Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Congressman Childers

From Congressman Travis Childers in regards to oil speculators, a topic we discussed on the blog earlier this summer:

Last week, the Washington Post published an article about oil speculation and its effect on soaring fuel costs. The story, entitled "A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading," discusses how the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) examined the books of one energy conglomerate and found that the company was involved in speculation "as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel."

North Mississippians are struggling to afford high gas prices, and we need to crack down on price manipulators like these that are artificially increasing fuel costs. I strongly support new oil drilling, but preparing drilling sites and building a sufficient number of refineries will take years. Ending speculation, on the other hand, would have an immediate effect on reducing gas prices and providing relief for Americans.

From day one in office, I have fought against oil speculators. My first vote in Congress was to stop oil producers in the Middle East from price gouging Americans at the pump. The Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008, which passed in the House with overwhelming support, authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for colluding to limit the production and supply of oil and manipulating prices.

I have also introduced a six-point energy plan to provide immediate relief to North Mississippians from prices at the pump and offer long-term solutions to our nation's energy crisis. The first point in my plan is to stop speculation and price gouging as a means of providing this immediate relief.

As the CFTC findings in the Washington Post article suggest, there is reason to believe that speculation is artificially inflating the price of crude oil and other energy commodities. That's why I supported the bipartisan Energy Markets Emergency Act, which directs the CFTC to use its authority to eliminate excessive oil speculation, price distortion, and sudden or unwarranted changes in prices.

In July, the Agriculture Committee held an investigation on oil speculation. I serve on this Committee and participated in multiple hearings to explore various solutions to inflated prices of oil and other commodities, and to provide a general overview of current legislation to address issues surrounding commodities markets.

By stopping current oil speculation and preventing future price manipulation, we can start to drive down gas prices. I will continue to support and initiate important legislation and investigations that aim to end oil speculation and bring down the cost of fuel for North Mississippians.

Photoblog of the Katrina Recovery Round Table

Here are some professional photos taken at the Katrina Recovery Round Table Discussion, hosted by Oxfam America. All pictures taken by Dory Johnson/Oxfam America.

The round table as the discussion began

The host Ted Koppel

Raymond C. Offenheiser, the President of Oxfam America

Ethel Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy seated agianst the wall

Rev. Tyrone Edwards, Executive Director of the Zion Traveler Cooperative Center

This is why people like Jim Hood

Attorney General Jim Hood sees more negative press than positive, but that shouldn't stop those of us who support him from reminding the general masses why Hood is so well loved.

Here's a reason, from a Clarion-Ledger article:

The 31-year-old executive director of a program for 182 truant youths accused of making more than $1 million in false Medicaid claims is facing a 14-count indictment , Attorney General Jim Hood announced today.

The negative press, you can bet, is fueled by a concerted GOP attack effort. The positive press comes from Hood doing his job.

Which one do you think people will believe in 2011: political hot air or hard work and integrity?

More Supreme Court Shenanigans

According to an article from the Jackson Free Press, the Mississippi Supreme Court justices are trying to change the rules of how the chief justice and presiding justices are chosen.

Several judges admitted that the court has been deliberating changes to its method for determining the positions of chief judge and presiding judges, even though the court has refused Jackson Free Press information requests detailing the deliberations. “There has been no decision on the matter, but these discussions have been ongoing for some time. There’s nothing new about them,” said Supreme Court Justice Michael Randolph. “... Frankly, when I first was elected I was shocked that this was the way they’ve always done it, because these positions require a lot of responsibility and a lot of work.”

What's wrong with the situation? Well, several things. For starters, this process is already determined, by law:

Miss. Code Ann. § 9-3-11 states that the chief justice will be the member of the court who has served for the longest time continuously; and, the two ... judges of the supreme court who have served continuously for the next longest time shall be presiding justices.

The next problem is pointed out by Justice Chuck Easley:

“State law is real clear,” Easley said. “It’s been in effect for 30-something years, but they feel they can do anything. They don’t care what the law says. They’ll strip me of my seniority. They’ve got an African American judge, Judge (James) Graves, and they think they can strip him of his seniority, too.”

And on top of all of it, the arrogance of the justices to override law is well past the point of ridiculous. Their interests lie not with protecting the people of this state, but with the protecting the interests of their friends who paid their way.

JFP columnist James Dickerson wrote last October that Waller took in $357,799 in 2004 from physicians and insurance companies. Dickerson also pointed out that Smith took in $316,077, Randolph took in $585,417 and Carlson drew $276,275 from similar, pro-business sources.

So who's on the committee to possibly change the rules of the Supreme Court? Waller, Carlson & Dickinson.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Day 1 Report: Denver 1 - Jeff Walters 0

It was tough day for the home team here at Cotton Mouth. The day started for me at 6:00AM with the realization that I had lost my debit card the night before. My ride was to pick me up at 6:30 to take me to the airport for my 9:00 flight. I frantically had to make sure my room which was booked on the lost card would not be cancelled by my subsequent cancellation of the lost card.

For money, I had to write an enormous check to a friend of mine who went the extra mile that only a true friend would do, and spent a good hour of his work day attempting to, and finally succeeding to wire me some cash. I had to handle all of this from the Jackson and Houston airport terminals while still trying to make my flights on time with my stuff intact.

My stress level was pretty high to say the least. Finally I received word from the Hotel in Denver that as long as I paid cash up front, I would not have to put down a credit card. This was my first of a couple of victories today, stacked against a ton of losses.

I arrived in Denver around 1:30 local time. It took another 45 minutes for my shuttle to show up to take to the hotel. I had to stop at a Safeway to pick up my Western Union. The only problem was, was that they did not have enough cash to fill my transfer. I then had to call the shuttle again this time to take me to a Wal Mart who presumable had the money. The bank inside of the Wal Mart was able to do it for at 3:58 local time. The bank closed at 4:00. That was the second and last of my victories today.

Finally with cash in hand I was able to check in. The computers at my hotel were down when I arrived, and it took the nice lady at least 30 minutes to check me in. I quickly cleaned up and prepared to headed downstairs to find my way downtown. There was a free shuttle that would take you to the convention as long were credentialed. The only problem there was my credentials were downtown. This was a classic case of chicken or the egg. Without my credentials the was no shuttle for me, so I caught a ride with the hotel to the bus stop.

The bus I needed to be on to get downtown pulled away from the gate as we turned in. I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next bus. By this time it was 6:00 local time. It was supposed to be a 30 minute bus ride to downtown. Due to traffic, I did not arrive until 7:00 local time. Now I had to get my credentials. I was told repeatedly that I needed to go the Sheraton on Court street a few blocks down to pick up my credentials.

I made my way slowly through the crowd to the Sheraton. I was getting agitated because nobody could give me a straight answer on where to pick up my credentials. Finally I arrive, out of breath to the front door of the Sheraton. As I reached for the door, they slammed it in my face and locked it. Shouting through the glass a concierge yelled "We are under lock down, no one can come in or leave."

Bewildered, I turned around and came to the realization I probably was not going to get in the convention tonight. About that time a group of 30 or 40 riot gear clad police trotted right by me. One of the police officers on the scene not dressed in riot gear told me that if he were me he would be moving along. I took his advice to heart and quickly started backtracking. I did not make it to the end of the Sheraton when another group of 30-40 riot gear clad police jogged right by me again.

Now I was really curious as to what was going on. I joined a group of 25 or so onlookers at the corner of the Sheraton and watched the riot police form a secure perimeter around the back side of the building. Before long they had their pepper spray dispensers pointed right at us and told us to get down the road or get sprayed. I don't think I heard the end of this sentence.

Feeling defeated I found a little dive to get something to eat. Figuring my best bet was to call it day and recharge for a full day Tuesday, I headed back to the hotel. There I found other bloggers who informed me on where and when to pick up my credentials. As I lat down on the bed I chuckled to myself, Denver 1 Jeff Walters 0.

