Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Skelton co-sponsoring bill to put ethanol pump near U.S. Capitol

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton is co-sponsoring a spending bill to pay for an ethanol fuel pump to fill up official vehicles.
"It only makes sense to install a pump on Capitol Hill so that House vehicles can use this clean fuel," Skelton was quoted as saying in the Associated Press article.

Harpool urges Blunt to veto campaign finance bill

The man who sponsored the bill that initially created the Missouri Ethics Commission is asking Governor Matt Blunt to veto the campaign finance reform bill. Harpool, D-Springfield, a five-term state representative, is running against incumbent Norma Champion for state senator.
The letter Harpool sent to the governor today reads as follows:

Dear Governor Blunt:
I write to urge you to veto legislation passed in the closing days of the recent session of the Missouri General Assembly which eliminates limits on campaign contributions in Missouri. This bill constitutes an unparalleled retreat in the battle for governmental integrity. The legislation will take the tainted ethical environment which already exists in Jefferson City and make it toxic. The stench of improper relationships between lobbyists, elected officials and campaign consultants will be made even more sickening if limits on campaign contributions are lifted.

The suggestion that the bill will result in better disclosure of the source of campaign funds is erroneous. The bill will result in no additional information or disclosure concerning campaign contributions due to the unlimited in-kind contributions the bill allows political party committees to make to candidates.

Even if better disclosure were to result from the bill, it would still be bad public policy. The disenfranchisement citizens will feel when they learn candidates are receiving contributions of unlimited amounts from big money interests makes the bill intolerable. Imagine for a moment the hopelessness a working family would feel after sacrificing to find $500 to contribute to a candidate of their choice only to learn that a multinational corporation has contributed $10,000 or $100,000 to the opposing candidate. Lifting the limits on campaign contributions will further alienate working families from the political process. When voters are alienated by the political process, they become alienated from their government.

If you veto this legislation, I personally commit to you that I will make myself available to draft a bill which, unlike the one passed in the recent legislative session, advances the cause of governmental ethics in Missouri. The bill will outlaw committee-to-committee money and maintain limits on campaign contributions. Advocates of integrity in public service need not choose between disclosure and campaign limits. Missouri voters deserve both contribution limits and full disclosure.

Please do not sound the trumpet of retreat in the battle for governmental integrity by signing legislation eliminating limits on campaign contributions.

