New William F. Buckley, Jr. book – a recommended good read

William F. Buckley, Jr. died eight years ago. The celebrity columnist, author, founder of National Review magazine, and host of the long running TV talk show “Firing Line”, has rightly been called the “undisputed godfather of modern conservatism.” I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to say there was no more influential leader of conservatism in America than Buckley. It is also not a stretch to suggest there would not have been a governor or President Reagan without Reagan’s good friend, William F. Buckley. Reagan himself said Buckley was “perhaps the most influential journalist and intellectual in our era.” The author of more than 60 books, including some non-fiction, it is a pleasant surprise that eight years after his passing we can enjoy another Buckley book. “A Torch Kept Lit – Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” is edited by journalist James Rosen, a Buckley protégé and frequent contributor to National Review. This delightful book is Rosen’s collection of more than 50 of the best obituaries and eulogies written by Buckley. Buckley’s writing about the deceased, in both his syndicated column and in National Review, covered a very wide range of individuals. The list includes presidents such as Eisenhower and Johnson, his own family members, other public figures such as Churchill, Barry Goldwater, and Martin Luther King, Jr., writers and entertainers like Truman Capote, Johnny Carson, Elvis, and Norman Mailer and others like Nelson Rockefeller and Eleanor Roosevelt. “A Torch Kept Lit” is a totally delightful and entertaining read.

Buckley on Lyndon Johnson

One of my favorites: Buckley said when Johnson felt the urge to act like a statesman, “he lies down until he gets over it.” Buckley described LBJ as “a man of his most recent word.”

My instructions from Clarke Reed: “Don’t bug him, boy”

I had one personal encounter with Buckley. During the 1970s, I had left my home in Ocean Springs and was living and working in Jackson on a statewide campaign. At the time,

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Dave “Boo” Ferriss, R.I.P.

A great man beyond the baseball diamond

When it was learned that the legendary Boo Ferriss had died, at age 94, on Thanksgiving Day, there was a  huge outpouring of praise and affection. It was very fitting and well deserved. I learned of Boo’s death from a friend who sent me a story, very appropriately written by columnist Rick Cleveland, a close friend of Boo who authored a book about Mississippi’s greatest baseball legend. The last time I saw Boo was at an event at Mississippi State University to honor former congressman Sonny Montgomery. Sonny was near the end of his own life and then MSU president Charles Lee had an event to honor Sonny and commemorate the renovation of MSU’s Montgomery Hall, which was named after Sonny’s grandfather. I was one of five or six speakers who were friends with Sonny and were listed in the event’s program. There was another speaker who was not listed in the program who was able to appear at the last minute. It was Boo. It was a very pleasant surprise and was great to catch up with him. I did not realize until then that Sonny and Boo had entered MSU together as freshmen. Sonny went on to a distinguished public career in the Mississippi Legislature and U.S. Congress. Boo’s career with the Boston Red Sox and as head coach at Delta State University was equally distinguished.

Boo recruited my oldest son for a baseball scholarship to DSU. My son was fortunate to have several Division 1 baseball offers and eventually eliminated Division 2 DSU from his list. However, because Boo was such a wonderful person, the hardest thing my son had to do during his recruitment was to turn down Boo’s offer. Over the years I have known many

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2017 Egg Bowl: Either Rebels or Bulldogs will win, but both seasons are letdowns

The annual battle for the Golden Egg between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University is set for Saturday afternoon. The fans of one school will rejoice at the end of the day, but the 2017 season for both schools did not meet expectations.