Media Round Table and Report on Katrina Recovery

The Democratic National Convention is only the centerpiece of a much larger amorphous collection of panels, symposiums, media tents, and protests. Homebase for us bloggers is the "Big Tent". Here at the Big tent, a media tent setup by Kos, we have access to wi-fi and precious laptop power. Upon arrival to the Big Tent, I was approached by a representative of Oxfam America, who invited me to a round table discussion on Hurricane Katrina Recovery.

At 1:00 today I attended an event held at the 7th floor of the Denver Public Library on Hurricane Katrina recovery. Ted Koppel was the host of the round table discussion including luminaries such as Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, CNN's Donna Brazile, Raymond C. Offenheiser (President of Oxfam America, and Mary Troupe who is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities in Mississippi among others. Also in attendance but not in the round table was Ethel Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy, both of whom sat right next to me.

I arrived about 10 minutes late after walking about 2 miles to get there from the Big Tent. What became apparent upon arrival was how serious this event was. The security guard downstairs was convinced that I was mistaken when I told him that I had RSVP'd. He reluctantly lead me to the elevator and escorted me upstairs.

The nine participants along with the moderator were positioned around a large round table. Against the wall were about 15-20 of us media including the Kennedy ladies. Senator Landrieu was speaking when I quietly took my seat in the corner. Ted Koppel started by calling on the guests individually to open the discussion. After speaking, more times than not, another panelist would respond. Pretty soon Koppel was just directing traffic for the lively discussion.
There was so much content worthy of posting on this blog, that I am going to break it down into several posts.

One post is going to be about how Governor Haley Barbour has abused his power to the detriment of thousands of victims as well as the state of Louisiana. Senator Landrieu was angry about the port expansion project. Ted Koppel was in disbelief over how a Governor can divert funds appropriated by Congress to use in his own discretion.

Another post will be about the wetlands of Louisiana that are rapidly disappearing. These wetlands server as a speed bump for hurricanes.

Another post will center around a spirited discussion between several of the panelists on who is to blame, what should we be worried about, and what can we do to get things right next time.

Roger Wicker Spokesman Says Manufacturing Job Losses Good

Roger Wicker is attacking Ronnie Musgrove for losing manufacturing jobs even though total employment stayed about even.

But here his spokesman says that it is good that Mississippi is shedding "low skilled" manufacturing jobs.

So they are attacking him for not stopping something that happened in every other state with similar industry while saying it was a good thing?

We need quicker than Wicker.

Baria is bringing new life to Senate

Sen. David Baria of Bay St. Louis is a much-needed shot in the arm for Senate Democrats. His latest stand comes against Barbour's newest Medicaid proposal.

Fourteen Democrats in the Mississippi Senate filed court documents today, arguing that only lawmakers can decide how state programs are funded.

“The circumstance that the legislative process has not yet produced full funding, or that the governor’s preference in the method of funding has been frustrated in the Legislature, does not grant the governor constitutional license to bypass the Legislature and impose his tax plan by executive degree,” State Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, wrote.

The Senate is an unfortunate place for Democrats. It's not that we don't have good Democrats over there. In fact, we have some of the greatest Democrats this state has to offer sitting in the Senate. Some of the smartest, some of the toughest, some of the most seasoned.

It's that they are missing cohesive, strong, visionary, unafraid leadership in the Senate. If they had that, then Democrats would control the Senate right now. After all, there are more Democrats than Republicans, and the Democrats could have voted to change the rules and vest the power normally given to the lieutenant governor in the president pro temp.

Some of those guys over there are beaten down. They've tried and tried to make change, but when they look to some of their colleagues, they get no support. That's the case with many in the Black Caucus, who feel that some of their rural white fellow senators cave on important issues because of fear of political retribution from their home district. Those are legitimate fears, but it's still frustrating to watch.

But Sen. Baria, whose district I would not describe as rural, is proving that he's not scared of standing up and taking a risk for what he knows is right. His district is not an overwhelmingly Democratic district. He could -- and most likely will -- face stiff competition in 2011.

That said, Baria's not acting as someone who fears the future. If his stances mean political retribution is around the corner, I suppose he's preparing for that fight when it comes.

Baria is a man who has seen real tragedy in his life. If you think he's scared of a few partisan hacks calling him names or some weak-as-water colleagues coming down on him, you better reconsider quickly.

Here's hoping that Baria can re-energize some of the old guard Dems in the Senate who once were filled with the same fight as he is showing now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wicker Vacillations

I'm trying to decide- does the title of the post sound more like a line of furniture from Pier One Imports or a particularly nasty tropical disease? Anyhoo- according to MSNBC's First Read political blog, Roger Wicker, a "senator locked in a tough re-election race", hasn't yet decided if he'll be attending the Republican National Convention this summer.

We at Cottonmouth think you should go; Minneapolis really is lovely this time of year. One piece of advice for your trip, though- if you find yourself needing to cross the Mississippi River, you might want to take a canoe. After all your years of tirelessly neglecting our nation's infrastructure in the House of Representatives, the bridges just ain't what they used to be.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ted Kennedy Speech at the DNC

The bad news for me was that I did not get to Denver in time to get my credentials for the first night. So, much like you I watched the convention on TV. I did have a lot of interesting encounters on the streets of Denver that I will reveal in later posts. In a nutshell this place is a madhouse.

This was the speech I wanted to see. Ted Kennedy has been a hero of the Senate for decades. I have all the respect and admiration in the world for Senator Kennedy.

Thanks to Josh Marshall and the rest of the gang at TPM for the video.

Hood will not defend Medicaid suit

This will be called partisan politics. Everything that comes from the AG is called partisan politics. You want to know why? Because he's "the last man standing" among statewide Democrats.

First, the issue at hand: Hood's decision not to represent the state against claims that Gov. Barbour's latest Medicaid plan is in someway improper.

Hood's reasoning is sound:

"Due to the specific issues involved in this case, we would not be able to raise defenses that could conflict with the powers of my other two clients — the legislative and judicial branches,” Hood said.

Hood's office does not represent Gov. Barbour. He represents the state as a whole. And it must be his office's opinion that if he represented the governor -- that would be the executive branch -- then he would be doing a disservice to the Legislature or the courts -- that would be the legislative and judicial branches, accordingly.

Now, on to another tidbit.

If you look at the 2007 elections, you'll notice an interesting point: Jim Hood won more votes than any other candidate running. Here's a ranking of statewide vote-getters:

  1. AG Hood: 440,017
  2. Treasurer Reeves: 436,833
  3. Lt. Gov. Bryant: 431,747
  4. Gov. Barbour: 430,807
  5. SOS Hosemann: 425,228
  6. Insurance Comm. Chaney: 414,718
  7. Auditor Pickering: 399,279
  8. Ag Comm. Spell: 371,191

From where I'm sitting, I see a man who is admired for doing the right thing, for being tough and for not being scared to make tough calls.

I also see a GOP attack machine that is dead set on making sure he doesn't win re-election in 2011, or better yet, beating ol' Phil for the top spot.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cotton Mouth at the DNC

I am leaving bright and early for Denver. While there I will try my best to soak it all in, and report daily on the comings and goings of the Democratic National Convention. I have already RSVP'd for several events including guests like Howard Dean.

Jeff will check in with you live from Denver tomorrow evening.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Found: John McCain's keys

Beef plant prosecutor is a Wicker donor

If you have been hiding your head in the sand, you may not have realized the timing as well as the political innuendos of the beef plant prosecutions are politically motivated. Sam Hall pointed this out in a previous Cotton Mouth post. The Daily Journal just threw another log on the fire with this latest shocking (or not so shocking) revelation.

Attorney Jim Greenlee, the chief prosecutor in the beef plant case is a prior donor to Roger Wicker. Greenlee was appointed by President Bush in 2001.

