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HEY JIM HOOD … and all you other losers — quit robocalling my house!!!

March 1st, 2012 1 comment

My 7-year-old daughter is sitting in my lap last night while my wife and 6-year-old son were cuddled up on the couch as we watched, the recently released-at-home movie “Hugo”.

Then, I hear our home phone ringing on the other side of the house.

So, I make my daughter scoot over. I get up, wander through the kitchen and through the living room, looking for the ringing phone, hoping it doesn’t wake up the 2-year-old.

I finally find it, but it was too late.

“Damn telemarketers!” I think as I look at the 800 number on the Caller-ID screen. I grab the phone and carry it back with me to the TV room, where my daughter had abandoned me for the comfy confines of the couch with her mom and brother.

About 15 minutes later, it rings again.

“DAD!” everyone yells.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I whisper, walking into the kitchen to answer the phone.

No, it wasn’t a telemarketer. It was a robocall from Attorney General Jim Hood. The recorded voice was saying something about how he was mad at the legislature — like I didn’t already know that.

This was a total waste of my time.

I started to call the A.G.’s office this morning and ask him what was so important that he had to call during my family time — which I don’t get nearly enough of — and then not even have the courtesy of actually being on the other end of the phone.

It’s not just Jim Hood. Anybody running for office likes to interrupt your life without having to interrupt theirs.

I’m not so naive not to realize that robocalls are an effective way for politicians to communicate their one-way, trumped-up message.

Yet, robocalls are rude and intrusive and interrupt my time with my family.

So, Jim, the next time you have something to say, take out an ad in the newspaper. I am much more likely to see it there.

Save our kids — Government overstepping its bounds?

February 20th, 2012 Comments off

Government is too involved in our everyday lives. That’s the popular mantra for this political season.

Yet, every time we turn around, there is another bill that finds a way to get involved in our everyday lives.

This week, it’s a bill that would educate youth sports leaders and participants about concussions and would make it illegal for coaches to send players back on the field after suffering one.

It is a great idea. Everyone is against kids having concussions.

It’s still a bill that finds a way to get involved in our everyday lives. So, is it OK for government to have more regulation or isn’t it?

Who is going to oversee whether a high school football coach, who makes less than $50,000 a year, as to whether he makes the correct evaluation?

Is Mississippi going to fund the extra medical staff at every high school sporting event — from football to futbol — to make sure we give accurate assessments?

Again, everyone is for kids not being forced to play sports with concussions, but I am not sure Mississippi’s legislature needs to step in to make that happen.

Having covered sports for a large part of my career, it is my opinion that the vast majority of coaches go out of their way to make sure kids remain healthy. The only thing this bill would do is to act as a deterrent for good, quality people to get into the coaching profession. Considering the hours involved and the money offered, it’s particularly difficult now.

Maybe the Mississippi legislature could offer a bill requiring a certain amount of people to be high school athletics coaches.

For the love of Pete, somebody take Southaven mayor Greg Davis out behind the woodshed

February 15th, 2012 Comments off

Southaven mayor Greg Davis addresses questions during an interview from his home in Southaven this week. Southaven aldermen say they want an internal audit of city finances to get a more in-depth look than the one provided by the routine annual audit. The Commercial Appeal reports a newly formed committee plans to initiate the review in the wake of ongoing questions over Mayor Greg Davis' spending. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Stan Carroll)

Seriously?

Greg Davis wants to pin blame on his alderman for him being an idiot?

The only thing the Southaven Board of Aldermen should have done differently in the last several months is for one of them to have taken their mayor out behind the woodshed for a lesson in humility and humanity.

Apparently, Southaven mayor Greg Davis believes he has done nothing wrong in regard to deals involving a Florida condominium he co-owns with a developer who has received more than $3.4 million through real estate dealings with the city since 2008, a fire station that could cost taxpayers up to $4 million because of an unusual no-bid contract negotiated by Davis, and other recently reported transactions.

Why?

Because, he says, the city’s aldermen approved all transactions.

>> ORIGINAL POST: Embattled Davis blames alderman for approving transactions …

I suppose if the alderman had known ahead of time that the mayor had been running around using the city credit card on items from a Canadian sex shop (and why wasn’t it an American sex shop?) or was dropping $1,000 tips at a Ridgeland restaurant as he picked up the tab for state legislators, then maybe they would have stopped, dropped and said, “No way we are taking this deal you piece of garbage.”

By the way, has anyone wondered which legislators went to dinner with Davis that night?

As it stands, the aldermen are guilty of believing everything Davis ever said during his political campaigns about truth, family and the American way.

Well, that will never happen again.

