Friday, August 31, 2007

Phil Bryant: Miss Teen USA?

A new blog unambiguously titled Flip Flopping Phil Bryant has appeared and brought up an interesting comparison.

First I think you should watch this video if you haven't seen it already. It features Miss Teen South Carolina responding to a question on geographic literacy.

In it she says this:
“I personally believe… that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because Osama… people out there in our nation don't have that… and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and the Iraq… everywhere like such as… and I believe that they should—our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S.—or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future... for our children.”

You've got to admit that that answer is rather nuts.

Well a few weeks ago at a similar pageant, a Republican "unity" event, our very own Phil Bryant had this to say on how he would be different than his Democratic opponent Jamie Franks:
"I would imagine tort reform is something that Jamie is not as strongly in favor of… I know that he did put his name on a tort reform bill,” Bryant said. “We're going to talk about illegal immigration. I'm not sure what his position is on it.”'

I'll give new blog Flip Flopping Phil Bryant the last word:
In the end, the statements from Miss Teen SC and Dewey Phil are the best example I’ve seen in a while of why education must be fully funded every single year.

Miss Teen South Carolina said it best Friday night: “so we will be able to build up our future... for our children…”

“Such as.”

You'll see that we have added Flip Flopping Phil Bryant to our blogroll.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thousand of Children Lose Healthcare Under Haley Barbour

The following was forwarded to me by e-mail:
The number of uninsured persons in Mississippi rose 24 percent from 2005 to 2006 according to data released on August 28 by the U. S. Census Bureau. A total of 600,000 Mississippians were without insurance in 2006; in 2005, the total was 483,000. The number of children under 18 years of age without insurance increased 72 percent from 85,000 in 2005 to 146,000 in 2006.

The Center for Mississippi Health Policy has prepared a chartbook illustrating health insurance coverage trends in Mississippi from 2000 through 2006 based on Census data. For more information, visit the Center’s web site at :

Guest Post: Vets for America

Senator Lott And Senator Cochran: How In Good Conscience Can You Do This To Our Men And Women In Uniform?

I have a fundamental question for you two – a really simple basic question. One that every American should be asking themselves right now as you – and the rest of our Senators – get ready to return from your month-long break.

When the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that our troops were at their breaking point, when the Department of Defense reported that our current deployment policies are compounding the wounds of war, causing mental health problems among our troops to skyrocket, and that one of the primary causes was our current policy of deploying troops back to Iraq and Afghanistan without adequate dwell time at home, why didn't you do something about it?

How can you not support a policy where soldiers are deployed for 15 months in Iraq and then receive at least equal time stationed stateside to rest, train, and then fight again? (And at least three times that much at home if they are from the Guard or Reserve.)

Well guess what? You aren't alone. Back in July before you took your summer break, a lot of United States Senators voted against this fundamental act of fairness by voting against the Webb-Hagel Amendment. (click here to see a press conference where I spoke up for this bill before the vote.)

What's shocking to me is that this amendment was sponsored by two veterans, one Democrat and one Republican, and it was a bill that unlike many in D.C. is incredibly simple and – more importantly -- fair to our troops:

At least one month stationed stateside for every month served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It doesn't get any more basic or any more fair than that.

Here is the exact wording of the amendment in case you didn't carefully read it before you voted against it, and our troops.
July 11, 2007, Senate Roll Call Vote 241, HR 1585

The Webb amendment would mandate minimum intervals between deployments for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would require active duty forces to be guaranteed as much time at home as they served while deployed. National Guard and reservists would be guaranteed three years at home between deployments.
Now if you're in Mississippi, and you're reading this -- I frankly don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican, blue or red. I'm asking you, American to American:

How in good conscience can you do this to our men and women in uniform?

Because when your Senators vote against our troops like this, you vote against them too.

But you get another chance.

So next week, when Senator Lott and Senator Cochran and all of our elected officials return to Washington, guess what? There's going to be another dwell time bill waiting for them; this one has already passed in the House of Representatives.

This bill, the Tauscher Bill, like the Webb-Hagel Amendment, offers our troops a fair deployment policy. I hope every single United States Senator votes for this bill. Shame on you, Senators, if you don't.

- Bobby Muller of Veterans for America

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Rise and Fall of Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour has led, by most accounts, a fairly charmed life. He's gone from being a Republican in a single-party Democratic state, to being the second Republican governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction. Along the way, Gov. Barbour has been chairman of the Republican National Committee and the lead partner in the most influential lobbying firm on the Republican side of the aisle.

But Barbour may have reached his apogee, and although I know it's hardly Christian of me, I think his star may be about to fall - and it's about time.

When Barbour was elected governor, he placed his assets in a blind trust. For those of you who don't know, a blind trust is a mechanism whereby a property owner can receive benefits from their property without having to abandon offices of public trust that might have a role to play in determining the value of their property. In a blind trust, the trustee manages the beneficiary's property, but the beneficiary can receive no information regarding the disposition of the property - they just receive the payouts to which the trust structure entitles them.

In Gov. Barbour's case, he was entitled to $25,000 a month in payouts. His initial trust included shares in his old lobbying firm worth over three-quarters of a million dollars. Here's what's interesting, to me, at least:

What we have here is that some times Barbour has made statements that he did hold an equity position in the parent company of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers -- now very much in the news for its representation of the Iraq political ambitions of former Iraq Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi -- and at other times he said he had severed all ties to the firm but was getting a "retirement payment."
- Steve Clemons, The Atlantic
As Clemons points out in that same piece, Barbour's old firm doesn't provide retirement benefits. So, either the Governor is receiving a benefit that no one else at BGR is getting (which might be legal, but certainly isn't ethical), or the firm is making payments into his blind trust in return for some continuing service.

What sort of continuing service could the sitting Governor of Mississippi be providing to a lobbying firm? Nothing good for the people of Mississippi, I'm sure. But let's not assume the worst. Let's assume that Gov. Barbour is simply receiving a pension benefit from BGR that no other member or employee of the firm gets. Because you know, that's totally fair.

But that's not the end of the Governor's ethical lapses. Much has been made of the Governor's nephews' lobbying business in the Great State. Particularly impressive has been the efficacy with which their client's causes have made progress through the Legislature. But more important than that, the Governor has seen fit to appoint family members time and time again to various governmental commissions that are overseeing the recosntruction of the state in the wake of Katrina.

Bloomberg News points out that the Barbour family members that have been overseeing Katrina reconstruction have been paid for lobbying services during their time on the panels. Interestingly enough, the clients that paid the Governor's nephews during this period managed to benefit from the work that they did on recovery, to the tune of almost three million dollars. Isn't that a strange coincidence?

I'm not so naive as to think that government doesn't work via the personal connections between people. As the governor's lawyer puts it, Barbour "naturally is not going to be disinclined to help [his nephews] whenever he can." And I accept that. The problem is the interconnectedness of the remunerative relationships. The way that the Governor's family gets appointed to help make recommendations for storm recovery - and the recommendations just magically happen to throw a lot of business to a lobbying client of the family. There's just something about the process that stinks.

And that stink is starting to stick to Haley Barbour. The Clarion-Ledger is pissed about the monumental waste that Katrina recovery has involved. Bloomberg's Tim Burger is knocking the ball out of the park with his reporting on this, and the legalistic arguments of Barbour's representatives ring hollow in a state that has seen two years of bull on the question of recovery.

If John Arthur Eaves is smart - and he must be, or he wouldn't have been so successful, all evidence on the campaign trail to the contrary - he will hammer Barbour's unwillingness to talk. He will ask, what is Barbour hiding? If there's nothing to hide, why won't Barbour let us see?

If Eaves can make this issue have legs, he may be able to make a race of it.

24 Months Later

From the Democratic Press Release:
Today’s two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina highlights the failed policies of President Bush and Gov. Haley Barbour in helping all Mississippi storm victims rebuild their lives.

While some people are back in their homes, the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports 17,538 FEMA trailers remain in service in Mississippi is totally unacceptable.

“To put it plain and simple: Mississippians shouldn’t be living in FEMA trailers two years after Katrina,” said Wayne Dowdy, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party.

Nothing underlines that fact better than the stark contrast of re-opened businesses and casino resorts that sit blocks away from destroyed neighborhoods in Biloxi, where longtime residents still struggle to rebuild.

