Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mike Moore Will Not Run for Senator

The Clarion Ledger is reporting that Mike Moore has said he will not run for the U S Senate seat being vacated by Trent Lott.

“I am happy doing what I am doing, my family is happy, and I look forward to making a big difference in my state and nation,” Moore said in a statement. “I have seriously considered the U.S. Senate vacancy as my friends urged me to do, but I have always known that what I am doing now is good enough for me.”
This is very sad news, since Moore would have made a fantastic U S Senator. I'm a big supporter, and I'm very disappointed, especially since Moore had the best chance of any Democratic candidate to get elected.

Many are speculating this announcement was somehow a result of the Scruggs indictment. There is no doubt the Republicans would have used his relationship with Scruggs against him. And of course, Republicans are all hoping he and Attorney General Jim Hood - the bright stars of the Mississippi Democratic Party - are indicted as well - or at least tarnished by the Scruggs brush. Personally, I'm not worried a bit - let them rant and rave.

Cross posted at the Cotton Mouth Blog

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fun & Games

In honor of the holidays, I thought I'd give you a couple of political chuckles.

Are you in a quandry over who to support for President? Don't worry. The Internet provides answers for everything. Take this quiz, and voila, it'll tell you who to support. Warning! The results may surprise you. A Republican friend of mine took it and found she should support Obama. Mine said I should support Dennis Kucinich, who is the only Democratic candidate I can't stand, although he does have the right positions on issues. Fortunately, tied for second place was Clinton, Obama, and Biden.

After you've found your candidate, you can see how I have "elfed" them.
  1. Democrats

  2. Republicans

Here's a joke someone sent me - it's a little risque.

At a bus stop, 2 men get on. They sit down and engage in an animated conversation. The lady sitting next to them ignores them at first, but her attention is galvanized when she hears one of them say the following: "Emma come first. Den I come. Den two asses come together. I come once-a-more! Two asses, they come together again. I come again and pee twice. Then I come one lasta time." The lady can't take this any more, "You foul-mouthed sex obsessed pig" she retorted indignantly. In this country, we don't speak aloud in public places about our sex lives!!! Hey, coola downa ladee, " said the man. "Who talkin' bouta sexa? I'ma justa tellin' my frienda how to spella 'Mississippi'."

Finally, Trent Lott's hair. We may find it difficult to believe, but Trent's hair is a topic of much mirth in the Washington area. They don't understand that industrial strength hair spray is a necessity for all well coifed Mississippians - male and female. One blog showed this picture of Trent and Chip Pickering. Practically, the whole discussion was about how Chip couldn't take Trent's place because his hair was messed up. Of course, since this picture was taken, Chip has mastered the perfect hair. But alas, he still won't get to take Trent's place.

For another take on Trent Lott's hair, go to The Gulf Coast Realist, who has a satirical treatment of Trent's surprise resignation.

Please use the comments section to add your personal favorite political funny.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Congressman Roger Wicker to Be New Senator

According to Cottonmouth Blog, Wicker was asked by Haley to take Trent's place as Senator, and he said yes. Haley apparently made this decision after doing some polling.

Another View of the Scruggs Indictment

When Dickie Scruggs was indicted recently, it made many people happy. Of course, bloggers and traditional journalists are thrilled to have something so dramatic to write about. Democrats and left wing blogs are excited because Scruggs gave a quarter of a million dollars to the Bush campaign - plus he was Republican Senator Trent Lott's brother in law. Republicans and right wing blogs thought the indictment was great because Scruggs was a trial attorney (ie, devil incarnate), he gave quite a bit of money to Democrats, and he was about to have a fundraiser for Hillary at his house.

All in all, this guy looks guilty as hell and seems not to have any friends at all.
NOT SO FAST.

No friends? According to the Wall Street Journal, Scruggs and his wife just had a party at his house in Oxford, MS with over 200 friends. One of those friends, Robert Khayat, the chancellor of Ole Miss, said, "The town really did turn out for them." Another friend was the most famous lawyer from Mississippi, John Grisham. Oxford's Mayor was there and said, "People appreciate him for his support of the community, and we're all willing to stand by and support him." Another friend was Richard Howorth, the owner of Square Books, the famous bookstore and literary center of Oxford and maybe Mississippi.

So why are all these people so supportive of someone who looks so guilty? First, we should heed the words of John Grisham. "In a situation like this I’m always reminded how quickly we abandon the presumption of innocence. There’s always such a rush to judgment. " Grisham read the indictment against Scruggs and said, "As a former criminal defense lawyer, I started thinking about how I would defend it and started looking for gaps and holes."

After all the initial buzz of the indictment, those gaps and holes are becoming more prevalent. As Grisham said, "It’s only one side of what happened. There’s a whole lot more to the story. One thing is that there are a lot of recorded statements in the indictment but none from Dickie. There are no allegations that he delivered cash or was part of it."

The biggest argument against Scruggs' guilt is something along the lines that he was too smart to do something so stupid. Or why would a big time trial attorney bribe a judge over a small potatoes fee dispute. Since there doesn't appear to be any concrete evidence against Scruggs, the prosecution will have to answer that to the satisfaction of a jury. And there are no obvious answers.

The lawyer who sued Scruggs, John Jones, has one theory, which is outlined in an article in Fortune Magazine. Jones said he filed the suit in Oxford hoping to shame Scruggs. “I wanted a jury to hear it in Dickie’s backyard," he said. He thinks Scruggs wanted the judge to send the case to arbitration, which is a closed proceeding. But that theory doesn't seem to hold up, because most lawyers think the case would have gone to arbitration anyway. And even Jones admits to being shocked when he learned about the indictment.

The person caught on tape is Timothy Balducci. Those in attendance at the party in Oxford were contemptuous of him. Remember that Oxford is a small town, and everyone knows everyone - like Natchez. One comment kind of sums up their attitude: "This is a clear case of a young man wanting to endear himself to Dickie Scruggs in hopes that he might one day have a chair at his table."

I do feel fairly certain that this is not a political prosecution like the one of Paul Minor, Oliver Diaz, and the two judges. The prosecuting US Attorney in the latter case (in the Southern District of Mississippi) was Dunn Lampton, a political appointee with a serious lack of ethical standards. In the Scruggs case (in the Northern District of Mississippi), the US Attorney is Jim Greenlee, who by all appearances is an ethical and professional attorney.

Crossposted on Cottonmouth Blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who Will Be Our New Senator?

Once Senator Trent Lott officially resigns, the Governor will appoint someone to fill Lott's seat. That appointee will then have the advantage of incumbency when they have to be elected in the special election, which will be in March or November, depending on the outcome of lawsuits. There are lots of rumors about who that might be. At first, everyone assumed it would be our Congressman Chip Pickering. However, his star seems to be fading, probably because he is not beholden to Haley. Another strong possibility is Congressman Roger Wicker from north Mississippi. There are many others mentioned.

However, there is one possibility I've heard about that seems brilliant - and Haley is certainly that. Mike Espy. He was the Democratic Congressman from the Delta area from 1986 to 1992, when he was appointed Agriculture Secretary by President Clinton, becoming the first African American to serve in that capacity. He only served for two years. He had to resign because he was being investigated for bribery and other charges. When he finally went to trial, he was acquitted of all charges.

So why would Haley appoint a Democrat? He wouldn't, of course. Espy would have to change parties and become a Republican. What makes me think he might? Because Espy infuriated the Democratic party last month by endorsing Haley for Governor. Plus, they're both from Yazoo City.

So why would this be a brilliant move for Haley?
  1. Espy, if ultimately elected, would be indebted to Haley big time - and that's important to Haley.
  2. Espy would undoubtedly enjoy significant support from African Americans, which would probably keep a Democrat from being elected.
  3. Think of the national implications. Mississippi has its first black Senator since Reconstruction - and he's a Republican! He would also be the first black Republican Senator since Edward Brooke of (liberal) Massachusetts in 1978. And Haley could take credit for it.

The only problem is that some Republicans might revolt. Espy has a somewhat liberal background which would turn off conservatives - and of course the white racists (of which there are quite a few in Mississippi) would have a cow. However, Haley has the stature to bring any reluctant Republicans on board if he puts his mind to it.

