Friday, September 30, 2011

University speakers compare Forward Rebels to violent segregationists; Dan Jones basks in it

    I just returned from a ceremony honoring James Silver, who was a professor from the 1940s until 1965. He was a supporter of integration and was essentially chased from the Ole Miss campus. I wrote about the plans a couple of days ago.
    I didn't think my opinion of Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones could get any lower, but it has. Journalism professor Curtis Wilke described attacks on Silver by the Klan-like Rebel Undereground newspaper and Citizens Council. He praised Silver for standing up to these attacks. He then introduced Chancellor Dan Jones, and compared the Forward Rebels movement lobbying for a new athletic director to the Rebel Underground, Citizens Council, and segregation supporters, and praised Jones for standing firm.
    Jones had every opportunity to call for civility and point out that the Forward Rebels movement had nothing to do with any of these groups, but he didn't. Instead, he essentially ratified Wilke's comments by saying nothing, and going into a long spiel about about how the Ole Miss administration today stands firm against efforts to interfere with academic freedom. It was an obvious allusion to efforts by alumni to get Jones to fire athletic director Pete Boone. Earth to Dan Jones: The athletic director is not an academic post!
    William Winter, who has written a letter against Forward Rebels, then gave a fine talk as he always does. But when he described those who attempted to prevent Hodding Carter from speaking on campus he referred to them as "Forward Rebel types."
    The purpose of Forward Rebels is to push for improvements in the athletic department, including the firing of Pete Boone. I'm sure some supporters would like to have the Col. Rebel mascot back; most Ole Miss fans would. But as a practical matter that ship has sailed. That's not what the group is about.
    For university speakers to take advantage of a public forum to paint members of Forward Rebels as Klansmen, Citizens Council members and segregationists is a sign of just how desperate these people are becoming. Dan Jones knows he is losing and is adopting a scorched earth policy is a last-ditch effort to win.
     The Forward Rebels corporate structure is in a bit of disarray right now but the alumni-at-large don't care. There are almost 6,000 Facebook supporters and growing who support getting rid of Pete Boone and making other changes. If Dan Jones keeps up his despicable behavior he may need to go, too.
     It's time for Curtis Wilke, Dan Jones and William Winter to offer formal apologies for these outrageous comments. A failure to do so would be an act of incivility.

National press interpreting Jones letter as claim of physical threats

    In Chancellor Dan Jones' recent "civility" letter to alumni he claims to have been "threatened." As usual with proclamations appearing over Jones' name, we would do well to analyze this statement.
The Ole Miss family may not be aware, however, that as a part of this orchestrated campaign, I have received threats, promising that if I do not remove Pete Boone, "It is going to get real ugly," and threatening to expand the attacks to other athletics employees.
    Note carefully the chancellor's words. He says that he has received threats, the threat being that if he doesn't do the right thing and remove Pete Boone, "It is going to get real ugly." These people also are "threatening" to expand the attacks to other athletics employees.
     I don't believe a reasonable person engaged in a heated political debate would consider the phrase "It is going to get real ugly," to be a threat of physical violence. Yet Jones' letter, if not read carefully, leaves the impression that he or Boone have been physically threatened.
    That's certainly how the some of the national media have taken it. Take, for example, this blurb from the website:
Something to chew on ... and spit out: Houston Nutt is merely on the hot seat at Mississippi. Mississippi chancellor Dan Jones released this letter Thursday saying he has been threatened and it could "get real ugly" if he doesn't fire AD Pete Boone.
    See how this media outlet didn't manage to parse Jones' letter exactly right? The "threat" Jones alleges is that if he doesn't fire Boone it could "get real ugly." CBS interpreted it to mean that he had been told things could "get real ugly" AND he had been threatened. A perfectly understandable error given the way Jones' letter was written.
    USAToday reports the following:
Some Mississippi fans are not happy with Pete Boone and they are showing it by making threats against the school's athletic director and other officials.
     An ESPN blog reported on the "threats" but then managed to report that the threat was that if Boone wasn't fired things would "get real ugly."
    There are, sadly, a number of other media outlets that have interpreted Jones' letter as suggesting that "threats" have been made. When used without the explanation that the "threat" is that things will get "real ugly" the assumption is that those threats are threats of physical harm.
    I had not written one word about any of the athletic department mess prior to receiving the chancellor's "civility" letter yesterday. When I read it I was outraged.
    When people argue over policy, it is not uncommon for someone to warn that things might "get real ugly." For Jones to come out bleating that he has been threatened has resulted in harm to the entire Ole Miss community. It was an act of incivility.
    A friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook wall yesterday. I realize Ole Miss is controlled by a few big donors these days, but little people matter, too:
I've languished over this decision. I've been in the UMAA Foundation since I graduated law school, and did the 110% club for several years when the economy allowed me to do it. I love Ole Miss, but I can no longer support our leaders. Boone's radio interview and Jones' letter have convinced me beyond any doubt that the status quo will continue, and they only want my money with no accountability. I can no longer do it in good faith.
     From my observation of Jones, he is obsessed with "being the winner" in any confrontation. Jones could have sent out a letter stating, "I'm sorry I wasn't listening well enough. Let's see if we can get everybody at the table and work this out." (Bogus, but it might have defused things). Instead, he insulted and denigrated those who disagreed with him and made a bunch of bogus claims.
    Jones has managed to convince a large portion of the national media that we're all down here threatening physical violence against each other. To the best of my knowledge it's not true, and by doing this our chancellor has done great harm to Ole Miss.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chancellor's demand for civility was itself dishonest and uncivil

    Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones has decided to engage in a bit of uncivil discourse.
     Jones disguises his lack of civility in a letter in which he accuses others of being "uncivil." Here is Jones' letter:

     Now let's analyze Jones' most uncivil letter. I say it is uncivil because there is barely an honest statement to be found in it. Jones repeatedly says things which he knows not to be true.
     Jones says there have been "anonymous, malicious and public attacks" on Pete Boone. Well, if the attacks have been public they certainly haven't been anonymous.
    Alumni involved with a group called Forward Rebels has been calling for Boone's firing for some time and apparently members of this group have met with the chancellor. Since he knows who they are, they cannot be anonymous. A few financial backers have chosen not to have their names bandied about, which is understandable. But the group has almost 6,000 public supporters on Facebook. Twenty-two of my friends are currently friends of Forward Rebels, and I must say they are the cream of the crop of my friend list when it comes to education and community leadership. Those who are complaining about Pete Boone are not anonymous.
     Jones says Boone has been the target of "malicious" attacks. Is he suggesting that someone has tied cans to the tail of Boone's cat? I know of no malicious attacks on Pete Boone. Certainly some have been very vocal in asking that he be fired. He holds a public position at a public university. The fact that one requests his ouster publicly does not make one "malicious."
    Jones then goes on to say that to maintain accreditation the university must operate “free from undue influence from political, religious and other external bodies.” The suggestion that the university might lose its accreditation for firing an athletic director with the worst football team in its conference is beyond stupid. Either Jones has some type of mental impairment or he thinks we do. Every recipient of this letter should be insulted by this false, outlandish and uncivil claim.
    Jones makes it clear that he really doesn't care what the alumni think; he's going to do what he wants to do. Oh, and those who disagree with him are uncivil and don't love Ole Miss.
    The chancellor calls for civility, and yet his falsehood-filled letter is the height of incivility. "Will we remain civil, reasonable people?" he asks.
    With ham-handed leadership like his, how can we?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ole Miss to honor professor who once was shunned

    My dad has told me for as long as I can remember that his favorite professor at Ole Miss was a man by the name of Jim Silver.
    I think my Dad said Silver assigned a book entitled Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy to one of his classes. He had Silver for several. It was a Utopian novel that made an impression on him. "All I know is he made us think," said my Dad.
    Silver later got himself into peck of political trouble by not only supporting the integration of Ole Miss, but by writing a book entitled, Mississippi: The Closed Society. About the time this book was published Dad and his good friend, the late Holly Springs attorney John Kennedy, were on campus one day and decided to eat lunch at the Paul B. Johnson cafeteria. When they entered they soon saw their favorite professor, sitting at a table alone.
    They quickly joined him and heard his tales of woe. There was a time when he would have been surrounded with students. He had been a popular professor. But those days were gone. He had become a pariah, and soon left Ole Miss for Notre Dame.
    Ole Miss is going to honor this once-and-again-popular professor with the dedication of Silver Pond, a new, man-made pond on campus. This dedication will be from 4 to 4:40 p.m. this Friday, September 28. I don't know where this pond is, but I dare say wherever it is that is where the dedication will be. Following this will be a program called "Opening the Closed Society" in the Overby Center, which is connected to the journalism school, next to the old Law School (or in the old law school, depending on how you view these things).
    Although my Dad's health is okay, he is weak, and getting him to do things is a trial. But I am trying my best to convince him to come down and connect with a few of his old classmates and pay tribute to his favorite prof. He's 88, and there aren't that many of of his crew left, but a few are still kicking. So here's hoping he comes, and if not, I'll likely come in his stead.
    One of my goals with this blog is to publicize things to do. Okay, here's something to do!

