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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.

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.

Barbour most popular governor in America

December 9th, 2011 7 comments

Gov. Haley Barbour

The press release just came down …

Here it is …

JACKSON – According to Public Policy Polling, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour is the most popular Governor in America. Mississippians approved of Governor Barbour more so than voters of any other state approved of their respective governors.

“Haley Barbour’s conservative Republican policies like opposing tax increases and fostering job creation have made him the nation’s most popular Governor,” said Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Arnie Hederman.

“Governor Barbour, known for his strong stance even on tough issues like cutting budgets and reforming the state’s pension system, has been a national model of governing. These polling numbers confirm what Governor Barbour and conservatives already know: Voters across the country are tired of politicians who promise one thing and do another, and who support anti-growth policies instead of promoting private sector job creation,” Hederman added.

Paid for by the Mississippi Republican Party.

www.msgop.org

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.

What happens when you mix Okra and Gorillas?

December 9th, 2011 Comments off

Here at the Editor’s Notebook, we are Delta State football fans.

So, don’t forget that Delta State’s Fighting Okra or, if you prefer, Statesmen (or, as one of my 5-year-old son’s best friends says — FLYING YOKRA) will be playing in the national semifinals.

DSU will be on the road this week against a team with my second favorite nickname (you probably already know my favorite) — the Pitsburg (Kan.) State Gorillas.

How great is that? Makes me wonder why there are more gorillas out there. I hear the school makes a ton of money every year from jersey and apparel sales. Now that’s the 500-pound gorilla in the room (sorry, terrible pun).

Anyway, you can catch the Okra and the Gorillas at 6 p.m. Saturday on the ESPN family of channels. At my house, it will be ESPN GamePlan.

Enjoy the game and …. GO FLYING YOKRA!!!

Mississippi ranks next to last in nation on new measure of opportunity in America

November 28th, 2011 Comments off

The State of Mississippi has placed next to last in the nation, ranking 50th, on a new measure designed to indicate how effectively individuals living in a state can move up the economic ladders of society as compared to the rest of the country.

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi is fat and stupid

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>> RELATED STORY: Health, education key to Mississippi economy

The measure, called the Opportunity Index, pulls together more than a dozen data points to rank every state by awarding a first of its kind Opportunity Score. The Index is designed to empower community leaders, engaged citizens, and elected officials at all levels to become knowledgeable of the overall opportunity they are providing to those living in their region. It will be issued annually, giving leaders a way to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Developed jointly by Opportunity Nation and the American Human Development Project, the Index is available online, for free in a user-friendly and interactive format at www.opportunityindex.org.

“Opportunity Nation starts from the belief that the zip code you’re born into shouldn’t pre-determine your destiny,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation. “For too long we have sliced and diced the interconnected issues of education, jobs, families, and communities – the framework underlying the idea of opportunity – into narrow silos that are disconnected. The reality is that these factors work in tandem to determine the potential success of our citizenry. That’s what the Opportunity Index provides – an unprecedented snapshot of what opportunity in America looks like at the local, state and national levels.”

MISSISSIPPI LANDS NEAR BOTTOM

Mississippi landed next to last in the nation, earning an Opportunity Score of 29.8 out of 100. Only the state of Nevada fared worse. The state ranked lower than national averages in 13 out of 16 categories. A few of the trouble areas that Mississippians struggle with include:

· Poverty Plays a Role: Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the country, at $36,796, and the highest poverty rate in the nation at 21.4%. It is one of three states in the nation where median household income is lower than $40,000 per year

· Not Part of the Information Superhighway: Mississippi has the lowest score for high-speed internet access, with only 43.5% of households having high-speed internet.

· Room for Improvement in Education: Mississippi has a significantly lower percentage of on-time high school graduates (64%) than the national average (74%). It is also falling behind in college graduates with only 19% of the population holding a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 27%.

“Having scored at or below the national average in many of the metrics used to formulate their Opportunity Score, Mississippi residents have much work to do before they can say they provide their residents with opportunities to improve their lives,” said

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Maybe debate should be the new football in Mississippi

November 8th, 2011 Comments off

With news of Houston Nutt losing his job as the football coach at Ole Miss, there has been renewed talk that too much money is spent on high school and college athletics.

As a huge sports fan, it’s hard for me to totally jump on that bandwagon, but it is hard to justify raising millions for college athletics when there are so many academic classes falling by the wayside because it is politically unpopular to spend money on academics.

Having said that, there is one high school activity that has a 100 percent positive impact on students and their schools as well as having a lifelong impact for the students.

That is high school debating.

Debate has nothing to do with the number of 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebackers a school may have walking the halls who may run a 4.5-second, 40-yard dash.

The fact of the matter is that smaller schools can do well if there is a higher standard of academic excellence required.

Every reason we send our children to school in the first place is what the art of debate teaches. It is what we hope is being taught in all of the classrooms.

In fact, the success of a school’s debate team, it could be argued, could be the singular measuring stick of the success of the school.

A debate team, as well as every student within a school, should be learning analytical skills. The ability to critically analyze a problem and propose workable solutions is invaluable. This is a skill that debate best teaches and high-level business people and professionals possess.

A debate team, as well as every student, should be learning research skills. From traditional library research to the Internet, debate teaches you to become a world-class researcher. Ask any college student, and they’ll tell you how valuable this is.

A debate team, as well as every student, should be learning listening and note-taking skills. Debate requires that you become a careful listener and good note taker. This helps students get better grades and learn faster.

