Archive for the ‘Great Reads’ Category


“America’s Great Storm” by Gov Haley Barbour - Book Tour

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Last month I wrote about Governor Haley Barbour’s upcoming book “America’s Great Storm: Leading Through Hurricane Katrina” and mention in this week’s column that he will be appearing on a panel during this Saturday’s Mississippi Book Festival. The full schedule for Governor Barbour’s upcoming Mississippi book tour has been released. Below is the press release verbatim.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:              August 19, 2015

GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR TO KICK OFF BOOK TOUR

Barbour’s new book, “America’s Great Storm,” details the first 12 months after the worst natural disaster in American history

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Today former Governor Haley Barbour announced his Mississippi tour schedule for his new book, America’s Great Storm: Leading through Hurricane Katrina.  The tour, which begins Aug. 22, will give Mississippians an opportunity to visit with Gov. Barbour during visits to several cities across the state.

“As we approach the ten-year anniversary of Katrina, I look forward to visiting with many of the same individuals who made the Mississippi Katrina story unique.  Our state was forever changed by America’s great storm, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to tell the Mississippi story to readers across the country.  I hope I do this wonderful story justice,” Governor Barbour said.

When Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi on August 29, 2005, it unleashed the costliest natural disaster in American history, and the third deadliest. Haley Barbour had been Mississippi’s governor for only twenty months when he assumed responsibility for guiding his pummeled, stricken state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts.

America’s Great Storm is not only a personal memoir of his role in that recovery, but also a sifting of the many lessons he learned about leadership in a time of massive crisis. Joined by co-author Jere Nash, Gov. Barbour’s memoir includes interviews with more than forty-five key people involved in helping Mississippi recover, including local, state, and federal officials as well as private citizens who played pivotal roles in the weeks and months following Katrina’s landfall. In addition to covering in detail the days in September and October of 2005, chapters focus on the special legislative session that allowed casinos to build on shore; the role of the recovery commission chaired by Jim Barksdale; a behind-the-scenes description of working with Congress to pass an unprecedented, multi-billion-dollar emergency disaster assistance appropriation; and the enormous roles played by volunteers in rebuilding the entire housing, transportation, and education infrastructure of south Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.

A final chapter analyzes the leadership lessons and strategies Barbour employed on behalf of the people of the state, observations that will be valuable to anyone tasked with leading in a crisis.

Gov. Barbour will participate in the inaugural Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, Aug. 22 at the State Capitol.  A full listing of the book tour is included below.

America’s Great Storm Book Tour

(including public events and press availability)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

2-3:30 p.m.               Mississippi Book Festival panel (State Capitol, Room 216)

6-8 p.m.                     Turnrow Books book signing (304 Howard Street, Greenwood, MS 38930)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2-4 p.m.                     Square Books book signing (160 Courthouse Square, Oxford, MS 38655)

Monday, August 24, 2015

11-12:30 p.m.           Reed’s Gumtree Bookstore book signing (111 S. Spring Street, Tupelo, MS 38804)

2:30-3:30 p.m.          Mississippi State University lecture and book signing (Mitchell Memorial Library – John Grisham Room, 395 Hardy Road, Mississippi State, MS 39762)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

1-2 p.m.                     Community Bank book signing (301 22nd Avenue South, Meridian, MS 39301)

4:30-6 p.m.               Lemuria Bookstore book signing (4465 North Hwy 55 #202, Jackson, MS 39206)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

12-1:30 p.m.             Mississippi Department of Archives & History’s “History is Lunch” lecture and book signing (Old Capitol, Jackson)

3:30-5 p.m.               Lauren Rogers Museum of Art book signing (565 N. 5th Avenue, Laurel, MS 39440)

6-7:30 p.m.               University of Southern Mississippi lecture and book signing (Trent Lott Center, 118 College Drive, Hattiesburg, MS 39406)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

9 a.m.                         Leadership Mississippi lecture and book signing (open only to class participants)

10:30-11:15 a.m.     Media Press Avail (Beau Rivage, Biloxi, MS).