Yours very truly,

Doug Harpool

A few words about teachers

When you enter the world of blogging, the first thing you learn is courtesy is almost non-existent.
When people disagree with you, they often do not believe it is enough to state the reasons for that disagreement. They also have to launch personal attacks. I accept that as part of the game, though I regret the lack of civility in the blogosphere. What should serve as a starting point for enlightened, even spirited discussion, usually turns into name-calling.
Again, I have accepted that. Usually if someone verbally attacks me, someone else will come on the site either to defend me or just to verbally attack the other person. It usually runs about 50-50.
I have no problem with some local journalists, both of the print and broadcast varieties, who denigrate my style of reporting and commentary, and take advantage of every opportunity to let me know. They can say whatever they want; I'm just happy they continue reading The Turner Report.
That being said, one of the commenters crossed the line earlier this week and I waited to say anything, hoping that someone else would pick up the sword and join the battle.
The comment was left on my post about the KSN crawl and its mixing of the story of the deaths of a soldier and two journalists in Iraq with the birth of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby. The commenter said:
"Maybe Randy could find something legitimate to do with his time instead of ragging on the REAL journalists in our area. You know what they say: those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach."
Readers did reply to the journalism portion of the comment and I appreciate their responses, but so far no one has responded to those last eight words, one of the most hideous and baseless sayings in the English language: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
Everytime I read George Bernard Shaw's famous quote, or hear someone saying it, it angers me. It did long before I ever stepped foot in a classroom.
A good teacher could be a success in any field he or she chooses to try, but I don't know of any successful people who made it where they are without good teachers influencing them somewhere along the way.
I was fortunate in my schooling to have had good teachers in elementary, junior high and high school, and a few more in college. I hate to start naming names, because I will leave people out, but these people deserve the recognition. Unfortunately, many of them are no longer with us.
I was fortunate enough to have good teachers all through elementary school. We didn't have kindergarten at Midway, but I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Minnie Weems as my first and second grade teacher. I recently read that she is still hanging in there at age 93.
The rest of my elementary teachers were also skilled. Mrs. Nettie Cummins, Mrs. Sue Cole, Mrs. Irene Relf, and my teacher both for sixth grade and then later for English in seventh grade Mrs. Jean Rowe. No one who took Mrs. Rowe's class will ever forget how she brought "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" to life reading from the book with her pronounced Southern accent.
At East Newton High School, I was lucky enough to learn from Mr. Charles Goade, whom I had for two classes, world history and comparative political systems. Mr. Goade was an excellent basketball coach, but he was an even better classroom teacher.
Science was never my favorite class, but Mr. Bill Keith kept me interested for an entire year. He even turned me into a B student in his class by the end of the year.
My English III and English IV teacher, Mr. Don Bogle, selected me for the "Fife and Drum," East Newton's school newspaper, when I was a junior, and afforded me numerous opportunities to develop my creative writing skills in class.
I was lucky enough to have Mr. Burney Johnson as a teacher for three years, taking civics my freshman year, and Spanish I and II my junior and senior years. Though I was the recipient of several of his 1,000 word punishments my freshman year, there was never a time when I didn't know I was in the presence of an excellent teacher.
Perhaps the teacher who influenced me the most was Mrs. Janice Matthews, now Janice Johnson, who was my speech and drama teacher during my sophomore and junior years.
Up until my sophomore year, I was unable to pronounce words that began with the letters "th" and had the sound found in words like thick, thin, and Thursday. Mrs. Matthews took the time to put me with a speech therapist (it was the first year East Newton ever had one) and my problem quickly vanished.
Later that year, Mrs. Matthews decided that East Newton was going to put on its first musical, the old Cole Porter classic, "Anything Goes." I didn't mind the singing, but I was not looking forward to the dancing. She talked me into trying out for the play. When the musical tryouts were held, I sang one line and the music teacher with virtually the same cadence as Bette Davis, said, "This boy will not sing in this play."
And I didn't, but Mrs. Matthews still gave me the third biggest part in the play as Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No. 13, the comic relief. I didn't sing and my dancing was limited, but it was a big moment for me and it was all due to Mrs. Matthews.
The next year, she showed enough faith to try me in a dramatic role and that, too, was successful. Unfortunately, she was not there my senior year, but her influence continued. Becky Hildebrand and I took one of her favorite duet act selections, from Archibald McLeish's Pulitzer-Prize winning play, J. B. and qualified for the state speech tournament during the District Speech Tournament at SMS. The best thing about it, was despite the fact that Mrs. Matthews, who by this time was teaching at Kickapoo High School, was no longer our teacher, she was there to watch us. She told us, "You're not in my classroom any more, but you will always be my students."
Those words remain as clear to me now as when Mrs. Matthews said them 32 years ago and they are the words I told my students at South Middle School earlier this month, and have told my students at South and at Diamond Middle School each year since I began teaching.
When I did my student teaching in 1981 at Diamond, I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Randy Switzer as my supervising teacher. I still use some of what he taught me.
I was lucky enough at Diamond to work closely with a crew of eighth grade teachers who not only imparted information, but also took a genuine interest in their students. Mr. Grant Reed's projects made American history come alive and spent hours of his time tutoring students. Mrs. Renee Jones conveyed her love of literature and high expectations for proper grammar usage, and actually had her students writing novels as a classroom assignment. She also sponsored a Student Council which collected more than 1,500 books to stock the school's first library. Mrs. Nancy Berry not only taught math and algebra to her students, but also managed to show up for nearly all of their activities.
For the past three years, I have been fortunate enough to work with the faculty at South Middle School. In fact, I spent the last two days with most of them, attending a seminar at Joplin High School. These teachers are there because they care about the children and want them to succeed.
Let me just mention a few of those teachers:
-Mr. Rocky Biggers, who is in the class next to mine, not only teaches American History, but each year he works with his eighth graders on Project Citizen, which gets them involved in helping the community.
-Miss Sheri Medlock, the eighth grade reading teacher, has sponsored reading and creative writing clubs, without pay, to benefit her students.
-Mrs. Valerie Doerr, the math teacher, probably spends as much time tutoring students, and e-mailing and calling parents as any teacher I have ever seen. She takes every route possible to make sure her students succeed.
-Mr. Jason Weaver, whom I have assisted as quiz bowl sponsor for the last two years, takes students to Florida each spring break as part of a Living Classroom project. He also takes the time each year to write personalized letters to each of his students at the end of the school year. In the classroom, he makes world history come alive.
-Mrs. Linda Weaver- I don't know of any teacher in any school who fights to improve reading as much as Mrs. Weaver. Each year, she holds a successful reading promotion, and she fights to keep reading at the forefront of everything we do at South.
-Ms. Joyce Wall- The successes Mrs. Wall, a special education teacher, has had reaching troubled kids who could not be reached by any other teacher, is legendary at South.
I probably should go down the list and keep naming teachers, and I will apologize to those whose names I have left out, but the point has been made.
These are people who are not only successful teachers, but they could be successful (and many of them have been) at anything else they attempt.
I have been lucky to have been associated with excellent teachers for most of my half-century on this earth. Only someone who never paid attention to his teachers would actually believe that quote, "Those who can, do. Those who can't teach."
Those who can, do...and they owe it to those who teach.

