Friday, November 30, 2012

As promised, I've contacted the governor; now it's your turn

    In my most recent blog post, I said I was going to contact Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant concerning the possibility that Mississippi is planning to execute a possibly innocent man, Jeffrey Havard.
    Will it do any good? Probably not. But I've done my duty as a citizen.
    Here's my letter, submitted on Phil Bryant's website:
Dear Gov. Bryant:
    As an attorney, I believe there is a real possibility that Jeffrey Havard is innocent. I do not know that; he was never given adequate funding for a defense and once reasonable doubt was raised post-conviction the Mississippi Supreme Court said it should have been raised at his trial. Of course, it couldn't have been raised at his trial because the judge refused to provide any money for medical tests!
    I'm sure you know the facts of the case. His conviction is based almost entirely on the testimony of disgraced medical examiner Stephen Hayne. No one should even be in jail based on this man's testimony, much less put to death.
    Please do the right thing and commute this man's sentence to life imprisonment so that he will have the opportunity to continue to fight to clear his name. And if he loses, at lease Mississippi will not have killed a possibly innocent man.
    For what it's worth, I am a conservative Republican. This is not a liberal versus conservative issue. It is an issue of wrong versus right and the rule of law. Jeffrey Havard may be guilty but we certainly can't be sure, and given the extreme level of doubt that exists, he simply should not be put to death.
    Please don't let Mississippi execute a possibly innocent man!
Should you wish to email Gov. Bryant, just click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Hayne nightmare continues -- Mississippi getting ready to kill a possibly innocent man

    Radley Balko reports for the Huffington Post on the latest travesty of justice in Mississippi. Our state is getting ready to execute a man who is quite possibly innocent.
    Please take a few minutes out of your day to read the article linked to above. For years Mississippi prosecutors used Mississippi medical examiner Stephen Hayne as an expert witness to put people in prison or on death row. By reputation he is the type of person who would say just about anything the prosecutors wanted him to say to secure a conviction. He wasn't board certified, and eventually the law was changed to keep him from testifying in any further trials.
    I used to support the death penalty. I don't any more and haven't for a number of years. It's cases like this one, the Duke Lacrosse case, the George Zimmerman case, and many others that have convinced me that too often the police and/or unscrupulous prosecutors either frame innocent people or decide on guilt and throw out the rule book. Most prosecutors are honest and fair, but it only takes a few bad ones to commit what amounts to legalized murder.
    I doubt that contacting Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant will do any good, but as citizens we have a duty to do so. I certainly will, and will ask that the death sentence of Jeffrey Havard be commuted. I don't know whether Havard is guilty or not, but what I do know is that no one, and I do mean no one, should be convicted -- much less put to death -- based on the testimony of Stephen Hayne.
    I hope anyone reading this will join me in contacting our governor.
    I might add that at some point I will be contacting our attorney general, an old friend in whom I am gravely disappointed.

Thanks to Y'all Politics for bringing the Balko post to my attention.

    Radley Balko has been doing the Lord's work down here in Mississippi. All Mississippians not yet executed are in his debt. 

    Also, now might be a good time to read my blog post about former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jimmy Robertson's lament over his very minor role in sustaining the conviction of an innocent man (he wasn't on the three-judge panel but concurred in t he opinion). The blog post is linked to a newsletter article he wrote, so you can read Jimmy's writing rather than mine!

Local doctor charges $40 for office visit, no bills, no insurance, no Medicare or Medicaid

    I got an interesting flyer in the mail not long ago that suggests which way medical care may be heading in the near future.
    The flyer is for a medical clinic operated by local doctor Thomas Fowlkes and two nurse practitioners.
    Dr. Fowlkes' clinic doesn't accept Medicaid, Medicare, or insurance. Payment is expected when services are rendered; no bills. An office visit costs $40 -- substantially less than at most clinics.
    Ask any doctor about the problems with getting paid by insurance companies or the government and after their blood pressure goes down they will tell you the billing side of the business is killing them. A substantial portion of the typical medical practice is now devoted solely to maintaining billing and insurance records. As Medicare reimbursements drop I think we'll see more doctors pulling out of the system altogether.
    In addition to marketing his clinic to people without insurance, Fowlkes also seeks those who have insurance but also either have a high deductible or else those who are in a hurry. Obamacare is expected to dramatically increase the already long wait time to see a doctor. Fowlkes's clinic doesn't accept appointments and sets a goal of seeing patients within 15 minutes of arrival.
    I suspect that in the future more and more people with either insurance or Medicare will decide to just pay cash for service for their minor ailments rather than endure the hassle of a long wait for an appointment at their preferred doctor's office.
    In fact, it may be the formula all medical providers need to adopt in the future. For the big stuff, use insurance; for the little stuff, just pay.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Factoid of the day -- tankless water heaters don't save money