The justice department as well as the federal bench have been so politicized under the Bush administration, with the anonymous assistance of the Chamber of Commerce, that we recently witnessed the governor of Alabama in prison on trumped up charges. Think about that.

From the Daily Journal:
OXFORD – As federal courtwatchers wonder if the Mississippi Beef Plant investigation will entangle Senate candidate Ronnie Musgrove, a Federal Election Commission check shows U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee contributed to his opponent.

Greenlee was nominated for the U.S. attorney post in 2001 by President George W. Bush, supported by Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

On Oct. 11, 2002 - just weeks before then-U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker won another term in Congress - Greenlee made a donation of $200 to Friends of Roger Wicker.

A call to the residence at 210 St. Andrews Circle, listed as Greenlee's address, was answered by Mrs. Greenlee this morning, but she said she “cannot confirm” the address of that of the U.S. attorney.

The Daily Journal called his office and is waiting for a reaction.

New Rasmussen poll - President

John McCain stretched his lead by 2 points in the latest Rasmussen poll of Mississippi. McCain lead 52%-41% in July. His August lead has grown to 54%-41%. When "leaners" are included McCain still leads by 13 points at 56%-43%. The most alarming number for Barack Obama would be his dwindling support among white Mississippians. McCain led among white Mississippians 87%-13%. Obama has a staggering 97%-2% edge among black voters.

Barack Obama -- 41%
John McCain ---- 54%

New Rasmussen poll - MS-SEN

A new poll released today by Rasmussen shows little change from the previous months results. In July Roger Wicker enjoyed a 6 point edge 48% to 42%. This month shows with a 47%-42% advantage. When "leaners" are included that lead grows to 52%-43%.

Musgrove -- 42%
Wicker ----- 47%

Among white voters Wicker leads 71%-22%. Among black voters Ronnie Musgrove leads 83%-17%.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Censorship at our Supreme Court

If you didn't think the Supreme Court elections were important this year, I hope this story grabs your attention.

Yesterday, five Mississippi Supreme Court judges voted to ban their colleague, Justice Oliver Diaz, from writing a dissent to their opinion. I'm not making this up- the Supreme Court censored one of its own.

From the Daily Journal:

Something unusual happened Thursday at the Mississippi Supreme Court.

It may be the first time a majority of the justices voted to prohibit a colleague from publishing a dissent in a case.

In other words, Presiding Justice Oliver Diaz of Ocean Springs disagreed with a court decision and wanted to write about it. His fellow judges said, no, he couldn’t and they apparently stopped the court clerk from filing Diaz’s statement into the record.

Diaz's document also wasn’t made available to the public, as every other order and dissent are.

Now some of you may be skeptics, and say, well, he probably wrote something controversial. First, they prevented the brief from even being filed. Second, the folks at Folo have a copy of Diaz's dissent, and this is what they had to say.

Justice Diaz’s dissent itself does not seem that remarkable—it discusses the legal issues with no personal attack on other justices, while making clear that he thinks a prior controlling decision was wrongly decided and should be overruled. He explains why in clear terms. And for some reason (I really can’t see why in his opinion itself, and have not seen the order by the court majority), a majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court voted that his dissent would not be made public.

So, for those of you interested in preserving what's left of our judicial system, or those with hopes of seeing any improvements, you have a chance to help make a difference. Go to these websites, volunteer, give money, tell other people about these candidates.

We don't need dictators like Justice Jim Smith telling people whether or not they have a right to do their job.

"My job as a Supreme Court justice is to write opinions and dissents, when necessary," Diaz said later Thursday. "I was prevented from doing so by a majority of the court."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thanks, Charlie, for the Castle Doctrine

Clarion-Ledger journos David Hampton and Sid Salter approach the sad story of a store clerk shooting a would-be robber from two different angles.

I tend to agree with both of them.

First, from Sid:

This really isn't a Castle Doctrine case. But it's understandable that the clerk was frightened, isolated and might well have been in fear for his life.

Is a case of beer worth a man's life? Of course not. Did the clerk make a terrible mistake in shooting Hawthorne in the heat of the moment? Yes. But this incident didn't happen in a vacuum. Consider these facts.

  • Convenience store clerk Daljit Singh, 51, was shot in the abdomen during a robbery on Nov. 3, 2005, and died later at University of Mississippi Medical Center.
  • Convenience store clerk Manav Virmani was shot twice at close range at Mac's Convenience Store on July 2, 2001. Virmani, a college student working at the store in Canton for the summer, was shot as he prepared to close the store.

But what David says cannot be ignored:

For one thing, people misunderstand the Castle Doctrine. It is not a license to kill. It is a license to protect, yes, but not kill for some offense which does not threaten life or even rise to the need to protect home or vehicle.
The Castle Doctrine was little more than former Sen. Charlie Ross trying to put a tough-as-nails feather in his cap for his then-yet-to-happen run for lieutenant governor.

It seems all the Castle Doctrine left us with was a two-time loser in Ross (see here and here) and what could be years of confusion and despair, as is the case in this incident. (Let's not forget, however, that the shooter allegedly followed the would-be robber outside and shot him in his car. That should offer some perspective here.)

Mind you, what happened in the store is not Charlie Ross' fault. I would never intimate such a thing, as should no one else. But that doesn't change David's point:

At the same time, I thought the Mississippi Legislature's approval of the so-called Castle Doctrine was a mistake because it would be misunderstood, wrongly interpretted and result in tragedy. We now have an example of what I feared.

Thanks, Charlie.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama (finally) hits hard in Ohio

Dear Obama campaign,

Show this ad daily for a while. I'll send you another $50 to help.

Thanks, Jeff Walters

Columnists questioning beef plant prosecution

Two of the state's more veteran, more well respected journalists have both opined on the timing of the guilty pleas in the beef plant saga. And while both take a different approach to the issue, both seem to agree that the feds need to either announce more indictments or close the case.

From Tim Kalich in the Greenwood Commonwealth:

Musgrove, though, was at most a minor player in the mess.

Yet the efforts to link him publicly to the corruption scandal — using the combined power of the federal prosecutors and a Republican state auditor — have intensified since Musgrove announced his intentions to challenge Wicker for the Senate seat.

The conspiracy theorists see a pattern. They cite the unrelated bribery convictions of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and Mississippi trial lawyer Paul Minor, a major donor to Democratic candidates, as earlier proof that political affiliation is determining who gets investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department. That allegation is being looked at by congressional panels even while both convictions are on appeal.


Still, the federal government’s help in slandering Musgrove less than 90 days before the election has a suspicious feel to it.

Now from Bobby Harrison of the Daily Journal in Tupelo:

Make no mistake about it - any public official who took a bribe or profited illegally from Mississippi Beef Processors should be prosecuted.

But by the same token, federal prosecutors have an obligation not to use their office to try to influence an election.

In other states, fired U.S. attorneys have said that is exactly what they were asked to do.

Federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Mississippi should want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. If they have a case against a public official – particularly Musgrove, who is in the middle of a heated campaign – they should proceed with due haste. If they don't, they should admit it.

My guess is that the feds are in no hurry to officially close the case, though the likelihood of future indictments seems relatively low.

No, the feds will most likely leave the case open as a dark cloud to hang over Musgrove's campaign, which is a shame. Considering that Musgrove has done nothing wrong -- has not been accused of doing anything wrong -- then the United States Justice Department should want to make clear the innocence of a public official.

Of course, we're talking about the Bush Justice Department and a Democratic public official. So, nah, they're in no hurry.

Childers extending advantage in campaign cash

The Daily Journal took a look at fundraising in the 1CD race between incumbent Rep. Travis Childers and challenger Greg Davis.

Childers has three times more cash on hand. More telling is that Childers has out-raised Davis by more than 25 times.