I, of course, hope Haley doesn't do this. Why? Because I'm a charter member of the We Want Mike Moore club.

Cross posted at Cottonmouth Blog.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trent Departure Gets Curioser and Curiouser

There's another rumor overtaking the internet about why Trent left, but I'll get to that in a minute. Let's just look at what has to happen in order for Mississippi to have a new Senator.

Here's the law MS Code 23-15-855:

1) If a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from Mississippi by death, resignation or otherwise, the Governor shall, within ten (10) days after receiving official notice of such vacancy, issue his proclamation for an election to be held in the state to elect a Senator to fill such unexpired term as may remain, provided the unexpired term is more than twelve (12) months and the election shall be held within ninety (90) days from the time the proclamation is issued and the returns of such election shall be certified to the Governor in the manner set out above for regular elections, unless the vacancy shall occur in a year that there shall be held a general state or congressional election, in which event the Governor's proclamation shall designate the general election day as the time for electing a Senator, and the vacancy shall be filled by appointment as hereinafter provided.

Here's the problem. If Trent resigns in 2007, a special election has to be called within 90 days - or sometime in March - and Trent can lobby after a year. If Trent waits until 2008, the election doesn't have to be until November 8 - but Trent has to wait 2 years before he can lobby. So what does Trent do? Well, he got saved by Haley, who has decided as he reads the law, he doesn't have to have a special election. The Democratic Party thinks differently. Look for lawsuits!

More problems. If Chip is appointed to fill Trent's seat, then we have another vacancy, which may not be filled until January 2009 - so you and I have no Congressman for a year. (Not that Chip was much of a Congressperson to begin with.)

At least now we know why Senator Thad Cochran decided not to retire, after it was widely rumored that he would. We couldn't have two vacant Senate seats up for election at the same time. God forbid, Mississippi might vote for a Democrat for one of them, thinking it might be good to have one of each to cover our bases. Plus the national Republican Senate campaign is dead broke and trying to defend way more open Senate seats than the Democrats, who also happen to have oodles of money. Maybe Cochran will retire after a year, and we'll get to go through this all over again. What fun!

Now for the rumor about the REAL reason Trent is resigning. During Clinton's impeachment trial, Larry Flynt, the infamous publisher of Hustler magazine, offerred a million dollars for evidence of sexual affairs of Republican lawmakers. His report resulted in the resignation of incoming House Speaker Bob Livingston of Louisiana. In June of this year, he took out an ad in the Washington Post again offering a million dollars for evidence of sexual improprieties of members of Congress or high ranking government officials. This exposed Senator David Vitter, also of Louisiana. (What is it with that state?) Vitter is still in the US Senate, but will probably be gone after Jindal becomes the new Republican Governor of Louisiana and can appoint a Republican Senator.

Several weeks ago, Flynt announced that he had news that would rock Washington. Now the rumor is that he was going to out Trent as being gay. (NOTE Flynt claims to only expose hypocrites, ie those whose words and behaviors don't agree.) This is what his web site has to say about this:

"HUSTLER Magazine has received numerous inquiries regarding the involvement of Larry Flynt and HUSTLER in the resignation of Trent Lott. Senator Lott has been the target of an ongoing HUSTLER investigation for some time now, due to confidential information that we have received. "

I have no idea if any of this is true, and I just present it to you to make up your own mind.

UPDATE: One of the comments draws our attention to an article that debunks this rumor.

UPDATE 2: Here's another reason Trent may have resigned - and remember I predicted this possibility. Scott Horton of Harpers Magazine is reporting that:

"FBI agents are now raiding the law office of Richard “Dickie” Scruggs in Oxford. Scruggs is the brother-in-law of Trent Lott, and, as we reported earlier, several Mississippi newspapers openly questioned whether Lott had intervened to protect Scruggs in a recent criminal probe that produced the prosecution of a number of other Mississippi lawyers and judges with whom he was closely connected."

UPDATE 3: The Clarion Ledger is reporting that Dicking Scruggs was arrested.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bye Bye, Trent

To the total shock and surprise of Washington and Mississippi, Trent Lott announced today that he would resign as US Senator before the end of the year - in spite of having just been reelected a year ago. Why? There are several theories.

Trent himself said he wants to spend more time with his family and to pursue other job opportunities. (They all say that.) Some have speculated that he may succeed Robert Khayat as chancellor of his alma mater University of Mississippi.

But by far, the most popular explanation is he resigned to avoid the requirements of a new lobbying bill that will take effect next year. The bill says legislators must wait two years before they can become lobbyists. By resigning now, he only has to wait one year. And Trent could definitely make big bucks in the lobbying business. He is not a wealthy man, and much of his wealth was invested in his home, which was destroyed by Katrina. This could be his last opportunity to earn a lot of money.

Rumors were that he planned to retire at the end of his last term of office. However, he was talked into running again to help his state recover from Katrina. However, his state still needs him, but I guess he decided he had sacrificed enough.

Since he still has five years left in his term, the Governor gets to appoint his successor until a special election can be held in 2008. That is widely believed to be Chip Pickering, our current Congressman, who just announced his own retirement to "spend more time with his family".

I first developed a dislike for Trent when he was a cheerleader for Ole Miss while I was attending LSU. He did not do much to endear himself to me when he was elected to Congress and was one of the few Republicans to vote against impeaching Richard Nixon. He really didn't develop any stature until he went to the Senate, where he surprised me with his pragmatic abilities. Although I don't agree with his politics (he's a conservative, and I'm a liberal), I have to admit I kind of like and admire him.

He was not a knee jerk Republican. He was capable of being independent when he thought it was necessary. For one thing, he always did what he thought was best for Mississippi. Unlike Haley Barbour, Trent was honest about the ineptitude and incompetence of the Bush Administration after Katrina - after all, he suffered from it. Haley takes all the credit for the help that Mississippi got, but I personally give much more credit to Trent. Trent was no fan of Bush to begin with - he was very hurt by the way Bush treated him after the Strom Thurmond fiasco. Bush saw it as an opportunity to get rid of Trent as Senate Majority Leader. Bush wanted a Senate Majority Leader who did what he was told and that was definitely not Trent.

Probably one reason Trent resigned is that he really did not like the way the Senate functioned any more. He said it was too partisan and that Senators did not work together to accomplish things. That's where he excelled - he could definitely work a deal between conflicting parties. Republicans are saying he did not like working with a Democratic controlled Congress, but that's not true. After all, it was that change that allowed Trent to come back into power. The fierce partisanship started after Bush became President and has gotten worse.

This was brought home to me today by one telling comment Trent made. He was asked what his proudest legislative accomplishment was. He said that when he was Majority Leader of the Senate, he was able to work with Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican House to balance the federal budget and even show a surplus. He said some people think that's too hard - it can't be done - but they did it, and it's his proudest achievement. (It was also a slap in Bush's face.) Now that's an old fashioned Republican. He can work with the other Party to achieve real conservative goals. With his departure, they'll be none of his ilk left in the US Senate.

So bye bye, Trent. Thanks for what you did. (And I don't like Bush any more than you do!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rentech Gets a $441 Million Buyout Offer

One of its shareholders, Sherwood Investments Overseas Ltd, has made a buyout offer to Rentech. Rentech's share just hit a 52 week low, and it admits it is cash strapped. Rentech has never turned a profit and admits it doesn't have the cash to fund its projects.

Sherwood seems to value Rentech's assets, and this may be the shot in the arm that Rentech needs. Read more here and here.

Debates, Fights, and Polluters

The Clarion Ledger is reporting that Ole Miss was chosen as site of first Presidential Debate on September 26. That's exciting! Anyone know how to get tickets?

Do you like a good fight? Well, there was a good one in the paper on Sunday. Mayor Philip West wrote a Top of the Morning attacking Kevin Cooper, and Kevin responded in his column. What fun! Bet we have heard the last of this. This either means the Mayor is incredibly stupid, or he's not running for reelection. Whoever heard of a candidate attacking the only paper shortly before a campaign begins?