It's a Food Frenzy at the Powerhouse Thursday night

    The Eating Oxford blog is sponsoring the second annual Food Frenzy at the Powerhouse this Thursday, September 29. Admission is $10 and includes food samples from a number of area restaurants. So apparently you can go and make a meal of it.
    Seventy-five percent of funds raised through ticket sales will go to the local food pantry.
    From the Eating Oxford blog:
It’s finally here! The Two-Year Anniversary event is happening this Thursday, September 29, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Powerhouse. Many of you have already secured your tickets online at or at The Powerhouse. You can also purchase them at the door on the night of the event for only $10.00! Don’t forget that 75% of your admission price will be donated to The Pantry.

An on-site food-themed raffle will occur every 30 minutes, so bring a few extra dollars to win some fabulous prizes such as gift certificates for Ravine and Tacky Shack; gift packages from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Old Thyme Farms; and a variety of unique cookbooks!

There are a few restaurants that I’m waiting to hear final word from, but as of today, you can start gearing up to sample delicioiusness from the following local eateries (in alphabetical order):

6 ‘ N Tubbs
Colonel’s Quarters at Castle Hill
Honey Bee Bakery
Lusa Pastry Cafe
Main Squeeze
Mink’s On the Park
Olivia’s Food Emporium
Petra Mediterranean Cuisine
Proud Larry’s
Rice & Spice
Tacky Shack
Taylor Grocery
Turkuaz Cafe

    It sounds like a lot of fun. If the kids get their homework finished we'll make a night of it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hilton HHonors offers great fourth quarter promotion

    Hilton HHonors has announced its fourth quarter promotion and it's a great one!
    Last year when all of the hotels were falling all over themselves to offer great promotions Hilton gave out free-night certificates for every three stays. This year the Hilton Fourth Quarter offer is a free-night certificate for every four stays or 10 nights.
    While not quite as generous as last-years offering, this promotion, entitled "Fast Ways to Free Stays," is a good as any major hotel chain is offering this year.
    Marriott has a Megabonus promotion that has some merit, but it is only valid if you pay for your room with a VISA card. Most business people use AMEX, so the Marriott promotion is pretty worthless. Priority Club has a promotion I reported on August 28 that offers 2,000 bonus points per night for members who stay in four different brands, for example, Holiday Inn, HI Express, Intercontinental and Hotel Indigo. It was a good enough promotion that Jinny was planning to move a bit of her business to Priority Club for the fourth quarter. It looks like she'll be coming back to Hilton, although I do think she'll try to stay at four Priority Club brands just to maximize her points on stays that she does have with them.
    The free-night certificates can be used at any Hilton for a standard room. If the hotel is out of standard rooms they can't be used. So there is a bit of capacity control, and Hilton has done away with the "Diamond Force" that gave its most elite members guaranteed availability. That said, most have reported that they've been able to use the certificates in the past at better properties with nightly rates of $300 or more.
    Certificates will be issued within 14 days of their being earned and are good for six months.
    The Hilton elite recognition system is weighted towards stays, not nights. For this promotion, four one-night stays gets the same certificate as one 10-night stay. The latter costs two-and-one-half times as much. In addition, Hilton grants Diamond elite status after 28 stays or 60 nights. So the Hilton reward system creates a perverse incentive to move from hotel to hotel every night; and that's what many point misers do.
    There are plenty of Hilton properties out there charging in excess of $200 per night. Lots more are in the $160 or more range. So these certificates are worth at least $160 each. So for longer stays it is well worth it to check out of one Hilton property and into another (you can't check right back into the same property). Thus on a four-night trip by staying at Hotel A, then B, then A again, then B again you get four stays and a free night certificate.
    Bottom line on this deal is that if you have 12 one-night stays at $150 per night you will spend $1,800 over the three month promotion period. In return you will get three certificates worth at least $160 each, for an effective rebate of more than 26 percent of hotel costs. Add in the value of the hotel points earned, and the rebate gets even higher.
    Of course, it is possible to get even more value out of these certificates. Hiltons in Paris, London, Venice and other European cities often cost in excess of $400 per night. Although not common, one can sometimes find a Hampton for less than $90 per night, all in. So it is technically possible to get a rebate value of greater than one spends on the hotels in the first place, and that's not even considering the value of the HHonors points.
    It's likely a poor idea to stay at hotels just to get the certificates, but many people will book a few extra stays for no other reason than to earn Diamond status. If we should find Dec. 31 is approaching and we only need one more stay to get that certificate, I dare say you'll find us at the cheapest Hampton we can find, letting our children enjoy the pool for the night and planning on how we will use our free room night at any Hilton in the future.

Addendum 9-28-11
    Many or all members of the Flyertalk board have reported that they have signed up for this promotion seeking the free nights and instead have been enrolled in an "extra points" version of the promotion. The extra points version is inferior, having only the advantage that the points don't expire while the certificates do. Probably best to wait a day more to enroll and then call to check and make sure you are enrolled for the free certificates.