    I learned a little about tankless water heaters today and the lesson is unless you have the need for sudden bursts of unlimited hot water, don't buy one.
    These little devices are marketed as a way to save money, and they do save perhaps $80 per year in energy costs. But they cost about $1,200 more than a traditional hot water heater, so it can easily take 20 years to recoup your investment.
    And tankless hot water heaters are supposed to be "flushed" once a year to remove scale build-up on the coils. You might put this on a two-year schedule or even a three-year schedule, but it has to be done and will cost at least $150. And water heaters do break down and need to be replaced. It's far cheaper to replace a storage tank than a tankless heater.
    The bottom line is that a tankless water heater will cost substantially more than a conventional water heater. If you want to be "green," take the $1,000 or more you will save by using a conventional, gas water heater and use it to put extra insulation in your attic or to provide better seals for your doors and windows. You'll save money instead of throwing it away with a tankless water heater.

When it comes to hotels, I guess fancy is in the eyes of the beholder -- or reporter

    In a Tuesday, November 27, 2012, story headlined "Hotel builder reaches deal with OSD, (paywall)" Melanie Addington reports on the activity of the Oxford School Board.
For instance, on Monday the board took steps that may result in a fancy new hotel being built near the Square...
    Further reading reveals that the school board granted an easement and took other action to facilitate the building of a Courtyard by Marriott that is proposed for the vacant tract on Jackson Ave., south of the Middle School and the Scott Center.
    Now I enjoy Courtyards well enough and consider them a notch above a Hampton or Fairfield Inn. They use duvets, so I don't have to sleep under a dirty, unwashed bedspread or blanket, but that's true of all Marriott and Hilton properties. But I can't imagine anyone outside the Clampett family referring to a Courtyard by Marriott as a "fancy" hotel.
    The Courtyard, if built, will have a great location, inferior only to the Downtown Inn and the Inn at Ole Miss. I predict it will be successful. Perhaps it will even have a "fancy eatin' room."

Monday, November 26, 2012

There isn't much gender gap, just a marriage gap; so let's stop punishing those who work and marry!

    In looking at the recent election returns, one thing is certain: Republicans don’t need to worry about the gender gap. They need to worry about the marriage gap.
    We often hear about Soccer Moms and gender gaps, and there is a difference between voting preferences between married men and married women. But the real  gap is between married people and single people. Exit polls from the Nov. 6 election show that Mitt Romney won a majority of both married men and married women, taking 60 and 53 respectively. Single men only gave Romney 40 percent of the vote and only 31 percent of single women voted for Romney.
    Single people just occupy a different space from the Ward and June Cleaver world experienced by most married couples. And women who insist on becoming single mothers find the job is a difficult one. They invariably want lots and lots of government aid and support financed through taxation.
    There was a time when single parenthood was an accident – a mistake where a young mother misjudged a young man – either through an unwed pregnancy or through an ill-advised and brief marriage – and decided to turn lemons into lemonade.
    What used to happen by accident now happens on purpose. Unwed pregnancy is no longer an accident; it’s become a lifestyle choice. Regardless of income level, children raised by single parents have a higher risk of a host of poor life outcomes.
    We’re now to the point that 40 percent of all children born in this country are born out-of-wedlock. Some economists say nearly half of the economic inequality in the United States is due to the negative consequences of single parenthood. It’s not tax policy causing inequality; it’s a failure of women to marry before having kids. And I suspect this inequality grows over time.
    How did we get here? Obviously welfare got us here, but it was the welfare state combined with our reluctance to provide any benefits to families where there was a man about the house. A good look at our various relief programs illustrates that the only way to qualify for help is to make oneself a failure.
    If we want to turn this ship around, we have to stop punishing people for being married and stop punishing people for working. As much as I hate Obamacare, we need to recognize that the reason many women don’t get married is so they can qualify for Medicaid. We need to find a way to provide free medical care and maternity care to all American women who are pregnant or who have young children, regardless of income level, regardless of whether there is a man in the house.
    We need to provide every American child with a free lunch at school. No more paying people to see if the children qualify. Just serve every child a free lunch regardless of income. It wouldn’t cost that much.
    A study was released recently that said the various branches of government spent $60,000 per year per household caring for the 16.8 million American households in poverty. Obviously the bulk of this money goes to overhead. Instead of means testing for welfare, we need to just adopt some modest, across-the-board payroll taxes and then make each and every welfare program universal.
    If one citizen gets a free lunch, everybody gets a free lunch. If one citizen gets a housing subsidy, every citizen gets one for the same amount. If one citizen gets food stamps, every citizen gets food stamps.
    With universality, there is no more incentive to fail. Low-income women can marry without being punished, and if they get a job, they still keep their benefits. So let’s stop rewarding failure and punishing success, and hopefully put an end to the “marriage gap.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Former Alabama signee joins ranks of Freeze football fans with Ole Miss commit