One problem has been the Katrina Homeowners Assistance Grant Program, a $3 billion federally funded program the state has overseen. The program has been mired by delays, red tape and questionable management by the Reznick Group of Maryland.

As of today, the program had paid less than $1 billion to 13,690 applicants. Meanwhile, the Reznick Group is reviewing travel policies after a newspaper reported this summer that taxpayers were billed for limousine service and airfare for Reznick employees working in Mississippi.

“That money could have been used to help homeowners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Dowdy said. “Instead, the grant program’s delays, red tape and questionable expenses simply highlight the ineffectiveness of Gov. Barbour’s recovery plan he touts.”

John Eaves' Response on the Bloomberg "Blind" Trust Article

From the press release:
Today, on the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an article by Bloomberg News raises serious doubts about how Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour directed the billions of dollars of Katrina recovery funds.

“The Bloomberg report raises some troubling questions, especially about the financial interest Barbour may still have in the lobbying firm that bears his name,” said Sharon Garrison, spokeswoman for John Eaves for Governor. “The report indicates that Barbour makes more from his ties to Washington and the performance of his old firm than he does as Governor. Is this still true today?”

According to Bloomberg, Barbour earns $122,160 a year as governor and receives $300,000 a year from his blind trust. At the time of its initial filing, the trust included $786,666 of stock in the parent company of Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc. (BGR), “as well as pension and profit-sharing plan benefits from the lobby firm.”

Garrison continued, “The people of Mississippi deserve to know when Barbour sold the stake in his firm, if ever. Did Barbour receive funds from his firm while its clients had business before the state? It all boils down to one question: who do you serve?”

I think that is a fair question. Whom do you serve, Governor Barbour? Without transparency in his financial dealings and clear ethics laws and restrictions we man never know.

Talking Points Memo's Muckraker Covers Barbour's Money

Talking Points Memo is one of the leading investigative blogs in the nation and tends to pick one issue and exhaustively cover it. Unfortunately Katrina corruption is not that issue, but he gives us this mention:

We've written about Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's (R) impressive talent for securing federal Katrina aid funds. That might come from his former role as RNC chairman. But it might also have to do with the fact that he still receives monthly checks from Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., the lobbyist firm he helped to start. Haley says all the money coming is part of a pension; others say it's generally good practice to disclose these things. (Bloomberg)"

Haley Barbour's Blind Trust Pokes Justice In The Eye

Bloomberg News brings us another investigative article on Barbour's finances:
The blind trust document he signed about six weeks later says that on Jan. 13, 2004, the day he took office, Barbour still had a stake worth $786,666 in the publicly traded parent company of Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., as well as pension and profit-sharing plan benefits from the lobby firm.

A copy of the notarized trust agreement, obtained from an individual who requested anonymity, says Barbour receives $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, from it. He lists the trust in his annual Mississippi ethics filing as his only source of income outside his $122,160 salary as governor.

Wow, he gets to be governor and collect a half million each year. (I do realize that he took the office at great personal sacrifice (sarcasm) to his own well-being and income) I'd like to know what is included in the "profit sharing" portion of the "blind" trust.
Barbour's blind trust ``is allowing him to hide things,'' said Bob Stern, president of Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, which studies ethics and campaign laws. ``For him then to not disclose the sources of income from it -- then actually we're losing disclosure.''

If Mississippi law doesn't specifically provide for shielding a trust's income sources from disclosure, Barbour should list them on his annual disclosure form, said Stern, who has advised the state of California on ethics laws.

Barbour has never been someone for open government and transparency. After out of state groups dumped several million dollars into political advertising in the state prior to Barbour's election the legislature acted with a simple commonsense rule. If you want to spend money on political advertising in our state you would have to disclose your donors. The bill passed both houses and Barbour vetoed it. Nearly all the spending had benefited Republicans so he didn't care if they were anonymous.
The lobbying firm in Washington that still bears Barbour's name represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, according to federal lobbying filings, a filing with the state of Mississippi and senior officials of two of the clients.
"I'm not sure whether the trustee continues to take that money,'' Brunini said. "If I was the trustee, I might go into that company and make a deal to cash that out and invest it in some other way."

Brunini's idea looks like it makes sense. It's too bad the good governor didn't think to cut those ties. Until the contents of his trust are available for public scrutiny, the questions will and should remain concerning whether the payments he receives influence his decisions in office whether he supposedly knows about them or not.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Your Democratic Nominee for Auditor

Congratulations Democratic Nominee Mike Sumrall

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Check this out for a few good reasons to support Mike Sumrall for State Auditor

Early Results

Democratic Primary - State Auditor
Sumrall 53% - Brand 47%

Democratic Primary - Hinds County DA
Smith 52% - Peterson 48%

Democratic Primary - Senate District 10
Mettetal 52% - Pittman 48%

Democratic Primary - Senate District 19
Butler 55% - Davis 45%

Democratic Primary - House District 91
Evans 54% - Hudson 46%

Republican Primary - House District 104
Byrd 51% - King 49%

Republican Primary - Jackson Co. Supervisor's Dist. 4
Broadnax 1,462 - Leach 886

Open Thread 8/28/2007

I'm going to try something new here that has some popularity on national blogs; the open thread.

The writer gives no opinion in the post and instead allows the readers to express/post what is on their minds.

So whether it is the runoff elections, the startup of college sports (Go Eagles!, oops that was opinion), or a picture of your cat have at it.

This is an open thread.

Jamie Franks Has A New Website

It's a pretty website too. :)

I think it is the first (I could be wrong) in Mississippi to include a link to the campaign's Facebook page on the front page of the website.

Any thoughts on the website?

Bill Minor's Take on Bloomberg and Blind Trusts

Bill Minor:
As expected, Gov. Haley Barbour shrugged off as "election-year politics" the detailed expose' by Bloomberg News Service on how his relatives and his campaign have profited off Katrina recovery money...What puts a highly sensitive stamp on this money is that it was generated by the nation's worst natural disaster, and was intended to help its victims.
Thus it is purely cynical for Barbour to equate as election-year politics the story showing how two of his nephews, his old lobby firm, and his own campaign war chest (to the tune of $45,000) benefited from Katrina money...

A bill to disclose sources of income paid to a blind trust passed the Mississippi House in February, but was killed by Barbour forces in the Senate.

This column and others have questioned whether his so-called blind trust includes a stake in his old lobby firm, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, from which he said in 2003 he severed connections... Since one of BG&R's clients is tobacco giant P. Lorillard, it could be seen that Barbour, in vetoing the bill to raise Mississippi's pitifully low cigarette tax, was shielding the tobacco industry. Burger points out two of Barbour's ex-partners in BG&R have kicked in $30,000 for his campaign.

Read the rest at The Clarion Ledger

Todd Brand's Attack Ad on Mike Sumrall

I disagree with the ad, but feel folks should be able to see it. You can see why I support Mike Sumrall in the post directly below.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vote for Mike Sumrall

There are many reasons why you should vote for Mike Sumrall including but not limited to his long and deep experience doing the kind of work that is necessary for the job of State Auditor.

Dr. Todd Brand is a very intelligent man and I'm sure that a doctorate in Community College Leadership will help him get about any job he'd like to have, but I really think now is the time to choose Mike Sumrall. Allow me to spell out some reasons.

1. He is very, very qualified. The web page details his pertinent work experience He is the most qualified out of the 3 remaining candidates (Sumrall, Brand, Pickering).

2. He not only has experience, but has shown competence and vision. Years before computers became the norm he saw where technology was going so he went back to school to study computer science so he would be prepared to meet that challenge. Between his knowledge of audits at various levels and his knowledge of automating processes using technology he would be an excellent fit for State Auditor today.

3. He didn't say the following:
"(Bryant) has done an outstanding job leading the audit department, but he has faced a shrinking budget for the last three fiscal years."

Defending the current Republican candidate for Lt. Governor's failed tenure as Auditor is not a quality I want in a Democratic nominee. The Auditor's office was given money to investigate the beef plant fiasco and he gave most of it back. With people (finally) going to jail, shouldn't they have been a little more thorough?

4. He's from South Mississippi. This may count against him elsewhere, but I'd like you to think about how few of our statewide candidates are from the Coast. I think he is one of two running statewide from the Southern region. We deserve representation too.