    In addition, I stated the value of the rebate to be received as approximately 26 percent. It could easily be much higher. Spend your certificates on a $300 hotel room, such as the SanDestin Hilton or a New York or European property and the value of three certificates is $900. One is likely to earn more than 22,000 HHonors points for the 12 stays which, when used at a top property, are worth at least $200. And if you double-dip for American Airlines miles you will get 6,000 AAdvantage miles, worth about $100. So if used wisely you can easily get a 66 percent rebate out of this offer. Use your certificates in New York, Paris or London and your rebate can exceed 100 percent, but of course you have the expense of getting to these places!

Do bad teams produce great punters?

    Tyler Campbell is turning out to be one of the best punters in the country. He is, in fact, one of the few bright spots on the Rebel football team. Of course, he's had lots of practice.
    His ability as a punter isn't measured just in the average number of yards kicked. He frequently uses a rugby-style kick that allows the Rebels to down the ball within the opponents 10-yard line. A longer punt would bring them out to the 20.
    Looking back, one of the last great punters Ole Miss has had was Jim Miller, back in the horrible Steve Sloan era (I think he played one year under Ken Cooper). Jim had lots of practice, too! He went on to play NFL ball for several years before retiring (I've heard due to homesickness). He is coaching and teaching in his hometown of Ripley, Miss.
    Perhaps if time permits I could take a look at some of the better punters to enter the NFL and compare their ability to the quality of the teams they come from. Something tells me bad or mediocre teams tend to produce great punters. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.
    While looking up information on Miller, I found a great newspaper article on Hoppy Langley, who was a kicker (not punter) for the Rebels, I think from 1976 to 1980. The article appeared in the Aiken, S.C. Standard in 2009.     The article struck me as one of the better sports feature stories I've read, particularly since it came from a newspaper with a mere 16,000 circulation.

UPDATED 9-28-13 to repair link. UPDATED 9-10-18 to include clip.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perry may not be my man, but his ad is highly effective

    I've said before that I'm no Rick Perry fan. I'm still not. But that doesn't stop me from observing that he has produced one of the most powerful television spots that I've seen in quite a long time.
    The ad starts with shots of a broken and shuttered America as Obama boasts that he wants all the credit for the economy. These scenes end with a really scary boast from Obama, "I'm just getting started."
    Then Rick Perry gives his little speech. The best line is, "We don't need a president who apologizes for America." I agree. Obama has spent most of his time in office on the golf course or on vacation, but when not recreating he has spent the rest of his time sniveling about how awful America is. We just don't need that!
    I'm still not a Rick Perry fan, but I have to salute him for producing one helluva commercial. Democrats may not like it but they better get used to it, because the right is going to treat Obama with the same level of decency that the left showed towards Sarah Palin. In other words, all's fair in love, war and politics. This one is going to be ugly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Have you seen this boat?

    There is an ad on Craigslist about a boat which has been stolen and believed to be in the Oxford area. The boat belongs to a soldier who is on duty in Iraq and had the boat on consignment. It doesn't quite jump out from the photo, but if you look you will see the boat has a Confederate Flag design. So it shouldn't be hard to spot!
    According to the poster of the ad, someone purchased the boat with promises to make payments until they obtained financing. The boat is believed to have then been sold without a title and is believed to be in the Oxford area. So apparently someone in the Oxford area is believed to have bought this bought without getting good title. They likely were scammed, too.
    The missing boat is a 2009 Stingray Open Bow, Texas Registration TX 6303 AY. The Hull ID # is PNYUS5P4A909. The boat is covered with Confederate Flag Vinyl Graphics, has a wakeboard tower, whatever that is, and a Black Roadmaster/Stringray Trailer, TX Registration 38426A.
    This boat was last seen in the possession of Christopher Barrett, DOB 3/17/75.
    There is a pretty substantial reward for the recovery of this boat, which I am sure that any of you who find it as a result of seeing it on this blog will want to share with me!!! If you've seen his boat, call 512-577-1772 or email
    That's 512-577-1772.