    Coach Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels have snatched away a recruit from Alabama and as a result the Ole Miss line will be getting a little bit bigger. Make that a lot bigger.
    Brandon Hill, who attended school at St. George's in Collierville, signed with Alabama in February 2012 but wasn't able to enroll this fall due to some academic problems. So he enrolled in Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., to  make up the course work and get ready for the 2013 season.
    He's now ready and said he will enroll at Ole Miss in the spring. He said the offer was still open at Alabama but he just decided on Ole Miss instead. Hill is one of several high-profile recruits that Freeze has picked up recently.
    Various news outlets describe Hill as being either 6'6" or 6'7" and weighing between 350 and 378 pounds.
    Hill has been an offensive tackle at Hargrave, but I say we just let him run with the ball and see if anybody can stop him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It seems to me that remote access is a better way to exchange secret love letters

    It's interesting to hear how Gen. Petraeus and his lady love exchanged email love letters.
    They didn't actually send the emails to each other. Instead, they shared a Gmail or similar account and would write the emails and save them to draft. Instead of actually emailing the documents, and thus creating a traceable online trail, they would just take turns logging into the gmail account to read each other's missives.
    The news media tell us that this is a communication technique long used by terrorists and teenagers to evade detection. I have noted no irony in the equation of the two groups.
    One problem with saving drafts on a gmail account is that gmail is forever. Anything saved on these servers once is saved forever somewhere. If a scheme should be found out, eventually each and every incriminating document will also come out -- as apparently is happening now.
    It seems to me that a better way to communicate would be with various computer remote access programs. Such communications would require a computer in a safe location, but all actual documents could be saved to a removable drive on the remote computer. Such love letters could even be encrypted before they are saved. And if the heat arrived that removable drive could just disappear.
    I really don't know much about computers, or code, or the Web. These are just things I thought about as I was listening to the problems of the man who used to be America's top spy. My only conclusion is that if he's the best we've got, we're in trouble.

UNRELATED: I predict the next wave of government spyware and spying will be to aggressively surveil unsent drafts of various cloud email programs. I do not object to this as long as the government informs parents if their teenagers are engaging in risky behavior.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Time to buy a year's supply of cream of mushroom soup, other pantry items

    I stumbled across Campbell's Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken soups this week for 69 cents a can. I bought 10 cans of each. I still have some left from last year when I stocked up at 60 cents per can.
    I'll be watching the price. If it drops some more I'll probably buy another 10-20 cans of each.
    Thanksgiving and Christmas are a great time to stock up on these two items, as well as Pet Milk, sometimes sweetened condensed milk, and a few more items used in holiday cooking. Grocery stores heavily discount these items in order to attract customers doing their holiday shopping.
    One need but read the news from the northeast to know that disasters can happen and food supplies can be disrupted. One way to plan for these disasters is to buy a bunch of expensive freeze-dried food and such. The other way is just to stock up of groceries when they are on sale.
    A few years ago I actually bought 50 cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. It was only 50 cents a can and I figured we would eventually eat through it. Over the course of a year or so we did, and saved a bit of money, too. When I found a good quality pasta on sale for 50 cents a pound a while back I bought 50 pounds. I don't know that I'll ever see Ragu spaghetti sauce at 88 cents again, but last time I did I bought 30 bottles.
    So don't worry about buying a lot of expensive emergency supplies. Just make sure that you have a full pantry. Keep an extra bag of sugar, an extra bag of flour, a few bottles of cooking oil and just lots of non-perishable food in general on hand -- all bought on sale of course!
    You might think disaster will never strike, but one of these days you'll pour your morning coffee and find the cream has curdled. If you have a pantry full of Pet milk you can at least get through the day! And if that's the only disaster you ever have, you'll still save lots of money by buying lots of your groceries while they are on deep discount.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dixville Notch down to 10 voters this year;
Hart's Location is where the action is