Mike Sumrall is a man of good character and a friend to the people of Mississippi and seeks the office so that he may serve the people just as he has done for the last 20 years. He deserves your vote and support. Vote for him tomorrow, Tuesday the 27th.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nobody Could have Foreseen Waste

John raises an interesting point that I'm not sure he's even aware of in his most recent post on what "Katrina money" could have bought.

But before I get into the substance, I should point this out:

I am not a lawyer. I don't play one on TV, I'm not licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction in the United States or elsewhere, and I cannot dispense legal advice. Any legal analysis I offer is strictly my own thoughts, and anyone who relies on it is, well, dumb. When in doubt, talk to a *real* lawyer.

Anyway, here's my point - John (and the Sun Herald) point out that there's a lot that we could have done with the money wasted in Katrina fraud and abuse. So, the question is begged, what can we do?

And unfortunately, the answer is, "not much." The federal government can go after alleged fraudfeasors (that's people who commit fraud, for those who don't speak Lawyer), and the state can probably go after them as well. But you and me? Not so much. We don't have "standing."

"Standing," in the United States, means that we have to be able to stand up in court and explain how we've been hurt in order to start the gears of justice moving. And (sucks for us!), the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that taxpayers (that's you and me) have no standing to pursue claims against poor spending choices by the government.

There is one exception, and that is if the spending is claimed to violate the Establishment Clause. But in a recent case (whose name I can't remember, dammit), the Court held that Executive disposition of monies for which the Executive has Congressionally granted discretion cannot be challenged under Establishment Clause taxpayer standing. Thus, to make it perfectly clear, if Congress appropriates $1B for, say, a missile defense program, and the Pentagon awards the contract to a church that promises to pray missiles out of the sky, you and I? No standing.

So, for waste and fraud in Katrina, even if the government awarded the contract to people who literally promised to take the money and run - you and I have no standing to challenge as taxpayers.

But all is not lost! As Katrina survivors, we may have standing. In another case, the Court held that a hospital that was due to receive appropriated money had standing to sue when that money was taken out via the line-item veto. Incidentally, this is also the case where the line-item veto was held unconstitutional. So, as the beneficiaries of Katrina appropriations, we have at least a colorable claim to standing to sue the government for lack of oversight in permitting fraud and waste.

I don't know how it would come out. But there are lots of smart members of the plaintiff's bar in Mississippi. Let's get some ambitious young lawyer looking to make his name sniffing after this one.

Geoff Pender on Katrina Money

In the Sun Herald:
It's enough money to buy two average-sized houses for each of the 65,000 families in Mississippi who lost their homes.

And, there would be enough left over to buy each family a brand-new Honda Accord to drive between their two $166,000 houses. That's the EX-L, V-6 four-door sedan Accord, with all the extras and navigation, not a base model.

It's enough to give each man, woman and child in the three southernmost counties $68,500 apiece. Or, to look at it another way, federal Katrina spending in Mississippi will cost each person in the United States about $94.

Just the $1 billion the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates FEMA lost to "fraud, waste and abuse" within a short time after the storm would be enough to cover the city of Waveland's budget for 143 years, or buy more than 6,000 new houses.

"Holy" Haley Barbour, the patron saint of delusional Mississippi Republicans, has been said to have created everything under the sun. While largely ignoring Senator Lott or Congressmen Taylor and Thompson, his boosters have largely given him credit for the Katrina money. Well, with all this money spent, where is it? I personally received a little in student aid after my father ended up in the hospital after the storm but it didn't come close to this and I know folks who are still trying to sort everything out and repair or rebuild. Where is the success Haley? We could have done a lot more with those billions of dollars.

John Goodman offers a CPA's Perspective on the Tax Swap

John Goodman, who writes at PearlMississippiCPA, offers up his perspective on the tax swap and why it makes sense to cut taxes on food first before looking at the income tax as Bryant supposedly wants to do. In his analysis he draws from solid numbers and facts which make it an interesting and informative read.

First he tackles the math of the sales tax cut:
The median household income in Mississippi is $31330 and for a single person $15853 (This is based on a WASHINGTON POST article covering the Mississippi elections for 2006.). The average family of four spends $150 a week on groceries. A single person spends approximately $40 a week on groceries. Note this does not include head of households, which could range to two individuals in the family to four or five.

By cutting the sales tax in half on groceries, the average household will save $273 a year. If it is eliminated, the savings goes to $546 a year. A single person will save $72.80 and $145.60 respectively.

Then he covers how a similar cut in the income tax would have to be engineered to reap the same benefit:
Since Bryant hasn't spelled out his income tax proposals, let us assume we raise the standard deduction from $2300 to $3500 for singles, $4600 to $7000 for marrieds and the brackets remain the same. Let us also assume the married couple has two children and the parents work. Let us also assume the single and the married couple take only the standard deduction. With the new increase in deductions, the single person will save $48 a year and the average married household will save $89.30 a year. For the break even point to occur on income tax savings to match half the tax cut on groceries, the single standard deduction would have to go from $2300 to $4120. To match the entire tax cut on groceries, the single standard deduction would have to go from $2300 to $6302. For the break even point to occur on income tax savings to match half the tax cut on groceries, the married standard deduction would have to go from $4600 to $13123. Of course, the entire tax cut on groceries would be greater than eliminating their entire tax liability.

Goodman then details another reason why the grocery tax cut is needed:
Also, the grocery tax cut would help mitigate the increase in food prices. Maybe it doesn't hurt the rich, but the poor and the working class are feeling it. Milk has climbed to four dollars a gallon! Bread and cereal have shot up. Beef prices have gone up (Thanks to that idiotic ethanol boondoggle, which has greatly increased the price of corn.). This tax cut would give a little relief to the hard-working people of Mississippi.

The tax swap is needed to bring needed dollars to the pockets of all Mississippians and to help stop a new generation of people from getting addicted to the poison that is cigarettes. The plan is fair, sound, and popular and Barbour Republicans like Phil Bryant only oppose it because they didn't think of it first. This partisan skullduggery is unnecessary and as we wait more youth are developing what will be for many a lifelong addiction to cigarettes and many families are having trouble finding the money to feed their families. Jamie Franks will act to help all of Mississippi. Can the same be said for Phil Bryant?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Franks: Cut Taxes For Everyone VS. Bryant: Look Quickly, Brown People!

Franks may be gaining traction. Even Barbour lovers like Sid Salter recognize that Jamie Franks is the real deal and has a clear chance at becoming our next Lt. Governor.

Recently Franks invited reporters and the public to join him at the grocery store to demonstrate how under his plan the average family would save $273 dollars. He then broke down how that money could go to feeding a family which you can find HERE.

Bryant quickly responded by saying "the burden would be shifted to the wage-earners and property owners." That doesn't make a lick of sense since "the burden" is shifted to cigarettes which people don't need to live.

After coming up nearly empty when asked to differentiate between himself and Franks, Bryant plans to go on the offensive next week with a press conference on illegal immigration. Forced to act on a campaign quickly losing momentum Bryant will chose the politics of fear over the politics of progress and possibility.

I'd like to know how a candidate for Lt. Governor can make any real progress on the national issue of immigration when the leaders of both parties tried to find a solution and were unable. Does Phil have any new ideas or is he just recycling the same old, same old for votes?

With Universities Salaries Up, Does Quality Suffer?

If you read the Ledger a last week, you might have caught this Editorial opinion on Higher Education.

The CL calls out the funding of the big 3 Universities' Presidential salaries, and poses the question to the state, who should pay for competitive funding of our State's education leaders?

Its is now noted that Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Kayhat and Mississippi State President Doc Foglesong both make just under 1/2 million dollars, at $429,000. USM President Martha Saunders is now raking in over $345,000 after only 2 months on the job.

Why is this important? Well apparently Mississippi "four-year colleges increased tuition by an average of 6 percent this year - the ninth hike in 10 years." Who's covering that? Students and middle class Mississippi. They though are not receiving any help from Uncle Sam while Stafford loans are still capped at $23,000 a year. Nor from the economy, which has not helped the problem that now Higher Education costs 29% of a family's yearly income.

Private foundations, such as alumni associations and University foundations, front the cost of most of these Presidents' salaries. However the State picks up the base pay and any State wide increases.

So if everyone's looking after who is at the top, what about those kids who the State promises to educated as the next generation of leaders?

Recently Ole Miss was ranked the #2 Party School in the nation.

