!

And this is the state government that wants to take over the Jackson, Miss., airport. One of the minions at the state Capitol has even proposed that the state take over all of Jackson, that black-run state capital that’s wont to challenge the Tea Party revolution from time to time. State Rep. Mark Baker, a Republican from Brandon, came up with that brilliance. Should we call it “Revenge of the Suburbanites”?

As they slashed budgets and services, however, the Troika and its minions did manage to find the wherewithal to give $274 million plus lots of juicy tax breaks to Continental Tire the Americas and Edison Chouest of Louisiana, two more companies promising jobs and Nirvana in exchange for big taxpayer-funded handouts. They both saw the $363 million handout poor ol’ Mississippi gave Nissan back in 2000 and the $356 million it gave Toyota a few years later, and they wanted their share.

At the time of the Toyota deal, the state wouldn’t even fund a burn center and had to send burn victims to Memphis.

The state’s pols also managed to kill efforts to limit themselves in how they spend their campaign money, making them the envy of politicians across the country who face jail terms for doing what Mississippi politicians can do with impunity.

Something else they did during the past legislative session, of course, was make discrimination legal and call it the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”.

When I first arrived in Mississippi back in the early 1980s, many folks told me how much they admired my home state of North Carolina. They talked about the beautiful mountains and beaches. Many talked with a degree of envy about North Carolina’s longheld commitment to public education and wished Mississippi were more so inclined.

Well, here we are more than three decades later, and we find Mississippi politicians actually are looking at North Carolina as a model. Trouble is, North Carolina today is a Jesse Helms dream come true—and that’s not a good thing.

The Tarheel state’s so-called HB2 legislation, known as the “bathroom bill”, preceded Mississippi’s HB 1523 (now the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act) in putting state authorities on bathroom detail. North Carolina leaders took it a step further, however, by also making it illegal for troublesome cities such as Charlotte (where the whole bathroom controversy began) to adopt regulations contrary to what state rulers prefer. This includes raising the minimum wage, an issue far removed from gender identity.

So both North Carolina and Mississippi share something besides a strong connection to Joe Atkins. Their leaders are the kind of hypocrites my Pentecostal Holiness preaching Uncle Eb would’ve raked over the coals in his Sunday sermons. They talk of the sanctity of local government when it comes to defying federal mandates, but they’re quick to impose state rule over municipalities, whether it’s a minimum wage hike in Charlotte or airport control in Jackson.

Don’t let anyone pull the wool over your eyes. It’s already dark enough in Mississippi.