Here are the numbers, as provided by the DJ:

For Childers -

- 35 individual donations - $22,360

- 76 PAC donations - $140,000

For Davis -

- 7 individual donations - $4,875

- 1 PAC donation - $1,000

Usually, such a lead would not matter. The GOP merely need to turn the spigot and the funds pour forth. This time, however, I think we'll see a different tale.

This bit about Davis and his efforts does not ring true:

Davis said recently that he doesn't expect his campaign to shift into higher gear until after Labor Day, although he steadily has been making public appearances throughout the 24-county north Mississippi district.

In short, I think this prediction from earlier holds true. And that's good news for Democrats.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Daily Journal editorial on tax reform

An editorial in today's Daily Journal echoes some of the same sentiments as Jeff Walters. The Journal is concerned about our regressive tax structure. Like Jeff, the Journal wonders why a more aggressive approach to trimming the highly regressive sales tax did not make the recommendations of Gov. Barbour's Blue Ribbon Tax Study Commission. Like Jeff the Journal found the idea of increasing the exemption on income tax a foolish notion in light of the budget constraints we already face.

The whole idea of this tax study is backwards to start with. When determining tax policy, any fool in local, state, or federal government knows you first determine your needs, then align your tax structure accordingly. Who ever heard of figuring your taxes first then worrying about the budget?

The commission draft also provides an option of increasing the exemptions on income tax, which would affect all tax filers, whether single or married. That adjustment is preferable to eliminating a tax bracket, but great caution should be exercised before reducing any taxes in these tight budgetary times and with so many pressing state needs.

Coast leaders protest Bush visit

From the Mississippi Democratic Party:

Coast leaders protest Bush visit and slow Katrina recovery

GULFPORT (Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008) – Gulfport City Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines and other Democrats, residents and business leaders from Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties will hold a news conference at noon Wednesday in front of what used to be the Gulfport library.

While President Bush is set to meet privately with community leaders late Wednesday, Holmes-Hines, and other Coast Democrats, residents and business leaders will talk about how his Hurricane Katrina recovery effort has fallen way short. Many businesses have been unable to reopen and residents unable to rebuild or find affordable housing nearly three years after Katrina struck.

That’s not all: Coast residents and business leaders also plan to talk about how the failing national economy, skyrocketing gasoline prices and steady loss of jobs has affected their community, the state of Mississippi and the entire nation.

And we can expect more of the same if voters elect Republican John McCain as president and Roger Wicker as U.S. senator – both of whom have opposed Katrina recovery efforts and would continue the same, failed Bush policies of the past eight years.

WHAT: The Mississippi Democratic Party sponsors a news conference and rally in
reaction to President George W. Bush’s visit to the Mississippi Coast
WHO: Gulfport City Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines will lead the news conference;
other Coast Democrats, residents and business leaders will attend and speak
WHEN: Noon, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008
WHERE: Parking lot of the former Gulfport city library, heavily damaged by Katrina, 1300 21st Ave.

VP Speculation

The vice-presidential speculation for Barack Obama's nominee is almost over! Rumors are flying that he will let everyone know via text tomorrow.

There is a lot of speculation online among the blogs and news media, but as Jeff's favorite blog reports, no one knows nothing.

Regardless, in politics, it's always fun to speculate. Who's it going to be?

Joe Biden? Evan Bayh? Kathleen Sebelius? Joe Biden? Bill Richardson? Wes Clark? Tim Kaine? Mark Warner? Hillary Clinton? Colin Powell?

A snippet from

Either they're playing it straight-up -- meaining Biden, Bayh, Kaine, or Sebelius -- or it's some kind of A-lister, someone for whom the elaborate staging of it all doesn't produce an anti-climax. That list is probably limited to Hillary, Gore, Kerry and Colin Powell, though I have real trouble imagining the latter two. Somebody who had officially disqualified themselves -- Mark Warner or Jim Webb -- would presumably also produce a lot of shock value. But I think we need to start discounting some of these second-tier picks that don't have strong brands, like the Jack Reeds and the Chris Dodds.

"21 Drink, 18 to Party" may be on it's way out

Over 100 college presidents from across the country are urging Congress to re-examine the drinking age. Colleges presidents from Duke, Dartmouth, Morehouse, and even our own Millsaps College president, Francis Lucas, are chiming in on reducing the drinking age from 21 to 18.

From the Clarion-Ledger:

"I've learned it's much easier to teach moderation and safe party practices if you can supervise (alcohol consumption)," said Lucas, who noted that underage drinkers often hide because of the law, making it difficult to help them if they are overserved.

From CNN:

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn't working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking," and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they "are told they are not mature enough to have a beer." Furthermore, "by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."

"I'm not sure where the dialogue will lead, but it's an important topic to American families and it deserves a straightforward dialogue," said William Troutt, president of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee., who has signed the statement.

Though this may not be a political issue (for now at least), it's a discussion worth having. We're one of the only nations in the world that I know of with a drinking age of 21.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Third Bush Term Gets In On The Action With Wicker's Wicked Web

Check out the DSCC's new website called A Third Bush Term letting you know what you'll get if you vote for Bush Republican Senators like Roger Wicker.

Haley's wants to tax poor people

A tax study commission appointed by Haley Barbour has made some controversial recommendations regarding our Mississippi tax code.

Barbour, a Republican, appointed about 30 business people, professors, economists and state and local officials to the commission several months ago. The group has met several times to examine tax trends in Mississippi and other states.
Mississippi already has the most regressive tax structure in the United States. In other words we make those who have the most pay the least, and sadly those who have the least pay the most. Haley's "committee" wants to make our tax code more regressive than it already is. The governor is selling this cut in income tax as a trade off for raising the tobacco tax. I saw this coming months ago, see my post from a month ago. Haley the Hatchet

I am glad he is seeing the light on the tobacco tax, but he has other plans in those regards. He is planning on teaming a tobacco tax increase with a state income tax cut, to make our state have an even more regressive tax structure than the current, which ranks 1 out of 50 as being the most regressive. With the incredible fiscal challenges our state is facing such as this current Medicaid crisis, what sense does it make to cut taxes?
We Mississippians have only been able to fully fund MAEP twice in ten years. We are currently fighting over a huge budget shortfall leaving Medicaid exposed. There has even been talks out of the governor's office of reducing the work week from 5 to 4 days for state employees to save money. One wonders, how in the hell does Haley think he can cut taxes without painful cuts in spending. These same "spend now, pay later" policies have played out well in the federal economy. The rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer. To put is simply, if you handled your finances like George W. Bush or Haley Barbour, you would either be in jail for fraud or bouncing checks.

Haley is rapidly becoming a cartoon in the political world, much like his protege, George W. Bush. Even Republicans know that the USS Barbour is a sinking ship. Phil Bryant would be wise to distance himself from the governor while they both still have any credibility. This medicaid crisis tarnished a lot of the shine on the Barbour-Bryant administration. Billy McCoy ate their lunch with a much more limited position to work from.

Don't fall for the governor's tax reforms. They might as well have been written by the corporations.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grassroots Obama Ad

This was put together by some very talented Obama supporters. It might be the best ad I have seen yet.

Is Wicker the pot to Musgrove's kettle?

Instead of rehashing the fact that former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has done nothing wrong in relation to the beef plant, I want to throw out a couple of quick reads for a little discussion.

Sen. Roger Wicker, the Mississippi Republican congressman appointed to replace Trent Lott in December, last year obtained a $6 million earmark for a defense contractor whose executives were among his top campaign contributors and were represented in the matter by Wicker's former congressional chief of staff, according to federal records.

Wicker's earmark for Manassas-based Aurora Flight Science fits a pattern that recently attracted bipartisan criticism and gave rise to the most far-reaching ethics overhaul legislation in a generation: The firm retained the services of the congressman's top aide after he passed through the revolving door to become a lobbyist, and its employees helped underwrite Wicker's reelection.