Many of this nation’s top lawyers, business executives, doctors, engineers, and elected leaders were involved in high school debate, and for good reason. Simply put, debate-related skills help one get ahead and stay there. The power to persuade is highly respected and there is no better way to master this art than through debate.

After a recent debate competition, at least for 2011, it would appear that Hattiesburg High School, Oak Grove High School and Pascagoula High School have the most well-prepared students in Mississippi. And this was not an event just for public institutions. Even highly-regarded academic schools like St. Andrew’s and Jackson Prep were a part of the tournament.

So, cheers to the Hattiesburgs, Oak Groves and Pascagoulas of the world, who are offering a well-rounded education to their student population.

Boyce Adams either lying or uniformed when it comes to his key issue — the Kemper County Coal Plant

November 7th, 2011 Comments off

Why won’t Boyce Adams answer questions about his main talking point in the race against Brandon Presley for northern commissioner of the Mississippi Public Service Commission?

He has gone on the record several times, saying there will be no rate increase involved with the building of a $2.88 billion coal plant in Kemper County. Yet, when we called him this past week to ask him about it, he didn’t return multiple phone calls.

Boyce Adams has said there will be no rate increase invoved in the building of the Kemper County Coal Plant

In a story we ran in this week’s Mississippi Business Journal, Presley views the plant as a job-killer while Adams was quoted two weeks ago in A Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal story reports Adams as saying, “There is no rate hike associated with the project.”

RELATED STORIES …

••• KEMPER PLANT KEY IN HEATED PSC RACE

••• Bentz: The whole Kemper story is not getting told

••• Poultry association: Kemper could cost jobs in Mississippi

••• Topazi talks — ‘About a third’ really means ‘about a half’ where rate increases are concerned with Kemper Coal Plant

••• Public record or corporate secrets — PSC to decide whether public should be privy to matters concerning their pocket books ahead of corporate concerns of confidentiality

••• Kemper plant — Yes or no?

••• Presley pulling for Kemper, but admits it is a huge risk

••• Sierra Club sues to stop Kemper

••• The Kemper Project: What to expect

Brandon Presley has said he opposed and voted against the $2.8 billion Kemper Coal Plant and against the 45 percent rate hike

••• Kemper technology could be proving ground for a plant in China

••• BGR website changed following MBJ story on Kemper Plant

••• (VIDEO) Kemper County welcomes coal plant

••• (VIDEO) Anthony Topazi on the Kemper County Coal Plant

According to a 2009 document filed with the Commission, the Kemper plant could make customer rates go up by about 45 percent. Mississippi Power Company told poultry farmers that their rates would rise by 30 percent.

So, when it comes to rate hikes involved with the Kemper coal project, Adams is either lying or uninformed. In either case, that is unacceptable for someone basing his entire candidacy on the worthiness of the Kemper County Coal Plant.

From my perspective, I am sorry that we cannot provide people with a response from Adams about this issue. However, we have been calling him for nearly a week without a return phone call.

If he needs to clarify his position, he can reach me at (601) 364-1000.

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Barksdale gets it when it comes to education

November 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale — an education advocate for Mississippi

Education is always the focus of former president and CEO of Netscape Jim Barksdale. Wherever he goes these days, he is singing the praises of Mississippi education.
So, it was interesting to hear Barksdale speak last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event, which came on the heels of the release of the national eighth grade reading in math scores.
Those scores have Mississippi firmly planted at No. 50 in the state rankings.
Yet, Barksdale says Mississippi children are making strides and that it is only a matter of time before the perception of Mississippi’s educational system is different.
The difference between Barksdale and other people who talk about education in Mississippi is that he has that business background to understand what, apparently, politicians do not.
Tough choices have to be made, Barksdale said, referring to teachers and administrators who aren’t living up to the standard our students deserve.
Barksdale is careful to point out that there are a significant number of teachers and administrators who are doing fantastic jobs, and believes making strides forward can be done.
He points to the Teach for America program, which has more volunteers in Mississippi than any other state.
In fact, Delta State University serves as the training ground for teachers for the entire country.
And that program is producing more good teachers and administrators than anything else Mississippi is doing right now.
Barksdale would like to see $12 million of the education budget devoted to help that program.
That’s not $12 million more dollars for education. Barksdale just wants to make sure that $12 million is allocated for that program and he believes the returns are worth the investment.
He is right.

>> RELATED VIDEO: Davis addresses Mississippi Council for Economic Education

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippians more optimistic about economy, education

>> RELATED STORY: Economist — Health, education key to economic growth

The bottom line is that teachers are the key to making the difference in Mississippi’s education.
And Barksdale would like to see a merit-based pay system to reward high-performing teachers.
Tough choices must be made and made now so that we can have better leadership for our future.
Barksdale is against having elected superintendents.
“You couldn’t run a business if you had to have elections for employees,” he said.
Appointing them is the way to go.
All of this won’t be easy and he knows that.
“Nobody likes change, but everybody likes progress.” Barksdale noted.
But he believes we can do it, because, in many cases, our public schools are achieving at a high level.
All of this takes money, and Barksdale stated many times he understands that money won’t buy an education for Mississippi’s kids, but, he said, “Money is essential, just not sufficient.”
Current levels of funding must be held firm is the message to the legislature, which should pay very close attention to Barksdale. He knows what he is doing.
It’s not just the future of the children at risk, it’s for all of us.
“Have faith in these little children,” Barksdale stresses.

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