Davis has used all of his political capital and probably all of his personal capital as well.

Remember, Davis was absent from city business on a 30-day leave for medical treatment when most of the dealings were uncovered and is under criminal investigation for misuse of city funds after being ordered by the state auditor to repay about $170,000.

And for all of the group therapy and extensive psycho-education he picked up during his 30-day leave, I am not even going to insult your intelligence by reprinting Davis’ quotes, blaming everyone but himself in this fiasco. He even believes he has done what is in the best interest of the citizens.

So, which is it?

The aldermen should have known he was a lying, cheating sack of, uh, beans, or he is a good, upstanding guy that is doing the work of the people.

As for those credit card reimbursements that led to the repayment order from the state auditor, Davis said he could not discuss it because of the ongoing state and federal investigation.

“I just want the public to be patient and wait because all the facts will come out,” Davis said.

After everything else that has come out, you really think he wants more to come out now?

My guess is Davis doesn’t believe in karma.

Please, somebody, one of you aldermen do the right thing and teach the mayor a lesson.

Then again, maybe some time in jail would be good for the mayor. I suspect that would be a much more — how should I say? — educational experience.

Not sure which sun Bryant is talking about

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delivers his first State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Bryant used the address to unveil detailed policy proposals, from education to health care to energy, saying he wants to create a "Mississippi Works Agenda."

Gov. Phil Bryant said a lot of things Tuesday night in his first State of the State address.

He’s for more jobs. …

He’s against obesity. …

And he’s for education and energy. …

But there was one quote that stood out as Bryant proclaimed that he is also for economic development.

“Economic development is the sun in our universe and everything revolves around it,” Bryant said.

That sounds something like his quote in a Hattiesburg American story by Ruben Mees from Jan. 23, 2007 with the headline, “Bryant launches campaign for lt. governor.”

“‘Education is the sun of the governmental universe; everything revolves around it, whether it’s economic development, transportation or any other issue,’ [Bryant] said, pointing out that Mississippi’s 35 percent dropout rate is unacceptable.”

So, which is it — economic development or education?

I guess it doesn’t matter. It all sounded real good.

Amazing timing — Italian scientists proclaim Shroud of Turin the real deal

December 22nd, 2011 Comments off

Shroud of Turin

What great timing.

According to news outlets across the globe, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin may have finally been proven.

A new study by Italian scientists may not be definitive on its origins, but it does refute the popular notion that it was faked during the Middle Ages.

According to ABC. experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked.

According to the Vatican Insider, a project by La Stampa newspaper that closely follows the Catholic church, the experts’ report says, “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory … This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.”

The centuries-old shroud contains a faint impression of the front and back of a human body, along with blood, dirt and water stains from age.

Many have long questioned the shroud’s authenticity, and others have suggested that it was faked during medieval times.

The Italian researchers, who conducted dozens of hours of tests with X-rays and ultraviolet lights, said that no laser existed to date that could replicate the singular nature of markings on the shroud. They also said that the kind of markings on the cloth could not have come from direct contact of the body with the linen.

Previous investigation has determined the markings could not have come from pigments or dyes.

The Italian scientists said the marks could only have been made by “a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation.”

Such technology did not exist in the time the skeptics claim the shroud could have been forged.

The scientists haven’t offered an explanation for how they believe the marks were made, but believers have long thought the shroud was miraculously marked when Jesus rose from the dead following his crucifixion.

The mystery of the shroud has long been a subject of debate and serious research.

Just last year, the History Channel aired a special in which it revealed a 3D image of the face of Jesus, constructed from the markings left in the cloth. Artists and scientists studied the Shroud of Turin, and used cutting-edge technology to create a computer-generated image of the face surrounded by the shroud.

The revelation caused mixed reactions around the globe. While some people said the image was “realistic” and what they imagined Christ looked like, others were not as certain.

The shroud is owned by the Vatican, although the Catholic church has never taken an official position on the cloth’s authenticity.

Maybe ‘trash dogs’ are the answer for Madison

December 21st, 2011 Comments off

Have you ever noticed that just about every neighborhood has a “trash dog”?

You know, the dog that wanders through every few days and picks out one house to hit, knocking over a trash can and dragging away all the good stuff it can and leaving a giant mess in its wake.

Or maybe it’s just the neighborhoods I have happened to live in. Who knows?

Regardless, unless you neighborhood has the best trash dog on the planet — one that is able to drag away every last sliver or scrap of paper or broken toy or whatever — do you ever wonder where your trash goes once you put it on the street?

The short answer is a landfill.

I never really thought I would be interested in trash, but in the last few weeks — amazingly enough — I have.