(Photos: From top left, Mr. Burney Johnson, Mr. Bill Keith, Mr. Grant Reed, Mr. Rocky Biggers, Mrs. Linda Weaver, Miss Sheri Medlock)

Blog: Stevenson passed over for U. S. Attorney post

"The Source," a new blog started by former Sam Graves aide Jeff Roe, says Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, who was a finalist for the U. S. Attorney job opened when Todd Graves resigned, did not get the job.
Instead, the blog reports, a person who was not even on the finalist list, John Wood, Homeland Security chief of staff...and Sen. Kit Bond's cousin.
Bond was the one who submitted the list of finalists, the blog said. Wood was a "special nomination" submitted by the Department of Justice.

Anti-pedophile bills await governor's signature

Diamond Police officer Jim Murray has received considerable attention over the past few years for his Internet sex stings in which he poses as an underaged girl and inevitably gets hit on by pedophiles cruising chat rooms for action.
Now bills that could strengthen the laws and help in the fight against these characters have been passed by the state legislature and await Governor Blunt's signature.
Murray is one of the people the Springfield News-Leader interviewed in today's article about the bills.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

McCaskill favored search of Rep. Jefferson's office

U. S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill has no problems with the Justice Department's decision to search the legislative office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana.
"The House leadership and members of Congress of both parties should step aside and let our criminal justice system do its work," she is quoted as saying in the KC Buzz Blog.

Talent to launch campaign in southwest Missouri

U. S. Sen. Jim Talent will officially launch his reelection campaign Friday with a two-day, eight-city tour, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Springfield, followed by an 11 a.m. stop in Joplin, according to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch's Political Fix blog and KY3's political blog.
Talent will follow his Springfield and Joplin events with events in Kansas City and Columbia Friday, and conclude it in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, St. Joseph and Hannibal Saturday.

Handling of deaths in Iraq is disturbing

Perhaps it's because the deaths of journalists in war, while on the increase in Iraq, is still more unusual, but the coverage of the deaths of two CBS journalists in Iraq Monday was disturbing...especially coming on Memorial Day.
Consider the first two paragraphs of an article distributed by the New York Times News Service:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two Britons working as members of a CBS News television crew were killed yesterday and an American correspondent for the network was critically injured when a military patrol they were accompanying was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

A U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter also were killed in the attack on a joint U.S. and Iraqi patrol that killed the two CBS journalists, and six other soldiers were wounded, a statement by the U.S. military command said.

Is it any wonder that polls show Americans hold journalists in such low regard. The death of a soldier did not make it into the article until the second paragraph. For that story to be published on Memorial Day makes it even worse.
And it's not as if the New York Times was the only media outlet to employ the same news judgment. I just listened to a report on NBC's Today Show in which the death of an American soldier and an Iraqi civilian in that same incident was almost thrown in as an afterthought. To be fair, Matt Lauer, commenting after the report, went out of his way to make sure that impression wasn't left, but that would not have been necessary if the story hadn't been told that way in the first place.
The deaths of journalists need to be reported, of course; it is part of the story, but the deaths of American soldiers should never be relegated to the second paragraph.

