Ponzi Schemes, Depression & Joe Versus The Volcano

April 11th, 2017 by Perry

Last month I heard a piece on public radio “Why are we so bad at spotting cons?

(If you’re a friend of mine over the past few weeks, and there has been a lull in the conversation, you’ve already heard this story because I find it fascinating.)

The piece looks at a book called “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…Every Time” by Maria Konnikova and makes a few interesting observations on why people fall for Ponzi schems and cons.

1) People are really bad at spotting lies because people who trust, and societies that trust, generally do better. Also, many lies are “social lubricants” and we would rather believe the lie (your hair looks great) than know the truth.

2) We’re intrinsically hopeful as a species. Most people have an optimism bias. We think that tomorrow is going to be better than today.

3) We’re inclined to believe that we’re exceptions to the rule. “Essentially, we all have a big blind spot, and it’s shaped exactly like us.”

The author suggests as a species we’re trusting and hopeful, we believe good things will happen, we take risks because we believe they will pay off and that is how we advance and succeed. We’re even more hopeful of our individual selves believing we can succeed where others might fail. That’s a positive “Star Trek” type look at humanity.

But this is what I found fascinating:

We are very optimistic as a species. We’re hopeful, you know, that gets us going in the morning. That we think no matter what, tomorrow’s going to be better than yesterday was, otherwise, what’s the point? And you see on scale after scale that people actually have this optimism bias about themselves and about the world. They don’t see reality as reality. They see it as kind of this rose colored glow. There’s really a truth to that cliche that we the world through rose colored glasses. And the only exception are people who are clinically depressed. They actually respond accurately on all self assessments and assessments of the world.

According to this author, the only people with a proper view of reality are people who are clinically depressed. If so, that means people with depression have an accurate view of the world and everyone else perceives a false reality. Thus the natural state of man, our optimism, is actually a mental illness.

I’m not making that argument, but I found it an interesting thing to contemplate. It also makes me wonder if companies should recruit people who are clinically depressed to make strategic decisions. They wouldn’t be bold and expansive decisions; they’d be “safe” decisions; but they might be based on reality. And if that happened, would the companies then need to fire the person if they ceased to be depressed?

Could be an idea for a sci-fi story. A corporation forces employees into depression to properly view reality and make decisions. The hero ceases to be depressed but must fake depression in the routine HR tests. Eventually, frees the other employees from depression controls and they take control of the corporation. Their new optimistic decisions result in a total failure and collapse of the corporation. Yet amidst the ruins, they’re hopeful about tomorrow.

Come to think about it, overcoming depression resulting in the destruction of a company (and an island) and then being lost at sea with an overwhelming optimism of tomorrow is roughly the concept of one of the greatly underrated movies addressing the comedy of existentialism: Joe Versus the Volcano.

Here are some choice quotes from Joe Versus the Volcano:


President Obama’s clemency on Mississippi cases

January 25th, 2017 by Perry

My column this week looks at President Barack Obama’s clemency actions nationwide as well as in Mississippi. You can read it in the Madison County Journal here.

Below is a list of commutations and pardons granted by President Barack Obama for individuals convicted of crimes in a federal court in Mississippi. The individuals may not be Mississippians, and Mississippians convicted in federal court in other states are not listed. For a full list of President Obama’s commutations go here; for a full list of pardons go here.

COMMUTATIONS

Charles Lee Parker

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; January 25, 2006

Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 262 months’ imprisonment

Charles Edward Price

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; June 3, 2008

Sentence: 292 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $1,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 19, 2017 and unpaid balance of $1,500 fine remitted

Safarra Kimmons

Offense: 1. Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base; 2. supervised release violation (Distribution in excess of 50 grams of cocaine base)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; October 8, 2009

Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on January 17, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment

Malcolm Hartzog

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; March 3, 2005

Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 360 months’ imprisonment.

Stanley Knox

Offense: Continuing criminal enterprise; distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; use of a communication facility to facilitate distribution of cocaine base (seven counts); attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base (two counts); distribution of cocaine base within 1,000 feet of a high school (two counts); use of a communication facility to facilitate the attempted distribution of cocaine base (two counts)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; April 12, 1996

Sentence: Life imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; $2,000 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 360 months’ imprisonment.