Old Movie provides solution to Ole Miss coaching woes

    Ole Miss had in Ed Orgeron a head coach who was one of the nation's best recruiters but who was a terrible game coach.
    In Houston Nutt we have a coach who is a pretty good game coach (although sometimes I wonder) but who apparently has no sense at all when it comes recruitment of players. Now that Orgeron's players have worked their way through the system there is a complete hodgepodge of talent on the team.
    So what do we do? The solution can be found in that 1972 film classic, "The Thing with Two Heads," starring Rosie Greer and Ray Milland. In that movie, a racist white multi-millionaire who is dying plots to have his head grafted onto the body of a death-row inmate. When he wakes up from the surgery he finds that his head has been grafted onto the only inmate they could find -- one who just happened to be black. You can bet the racist white millionaire wasn't happy about this one little bit.
    For the graft to work they had to share the body for several weeks. Needless to say, this is where the fun starts, as the racist white millionaire interacts with the angry wrongly convicted black man. One could say that this movie deserves the credit for the end of racial conflict in this country and the election of a black president!
    I remember seeing this delightful work of cinematography at the old Holly Theater in Holly Springs. At one time the cost of the Saturday matinee was 35 cents, but I think by 1972 it had risen to a half-dollar. Cokes and popcorn were served in small sizes at intermission so a kid could go to the picture show, get a drink and a popcorn, for a dollar. These days admission, drink, and popcorn costs about $20!
    My recollection is that the Picture Show burned not too long after showing this masterpiece. Destroyed in the fire was the only copy of "The Holly Springs Story," in which I had three lines. My recollection is that the film was made by Hal Roach, of Little Rascals fame, who traveled the country in the late 1960s or early 1970s giving "acting" lessons to children. My parents paid $19.95 for me to be in the film and like most kids I had two lines; however, when one child couldn't say, "A million dollars, gee whiz that's a lot of dough!" with any modicum of excitement, I said the line out loud and ended up getting a third line in the movie. My parents were not charged any extra, either. It was a dreadful production, but I sure wish I had a copy!
    But enough of the past; back to Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt. Can anybody doubt that the two men together might be able to eventually bring the Rebels to victory? And if not, wouldn't it be fun to watch them together on the field when the Rebels are losing? Certainly the fans need some kind of relief, and if you doubt what fun this could be, see the movie trailer from The Thing with Two Heads, which I've posted below.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jacob Briscoe found!

    Just over two weeks ago I posted about the apparent parental kidnapping of the son of a friend of mine (Jacob Briscoe kidnapped; have you seen him?).
    One of the reasons I posted is that sometimes I get Google searches that send people to my site. As a practical matter I only got about 10 people who came to this site after searching the name "Jacob Briscoe," but I figured it couldn't hurt to help get the word out.
    According to the Save Jacob Briscoe page on Facebook, Jacob has been found and reunited with Wally (see photo). Jacob is fine. His mother was apparently taken into custody somewhere in Kentucky.
    Congratulations Wally, and may God bless both of you.

Ford ad slams bailouts

    This ad has apparently been out for a few months, but Ford has managed to strike a responsive chord with many Americans. The ad was mentioned in a recent "Washington Whispers" in U.S. News and World Report.
    The series of ads brings Ford owners into a surprise "press conference" to ask them to state spontaneously why they bought a Ford. "Chris" said he bought his Ford because he wanted to buy American and didn't want to do business with a company that had been bailed out by the federal government.
    Everyone seems to think that if GM and Chrysler had been allowed to go under all of their employees would have simply lost their jobs. Not so. There would have been a demand for cars and someone would have stepped in to provide them. Some of the job might have moved -- to places like Mississippi -- but people wouldn't have stopped buying cars and there would have still been jobs making them.
    The American taxpayers are going to lose about $14 billion on the car bailout, most of which went to GM. But in addition the bankruptcy code was abused horribly to put the lavish union pensions and benefits that caused the problem in the first place in front of secured bondholders, cheating them out of more than $20 billion. So essentially GM got more than $30 billion in free money at the expense of taxpayers and people saving for retirement. Ford did not receive a single dime.
    I hear people say almost on a weekly basis that they will never buy a car from Government Motors. Folks are still angry about this scam, and Ford is wise to tap this well of discontent.
    Personally I'd rather buy a Toyota or Nissan. They're made by Mississippians for Mississippians. But in any event Ford has managed to build up a lot of good will from the American public the old-fashioned way: by being honest, self-sufficient American corporate citizens. I salute them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Here's an even dozen free vacation offers

If you need a vacation but can't afford one, here are some sweepstakes you can enter. I found most of these in the Sweepstakes section of, which is a great travel website. Some of these can be entered only once, some every day. A few expire later this month, some go until the end of the year. If you win the trip to Belize, invite me along!

Enter to win a trip for two to LA to see Cirque du Soleil's Iris courtesy of Enter once a day.

AARP is having a "Great Escape" sweepstakes - 7 night carib cruise on Royal Caribbean plus money for flights. Enter daily until Oct 18. You don't have to be retired; any age 18 and over may enter.

Twix Pick Your Pause Win a Trip ($50,000)

Rule the Runway Sweepstakes! Vote for your favorite design and enter up to five times a day for a chance to win $1,000, an HP ELITEBOOK 2760 TABLET PC and an HP ENVY! Plus $1,000 cash prize each week!