I had been invited to tour the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority landfill in Northeast Mississippi a few times, but I had never made time to view the facility until a couple of weeks ago. After a trip up to speak to the West Point Rotary Club, I made the 10-minute drive to the landfill with few expectations other than I might ruin a good pair of pants.

However, it was fascinating, and I left with my pants clean, other than the chicken I spilled on them from the Rotary meeting.

The science and high-tech brainpower that goes into building, implementation and maintenance of these facilities is amazing.

I am working on a story to publish in the next couple of weeks on the landfill. Having said that, there has been landfill controversy in the news the last several weeks.

Some Madison residents have been up in arms about a proposed landfill in Madison County that a woman at a recent public forum was quoted as calling it an “environmental injustice.”

The anti-landfill folks were reported to say their environmental and health concerns include:

>> Infrastructure problems;

>> Complications from stench …

>> Rodents and …

>> Buzzards.

While I don’t have all of the information at hand about this particular landfill, I am certain concerns these residents have levied aren’t as big a deal as you might think.

First, stench was high on my list of concerns when I went to the Golden Triangle facility. Amazingly, after touring nearly every inch of the place, that was not an issue.

Rodents? Probably, but I have since asked two homeowners about that issue to which they said there was none.

Buzzards? I saw a bunch there, but I literally see as many or more buzzards picking at road kill on St. Augustine Road near Strawberry Park in Madison every week. Those are buzzards I have to deal with every day. Buzzards at the landfill are at the landfill, not the local park where my children play.

I’m not saying the proposed landfill is perfect in every way, and I am not saying Madison County doesn’t need to answer the public’s questions. What I am saying is landfills of today aren’t your grandfather’s local dump, where people would drive to unload an ugly 20-year old couch.

Landfills are a necessity, and there is significant regulation to ensure the safety of the community.

Landfills are also a necessity for economic growth. For a county like Madison where business and residential growth is dizzying, the trash must go somewhere.

And, as far as I can tell, there aren’t enough trash dogs to go around.

Fortune tellers may be the key to economic progress

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

Headlines in every newspaper across the country seem to give conflicting information on the current status and the future of the world economy.

We are left to wonder when, if ever, we will ever come out of this — what seems to be never-ending — economic slowdown.

One day you read that the governments of Europe are in such a bind with the Euro that everyone’s economic system is going straight down the tubes.

The next day, you read that a limit in paying state taxes by big business will help ease the pain.

Then, it’s back to Europe where leaders feel a new plan will make everything better.

At home last week, Southern Motion announced it is expanding operations in Baldwyn. The reclining furniture manufacturer’s announcement was good news for Northeast Mississippi, which has been reliant on the furniture industry the last 20 years.

The next day, though, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that furniture maker KI will lay off 70 employees in north Mississippi as it closes its Pontotoc factory and converts a second in Tupelo to a warehouse.

What gives? Up, down. Opening a business, closing a business.

You need a fortune teller to figure out all of this.

But wait. Hattiesburg’s city council may have the answer for everyone from Egypt, Miss., to, well, Egypt.

In a stroke of genius, Hattiesburg’s city leaders have repealed a ban on fortune telling.

OK, a federal judge ruled their old ordinance unenforceable, but with so much of an unforeseen future, Hattiesburg has made the right call.

Economic leaders from across the world can come to Hattiesburg to talk with Sister Marie. If president of Spain has a long life line, then his country is going to pull out of this thing. If not — well — let’s not talk about that.

But, maybe it’s not that simple.

We have to wait 120 days before the ordinance is repealed.

That’s far too long.

Mississippi, as well as the U.S. and the rest of the world, cannot wait 120 days for information that could put civilization back in normal working condition.

Hattiesburg’s City Attorney Charles Lawrence says it will take the 120 days to get new regulations in place, such as zoning restrictions.

Restrictions my foot.

There should be a fortune teller on every corner if it means we can put people back to work and money back in retirement accounts.

Donald Trump should bring this up at the next Republican presidential debate. Our future depends on it.

But, then again, the fortune tellers already knew that.

Going to West Point for Rotary Club visit

December 7th, 2011 Comments off

As we are trying to put the finishing touches on the MBJ’s printed edition for Dec. 12 (Monday), I am also preparing to travel to West Point tomorrow (Thursday) for a visit with its local Rotary Club.

I am looking forward to going and talking with the group. I have a lot of family and friends in the area. So, I am sure it will be a lot of fun.

I get to chat with civic organizations from time to time. Having been the program director, once upon a time, for the Greenville Rotary Club, I know it is hard to come up with quality programs on a week-in and week-out basis.

