Archive for March, 2009

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area

Friday, March 27th, 2009

The Mississippi Business Journal has this piece on the passage of the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area:

Congress voted to create the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, which includes Noxubee County and 29 other Northeast Mississippi counties.

The designation will authorize up to $10 million for historic preservation and cultural and heritage tourism efforts. The approved bill is being sent to the White House for the President Obama’s signature.

The Mississippi Hills project has been in development since 2004. The original proposal called for the heritage area’s southern boundary to end at U.S. 82, which would have excluded Noxubee County. However, extensive lobbying by the Noxubee Alliance convinced Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Mississippi Hills officials to include Noxubee County in the final proposal.

Capstone partner Brian Wilson assisted in this project on behalf of the Noxubee Alliance. Wilson said:

“I helped to create Mississippi’s first national heritage area on the Gulf Coast, so I was aware of the tremendous benefits that a heritage area could offer Noxubee. Job creation and residential growth are our highest priorities. They both start with quality of life. The national heritage area will be one more tool in our kit to promote Noxubee as a great place to live, work, and play.”

The Commerical Dispatch says that Senator Thad Cochran was instrumental in the measure’s passage and:

The designation will authorize up to $10 million for historic preservation and cultural and heritage tourism efforts. The approved bill is being transmitted to the White House for the president’s signature. The Mississippi Hills project has been in development since 2004.

RR: Democrat Drama

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

The Mississippi Democratic Party is fighting over whether Sam Hall is executive director or not; whether Ike Brown is on the Democratic State Executive Committee or not; whether a meeting conducted by Vice Chairman Barbara Blackmon is legitimate or not. But their in-fighting drama is nothing new. This week Reasonably Right looks at the latest controversy, but also goes back to two other executive director controversies: one of which contributed to the resignation of a state party chairman.  You can read the column online at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Democrat drama. I guess the real question is what will happen next month when the Democrats meet to sort out their past two meetings, and Chairman Jamie Franks and Vice Chairman Blackmon face off.

Barbour Response: Obama “spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much”

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour provided the RNC’s response to President Barack Obama’s Saturday radio address. He nails it. He says Obama’s budget “spends too much, taxes too much, borrows too much” and describes government spending like a baby, insatiable appetite at one end and total irresponsibility on the other end.

He brings a conservative governor’s perspective to massive federal spending saying, “In this budget season we have choices, while states are controlling spending and balancing their budgets, the Obama budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much. It’s not the right choice for America.”

The news of the day supports Barbour.

The Associated Press reports on new Congressional Budget Office projections of a $9.3 trillion deficit by 2019as a result of Obama’s staggering spending.

President Barack Obama’s budget would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade, more than four times the deficits of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency, congressional auditors said Friday.

The new Congressional Budget Office figures offered a far more dire outlook for Obama’s budget than the new administration predicted just last month, a deficit $2.3 trillion worse. It’s a prospect even the president’s own budget director called unsustainable.

In his White House run, Obama assailed the economic policies of his predecessor, but the eye-popping deficit numbers threaten to swamp his ambitious agenda of overhauling health care, exploring new energy sources and enacting scores of domestic programs.

The dismal deficit figures, if they prove accurate, raise the prospect that Obama and his Democratic allies controlling Congress would have to consider raising taxes after the recession ends or else pare back his agenda.

By the CBO’s calculation, Obama’s budget would generate deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year of red ink from 2010 to 2019.

Worst of all, the CBO says the deficit under Obama’s policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

Obama’s budget promises to cut the deficit to $533 billion in five years. The CBO says the red ink for that year will total $672 billion.

Most disturbing to Obama allies like Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., are the longer-term projections, which climb above $1 trillion again by the end of the next decade.