Over the past three years, as Aurora sought defense contracts, the Republican member of the Appropriations defense subcommittee received escalating contributions from the company's executives. Aurora was Wicker's top source of campaign funds in 2006, campaign finance records show. In 2005, the company flew the congressman on a private jet to the ribbon cutting of a manufacturing facility it opened in Wicker's Mississippi district.

And just days after Wicker's chief of staff, John Keast, left his employ in 2006, Aurora began listing the former staffer on public forms as one of its lobbyists in Washington. Wicker placed the earmark in a defense appropriations bill that became law in November 2007.

Now that we're done there, let's mosey on over to this June 8, 2008, article from the Commercial Appeal in Memphis:

Last year, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, then a member on the House Appropriations Committee, slipped language into the Defense Appropriations Bill that directed the U.S. government to award the research grant to Radiance Technologies.

This type of budget line item has become known on Capitol Hill as an earmark, and few in the 435-member House were better at the practice of earmarking federal dollars than Wicker. For fiscal year 2008, Wicker sponsored 42 earmarks totaling $159 million, ranking him among the House's top spenders.

Some of the companies that benefited from Wicker's earmarks were donors to the Mississippi politician. In addition, two such companies hired lobbyists who once worked as staffers in Wicker's congressional office.


For Wicker, fostering relationships with companies that benefit from his earmarks has paid off well. From the $159 million in earmarks Wicker delivered for companies, local governments and other organizations this fiscal year, $113,950 in campaign contributions can be directly traced to those earmark recipients, according to a review of federal records by The Commercial Appeal.

One last stop, this time over at the Center For Responsive Politics:

Wicker Has Received Over $25,000 From Miltec Employees: Over the years, Miltec employees have contributed at least $25,500 to Wicker's campaigns and his leadership PAC, Responsibility & Freedom Work PAC. (Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 1/7/08; Roger Wicker Financial Report. 7/08)

You might be interested in knowing that Wicker obtained $10 million in earmarks for Miltec Research and Technology over the last two years.

This is not to say Wicker has done anything wrong. It's just interesting reading in light of flimsy accusations against Musgrove in the beef plant debacle.

Bryant's special session idea not very popular

House Speaker Billy McCoy is saying no thanks to Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant's idea of a special session.

"Why call a special session in October?" McCoy asked in a prepared statement. "Simply wait two months and we'll be back in regular session at no additional costs."

It gets better over at the C-L, where McCoy drops this line:

"Seems like (Bryant) is fast moving into the governor's position. ... But he's not governor yet," McCoy, D-Rienzi, said, referring to widespread speculation that Bryant will seek the office in 2011.

Even some of Bryant's top supporters are less than enthusiastic about the idea:

Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, said, "If I'm called, I'll show up. But we've been in enough special sessions already."

Now that it is clear that some sort of tobacco tax is likely, the fight will be centered on what how to use the money:

Bryant told reporters that a debate over what to do with the revenue could be postponed until January. But an argument over how much to tax tobacco also appears likely.

State Rep. George Flaggs, a Democrat who has authored several bills to increase tobacco taxes, said he'll push for a $1 hike and split the revenue to pay for Medicaid and services in the general budget. Flaggs' last bill would have hiked the tax by 44 cents.

But Bryant's spokesman said the lieutenant governor disagrees with using a tobacco tax hike as part of a long-term funding solution to Medicaid.

Why would Bryant compromise when he can try to get everything his way?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Musgrove campaigns the coast

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove toured the coast on Tuesday, making stops in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties. Governor Musgrove drove home a message of the need for change in Washington. While Wicker tries to make Mississippians remember how bad it was during Ronnie's term as Governor from 1999-2003, Musgrove is having no problem getting voters to recognize how bad things are now.

Roger Wicker has been one of the chief enablers of George W. Bush's failed policies. He has voted with George W. Bush on record at one of the highest rates on capital hill. In fact Roger Wicker's voting record aligns him somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, but maybe slightly to the left of Dick Cheney. Mississippi would do so much better to have a Democratic Senator in office under a likely Democratic administration. At the moment, the worst case scenario for the Democrats is a huge gain in the House, huge gain in the Senate, and President McCain. Even that looks very unlikely.

From the Sun Herald:

Musgrove said the current U.S. economy is working against regular Mississippians.

"The American Dream is getting harder and harder to reach," Musgrove said.

In the race to replace Trent Lott, who retired late last year, Musgrove is taking the route of being a fiscal conservative. His opponent, interim Sen. Roger Wicker, in his campaign intends to hit Musgrove over what he sees as Musgrove's failed record as governor. Wicker's supporters say if Musgrove couldn't win re-election as governor in 2003, he likely can't win a U.S. Senate seat.

Musgrove has portrayed Wicker as an integral part of what he sees as a broken system in Washington.

Musgrove said he would fight for multiperils insurance, which has so far not passed the U.S. Senate. He said Mississippi needs senators who will approach the plan with as much enthusiasm as Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a champion of the bill, which has passed the House.

Arkansas Democratic Party Chair Shot; Chair in Critical Condition

Very sad news from Arkansas this afternoon. From MSNBC:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A gunman entered the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday and shot the party chairman, who was hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

The gunman asked to speak to the party chairman, Bill Gwatney, and fired three shots at the office near the state Capitol.

"He came in and went into this office and started shooting," police Lt. Terry Hastings told reporters near the party headquarters.

Gwatney, a former legislator, was in critical condition, Hastings said. Party officials confirmed the victim was Gwatney.

Our thoughts go out to Arkansas and their chairman today.

UPDATE: More sad news: Chairman Gwatney passed away this afternoon. From CNN:

CNN) -- The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party died Wednesday, hours after a shooting at the party's headquarters, police said.

Police block off the streets surrounding the state Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday in Little Rock.

Chairman Bill Gwatney died at 3:59 Wednesday afternoon after a gunman entered his Little Rock office and shot him several times in the upper body, Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings said.

Authorities confirmed the news shortly after former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton released a statement expressing their condolences.

"We are deeply saddened by the news that Bill Gwatney has passed away," the former governor and first lady of Arkansas said. "His leadership and commitment to Arkansas and this country have always inspired us and those who had the opportunity to know him."

The shooting suspect, a white male, also died Wednesday afternoon after a police chase ended in gunfire, Hastings said.

FEMA does have auditors!

A little irony for your Wednesday.

A month after CNN reported that FEMA stored $85M worth of goods earmarked for Katrina recovery for two years, then turned the goods over to random state agencies, FEMA is now set to deny $1M to the city of Waveland.

According to the Sun Herald, FEMA is going to "de-obligate" $1M to the city of Waveland based on their auditors recommendations.

A report was released July 17 on the audit, which spanned a period of Aug. 29, 2005 to Jan. 23, 2007, and examined $14.2 million in FEMA funds for nine large projects. Mayor Tommy Longo said Tuesday he had just finished a lengthy meeting with FEMA officials on the report.

Of the total, examiners for the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General's staff recommended $1,020,156 be "de-obligated." If the recommendation stands, that amount would not be provided to the city for work already performed.

The story goes on to say:

They also questioned the work of a debris removal-monitoring company that oversaw the three-phase ditch project. They said work done amounted to less than amounts claimed on reporting tickets, and that addresses listed on some tickets did not exist. They recommended future reimbursements to the city be withheld in the ditch cleaning until the validation process is completed.

In addition, the report questioned repayment of $128,637 in overtime costs for city police, fire, and public works employees in November and December 2005. Examiners concluded the overtime was incurred "for general routine work of the departments and not for activities associated with providing emergency protective measures after the disaster."

The report also questioned $891,519 in expenses the city claimed for road-debris removal auditors said should have been covered by the Federal Highway Administration instead of FEMA. That, too, should not be paid by FEMA, auditors recommended.

