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.


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.


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.

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.