Democratic leader accepts gifts from state agency

Ban gifts outright.
The U. S. Senate has no intention of doing so, but that is the only way the potency of this practice will ever be decreased. Sure, there are going to be lobbyists and special interests who will slip legislators gifts under the table, but if there is no doubt that it is illegal, it can be prosecuted when it is discovered.
The latest incident that points out the need for such a law is chronicled in an article in today's Washington Post. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada took free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three boxing matches while the Commission had a stake in legislation on the federal regulation of boxing.
That was the peg on the news story, but it doesn't really matter what legislation was pending. The idea of our elected officials accepting freebies from anybody is a problem. They are paid well over $100,000 to represent us. If they want ringside tickets or to fly to the Bahamas or to play in a golf tournament, let them spend their own money and pay for their own travel.
The only way to restore faith in government is to forget this nonsense, prevalent in both state and national politics that disclosure is a cureall for everything that ails the system. It's not. The only cure is to totally eliminate the disease.

KSN crawl equates deaths in Iraq with Brad and Angelina's child

The crawl at the bottom of the screen during the KSN and KODE newscasts annoys me.
That's obviously not the first time I have expressed that opinion and undoubtedly it is here to stay no matter how many viewers it ticks off.
That being said, perhaps those in charge of it might consider employing some method of separating the types of news stories that are shown in the crawl. For instance, KSN carried the headline on the U. S. soldier and two journalists who were killed Monday in Iraq, then without a break went directly into the news that the latest X-Men movie made over $100 million over the weekend, followed by the news that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby.
To have no transition between the substantive and the frivolous was rather jarring, especially on a Memorial Day newscast. Perhaps KSNF and KODE should consider doing what ESPN does. When its sports ticker is moving from one sport to another, it highlights the sport, then begins showing headlines. The same thing could be done between national news, international news, entertainment news, health news, whatever may come up.
It's just something to consider.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The true story behind "Taps"

It is fitting on Memorial Day to examine the origins of "Taps." This website provides plenty of information.

Kenneth Lay's MU days explored in Tribune story

One of the hallmarks of a good newspaper is the ability to take national stories and localize them.
Veteran reporter Terry Ganey of the Columbia Tribune has done just that with an examination of convicted former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay's early days at MU.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Blunt offers thoughts on immigration bill

The immigration issue "is at the top of our telephone calls every day," Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt told National Public Radio's Renee Montagne during an interview on Morning Edition this week.
Blunt said that even with skyrocketing gas prices, immigration has been the top concern for southwest Missourians.
Despite major differences between the Senate and the House on the immigration bill, Blunt said he believed middle ground can be reached. "I can see a way to get this done."
An audio link to that interview can be found at the NPR site.

New links added to Turner Report

Ten new links have been added to the links section on the right hand side of this page. I already mentioned the addition of the Joplin Business Journal. The new sites are:
-Fired Up Missouri- This site offers the Democratic point of view on state issues and is published by Roy Temple, a former Carnahan aide.
-Right Missouri- Right Missouri offers the Republican side of issues.
-Three personal blogs from the Springfield area: Simple Things from a Complex Mind, Granny Geek, and Dad's on a Rant Again
-KY3 Political Blog- The number one television station in Springfield has recently started a blog.
-Ozarks Messenger- This is the blog started recently by new Springfield News-Leader editorial page editor Tony Messenger.
-Some upstate blogs: Blog St. Louis, KC Buzz Blog, which is the Kansas City Star's political blog, and Political Fix, which is the St. Louis Post Dispatch's political blog.
Hopefully, by adding these blogs to the other southwest Missouri news and information sources, we can provide some interesting reading to supplement The Turner Report.