Our illustrious Governor is making international headlines again. If you want to know how much the rest of the world hates us (or at least our President), trying reading some papers from other countries. The link above is from the Turkish Weekly - supposedly our allies. Here's the story from a couple of foriegn sources:

The Center for Global Development (CGD) just released an analysis that provided a detailed inventory of power plants' greenhouse gas emissions by countries and regions within countries. The headlines in this country were that the US was the world's largest producer of carbon dioxide, followed by China, which is gaining on us.

But the headlines around the world were along the lines of "Bush Controlled by Power Companies". Here's a lead off sentence:

Southern Company, one of the largest American power companies, which was listed among the world's top polluters, has got President George W. Bush firmly under its thumb by lavish spending on his Republican party, forcing him to turn a blind eye to global warming.

And then comes the parts about Barbour:

Haley Barbour, one of the main lobbyists for Southern Company, when Bush took office, played a crucial role in persuading him to back away from his original campaign promise to reduce CO2 emissions when he first ran for president in 2000.

According to FrankO'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, after Mr Bush became president, "he was got at by Haley Barbour, who said, 'Hey, Mr President we didn't elect you to have high energy costs'". Mr O'Donnell said: "Southern Company Lobbyists treated the president as if he was someone to give orders to and he took them. The upshot is that America's biggest polluters used their chequebooks effectively to block actions to stop global warming."


The American stories had quotes from the polluting companies, whereas foriegn news accounts extensively quote environmentalists. Interesting contrast.

By the way, the most polluted parts of the US? Texas, the Southeast (that's us), and the Ohio Valley. Those energy companies know where to go to find local yokels who welcome polluters.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Country Are We Living In?

In Stalin's Soviet Union, in Hussein's Iraq, in Franco's Spain, in Hitler's Germany, and in many third world countries, citizens were afraid to speak against their government, because they would be arrested and imprisoned. There might be a trial, but it would certainly not be fair, because it was with their judges and their rules. We call these citizen's "political prisoners", because they did not commit a crime - they were imprisoned for their political beliefs.

In America, we are horrified by these dictators, and we're so glad we live in a country where that never happens. But we would be wrong, because there are political prisoners in America - and Mississippi - right now!

I am not joking, and I am not exaggerating. This is really happening, and it is heartbreaking to the victims and their families. I am going to tell you about only one such victim, but there are many more. The evidence and the facts are out there for anyone to read – and are listed at the end of this article.

See these little angels? Two days after Christmas, their granddaddy will become a political prisoner. How old will they be when he sees them again?



See this woman? She was a public school teacher with a Masters Degree, until she had to retire on disability. She has multiple sclerosis. Now she's about to lose her life partner and helpmate. She depends on him to take care of her, since she is unable to do for herself. On their 36th anniversary, her husband has to report to a federal penitentiary. What will happen to her?

Who is this man? He's a fairly normal, average man with kids and grandkids. He lives in Gulfport, where he's an Elder in the Presbyterian Church - and even taught Sunday school. He's a lawyer, and like most lawyers in a small town, he practiced general law, and he's had several local legal positions, like Family Law Master. He's not a big time, wealthy trial lawyer, but he's been able to provide a decent living for his family.

In what seemed to be an appropriate career move, he decided to run for Chancery Judge, where a good deal of his law practice took place. Chancery Court does not deal in criminal law and does not have jury trials. It typically deals with family law, corporations, real estate, etc. It generally decides issues and rights, not guilt or innocence. He had to borrow money from a bank for his campaign. A lawyer friend guaranteed that loan for him. He got elected and was doing what he thought was a good job, and he liked what he was doing. Then a nightmare descended out of the blue on him and his family.

Curl up in front of your computer, while I tell you a long, convoluted, and very scary story.

The main goal of the Republican takeover of America was to make the country "friendly" to large, wealthy corporations; in particular insurance, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and of course, oil. They basically want to take the country back to the age of the Robber Barons, when corporations were free to do whatever they wanted. Since the people benefiting from this were a very small part of the population, they had to court enough citizens to win elections. By giving the conservative Christians whatever they wanted and by appealing to racism, they were able to win elections without hurting their major goal at all.

They still had two problems to address. One was there were still enough Democrats around to make their dismantling of regulations a little more difficult. But far more significant was that the legal system of our country was (shock, shock) still protecting people. So they began their very successful attack on the legal system.

One of Karl Rove's first successes was to take over the Alabama Supreme Court. It worked so well, they moved to other states - Mississippi being one of the first. They hated Mississippi. This was where a lowly State Attorney General and his merry band of trial lawyers brought the vaunted Tobacco Companies to their knees big time - and cost them billions of dollars. Not only that, but the merry band of trial attorneys got wealthy in their endeavor and gave huge contributions to the dangerous Democratics. To really rub salt in the wound, their very expensive campaign in 2000 to take over the Mississippi Supreme Court failed, due largely to the contributions of those same trial attorneys.

Well, these are macho men, and they could not take this sitting down. This meant war! They had to teach Mississippi a lesson! In order to do that, they would have to break a few laws. But hey, laws are for the little people – they don’t apply to the important people like them.

So Karl Rove et al just sicced the FBI and Justice Department on evil Mississippi. (These agencies used to belong to the American people, but not any longer.) Suddenly swarms of FBI agents were in Mississippi going through the campaign records of the aforementioned Supreme Court campaigns. The biggest contributor to these campaigns was one Dickie Scruggs. However, this particular lawyer was declared off limits. For one thing he was a BIG time contributor to Bush/Cheney ($250,000!) and he was the brother in law of the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, Trent Lott. Sorry, boys – keep your hands off our guy. One of the FBI Agents that objected to this was suddenly transferred to Guatemala. Bet he learned his lesson!

So instead they decided to pick on Paul Minor. He was a major contributor to Democratic candidates and causes, and he fought like a banchee against the corporate takeover of the Mississippi Supreme Court. This guy was even a founder of a group that provided free legal assistance to the poor and colored folk. How more subversive could he be? They decided he was the perfect poster boy for the evil trial attorney. Now they just had to find some crime he committed.

Oh, goodie, he loaned money to Oliver Diaz for his campaign, one of the winning judges on the Supreme Court whom they hated anyway. Surely that’s against the law. Sorry, but not in Mississippi – it’s perfectly legal. (By the way, Diaz was a Republican. However, he didn’t render decisions friendly to corporations, so too bad about him.)

Fortunately, Washington had a very compliant US Attorney to prosecute the case. Remember that the U S Justice Department had a secret list of US Attorneys that it intended to fire because they weren’t prosecuting Democrats, like a good little US Attorney is supposed to do. Well, guess who was originally on this list? Mississippi US Attorney Dunn Lampton! Lampton may be a Republican, but he ain’t stupid – and he sure isn’t ethical. He must have said to himself, I’d better find me a Democrat to prosecute real quick, or I’ll be out of a job. Of course, the fact that he had a gazillion conflicts of interest with the defendants didn’t bother him in the least. Remember, the law means nothing to these guys.

So Lampton conjured up these unbelievably ridiculous charges against Diaz – so ridiculous that they had to include his ex wife in order for them to remotely look plausible. He also found himself a nice obediant Judge, Henry Wingate, who was trying desperately to get Bush to appoint him to a higher court.

Since the case against Diaz was so incredibly weak, they added a couple of other judges just to be on the safe side. They added a Circuit Judge (John Whitfield) and a Chancery Judge (Wes Teel). These guys must have wondered what the hell they did to deserve this! Really nothing would have attracted them to the prosecution. They were simply a means of getting to Minor, since they accepted perfectly legal campaign loans from him.

In the meantime, the Knight in Shining Armor, Haley Barbour (one of the major architects of the Republican takeover in Washington) polished off his forgotten Southern drawl and rode back to his home state to rescue it from these evil devils, the trial attorneys. Of course, all those big corporations, who stood to lose billions more if something wasn’t done, sent BIG bucks to Sir Haley, their ol’ buddy who had also gotten quite wealthy representing these corporations as a lobbyist in Washington.

Just as Sir Haley arrived for his gubernatorial campaign, our political victims were under heavy attack from local media, with information leaked from “sources close to the investigation”. Of course, it’s against the law to leak grand jury information. But remember, the law means nothing to these guys. These leaks not only helped Sir Haley’s campaign, but they made everyone think these poor victims were corrupt criminals, which always helps with potential jurors. It sure worked with me. I admit I thought they were guilty, until just recently.