What a quality program is to one person may not be to another, but if other civic groups or any organization are looking for a program, I, or someone from the Mississippi Business Journal, will be happy to add it to our calendar.

I am always looking to preach the gospel of the MBJ. So, give me a call at 601-364-1018 or e-mail me at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

I’ll let y’all know how everything goes in West Point.

Snake-oil salesmen make a killing in the name of economic development

December 1st, 2011 3 comments

Most every little town in Mississippi — from the Tennessee line to the Gulf of Mexico — has an economic development arm.

Presidents of growth alliances, economic development associations, or whatever each town prefers to call its version, routinely make anywhere from $60,000 to more than $100,000 to lure big business to small-town Mississippi. We are talking about paying that kind of money in towns with populations ranging from 9,000 to around 20,000.

In many cases, the economic development expert has left one small town for another, hoping to accomplish in the latter what he or she failed to accomplish in the former.

It’s not necessary for these towns to pay that kind of money for an “Economic Development President” to travel, eat nice meals and make phone calls when — in most cases — the only thing the town gets in return is a fatter, more well-traveled “Economic Development President.”

While some may argue that now — in this economic climate — is the absolute best time to hire aggressive economic developers, this really is the worst time to waste money when other more productive and important departments — like fire and police services or education — are being cut to the bone or cut out all-together.

We scream about wasteful government spending on the national level. Yet, when there is duplicitous spending on the local level, we find ways to rationalize the process. There is no reason to have small-town economic developers when, just up the road, there is generally an economic development agency that serves the entire region — such as the statewide Mississippi Development Authority.

There have been calls at the national level of getting rid of large-scale economic development agencies, such as — although not specifically mentioned — the MDA.

In an op-ed to The Wall Street Journal in June, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a Tea Party stalwart dedicated to reducing the size of the government, called for the elimination of the Economic Development Administration. He says the EDA’s efforts duplicate existing federal programs.

While I am certain there is much fat to be trimmed, the MDA’s overall work is needed to facilitate economic progress.

Towns need to think about consolidating, using existing services and working regionally. The best example of regionalism at work in the last 50 years in Mississippi is in Northeast Mississippi, where companies have located in and around Tupelo with little selfish pushback in individual communities.

Toyota recognized that, and placed its new production facility near the interstate-like U.S. 78 and U.S. 45 intersection as people from as far away as Corinth, Columbus, Oxford and across the state line in Alabama will drive to Blue Springs to work.

The bottom line is that in small towns around the state, essential services like police, fire, education and infrastructure repairs are being slashed or eliminated in the name of fiscal responsibility. In the mean time, as much as $100,000 is being handed out to the president of an economic development organization who is making claims of working hard on the next big thing — when the only thing of significance that might be getting done is making sure the local farmers market has a clean working area for the spring and summer months.

C Spire pleased with decision by FCC to block AT&T/T-Mobile merger

November 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Executives with C Spire were pleased with the news from Tuesday that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission took steps  to block the proposed $39 billion merger of the mobile phone companies AT&T and T-Mobile USA.

“We are pleased the FCC has taken this important step toward a formal, administrative hearing to resolve questions regarding AT&T’s claims regarding its takeover of T-Mobile,” Eric Graham, vice president of Strategic and Government Relations for C Spire Wireless, told the Mississippi Business Journal. “C Spire Wireless has long asserted that this acquisition would be harmful to competition, the wireless industry and consumers. This action shows that Chairman Genachowski — like the Department of Justice — recognizes the harm inherent in AT&T’s bid to eliminate a competitor from the marketplace.”

>> SEE RELATED STORY: Judge approves C Spire lawsuit

>> SEE RELATED STORY: iPhone a coup for C Spire

>> SEE RELATED STORY: C Spire reveals iPhone plan

>> SEE RELATED STORY: Competitors react to C Spire’s deal with Apple for iPhone

The chairman, Julius Genachowski, made the move after the commission’s staff concluded that the deal would harm consumers, kill jobs and result in an overly concentrated wireless phone industry, F.C.C. officials said.

The decision puts another large roadblock in front of AT&T, the nation’s second-largest wireless phone company, in its effort to buy T-Mobile, the fourth-largest carrier. In August, the Justice Department filed a federal antitrust lawsuit to block the merger, saying it would stifle competition.

Mr. Genachowski on Tuesday notified the other three F.C.C. commissioners that he intended to refer the proposed merger to an administrative law judge for a trial-like hearing in which AT&T would be required to show that the deal was “in the public interest.” The commission — currently composed of three Democrats, including Mr. Genachowski, and one Republican — is likely to vote on the chairman’s plan in the next couple of weeks, an agency official said.