Lifetime's Make the Most of Your Color Today Sweepstakes. Play our match game up to 10 times a day for a chance to be the $100 daily instant winner and be entered into the Grand Prize Sweepstakes for a chance to win $3,000 in cash and prizes!

Back to School, Back to Me Sweepstakes. Now that the kids are back in school, put the focus on you! Enter up to 5 times a day to win $1,000 to stock up on "Moms Supplies!"

SWA and Aloft: Trip to Napa Live Concert in Vineyard. Enter Once.

Enter May Media Group's "Family Getaway" sweepstakes by January 31, 2012, for a chance to win a four-day trip for four (two adults, two children) to the winner's choice of Beaches Resorts (Turks & Caicos or Jamaica), including deluxe accommodations, all meals, unlimited premium brand beverages, daily and nightly entertainment, all land and water sports, gratuities, airport transfers, and $500 per person for airfare. You can enter once per day, but more than that disqualifies you. So don't forget and enter twice in one day!

Dr Pepper / Popeye's: Trip to Championship football game. Enter every day.

Enter Glamour Magazine's "Getaway to Belize" sweepstakes by September 30 for a chance to win a six-day trip for two to Dangriga, Belize, including air, five nights at the Thatch Caye Resort, some meals, massage, and two Nook Color e-readers with Wi-Fi. Enter only once, but you get additional entries for inviting your friends. Contest ends Sept. 30.
Belize is one of the greatest vacation spots in the world, but it costs a fortune to get there. I want this one!!!

Vogue: Trip to St. Mortiz Switzerland. Enter once.

Saveur: Trip to CA Wine Country + $5,000. Enter once a day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Judicial performance ruling may change Mississippi DUI law

    Buried in a Mississippi Supreme Court judicial performance decision is a ruling that could make a big change in Mississippi's DUI laws.
    The case is Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Steve Little. Little is a justice court judge in Alcorn County, and has apparently had an outstanding record over the years.
    Little was accused of allowing the prosecutor to retire 16 DUI cases to the file in violation of state law. He had cooperated with the investigation, admitted his wrongdoing, and agreed to a 90-day suspension without pay.
    NOT SO FAST Said the Supreme Court. They said the judge shouldn't be punished at all because he didn't violate the law. The plain language of Section 63-11-39 states that “[T]he court having jurisdiction or the prosecutor shall not reduce any charge under this chapter to a lesser charge.” “Passing to the file” charges of DUI on recommendation of the county prosecutor does not, in and of itself, constitute willful misconduct, nor does it constitute a reduction of a charge. Accordingly, we respectfully disagree with the Commission’s findings.
    "Because Judge Little did not act without the authority of law, the Commission’s reference to this case as one of “ticket-fixing” is unfounded."
    The reason this may be big news is that pursuant to this ruling it is apparently neither unlawful for a prosecutor to retire a DUI case to the file, nor for a judge to allow it. It returns to the judges and prosecutors some of the discretion they had in the past.
    Whether you agree or disagree, it's unusual to see such a big change in state law showing up in a judicial performance decision.

Hello! Texas A & M is not in the Southeast!

    I'm not the world's biggest sports fan, so I suppose those who are more knowledgeable about these things can declare that I don't know what I'm talking about. But can anybody make a good, honest case for bringing Texas A&M into the Southeastern Conference?
    I'm aware that it's a fine school with a very competitive football program. On paper its additional makes the SEC a more competitive conference.
    But there are some obvious problems, the most glaring being that Texas isn't in the Southeast. A quibble, I know, but if the SEC is going to add Texas A&M, why stop there? Why not go for UCLA? Or Ohio State? Michigan, anyone?
    Thirteen isn't just an unlucky number, it's also a bit unwieldy for a football conference. At some point a conference has enough teams. The idea is that the conferences are supposed to compete against one another. That's hard to do when all the teams are in a single conference.
    Supposedly there are plans to expand the SEC to 16 schools. Candidates include West Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina State, Virgina Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson. West Virginia and Missouri generally aren't thought of as being in the Southeast, and as such shouldn't be in the SEC. The rest of the teams would be fine were it not for the need to limit the number of teams at some point.
    This is a done deal as far as the SEC is concerned. They've voted and Texas has accepted. The only stumbling block now is that Baylor is threatening to sue to keep A&M in the Big 12. I wish Baylor the best of luck.
    Texas is a fine state, but it needs to keep Texas A&M right where it is, and we need to keep the SEC just like it is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ron Paul put his trust in Reagan; Perry put his in Gore

    You've got to love the new Ron Paul commercial. Early in his political career, Ron Paul was one of only four congressmen to support Ronald Reagan for president.
    Rick Perry, while still a political babe, was out supporting Al Gore for president. Al Gore! Mr. Ozone Himself.
    If there's one thing we know for sure about Rick Perry, it's that he can be trusted to float with the political winds. But he can't be trusted to lead our nation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Software product review: Boost Your Score! The Unofficial Software Guide to the Real ACT

