Archive for the ‘Great Reads’ Category


RR: “Kings of Tort” documents fall of Scruggs, Minor

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The forthcoming book “Kings of Tort” by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson is a “must-read” for anyone interested in Mississippi legal and judicial politics.  Here is an excerpt from my column this week, but to get the meat you have to read the full thing at the Madison County Journal: Perry / ‘Kings of Tort’ document downfall

And to get the real meat, you have to read the book.

“I’ll take care of it.” Those five words from Dickie Scruggs sealed his fate, and begin chapter one of “Kings of Tort: The true story of Dickie Scruggs, Paul Minor, and two decades of political and legal manipulation in Mississippi.” Captivated, I read it in two sittings.

This book by Jackson businessman and Y’all Politics publisher Alan Lange, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Dawson, starts with all the nervous intrigue, betrayal, and corruption of a John Grisham thriller.

Another book about the downfall of tort titan Dickie Scruggs is forthcoming from acclaimed retired journalist Curtis Wilkie, Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi. “Fall of the House of Zeus” benefits from interviews with Dickie and Zach Scruggs denied to Dawson and Lange. Wilkie acknowledges a friendship with Scruggs.

Lange and Dawson will be launching a book tour on December 2 at the Pinnacle Building in downtown Jackson from 5:30pm to 8:30pm, sponsored by Lemuria Books. They will address the Stennis-Capitol Press Corps noon luncheon on December 7 at the University Club, also in downtown Jackson. More information about the book, and all the documents cited in the book, can be viewed online at KingsOfTort.com.


RR: Grisham’s newest thriller

Friday, November 20th, 2009

John Grisham’s latest book, “Ford County” features seven short stories and is dedicated to Representative Bobby Moak, a Democrat from Lincoln County, Mississippi. I make a few comments on the books (including a quick teaser on each story) and discuss a fundraiser Grisham hosted for Moak and what that possibly means for his future in the legislature. You can read the column online at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Grisham’s latest thriller


Tort reform needed in health care reform debate

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Lex Taylor, Chairman of Mississippians for Economic Progress, has authored a piece on the necessity of tort reform as a component of health care reform.  Here are some excerpts:

Don’t take my word for it. Democrat Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus wrote in a health care reform paper, “Careful reforms of medical malpractice laws can lower administrative costs and health spending….A serious effort at comprehensive health care reform, then, should address medical malpractice.” Baucus argues tort reform would lead “to improved patient safety” and move physicians “away from the costly practice of defensive medicine and toward the best quality care.”

Before our reforms, Mississippi witnessed a decrease in available medical care because malpractice insurance rates discouraged new entrants to the medical field, encouraged seasoned physicians to seek early retirement, and made specialty practices (like OBGYNs) cost prohibitive. Following the passage of the Mississippi Tort Reform Acts of 2002 and 2004, the frequency of medical liability litigation diminished and Mississippi’s largest medical liability carrier reduced premium rates and issued premium refunds in the double digits annually. Mississippi, like other states that limited noneconomic damages, witnessed insurance premiums plummet and doctor shortages dissipate.

Physician shortage is a real threat to America’s health care. The Association of American Medical College predicts a doctor shortage of 124,400 by 2025. If you believe there are 46 million Americans currently unable to receive medical care that will enter the health care marketplace with President Obama’s reforms, then you can agree we will need more physicians or we will all face severe shortages. Medical malpractice reform opens the door to more doctors. Without tort reform, we’re sure to see patient lines getting longer.

Civil litigation reform can improve the climate of health care practice in America as it did Mississippi. Doctors practice less defensive medicine thus lowering overall industry costs. Patients and doctors have improved patient relationships. Lawsuit abuse no longer pushes doctors into early retirement removing valuable experience and expertise from the medical field. More doctors mean greater choice, opportunity and patient access.

A fair health care reform bill should consider federal limits on non-economic and punitive damages, limits on lawyers’ fees, elimination of joint liability to ensure only those at fault pay, shorter statutes of limitation, mandatory pre-litigation filings, and “safe harbors” for doctors in compliance with the same protocols required in government backed coverage.

We cannot sue our way toward lower health care costs. Tort reform will lower health care costs, reduce waste, enhance the quality of care, encourage new doctors to address patient access, and increase choice and competition. Health care reform without tort reform is no reform at all.

You can read the full column online at the Madison County Journal: Taylor / Tort reform critical to health reform


Katrina Rewind: Mississippi Power’s 12 Days to Success

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina, USA Today published this feature on Mississippi Power’s efforts to restore electricity on the Coast.  At the time I was working for Congressman Chip Pickering and he made this article required reading for his staff.  Here is an excerpt:

Melvin Wilson, 46, a marketing manager for Mississippi Power, was reviewing next year’s advertising campaign when Hurricane Katrina turned toward Mississippi.
 
A day later, the marketing man was “director of storm logistics,” responsible for feeding and housing 11,000 repairmen from 24 states and Canada.

He needed nurses, beds, meals, tetanus shots, laundry service, showers, toilets and much more — and he needed them now. And he needed double the quantities called for in the company’s “worst-case scenario.” And he needed them in places that had no electricity, no plumbing, no phones, few road signs and sporadic looting.

The fact that Wilson didn’t have a working phone was his tough luck: If he failed, men would go hungry, hospitals would stay dark and the suffering of his community would endure. “My day job did not prepare me for this,” says Wilson, his voice choked with emotion, recalling the burden of having 11,000 mouths to feed.

