“If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts”

Einstein got that right – so did the acclaimed journalist Walter Lippman who said the news and the truth are not the same thing.

Lippman believed many people, including journalist, make judgments by condensing ideas into symbols that are stored in the brain and released when triggered. When journalists take this shortcut, it is their opinion, not fact, that influences public opinion. Continue reading ““If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts””

“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

Humanity is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong, but no matter, the crowd follows it.

Oddly enough, Mark Twain’s quote comes from The Mysterious Stranger– in the world of blogs and message boards, mysterious strangers are the norm. Here, for example, I am known as Promise; but,by any name, am a modern day muckraker. Continue reading ““You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.””


Big Insurance, meet Connie Moran – a Fulbright Scholar with a master’s degree in finance/economics and international commerce – the Mayor of Ocean Springs, Mississippi with all perils insurance on her mind.Moran wants more than stories about businesses and residents having trouble rebuilding due to insurance costs, she want hard data. According to the Mississippi Press Register, she plans to provide that data to Congressman Gene Taylor. Moran wants more than stories about businesses and residents having trouble rebuilding due to insurance costs, she want hard data. According to the Mississippi Press Register, she plans to provide that data to Congressman Gene Taylor.
Continue reading “Don”

Hello! Hello! Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

Saturday Night Live became Tuesday morning reality when State Farm attorney, the “honorable” Shelia L. Birnbaum, hit the wrong button and sent the media an email asking if Attorney General Jim Hood could be charged with Contempt of Court.

I bet you did Shelia – the panic button – when Hood’s office replied, “No, you can’t! Continue reading “Hello! Hello! Is this the party to whom I am speaking?”

Robin’ Hood of Support

Blogs are touted as the savior of democracy – a voice for the people, a place where our cherished freedom of speech enjoys the freedom of information.

…and, by the way, did I mention the bridge I’ve got for sale up in Brooklyn?

Blogs are in the information business – news you can use but news that can use you, too. Continue reading “Robin’ Hood of Support”

Benefits of Doubt

Until this week, I thought Ground Zero was as low as you could go; but, I underestimated the power of Hurricane Katrina.

Sop’s “Sunday Bonus” was intended as our collective “pass” on extending the scope of this blog to include the legal storm that hit the Scruggs Katrina Group. In fact, by the time we were up and running, the wind of that storm had broken the group apart and the Scruggs firm was “roof surfing” in the surge of an indictment.

The great lesson of Katrina, however, has been the benefits of doubt – so much so that the only certainty at times has been the storm. If it weren’t for doubt about claims handling, there would have been no justice for all who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.

The benefits of doubt balance the scales of justice. Too many are weighing the claims related to the indictment of Scruggs without benefit of doubt – and, guilt or innocence aside, injustice is the result.

Thus, I open the scales of justice here for discussion and welcome all who want to weigh in and provide the benefit of doubt.


We end the third year since Katrina with more lawyers shoveling smoke in Mississippi than in any other state – certainly on a per capita basis, if not by actual count. The question yet to be answered is “Where’s the fire?”

Katrina left over 60,000 Mississippi families homeless. One of those happened to be the family of a man the Wall Street Journal has called the King of Torts. To those on the Coast slabbed first by Katrina and then by their insurance provider, he was known as Dickie, King of Hope

Now, he has lawyers; his son has lawyers, his associate has lawyers and there is no longer a group of lawyers known as the Scruggs Katrina Group – and all are shoving smoke blown their way by a lawyer named Balducci – reportedly working for either Scruggs or SKG – who made what can only be called a significant error in judgment by either attempting to bribe a judge or confessing to such. There’s still too much smoke to tell exactly which it was; but, under all that smoke is a case filed against Scruggs by a group of lawyers that were associated with the Katrina Group. Now they have lawyers, too.

We’ve got such a booming lawyer business going here that our Insurance Commission picked up the tab for lawyers to represent State Farm when SKG deposed a member of the Department’s staff on matters related to claims filed by State Farm policy holders. The Commissioner had to get approval to pay State Farm’s lawyers from the Attorney General who has lawyers of his own because State Farm is suing him – remember Mississippi is the Hospitality State. Come to find out, that what we got for our money was a State Farm lawyer telling the man, “Don’t answer that”.

In light of that shovel full of smoke, it’s hard to believe that State Farm has now filed a suit to make Scruggs “answer that” – at least, they’re paying their own lawyers this time. If you’re confused, don’t be ashamed. The judge got so confused he couldn’t tell whose interest Scruggs was representing. It seems like he could have asked; but, at Ground Zero, points of law and common sense can be two entirely different matters.

