Archive

Archive for April, 2011

Bigfoot, Trump never in the same place

April 29th, 2011 Comments off

No one loves a good folklore or conspiracy story like me.
I mean, my favorite headline of all time was in one of the grocery store tabloids.
“Bigfoot was my love slave.”
It’s not every day you see that.
So there is Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman or the Yeti Monster and many many more. The stories are fun, but we know, really, that they are not true.
Even conspiracy theories can be interesting. In my family, it’s told that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for a company that one of my great, great uncles founded. The story is that Oswald took a leave of absence from Reily Coffee Company to make a covert trip to Cuba just months before the assassination of President John Kennedy.
It is true Oswald had some sort of job at Reily Coffee Company in New Orleans, but who knows if the rest is true.
So, when the whole story with Barack Obama and his birth certificate came up forever ago, there was no urgency in my mind. There’s always someone coming up with some crazy story and some conspiracy theory.
But as the next two-and-a-half years have played out, it has become amazing there are so many people who really seem to believe the president, despite presenting a legal birth certificate during the election, believe — even now — that he was not born in the United States
Until this week, Hawaii officials said they wouldn’t release original birth records for anyone, under any circumstances. Even if it was President Barack Obama.
But with all the of the craziness surrounding the “birther movement” and supposed intelligent people going off the deep end to question the President’s legitimacy, state officials then decided to make an exception to a 2001 policy that prohibited anyone from getting a photocopy of an original birth certificate. They usually hand out computer-generated versions.
So, there it is. The original birth certificate of President Obama.
Donald Trump can quit yapping and the birthers can shut the hell up.
But, we know that won’t happen.
I mean it was just a couple of years ago that a new video popped up claiming to prove that the Loch Ness Monster really existed.
If that and the stories of aliens and Area 51 are still spawning History Channel and Discovery Channel events, the birth certificate saga could go on forever.
Hey, do you think Donald Trump really has a lock of hair from Big Foot on his head? Maybe he was Big Foot’s love slave?

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

Obama releases birth certificate; birthers can shut up

April 27th, 2011 Comments off

I guess now with news that the White House has released the long form of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Donald Trump won’t be running for president.

His festering questions about whether Obama was born in the U.S. seemed to be his only talking point.

The certificate, released Wednesday, says Obama was born in Hawaii, which makes him eligible to hold the office of president. Obama had earlier released a standard short form, but requested copies of his original birth certificate from Hawaii officials this week.

Also,  with the release of the birth certificate, the so-called birthers can shut the hell up.

I say more towers and fewer land lines

April 25th, 2011 Comments off

As an iPhone user, the news that AT&T is expanding and upgrading its wireless network in Mississippi is more than great, it is ….
Oh, sorry, I had a dropped call.
You get the point.
Even AT&T Mississippi CEO Mayo Flynt admitted to the Mississippi Business Journal a few months back that even he has a hard time with reception from time to time. He says his home is at the bottom of a hill, which leads to reception issues.
The company said in a statement last week that it plans to add 50 cell sites in the state in 2011. More than 100 existing cell sites will be upgraded and capacity will be enhanced at sites across the state.
In 2010, AT&T says it added 50 new cell sites in Mississippi and upgraded some 90 existing sites to mobile broadband.
AT&T says the improvements are part of a $19-billion companywide capital investment this year.

Who needs a home phone?
With the news that AT&T is adding towers, which would presumably lead to better reception across the state, why in the world would you want to have a home phone? Well, apparently that is a good question.
In a story from last week, it was reported that a  growing number of Americans are getting rid of their old land line telephones and using only cell phones, a trend led not by the high-tech elite but by people in poorer states trying to save money.
And guess who is leading the way?
You’ve got it.
Mississippi.
Government estimates show at least 30 percent of adults in 10 states rely entirely on cell phones, with the highest percentage in Arkansas and Mississippi, where many cannot afford to pay for two separate lines.
Wealthier households have been slower to use wireless technology as their sole means of making calls.
“The answer’s obvious: No one has money here,” John N. Daigle, a professor of electrical engineering at Ole Miss with broad experience in the telecommunications industry, told the Associated Press. “If they can do without a land line, they will do it to save money.”
Sure, I would do it to save money, too. In fact, we have had that conversation at our house. My wife and I both have cell phones. Everyone who needs to contact us, knows how to.
However, we keep our land line for security system and emergency needs, as well as the convenient daily telemarketer calls at just about the time we are putting a kids to bed.
Clay Chandler, here in our newsroom, recently thought about the same thing in his new home. We talked at length about it. Not because we are poverty stricken — although we do live on journalists salaries — but because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay for more phones that you really need.
According to the AP story about 35 percent of adults in Mississippi have only cell phones, according to figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New Jersey and Rhode Island, the states where the smallest proportion of people depend solely on wireless phones, that figure is only 13 percent.
Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation — 21.9 percent in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. The Arkansas figure was 18.8 percent. The nationwide rate is 14.3 percent.
In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau defined poverty as a single person making less than $11,000 a year or a family of four making less than $22,000 a year.
“I think people decide, ‘I can afford one but not the other,’” said Ellen Reddy, who works for a nonprofit community center that helps low-income residents in Holmes County. She said poor people in her area often have cell phones with a limited number of minutes.
Again, however, it comes down to a business decision. You don’t have to be poverty stricken to make a decision to have one phone instead of two.
Sounds like folks in Mississippi, poor or not, have made the right decision.
Now, if we can get those new AT&T towers up quickly, so my wife doesn’t think I have hung up on her while I am driving past Highland Village in Jackson.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