RR: Bennie’s ties to Stanford

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Several Mississippi federal candidates have received contributions from scandal plagued Allen Stanford, his PAC, Stanford Financial employees: both Republicans and Democrats. But of significant interest to me was Stanford’s Caribbean entertaining of congressional leaders, including Mississippi’s own Congressman Bennie Thompson. Here are some excerpts of this week’s Reasonably Right:

Until recently, the IAEC posted pictures of the 2005 conference in the Caribbean, which included pictures of Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, and one of Thompson and Allen Stanford together.

For the next three years, New York Carib News funded trips for Thompson to Panama (2006), Antigua and Barbuda (2007), and St. Maarten (2008). According to Washington DC’s The Hill newspaper, “The trip is closely associated with the [Congressional Black Caucus]; only CBC members are invited each year.

The Stanford Financial Group, as recently as 2008, was a supporting sponsor of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (giving between $15,000 and $30,000). The foundation sponsors trips including a 2003 trip to Puerto Rico for Thompson.

On the 2005 IAEC trip, Stanford hosted a reception for lawmakers on his yacht. He hosted another yacht reception for the 2007 trip that included an appearance by Bennie Thompson who “chatted” with Stanford “about a sailing event the billionaire sponsored.” Thompson’s chief-of-staff told the Politico newspaper he “was not sure whether Thompson flew on Stanford’s jet for the 2007 trip.”

The 2007 conference agenda scheduled Thompson to speak on “National Security: A Pre-Condition for Success” sponsored by the banking firm HSBC and “Port & Airport Security” sponsored by Macy’s.

The 2008 conference at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort & Casino on the island of St. Maarten occurred about a month after Congress approved the $700 billion financial bailout package. Citigroup (who would receive $45 billion from the bailout package) sponsored the event to the tune of $100,000. The National Legal and Policy Center has requested an investigation of the event by the special inspector general of the financial bailout package.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Bennie’s ties to Stanford

RR: Obama’s Federal Appointment Process in Mississippi

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Last week I attended a Federalist Society of Mississippi luncheon regarding the role of the minority party in federal judicial selection and confirmation. But I found most interesting the details Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Franks shared on the selection process of President Obama’s appointments. Here are some excerpts from this week’s Reasonably Right:

Obama, a Democrat, faces two Republican Senators in Mississippi. This impacts not only federal judges, but other federal appointments on the state level including U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Marshals, Executive Director of USDA Rural Development and Executive Director of USDA Farm Service Agency.Franks explained with no Democrat Senator to make these recommendations, the Obama administration delegated the state Democratic Party to lead the way.

Franks said he spoke with Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham on their method for choosing nominees (Alabama also has two Republican senators) and said he intended to use Alabama as a model. The Alabama Presidential Advisory Council consists of that state’s three Democratic congressmen, members of the State Democratic Executive Committee and Alabama’s DNC members. It announced all its recommendations in early January, even before Obama’s Inauguration.

In Mississippi, Franks explained a committee consisting of himself, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. Travis Childers, Rep. Gene Taylor, Attorney General Jim Hood, and Speaker of the House Billy McCoy made recommendations and submitted names for Mississippi’s presidential appointments. He said judicial nominations would occur in the same manner.

Franks said Republicans should remember that the Democrats won, and any federal judge nominees are not going to look like Northern District Court Judges Mike Mills or Sharion Aycock, but more like attorney Carlton Reeves. When asked if Reeves was just a random example, Franks only laughed. Earlier in the program, Franks had mentioned that an opening on the Southern District Court would likely be filled by a minority or woman from Jackson. Reeves happens to be black and from Jackson.

In November 2008, Thompson chief-of-staff Lanier Avant told The Clarion-Ledger the state’s three Democratic congressmen would be a “springboard” to suggest judicial nominees to Obama and last month he told The Sun-Herald that Thompson intended to give the president only one name as a recommendation for the Southern District U.S. Attorney.

Franks mentioned that after hearing various perspectives at the luncheon, he intends to consult with Mississippi’s Republican senators on judicial nominees, and that he would send a letter to Sens. Cochran and Wicker to get their input. 

