Should government promote happiness?

This topic is rather “off the beaten path” for Vicksburg Speaks, but should nevertheless be of interest to the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County. Thanks to Harry Schultz for some of the near-quotes, and to the BBC for their research and their series, “The Happiness Formula.”

Scientists claim they have now learned how to measure an individual’s happiness. Happiness has been shown to increase longevity (by 9 years, according to one study!), improve health, reduce stress levels, etc. It follows, then, that a wise and compassionate government would measure and promote happiness. Some do. Here’s an example:

The Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas ranks GDP (gross domestic product) and GNH (gross national happiness) equally. Until recently there were no lawyers, no TV, and no airports. They now allow TV, but restrict the hours and content. They will not allow MTV or violence in programming, nor tobacco, Coke or Pepsi ads. Tobacco and plastic bags are banned. The government places spiritual development on a par with material improvement, and promotes policies that put happiness at the heart of government. The king of Bhutan wants to resign and turn Bhutan into a democracy. The people oppose it. They don’t see democracy working elsewhere; they see violence, crime, fraud, divorce, drugs, and… unhappiness.

It’s a bit of a stretch to expect the US government to adopt such measures, and it probably couldn’t happen in a “democracy” of our kind anyway. But wouldn’t we all be more satisfied with ourselves and our neighbors if we all pursued happiness rather than material wealth?

If you would like to read the BBC article, go to

Published in: on July 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm  Comments (1)  

Vicksburg’s veterinarians – what’s your experience?

This writer had a disturbing experience with a local veterinarian regarding care of a sick pet this past weekend. The most glaring offense was the lack of compassion displayed by the doctor for the sick animal; he instead exhibited what could best be described as “heartless disregard.” The bill he presented – over $200.00 – was considered by this writer to be excessive, especially considering the paltry benefit provided. Worst of all, however, nothing was done to improve the pet’s condition, and no guidance was provided in case the animal’s condition worsened (which it did).

This one irresponsible individual is not representative of most of the remainder of the veterinarians who serve our community (a very compassionate and competent vet was soon located by this writer). Yet, some authorities claim that nationally the profession has fallen under control of the big drugs companies, who, it is asserted, place profit before the welfare of the patients (see big pharma if you wish to read this article). And it is a fact that Veterinarians continue to prescribe drugs that are known to have high incidences of fatal consequences, many if not most times without informing the owners of the risks involved, all in the name of profit (and, hopefully, not ignorance). Rimadyl, a Pfizer drug, for example, is prescribed often for pain, even though it is a well-known killer of thousands of dogs.

One has to also wonder if the high cost of veterinarian services is discouraging some pet owners from seeking help when their pets are in distress. Likewise, one must face the certain result that many pets will die for the same reason.

Your comments regarding the quality of local veterinary care as well as the “health” of the profession as a whole are invited.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 12:56 pm  Comments (2)  

3 robbery suspects jailed – will they serve time?

The three thugs who robbed Highway 80 recycling center employees have been captured and now reside behind bars. Bond has thus far been denied them, yet in incidents of similar nature in the past, the suspects have often been allowed to make bond and remain free until their trial date. Such could still occur in this instance, though at this point it looks unlikely. Key to placing these three in prison for a long period will be an indictment by a grand jury and a vigorous prosecution in court. Once a conviction is obtained (hopefully), it will be up to a judge to pass sentence. Will these three thugs serve time? Or will they be given the all-too-often “suspended sentence” and probation?

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 2:09 am  Comments (2)  

The high cost of living in Vicksburg and Warren County

Our city has made great improvements in its infrastructure in the past several years, advances that have sparked a renaissance of sorts throughout the county, but especially downtown. The transformation has come at a high cost to city and county residents, however. Utility bills – natural gas, water, sewer, and garbage collection – have doubled and tripled. Though city and county leaders claim that they haven’t raised property taxes, property tax bills have soared due to revaluations performed by the county tax assessor’s office; even so, our mayor has suggested that taxes be raised even further. The promise of tax reductions permitted by the revenues produced by the gaming boats has long since been abrogated by our leaders; instead, this money is spent as soon as it arrives. Regulation after regulation, with greatly increased “fees” attached, have caused the costs of construction of and repairs to homes and businesses to soar. And despite the huge increase in its income, the city has sold bonds (and is considering more) to help pay for even more grandiose designs (Oak Street Corridor, Sports Complex), thereby indebting the citizenry to an even greater degree.

The cost of “progress” is high, especially when “progress” is defined and advanced by perpetually inefficient governing bodies. Has progress as exemplified by the improvements in infrastructure in Vicksburg and Warren County in the past several years been worth the cost to you? Are you willing to pay even higher taxes and utility bills in the future in order to support similar improvements? If you think that city and county leaders (and the school board) should reduce the cost of living here, what suggestions would you give them?

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 1:01 am  Comments (7)  

County supervisor elections… have you made up your mind?

With county supervisor primary elections immediately ahead, now is the time to question their plans and goals so that you can vote intelligently. Forums are scheduled July 24 and July 31 (see the Sunday Post for details) during which you may question the candidates on any subject. If you go, what questions will you ask? Why? What are the major issues that face the county during the next four years? Have you made up your mind who you will vote for? If so, share the reasons why you made that decision.

The value of a dollar – does it matter?

The value of the US dollar is approaching an all-time low against the other major currencies of the world. Not only does this increase the costs of goods from or travel to other countries, but it could make the Chinese, the Japanese, the Saudis, and others think twice about purchasing US treasuries. The latter has supported the dollar in the past despite the Federal Reserve’s issuance of unprecedented amounts of dollars. If the dollar drops below 80 (a closely tracked number that measures the value of the dollar against a basket of foreign currencies), a freefall could occur, wrecking havoc with the US economy. Are you aware of the danger, and if so, have you planned a strategy for coping with it?