    In my last post I reported on the ACT prep books that I was purchasing to help Ash get ready for the ACT test in February. Although he's only in the seventh grade, he's taking part in the Duke TIP program, which gives seventh graders a chance to take a spin on the ACT test.
    To go with my book purchases I bought a software program called Boost Your Score! The Unofficial Software Guide to the Real ACT. This program is designed to work with The Real ACT, the College Board's official guide to the ACT which contains five sample tests.
    Currently the software is keyed to the older edition of The Real ACT, which only has three tests. They are publishing a new version of the software in a couple of weeks which will be emailed free to recent customers. This version will cover all five tests, plus the online test the College Board offers. (Note: I just got an email with a link to a download of the new software. So the new six-test program is now available).
    So this software and The Real ACT offers students a chance to take six full practice tests. I would suggest spacing these out for three to six months for a long-term program of study. Personally I don't think it's important to take the tests in one long sitting until one gets near the actual testing date.
    I decided to take part of the ACT and ended up taking the whole test, although not in one sitting. Ash took only the math portion. Although I took both the English and Reading tests sitting at the computer, I do not recommend this. Sit at a table and use an answer sheet and then bubble in your answers.
    Boost Your Score is worth the $15 price just because of the convenience of scoring the tests. You input your answers onto an onscreen bubble sheet and the program automatically figures you score. You can then print out the scoring sheet to go over the problems you got wrong.
    In addition the program breaks down your answers into the types of problems asked and the percentage you got right. I did quite well on the English, Reading and Science, and I'm not sure the diagnostic report was very helpful. But in math I made a 22, and the diagnostic report reflects my lack of math skills. I correctly answered 87 percent of the pre-algebra questions, 60 percent of the elementary algebra questions, 56 percent of the intermediate algebra questions, 33 percent of the coordinate geometry questions, half of the plane geometry questions, and nary a one of the trig question. If I were really and truly studying for the ACT, I suppose my first order would be to brush up on elementary algebra.
    I must admit that on some of the algebra questions I "cheated," in that I plugged in numbers. For example, on a problem where I was supposed to find out where two balloons met in the air, I just said, "Well, let's see where they will be after three seconds." I was really close as the correct answer was 2.9 seconds. I was supposed to have used some obscure formula to calculate this. It's often possible to eyeball these algebra problems without knowing any algebra at all (I certainly know none!). Sometimes the ACT measures a particular skill only tangentially, in that it's possible to get the right answer without knowing the skill supposedly being tested.
    After my last post a friend of mine sent me a text stating that he wanted to know whether or not the software was worth the purchase price. The answer is that it's not perfect and it takes a while to find all the information you may want (but it's there!). BUT, it's a great way to not only score your tests, but also to see your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in subjects with a score of say 26 or below. In my opinion the diagnostics aren't quite as useful for really high scorers; but even then, they are still useful.
    For Pete's sake, it's a $15 program that will make studying for the ACT a lot easier. How can anybody NOT buy this?

Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm getting ready for the ACT test!

    I'm starting to get ready for the ACT test.
    Okay, I'm not going back to college, and in fact I will not be personally taking the test. But Ash will be taking it in February as part of the Duke TIP program. While he can take the test almost anywhere, he's going to take it at Oxford Middle School, where there will be a special administration limited to seventh graders.
    When it comes to academics, I'm a little bit like Charles Murray's first wife, who he describes as a half-Thai all-Chinese tiger mom:
[T]he mother of my first two children was half Thai and all Chinese, and it was all so familiar. The subject heading of the email attaching the Chua article to my elder two daughters was “Bring back memories?”
My own archetypal memory is when my eldest daughter, then perhaps eight years old, came home with her first Maryland standardized test scores, showing that she was at the 99th percentile in reading and the 93rd percentile in math. Her mother’s first words—the very first—were “What’s wrong with the math?”
    Getting ready for the ACT means ordering books. I spent a bit of time figuring out which books to order and came up with three books plus a software program.
    The first and an absolute must-have book is "The Real ACT." This book is published by the folks who administer the ACT test, and it now contains five old tests instead of just three. Most other ACT books will refer to this book or advise the use of this book for diagnostic purposes, so you have to have this one.