Idaho writer needs a Mississippi education

April 8th, 2011 Comments off

Don’t believe the notion that Mississippi has a bad public relations image? Then you might want to check out the following March 30 headline from the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“Idaho looking up at (gulp) Mississippi”
A column from opinion editor Steve Crump went on to hammer our fair state, beginning the ranting with:
TGFM. Thank God for Mississippi. Every educator, politician, public health worker and economist in Idaho has uttered that phrase at one time or another.
Crump’s diatribe is a warning to Idahoans after the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that the annual average income in Idaho was $32,257 last year, second worst in the nation, just ahead of — you guessed it — Mississippi.
Our average yearly salary was $31,186.
Many of Crump’s points were valid, but some were mean spirited and way off base.
First a few of the valid points, which Crump used as bulleted items, to show readers where Idaho trails the Magnolia State.
>> Mississippi has a lower rate of binge drinking than Idaho.
>> Idaho spends less per pupil on public schools than Mississippi — a lot less. The difference is $970 per student.
>> Mississippi has lower corporate, individual and unemployment insurance taxes than Idaho.
>> Idaho trails Mississippi in the disparity in salary between men and women.
>> In the past decade, Mississippi’s per capita personal income has grown half-again as fast as Idaho.
>> Idaho has a lower immunization rate than Mississippi.
>> Mississippi has a higher percentage of its citizens who check their cholesterol than Idaho’s residents.
>> Idaho has a higher underemployment rate than Mississippi.
>> Although both states received “Ds,” Mississippi finished higher than Idaho in Education Week magazine’s most recent rankings. In the category standards, assessment and accountability, Mississippi received a “B;” Idaho got a “C.” Mississippi also got higher marks in school finance and teachers.

Low blows
Then there were the cheap shots:
If this continues, no Idahoan is gonna be able to go out of the house without a Confederate flag over his or her head.
I mean, have you been to Mississippi?
The humidity is so bad it’s like walking around in concrete overshoes. You have to change your shirt three times a day.
The roads are terrible, the politicians are crooked, the drivers are drunk (10.35 DUI fatalities per 100,000 people, as opposed to 4.67 in Idaho), fire ants and cockroaches are everywhere, and the food?
Crump went on to clobber our food based on a compilation of recipes for a book put out by the “Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation,” which is a really named the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
But who’s keeping score?
Anyway, the cookbook listed recipes for Squirrel Cacciatore, Rabbit Ravioli, a few others as well as what Crump called his personal favorite of Coon a la Delta.
I am a true Mississippian, with a public school Delta education, and no true expertise as a chef. I mean, I cut classes at Delta State University to clean squirrels and help make squirrel stew for the all the guys in my dorm. So, what do I know?
But I do know Mississippi’s resident food expert John T. Edge from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Edge is the author or editor of more than 10 books, including “Cornbread Nation: the Best of Southern Food Writing.” He also writes for many publications, including the New York Times.
He says his his son, Jess, won’t eat souse or trotters. Neither will his wife, and according to Edge, this situation frustrates him and he sees no resolution forthcoming.
I emailed Edge to ask his thoughts of Crump’s column.
“This doesn’t seem smart enough to dignify with a reply.” Edge emailed back. “What does Idaho know?”
For the record, I gave Crump an opportunity to respond for this column, but he did not reply to email and phone messages.
This isn’t the first time folks in other regions of the country have taken pot shots at our state to make their states look better.
Last year, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, while defending tax increases said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”
New York’s Charles Rangel also made less-than- thoughtful comments of us a couple of years back.
As I have said before, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.
It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm or Rangel or even Idaho’s Steve Crump of the Times-News listens to likely was born in Mississippi.
Every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi — from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.
Maybe Crump and others should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi — from Faulkner to Welty.
We also have a great journalism tradition ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s at the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 at the Sun Herald of Biloxi.
Surely, if Crump had known all of these things, he might not have been so quick to hit below the belt.
Having said that, there are plenty of well-documented reasons — education, racial tensions, etc. — Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.
Crump and others should be admonished for the childish comments made, but we must be honest with ourselves.
There’s a long way to go, and people like Granholm and Rangel and Crump wouldn’t have made the comments they made if there we didn’t have a problem with perception.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