Let it be told: Wilson got the job done. So did his colleagues. And how they restored power in just 12 days is one of the great modern crisis-management stories.

Read the full article at USA Today online: The little company that could.  I didn’t even include the best parts.

The feature listed four key elements of the company’s success, all of which show why this private company was able to achieve their goals ahead of schedule, while the government was struggling to organize a school bus convoy out of New Orleans.

1) A can-do corporate culture.

2) Clear lines of responsibility.

3) Decentralized decision-making.

4) Company procedures were less important than the ability to improvise.

The article also listed six lessons learned.

Lesson 1: Think ahead — A good forecast pays off

Lesson 2: Be prepared — Back up your backup plans

Lesson 3: Teamwork — How to get help when you need it

Lesson 4: Be clever — Seek breakthrough solutions

Lesson 5: Set high goals — Hard work and pride pay off

Lesson 6: Measure results

There are hundreds of great stories from Mississippi’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and this is one of my favorites.


How the Mississippi Delta swamped John Law’s economic theory and contributed to the French Revolution

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Long blog post title, but that is the gist of this piece at Economist.com: “Law of easy money - A 300-year-old example of quantitative easing.”

Basically, John Law, economic advisor to French King Louis XV, created a paper based money plan not backed by gold and silver as an economic stimulus package for France based on investing in the development of French colonies including the Mississippi Delta.

Here is an excerpt:

The money raised from these share issues was used to repay the government’s debts; on occasion, Law’s bank lent investors the money to buy shares….The problem was that the delta was a mosquito-infested swamp….So a vicious circle was created, in which a growing money supply was needed to bolster the share price of the Mississippi company and a rising share price was needed to maintain confidence in the system of paper money. You can see parallels with recent times, in which money was lent on the back of rising asset prices, and higher prices gave banks the confidence to lend more money.

When the scheme faltered Law resorted to a number of rescue packages, many of which have their echoes 300 years later. One was for the bank to guarantee to buy shares in the Mississippi company at a set price (think of the various government asset-purchase schemes today). Then the company took over the bank (a rescue along the lines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). Finally there were restrictions on the amount of gold and silver that could be owned (something America tried in the 1930s).

All these rules failed and the scheme collapsed. Law was exiled and died in poverty. The French state’s finances stayed weak, helping trigger the 1789 revolution….Of course, the parallels with today are not exact….But one lesson from Law’s sorry tale endures: attempts to maintain asset prices above their fundamental value are eventually doomed to failure.

You can read the full article online at the Economist: Law of easy money - A 300-year-old example of quantitative easing


The Economist: The United States of Entrepreneurs

Monday, May 25th, 2009

This is a great read from the March 12 issue of the Economist.

For all its current economic woes, America remains a beacon of entrepreneurialism. Between 1996 and 2004 it created an average of 550,000 small businesses every month.

America was the first country, in the late 1970s, to ditch managerial capitalism for the entrepreneurial variety. After the second world war J.K. Galbraith was still convinced that the modern corporation had replaced “the entrepreneur as the directing force of the enterprise with management”. Big business and big labour worked with big government to deliver predictable economic growth. But as that growth turned into stagflation, an army of innovators, particularly in the computer and finance industries, exposed the shortcomings of the old industrial corporation and launched a wave of entrepreneurship.

America has found the transition to a more entrepreneurial economy easier than its competitors because entrepreneurialism is so deeply rooted in its history. It was founded and then settled by innovators and risk-takers who were willing to sacrifice old certainties for new opportunities.

American companies have an unusual freedom to hire and fire workers, and American citizens have an unusual belief that, for all their recent travails, their fate still lies in their own hands. They are comfortable with the risk-taking that is at the heart of entrepreneurialism.

The article lists four American economic advantages: a mature venture-capital industry, a close relationship between universities and industry, a historically open immigration policy, and “venturesome consumers.

Americans are unusually willing to try new products of all sorts, even if it means teaching themselves new skills and eating into their savings; they are also unusually willing to pester manufacturers to improve their products. Apple sold half a million iPhones in its first weekend.

The Economist suggests several items that threaten America’s “entrepreneurial ecology”: “patent trolls” and a burdensome legal system, a complicated tax system, and a rising xenophobia “making the coutnry less open to immigrants.” It contrasts these threats with what has already happened with “Old Europe.”

Europeans have less to gain from taking business risks, thanks to higher tax rates, and more to lose, thanks to more punitive attitudes to bankruptcy (German law, for example, prevents anyone who has ever been bankrupt from becoming a CEO). When Denis Payre was thinking about leaving a safe job in Oracle to start a company in the late 1980s, his French friends gave him ten reasons to stay put whereas his American friends gave him ten reasons to get on his bike. In January last year Mr Payre’s start-up, Business Objects, was sold to Germany’s SAP for €4.8 billion.

European egalitarianism, too, militates against entrepreneurialism….The Europeans’ appetite for time off does not help….Europeans are also much more suspicious of business…entrepreneurs have to grapple with a patchwork of legal codes and an expensive and time-consuming patent system. In many countries the tax system and the labour laws discourage companies from growing above a certain size. A depressing number of European universities remain suspicious of industry, subsisting on declining state subsidies but still unwilling to embrace the private sector. The European venture-capital industry, too, is less developed than the American one.

The article goes on to discuss how Europe is changing toward an entrepreneurial mind-set and to briefly address “Slowcoach Japan.” You can read the full article at the Economist online: A special report on entrepreneurship: The United States of Entrepreneurs


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