    Every four years the residents of Dixville Notch, N.H., gather to cast their ballots at midnight. Since New Hampshire law allows the closing of the polls after every registered voter has voted, they report the results soon afterwards. Most of us have seen the news stories at either midnight or on the early morning shows.
    According to a new story, this year Dixville Notch has 10 registered voters. In 2008 there were 21, according to Wikipedia. In 2008 the community voted 15-6 in favor of Barack Obama over John McCain; however, since there is such a large decline in the number of voters this year, we won't be able to tell much about which way the election is heading from the Dixville Notch vote.
    Even though we've all heard of Dixville Notch, the original early-voting New Hampshire community is Hart's Location, which started the practice in 1948 and discontinued it in 1964 because -- can you believe this -- it was drawing too much media attention! The community resumed midnight voting in 1996. The original reason for the midnight voting had nothing to do with garnering attention; most residents worked for the railroad and wanted to get the vote over with so they wouldn't have to man the polls on election day.
    We live in a different world today and my guess is that the residents of Hart's Location, N.H., love their 15 minutes of fame. And while the Dixville Notch votes might not tell us much this year the Hart's Location votes will. In 2008 Obama defeated McCain 17-10 in Hart's Location with Ron Paul getting two write-in votes.
    It's a mighty small sample, but the Hart's location voters will give us an idea of Romney's chances around the nation. If Romney wins in Hart's location -- or even comes close -- go ahead and ice down a bottle of champagne.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More Republicans are voting early, but Shelby County, Tenn., has fewer early voters this year

    The Shelby County Daily News reports that the early voting period has ended in Shelby County, Tenn., and I think the numbers show the kind of problem that Barack Obama is having all across the nation with an unenthusiastic Democratic base and a Republican base that is chomping at the bit.
    There is no way to know exactly who the Shelby County voters cast their ballots for -- after all it is a secret ballot -- but the overall numbers are down. In 2008, 254,362 Shelby Countians cast their ballots early. This year 232,690 cast early ballots. And these numbers are down despite the fact that there are a lot more Republican early voters this year.
    In 2008, the early voting was overwhelmingly in favor of Obama. And of course in Shelby County it will continue to be. But nationally a majority of early voters have been Romney voters. One has to assume a higher percentage of this year's early Shelby voters were Republican.
    Based on the 2008 figures, about 60 percent of the people in Shelby County who are going to vote have voted. Roughly another 150,000 will show up on election day. But with lower early voter numbers, and higher Republican participation in in early voting, it can only mean there are a lot fewer votes for Obama out there this year.
    Of course, in Tennessee it won't matter; it was going for Romney no matter what. And there is the possibility that Democrats haven't tried as hard to get out the vote. But don't surprised when Romney achieves a blowout in Tennessee on Tuesday. And if Shelby County is representative of of what is going on around the nation, look for Romney to win the election.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Old Stuff Found -- Tulane's Marching Band does Another Brick in the Wall, Sept. 22, 2012

    I was looking through stuff on my video camera and came across this film of the Tulane Marching Band performing at the halftime show during the Ole Miss-Tulane Game on Sept. 22.
    I'm not going to say the Tulane band is the biggest in the world, but the show was certainly different. It featured Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."
    I only filmed a portion of the halftime show and then edited it down in size, so the resulting video is only 3.5 minutes long. In the background you can hear my daughter asking, "Who's Pink Floyd?" Clearly a deprived child.
    It was a great win early on for the Rebels, who won 39-0. I think the number of Ole Miss fans was down a bit. The Saints were playing that weekend and there was an AARP convention in town. Hotel prices were through the roof. We were able to use hotel points for free nights, otherwise we were looking at having to pay $300 per night. Ugh!