Shine the light on everything except lobbyists

Many of the so-called campaign reforms that will go into effect if Governor Matt Blunt signs HB1900 were included in Senate Bill 1254, which was co-sponsored by nearly the entire Senate, including Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, and Norma Champion, R-Springfield.
Nodler, in particular, did not stint in his praise of the Senate bill. In a news release dated March 13, Nodler wrote, "Senate Bill 1254, which I am co-sponsoring, is considering to be the most significant reform to the Missouri system of campaign-finance ethics. Under the legislation, we will bring accountability and transparency to the campaign contribution process so the public can easily follow the trail of campaign money."
It would seem then, that one of the prime targets of the Senate bill and the currently pending House bill, is Sen. Nodler himself.
In his recent examination of Nodler's campaign records, Joplin Globe investigative reporter Max McCoy wrote:
"More than $20,000 in contributions - about 9 percent of Nodler's total - came from individuals for whom no occupation or employer information was listed in reports to the Missouri Ethics Commission, a computer-aided data analysis by the Globe found."
A computer-aided data analysis by The Turner Report (well, I did it while I was sitting at the computer) indicates Nodler has received at least 24 campaign contributions from registered lobbyists and only three of those were listed as lobbyists on the disclosure forms filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
In fact, 11 of those contributions, totaling $2,250, listed no employer whatsoever. Others were listed by the name of the company, none of which, as you might guess, have the term lobby in the title, while others were dressed up in such euphemisms as "consultant," "business," or "governmental consultant."
In the period between January 2002 and August 2005, Nodler never listed any lobbyist as a lobbyist. All three who were listed as lobbyists were listed in the October 2005 quaterly report, which even though I am sure it is just a coincidence came after The Turner Report began writing about Nodler's campaign contributions from lobbyists and how none of them were listed as such.
In all, lobbyists have contributed at least $5,875 to Nodler's campaigns. And that figure does not include money which has been guided to his campaign through the shell committees that the new legislation is supposed to end. It also does not include money from special interests that is arranged through the good graces of these lobbyists and others whose names are not on any campaign contribution check.
Among the lobbyists who contributed to the Elect Nodler Committee were:
Sept. 5, 2001- John Winburn, listed as consultant, lobbyist for Altria, Bell South, Pfizer, Apple, $550
March 26, 2002- Tony Feather, lobbyist for Advocates for School Choice, AT&T, listed by his firm, Feather, Larsen and Synhorst, $575
March 29, 2002- Lance Beshore, officer and lobbyist for Leggett & Platt, listed as Leggett & Platt, $575
Oct. 22, 2002- J. Scott Marrs, lobbyist for Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Springfield, listed as governmental consultant, $150
Aug. 13, 2003- Gary Burton, lobbyist for city of Joplin, Isle of Capri casinos, Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association, Missouri Council of School Administrators, no employment listed, $150
Aug. 13, 2003- Kyna Iman, lobbyist for Missouri Southern State University, no employment listed, $150
Aug. 13, 2003- Stephen Murray, lobbyist for Aquila, no employment listed, $150
Aug. 28, 2003- Lance Beshore, lobbyist for Leggett & Platt, no employment listed
Sept. 9, 2003- David Klarich, lobbyist for AT&T, MOHELA, no employment listed, $200
Aug. 3, 2004- Sharon Beshore, wife of Lance Beshore, lobbyist for Leggett & Platt, no employment listed, $600
Aug. 10, 2004- Iman, no employment listed, $175
Aug 11, 2004- The Swain Group, a lobbying firm working for Missouri Energy Group and Verizon, listed by company name, $175
April 25, 2005- Marrs, no employment listed, $150
April 25, 2005- Burch & Associates, lobbying firm run by former State Representative Jerry Burch, lobbyist for Branson Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri State University, $250
April 25, 2005- Iman, no employment listed, $150
April 25, 2005- Douglas Burnett, lobbyist for Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, no employment listed, $100
April 26, 2005- Mark Rhoads, lobbyist for AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, no employment listed, $600
April 26, 2005- Gary Sharpe, lobbyist for Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, Missouri Association of School Administrators, Missouri Council of School Administrators, no employment listed, $150
April 26, 2005- Penman & Winton Consulting Group, Inc., listed under business name, $250
June 17, 2005- William E. Shoehigh, lobbyist for Microsoft, Apollo Group (which donated $500 to Nodler), listed simply as "business," $100
Aug. 5, 2005- Gerald Grimaldi, lobbyist for Truman Medical Center, listed as Truman Medical Center, $100
Aug. 8, 2005- Roy Cagle, lobbyist for Missouri Finance Institute, listed as lobbyist, $250
Aug. 8, 2005- J. Scott Marrs, listed as governmental consultant, $300
Aug. 10, 2005- James Farrell, lobbyist for a number of St. Louis interests, listed as lobbyist, $175
Aug. 10, 2005- Iman, listed as lobbyist, $175
Nodler concluded his March 13 news release by writing, "Political campaigns should be conducted appropriately, responsibly and ethically to reflect the integrity of the candidate."
I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Star article delves into history of captured couple

The capture of America's most wanted couple in Barton County Thursday and the kidnapping of a young Pittsburg-area girl brought an element of notoriety to this area, that fortunately, we rarely see.
Today's Kansas City Star features an examination of the couple, Richard Davis and Dena Riley, and their backgrounds.