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 4:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Leyens and Beauman and… retaliation?

The Vicksburg Post has an excellent editorial in the Sunday edition wherein they discuss the case of Vicksburg Fire Dept. Capt. James Montgomery, whom the city fathers voted 2-1 (Mayfield:No) to suspend and demote for writing a letter-to-the-editor that criticized the city’s methods for determining pay raises. Montgomery has filed a federal lawsuit which, if he wins, can cost the city (read you and me) plenty. Leyens wants to change the law regarding the free speech rights of civil servants so that such “political activity” is restricted, but precedent in the courts may already indicate otherwise. The Post suggests Leyens and Beauman were arrogant in their action towards Montgomery, and insists any settlement of the case be publicly exposed. Arrogance, retaliation, and irresponsibility. If proven true, our mayor and aldermen need to do some real “soul searching.”

Published in: on July 15, 2007 at 8:26 pm  Comments (3)  

Miss Mississippi 2007 – 47 to 1 odds

Kimberly Nicole Morgan was selected as Mississippi’s Miss Mississippi 2007 Saturday night here in Vicksburg. She will no doubt represent this state with the grace, charm and wit that has been conspicuous in all our other Misses Mississippi. The other 46 contestants were likewise abundantly capable of representing our state. But they all can’t win. Miss Morgan was the judges’ favorite. Most people have their own favorite picked out well before the final vote. Just for the sake of curiosity, if you had been a judge, would you have decided as they did, or would you have picked a different contestant? Why?

Our Convention Center – beauties plus

We can be proud of our Convention Center, the brainchild of former mayor Joe Loviza. Inside and out, it’s a thing of beauty and utility, especially now that it’s filled with lovely young ladies. Jeff Richardson’s landscaping crew has done an outstanding job in preparing the flower gardens and landscape for the Miss Mississippi pageant. Most people only see the CC from the front; however, if you take a walk along the street on the river side of the building, you’ll see some of the most gorgeous landscaping in the state. Congratulations, Jeff and crew.

Published in: on July 13, 2007 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Vicksburg’s Inspection Dept. – a bit too stringent?

The number of contractors, remodelers, and ordinary people who have had difficulty complying with Vicksburg’s building codes must number into the hundreds – perhaps the thousands. The mere need to have gas, water, or electricity turned on can be an expensive and nerve-wracking experience. The Inspection Dept., charged with enforcing the codes, has been the subject of some vehement criticism. Are they just doing their jobs? Should the codes be modified? Or is the Inspection Dept. just being overly zealous in enforcing codes that can greatly increase the costs of construction, remodeling, or simple repairs?

Published in: on July 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm  Comments (7)  

If you have a cause…

If your non-profit organization would like its campaign or goals described as a topic on Vicksburg Speaks, email VS at the link to the right with suggested content. You may solicit donations or otherwise advance any good cause that benefits our town or its residents.

Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another instance of crime in our city

Names withheld by request

Friday night the son and friends of one of our finest local families were robbed at gunpoint. The incident occurred around 11:00PM within one block of Cherry Street when the four friends were retrieving equipment from a building for an outing the next day. Two black males wearing ski masks approached them with guns and threatened to shoot them. They also attempted to take along the lone female in the group when they left, but were persuaded otherwise. At one point a gun was placed to the head of one of the young men and the gunman threatened to shoot him. After making  the victims lie on the floor, the robbers took the wallets, phones, and debit cards of the victims, then left in a white car. Later the criminals attempted to use the debit cards at Bancorp South and at Wal-mart. The police were notified, but nothing has come of their investigation to date.

Published in: on July 9, 2007 at 4:27 pm  Comments (5)  

Warren Co. property taxes – taxation without notification

The Vicksburg Post recently printed an article that indicated that property taxes in Warren County will likely be rising due to revaluations of property. This will happen “under the radar screen” because state law does not require notification of property owners that their property is being revalued. Many property owners will be in for something of a shock at year end when tax bills are placed in the mail. Increases in the amount of these taxes might be avoided if the county supervisors, school board or the city mayor/aldermen would reduce the millage rates. However, at the clip they are spending money, this probably will not happen. Your comments or recommendations are welcome.

Smith vs. Martin: Our DA… and our safety

The upcoming election features an important race for District Attorney of the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Warren, Sharkey, and Issaquena counties. Mr. Gil Martin, the incumbent, faces a challenge from Mr. Richard “Ricky” Smith, Jr., who is presently practicing law here in Vicksburg. Each candidate has a website which describes in brief terms his background; Mr. Smith’s is while Mr. Martin’s is The district attorney has been in the news quite a bit lately, especially regarding a number of repeat offenders being brought before the courts for trial or sentencing, where his recommendations weigh heavily upon the decisions of the court. Of significance, too, is the apparent discord that exists between Mr. Martin and Chief of Police Tommy Moffett, one side of which is evident in the interview with Chief Moffett recorded on this site (

Our district attorney makes decisions that will ultimately affect the safety of your lives and your property. It’s far too important an office to ignore come election time. Get to know the candidates and what they stand for, then vote your convictions. You and the candidates are invited to express your views here.

Express yourself, Vicksburg

“Vicksburg Speaks” has been online for only a few weeks, yet as of this Independence Day it’s been viewed over 2,000 times by the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County (and that includes our city’s leaders). The number of viewers continues to grow – exponentially. More than ever, people need ways to make their views and concerns known, and when they do, our elected officials pay attention. The internet has become a powerful tool that permits forums such as this one to get the peoples’ message out. Exercise your right to free speech: Express yourself, Vicksburg.

Published in: on July 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm  Comments (3)