Dewayne Damper

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute “crack” cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; May 12, 2004

Sentence: 360 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; $4,500 fine (April 20, 1999); amended to 360 months’ imprisonment; six years’ supervised release; $4,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on March 22, 2017.

Darrius Lewis

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; May 20, 2005

Sentence: 262 months’ imprisonment; three years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 188 months’ imprisonment.

Charles Harrison

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; October 25, 2007

Sentence: 262 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $1,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on August 30, 2018, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

Robert L. Matthews

Offense: 1. Distribution of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B); possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B); 2. Supervised release violation (possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

District/Date: 1. Northern District of Mississippi; June 13, 1997; 2. Western District of Tennessee; September 30, 1998

Sentence: 1. 280 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; 2. 15 months’ imprisonment (consecutive)

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on December 1, 2016, leaving intact and in effect the eight-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence

Cintheia Denise Parra

Offense: Possess with intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) & 841(b)(1)(A)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; September 21, 2006

Sentence: 235 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; amended to 188 months’ imprisonment (March 18, 2015)

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on September 2, 2016, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

Exdonovan Peak

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; February 13, 1997

Sentence: 365 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $12,000 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2016, and unpaid balance of the $12,000 fine remitted, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

PARDONS

Jimmy Wayne Pharr

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; use of a communication facility to arrange delivery of marijuana (two counts) (Northern District of Mississippi)

Sentence: Six months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (February 2, 1990)

Tietti Onette Chandler, aka Tietti Chandler-Shelton

Offense: Embezzlement of mail matter by a postal employee

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; April 1, 1999

Sentence: Three years’ probation, conditioned upon the performance of 150 hours of community service

Bobby Joseph Guidry, aka Bob Guidry

Offense: Conspiracy to import marijuana; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; March 4, 1988

Sentence: Three years’ imprisonment; five years’ probation; $1,000 fine


Partisan Judicial Elections?

January 17th, 2017 by Perry

Mississippi House Speaker Pro-Tem Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) filed a bill this year to return Mississippi judicial election to partisan elections (HB496) as they were prior to 1994.

Jimmie Gates writes about the bill in the Clarion Ledger:

Under House Bill 496, candidates for judicial offices would have to list party affiliation and run in party primaries.

Snowden said he is trying to level the field for judicial candidates because they now run only in the general election in November. He said if there are more than two candidates and no one gets a clear majority of the votes, there will likely be a runoff.

“No one wants to come out and vote during the Thanksgiving week,” Snowden said of the typical date for a judicial runoff election.

Snowden said his legislation also would raise the profile of judicial elections. He said most judicial contests are down-ballot races, often leading to a drop in ballots cast.

“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat,” Snowden said.

According to the Associated Press, the bill was tabled:

The House Judiciary A Committee, on a split voice vote on Tuesday, tabled House Bill 496 .

Democrats question whether the change would provide an advantage to Republicans in judicial elections. State Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens, a former Democrat, won re-election in the Central District last year against a Republican-endorsed opponent.

Justice Jim Kitchens won reelection in 2016 in the Central District. Had it been a partisan race, the outcome may have been closer, but the district still leans Democrat. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the Central District in 2016 with 51.3 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Trump. When Kitchens first won in 2008, the Central District also went to Democrat Barack Obama with 52.4 percent over Republican John McCain. That year there was also a special US Senate race which was “nonpartisan” and Ronnie Musgrove carried the Central District in his challenge against Roger Wicker with 51.8 percent. But in the regular US Senate race that year Republican Thad Cochran carried the district over Democrat Erik Fleming with 53.8 percent.

Even under partisan elections, the Central District would still be competitive. Democrats would still have the advantage. I think a more interesting study would be to see how partisan elections would shake out in circuit, chancery and county court races across the state.

Other questions to contemplate:

  • Would candidates in some area run as independent either out of principle or to avoid a primary?
  • Would heavy Democratic districts see a greater increase in African American judges as a result of partisan elections and increase the diversity of our judiciary?
  • Would “Tea Party” politics push Republican judges further to the right in conservative areas?