Mississippi State has had two reports of sexual assault in one week of students returning to campus. However it should be noted that the more recent assault that the student
" had fabricated the details of the alleged assault," and it was not a rape as previously stated.

Mississippi State is the only one on the Princeton Reviews "Best College Values", while Ole Miss makes it to their best 366 Colleges in America list (unknown ranking) , leaving out USM on both categories.

Southern Mississippi has 65% of undergrads on financial aid;
Ole Miss stands at 40%;
And Mississippi State comes in at 52%. On average the state has 52% of its students on aid, most likely student loans.

The point? Are we having this discussion too late? Or is the Ledger bringing up a valid issue just in time?

Their editorial conclusion is a good start "The state should pick up the full salary costs and let foundations help in other areas of need, as in tuition aid." But I for one would like to see real talk coming from our leaders in 2008. I have my own solutions, but I need something for my 3rd post ;)

Clarion Ledger Tackles Blind Trusts

The Clarion Ledger:
When elected, Gov. Haley Barbour said he placed his personal assets in a blind trust.

That is a common step taken by top elected officials. It supposedly puts a wall between the official's acts in office and his or her own financial interests. A trust is managed without knowledge of the elected official. Former Mississippi governors have used blind trusts.

Recent news stories have outlined the spider's web of interests connecting Barbour's family to various government contracts that raise issues about how effective Barbour's blind trust might be.

No matter how "blind" a trust is it would be difficult to not know how various decisions would benefit your family. It's only human nature and is one reason that we should require far stricter ethics legislation.
Barbour says his money is in a blind trust. But if Barbour is benefiting from his former law firm's work, how "blind" is the trust? We don't know.

Mississippi's ethics laws are so weak, the extent of Barbour's connection to his old firm, if any, isn't known and Barbour hasn't been forthcoming - even refusing to reveal his income tax returns like the president and former governors routinely do.

I can understand a desire for privacy (something that seems to be rapidly disappearing with the advent of the internet), but again when family members are making millions off of the government's largesse. In addition family and friends are representing companies lobbying for additional government contracts. This much money requires transparency.
A bill to force disclosure of blind trusts died last session in the committee of GOP state Sen. Charlie Ross, who has called himself Barbour's "wingman." Was the bill a political shot at Barbour? Obviously. But, whether for Barbour or any governor after this election, the bill should be revived.

A "blind trust" should shield an official from conflicts for his own good and the public's. That's a far cry from a politician asking the public to blindly trust him. Mississippi needs its own blind trust laws.

Amen. As many have said before, sunlight IS the best disinfectant. Wealth shouldn't preclude people from participating in the political process, but it also should not be protected as something specifically personal when public dollars are at stake.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Barbour's Firm to Undermine Iraqi Government

Republican lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration are aiding and supporting the efforts of an Iraqi opposition leader who is calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The anti-Maliki crusader is former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, and the Washington firm retained to spearhead U.S.-focused efforts on his behalf is the Republican powerhouse group of Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers (BGR).

BGR International's president is Robert Blackwill, the one-time White House point man on Iraq, holding the title of Presidential Envoy to Iraq in 2004.

What do you think? Let everybody know in the comments.

Hancock Bank Can Teach Bush A Thing or Two

by Ana Maria

Who would have ever thought that a bank would be the anchor business for beachfront revitalization in Bay St. Louis, Miss., one of the tiny beach towns that comprise Katrina’s ground zero? Yet, that is exactly the case with Hancock Bank, Mississippi’s largest and a strong regional bank as well.

As the flagship business for renewing Bay St. Louis’ beach front/downtown/Old Town business district, Hancock Bank’s reopening provides unparalleled leadership locally and even nationally.

How’s this for a demonstration of Katrina responsiveness?

One of the bank’s officers told the celebration’s crowd of a few hundred that in the storm’s immediate aftermath, Hancock Bank took a satchel of money to some central location and began to cash checks. The bank knew that folks needed cash to buy supplies. Thoughtful, indeed. And good business, of course. But, here’s the kicker.

Hancock Bank even took IOU’s from people.

Read more at A.M. in the Morning!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Franks: Cut Taxes For Everyone VS. Bryant: Hell No

Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Jamie Franks recently took a reporter to a grocery store to demonstrate how much folks would save if we cut the grocery tax. Here is some of the resulting article and my comment:
"A major cornerstone of my campaign is helping working people have tax relief," Franks said. "We need to cut Mississippi's sales tax on groceries, the highest in the nation."

An average family spends about $150 a week on groceries and pays $546 a year in grocery taxes, he said. His proposal to cut the tax in half would save abut $273 for a family during a year.

Yep. That's true. What family couldn't use a couple hundred dollars to make ends meet? I know of a lot of students who could use that money.
When municipal officials voiced concerns they could lose sales taxes, "we doubled the diversion in tax money going back to cities," he said. That plan had support from Democrats and Republicans.

This was the only valid complaint I saw and it was addressed before the final bill; a bill that Barbour Republicans blocked.
"I'm all about cutting taxes but believe that the numbers will not support the revenue shift," Bryant said after Franks' Tupelo event Wednesday. "The burden would be shifted to the wage-earners and property owners."

Bryant's grasp of the facts here is questionable. How swapping the tax from bread and milk to cigarettes moves "the burden ... to the wage-earners and property owners" is beyond me. Perhaps one of the many Phil Bryant apologists would like to explain that one.

The truth is that Barbour Republicans like Bryant are incapable of being independent and will bend to his will without regard to the facts. Any other explanation of his response is welcome below in the comments.

The Daily Journal Article

The Sun Herald Reports On Republican Perry's Meddling in South Mississippi

Our Original Post On The Possible Challenge

A prominent Republican has been on the coast helping Democratic state Sen. Scottie Cuevas prepare for a possible challenge of a primary in which Cuevas' opponent was declared the winner by 36 votes.
The actions by Hinds County GOP chairman Pete Perry demonstrate the importance to Gov. Haley Barbour of holding onto an ally in the 52-member state Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority and often rely on Cuevas and other conservative Democrats to push the Republican governor's agenda.

Cuevas said Thursday that he "most probably" will challenge the primary results.

"That's what we're looking at," Cuevas said. "It's nothing we just want to run in and say, 'Hey, we're filing a challenge.' We want to make sure we have our ducks in a row."

Baria said he thinks it's unusual for Cuevas to have chosen Perry to help re-examine ballot boxes. Pete Perry was in charge of the Hinds County Republican primary on Aug. 7, and there were complaints about the GOP not having people to work in some precincts early that day.

"It seems very ironic that he's down here criticizing the election that our local election officials ran," Baria said of Pete Perry.

The Sun Herald Article

Legal Mexican Workers Claim Policeman Kidnapped and Threatened Them

The Sun Herald:
On Wednesday, after showing up on the steps of the federal courthouse in New Orleans, the group outlined their allegations. Here's their account:

On the night of Aug. 2, Tillman was in uniform, armed and in his police patrol car accompanied by an unidentified recruiter with Black Hawk when they showed up at the workers' homes.

Tillman, they said, told them that Black Hawk owned them and that they had to go with them or they'd face possible prison time or deportation.

"We resisted," the workers said in a written statement. "But we were forced to pack our bags and get into vans. We were transported to a new location. Tillman and the others packed all 30 of us into three rooms... "

Police kept watch, according to the workers, and the following day the recruiter returned, this time taking mug shots and video footage of them. With outside help, the workers escaped to an undisclosed location in New Orleans, where they've been living without work or money.

As I say in the comments; Weird.

Optimism and Anger in Post-Katrina Living

by Ana Maria

Yesterday, the Gulf Coast Business Council released Two Years After Katrina, which reports on the status of our recovery down here. The Biloxi Sun Herald aptly titled its headlined article Keeping it positive.

As is often shown in our own lives, keeping an upbeat, appreciative, and grateful attitude for what has been done for us and for what we have always is always a good thing and generally generates more for which to be grateful and appreciative. It’s a mystical like quality that seems to magnetize our energy field to attract more of the same. The opposite is also the case. Coming off as ungrateful for anything often engenders a negative response from those around us giving us more for which we are ungrateful. Funny how life works that way.

I find myself juggling a delicate balance knowing of these mysteries.

Read more at A.M. in the Morning!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The System Was Broken

The advertisements for Faye Peterson were produced by Jim Dollarhide who primarily does work for Republicans. He produced these ads and those of Sheriff McMillin because here it was absolutely clear who the best choice was (and there was no credible Republican alternative). Please vote for Faye Peterson to keep a voice of sanity in Hinds County government.