12-2 p.m.                   Pass Christian Books book signing (300 East Scenic Drive, Pass Christian, MS 39571)

2:15-3:30 p.m.          Bay Books book signing (131 Main Street, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520)

Friday, August 28, 2015

8-9 a.m.                     Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council/University of Southern Mississippi joint event (USM’s Gulf Park Campus – Fleming Education Center & Auditorium, 730 E. Beach Blvd., Long Beach, MS 39560)

General inquiries about the book tour can be sent to americasgreatstorm@gmail.com.  Residents can also keep track of Gov. Barbour’s events by following @AmericasGr8Strm on twitter or liking “America’s Great Storm: Leading through Hurricane Katrina” on Facebook.  Individuals interested in purchasing the book online can do so by visiting the publisher’s website (www.upress.state.ms.us) or Amazon.com.

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About Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Governor 2004-2012

In the face of the worst natural disaster in American history – Hurricane Katrina, which struck on August 29, 2005 – Governor Barbour took the lead early on helping Mississippians rebuild and recover. He and First Lady Marsha Barbour worked tirelessly and innovatively with local, state and national leadership to tap into many resources of assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Gov. Barbour received national recognition from the bipartisan American Legislative Exchange Council for his swift response to the worst natural disaster in American history. For his efforts to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award. Other awards during his tenure as Governor included being named Governor of the Year by Governing Magazine, receiving the Gulf Guardian Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of his work to rebuild Gulf Coast ecosystems, and receiving the Adam Smith Award from BIPAC to honor his pursuit of the principles of free enterprise.


New Yorker tempts with open archives

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

I love the New Yorker like an addict loves his drug. But I had to go cold turkey. You should have seen me, back when I was subscriber, traveling to work and home, through airports, at the dentist office, in a canoe always with a stack of wrinkled magazines with pages folded over and scribbles in the margins. In the world of Twitter, the long style articles demanded time and with great elation I would finish a magazine and leave it for someone else to pick up and enjoy. (The first time is free.)

But then life and work happened and I’d get behind. It would take me two weeks to get through an issue, then three weeks, meanwhile they kept coming. Every week a new issue. My stack was growing. The burden of it all; my arms grew weary carrying them. I was taking other important items (like my computer) out of my briefcase to hold them all. I couldn’t just throw them away because they are too good. I might miss one of those fantastic articles, the kind that only appeared, well, in every single issue.

I didn’t renew my subscription. Eventually, I read and disposed of each one.

Now this.

The New Yorker has put their archives online for free. Fortunately for me, only for a few months before it goes behind a paywall. Slate had a piece on 30 stories you must read before the pay wall goes up.

I dare not reenter the world of addiction and begin picking my own must read stories; but, there were two that came to mind I thought I’d share.

The Giveaway: Who was the mysterious man donating all the valuable art (August 26, 2013)

A fascinating story about an artist from Laurel who donated fine art all across the country with one problem, the art was all fraudulent. Fraudulent in the sense that they were not by the artists he claimed them to be, but rather, his own created work. But he didn’t sell them; he didn’t take tax write-offs for the gifts. In short, he didn’t break the law; he just fooled a lot of museums. One man discovered it and even put on an exhibit of many of the pieces titled “Faux Real.”

The Bribe: How the Mississippi lawyer who brought down Big Tobacco overstepped (May 19, 2008)

This piece digs into the roots of Dickie Scruggs and recounts in detail the timeline of events leading to his downfall. There have been many books written on the subject, but for those who missed this a few years ago, it’s a good read.

For some shorter reads you might take a look at

The Faulkner Files which includes an excerpt of his letter-to-the-editor to the people of Oxford considering a ban on beer;

A Murder in Deep Summer about Eudora Welty, her writing and civil rights;

Visiting Preacher Killen in which Jeffrey Goldberg recounts his run-in with the man who orchestrated the killing of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia;

An interview with Mississippi’s most recent Pulitzer Prize winning poet: The Exchange: Natasha Trethewey;

And you can take a trip to Greenville in this piece: Tamales on the Delta.

You’ve got a couple of months to pour through the archives of the New Yorker. But be careful, it is habit forming. Read at your own risk.


If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Confederate General Robert E. Lee did not win the Battle of Gettysburg. But in what Shelby Foote called the only “What if?” story he ever admired, Winston Chuchill wrote an essay from the historic vantage point of a victorious Lee and what it could have meant, had he not won.