Rebels expected much better season

Ole Miss opened the season with much higher expectations than MSU. Most of the Rebel faithful expected a top 10 national ranking, a legitimate shot at the SEC West title, and a chance to play in Atlanta for the SEC championship. If you’re the SEC champ the next obvious hope is to be one of the four teams selected for the playoffs for the national championship. Instead, after last week’s stunning and decisive loss to Vanderbilt, the Rebels will limp into the final game with their rival at 5-6, 2-5 SEC and must win to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game. As I have said before, I don’t think any team with a 6-6 record should be playing in a bowl game. In a season when Ole Miss expectations were not met, don’t forget the Rebels at some point will likely be hit with severe penalties by the NCAA and wind up in the NCAA jailhouse. Even with a win, State won’t be bowl eligible with a 5-7 record. State’s streak of six consecutive bowls games is already over. Two of the six-year streak was when State went bowling twice and had 6-6 records that I have already mentioned should not qualify for a bowl. A big loss was when the Rebels’ outstanding quarterback Chad Kelly was injured and his senior season was over. In stepped true freshman Shea Patterson, rated last year as one of the very best high school quarterbacks in the nation. Patterson played sensational in the Rebels’ fourth quarter comeback against Texas A&M. He came back to earth last week in the loss to the lowly Commodores. However, I expect Patterson to bounce back this week against the Bulldogs’ terrible pass defense. State’s pass defense is so bad if Patterson passed for over 500 yards it would not be a shock to me. In fact, State’s entire defense is terrible. But did I fail to mention that the Ole Miss defense is also pretty bad?

Should Dan Mullen be fired?

I thought it was a big deal when State upset Texas A&M. It became less of a big deal after a mediocre Ole Miss team also beat A&M. Next up was Alabama which pounded State 51-3.

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A unanimous vote: Thank goodness it’s over

The day after the election, one of my neighbors rode by on his bike while I was walking my dogs. He shouted out just two words, “Crazy election”. Crazy election indeed. None of us have ever seen anything like the 2016 contest for President of the United States. I’m sure this is a sentiment shared by both Trump and Clinton voters. I repeat: Thank goodness it is over.

Election thoughts related to Mississippi …..

After the election, one of my dear liberal friends from Mississippi talked about the “masses” who voted for President-elect Trump. Sounds a lot to me like earlier in the campaign when Hillary Clinton referred to Trump voters as “deplorables”. Isn’t liberal elitism wonderful?

Vulgarity and corruption are not one-sided

Clarion.Ledger executive editor Sam Hall seemed to delight in the vulgarity of Donald Trump. Several times Hall “tweeted” his disgust about vulgar and tasteless statements made by Trump. There’s no question Trump frequently exhibited vulgarity and crudeness. However, I notice the liberal Hall didn’t ever tweet or appear disgusted with Clinton corruption.

I really hope Gov. Bryant and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper’s remarks were “tongue in cheek”

Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker served as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. When he took the position, I can’t think of anyone who didn’t think it was a no-win situation for Wicker. Incumbent Republicans in the U.S. Senate had far more seats

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Clarion-Ledger versus Mississippi State officials (plus burning football questions for the Dawgs and Rebels)

No, State did not name a new AD on Oct. 18

Mike Bonner is the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s beat reporter for Mississippi State athletics.  I think Bonner does a darn good job. Of course, partisans of MSU, Ole Miss or any other school never think beat reporters are as positive as they should be towards their team. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Bonner, citing unnamed sources, reported Bulldog head baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director the next week, on Oct. 18, to replace Scott Stricklin who has moved on to be AD for the Florida Gators. MSU officials were very upset with the report and the Clarion-Ledger. President Mark Keenum issued a very strong statement criticizing Bonner and the newspaper. MSU spokesman Sid Salter, a former Clarion-Ledger staff member himself and political columnist, quickly went on the state’s leading sports talk radio show to deny Bonner’s report that a decision had been made. Rick Cleveland is also a former Clarion-Ledger sports editor and columnist. Cleveland, who I think is one of the best, if not the best ever Mississippi sports columnist, promptly wrote about Bonner’s controversial report in his syndicated column. He also wrote that Hugh Kellenberger, the newspaper’s sports editor, backed Bonner.