    The second book is Cracking the ACT by The Princeton Review. This book comes highly recommended on various college prep forums and I must say I like the format.
    Cracking the ACT has lots of test-taking tips, but it is also a teaching book. It presents each type of problem that is likely to be given on the ACT and then provides the solution in easy to an easy-to-follow format, which, given the title of the book, is always appropriately labeled "Here's how to crack it." The instructions are easy to follow. I wish textbooks did as good a job of explaining things.
    Ash is in seventh grade. He had a bit of geometry in pre-algebra and is taking algebra this year, but there are simply going to be things on the ACT that he hasn't been taught yet. If he will tolerate a little Daddy-tutoring and will use this book he will be able to learn and master at least a few of these additional skills. In fact, I think you could just give this book and a stack of 50 great works of literature to every junior high student and tell them, "Master this and we'll give you your high school diploma." But I suppose that makes too much sense.

    I have to confess that the third book feels a little like cheating; but it isn't. It's Boost Your Schore: Underground Calculator Programs for the ACT Test.
    Students taking the ACT are allowed to use a Texas Instruments TI-83 or TI-84 programmable calculator, and yes, the calculator may be programmed. This books lists a number of problems that are likely to be on the test and gives programs that can be pre-loaded on the calculator. As one Amazon reviewer reports:
    This book is really big at my school right now. The programs in this book are easy to program and good for two situations:
    1) The formulas you never remember -- for me this includes distance formula, quadratic formula, how to find an equation of a line when given two points, etc.
    2) The formulas you know, but want to save time on (or are afraid you'll mess up since you're rushing) --for me, this includes things like Pythagorean Theorem, area of a circle, circumference of a circle, etc. They also show how to store a formula 'cheat sheet' which I used to store other things I need for reference, like SOHCAHTOA, equation of a circle, etc.
    These formulas are likely to be used on only five or six problems on the ACT, but if their use saves five minutes that's a huge amount of time that can be applied to other problems. This book is simply a must-have.
    And I must say I don't think it's going to stop Ash from actually learning the formulas. He was merrily programming them last night and in so doing was actually learning or refreshing himself on some of the material.

    My final purchase was by the same people: Boost Your Score: The Unofficial Software Guide to the Real ACT. I haven't received this yet, but the reviews are good. I think this is supposed to provide good diagnostics as to where students need to spend their time studying. And everyone loves something they can do on the computer.
    There are additional ACT prep books. Barron's has one, for example, for students who are aiming to make a 36 on the ACT. A noble goal, but one we will postpone until Ash's junior year!
    The Duke TIP programs offers a great chance for serious students to take a test that will have a pretty important impact on where they will attend college and what they may do for the rest of their lives. The program is not nearly as elite as many think. Any student scoring in the 95th percentile on any subsection of any a number of standardized tests is eligible for TIP. For example, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills has something like nine subtests. A student might have a composite score in the 80-85th percentile range but still be in the 95th percentile for just one of the subtests. That child is eligible.
    If your child is eligible, by all means get signed up. It can be both fun and educational. And it can give you an idea of your child's strengths and weaknesses.
    Last year Ash and Lucy took the Explore test as part of Duke TIP. Ash did well, but we thought his reading score would have been one of his highest. It wasn't. By taking this we've identified a problem and can now work on a solution. That and putting forth a little extra effort is what it's all about.

Addendum added 7 p.m., 9-02-11: The software program arrived today. It is absolutely tied to The Real ACT book and the sample tests it contains. So you must buy this book for the software to be any good. BUT, I think the program looks to be a very good program. You input your results from the sample tests and then it shows you your strengths and weaknesses. Also, since the new Real ACT book has two additional sample tests they are going to update the software at no charge. They will email the update.

Also, I mentioned that Ash did well on the Explore test as he is through with it and going on to the ACT. Lucy did just fine as well, but she will be taking Explore again in February before going on to take the ACT in seventh grade.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Britain joins Robert Mugabe school of Economics

    Great Britain and NATO apparently joined the Robert Mugabe school of Economics. Mugabe, of course, is the Zimbabwean dictator who printed so much money in 2008 that it cost more than 230 million Zimbabwean dollars on Dec. 31, 2008 to buy as much as one could buy with one dollar at the start of the year. A 231,150,888.87% inflation rate!
    It seems the Rebels in Tripoli are having a hard time paying bills and providing basic services. And so Reuters reports the following:
    Britain flew 40 tonnes of freshly printed bank notes, many bearing Gaddafi's image, into Libya on Wednesday to help pay public workers and replenish bank cash machines.
    The 280 million Libyan dinars, officially worth about $234 million, is part of a consignment worth about $1.5 billion blocked by Britain in March after he cracked down on protests.
    Are there any more goods to buy? What exactly is backing this currency? How much faith would you have in a currency that featured the likeness of a man who had just been driven from power?
    Tripoli is supposedly out of water. The British better crank up those printing presses again so folks can get a drink and a shower. But instead of bills featuring Gadaffi, why not come up with a fresher face? Say, uh, Jefferson Davis?