Conveniently just 90 days before Sir Haley’s election, with great fanfare, Lampton announced the indictments of our five political victims: The target Paul Minor; the judges Diaz, Whitfield, and Teel; and Diaz’s poor former wife.

Mission Accomplished! Sir Haley was crowned King of Mississippi. Remember this was a close election and undoubtedly would have turned out differently without all these illegal shenanigans. In addition, donations to Democrats from Mississippi trial attorneys disappeared, giving Republicans a huge financial advantage that exists to this day – and resulted in their control of the Supreme Court. In the old America, you didn’t have to risk going to jail just because you supported a political candidate. No longer true in Mississippi.

Diaz was acquitted in his first trial, so Lampton quickly filed new charges against him. He was acquitted again and has returned to the Supreme Court. Jennifer Diaz settled out of court – she wasn’t going through this nightmare. The first trial for the other three resulted in a hung jury. Lampton is batting zero about now and sweating bullets.

Not to worry. Lampton and his judge just changed the rules. A magic wand was waived, and the evidence that seemed to help the defendants in the first trial, wasn’t allowed in the second trial. Remember the law means nothing to these guys. This time the three remaining victims (Minor, Whitfield, and Teel) were convicted and sent to prison.

The pictures at the beginning of this article are the family of Judge Wes Teel. He has committed no crimes. He was one of many, many candidates that Paul Minor legally helped. He gave him nothing in return – the evidence proves that. Judge Teel and his codefendants are just victims of a Justice Department run amok. They are political prisoners, pure and simple.

These men will eventually be cleared, but it will take years. In the meantime, who will take care of Judge Teel’s wife?

This is a scary story, because the United States Justice Department is imprisoning innocent citizens for purely political reasons, and quieting political dissent through fear. I’ve just told you about Mississippi, but it’s happening all across the country, in Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – the list keeps growing.

Is this America, or one of those dictatorships? What country are we living in?

If you want to help, contact the U S House Judiciary, which is holding hearings on this attack on our country’s values – and they may be the only ones powerful enough to bring justice to these political prisoners.

UPDATE: Maybe Dunn Lampton is stupid after all. Word is he's trumping up more charges on Diaz. Unbelievable!

References:
Judge Wes Teel’s personal blog
Mississippi Corruption in the Spotlight: article in The Natchez Blog
55 articles by Roger Shuler on his blog Legal Schnauzer
Scott Horton’s column No Comment in Harper’s Magazine:
Alabama Case: 41 articles

Cross posted at Cottonmouth Blog

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vines Avoids Jail Again!

The Natchez Democrat is reporting that Binky Vines was sentenced to one year in jail. However, Judge Webster again suspended the sentence and placed him on supervised probation. What is it with this judge? Jefferson County Circuit Clerk goes to jail for six years for the same crime, but ours gets another slap on the wrist.

The only good news is the judge ordered him to leave office immediately and ordered the Sheriff to take the keys to his office.

UPDATE: Also from the Democrat, Eddie Walker was sworn in as Circuit Clerk. Poor Eddie! He sure has his work cut out for him. However, if anyone can handle it, he can.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More on Carbon Dioxide in Adams County

In my last article, I told you about an experiment involving CO2 in Natchez. Then today, the Natchez Democrat ran an article about it. (I do love scooping the paper!) This is a very complicated issue, and it could affect all of us. I strongly suggest you pay attention.

The purpose of this experiment is to study carbon dioxide sequestration. What?? Carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced when animals (including humans) exhale and is used by plants in photosynthesis. Unfortunately, it is also created by the combustion of fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal, etc), creating an huge excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, a major cause of global warming. One solution to this excess CO2 is to bury it. However, scientists can't just say burying, so they say sequestration.

There are three players in this experiment, and we need to look at all three.
  1. Rentech. We're all familiar with this company, which may build a coal-to-liquid fuel plant in Adams County. One problem with their process is that it produces huge amounts of CO2. Rentech intends to "capture" this CO2 and sell it to our next player.

  2. Denbury Resources Inc. This company, though headquartered in Texas, is the largest oil and natural gas operator in Mississippi. They specialize in enhanced (or tertiary) oil recovery (EOR), using CO2 to extract additional oil from oil fields. They own the largest EOR CO2 reserves east of the Mississippi, along with several oil fields, most of which are in Mississippi. Two of interest to us are the Cranfield oil field near Washington, where the experiment will take place, and the Lake St John field across the river. They are also building and buying pipelines that they use to transport their CO2 to their fields.

  3. Bureau of Economic Geology. This is a research unit housed at the University of Texas. One of its research projects is CO2 sequestration. They received $38 million from the Department of Entergy to study the process. They are working with Denbury and will use their CO2 and their Cranfield oil field.

This experiment is being presented as a tremendous benefit to the environment. This is reflected in the quotes in the Democrat, and the communications I have had with the Bureau's Director and Project Manager. However, this technique is not supported by environmentalists. Rather it is the baby of those who want to continue our addiction to fossil fuels.

As we all know, the Bush/Cheney administration is very supportive of fossil fuels. So it's no surprise that their Department of Energy would support this type of research. It's also no surprise that the University of Texas got the grant. The objectivity of the researchers at the Bureau can be seriously questioned by their refusal to discuss or admit any negative aspects at all. (In fact, some of the Bureau's own research has shown some of the problems with this technique.) It is also no surprise that this is being done in Mississippi. We are so poor that we'll take any industry regardless of its impact, we are so Republican that we'll support the current administration no matter what, and we're so uneducated that few people will even understand what's happening to them.

And there are serious concerns about this technique. First, injecting toxic gases under the ground in poor communities in order to continue reliance on fossil fuels as our energy source is just not good policy. A switch to sustainable, renewable energy and conservation is the rational long term solution to our global warming problem.

It's also not a feasible solution. Adding CO2 sequestration to a coal plant increases the energy it uses and the cost of its product. Every metric ton (M/T) of coal processed generates 3.7 M/T of carbon dioxide. Where are we going to bury all this stuff? Plus, it has to be transported by pipeline to an appropriate disposal location, and there aren't remotely enough sites available. It has to be compressed into a liquid before it's buried, using more energy. It has to be monitored forever for leaks. If the companies are not held liable for any disasters, as has been proposed, the taxpayers foot the bill. CO2 sequestration in nothing more than a delaying tactic for those who make their money with fossil fuels and don't care about the planet.

Finally, it's dangerous! Yes, CO2 occurs naturally, and yes, we use it safely in lots of products. BUT, only in safe proportions. CO2 in our air is around 375 ppm (parts per million). The maximum safe level of pure CO2 for healthy adults is 5000 ppm, and it's lower for infants, children, elderly, and those with cardiopulmunary problems. However, it's rarely pure - other gases are usually present. So in reality, at 2,000 ppm, people start getting sick. Miners use to bring a caged canary with them to work as a safety device, because it would die from carbon dioxide before humans. The CO2 being buried underground is compressed into deadly proportions and in massive amounts.

There are three lakes in the world (all in Africa) that have naturally occurring, concentrated CO2, but it stays at the bottom of the lakes and is generally not dangerous. However, in two of them, there were incidents that caused disruptions, and the CO2 escaped to the surface. In 1984, 37 people were killed, and in 1986 1700 were killed - along with thousands of animals. Additional thousands escaped, but suffered respiratory problems, lesions, and paralysis as a result of the gases. It took a while to figure out what happened, because they saw and smelled nothing.

CO2 kills because it is heavier than air and displaces air when released into the environment. When the gas is released, it stays close to the ground, displaces oxygen, and suffocates everything in its path.

So who will monitor that storage of CO2 for leaks? What happens when the Bureau finishes its experiment and when Cranfield sells its oil field? CO2 could also infiltrate our water and our soil, and we would never know. CO2 is odorless and colorless, so it could be escaping without anyone noticing. We may be getting sick and dying, but no one will know why.