Judicial candidates should not be forced to run under partisan labels; there should also be the opportunity to run as an independent. But judicial candidates should be free to associate themselves with a political party; and a political party should be free to gather together - whether in a caucus or a primary - and choose a nominee. But, the measure appears to be tabled for this year. Still, Snowden’s proposition deserves additional consideration.


Coming in 2017: The Death Channel

December 30th, 2016 by Perry

With all the focus on famous deaths in 2016, here is a programming line-up for The Death Channel.*

7:00am – The Dirge: Who died yesterday and why you should care.

8:00am – Miss Diagnosis: Death Channel’s original hospital-based, comedic soap opera featuring a young doctor’s life, relationships and consequences as she often treats the disease and kills the patient.

9:00am – Not Dead Yet: Documentary interviews of old or sick celebrities you may have forgotten about, but are amazingly still alive…for now.

10:00am – Reapers: After the funeral, these treasure hunters go through celebrity estates and attempt to buy unique and collectible items from the heirs. Will they make the deal and make a profit?

11:00am – Great Deaths in History: Will your death be this amazing? Not likely. The most amazing, record setting and impacting deaths in modern history (now in color).

Noon – Mortal Meme: The latest online buzz on dead celebrities and dark humor.

1:00pm - At The Buzzer: Highlights from the careers of famous, recently dead athletes.

2:00pm – Death’s Door: America’s most popular cemetery tour show takes you to St. Louis #1 in New Orleans and Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

3:00pm – Ash to Ash: the Ash Brothers show you DIY coffins and going green with embalming.

4:00pm - Death Watch: Whose death will we be discussing in coming weeks or months? The latest on celebrity disease and addiction so you’ll be prepared to mourn. Get your recommendations of the day for songs to listen to, movies to watch and books to read so you’ll be properly prepared to grieve a celebrity’s passing.

5:00pm – The Bereaved: A Hindu Pandit, Christian Priest and Atheist Scientist bring on guests to debate “where are they now.” Today’s episode: the panel concludes a famous singer is likely in purgatory and suspect a certain movie star has been reincarnated as an ugly starfish. See the starfish!

6:00pm – Pale White Horses: Dead Celebrities’ Pets – This week’s episode looks at a cat that inherited a Hollywood estate and a famous author’s dog, missing and a suspect in his owner’s demise.

7:00pm – Stygian Shores: In this episode of the award winning death travel show, see the best Caribbean islands to die on.

8:00pm – Dead Today: Live programming recapping who died today.

9:00pm – Re-Autopsy: Conspiracy and murder in the great mysterious deaths of history featuring experts on the mafia, intelligence agencies and aliens.

10:00pm – Swan Song: The best songs of musicians who died in the last month.

11:00pm – Dreamless Sleep: Live programming from inside a celebrity coffin in this eight-hour broadcast of silent darkness.

*The Death Channel replaces the Scary Clown Channel on your local television provider.


Green, Gibbs lead in House 72 fundraising

August 18th, 2016 by Perry

Voters in House District 72 will choose a replacement in a special election for former Representative Kimberly Campbell who resigned earlier this year.

Candidates were required to file pre-election campaign finance reports on Tuesday. Synarus Green and Debra Hendricks Gibbs lead in fundraising.

House 72 - Pre-Election Campaign Finance Report Summary

Synarus Green - Green jumped in the race first and looks to lead the field in votes and in fundraising. He served as Jackson’s chief administrative officer in the Lumumba Administration and previously as aide to Congressman Bennie Thompson. He is the son of Hinds Circuit Judge Tomie Green who held the seat from 1992-1998. Green loaned his campaign $11,404 but has raised significant funds from attorneys and law firms. Contributors include Crymes Pittman ($1000), Danny Cupit ($500), John Corlew ($500), the Simmons & Simmons firm of state Senator Derrick Simmons ($250), Pieter Teeuwissen ($500), Ashley Ogden ($1000), Vicki Slater ($500) and J.L. Holloway ($500). (Report)

Debra Hendricks Gibbs - Nearly half of the money raised by Gibbs comes from the Gibbs family or connected businesses (Robert L. Gibbs $6000; Gibbs Travis PLLC $2500; Waste Disposal Services LLC $3500). Former Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto, Jr. and associated companies contributed $1000. Other contributors include Whitwell & Associates (former Jackson city councilman Quentin Whitwell) $250; LeRoy Walker $500; Jonathan Lee $250; Richard Schwartz $500; and Duane O’Neil (President: Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership) $250. (Report)