On this 150th anniversary of Pickett’s charge, I re-read Churchill’s “If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg”.  An excerpt for the occasion:

It always amuses historians and philosophers to pick out the tiny things, the sharp agate points, on which the ponderous balance of destiny turns; and certainly the details of the famous Confederate victory of Gettysburg furnish a fertile theme. There can be at this date no conceivable doubt that Pickett’s charge would have been defeated in Stuart with his encircling cavalry had not arrived in the rear of the Union position at the supreme moment. Stuart might have been arrested in his decisive swoop if any one of twenty commonplace incidents had occurred. If, for instance, General Meade had organized his lines of communication with posts for defence against raids, or if he had used his cavalry to scout upon his flanks, he would have received a timely warning. If General Warren had only thought of sending a battalion to hold Little Round Top the rapid advance of the masses of Confederate cavalry must have been detected. If only President Davis’s letter to General Lee, captured by Captain Dahlgren, revealing the Confederacy plans had reached Meade a few hours earlier, he might have escaped Lee’s clutches.

Anything, we repeat, might have prevented Lee’s magnificent combinations from synchronizing and, if so, Pickett’s repulse was sure. Gettysburg would have been a great Northern victory. It might have well been a final victory. Lee might, indeed, have made a successful retreat from the field. The Confederacy, with its skilful generals and fierce armies, might have survived for another year, or even two, but once defeated decisively at Gettysburg, its doom was inevitable. The fall of Vicksburg, which happened only two days after Lee’s immortal triumph, would in itself by opening the Mississippi to river fleets of the Union, have cut the Secessionist States almost in half. Without wishing to dogmatize, we feel we are on solid ground in saying that the Southern States could not have survived the loss of a great battle in Pennsylvania and the almost simultaneous bursting open of the Mississippi.

In Churchill’s alternative history, within three days of his victory at Gettysburg, Lee captured Washington, D.C. (Lincoln flees with the Union government to New York).  Now a Southern hero putting Jefferson Davis and the civil government in his shadow, Lee abolishes slavery in the Confederacy and within a month, no longer impeded by the immorality of slavery, the British Empire signs an alliance with the Confederacy. The British provided the naval advantage lacked by the Southern States to break blockades, reestablish trade, and isolate Union forces in Southern territory (like New Orleans). The United States and Confederate States signed The Treaty of Harpers Ferry on September 6, 1863 with “two fundamental propositions: that the South was independent, and the slaves were free.”

In the coming decades, the South had through military incursions annexed and reorganized much of Mexico. The North, in fear of the Southern military, invested in their armed forces to protect themselves from those south of the Harpers Ferry Treaty line. Two American nations grew in innovation, commerce, wealth and military strength.

In 1905, it appeared Britain and her Southern ally would be pulled into the Russo-Japanese War on the side of Japan while the United States lined up with Russia. Eventually, Prime Minister Balfour, U.S. President Roosevelt and and C.S.A. President Wilson signed the Covenant of the English Speaking Association.

The ESA stepped in to force peace when Europe faced a collision of alliances in 1914, preventing what could have been a world wide war and the lack of stability in the ruling status of many nations.

Who knows what could have happened? There may have been a great European war, leading to a continent in economic ruin, communist upheaval in Russia, fascists coming to power in Germany, more war from an unsettled peace, all if Lee had not won the Battle of Gettysburg.

Churchill’s essay is worth the read. My copy is an epilogue in Churchill’s “The Great Republic: A History of America” - another great read as we approach Independence Day on July 4.


“Vampire Defense” fun legal read in Jackson, Miss

Monday, March 18th, 2013

If you’re from Jackson, Mississippi and enjoy legal thrillers you should pick up “The Vampire Defense” by attorney James D. Bell (or download it like I did).

The fast paced story would interest readers anywhere, but Bell really brings to life his postage stamp piece of the world setting the novel at familiar haunts around Jackson including Belhaven, the Hinds County Courthouse, Mayes Lake, the Ross Barnett Reservoir and even up in Old Town Ridgeland.

From the books’ description:

Even Vampire Slayers Need a Good Lawyer!