So what can we do about this? Nothing. There's no law in Mississippi to protect us, and of course, Adams County has no zoning whatsoever, so they can do whatever they like. Politicians are going to just believe whatever these people tell them. Unless you're willing to move, all you can do is pray. Oh, and be sure to tell your children, in case the leak comes after you're gone - so they'll know what is happening.

I would like to thank Jane Gardner for her help with the research for this article.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deadly CO2 Dumping in Natchez

Imagine my shock as I read an article from the Austin (TX) Statesman that said:

"A 10-year, $38 million project to study the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide underground to combat global warming has been awarded to the University of Texas. The university's Bureau of Economic Geology will inject carbon dioxide into brine formations deep underground about 15 miles east of Natchez, Miss. It's thought that sequestering major greenhouse gases emitted by power plants and other sources could reduce atmospheric emissions that contribute to global warming. "

Does anyone know anything about this? Why is Texas sending its CO2 to us? Who gave them permission to do this? Why haven't we been told? What is going on here?

This is scary! CO2 is deadly. Once it's been buried, it will have to be monitored constantly because it might leak out and kill a few thousand people - like you and me. And it has to be monitored for thousands of years - so maybe it will kill our children and grandchildren.

A recent (2006) study published in Geology (a journal of the Geological Society of America) showed that the mixture of CO2 and brine dissolves minerals in the rock walls that could lead to pathways in the rock through which the gas could escape. The researchers also note the potential for the mobilization of toxic trace metals and toxic organic compounds. This does not sound good!

UPDATE: An article about this project appears in the Democrat. I am also gathering more information.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Blew It Big Time!

I have to say I am truly shocked by the local election results. The two Supervisors races weren't even close. I have to admit that I overestimated the voters of Adams County. This is a sad day, and the results will be devastating.

At least the people who read this blog are smarter - just look at the poll results. Joe Joe and Sammy each got over 70% of the votes. Although only 200 people voted, we've had almost 5000 visits in the past month.

I'm also sad about the results of the statewide elections but not surprised. I know how smart Haley Barbour is. He is orchestrating the Republican takeover of Mississippi, just like he did the Republican takeover of Washington. We saw what happened to our national government after Haley's takeover, and the same thing will happen here. The good news for me is that they will give me lots of stuff to blog about.

In just a few short months, we will have the opportunity to vote in the City Elections. I hope the results are more positive.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Why You Should Care About Transportation Commissioner

In Mississippi, politics definitely controls the highways - not to mention bridges, airports, railroads, truck safety, and public transportation. And who wins the election for Southern District Transportation Commissioner will make a HUGE difference.

Here's how it works. Mississippi has three elected Transportation Commissioners for three Districts: Southern (that's us), Central, and Northern. These Commissioners hire the Executive Director (currently our former Mayor Butch Brown) who has tremendous power over the Department (MDOT).

Right now, the Northern District has a Democratic Commissioner, Bill Minor, and he has no opposition in the election. The Central District has a Republican Commissioner, Dick Hall, and he has a Democratic opponent Rudy Warnock. Our Southern District has a Democratic Commissioner, Wayne Brown (no relation to Butch), and he has a Republican opponent Larry Benefield. The two Democrats support Butch Brown, and the Republican would fire him in a heartbeat. So the outcome of the elections for Transportation Commission will determine who controls MDOT. Barbour and the Republicans want this badly. Butch Brown and the Democrats are fighting for their life.

I know there are a lot of Natchezians who aren't fond of Butch Brown. However, even they have to admit Butch has been good to Natchez as Executive Director of MDOT. If you want that to continue, you'd better vote for Wayne Brown. If not, you can let Barbour take over and get ignored again. There's another reason to vote for Brown - he's an engineer. His opponent and the other Commissioners appear to be professional politicians.

What do I predict? Both of these races are hotly contested and very close, but I'll go out on a limb and say both incumbents will win.

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Election Predictions

Tuesday, November 6, is Election Day for all state and county offices. I've decided to stick my neck out and make predictions about the outcomes.

COUNTY

SUPERVISOR FOR DISTRICT 1: I feel confident that the voters will return Republican Sammy Cauthen to office and reject the candidacy of his problematic challenger Democrat Mike Lazarus.

SUPERVISOR FOR DISTRICT 2: Republican Joe Eidt will easily defeat incumbent Democrat Henry Watts.

STATE

GOVERNOR: Republican Haley Barbour will defeat Democrat John Eaves, but it will be closer than people think. Eaves has served a good purpose by showing Mississippians that Barbour is not the superhero he makes himself out to be. Hopefully, this election will cause citizens to keep a closer eye on what their Governor is doing to them. I will be voting for Eaves, because I think Barbour is a very smart crook who doesn't give a hill of beans for regular Mississipians.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This race is really too close to call. Republican Phil Bryant may pull it off, not because he is a better choice, but because so much money has been spent on his race, thanks to all the usual big money donors, like casinos, insurance companies, tobacco companies, etc. Democrat Jamie Franks started off with less statewide recognition and had an uphill battle. He did well in fundraising, including support from author John Grisham, but it's hard to compete against those independent attacks ads. He was a major target for the State Republican party.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Democrat Jim Hood wins easily over Republican Al Hopkins.

SECRETARY OF STATE: Republican Delbert Hosemann will defeat Democrat Rob Smith, partially because of his clever ads.

STATE TREASURER: This is not even a race, since Democrat Shawn O'Hara is not a credible candidate and isn't even supported by his party. Republican Tate Reeves wins without a problem.

STATE AUDITOR: This race is considered close. However, I'm going to predict the winner will be Democrat Mike Sumrall, simply because he is such an extremely qualified candidate. The Republican Stacy Pickering has no credentials for this position and is only competitive because of his last name.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Democrat Gary Anderson upset the incumbent in the Primary, because Mississippians have learned first hand what it's like to have an Insurance Commissioner beholden to the insurance companies. And I predict another upset next week. Anderson has refused all donations from insurance companies and sees his role as the protector of the consumer. His opponent Republican Mike Chaney is openly funded and supported by the insurance companies, and that's who he'll represent if elected.

COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE. Agriculture is at least 30% of Mississippi's economy, which makes this an important position. The incumbent Republican Lester Spell has been around too long and has made too many expensive mistakes (the $55 million beef plant, the goat meat cooperative, closing the beloved Jackson Farmers Market, etc). He's a goner. On the other hand, Democrat Ricky Cole is energetic, charismatic, and full of exciting ideas - plus he's a born and bred farmer. He's the definite winner.

I'll be back after the election to brag and eat crow.

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6!!
All registered voters are eligible to vote. The Party Primary you voted in makes no difference.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why Jamie Franks is Good for Adams County

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a reception here iin Natchez for Jamie Franks, who is running for Lt Governor of Mississippi. I had already decided to vote for him, based on what I'd been reading. However, tonight I learned of a very special reason why voters in Adams County should vote for Franks. If he's elected, guess who his President Pro Tempore (his second in command) will be? Our very own Bob Dearing. If Jamie Franks is elected Lt Governor, Adams County will finally get some attention from the State.

The Lt Governor is the head of the Mississippi Senate and as such is said to be the most powerful position in State Government, since Mississippi has a weak Governor system of government. Right now the Mississippi Senate is a rubber stamp for Governor Barbour. I would like to see the Governor challenged and have a more balanced, less partisan state government. As Charlie Mitchell from the Vicksburg Post puts it:

"If voters want to see how Barbour's policies would work for Mississippi if unfettered, electing Bryant would be a big part of making that come true. If, however, they want to see the agenda of a second- term governor challenged, they'd have to go with Franks."

The person running against Jamie Franks is our current State Auditor Phil Bryant. He has been contacted numerous times about going into our Circuit Clerk's Office to see what Binky is up to - and he refuses to do anything. By the time Eddie Walker, our newly elected Circuit Clerk, finally gets sworn in, Binky could have stolen everything there. Binky is STILL behind in submitting his legally required reports, and the State Auditor can't find time to enforce the law - and protect the taxpayors. Fine, just don't expect me to vote for him. I hope you won't either.

The bottom line is if you care about Adams County, you'll vote for Jamie Franks for Lt Governor next Tuesday, November 6.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hollywood and Natchez

Hollywood and Natchez in the same sentence? Sounds weird - but not as weird as you may think.