Theresa G. Kennedy - Kennedy contributed $1500 to her own campaign and other contributors include state Senator Deborah Dawkins ($200), Richard Schwartz ($500), Brent Hazzard ($750), Dependable Source Corp ($1000) and New Jerusalem Baptist Church ($250). (Report)

A. Shae Buchanon-Williams - (No report available online at the Secretary of State’s Office as of 2:30pm 8/16/2016.) Her campaign organization filing lists former Court of Appeals Justice Ermea J. Russell as treasurer and Cindy Ayers Elliott, a former assistant treasurer defeated in the 1999 Democratic Primary when running for treasurer as her campaign manager. Elliott was also a candidate for the special state Senate election to replace Alice Hardin in 2013. (Filing)

If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two will advance to a run-off on September 13.


Classic Bert Case in 1976 Reagan Visit

August 16th, 2016 by Perry

A couple of weeks ago, Wilson Stribling at WLBT posted this August 4, 1976 newscast featuring a visit by Governor Ronald Reagan and his running mate Senator Richard Schweiker during the 1976 GOP Primary. WLBT assigned four reporters to cover the story which consumed about a third of the night’s broadcast.

Reagan was attempting to calm delegates concerned about his choice as a running mate and lock up delegates to the 1976 Republican National Convention in his challenge against incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford.

The whole video is enjoyable, even the commercials. But it also has some classic Bert Case commentary:

WLBT’s Bert Case: Any particular significance to the fact that he [Schweiker] was put in the Delta Airlines Freight Terminal where I understand the air conditioner is not even working properly for the hour wait for Governor Reagan?

Billy Mounter: Some people might consider him to be excess baggage, but I don’t think that is proper.

Bert Case: So the cool Pennsylvania liberal met a red hot Reagan backer who was Luke-warm to him in a hot freight terminal office before fielding some sizzling questions from conservative Mississippi Republicans.

Thanks to Wilson Stribling for sharing this with everyone.


Ole Miss & Charlie Bowdre from Young Guns

July 19th, 2016 by Perry

One of my favorite movies in my youth was “Young Guns” featuring Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid. This week I learned about a connection between one of the Regulators portrayed in that movie and the University of Mississippi.

Last year while on business in DeSoto County, I took the opportunity to swing by the county archives to do a little digging on an extended branch of my family tree for an interested distant cousin. The ladies at the archives were extremely helpful and when leaving, they asked me if I’d like to become a member of the Genealogical Society of DeSoto County. I did and I now receive their quarterly newsletter “DeSoto Descendants.” This week’s edition included an article: “The Life and Times of Mississippi’s Charles Meriwether Bowdre” by Ralph C. Kennedy.

If you saw Young Guns, you might remember Charlie as “the pugilist” member of John Tunstall’s Lincoln County Regulators. He married a young Mexican girl but died near the end of the movie during the Battle of Lincoln when the Regulators fought their way out of a house under siege by L.G. Murphy’s men and federal troops. Billy (Estevez), Josiah “Doc” Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) escaped and appeared in the sequel, Young Guns 2.

"Did you know pigs is as smart as dogs? It's true. I knew this guy in El Capitan who taught his pig to bark at strangers." -Charlie in Young Guns

"Did you know pigs is as smart as dogs? It's true. I knew this guy in El Capitan who taught his pig to bark at strangers." -Charlie in Young Guns

It turns out, Charlie Bowdre was born in Georgia and moved to DeSoto County, Mississippi when he was three years old. The Bowdre family became one of the most prominent families in the area. Per the article:

On February 5, 1866, Charlie Bowdre and his first cousin, Stephen Pettus Bowdre (1848-1930), applied and were admitted to the freshman class at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). They were two of nine Bowdres to attend the University between the classes of 1859 and 1879. University of Mississippi records for the 1867 Sophomore Class indicated the Bowdre cousins took basic courses in Greek, Latin, Math, Logic, Rhetoric, Composition, and Declamation (theatrical style speech). The boys did reasonably well in all their classes; although, Stephen was a slightly better student. Both Charlie and Stephen were listed in the Class of 1870 as “not graduating.” “Not graduating” was a rather common status for young men studying at the University during this time period. Many young men only attended the university for a year or two. A later University of Mississippi survey listed both young men as “cotton factors” (brokers) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Charlie went west and opened a cheese factory in Arizona with his new business partner, Doc Scurlock. One of their employees was Henry “Kid” Antrium, an alias of who would later be known as Billy the Kid. The cheese factory failed and eventually the three made their way to Lincoln County, New Mexico and the events of the movie.