John Brooks is a brilliant young lawyer working hard, but not getting much notice. Those who know him admire his work ethic and his intellect. His friends believe he needs one big case to show off his talents. Defending Hal Boyd, known as the Butcher of Belhaven, on arson and four murder charges, looks like that big case as the world media, hungry to fill 24 hours a day of nonstop news coverage, converges on Jackson, Mississippi.

Soon the Boyd case looks like a career ender when Brooks announces his defense: “Not guilty by reason of insanity. My client was so insane that he believed that the person he intended to kill, was a vampire.” The world media ridicules the “Vampire Defense,” and Brooks and his defense team become the laughing stock of the legal profession. Ridicule becomes the least of Brooks’ problems when he discovers that a satanic cult is intent on exacting murderous revenge against Boyd and his defense team. Kidnapping and multiple murders occur at a dizzy pace as the action careens from the city to the swamp to the courtroom.

Romance coupled with comic relief allows you to occasionally catch your breath until even that is stolen by a double climax with a verdict that shocks the world, followed immediately by a dramatic final battle between good and evil.

While some of the dialogue comes off as too much exposition which might have been better reserved for use in the narrative, the story is enjoyable without need for literary criticism. I may not have appreciated the book quite as much had the “Butcher of Belhaven” not been arrested just blocks from my house or I had not explored the islands on the Reservoir and canoed the Pearl River or visited camps at Mayes Lakes; but, I think those with similar experiences will get the same kick out of the story as I did.  The trial episodes between the hero lawyer and the politically ambitious district attorney were particularly blood pumping.  And the satanic cult known as “The Kroth” (borrowed from the name of the group involving Luke Woodham, the Pearl Highschool shooter) provides a sinister foil and also comic relief. Plus, there is a sub-plot featuring a homebrewer who hits it big with a long lost, haunted recipe.

The book is a quick, fun read for Belhavenites, Jackson lawyers or vampire haters everywhere. He also sets up what one would expect will be a sequel for the hero lawyer involving Jesse James and Maximilian’s Treasure.


Feinberg book: Hood ‘trial lawyers’ favorite’ - Barbour ‘profile in courage’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

As settlement master for Agent Orange and asbestos litigation, to arbitrator on the Zapruder Film and Holocaust litigation, to serving as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and TARP Executive Compensation, Kenneth Feinberg has a long a history of determining “Who Gets What” - the title of his new book.

The final chapter of his book looks at the “Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico” in which he played the role of government appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.

He offers a few words on some Mississippi elected officials, particularly Attorney General Jim Hood, then Governor Haley Barbour and U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran.

In Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood, in a tight race for reelection, and a favorite of the trial lawyers suing BP, was a consistent, ongoing critic (and remains so to this day). No effort by the GCCF [Gulf Coast Claims Facility] to address his daily criticisms had any impact. He was determined to politicize the entire debate. Hood had no Gulf Coast equal when it came to attacking both the GCCF and me personally. At one time he stated, “[...]Given the number of complaints lodged against the GCCF by Mississippi claimants, I am compelled to conduct an investigation.”

Hood then went one step further. He held his own town hall meetings and offered to assist any Mississippi claimants who formally authorized him to review their individual GCCF files. Hood received 155 authorizations, and he demanded complete access to all of them. The GCCF complied.

We never heard another word from him about any of these 155 claims.

But more than any other politician, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour gets my vote as a profile in courage. Testifying before a House Congressional Committee assessing the Gulf recovery efforts post-oil spill, Barbour was asked what he thought of the GCCF and its ongoing effort to compensate claimants. Expecting a broadside attack directed at the GCCF and a gratuitous swipe at the Obama administration, committee members must have been surprised by the governor’s answer:

“I’m a recovering lawyer, OK? Do I know that a judge has ruled that the Gulf Coast compensation facility, whatever it’s called, that that is not truly independent of BP, and that may legally, technically be right. I think they are trying to do a good job. We don’t get many complaints in Mississippi. They’re doing something that’s complicated, and I will say this about it. It is sure better than having to litigate all this, where people wouldn’t get their money for years and years and years, and the trial lawyers would get half the money. So it is a long way from perfect, just like what I do is a long way from perfect. But I think it is better than the alternative of litigation. And as I say, we have cases that are difficult cases where people are not satisfied. But we really don’t get many complaints, and we’ve been paid-Mississippi companies, people have been paid about 340 [million dollars], $350 million.”