I hope you saw the editorial in Sunday's Democrat about this very issue. For many reasons, Natchez is a great location for making movies. The State of Mississippi recently passed a very attractive incentive package. The only problem is we have to market ourselves.

I recently received a copy of the Location and Production Guide 2007-2008 put out by the Mississippi Film Office. There is a list of movies filmed in Mississippi since 1916. The years 1993-2001 were banner years - 6-10 movies a year. There was only one movie each year in 2004-2006. What happened?

You can blame it all on Louisiana. In 2002, Louisiana became the first state to offer a tax incentive for movie production. That year, $11.8 million was spent filming movies and TV shows in Louisiana. The next year, the total jumped to $212 million. In 2005, the figure was $514 million. Today, Louisiana is third in the country in film production, after California and New York. Louisiana modeled itself after Canada, which had $430 million in 1998 before they introducted tax incentives. In 2005, Canada had $1.3 billion in film production. Five years later, Mississippi is joining in - along with 34 other states. However, I understand that ours is more generous and flexible.

Somebody in Louisiana was smart! But I bet it wasn't easy to get that passed. I bet political critics and opponents were complaining about the money they spent traveling to Hollywood. It's just like what is happening to Sammy Cauthen (Supervisor 1). No matter what Sammy, the paper, or anyone else says, these naysayers keep carrying on.

Here's a direct quote from a flyer that just arrived at my house from Mike Lazarus:
Pleasure trips have been passed off as recruiting industy.
(This is in all caps and bold print.)

What an idiot! What does he know about recruiting industry? Nothing! Sammy's been in the movie business for years, and he knows lots of people. Sending him to Hollywood to sell Natchez was one of the smartest things we've done.

By the way, that Mississippi Location & Production Guide has a whole section of Production Personnel & Services, which tells movie producers who they can contact for everything from Accountants to Video Resources. Guess who listed under Animals/Wranglers? Of course, it's Sammy.

If we want to improve the economy of this County, we've got to be willing to be creative. And we've also got to be willing to make an investment in our future. Sammy Cauthen and Joe Eidt are absolutely the right choices to move Adams County forward. (If you want to remain an old stick in the mud, vote for those other guys.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OMG! I'm Supporting Another Republican!

(For the unhip: OMG is the netcentric abbreviation for "Oh, My God" generally used to express surprise.)

It is very difficult for this third generation Democrat to admit it, but I find myself supporting another Republican for Supervisor. It was bad enough when I confessed to supporting Republican Sammy Cauthen for Supervisor in District 1. But now I am publically proclaiming my support for Joe Eidt for Supervisor in District 2. The only defense I have is that these two Republicans seem to be more Democratic that their opponents.

I have never been fond of Henry Watts, who is the supposedly Democratic candidate for Supervisor in District 2. If you go to a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, you'll be sure to see him complaining about something. He is without a doubt the most negative person there. I don't remember him ever working cooperatively with the Board on anything. Can you think of anything Henry Watts has accomplished while he's been there? I can't. He doesn't want to spend money on anything and doesn't seem to understand that you sometimes have to make a financial investment in your County to get results. Another added benefit of getting rid of Henry would be the effect on The Unnamed Paper (the one they throw in your driveway that I refuse to call by name for fear of giving it credibility). Where will the Editor get his information about the County?

But I'm not just anti Henry. I really like Joe Eidt, and I'll give you a few reasons why. Look at his literature or his ads, and you'll see the word "Cooperation" emphasized. He understands that to get anything done, it is necessary for the Board members to work with each other - and further, the County needs to work together with the City.

I also like his background as a salesman, which our County needs - to sell its ideas to potential businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and the citizens themselves. And who has he sold to? Businesses, of all sizes and shapes - and for over 20 years. That's invaluable experience.

Joe Joe has spent years as a volunteer in recreation, which should be a major issue in our County for a while to come. Recreation is not just about a place for kids to play. Recreation is for adults as well. Perhaps, most importantly, it's an economic boon. (Check out this article.) Few people in our County recognize this, but Joe Joe does. He has the knowledge and experience to develop this potential, and the personality to sell it to everyone else. Unlike our Mayor who just announces one day that the City will spend a gazillion dollars on recreation starting with big consulting fee, Joe Joe knows that community involvement is key. He'll help us develop a cost effective plan we can all support. Then we'll see some action!

Join me in supporting the personable, energetic, visionary Joe Eidt for Supervisor for District 2, instead of the negative, whining, do nothing, Henry Watts.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who Will Run the County for the Next Four Years?

Who will run the County for the next four years? That probably depends upon who wins the race for Supervisor for District 1. The leader of the County is basically the President of the Board of Supervisors. Darryl Grennell (District 4) currently serves as President, due to the votes of Boo Campbell (District 3) and Sammy Cauthen (District 1). However, if Mike Lazarus defeats Sammy Cauthen in November, he will vote for Henry Watts (District 2) for President, if Henry is reelected (more on that in another article).

Darryl Grennell has wide spread support across the county, and he was overwhelmingly reelected as Supervisor. One exception to that support is that free paper that is thrown unsolicited in our driveways. (I refuse to give it any credibility by giving its name.) It constantly and viciously attacks Darryl, as well as Sammy, and sometimes Boo. Of course, as I've noted in the past, that Unnamed Paper seems to have some allergy to the truth. Unfortunately, some people pay attention to what it says.

One of the Unnamed Paper's favorite issues is travel. It attacked Sammy Cauthen for his trip to Hollywood, making it sound like some kind of expensive vacation at county expense. However, movies are a great source of income, which is why Mississippi recently developed an incentive package for them. Sally Durkin, media liaison with Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, has been working tirelessly to recruit movies to this town, and her efforts are starting to show results. What could be more natural than the Board of Supervisors doing their part? Sammy Cauthen spent the grand sum total of $656.66 of County money on a trip to help with the recruitment - and spent over $1600 of his own money. After all, he has spent 23 years working with the motion picture industry and has connections. I personally think it was definitely worth the money.

But if you're like most of the rest of the county, you disagree with these attacks. If you want Darryl Grennell to continue as President, you'd better vote for Sammy Cauthen as Supervisor for District 1. But there are other reasons to vote for Sammy.

Sammy Cauthen is not a media hound, and he's not one to brag on his accomplishments. However, if you look at his record, you'll see he's been a good supervisor. It bothers me that the Unnamed Paper has portrayed Sammy as some sort of crook. If there's one thing you can say about Sammy, it's that he's a person of integrity. You and I may not agree with him on all issues, but we can depend on his doing what he thinks is the right thing to do for Adams County. Sammy is a Republican, and I'm a diehard liberal Democrat. So if I can support him, you know he's got to be the best choice.

I also am not fond of his Democratic opponent, Mike Lazarus. He makes much of his experience as a businessman. His literature says: "Mike knows what it takes to meet a budget and make ends meet. Mike will work to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely." Sounds nice, but I don't believe it. If you go to the Circuit Clerk's website, and look up Lazarus under Judgments, you'll see a long list of them. Looks like maybe Mike didn't know "what it takes to meet a budget and make ends meet". I don't know about you, but I sure don't trust him to "make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely". (By the way, I also looked up Cauthen, and there was nothing there.) Mike Lazarus has some other drawbacks, but fiscal irresponsibility is enough to vote against him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Natchez & Mississippi in the News

This is the first installment of an irregular series where I bring you articles about Natchez and Mississippi that have appeared where you might not have seen them.

I was prompted to do this by seeing Mississippi make the Editorial Page of today's New York Times. As I predicted in my previous article, our corruption scandals are starting to get national attention. Read The United States Attorneys Scandal Comes to Mississippi.

The Concordia Sentinel has an interesting article about our new Federal Courthouse, which will be officially dedicated on October 22. It points out that when our community is willing to work together, historic preservation can become economic development. Read Federal Courthouse Dedication Scheduled in Natchez.

When I read this article, I thought about how worrisome it is that our current Mayor and Board of Aldermen so insulted the Department of Archives & History, a major player in preservation funding. Until we make some changes in our City's leadership, funding for historic preservation and its attendant economic development is going to be hard to come by. So sad - and so short sighted.