Longo said the discrepancies in the ditch project occurred because federal examiners could not find some of the ditches involved, and that some streets could not even be located by examiners because Katrina wiped out street signs throughout the city. He added inspections of the ditch work were not begun until long after the work was done. "They came 15 months after the project was completed," he said.

Longo said the city is appealing the audit's determination to withhold the payment on $891,519. He expects the issue to be concluded in the city's favor in late September.

Leave it to the federal government to dispute $1M after spending BILLIONS in Iraq, diverting money for affordable housing post-Katrina, hiding $85M worth of supplies, and creating a huge health epidemic by distributing poisonous trailers along the Coast.

Another tobacco tax prediction

There's one other prediction I wanted to share with you about the tobacco tax, but I felt it was important enough to warrant a separate post from the one on the lt. gov. urging a special session.

Republicans will try to minimize the increase by speaking in percentages, not raw dollars and cents, when discussing by how much to increase the tobacco tax.

The state's current tobacco tax stands at 18 cents per pack.

Republicans will want to raise that 100 percent or 200 percent. All big numbers. All sounding quite impressive to the voters.

But don't be fooled. At even 200 percent, we're talking just a 36-cent increase. That's a drop in the bucket. It would barely generate enough tax dollars to be beneficial to the state.

Democrats have to talk in cents, never percentages. Never percentages. Listen to me, never percentages. Because 50 cents might be 277 percent, and a dollar might be 555 percent, but it's still just 50 cents or a dollar.

People grasp 50 cents. People grasp a dollar. People are OK with 50 cents and a dollar.

People will get scared at 277 percent -- and really scared at 555 percent -- compared to 100 percent.

Bet that Gov. Barbour is not going to just cave on this tax. He'll try to bog it down in the House because "Democrats are greedy and want a 300 percent increase instead of just a 100 percent increase".

OK. Predictions done. I'm taking off my big red swami hat now.

Will Phil Bryant hijack the tobacco tax?

No one is better than Republicans at "if you can't beat them, join them" politics.

Here's my prediction if we in fact do get a tobacco tax passed in October:

  1. The House will have to settle for a much lower increase than will be beneficial to the state, but they'll still be able to claim victory in forcing Barbour to sign one.
  2. Barbour will sign the tobacco tax because it is so low that it won't really hurt his buddies at the tobacco companies.
  3. The bill will come with no spending ties, and then during the regular session Bryant and the Senate will pass a bill that diverts the tobacco tax increase to pay for rising tuition costs.
  4. Bryant will walk away with all the credit because he called the special session and recommended that the increase be passed and he recommended that it go toward tuition, which gives him the education plank for his gubernatorial run.

But here's another scenario, where the Republicans do what they do best, which is confuse the hell out of the general public to the point that the voters think they are trying to accomplish something when in fact they are doing nothing more than playing "gotcha politics".

The scenario:

  1. Bryant and the Senate propose a miniscule tobacco tax increase, floating inflated numbers on increased revenue for the state and hypothetical uses for this money, such as offsetting tuition increases.
  2. The House refuses to cave because they know the value of this tax increase, and if they pass a 25-cent increase now, they'll never get the modest -- much less ample -- increase that will actually benefit the state.
  3. The GOP spin machine will go full force talking about how Democrats are obstructing the path to a cigarette tax that everyone -- including good ol' Bryant -- wants. The GOP will accuse Democrats of being the reason for the state not being able to provide relief for Medicaid or higher tuition.
  4. Bryant will have his education plank for his gubernatorial run.

Granted, I may be reading too much into the tution thing. It probably is unrelated to the tobacco tax plan. But little reason exists for Bryant's not wanting to decide how the tax will be spent in October except for they want to spend it in an area that will be more politically beneficial to them.

College tuition instead of health care fits that bill, folks...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Could Musgrove be free of criminal wrongdoing in beef plant?

This is going to be long, so bear with me. I want us to see if it is plausible that Musgrove really has done nothing criminal in the beef plant fiasco, despite claims from Republican bloggers.

As you know from a previous post, Republicans are all giddy about Robert Moultrie's guilty plea in the beef plant case.

According to the plea, Moultrie says he is guilty of:

...knowingly and unlawfully rewarding an agnet of the government of the State of Mississippi with a gratuity...

We all know that the gratuity to which he pleads guilty of giving is the $45,000 in campaign donations to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

To rehash a point already made, the Clarion-Ledger and the federal authorities agree:

Ronnie Musgrove has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Even Alan Lange at Y'all Politics, who wants to spin this as a sign of Musgrove's probable guilt, admits in this post that Musgrove has been accused of nothing, nada, zero, zilch in this case.

Today, in weighs Andy Taggart -- former chief of staff to Gov. Kirk Fordice turned C-L blogger -- who says this:

A charge of conspiracy means that two or more people planned together specifically to break the law. So, for Moultrie to have pled guilty to such a charge in this case, he must have been convinced that the feds could prove to a jury that he planned with other people to use campaign contributions not simply as a way to support the candidate of his choice, but to corruptly influence the candidate of his choice, the then-sitting governor of the State of Mississippi, Ronnie Musgrove. The voters of Mississippi are going to have a very hard time believing that Musgrove himself -- now a candidate for the US Senate -- didn't know what was going on.

Well, I can fairly well believe it for a few reasons. First, there's this quote from Moultrie's attorney, as reported in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog post:

Robert Moultrie has pleaded guilty to a charge in a one-count information that he paid an illegal gratuity to a state official by a campaign contribution to the official.

This is a charge that he made the contribution intending to influence and reward the official for the performance of official duties should the public official’s assistance be needed on any potential problems on the Mississippi beef project.

In other words, he did not pay Musgrove "an illegal gratuity" in return for anything. He did it hoping that if they needed Musgrove in the future that they could remind him of this donation.

Then there is this piece of information, as provided by none other than Y'all Politics:

However, in September 2003, Musgrove contacted Moultrie for another campaign contribution of $25,000. At the time, The Facility Group was aware of potential problems in the design and construction of the plant. Moultrie and Cawood subsequently had a conversation about giving this contribution to Musgrove intending to influence and reward him for the performance of his official duties should his assistance be needed on any potential problems on the project.

Notice that it does not say, "Moultrie and Cawood subsequently had a conversation about telling Musgrove they were giving him this contribution so he would sweep under the rug the problems arising with the beef plant."

Going back to Taggert's assertion that someone other than Moultrie must know about it and that the people of Mississippi will have a hard time believing that person was not Musgrove, I ask a simple question, "Why?"

It seems entirely plausible that the other person could be Nixon Cawood, chief operating officer of The Facilities Group. After all, Cawood was indicted alongside Moultrie.

And in case you might have been misled by Lange, Taggart or the like, Musgrove ain't been indicted for squat yet. So the GOP can hold their breath and hope -- and spread a few falsehoods along the way.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is back in Mississippi

During the last round of judicial elections, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent over $1,000,000 on advertising for their pro-business candidates. Without transparency the Mississippi people had no way of knowing who was pumping this money into the race. The Chamber of Commerce candidates rolled. The Chamber of Commerce now has a 7-2 advantage in our state's highest court. I think we have seen how one-sided this court is in the favor of business. Read it here.

Well the fellows who bought you our corrupted Supreme Court are back with their pick for Senator. You guessed it none other than ole Rubber Stamp Roger. Ronnie Musgrove out-raised Roger Wicker last quarter among individual donors. Yet Wicker has a nearly 4-1 edge in fundraising. Hmmm...

The Meridian Star:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s VoteForBusiness Bandwagon is scheduled to roll into Meridian this morning to promote the U.S. Chamber’s endorsement of U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The VoteForBusiness Bandwagon started out on Friday to cover more than 8,000 miles in 32 states, including scheduled appearances at the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.

There are ducks at the beef plant? Really?

The Clarion-Ledger in this piece points out a fact:

[Former Gov. Ronnie] Musgrove has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

But here's what I just don't get: The good folks over at Y'all Politics post about it, and the commenters start in about walking and sounding like a duck.