This was a rare and gratifying public admission that the GCCF was doing a difficult job well.

I was also amused by, and grateful for, a joint letter that Senators Vitter, Cochran, and Wicker sent to President Obama and released to the press early in 2011. Despite all the criticism I was receiving in the Gulf, they were concerned that I would resign as GCCF administrator….Their letter implicitly acknowledged that much of the criticism already directed at me was unjustified; in any event, they wanted to make sure I stayed the course.


New Book on Obama Dept of Justice Praises “Macon Beacon”

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

“Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of The Obama Justice Department” by J. Christian Adams is the subject of my column publishing tomorrow in the Madison County Journal.  More on that tomorrow, but, one item that didn’t make it in the column but deserves attention is the praise of Adams for the work of Mississippi newspapers in covering Ike Brown’s shenanigans in Noxubee County - particularly the Macon Beacon.

Adams writes:

Curiously, as the systematic and prolonged violation of voting rights in Noxubee became indisputably clear; the mainstream media lost interest in the story. Only reporters from three Mississippi papers, the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Macon Beacon, and Columbus Commercial Dispatch, attended the new hearings and reported on Brown’s most recent behavior.

And yet, in the end, the Ike Brown lawsuit was testimony to the power of a free press. Our paralegal Joann Sazama first discovered much of the evidence against Brown in the local Noxubee County weekly, the Macon Beacon. Published by Scott Boyd, the Beacon had been fearlessly and relentlessly covering Brown’s antics for years. While the national media was primarily interested in questioning the Bush administration’s decision to bring the case in the first place, the Beacon diligently memorialized crucial political events and reported the straight facts.


1967 Klan Bombing in Belhaven

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

In politics you don’t get much idle reading time, but the past few nights before going to bed I’ve been reading “Terror in the Night: The Klan’s Campaign Against the Jews” (1993) by Jack Nelson, a Pulitzer winning journalist for The Los Angeles Times. The book follows the efforts of the FBI and Mississippi law enforcement in finding and stopping - by any means necessary - a Klan cell directed by Sam Bowers engaged in bombing a Jackson and a Meridian synagogue, as well as the home of a Jackson rabbi (among other dastardly deeds). I picked it up at the recommendation of my friend Jeff Perkins.

If you read about the fight against racial terrorism in the Mississippi 1960s, you begin to get familiar with certain areas: Laurel, McComb, Philadelphia, Meridian; but I had not before read about the bombing in my own neighborhood…just a few blocks down the street at a house I’ve driven by hundreds of times.

From the book:

A layman engaged in religious work with poor people in Jackson, Robert Kochtitzky was active in civil rights. He had worked with Nussbaum and Reverend Johnson on the Committee of Concern. He had urged his minister, Reverend Warren Hamby of the Galloway Memorial Methodist Church, to speak out against racial violence. And he had been credited in news accounts with originating the idea of the “walk of penance” after the Temple Beth Israel bombing. His wife, Kay, worked with Ken Dean at the Council on Human Relations. The Kochtitzkys had occasionally had blacks as houseguests. There had also been a report, unfounded but widely disseminated in a White Citizens Council publication, that the Kochtitzky house on Poplar Street had been the site of a meeting between Stokely Carmichael, the civil rights leader, and Robert Kennedy when Kennedy was attorney general of the United States.

In hindsight, Kochtitzky also concluded that because of his name the Klan may have concluded, mistakenly, that he was Jewish.

On the night of November 19, Kochtitzky and Reverend John Adams, a Methodist minister from Washington who was staying with him, returned home after a meeting and sat in the living room talking until about 11:00 P.M. Mrs. Kochtitzky and her six-month-old son were also in the house.

Minutes after the two men went to bed, a powerful bomb exploded on the front porch of the two-story house. It tore away the porch, ripped through the front wall, shredded the couch on which they had been sitting. The blast shattered windows in the baby’s room, showering his crib with shards of glass; miraculously, the child was unhurt, as were the three adults.

The bombing at 1704 Poplar Boulevard was on November 19, 1967.