The bottom line:

Should Bonner have contacted Dr. Keenum for a comment before his news article stating baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director on Tuesday, Oct. 18? Absolutely. There is a difference between a request for comment in

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After more than two and one half years, fall of a once prominent political figure is complete

Morgan Shands pleads guilty and goes to prison

Prominent political operative Morgan Shands and his sister were indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in March of 2014. His trial on the embezzlement charges from a bingo hall operated by an American Legion post in the Mississippi Delta was originally scheduled for early December 2014. After more than two and one-half years, Shands pled guilty to stealing $375,00, was sentenced to five years in prison and was immediately take into custody  The original indictment charged Shands with embezzling almost $600,000. According to judicial guidelines, he might just serve half of the sentence. At a time when many feel politics is too partisan and civility is missing from political life, Shands had a strong non-partisan resume. At one time he was executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party and worked for Democrat incumbent attorney general Jim Hood and his Democrat predecessor, Mike Moore. In recent years, Shands had impressive Republican credentials. He worked for U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and State Auditor Stacey Pickering. Even earlier, in 2007, he was a key figure in the campaign of current Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Shands’ most recent prominent political role was as campaign manager for then state Sen. Billy Hewes, now mayor of Gulfport, when Hewes made a strong Republican primary race for lieutenant governor against Tate Reeves in 2011. Even following his indictment in 2014, Shands had a minor role in Sen. Thad Cochran’s re-election campaign when Cochran was challenged in the GOP primary by state Sen. Chris McDaniel. At one time, it was widely rumored Shands was being encouraged to run for attorney general. How sad someone who was considered a very viable candidate to be the top law enforcement officer in the state is now in prison.

Public corruption is still far too common in Mississippi

As a side note, when it seemed the trial of Shands was stalled and not moving forward,  I wrote several update posts after talking with the DA’s office and county officials in Bolivar County. A couple of people even indicated I was picking on Shands by publicly updating the status of his case. It was very legitimate news when one of the state’s most prominent political operatives embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Public corruption is still far too common in Mississippi.

“Ten Percenters” help drive the campaign fundraiser train

The next local, legislative and statewide elections are not until 2019, but the train to raise campaign funds never slows down. Each week many current elected officials have numerous campaign events. It is expected candidates for statewide elected office, incumbents or others with statewide ambition, never slow their efforts to raise money. Most of the events for incumbent state legislators are held in Jackson. These events are not so the good folks back home can contribute to help their political friends or good candidates for legislative office get elected. Legislators from all over the state have campaign events in Jackson so they can tap the pockets of lobbyists and other special interest groups. There are several things that drive these events, even though the primaries are almost three years away and the 2019 general election is even further in the distance. One reason is more than a handful of legislators have ambition to run for statewide office. Even those who just plan to seek re-election to the legislature want to build a big war chest to discourage potential opponents. More important to some incumbent legislators is the fact that under our state’s pathetic campaign finance laws, elected officials frequently use their campaign contributions for personal, non-campaign related expenses. This unethical practice has been well documented by numerous articles written by Clarion.Ledger political editor Geoff Pender and others who write for that newspaper. Even if an elected official spends his or her campaign funds for personal expenses, under current state law all they have to do is report that part of their spending on their taxes as personal income. It would not be a stretch to say a lot of that personal spending is not properly reported when these elected officials file their federal income tax returns. The fourth reason for the endless off-year campaign fundraising events is what I will call the “ten percenters.” These are individuals and firms who make their living, or part of their living, as professional

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Jerry O’Keefe, R.I.P.

One of the giants of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jerry O’Keefe, passed away at the end of August. O’Keefe, age 93, was a highly decorated Marine fighter pilot during World War II, served in the Mississippi Legislature for one term, was mayor of Biloxi for eight years, was a successful businessman and a tireless community leader. He leaves behind other monuments to his career. O’Keefe was the chief fundraiser for the famed Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi. Politically, O’Keefe was a very liberal Democrat at a time when not many whites in Mississippi supported politicians who were anywhere left of center. O’Keefe was also a lifetime booster of Biloxi. Even his political opponents will recognize his many contributions to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I may not have been a fan of O’Keefe’s politics, but I salute him for opposing the evils of segregation at a time when very few prominent public figures in Mississippi had the courage to do it. R.I.P.