Recent attacks on job losses are unfounded. Attacks on his fiscal record are taken out of context. The fact that neither Minor nor Scruggs had been accused of jack squat when they donated to his gubernatorial campaigns is ignored.

And the simple truth is that Musgrove has not been accused of any wrongdoing with the beef plant. A grand jury said so, despite what Y'all Politics readers and the RNSC wants to say.

Jere Nash said it best in his blog post:

You would think that with the resources available to the national Republican Party they could come up with something new to say about Musgrove. But all they can do is recycle and repackage old news. Kind of the lazy man's way to run a campaign.

But, hey. Who cares about the truth when rehashing falsehoods is so easy? Right?

9/11/08 @ 10:41 p.m. ETA: Alan Lange over at Y'all Politics is quick tonight in responding to this post. So, let me do likewise. (Then that will it for me on the tit-for-tat.)

Despite his quoting from a legal document, he has yet to make the case that Musgrove has been accused of any wrongdoing. He admits as much in the front-page feature story he wrote today.

If Musgrove was a Republican, then you can bet your sweet bippy that and their readers would be saying the same thing I'm saying, which is the same thing the C-L stated:

[Former Gov. Ronnie] Musgrove has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

OK. I'm done.

Is the GOP bailing on Greg Davis?

If you ask me, you need to read between the lines a bit with this Clarion-Ledger story on the Childers race in November.

For instance, look at what the NRSC spokesman said to the Clarion-Ledger:

The National Republican Congressional Committee poured money into the runoff, but a NRCC spokesman said the group is not currently involved and would not say whether that will change.

Considering that the DSCC has already committed to at least $1 million to help Congressman Travis Childers win in November, it is likely that the Republican powers-that-be are looking in other venues.

MS01 is now a challenge seat for Republicans, and challenge seats are usually tougher to win than seats you are defending or open seats. Consider that this is the fourth balloting for this seat and that you were beat handily in the special election, then it makes sense for Republicans to jump ship.

There's also less-than-enthusiastic support coming from state GOP leaders:

Brad White, the state's incoming Republican party chairman, said the party will help push voters to the polls for Davis and other GOP candidates.

"I'm not betting my house on it, but I believe it's extremely doable," he said of Davis' chances.

Not betting the house on it? Just "doable"? Six months ago, such statements from White would be unheard of.

This is not to say that Childers has it in the bag. It is to say, however, that Republicans -- and perhaps Davis himself -- have privately acknowledged this seat probably ain't changing hands in November.

More on Barbour's bait-and-switch

In an earlier post, I accused Gov. Barbour's plan to fund Medicaid of using "bait-and-switch accounting".

It seems that more than a few legislators believe the same thing.

“Put another way, the governor takes money from hospitals and gives it back to them, and in doing so creates the illusion that there is a deficit in the UPL program.”

[Sen. David] Baria said that Barbour thinks the resulting deficit, “however illusory,” empowers him to assess hospitals to make up the difference.

Rep. Cecil Brown puts it into much simpler terms that we can all understand:

Rep. Brown, an accountant, said he would never advise a personal household to finagle its budget in so complicated a manner.

“There are too big problems with this. It’s still a $90 million tax on hospitals, no matter how it’s twisted,” Brown said.

“Why would you go through this much trouble when all you have to do is increase revenue with a popular tax?”

The entire JFP article is worth a read, even if it does spend a bit of time rehashing Barbour's old lobbyist ties. Those ties are still relevant, however, in answering Brown's rhetorical question above.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lloyd Gray: Musgrove - Wicker to be a "donnybrook"

Lloyd Gray, editor of the Daily Journal, compared this years Senatorial race between Ronnie Musgrove and Roger Wicker to the 1988 contest between Trent Lott and Wayne Dowdy. Using the results from the 1988 race as a backdrop, Gray illustrates the importance of the first congressional district in the Senate race outcome. On top of that it looks like the Republicans are giving up on Greg Davis and concentrating on trying to salvage a win in the Senate race.

My advice to the Musgrove campaign. Go populist in north Mississippi. Listen to the message of Travis Childers and internalize it. By all means point out the special interest money that fuels Roger Wicker. Don't forget to point out his anti-veteran votes as well as anti-worker votes. That line of attack is a winner in north Mississippi.

The first thing Wicker has to do is carry the 1st District, and carry it big. In 1988, Lott and Dowdy basically split the rest of the state 50-50. But Lott had a higher national profile than Wicker, having been minority whip in the House and a visible member of Ronald Reagan's team, and Dowdy did not enjoy Musgrove's statewide name recognition. Additionally, there was no pull for black voters at the top of the ticket - Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee that year, didn't exactly excite them.

All these factors helped Lott outside his home base. Wicker will face more daunting challenges, so it is even more important that he get a huge 1st District margin - including a massive turnout in DeSoto County - as well as piling up votes in populous Republican strongholds like Rankin County scattered around the state.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Roger Wicker Microtargeting? I Was Called Today By Target Point Consulting

The questioner with Target Point Consulting called and identified herself and company only identifying it as a research organization. Later I asked for more information on who was collecting the information and she stated that she worked for Target Point Consulting and again only identified them as doing research.

So I looked them up online and their site was almost as equally ambiguous, untill I found this in the news section of their site:
Microtargeting entered the political mainstream in the 2004 election, when White House adviser Karl Rove, who long ran a direct-mail marketing business, deployed it to reach voters whom Mr. Bush's reelection campaign had failed to reach by other means. The Bush campaign gave TargetPoint $3 million to microtarget voters in 18 states. In Florida, the campaign used microtargeting to make contact with 84% of eventual Bush voters, up from 33% in 2000. In Iowa, the campaign reached 92% of his eventual voters, up from 50% in 2000.
Target Point Consulting is a partisan Republican political firm aimed at identifying voters and building profiles so that campaigns can manipulate folks based on their targeted beliefs; this is a step further than traditional demographic targeting.

I believe this is paid for by Roger Wicker's campaign because it asked specifically which candidate between Ronnie Musgrove and Roger Wicker I intended to vote for.

I didn't finish it cutting the questioner off after 7 minutes but the questions asked me to rank various issue groups by importance including sections including social issues (specifically mentioning prayer in schools), healthcare, jobs, and taxes.

Many of the questions focused on energy. Example: "Do you think we should focus on lowering gas prices now or on new technology for long term benifit?" Also asked were if I supported more drilling and such.

It asked if I considered myself pro-life or pro-choice.

The reader of the questions didn't sound like she was from America and read from a script without deviating a word when I asked for clarification.

This kind of investment is smart and will help Wicker and the Mississippi Republican Party for years to come.

In 2003 Haley Barbour's campaign targeted my family for get out the vote because we live in a highly Republican neighborhood.

I suspect after this we won't be seeing nearly as much direct mail and door knockers by the Mississippi Republican Party.

Good luck Ronnie Musgrove, and I sure hope y'all are doing something similar.

Barbour's secrecy not helping Medicaid problem

One day, Gov. Barbour might learn that his secrecy and his dictatorial approach to governing doesn't lead to long-term success.

Most recently, Barbour has tried to circumvent the Legislature and enact a Medicaid funding plan that has now drawn the ire of nearly 40 hospitals and their attorneys.

From this piece in the C-L:

The hospitals have not legally challenged the proposal that would increase their taxes, cut Medicaid reimbursements and replace the cuts with federal money associated with the health-care program. But they are exploring options in Hinds County Chancery Judge Patricia Wise's court, a friendly venue for them in the past.

They asked Wise on Friday to keep alive a case in which she recently sided with them. Her ruling essentially halted Barbour's previous plan to make deep cuts in Medicaid services until the agency provides more proof of why the cuts were needed. The state wants Wise to dismiss the case, since Barbour withdrew that plan after her ruling.