Unlike the movie, Doc also married a young Mexican girl, the half-sister of Charlie’s bride. And Charlie lived on into the events of Young Guns 2. In YG2, Doc is captured out east where he had become a teacher and was brought back to Lincoln for trial. He eventually died in an ambush by gunmen under leadership of Sheriff Pat Garrett. In reality, Doc moved to Texas where he lived until he was 80 and died a prominent member of the community. It was Charlie who died in the ambush, not Doc.

According to Wikipedia (sourced to Robert M. Utley’s “Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life”) “In the last seconds of his life he stumbled and fell towards Pat Garrett repeating the phrase, ‘I wish…I wish…’”

Charlie is buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery along with Tom O’Folliard (also a character in YG2) and Billy the Kid. While the exact locations of the bodies is disputed, the three share a headstone and as told in the epilogue of Young Guns, above their names is chiseled “Pals.” But, according to an article by Mental Floss, it turns out this wasn’t an old Regulator inscribing a tribute. The headstone was likely devised by the local Chamber of Commerce in 1932 to take advantage of tourism following a 1930 movie about Billy the Kid.


Hudson first in votes; Lucas narrows gap in fundraising

June 22nd, 2016 by Perry

Abe Hudson was the leader in votes and fundraising as we approach the June 28 special election run-off House-29.

Hudson took 44.8% of the vote in the June 7 election in Bolivar County (and one precinct in Sunflower County). Second place in the six candidate field went to Earl Lucas with 23.4% of the vote.

The pre-runoff campaign finance reports were due yesterday with the Secretary of State and show Hudson has raised and spent more than $10,000 in the election so far while Lucas has raised just shy of that. Notable contributions in the reports include a $2000 contribution from the Mississippi Medical Association PAC to Lucas.


Lucas, Hudson report most raised in House 29 special election

June 1st, 2016 by Perry

Six candidates qualified for the June 7 special election for the House 29 seat vacated by Linda Coleman (D) who was appointed circuit court judge. Campaign finance reports listing contributions and disbursements through May 28 show the candidates have collectively raised more than $20,000 and spent around $17,000. Most of the funds have been self-contributed.

Earl Lucas leads the pack in amount raised and cash-on-hand with $7,730 most of which ($6000) came from the Lucas Family Medical Clinic. He listed $3,460 cash-on-hand.

Abe Hudson reported spending the most at $7,066 and reports contributions from lobbyists Al Sage, the Clay Firm and from Senator Derrick Simmons.

Darryl Johnson self-contributed $2,500 and spent $2,500 with “Professionals” which is listed as a florist shop.

Henry Knox reported no money raised or spent and there was no report available online for Dalerick Wesley as of June 1. Cynthia Blockett raised and spent $2,500.

If no candidate receives a majority on June 7, there will be a run-off between the top two finishers on June 28. District 29 includes Bolivar County and part of Sunflower County.


No Suffrage Restoration in 2016

April 25th, 2016 by Perry

It’s time for my annual look at legislative restoration of suffrage rights. In 2004, 37 legislators authored 48 bills to restore voting rights to individuals and 35 of those made it through the legislative process to approval. This year only 2 legislators authored 2 bills and neither made it through the process.

Since 2004, 94 Mississippians have had their suffrage rights restored by the legislature. During Governor Phil Bryant’s administration (2012 till now), suffrage restoration has been fully an act of the legislature; passing without his signature (although while Bryant served as Lieutenant Governor, 21 suffrage rights measures passed.)

(Past posts on this issue from 2012, 2013 and 2015.)

Here is a chart tracking the number of bills filed, the number of legislators introducing the bills and the number of measures which made it through final approval.


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