In the same issue is an interesting column about noted Natchez historical figure Winthrop Sargent. Read Sargent: The Newly Wed, the Warrior, and the American.

In case you missed it, Mississippi's governor's race made yesterday's New York Times. Read In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in GOP Lane.

If you run into articles about Natchez in other publications, send me the link.

UPDATE: I just ran across this interesting tidbit on MSNBC:
"Iowa is one of only two states - Mississippi is the other - that have never sent a woman to Congress or the governor's mansion. None have been tested in Iowa's presidential caucuses; any who campaigned here dropped out before the vote."

Did you know that? I knew Mississippi had never elected a woman governor or member of Congress, but I had no idea there was only one other state. We'll just have to do something about that! The article was predicting that Hillary Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses in January, and I doubt Mississippi will do that. There are no women running for Governor. So we'll just have to find a woman to run for Congress in 2008, where we just happen to have an open seat right here. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mississippi Corruption in the Spotlight

I just did an article about our Governor making unfavorable national headlines, and now I find our state may be in the spotlight again.

I assume you are aware of the Department of Justice scandals where prominent US Attorneys around the country were fired for failing to prosecute cases purely for political purposes, which lead to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Presidential Advisor Karl Rove, and many others. Now Congress is looking into the opposite scandal: where US Attorneys DID prosecute cases purely for political purposes.

Scott Horton is a contributor to Harper's Magazine and writes No Comment, a legal blog on Harper's website. He is a renowned New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law.

His family has been in Alabama for generations, and one of his relatives there alerted him in June to the prosecution of Democratic Governor Siegelman, which "smelled fishy". He began a series of articles. The New York Times, Time Magazine, and many others have weighed in on this issue. In July, 44 attorneys general petitioned the US Congress demanding a formal inquiry into Governor Siegelman's prosecution. All this activity has culminated in hearings before the US House Judiciary which begin next week. The hearings are restricted to the cases in Alabama and Wisconsin. However, other cases of abuse have been reported in Michigan and Minnesota.

Now, Scott Horton has turned his attention to Mississippi, and it's not pretty - in fact, it is totally disgusting. Perhaps the worse part is that I have to read a New York magazine to find out what is happening in my own state.

He started off with an article on 18 September 2007, wherein he says:


"At this point I believe, based on documents and evidence which have come to me, that the Mississippi prosecutions [like those in Alabama] will also shortly be exposed as being politically motivated and directed."

Prior to the 2003 state elections, FBI agents were all over Mississippi looking into the dealings of prominent Mississippi trial attorneys, who supplied the financial support to Democratic candidates. During the same election, lots of questionable money was coming into Mississippi for Republican candidates, including money tied to Jack Abramoff and his casino interests and the money from the Law Enforcement Alliance from America, a front group for the US Chamber of Commerce - but there was no investigation by the FBI. What probably alerted Horton to this case was that Noel Hillman, from the US Department of Justice, played a leading role in both the Alabama and Mississippi prosecutions.

On 25 July 2003—ninety days before the gubernatorial election between Musgrove and Barbour—the U.S. Attorney in Jackson, Dunn Lampton, secured indictments of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, his ex-wife Jennifer, Chancery Judge Wes Teel, former Circuit Judge Whitfield, and attorney Paul Minor. In this first article, Horton discusses in detail the case against Diaz, and says:

"Diaz was acquitted twice, but the major objective of the
prosecution—the election of Haley Barbour—was achieved."

Horton's second (3 October 2007) and third (5 October 2007) articles addressed the case of wealthy trial lawyer Paul Minor. If you read these detailed articles about what happened, you will be totally shocked. It's unbelievable the lengths that Barbour, Bush, and their Republican buddies went to in order to destroy Minor, simply because he was a major donor to Mississippi Democrats and was a staunch opponent of tort reform. Obviously, small issues like the law and the Constitution mean nothing to these guys.

There is one especially interesting aspect of this whole sordid tale. The idea of rushing to the defense of the Judges attacked by the Chamber of Commerce started with Richard Scruggs, probably the best known and wealthiest of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers. He did all the things Minor did and was initially under investigation by the FBI. If these trumped up charges against Minor were real, then Scruggs should have been the first one indicted. However, Scruggs contributes to Republicans, whereas Minor contributes to Democrats. In addition, as we all know, Scruggs is Senator Trent Lott's brother in law. According to Horton, Lott was very aggressive in protecting Scruggs. In fact, FBI Agent Matthew Campbell, from the Gulfport office, expressed total disbelief that the case against Minor was pursued, but the case against Scruggs was dropped. Agent Campbell was quickly transferred to Guantanamo. A Republican lackey replaced him. Senator Lott's role in this, if true, is a clear violation of Senate ethics rules, and he may soon find himself under investigation by his colleagues.

Scott Horton is not through. He is promising more installments. This guy is good! He is a true investigative journalist, of which we have very few. He is influential, and people pay attention to him. Mark my words, Mississippi is about to have its dirty laundry exposed in the national spotlight. It's also possible that Trent Lott may be the former Senate Republican Leader again.

UPDATE: I told you this issue would go national. It's on today's editorial page of the New York Times: The United States Attorneys Scandal Comes to Mississippi

Friday, October 05, 2007

Our Governor Makes Worldwide Headlines

While I was in Austria for a month, I kept up with local news by reading the Natchez Democrat online. However, most of the other news I heard or read was international. I was much surprised to see our very own Governor, Haley Barbour, making headlines around the world.

It all started with a story in the Bloomberg News outlining in glorious detail how Barbour's friends and family have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane related business. His former lobbying firm, which still makes payments to him, has represented four clients with business related to the recovery - not to mention casinos and tobacco companies. His nephew doubled his lobbying fees after Barbour appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Another nephew's wife owned a company that managed FEMA trailers and is now being investigated by the FBI.

This article caused a major uproar. This is not some lefty blog or Democratic press release. Bloomberg is the largest financial news and data company in the whole wide world. It was founded by Michael Bloomberg, now the Republican Mayor of New York City, and it made him a gazillionaire. It has grown into a global financial news empire, including television, radio, Internet, and publications.

Shortly thereafter, Bloomberg News ran another article about Barbour's so called "blind trust". Barbour said he had severed ties to his former lobbying firm, but Bloomberg somehow got a copy of the trust, which says he still had a stake in the company worth $786,000 PLUS pension ($300,000 a year) and profit sharing. Barbour says his trust is legal in Mississippi. Yeah, but, as Bloomberg points out, Mississippi laws are ridiculous and require no disclosure. Barbour refuses to disclose his finances.

The website of the national magazine The Atlantic had a further article, recommending the author of the Bloomberg articles for a Pulitzer Prize. It states that:
"...there is already enough in the public domain to show that Governor Barbour knew that he had an ongoing stake in the work of his former lobbying firm."

The article also mentions a prior ethical lapse by Barbour, when he was Chairman of the National Republican Party. In 1993, he set up a not for profit organization called the National Policy Form, which was theoretically a think tank. However, in reality it was used as a vehicle for funneling foreign money into Republican campaigns. The IRS eventually shut down this boondoggle, ruling it was a subsidiary of the Republican Party and not a nonprofit group.

Conservative columnist David Brooks lambasted this and other corruption of the conservative Washington establishment in a column entitled "The Masters of Sleaze." He talks about the infamous convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but points out "Abramoff didn't do it on his own. It took a village." The village consisted of what he called the "sleazo-cons" - "people who, having read Barry Goldwater's 'Conscience of a Conservative', embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part." These were Barbour's buddies in Washington.

Then another national magazine, The New Republic, comes out with an article entitled "Barbourism: The K Street Evil Genius Who Took Over Mississippi". WOW - powerful stuff! This article sets out in detail how Barbour took the "K Street Project" he helped create in Washington and recreated it in Mississippi - and it's scary! The Washington K Street Project led to the conviction of Lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, the resignation of Majority Leader Tom Delay, etc. The American People eventually became disgusted with the corrupt Republican Party and voted Democrats into power in Washington.