O’Keefe’s snub of a future First Lady of the U.S.A.

Former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter was the longest of longshots when he first announced he would seek the 1976 Democrat presidential nomination. I had heard Carter speak to a very small group of journalists at Millsaps College and was impressed. I had also met the husband of one of Carter’s nieces who was working for the seemingly hopeless presidential campaign. John Corlew, now a prominent Jackson attorney, was a state senator from Pascagoula at the time. I got a call from Corlew asking me to have lunch with him and the candidate’s wife, Rosalynn Carter. While having lunch at Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi, Mayor O’Keefe was dining in another room. Corlew asked O’Keefe to come over to our table to meet Mrs. Carter. O’Keefe would not budge and refused to be introduced to the wife of the longshot presidential candidate. At the time I remember being amazed that O’Keefe would not even leave his table to show a simple courtesy to the wife of a former governor and fellow Democrat running for president. A few months later, Carter won the

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Sept. 11, 2001 – My Day in D.C.

A horrible day we should never forget

I have a framed memento of that horrible day in our history, Sept. 11, 2001. It is a White House pass issued to me for the morning of 9/11. Prior to the changes made after that fateful day, Members of Congress were able to secure tickets for constituents to visit the White House. Even more in demand were so-called VIP passes to the home of the President of the United States. U.S. Representatives and Senators could take visitors to the White House and if you were a chief of staff for a member, which I was at the time, you could also, for a limited number of times, take people to the White House for a VIP tour. If my memory serves me, a VIP tour of the White House only allowed visitors to see one more room than a regular White House tour ticket. Of course, since it was called a VIP tour, the demand from constituents, most who considered themselves VIPs, was high. Early on the morning of 9/11 I picked up a constituent and his grandson at their hotel and drove them to the White House parking lot across the street from the U.S. Treasury building. After showing my pass and ID, the German Shepherd bomb sniffing dog and uniformed Secret Service checked my vehicle, we were allowed inside the White House gates. Unlike members of Congress who could just drop off a constitutent, a chief of staff was supposed to take the constituents inside to the White House visitor’s office. I had previously found I could avoid that step, so I dropped off my two visitors from Hattiesburg and headed back to my office. I decided to eat breakfast first. As I drove into the Rayburn House Office Building garage, by cell phone rang and I noticed it was my wife. I wondered why she was calling since she knew I had gone to the White House. I decided to eat breakfast. Kim called again and told me what had happened. I quickly walked to the office. I did not see any of the rest of the staff. I soon found them huddled in the back room, watching television showing shots of the first plane to hit the Twin Towers.

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Well Dan, if your team is “young”, whose fault is that?

Prior to the start of the 2016 football season, MSU coach Dan Mullen frequently talked about his young team. After last Saturday’s embarrassing loss to South Alabama, a 28-point underdog, Mullen’s postgame press conference was almost a joke. It seemed like 8-10 times Mullen referred to his “young” players or “young team.” This is Mullen’s eighth season as head coach of the Bulldogs. After leading the Bulldogs for eight years, if his team is young and inexperienced, whose fault is that (note: recruiting)? This week a prominent sports show host said State has ConferenceUSA quarterbacks, a C-USA offensive line, a C-USA running back and C-USA cornerbacks. Bo Bounds was right on target. Of course, the problem is State plays in the SEC not C-USA. Even worse, South Alabama is a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

The real reason for Ole Miss’ collapse against Florida State

After leading Florida State 28-6, the Ole Miss Rebels collapsed in the third quarter against the Seminoles. Following the game, the lead sports columnist for the Jackson Clarion.Ledger listed a number of concerns for Ole Miss in the wake of the defeat. Hugh Kellenberger ignored an additional concern that was promptly called to my attention. The major reason for the loss to FSU is that the Ole Miss band is now prohibited from playing

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