On November 20, The Clarion Ledger reported, “Bombing Here Puzzle To Enforcement Men.” [I have corrected some of the typos from the newspaper.]

The latest victim is Robert B. Kochtitzky, whose two-story frame house on a tree-shaded Jackson street was heavily damaged by a dynamite blast late Saturday night…. Kochtitzky said Sunday he had received “no threats, no letters, no phone calls” to alert him that an attack might be planned, but had noticed some suspicious men sitting across the street in a car several times during the summer. Kochtitzky, in an interview, attributed the bombing to “the attitude my wife and I have on race - our attitude toward Negroes as human beings is basically the issue.” His wife, the former Kay Hagerty, is a former reporter for the Jackson Daily News. He said, however, that he had not been active in civil rights work, although he did take part in interracial religious affairs. “At the time of all the (civil rights) activity a few years ago I was either chicken or decided it was discreet not to be involved,” he said. He has lived in Jackson since 1940….Sunday, Kochtitzky found a sign that said, “Keep The Faith, Baby.” The Rev. Mr. Adams posted it over a board covering part of the damage.

As the Kochtitzky family picked through the damage that Sunday morning, their pastor, the Rev. Warren C. Hamby, senior minister of Galloway Memorial Methodist Church visited with them. Later that day he addressed the situation from the pulpit and the message was printed in the Clarion Ledger on Tuesday, “Minister Calls For Justice in Bombing.” Here is the message:

In the early hours of this morning I stood at the corner of St. Mary Street and Poplar Boulevard in this city in front of the residence of Bob and Kay Kochtitzky and their infant son, John, horrified and incensed as I viewed the destruction of this dwelling and the apparent danger to their lives wrought by the explosion of a large bomb planted there earlier in the night.

I was approached by a news reporter from a local television station, who learning who I was and sensing my agitation by what had happened, invited me to make a statement. I declined on the judgment that an unprepared statement in the white heat of emotion would not likely serve any constructive end.

I should now like to make my statement. I do not propose to speak for anyone else on the staff of this church, I do not propose to speak for the Official Board, I do not propose to speak for the congregation. I speak for Warren Hamby. I speak with an awareness of the hypocrisy of thinking that to issue a statement is the adequate discharge of responsibility. I speak from the pulpit that has been entrusted to me with the sacred obligation of maintaining its integrity in the proclamation of the Christian gospel. I speak with the full awareness that many of you will perhaps be disturbed that I elect to do so. I speak because of the greater disturbance of my own conscience should I fail to do so. I speak in the hope that so speaking I will contribute to some constructive action on the part of this congregation, its official leadership and its professional staff. Action that will redeem such a statement from the hypocrisy of assuming that in so speaking we have fulfilled our responsibilities. I offer this statement in an awareness of the truth once spoken by the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, when he said: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

The news reporter asked me, what Mr. Kochtitzky done to prompt this kind of violence? It was a fair question, but at the time I declined to answer. I now attempt to answer. What had he done? He had kept the integrity of Christian witness as a sensitive Christian in a society not yet willing to such a witness. He had taken seriously the convictions that were imparted to him by the teachings of the church school and the witness of the pulpit of this church. He had dared go beyond the respectable acquiescence of the polite forms of Christianity that so often characterize the poor witness of most of us.

The truth of this is so profound that it turns the question around so that it becomes, not what has he done, but what have we done to prompt this kind of violence? The act was perpetrated by paranoiac cowards who would by their dastardly deeds of violence keep alive the fear that has spawned their breed and offered them not only silence and sanctuary for their deeds but a mandate to continue them under the illusion of public approbation.

Let us not, however, draw a small circle of guilt, for we are all indicted. The so called decent and responsible people of our city, state and section are the Sauls at whose feet lie the clothes of the whole affair (along with numerous repetitions of it in recent weeks.) Upon our consciences the whole matter must rest. Justice Brandeis once said: “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.”

Who is to blame? Every pulpit where justice and mercy and goodwill have not been enough proclaimed; every alleged Christian who has thought more of his or her prejudices than of seeking the will of God and the spirit of Jesus Christ in attitude and behavior; every newspaper that has defended indefensible positions and voiced its own prejudices; the responsible elected officials of city and state who have been more concerned with expediency than integrity- here, my friends, is the accumulated and collective guilt that is ours.