John Sneed, an attorney for the hospitals, wrote that Barbour's new plan is "a thinly veiled attempt to impermissibly fund the alleged general Medicaid budget shortfall through ... a scheme that (Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary) recently held to violate (state law)."

Barbour's plan uses a bit of bait and switch accounting. But what Barbour has failed to take into consideration -- apart from the idea of sharing his plan with legislative leaders before announcing he had cured the Medicaid crisis -- is that federal reimbursements often take as long as a year to reach hospitals.

A court challenge to the plan's legality is sure to come. In the meantime, more study by professionals in the field and the members of the Legislature we elected to deal with such problems should take place.

And come January, it will be time to raise the tobacco tax and help shore up Medicaid with a more proper stream of funds.

Friday, August 8, 2008

This Is China's Day. Today I Share In China's Pride

This opening ceremony has been one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Concerted human effort and action as art.

A masterpiece.

If you've missed it find it online and watch it.

It is worth your time.

Me in Hong Kong:

Students at a Chinese University:


We often focus on the negatives of China. These are real.

It's triumphs should also be recognized.

They are a nobel people with a rich history and almost certain dominant future.

I'm Roger Wicker And I Don't Know What I've Approved

Roger Wicker's campaign Is attacking Ronnie Musgrove.

There's a problem though.

He doesn't seem to know what they are attacking him for... in an ad he clearly approves at the beginning.


Props to WAPT for catching the Wickster (AKA Trickster) at his political game.

We deserve better.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Just Because it is Friday

The boys down at the DNC have a new website in honor of Big Oil's support of John McCain.

Help Wanted: Write For Cotton Mouth

As election season really heats up we'd like to welcome a couple new writers.

Geographic diversity is a plus, but we'll consider all comers.

We at Cotton Mouth have very few requirements of our writers.

You need to love Mississippi and want to make her better and be of the Democratic persuasion.

We try to keep a civil tone and quality content (especially compared to most other political blogs) so a level head is a must.

Please contact me if you are interested.

My e-mail is john DOT w DOT leek AT gmail DOT com

Your assistance is appreciated.

We're about half way to paying for Jeff's ticket. Finish it!

With three generous online donations and one $25 snail mail donation we now have $235 out of $520 needed to cover Jeff's plane ticket to the Democratic National Convention.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

McCain: We need an economic surge

I am not making this up. John McCain on Wednesday claimed that what our faltering economy needs is an "economic surge". Like I said, I am not making this up. I guess he plans on sending 30,000 economists to strategic financial locations across the map. Like John Kerry said this week, it is no secret that John McCain is looking for a veep with more knowledge on the economy than the Arizona senator possesses. As John Kerry so cleverly mused, that puts all of us on the short list. Thank you Senator Kerry, and if you had answered like that four years ago, I would be working on your second term electoral bid.

From CNN:
Sen. John McCain on Wednesday used language primarily associated with the Iraq war to describe the U.S. financial woes, saying the country needs an "economic surge" to boost the job market.

The move put the economy -- an issue McCain has admitted is not his strong suit -- in the context of foreign policy, an area that's considered one of his strengths.

Speaking in Jackson, Ohio, the Republican senator and presidential candidate from Arizona said the surge has worked in Iraq, so it's time for one at home.

"What we need today is an economic surge. The surge has succeeded in Iraq militarily -- now we need an economic surge to keep jobs here at home and create new ones," McCain said, referring to the additional 30,000 troops sent to Iraq in 2007.

Off Topic: What are your SEC football picks?

I am pretty sure there is one topic 90% of us can agree on. We love college football down south, no matter what our political affiliation is. College football starts here at the end of August, and I for one can't wait. Let the conjecture begin?

Favorite Team:

SEC West 1.
SEC West 2.
SEC West 3.
SEC West 4.
SEC West 5.
SEC West 6.

SEC East 1.
SEC East 2.
SEC East 3.
SEC East 4.
SEC East 5.
SEC East 6.

SEC Champ:


So John Leek doesn't get his Golden Eagle feathers ruffled, how many games will Fedora win in his first year in Hattiesburg? (answer question above)

OK just copy and past the quiz and fill it out. I can't wait to see what the results look like.

Salter in Sunday's Clarion Ledger

Sid Salter's post Neshoba County Fair wrap-up of the Roger Wicker, Ronnie Musgrove showdown made a point that has resonated across the country with political junkies. Musgrove out-performed Roger Wicker in the face of a hostile crowd. As Salter puts it Musgrove is a better retail politician.

From the Sunday's Clarion Ledger:

Musgrove is a better retail politician than is Wicker. That's not a knock on Wicker, it's simply a fact. Musgrove is a people person. Wicker is more reserved.

What Wicker lacks that has benefited Republicans over the last 20 years is the sense of inevitability that he will win.

Wicker is in a dogfight, pure and simple, with Musgrove. Democrats in general in Mississippi and Musgrove's camp in particular, believe that he not only has a chance to win the race but an excellent chance. Republicans, in contrast, for the first time in years have some doubt.

Travis Childers launches new web presence

This comes from an email Travis Childers sent out to his supporters.

Dear Friends,

Recently, I launched my new Online Office. The new site is a comprehensive resource for both legislative and case work concerns. The site has new navigational tools which allow visitors to easily find the information they are looking for.

To visit Congressman Childers' Online Office click here
The new website offers information on my positions on various issues as well as tools to assist visitors in finding information regarding my voting record and legislation I have introduced and co-sponsored. In addition, the site offers important tools to assist individuals and small businesses in finding grants that are available through the federal government and information on the current foreclosure crisis.

Finally, my new site offers information and links to assist seniors in finding out about their social security and Medicare benefits, assists veterans with questions pertaining to the Veteran's Administration, and has a kids page to help Mississippi's students learn about the federal government.

I encourage you to visit my website to learn more about what I am doing in Congress, request assistance from one of my five offices or to email me with your questions or concerns. It is my honor to represent North Mississippi and I look forward to hearing from you. My new website can be found at

Ad Highlights Wicker's Votes With Insurance Against Patients

The ad focuses on his votes for HMO's at the expense of doctors and patients.

This ad isn't particularly good (as is the tradition with political advertising), but it is true.

I don't know which markets it is airing in.

Republicans Like Haley Hypocritically Attack Ronnie On Jobs

When Haley Barbour decided to take up a hobby and ran for governor in 2003 he spent a lot of time and money attacking Ronnie Musgrove's record on jobs.

Vicksburg Post Editor Charlie Mitchell:
The Republican Party has rolled out a litany against Musgrove’s term as governor from 2000 until 2004. It’s their standard, moderately distorted stuff: Net loss of 37,000 jobs...
Well the facts show differently:

When Musgrove left office the number of total employeed was 1,085 less and the percentage unemployeed was actually better/lower than when he started. This reality is quite a bit different from the 37,000 number they throw around.

Charlie Mitchell points out Republican amnesia in apparently forgetting to "point out that the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, might have had something to do with the U.S. economy tanking" including that of Mississippi in the middle of Musgrove's term.

Contrast that with post Musgrove Mississippi after Katrina where billions of federal tax dollars have employeed countless in Mississippi and have bailed out a state government that would have faced major shortfalls.

After the so called responsible Republican stewardship you'd expect far better from a state government led by Republican Haley Barbour.

But that simply isn't the case.

Employment Unemployment Unemployment Rate

1,234,837       76,722                 5.8%  January 2000 (Musgrove Day 1)

1,233,752        74,350                 5.7%  January 2004 (Musgrove Final Day)

1,235,366         92,143                6.9%  June 2008 (Barbour Present)

Post Musgrove total employment is barely up while the total unemployed has skyrocketed increasing by nearly 18 thousand.

Republicans want you to believe that Ronnie Musgrove was a bad steward of Mississippi's economy, but he did better with far, far less.