Vegas Odds

After Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley announced his plans to run for governor last week, I asked myself only one question: why would he run as a Democrat instead of an Independent?

Presley has proven to be an effective public servant. As the mayor of Nettleton, he not only cut taxes but also managed to grow the city. As the Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District, he found ways to bring broadband internet service to some of the most rural Mississippi spaces above I-20. He listens to people and knows how to work a room.

Although my wife’s elective office is non-partisan, I heard plenty of party politics during the campaign last year. I heard folks praise Presley at length, only to end their thoughts on his body of work by saying, “Yeah, but he’s a Democrat. I could never trust him.” You can almost see them shaking their heads in regret at his party affiliation.

It would be appropriate here to weep over the straightjacket that public officials put on when they agree to serve one party or another. They’re reduced to serving ideologies before they serve the people. However, gnashing teeth over the need for a viable third party is as useful as trying to sharpen a knife with a noodle. Instead, think about this: what are Presley’s chances to topple an incumbent Republican?

Posted in Politics | 12 Comments

It’s Hell Getting Old

This academic year marks the end of my 19th year at MSMS. I almost certainly have more years behind me than ahead of me. I am not ready to retire, though I have occasionally thought about it. Speaking with similarly aged friends in different professions, I’ve not been surprised to discover two reasons they haven’t seriously considered retirement.

First, the cost of medical care outpaces cost of living adjustments made to pensions. People born after 1960 aren’t eligible for Medicare until they’re 67. Because individual health insurance policies for people in my ages bracket cost several hundred dollars a month–and for those with pre-existing conditions, more than a thousand dollars a month–typical state pensioners cannot afford to retire based on years in the system. They must wait until they get close to Medicare eligibility unless they have another job waiting in the wings.

Second, they ask themselves a more existential question: “After X years of teaching (or lawyering, banking, etc.), what in the world am I going to do?” (I have a much easier time answering that question. There’s always something to do.)

So why should my student bloggers care?

The longer people my age wait to retire, the fewer job openings there are in professions that might appeal to you. This affects not only your future earnings, but also innovation in your field, as people my age are less likely to embrace changes within their professions.

Obviously, professions need employees with my breadth of experience to promote cultural continuity and to safeguard the transmission of institutional knowledge. What policies would you craft that would protect the health and wealth of retirees, but allow for young people to enter the workforce more successfully?

Posted in Ethics, Politics | 11 Comments

Done, 2022

The blog is down for the semester. Posts (and credit for your posts) will resume when the spring semester begins. Ciao!

Posted in MSMS Stuff | Leave a comment

Break a Leg

In the world of theatre, telling somebody “good luck” before the performance is actually considered bad luck. We say “break a leg” instead.

It’s odd, but we say it. Share your favorite vernacularisms below.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

And the Winners Are…

As you know, UComp sections get to select the topics they’ll study for their in-class essays at the end of the semester. The 10:00 section decided to study the ethics of gender affirmation surgery; the noon section will address capital punishment; the 2:00 section will examine assisted suicide.

If you find links to excellent articles about any of these subjects, please share them here. Thanks!

Posted in Ethics, Science | 20 Comments

Five Days to Go

One of the oldest political adages is that politics is personal. Those who run for an office–any office, from historian of the Philosophy Club to President of the United States–understand that adage more fully than others. Candidates might begin days with a strong sense of purpose and end them with spilled coffee, closed doors, and self-doubt. These people keep working because they believe in their vision and they’re drawn to public service. A tip of the cap to all of you who have run for office, and all of you who will.

The recent invasion of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s home absolutely reinforces the idea that politics is personal, and in the worst possible way. Rep. Pelosi, of course, was among those the January 6 rioters wanted to execute, and her center-left politics continue to make her the object of intense dislike from those on the right. However, our democracy lives and dies by the idea that we get rid of disliked politicians at the ballot box, not by stringing them up outside the Capitol. Political violence, whether it involves a riot or a shooting at a Congressional baseball game or a home invasion, should not be tolerated by any party. Rhetoric that escalates the likelihood of such violence should not be condoned, either.

Express your ideas and political convictions peacefully at the ballot box on Tuesday. If your candidate falters, think about throwing your hat in the ring. The best way to lead is to act.

Posted in Politics | 13 Comments


At the beginning of each school year, I ask juniors how many of them plan to stay in state for college. The majority say–emphatically–that they plan to leave, particularly those who consider themselves part of “forgotten” communities. The Dramatic Performance’s first one act of the semester, Flyover, dramatizes the motivations young people feel as they contemplate their futures. Tell me what you think of the play’s ending.

I’m also curious: what will it take for young people to choose Mississippi rather than flee it?

Posted in Arts, Pop Culture | 13 Comments

Another Cost of Climate Change

Dozens of people died during Hurricane Ian last month. Estimates for the repairing the damage the storm did to Florida and South Carolina range from $30 to $65 billion. As Mississippi’s coastal residents know, it will take years for Floridians to put their homes and their lives back together.

Unfortunately, Ian is probably just the first punch Mother Nature throws during the 2022 storm season. This comes on the heels of a string of tough years for property owners and the insurance companies that protect them. Insurance payouts from 2017 totaled over $300 billion. Even though the financial hits in intervening years haven’t been as heavy, the number of named storm systems has increased, which suggests that people who live in coastal areas will, ultimately, experience more and more difficulty in living there safely.

This means insurance premiums for coastal housing will continue to rise, probably steeply, which will make it difficult for middle class home owners to afford staying where they are. Should the government try to mitigate these costs to make it possible for families to live on the coast? Or should we allow the market to take over–even if it means middle class families move farther and farther away from their roots and their workplaces? Are there other options to consider?

Posted in Ethics, Science | 20 Comments

Banned Books Week

I read banned books. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, from Song of Solomon to The Things They Carried, I find something valuable in wresting with ideas and depictions that other people find dangerous.

Library systems across the country have been asked to remove more books from circulation than ever before. Are some books too dangerous for young people to read? At what point should people be free to read whatever they want?

Posted in Books, Education, Ethics | 32 Comments

Seeking Organizational Advice

Next week, I plan to order 15 new podcasting mics for students in the podcasting course to use. This will address the biggest criticism of the course from last year: that I had way too few mics to accommodate the students who needed to use them. The new mics will bring the total available to 20.

What will be the best way to manage access to this equipment? The sign-out/sign-in system I’ve used has not been efficient. Imposing deadlines on groups so that other groups have access hasn’t worked, either. Your input here will shape how this gets done in the not-too-distant future.

Posted in Education, Social Media | 19 Comments