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove Marries

Musgrove married the former Melody Bounds on August 4 in a small ceremony attended by their children. The couple had been dating about two years.

Ronnie Musgrove, 51, is an attorney for a Jackson-area law firm.

Melody Musgrove, 47, works in Mississippi as director of business development for Florida-based LRP Publications.

The AP Story

Now Would Be A Good Time For Barbour To Act; Will He?

Democracy For America:
George Bush has done it again. He has sided with insurance and drug company profits over the health and well-being of our nation's children. Late Friday night, the Bush administration released a letter to state health officials that effectively eliminated health insurance coverage for millions of American kids. This underhanded one-size-fits-all cutback limits Mississippi's ability to cover uninsured kids and cripples any chance of reasonable expansion.¹

What can you do? Let's face it; President Bush isn't going to take your call. On the other hand, when the governor of a state calls, even Bush will listen.

Call Governor Barbour right now and demand that Mississippi stands up to President Bush's anti-children campaign.

Governor Haley Barbour
601 359-3100

Here's what you can say:

"President Bush's new rules which reduce the availability of the Children's Health Insurance Program for uninsured kids must be repealed. Governor Barbour must call President Bush today and demand a complete rollback of the new rules. Can I count on the governor to stand up for our kids?"

George Dale Should Thank Dickey Scruggs

by Ana Maria

The last two weeks have produced a great deal of hand wringing, teeth gnashing, and finger pointing regarding what caused Mississippi’s 32-year veteran insurance commissioner to loose his job. When Mississippi Democrats voted in the primary on August 7th, they fired George Dale and hired Gary Anderson in his place. Anderson has that fire in the belly to protect homeowners and business owners from Big Insurance.

Neither Dale nor some of his ardent supporters—many of whom are Republican and insurance big wigs—seem capable of believing that Dale could have lost his job all on his own and that Mississippi voters actually elected another man—an African American one at that. Perhaps all of this together stings Dale’s Old South blood that may be coursing through his veins.

The simple fact is that George Dale a sore loser. He gambled with his career, and he lost. His whining and crying? A bunch of sour grapes. Dale turned a blind eye to the fact that it was he who rolled out the red carpet that permitted insurance companies to run amok over Mississippi families and business owners. Under George Dale’s leadership, Mississippi has the third highest home owner’s insurance rates in the country. Not exactly something on which to proudly campaign.

Read More at A.M. in the Morning!

Southern Political Retort

The "Southern Political Report" should read a couple state blogs before issuing their opinion.

Here is their view on the Republican field:
The three most likely Republican contenders are attorney Gregg Harper, chairman of the Rankin County Republican Party; state Sen. Walter Michel from Madison County; and John Rounsaville, the state director of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Office. None have formally announced, but are telling friends and associates that they are likely to run.

Somehow they left out Charlie Ross who released a letter where he says that he is seriously considering the race. Oh, the three folks who I've never heard of are the leaders. Right.

Here is their view on the Democratic field:
For the Democrats, the most prominent prospective contender is state party chair and former Congressman Ronnie Shows, who represented most of the district before the post-2000 reapportionment. Shows lost to Pickering by 64% to 35% in 2002.

I'm sure former Congressman Shows would be surprised to find that he is now State Party Chair. Also, who gets to tell Wayne Dowdy that the "Southern Political Report" has dethroned him?

Before the "Southern Political Report" decides that it can tell us how our elections will turn out perhaps it should do a simple fact check and a scan of blogs left and right in the states they are supposedly analyzing.

The (as of 2:25PM Wed. uncorrected) Full Report
The (as of 10:59PM Wed. uncorrected) Full Report

Vote for Fay Peterson*

*if you live in Hinds County and voted in the Democratic primary at the beginning of this month. Chances are a couple of you do qualify.

Good folks like Othor Cain and Sheriff McMillin support her and that is good enough for me.

Hat tip to the Jackson Free Press for spotting them first.

John Goodman on the State Auditors Race

Let's look at the record since 1984, when long-serving State Auditor W. Hamp King stepped down. He was the last State Auditor who kept politics out of the Office of State Audit (hereafter abbreviated as OSA). His successor, Ray Mabus (1984-1988), used it as a successful launching pad for Governor. After him came Pete Johnson (1988-1992). He was elected as a Democrat, became a Republican in late 1988, and unsuccessfully ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1991. After him came Steve Patterson (1992-Nov. 1996), who was going to use it for an eventual run for Governor or Lt. Governor. And finally, Phil Bryant (Nov. 1996 to present) used the OSA as a launching pad for his run for Lt. Governor. All of those four auditors used the OSA as a political fiefdom.

Mike Sumrall knows the inner workings of the OSA. It is true he is NOT a CPA. But he is the ONLY candidate with an accounting degree. He has twenty-three years auditing experience with the OSA, three years as County Administrator and CFO of Forrest County and two years as business manager of Pike County Schools. As you can see, he has experience in state, county and school audits and financial accounting. Add it up: That's twenty-eight years of accounting and auditing experience of government.


If you are a Democrat, please vote for Mike Sumrall on August 28th. As a CPA, I can tell you he is the most qualified man to run for State Auditor in decades. At long last, the man and the office have met. Mississippi desperately needs Mike Sumrall as our State Auditor.

Read the entire post at PearlMississippiCPA

Take A Walk In Calcutta, India

A friend of mine by the name of Josh Casper is spending a few months among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India.

Here's his most recent note:
I wish I had more of a capacity to explain my thoughts.

I have seen so much in only 2 days that I'm wondering where I'll be in 4 months. Calcutta wears her brokeness on the outside. There are some things I won't share on this blog..but perhaps a conversation over some chai. (which is oh so amazing here)

I'm sitting at a little internet shop. the blisters on my feet aren't very fun..especially when 'calcutta juice', as I like to call it splashes all over them due to the epic downpours of the monsoon season we arrived in. the rain is great. makes some things more difficult, but it's about 86 degrees here and is beautiful and breezy at night. when it's not feels like walking down the streets of new orleans on a warm summer day.

i'll have to explain later my thoughts of the people here...and what it's like serving among the poorest of the poor. it's hard. children hardly wearing anything pull at my shirt...and my heart. upon arriving in bombay (mumbai), we stayed at a hotel after a greeeeat 15 hour plane ride. the hotel was heaven but on the ride there I saw two girls sleeping on the street. the size of my two little sisters. it was something I couldn't let go. I still can' I'm not sure if I ever will..I pray I won't.
i can't imagine my little sisters having to sleep underneath a doorstep their who lives...wearing the only scrap of dress they have.

sometimes. it's hopeless. and aggervating. none of us can really interpret what we're feeling...but, without hope there is nothing.

so...I'm gaining hope. God had to have made so many Indian people for a reason..right? They are some of the most beautiful and couteous people I've met and interacted with. but, there are exceptions.

Prayer is something done as I the blisters ache my feet and my sinuses make my head feel as if it were about to explode...I pray to not forget what I see. The air here is heavy. polluted. one main reason for this great 'groggy' feeling..heh.

blisters are nothing. sinuses are nothing. i have medicine for that.

know that I'm here to see what Jesus looks like in Calcutta. I'm here for them. i'm here to serve among the poor..not TO the poor...this is something I'm having to learn quick. you will burn out quick if you don't.

big week ahead. going to momma t's houses and learning the public transportation routes which are...yikes...intimidating...but we'll be okay.

love you all. remember us in your prayers. remember the people in the city of joy. words cannot describe the beauty, the sadness...the hell...the salvation and the love that is here.



If you would like to keep up with his trip you can at his blog appropriately titled "My Journey to Calcutta..."

School Starts

Today is the first day of classes for the Fall Semester at USM. The weather is hot, the textbooks are expensive and the freshmen are confused. I hope you are enjoying this slow news day. Republican Talking Points Report only has up three new headlines up and one of them actually makes Jim Hood look good. Who knew they had it in them? Send your tips to CottonMouthBlog AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Giuliani To Visit Mississippi

Big Whoop. I went to see him in 2003 when he came to Pascagoula for Barbour. He spoke for about a minute. I wasn't impressed. Then I got to hear a speech by Haley Barbour which was also unenjoyable. It wasn't a total waste, I got to eat some good barbeque.