And this corruption has come to Mississippi? Yep! Here's one example:
"After his election in 2003, Henry and Austin Barbour (Haley's nephews) joined Capitol Resources, a lobbying firm just steps from the governor's mansion--much like Barbour Griffith & Rogers overlooks Capitol Hill. The firm shares a number of BG&R's clients, including Northrop Grumman and Lorillard Tobacco Company. Most lobbying shops in Jackson are small, single-person firms, which, while business-friendly, have rarely dominated the legislature the way that Capitol Resources has, with its 15-strong battalion. 'They made a habit of going after other lobbyists' clients, saying, "If you want anything done in the Mississippi legislature, you better hire us,"' says one Democratic legislator."

And how does it work? Here's one small detail. Barbour vigorously opposed the cutting of the grocery tax and making up for it with an increase in the tobacco tax. Last year, he vetoed it. But this year:
"...the bills died at the hands of Senate finance committee chairman Tommy Robertson. Oddly, Robertson had been a vocal advocate of previous tax-swap bills. Earlier this year, however, he and two other Republican legislators--who, in their day jobs, are lawyers--had received a $1.2 million contract from the Mississippi Development Authority, which is overseen by the governor, to help homeowners finalize their Katrina grants."
The national and state media just took off on this story, and it's still out there. Do you know what most commentators say? "Those Mississippians believe all that BS that Barbour is feeding them. He'll win in a landslide."

Maybe not. Tommy Robertson, who killed the tax swap bill, was defeated in the Primary, in spite of Barbour campaigning for him. Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who sold out the victims of Katrina to the insurance companies, also lost in the primary. I'm not sure Mississippians are quite as dumb as those Yankees think we are.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Decided to Come Back!

It was a tough decision because Vienna is a very cool place, but I decided I had to come home to Natchez. While I was gone, I did keep up by reading the Natchez Democrat online. And quite a lot happened while I was gone!

The best news by far is that Binky is gone. Eddie Walker was easily elected Circuit Clerk in the runoff election. I know Eddie pretty well, and he will do an excellent job. Of course, he will walk into a huge mess when he takes office, but I have confidence that he will straighten it out as soon as possible.

The City is up to its usual shenanigans. Right before I left, there was some concern about the City having enough money to get through the fiscal year. (The City's fiscal year goes from October 1 through September 30.) About a week later and before they'd even passed the budget for the year beginning October 1, they approved a $15 million recreation complex! What were they thinking? As usual, they had no information - and of course, they never asked the public what they thought. A recreation complex might be a very good idea, but to do it without careful planning and public input is just reckless spending of your money. Supposedly this is a good political move in an election year. I sure hope the Natchez voters are too smart to fall for this irresponsible pandering.

I was very sad to see the Court of Appeals upheld the City's rezoning decision regarding Fat Mama's. It's troubling to have the State's highest court say it's okay for the City to force development on a neighborhood where 100% of the residents opposed it.

But on a more positive note, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees voted unanimously to deny a permit to the developers of the condos at the old pecan factory site on the bluffs. Who knows what will happen next in this saga, but I loved the susequent editorial in the Democrat:

"Back in February, the City of Natchez, or more precisely, Mayor Phillip West, sent a clear message to the leaders of MDAH: Your authority doesn’t matter in Natchez. West ordered the former Natchez Pecan Shelling Company building bulldozed without the legally required permit from MDAH. What’s worse, he did so one day after speaking to the Historic Natchez Conference at which both MDAH
Executive Director Hank Holmes and MDAH Historic Preservation Division Director Ken P’Pool were listed as participants. What a slap in the face that was to the two men and the agency for which they work."
It goes on to say:
"But if West and the city aren’t careful, their cavalier attitudes toward the MDAH may continue to burn the city and future developments. What’s going to happen when the next city project needs approval of the MDAH?"
Exactly what lots of us said at the time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

See You Later - and Don't Forget to Vote!

I'm leaving this weekend for Vienna, Austria for about a month. Since Vienna is about 7 hours ahead of Natchez, there may be some delay before you see your comments posted. I'll probably post a couple of articles about my trip. If there's anything you want me to bring back for you, let me know.

Since I'm leaving, I voted absentee yesterday, and the process has definitely been improved. There is a special room just for absentee voting, and it was busy. When you walk in, they ask you a few questions and fill out a form for you. You are then handed a ballot with an envelope and directed to the hallway where there are privacy stands. You're told to fill out the ballot, put it in the envelope, seal the envelope, and bring it back. Then they watch you sign your name across the seal of the envelope. I didn't see Binky the whole time I was there. (Maybe he was upstairs watching the ballots being examined.) I haven't heard a single complaint this time. I guess Binky decided it was time to clean up his act.

I went to the Secretary of State's website to download the official election results, and guess what? The results from Adams County's Democratic Primary weren't there. Adams County Republican results were there. Even crazy Wilkinson County got their report there. Somebody's not doing their job.

PLEASE VOTE ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 28!

If no candidate got 50% of the vote for any office in the Primary Election on August 7, then the top two candidates for that office run in the runoff election on August 28. If you voted in the Republican Primary, you cannot vote in the Runoff. All other registered voters are eligible. This time voters will be making choices in one statewide race (State Auditor) two county wide races (Circuit Clerk and Tax Assessor), the southern district Justice Court Judge's race, and two Supervisor's races (1 and 3).

I recommend Mike Sumrall for State Auditor because he's definitely the most qualified. This is an important office. Don't forget that's who caught Binky embezzling funds. (Here is an interesting blog endorsing him.) For all but one of the other races, I think there are no bad choices.

However, the most important vote is the one for Circuit Clerk. For the sake of our county, please vote AGAINST Binky Vines and FOR Eddie Walker. I'll be checking the Natchez Democrat online to see what happens. If Binky wins, I might decide to stay in Vienna.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shocking!

Sunday's Natchez Democrat had a truly shocking Top of the Morning.

Dr Kenneth Stubbs, an internal medicine physician in Natchez, made a good case for increased funding for Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez. He discussed the benefits provided to the community by the college.

"Almost all basic college courses in English, math, science and history are offered and credits may be earned toward an associate in arts to be applied towards a bachelor’s degree from one of our area’s four-year colleges or universities.
In addition, Co-Lin Natchez has a very busy Career and Technical Education Center offering training in a wide variety of potential career paths. These include several health related fields such as practical nursing, health care assistant, respiratory care practitioner, medical transcriptionist and medical records coding."
He elaborated on the benefits of the health care course offerings and pointed out that the need for health care providers is growing fast - and I might add that these jobs are well paid and generally come with benefits.

There's only one problem. The teaching facilities for these programs "are bursting at the seams", are taking space away from other much needed programs, and are spread out all over the campus providing logistics problems. It's obvious Co Lin Natchez needs a new health training facility, which will require increased funding from Adams County. Dr Stubbs strongly advocated for this facility, even though it will mean an increase in the taxes we pay.

So what is so shocking about this? Dr Stubbs is a pillar of the Republican Party in Adams County. Republicans cut taxes, not increase them. Republicans hate government programs and think the private section can always do everything better. So I am shocked to see this Republican stalwart push for a tax increase for a government program. Geez - he sounded like a Democrat!

However, he is absolutely correct. This is an excellent investment of our taxpayer dollars for many reasons. Dr Stubbs mentioned two:
  1. "You, your child, grandchild or other close relative or friend could more easily take advantage of a learning experience or job opportunity right here at home.

  2. Then, if your own health care needs arise, the qualified providers will more likely be available so your health care needs can also be met here at home."
But there are also economic reasons why this is such a good idea. Politicians are always saying we need jobs, and health care is a field begging for employees. We are always looking for new industries to come to our county, and one major reason they don't come is a lack of skills training in the community. As Dr Stubbs pointed out, having this new building would free space that could be used for a much in demand building trades program. When people and businesses consider relocating, one aspect they always consider is health care. We're doing well now, but we need to support our health care industry - or we may lose it.

Building this training facility is not just a "feel good" project - it is an "economic development" project. And I guarantee you it will do a lot more for our economic development than some of the lame ideas our City leaders have come up with - like casinos and condos.

Supervisors are running for election now. Before you vote, be sure you ask the candidates if they will support the funding for this facility.

If a Republican and a Democrat can agree wholeheartedly on a project, it's got to be a winner!