EPA, Sierra push tall tales about Yazoo pump project past courts

April 1st, 2011 Comments off

Several years ago, I was one of those who thought the Yazoo Backwater Project was another instance of government spending gone crazy for the benefit of a few rich folks, particularly Delta farmers.
And, if you listen to environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency as to why they oppose the Yazoo pump project, you’ll think they make a compelling argument.
But I was wrong.
And so were the EPA, the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network, American Rivers, the National Wildlife Federation and every other group or organization that opposed the pumps, at least for the reasons they give.
The EPA vetoed the project in 2008, basing its decision on the Clean Water Act.
In August 2009, The Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners sued filed a federal lawsuit challenging the EPA’s decision. The Commission wants to move forward with the $220 million flood-control project.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock dismissed the suit.
So the argument appears to be over.
But my conscience demands that I not allow the EPA’s preposterous reasoning to be the final word.

The EPA’s case
All along, the EPA has said the project would have caused “unacceptable damage to the valuable resources that are used for wildlife, economic and recreational purposes.”
In an interview with a representative of the EPA in January, I asked him what environmental template was used to come up with the assertion of “unacceptable damage.”
The EPA, he said, wants the area of the South Delta to be pristine, the way it was before man began interfering with the wetlands for flood control.

The back story
The Yazoo Backwater Project is a decades-old proposal to build a pump station to drain wetlands, farmland and forests north of Vicksburg when the Mississippi River is high.
Congress authorized the project in 1941 but didn’t come up with enough money for it.
The proposed pump would lower a 100-year flood by four feet, and the project would remove about 60,000 acres from agricultural production so hardwood trees could be planted to increase wetlands.
The levee board lawsuit claimed the EPA’s veto was illegal because the project was approved by Congress before 1977, when the agency was given veto power under the Clean Water Act.
EPA officials have said the pump project doesn’t meet all the requirements to proceed under the Clean Water Act, regardless of the timing.

The environmentalists
Louie Miller, state director for the Sierra Club, applauded the dismissal of the lawsuit.
“Today marks the final nail in the coffin of one of the most costly and environmentally destructive projects ever contrived,” Miller said. “This truly marks the end of an era in Mississippi politics.”
“The Pumps boondoggle rose to the level of being one of only 11 projects ever vetoed in the 40 year history of the Clean Water Act,” stated Cynthia Sarthou of Gulf Restoration Network.
However, the levee board’s chief engineer, Peter Nimrod, said last week no one is looking at the real issue, and he insisted politics are being put ahead of what is best for everyone.
Of the EPA, Nimrod said: “They hurt the environment by not allowing us to build it.”

The real issue
Mississippi Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker advised the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations that the Yazoo Backwater Project should be exempt from the EPA veto.
The senators say the project should be exempt from the veto and in a written statement asked “for a full explanation of why that information was ignored” by the EPA.
Even with all the legal wrangling in Washington, it should be understood, the EPA really doesn’t have a clue about the Yazoo Backwater Project. All of the statistics and fancy words being used are smoke and mirrors. When the EPA says it wants the area to be pristine, it proves the argument has nothing to do with the environment.

It’s a lot of money
For sure, the Yazoo Backwater Project is controversial.
Certainly, the high price of the project compared with the number of people it will help in the short or long term is disturbing. And it is true that much of what has been done over the years in the name of flood control across the Delta and North Mississippi has contributed to the continued flooding of the South Delta.
But no reasonable person can be in favor of what the EPA has done in the name of environmental protection.
Other than the price tag, there is no reason to stop the pump project.
It is important to point out that the Yazoo Backwater Project would have many advantages, including a 19 percent increase in naturally occuring wetlands that include the precense of plants such as cattails that are adapted to wet areas. There would also be a 34 percent increase in aquatic resources, which encompasses all the possible roles for water, including human survival needs, supporting aquatic ecosystems and an essential component of economic development.
In addition, the reforestation would improve water quality in the region.
But at what cost?
$220 million.
That’s a lot, for sure.
If at any time there were a guarantee the $220 million from Uncle Sam was a blank check to be used in the best interest of the Mississippi Delta, surely the pumps would be down the list.
However, that is not the reality.
The money is, or would be, specifically for the Yazoo Backwater Project. Maybe the EPA is working on a hush-hush, backdoor plan that would change the way the $220 million is used. Maybe the feds want to buy the land from the owners. Maybe. Probably not.
No one is talking about any other option.
But here’s what everybody should be talking about:
The EPA’s view that rejecting the pumps will leave the Delta in a natural state is warped.
The Delta hasn’t been in a natural state for more than 200 years, since we started farming it and particularly since we started to control flooding.
What we have now is a result of the flood control system put in place 100 years ago, a system that, by all accounts, is a mess.
Because of that, the water from the annual spring floods is, at this very moment, rising against the levees in a giant man-made bathtub. Soon, that water will be destroying wetlands.
No environmental do-gooders are going to change that by stopping the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.