You can read the full column online at the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Obama’s appointments

Tort Reform Promise Kept

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

An editorial appearing in The Greenwood Commonwealth and the McComb Enterprise-Journal says: “Tort reforms live up to promise”.

One issue that’s largely fallen off the radar screen, at least in Mississippi, is the cost and availability of medical malpractice insurance.

A half-dozen years ago, doctors were up in arms, leaving the state, retiring early or scaling back their practices because of the onslaught they were facing from trial lawyers. The only thing standing between them and insolvency was malpractice insurance, and its cost had soared — that’s if they could find an insurer.

Thanks to a couple of rounds of tort reform, the situation appears to be largely resolved.

Last week, the state’s largest provider of malpractice insurance announced it was cutting its rates by another 20 percent. It was the fourth consecutive annual rate reduction by Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi. Cumulatively, the premiums that health providers are paying for malpractice insurance are almost 60 percent less than they were shelling out during the peak of the crisis.

It should be remembered that when lawmakers were battling over putting sensible limits on civil damage awards and curbing venue shopping, the opponents — mostly friends of the trial bar — scoffed at the notion that the changes would impact insurance rates. They claimed that the rise in malpractice insurance premiums was a result of poor investment returns, not the legal climate.

The stock market has tanked in the past year, and yet malpractice premiums are falling significantly anyway. It goes to further show that the reformers were right, and the trial lawyers wrong.

During Governor Haley Barbour’s successful 2007 reelection campaign, he put a face on how tort reform and medical malpractice reform helped good doctors stay in Mississippi. Here it is in one Jackson doctor’s own words.

RR: Ike Brown violates Voting Rights Act

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Ike Brown is a political boss in Noxubee County who violated the Voting Rights Act, a ruling affirmed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The irony is, he is black and violated the voting rights of white Democrats. You can read the details in my column this week, but here are some excerpts that describe his activities.

The Fifth Circuit decision provides entertaining reading into the mechanics of a Mississippi political boss, including his control over precinct operations. At the West Macon precinct, the poll manager called Brown to tell him his ballots were being challenged and then announced, “Ain’t no ballots being challenged. I was instructed by Ike not to - can’t no ballots be challenged.”

At the Brooksville precinct, testimony showed that Brown “inspected the absentee ballots the night before the runoff and placed yellow post-it notes on select ballots that he wished to be rejected…The next day, Brown told the poll managers ‘I’ve already went through these absentee ballots and I put y’all’s stick-on stickers on the ballots that I want rejected and the rest of them is all right to count.” The ballots of white voters were rejected as deficient, while ballots of black voters meeting the same criteria were counted.

The Court noted Brown published a list of 174 white Democratic voters he intended to challenge if they attempted to vote in the Democratic Primary. And in 1995 Brown “urged voters to ‘Keep Hope Alive [and] Vote Black in ‘95′ in an open letter to Noxubee County voters.” As Chairman of the Noxubee Democratic Executive Committee, he “voiced the opinion that all of the county’s elected officials should be black” and accused whites of racism (without evidence) to drum up support of his candidates.

The Court concluded Brown and his fellow defendants engaged in a “pattern of episodic behavior intended to deny white voters equal participation in the political process.” After an initial ruling, Brown pledged to reform, but the Court discovered he was up to his old tricks. Brown told one federal observer, “I don’t care what the court says. I am still primarily responsible for running this election.”

You can read the full column online at the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Ike Brown’s racism.

You can read the ruling from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals here, courtesy of Y’all Politics.  Sid Salter discussed Ike Brown today in his column as well: 5th U.S. Circuit Court: Ike Brown violated white voters’ rights.

UPDATE: Here is a piece on this issue from National Review Online by Heritage Foundation visiting legal scholar Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice: A Leadership of Cowards? Why is Eric Holder embarrassed about enforcing civil rights in Noxubee County?

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