PERRY/White House recordings
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 12:00 AM
This week I'm cleaning out a political notebook and scrawled between grocery lists and coffee stains are notes on beer freedom, judicial hellholes and White House recordings.
Last week the Senate brewed serious liberty by passing Senator John Horhn's Senate Bill 2183 to give home brewers legal protection to enjoy their hobby. The bill would permit Mississippians aged 21 or older (in counties that permit beer) to brew up to 100 gallons a year for personal use. Just as food preparation can range from a taquito at a gas station to molecular gastronomy, so can home brewing range from a "Mr. Beer" kit to sophisticated recipes of specialty grains, rare hops and proprietary yeast.
The home brewing concept is simple: boil grain to release sugars, add hops (or not), cool, add yeast, wait for a few weeks, chill and drink. Yeast eats sugar and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol, thus beer.
Scientifically, life begins at conception. As a culture we're unable to reach consensus as to the time at which life is given legal rights. How much more mysterious is the production of beer? The moment after yeast consumes sugar there is some alcohol, but when is that twilight moment during two weeks or several months at which your legal (yet disgusting) grain tea becomes an illegal (yet delicious) beer?
In Mississippi, it is the process of brewing that requires a permit. Commercially brewed beer must be submitted to testing certified by the Department of Revenue. But Horhn's legislation allows for personal brewing and mirrors federal law which permits home brewing. Only Mississippi and Alabama currently do not have statutes allowing home brewing. Representative David Baria has a House companion bill (HB431).
The 2012-2013 "Judicial Hellholes" report from the American Tort Reform Foundation doesn't criticize Mississippi. The Magnolia State's legal climate doesn't' even make the "watch list" or a dishonorable mention. In 2008 the report criticized "dangerous liaisons" between plaintiff attorneys with no-bid contingency fee contracts and state Attorneys General like Mississippi's Jim Hood. This year, the report praises the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi legislature as "Points of Light" for early reforms to those liaisons.
The report noted, "In a pair of rulings this year issued in a consumer protection lawsuit against Microsoft and a tax collection case against MCI, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the attorney general may not enter settlement agreements that require defendants to pay the fees of contingent-fee lawyers directly. Settlements are public funds that must be deposited into the state treasury, the court found. Agreeing with the state's auditor, the court found that the attorney general may only pay private attorneys fees out of his approved legislative appropriation or contingent fund."
It continues with another point of light, "Led by Mark Baker, Chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, with key support from House Speaker Philip Gunn and Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman W. Briggs Hopson III, Mississippi safeguarded state hiring of private lawyers on a contingent-fee basis (H.B. 211)."
While they lack the witty dialogue and clever phrase turning of The West Wing, political nerds in Mississippi might enjoy listening to archived conversations between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Mississippians like Senators Jim Eastland and John Stennis. The recordings are some of 5000 hours of meetings and telephone conversations of six American presidents between 1940 and 1973 hosted online at the University of Virginia's The Miller Center.
In one series of calls, Eastland serves as an intermediary between President Lyndon Johnson and Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson on the issue of missing civil rights workers in Neshoba County. Initially Johnson - the governor - believed the whole thing was a hoax, staged by the workers to attract attention, according to Eastland.
Another series of calls has Johnson and Eastland plotting strategy for seating the Mississippi Regular Democrats' delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention against the Freedom Democratic Party delegates: Johnson in the Oval Office and Eastland at his lodge on Eagle Lake in Warren County. When Eastland goes into town to eat, he tells the President to call him back at Tumminello Restaurant in Vicksburg.
In November of 1963, Johnson asks Eastland to drop his committee's planned investigation of the Kennedy Assassination and instead help him create a joint committee. They discuss potential members of what would become the Warren Commission. In other calls, Johnson asks Eastland's advice on whom to appoint Vice President and Attorney General.
On one occasion, an angry Stennis calls Johnson because NASA Administrator Jim Webb was to speak that night to the Jackson Chamber of Commerce but canceled when he discovered it was a segregated event. A frustrated Johnson tells Stennis there is a rule against speaking to segregated events, Webb should have checked on that earlier, but not to get him involved in issues like speakers to a chamber of commerce.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.