Y'all Politics brings us his $1,000 invite

Does anyone want to spot me a ticket? I don't really expect an answer in the affirmative.

How about this? If the Giuliani Campaign or any Republican lets me in I promise to write a post praising Rudy Giuliani for something. :)

New Option For Advertising

There is now another way to advertise on Cotton Mouth. We are now a member of the BlogAds family. If you click the "Advertise Here" button on the top right you will go to an ordering page to purchase Ads on Cotton Mouth. I will take advertising from any candidate for office, business, or interest group. In the last week I have gotten e-mails from campaigns, candidates, journalists, and opinion leaders all responding to things they had seen here. Reach them by advertising here on Cotton Mouth.

An Ad I Wish Were Airing In Mississippi

In Louisiana the media largely has had the same attitude towards Bobby Jindal as the media in Mississippi has had towards Haley Barbour. The perception they leave is that we shouldn't even bother holding an election because they've already decided their choice. I really wish we had similar response in Mississippi. "Coronation" is an excellent response.

Bush’s FEMA Again Lifting Wrong Finger for Katrina’s Families

by Ana Maria

With Katrina’s 2nd anniversary a week away and eyes glued to following Hurricane Dean’s path, evidence of post-Katrina stress abounds. From short tempers and increased alcohol and drug usage to low expectations that life can ever return to even the worst of pre-Katrina days to people whispering about various friends and family members in good health but who all of a sudden die without warning. In hushed tones, they share with me their various conclusions on the cause of death.

• Katrina took away their will to live.
• The stress of post-Katrina survival got to them.
• When the insurance companies failed to own up to their financial responsibilities to pay on wind policies, it killed ‘em—they checked out.
Mental illness is double the pre-storm levels, rising numbers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and there is a surge in adults who say they're thinking of suicide. . . .

The big surprise: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which typically goes away in a year for most disaster survivors, has increased: 21% have the symptoms vs. 16% in 2006. Common symptoms include the inability to stop thinking about the hurricane, nightmares and emotional numbness.
The nation’s worst natural disaster is playing havoc with our coping mechanisms, and Bush’s FEMA is playing havoc with how they interpret the rules that should afford some much needed funding for mental health services in the Katrina-ravaged area.

Read more at A.M. in the Morning!

Republican Dirty Tricks In State Auditor Race

Todd Brand of Meridian, who is vying for the Democratic nomination for auditor, said Monday he believes automated phone calls from an unknown source might have influenced his election and others in the Democratic primary….He said some of his supporters had affidavits from African-American voters saying they received automated phone calls near the election with the message that Sumrall was the black candidate in the race.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The "black" candidate in the race.
Brand said the company doing the calls was "Grassroots Out of Virginia." On Republican Gov. Haley Barbour's campaign finance report is a $50,000 expenditure to Grassroots Targeting/Microtargeting of Alexandria, Va.

Ryan Annison, a spokesman for the Barbour campaign, said automated phone calls "is not what that company does. Like all campaigns, we did some polling with them."

The Daily Journal Article

John Eaves' "Kid Care" Ad

John Eaves does have a new positive agenda for all of Mississippi. His vision could bring us to a place where we are no longer in a race with Louisiana for last place or we could stay with Haley Barbour and his "era of low expectations."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mysterious 3rd Party Expenditure Helps George Dale

That's not a headline you read before the primary election, but you should have.

While Republicans were hyperventilating about Scruggs' PAC and its TV ads another third party group was doing it's part to do a number on Gary Anderson and his reputation.

Scruggs' excuse for his ad buy was that Gary Anderson was being buried financially. George Dale had been on TV far longer and with greater saturation and he felt that if people were able to hear the other side of the story they would make the right choice. He was demonized for it.

Those same Republicans somehow missed an insurance industry sponsored two-sided glossy direct mailing attacking Gary Anderson. It was mailed to 250,000 households.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So while Republicans were crying Bloody Mary, their friends were doing the very same thing. Typical.

Republican Charlie Ross On MS-03

"Last week, Congressman Chip Pickering announced that he will not be running for re-election in 2008. This announcement was a total surprise. Since then, many have called and urged me to consider running for the position. Because so many have called, and because I do believe in public service, Sharon and I are considering running for the seat vacated by Chip. Because of your faithful support during the Lt. Governor campaign, Sharon and I would very much like to have your thoughts as to whether we should run for the congressional position. Please let us know your feelings and thoughts."

Several said that they couldn't see him running after such such a strenuous campaign. My response: A politician is a politician. This is his best opportunity for a promotion and if he is wise he will take it. I also want him to run because he has a habit of saying dumb things and he'd be fun to watch.

Haley Barbour's Hurricane Dean Robo-Call from MEMA

“Run for Cover!” Republican Gov. Evacuation Plan for Gulf Coast Residents

by Ana Maria

Run for Cover! Republican Gov. Evacuation Plan for Gulf Coast Residents

With Hurricane Dean tearing through the Caribbean, Gulf Coast residents watch the weather reports praying that whatever Mother Nature does, she does elsewhere. We’re still a long way off from recovering from Hurricane Katrina, which demolished the area two years ago. Many of our families—mine, included—have put into place evacuation plans that we had never before felt a need to have BK, Before Katrina.

The Associated Press reported that Mississippi’s Republican Governor Haley Barbour stated
people should think about where they will go if an evacuation is ordered and how they'll travel.
Oh, so that’s it? What is this?! Barbour’s admission that he has no evacuation plan?

Read more at A. M. in the Morning!

Haley Barbour's Robertson Edorsement Ad

This is a little behind, but I only recently learned how to embed audio. If you can listen to this and still believe that voters didn't know that if they wanted to support Robertson they would vote for Robertson, then you are delusional. Robertson fell to Republican base voters. If the media would get over it's love affair with Haley Barbour (this means you Sid Salter and The Sun Herald), then perhaps voters would realize that this is in fact a valid race with a clear choices for Mississippi.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pickering Says Washington Too Hard, Jackson Should Be Easier

Everyone's favorite, soon to be ex-Congressman, Chip Pickering was in the news again today. This time he gave the AP a little more "detail" into why he will resign as the 3rd District's rep in 2008.

When asked about running for the Governor's seat in Jackson in 2012, his answer was a dubious "maybe".

However my odd love of the article comes later, as it goes on to describe some, how do you say "typical Republican morality."
As we all know Pickering said he's not going to run again because he wants to spend more time with his family of 7. But when asked about the 2006 election, he said it did play "some part" in deciding not to run again. How so you ask?

"It is different being in the minority. And for my temperament and personality, probably being in the majority and building the coalitions to govern is - I'm more suited for that."

And then there is the gem he describes as working too hard in Washington since the Democrats took office. Pickering relates to the AP how when Republicans where in charge, the only voting days were Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday. But since the Dems took charge, they have had to vote now on Mondays!! THE HORROR!! An American working 4 days a week?! I can see the man's outrage.

So being a House Rep is apparently only for the super dedicated and anti-family man to take up. How can someone serve when they are not dealing from a position of power? The Minority, wasn't that just a movie with Tom Cruise?

And as for Governor, I guess since Arnold can do it, anyone can eh Chip?

Republican Pete Perry Examines DEMOCRATIC Primary In HANCOCK County?

Look who's surfaced in Hancock County -- Pete Perry the Hinds County Republican Chair who had to defend his complete failure as an elections official in the August 7 primary on every news outlet in Central Mississippi. What's he doing in Hancock? He is examining the ballot boxes in the DEMOCRATIC primary where David Baria beat Scottie Cuevas by about 30 votes.

That's right -- the father of Haley Barbour's policy director Jim Perry is down on the Coast representing a Democratic candidate!

It definitely looks like the Barbour machine had different plans for Senate District 46. Rumors were that Cuevas had promised a party switch to match his voting patterns after he won. Only he didn't win. Now Barbour has sent one of his henchmen down there to screw things up as bad as he did in Hinds County.

Word from the Coast is that nothing untoward has been found, although Perry has behaved badly.

David Baria is a fine, smart and strong man who conducted an honorable campaign. It's no wonder that Barbour and friends don't want him in the Senate and will pull every hat trick they can to keep him away from the capitol.

Barbour Using State Funds For Re-Election

Every single person I know on the Coast that I polled has gotten at least one phone call from MEMA featuring a recording of Haley Barbour in the last two weeks.