I have said this poorly and inadequately. I have no desire to be dramatic or controversial. I wish only to defy the cowards who will otherwise rule us by the fear of a return to barbarism. I wish only to vicariously and publicly identify with the principle which they would destroy.

To Bob and Kay Kochtitzky (and the many others who in recent weeks have been victims of similar acts - among them a Jewish rabbi and his congregation in this city, and a Methodist minister and his family in the city of Laurel) I offer my personal support and prayers. I offer thanks to God that no personal physical injury has been the result of any of these acts. I call upon the people of this congregation, the citizens of this city and state to rise up in determined resolution that the perpetrators of these crimes be sought out and brought to justice. I do so ‘in meekness and fear’ but with all the responsibility of my office.”

That message was printed in Tuesday’s paper. Tuesday night the bombers struck again, destroying much of Dr. Perry Nussbaum’s home at 3410 Old Canton Road. And the violence by that Klan cell continued.

I thought it appropriate that I finished this book Sunday night, the same night we learned of the death of Osama Bin Laden. I recalled the words of Governor Haley Barbour when he spoke at the 40th anniversary commemoration of the civil rights murders in Neshoba County on June 20, 2004.

Barbour compared the sacrifice of our soldiers fighting terrorism overseas to the sacrifice made by the slain civil rights workers in Philadelphia; and he compared the “extreme hateful intolerance” during those days of segregation to “today’s evil of fanatical Islamic terrorism.”

He said:

History taught us that sin and evil must be recognized, confronted and confessed before redemption can be achieved. We know that when evil is done it is a complicit sin to ignore it, to pretend it didn’t happen even if it happened 40 years ago. You have to face up to your problems before you can solve them.

We must stand for the proposition that intolerance is intolerable. We must not limit ourselves to opposing murder or terrorism or other obvious evil. Let’s commit ourselves today to rooting out the small intolerances too. Especially those in our own mind, words and deeds. When we disagree, let it be agreeably. Let us learn to tolerate opposing views even if we work to uphold in our own lives the values and standards we claim to cherish. For those of us that are Christians, let us try to obey Jesus’ commandment that we should love our neighbors even as he loved us. If we do that evil will find this a very poor place to take root and to do its damage.

The lessons from the civil rights struggle in Mississippi can teach us not only about our past - sometimes in our own neighborhood - but also perspective on the current fight against terrorists and murderers around the world. I recommend the book and without spoiling the ending, I’ll share that in the midst of shootings and bombings, there are many stories of redemption including one you might not expect.


Noonan on Obama’s Oil Leadership: “He Was Supposed to Be Competent”

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

While watching response failures to the oil crisis in the Gulf, I’m not someone who immediately sought to criticize President Barack Obama. That is until at his May 27 press conference when he essentially claimed those failures as his own:

“The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort….BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance….The federal government is also directing the effort to contain and clean up the damage from the spill….my job is to get this fixed….I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down.”

So, I share this great column by Peggy Noonan from the Wall Street Journal: He Was Supposed to Be Competent.


Brookhaven voter fraud victim excited about photo voter-ID

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Last year I wrote about Jennifer Jackson and her dismay to discover that one election day, someone had stolen her vote and also had voted for her deceased father. The Brookhaven Daily Leader has a great article about Jackson and her excitement about being able to vote in favor of photo voter-ID: Daily Leader / Victim of voter fraud hoping for ID ballot passage


RR: Three books on Dixie Mafia

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I recently read three books on the Dixie Mafia: “Dream Room: Tales of the Dixie Mafia” by Gulf Coast attorney Chet Nicholson; “Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia” by Edward Humes; and “The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue” by Buford Pusser biographer W.R. Morris.

These three books will take you from the Tennessee line to Mississippi Gulf Coast with trips through Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Angola Prison in Louisiana. From prostitution to illegal gambling to various scams and murder, a seedy cast of characters make for an entertaining read - sometimes painful when you remember that these are true stories. You can read my recap of the three books in the Madison County Journal: Perry / Three books reveal Dixie Mafia


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