We don’t shovel smoke here at the Mississippi Insurance Forum. Our purpose is to blow all the smoke away and see if there’s any fire under the hot tin roof that’s smoldering down here – and that would be Tennessee Williams and not John Gresham, by the way. Stay tuned for more and Happy New Year.

Mr. Rogers Couldn’t “Make Believe” this Neighborhood

Before Katrina, the mix of neighborhoods in the three coastal counties of Mississippi was typical small town America and the place called home to those living there.

Home after home looked like this in neighborhoods from Ground Zero to the Alabama state line after Katrina. Because the wind had earlier blown the roof off this house, when the water came, the lucky owner and his family were able to roof raft their way to safety in what he later called the ultimate water ride.

Over two years after Katrina, this home and countless others look like this – each in some way a casualty of the insurance war. Many, like this homeowner, are victims of the uncertainty. As Mr. Rogers sang, he “wants to have a neighbor just like you…to live in a neighborhood with you.”

Rebuilding is more than construction. Neighborhoods are the infrastructure of both the built and social community. Unless a home owner can self insure, he is limited to the current $250,000 limit of flood insurance since windstorm policy recovery has proven problematic. At the current cost of construction, that equates to a home of approximately 1800 square feet – larger than the largest Katrina Cottage but considerably smaller than many of the homes lost to the storm.

The longer the uncertainty lingers, the more difficult it becomes to rebuild the social community. Social networks provide relationships that connect people to essential social supports in much the same way that roads connect the built community. Many consider these social networks “the ‘scaffolding’ or framework upon which successful community-building efforts are created.”

The wind came first, then the water – washing away all but the truth. “Somewhere deep inside each one of us human beings is a longing to know that all will be well.”

Home for Christmas…only in dreams

Since Christmas 2004, many of the people of Katrina Ground Zero have been home for Christmasonly in their dreams.

All do dream. Whatever they called “home” – humble or grand, rented or owned, is gone. Some 14,000 are celebrating yet another Christmas in a travel trailer. Others are sharing space in another family’s home. Many of those able to find temporary housing found little more than a roof over their head.

The emotional and financial toll is staggering and there is no Santa Clause delivering a Gulf Coast version of Miracle on 34 Street for those caught in the crossfire of the “insurance war” or the logjam in Congress over HB3121.

As they have done since Katrina, the people of Ground Zero continue to give to others at Christmas – even when all they have to give is themselves.

Although most had been “slabbed” by Katrina, the remaining members of the Coast Choral – about one-third the number before the storm – gathered to sing their annual concert that first Christmas. Yet unable to replace the music and other items lost to Katrina by Christmas 2007, they continue to bring “Joy to the World of Ground Zero.

In the spirit of Christmas, please remember the people of Ground Zero who will be home for Christmas…only in dreams.


The Right Side of Hurricane Katrina

The right side of a hurricane is the wrong side to be on.

You could take that sailor’s warning to the bank after Katrina – if there had been one after Katrina.

The weather wizards say “ground zero” is where the eye of a hurricane makes landfall.

Katrina’s eye passed just to the right of the Louisiana-Mississippi state line in Hancock County, Mississippi. We’re the orange spot on the map.

Of course, it didn’t take the wisdom of a wizard for any of us to figure out we were “ground zero”. All we had to do was take a look around and see nothing – “zero” – on the “ground” escaped Katrina’s wrath.

There’s still more nothing than something down here, rebuilding is stalled in the court, the economy is heading further south, and some are starting to wondering if we haven’t hit “Ground Zero for Hope”.

The right side of an insurance claim is the wrong side on after a hurricane.

When you purchase a homeowner’s policy with hurricane coverage, you expect the insurance provider to know what a hurricane is and what it does. If they don’t, you’d sure expect them to look it up and not make it up. Nonetheless, make it up appears to be exactly what some did.

All 82 Mississippi counties were included in the disaster declaration and 60% (49) were eligible for full federal disaster assistance. The insurance folks north of the Coast didn’t seem to have a problem understanding that water damage is covered if the wind blows a hole in your roof and water gets in your house.

Most of us didn’t even have a roof after Katrina blew through here. You would think, then, it wouldn’t be hard for the ones they sent down here to figure that water damage was done before the surge followed Katrina inland. Actually, it appears they did figure it out – probably right about the time they started trying to figure out ways to get by without paying when all that Katrina left behind was a slab.

The wrong side of a hurricane to be on is the one it takes a lawyer to make right.