Here is one friends short account of the call and what he did in response:
"I have received 2 calls at home today from MEMA, and they start out with"this is Governor Haley Barbour, their is a hurricane in the Caribbean that could enter the gulf and threaten........ you get the picture.When you call the number back now you get a male voice that says if the number shows up on your caller id or you got a message from them, it was Governor Haley Barbour telling you to watch the tropics. This is ridiculous, since last night the website has had the storm tracking even further to the soth and going into Mexico or at worst south Texas. This is abusing the state agency and the taxpayers with fear..."

The number he received the call from was 866-920-6362. Call it and you'll get the same response he did.

A few weeks previous I got a storm preparedness robo-call from Haley Barbour "that is only a test." In the process of that test however, I got to hear Barbour talking about storms preparedness which is one of my greatest concerns as a Coast resident.

The governor is using your tax money to make him look good. Don't you think a few thousand from his multimillion dollar war-chest might have been more appropriate. This does follow a consistent pattern nationwide of Republicans using everything from publicly paid for mail to say nice things about their candidates to having public employees work on campaigns and being advised to do so.

The Sunday Funny #5

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert features Oliver the Monkey that keep escaping from a Tupelo zoo.

The results are hilarious.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Welcome nick d to Cotton Mouth

nick d is a more recent resident of Mississippi and will be joining us to add his unique perspective from Northeast Mississippi.

John Arthur Eaves' Radio Ad

Reading the campaign finance reports you can see which radio stations it has played on. Most are lower rated (and lower cost) commerical Christian stations.

It's a good ad and the folks I know who have also heard it also liked it. I like the ad better without the visuals so if you'd like the same effect after you watch it, you can press play again and look away.

Facts You May Not Know About Previous American Presidents

Taft was the last President to have facial hair.

Ford was once a male model.

Van Burren was the first President to be born as a US citizen.

Theodore Roosevelt was a Judo blackbelt.

Ronald Regan is the only President to have ever worn a Nazi uniform.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

I'm working on the COTTONMOUTHblog YouTube vault.

I took this during a Cubs game when I went to Chicago for the YearlyKos Convention.

Canoeing On the Okatoma

I've spent much of the day on the Okatoma near Seminary, Mississippi.

It's been great in the past, but due to lack of rainfall the water-levels are quite low so I wouldn't recommend a trip at the moment.

It is a beautiful sight though when you are not pulling your canoe over exposed rock or sand.

I used Oakatoma Canoe Rental and their service was good. :) I hope you are enjoying your weekend as much as I am. :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Your Next 3rd District Congressman Could Be...


Shawn Bullard - Former Gene Taylor Aide / President of Duetto Group
Wayne Dowdy - Current State Chair / Former Congressman / Ran for Senate against Lott in 1988 for Stennis' seat
John Eaves - Attorney / Current Dem Candidate for GOV / Former Congressional Candidate
Don Kilgore - Attorney / Former Politico
Bobby Moak - State Representative
Mike Moore - Awesome / Former Attorney General / Took on Big Tobacco and won
Ronnie Musgrove - Former Governor
Jacob Ray - Ran for Auditor this year
Ronnie Shows - Former Congressman / Defeated Delbert Hosemann in Congressional election in 1998
Rob Smith - Former State Senator / Current Dem Candidate for SOS
Joe Warren - State House Democratic Caucus Chair
Phillip West - Current Natchez Mayor
Gloria Williamson - State Senator

I'd like to thank Will Bardwell who organized most of the previous in the easy to read alphabetical order. He is a saint (The Saint of Organizing Online Information in an Easy to Digest Format). :)

Your Next 3rd District Congressman Could Be...


Mary Hawkins Butler - Mayor of Madison
Mike Callahan - Former Public Service Commissioner
Harold Cross - Former Adjutant Feneral of Mississippi
Haley Fisackerly - Entergy Executive / Worked for Thad Cochran
Heath Hall - Worked for Kirk Fordice
Gregg Harper - Former Rankin County GOP chairman
Delbert Hosemann - Attorney / Current GOP Candidate for SOS
Whit Hughes - MDA Official / Former MSU Basketball Player / Friend of Charlie Ross
Tim Johnson - Madison Alderman / Former State Senator
Mark Keenum - USDA Undersecretary / Former Thad Cochran Chief of Staff
Dean Kirby - State Senator
Walter Michel - State Senator
Sam Mims - State Represenatative
Jim Perry - Policy Director to Haley Barbour / Former Roger Wicker Aide
Parker Pugh - Trent Lott Staffer
Brad Reeves - Attorney
Tate Reeves - State Auditor
Charlie Ross - (soon to be) Former State Senator / Recent Candidate for Statewide Office (lost in Republican Primary)
John Rounsaville - Mississippi State Director for USDA Rural Development
Greg Snowden - State Representative
Amy Tuck - (soon to be) Former Lt. Governor
Nick Walters - Former USDA State Director
Quentin Whitwell - Mississippi Mortgage Bankers Association Executive Director / Former State Senate Candidate
Craig Ziemba - Radio Talk Show Host

I'd like to thank Will Bardwellwho organized most of the previous in the easy to read alphabetical order. He is a saint (The Saint of Organizing Online Information in an Easy to Digest Format). :)

Updated: Your Next District Congressman Could Be...


Ronnie Shows - He was a Congressman until he was redistricted. If he decides to run as many expect Democrats will clear the field for him. Hopefully such a campaign would be better run than his last one.

Joe Warren - He is the State House Democratic Caucus Chair and would consider running if Shows doesn't.

Ronnie Musgrove - He considered running for something this time around (2007) but decided against it after having his campaign fund do polling. In more favorable conditions he might make the plunge. You know he wants it.


NOT TUCK - She issued a press release saying that she is not interested.

Charlie Ross - With the center of the district including several powerhouse Republican counties he might be tempted to join and has a professional staff and name recognition from his failed race for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor.

Jeffery Rupp - Because Will Bardwell says so. I don't think he'd have a chance in the GOP primary against either of these two.

Updated: Jim Perry - 'Perry is the policy director for Haley Barbour and the former legislative director to Congressman Roger Wicker (R-Citizens Council). Perry also ran the policy shop on Barbour's 2003 gubernatorial campaign. In January 2006, The Hotline wrote of Perry that "GOPers are sure that 'at some point, he'll run for something.'"' - Will Bardwell

Overall what is amazing is that a Democrat can clearly win in this district. There are solid Democratic choices and the Republican brand has suffered a well deserved beating these last few years. George Bush is polling in the 40s even in all the white parts of the county and voters will be thinking of him and his war when they go to vote. Think '06 can't happen again? Voters' opinions haven't changed much since then and Republicans will lose more seats in 2008. Perhaps MS-03 can be among that number.

Updated 8/17/07 to reflect the Tuck Anouncement

Justice is (partially) Served

Richard Hall (not the highway commissioner) was sentenced today.

From the Clarion Ledger:
The former owner of a beef processing plant that went belly-up, costing the state $55 million, was sentenced today to eight years in federal prison.

Richard Hall Jr. pleaded guilty in January 2006 to state mail-fraud charges and federal money-laundering charges.

He was given the maxium eight years during sentencing before U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers.
Biggers also ordered Carothers to pay a $40,000 fine, $250,000 in restitution to the state and the costs of his imprisonment, which will be determined by the Bureau of Prisons. The sentence was the maximum allowed under federal guidelines. Carothers is president of Carothers Construction Co., which built the 140,000-square-foot facility in 2003.

The most a judge can do is make these guys in the private sector do is pay a fine and make them do some time.

Voters can make their voices heard by voting for new watchdogs over agriculture and money by election the very capable Rickey Cole as Agricultural Commissioner and the very qualified Mike Sumrall as State Auditor.

Chip Pickering (R-Quitter) Roundup

The Hill
The Sun Herald
The Commercial Dispatch
The Daily Journal
The Clarion Ledger

Pickering Quitting As A Distraction?

One thought that came to me after it came out that Pickering was quitting Congress was "wow, two big stories in one day."

Usually we only get one in a month if we're lucky.

So I thought about it and asked myself if the two were possibly related. When Pickering could let it slip any day of the year, why did he pick August 16th, 2007 to do so?

I wonder if Republicans wanted to bury the Bloomberg story on Barbour and Katrina contracts. It was looked at nationally as a story that could damage Barbour and as quickly as you can say "so, is Rosmary Barbour going to go to prison?" a huge story, the Pickering announcement, drops out of the clouds and takes up all the political time that was left during this most busy of election seasons.

I'm just wondering.

Franks on The Front Page of the Daily Journal

Daily Journal Article:
"My approach is very simple. I want to use talent," Franks told the Daily Journal editorial board Tuesday morning during a 60-minute interview. "I want people who can get the job done whether Democrat, Republican, black, white, male, female.
Competence and diversity of ideas are both important and we should select a Lt. Governor who also believes in both.
Franks, a three-term Democratic state House member from Mooreville, will face Republican state auditor Phil Bryant for the open seat of lieutenant governor. Bryant told the Daily Journal in an editorial board meeting last month he will appoint only Republicans to key committee chairs.
If he's being truthful that means that black Mississippians would be shut out of Senate leadership because there is not black Republican in the Senate. Is Bryant really prepared to shut out over 1/3 of the state population from ANY position of leadership in the Chamber? If so, that would be very extreme.
"I am going to be my own man," Franks said. "The state Senate will not be held accountable to the speaker of the House nor the governor. It will be held accountable to the people."
For too long the Senate has either gone with the House (mostly prior to the '90s) or been in lockstep with the Governor as it has been for the last few years. It is a separate body and represents just as many people as the House. It should be a strong independent voice for Mississippi. It is not now.

Freshmen (with Scholarships) Move In Day At USM

I spent the whole morning helping newLuckyday Scholars move in to their dorms at Southern Miss.

That is the reason for my absence this morning. It is amazing and heartwarming to watch new students taking in everything as they start at the University. It's also funny to watch the parents who look so frazzled and worried as they part ways while (most) the students look ready to take on the world.

Growing Up After Camille, Reflections on Katrina

by Ana Maria

Thirty-eight years ago today Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I was but a child of ten. Our family home had been built on the highest land in Hancock County. We slept in the hall. One of the families in the neighborhood stayed with us bringing their grandkids with them. Great! More people to play with my younger brother and me.

I remember the eye of Hurricane Camille when the storm got deadly silent, truly the calm before the hurricane kicked up all over again but from the opposite direction. Someone opened the door and one of my older brothers had a rope around his waist as he ventured outside to check on the family dog in the shed. Peering out the door, all I could see were trees that Camille had knocked down making the outside appear as though we were inside Sherwood Forest.

My family and our neighbors were lucky. No real lasting damage. Just down the road a mile or so, families took in nine feet of water in their homes. We had a bit of roof damage and nearly every tree in our yard, save three, had been knocked down. But we were safe, had a home, and plenty of running water. At the time, my family’s water came from a neighboring well, which the hurricane did not damage. My family opened up our home to others not so fortunate. People lined up to take cold showers.

Read more at A.M. in the Morning!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

District 3 Map

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The district includes Natchez, Starkville, Meridian, and the strongly Republican areas around Jackson.

The Important Part Of The Pickering Release

Although I will not seek re-election to the next Congress, I will always remain involved in community and political life. After eighteen years in public service, starting in 1989 in the first Bush Administration, then on Senator Lott's staff, and most recently as a Member of the House, it is time for me to gain new experiences in the private arena. I believe these experiences will prepare me to be a better leader in the future. I continue to view public service as a noble calling. I am not saying a final farewell, but hopefully, simply taking a leave of absence.

I have a window of opportunity to maximize my time, influence and participation in the lives of my five sons now ages 8 to 17. Time is the one element I can never recover or regain. Being a father is one of life's greatest callings.

"the private arena" = lobbying

"I have a window ... callings" = the cliche "spend more time with my family"

How much more family time will he have while he's racking up the big bucks on K Street?

Pickering's Press Release on Quitting Congress (at the end of his term)


(BRANDON, MISS) – Today, Congressman Chip Pickering released the following statement:

Today, I am announcing that I will not seek re-election in 2008. Serving the Third District of Mississippi over the last eleven years has been a great honor. It has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have come to know well the people and communities of our generous state.

I am thankful to all who helped elect me to six terms in the House. First, to my family, Leisha and the boys, who worked hard in my campaigns and every day to make my congressional service possible. My parents inspired my service, set positive examples for me, and provided a good name and start. Our family has been blessed by the many friendships and experiences we have made along the way.

I have the good fortune of a talented, committed congressional and campaign staff who have made lasting contributions to our country and state, fought worthy battles, and run effective campaigns. In the process, we formed committed friendships and a love for one another. They are my extended family for which I am profoundly grateful.

Volunteers, family, and friends contributed their time, toil, and resources to give me the opportunity to earn elections and serve in Congress. I deeply appreciate all their efforts.

I am also fortunate to have been part of significant chapters in our nation's and Mississippi's history. I love public service: creating and shaping legislation, building our institutions and infrastructure, helping communities and individuals.

With the rest of our congressional delegation, past and present, along with state and local leaders, I worked to strengthen Mississippi. In Congress, I focused on, and continue to press forward for, legislation and resources vital to Mississippi priorities in agriculture, our military bases and defense missions, veterans, energy, health care, telecommunications, and economic development. I sought to make our culture more decent and our communities stronger. After Hurricane Katrina, I am proud to have been a part of and witness to a remarkable recovery, rebuilding and a defining moment of our state and people.

As I close this chapter of my life, I see a stronger, more unified and growing Mississippi. Our universities are leading research centers. Our military, national, and homeland security contributions expand every day. We are strategically transforming to a high-tech, high-wage, advanced skill economy.

I look forward to continuing my service in this Congress as I fulfill this term. Much important work remains to be done. We must complete the funding for our state's priorities. We face fundamental decisions regarding Iraq and our efforts to defeat terrorism. Energy, agriculture, health care and environmental legislation await our return this fall and next year. Beyond that, I have no plans, but I am content and confident that I will find new ways to serve and contribute.

Although I will not seek re-election to the next Congress, I will always remain involved in community and political life. After eighteen years in public service, starting in 1989 in the first Bush Administration, then on Senator Lott's staff, and most recently as a Member of the House, it is time for me to gain new experiences in the private arena. I believe these experiences will prepare me to be a better leader in the future. I continue to view public service as a noble calling. I am not saying a final farewell, but hopefully, simply taking a leave of absence.

I have a window of opportunity to maximize my time, influence and participation in the lives of my five sons now ages 8 to 17. Time is the one element I can never recover or regain. Being a father is one of life's greatest callings.

I make this announcement with a full heart and abiding faith in both our country and great state. I look forward to working together to complete our mission and fulfill our promise.

Thanks again to Will Bardwell for this.

Will Bardwell: Whether Pickering Resigns Or Retires Tuck Benifits

Will Bardwell's Take
Albeit inadvertently, the Republican Party finally has done something nice for Amy Tuck. With Rep. Chip Pickering's resignation, the outgoing lieutenant governor becomes a presumed frontrunner for the Third District seat that Pickering vacates.

Conventional wisdom assumed that Tuck, whom term limits prevented from seeking re-election this year, would be left on the outside looking in at the political world until Pickering ran for the U.S. Senate after Trent Lott or Thad Cochran call it quits. But with Cochran poised for one last campaign, that would've left Tuck out of a job until 2012 at the earliest.

If Tuck chooses to run and wins, then she'll have a five-year head start on that scenario and be in prime position for a Senate seat that, until today, was never a realistic possibility for her.


Roll Call: Pickering To Retire

Roll Call:
Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) has decided not to run for re-election in 2008, a knowledgeable source confirmed Thursday afternoon.

From NBC's Mark Murray
Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., is announcing he's resigning from Congress to work on K Street, becoming the latest House Republican to either vacate his seat or decide not to seek re-election in 2008.

This news -- reported by the Cook Political Report and shared with First Read -- comes after word that former Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. Deborah Pryce will not seek another term in office.

Pickering was seen as the heir apparent to the next GOP Senate opening in Mississippi. Does this mean that Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has hinted to Pickering that he'll be seeking re-election?

*** UPDATE *** The Cook team is getting conflicting signals over whether Pickering is resigning or whether he won't be seeking another term (however, with Pickering heading to work on K Street, he might want to leave Congress before the lobbying/ethics reform legislation is signed into law). But one thing is clear: Another GOP-held House seat is being vacated.