Newspapers need to take stance on political columns

My former publisher at The Carthage Press, Jim Farley, took a strong stance against the use of columns written by elected officials...he didn't use them.
As far as he saw it, these columns were free publicity for officials who most likely would not spend their advertising money with the newspaper anyway when election time came around. He has no problem with reporters interviewing the officials and getting quotes on state issues, but he drew the line at giving them free space on the newspaper's editorial page.
He said the only way he would see fit to run a politician's column was if it was dropped the second that politician had opposition, or if the opposing candidates received an equal amount of space.
The use of these columns on the pages of area newspapers, especially the Joplin Daily and Neosho Daily News, is an outrage, especially when nearly all of the elected officials who are submitting the columns have opposition this year.
It can be argued that these columns are a way for the politicians to keep in touch with the constituents, but in some cases, as I have demonstrated in this blog, some of our elected officials have been submitting columns that are plagiarized from other sources. This happened numerous times with Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, whose columns are still running in various newspapers even though she, too, faces opposition.
It is tempting for newspapers with small staffs to accept free columns that make up for the lack of having a reporter in the state capital, but there are ways to provide that coverage without having to sacrifice credibility:
-This is the age of the Internet. Candidates' votes, descriptions of bills, coverage by metropolitan newspapers, all of these things are available for research purposes. Use them.
-Pick up the phone and conduct interviews with our elected officials over issues that are of concern to your readers.
-GateHouse Media, owner of the Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, Carthage Press and numerous other Missouri newspapers, could hire a statehouse reporter, with each newspaper kicking in a portion of the expense, at least when the legislature is in session.

If these columns are going to continue, and apparently, they are, our local newspapers need to seek out opposing candidates and offer them an equal amount of space. Incumbency already has too much of an advantage without newspapers adding to the problem.

Outside money fueling Talent, McCaskill campaigns

An analysis in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows an incredible amount of out-of-state money is being funneled into the U. S. Senate campaigns of incumbent Jim Talent and challenger Claire McCaskill.

Hunter opponent receives 43 words in Globe

Pick up a phone and call the man.
That was all the Joplin Globe had to do to get a relevant political story for its readers, but Globe editors elected to whittle down a news release on the announcement that Air Force veteran Michael Emery is challenging incumbent Rep. Steve Hunter.
In a political season where the amount of influence held by lobbyists has become the number one issue, Emery's candidacy stands out because he is making it his number one issue, and he is facing a legislator who annually ranks among the top two or three representatives in accepting lobbyists' gifts.
Hunter is also a paid employee of the lobbying organization, Associated Industries of Missouri and annually introduces legislation desired by his employer.
The Globe has touched on Hunter's problems in the past, but always in a hit-and-run fashion.
In the case of Emery's candidacy, the Globe also appears to be missing a local trend: He is the second candidate this week who has launched an independent candidacy against a firmly-entrenched incumbent, following in the footsteps of social worker Kim Wright, who plans to run against Sen. Gary Nodler. Some may consider these candidacies quixotic, but they do represent a growing dissatisfaction with our elected officials and with a campaign finance system that virtually serves as a full-employment plan for incumbents.

News-Leader: Blunt should veto campaign finance bill

Add the Springfield News-Leader editorial board to the ever-increasing number of voices urging Governor Matt Blunt to veto the recently-passed campaign finance bill.
To quote a few paragraphs from today's editorial:

"This is a bad bill that took a campaign finance system in need of reform and did one thing: It hung a 'for sale' sign on the back door of the state Capitol.

"Legislators had bipartisan support to reduce the ability for lobbyists to hide their contributions to politicians by giving instead to caucuses, groups of legislators who have some loose connection. They did that.

"But erasing campaign giving limits brings no additional transparency to the process when there is still a way for donors to hide the path of their giving. In getting rid of campaign limits while also allowing unlimited in-kind donations from political committees, they pointed donors to the back door of the Capitol and mapped out the future of elections in Missouri."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Link to Joplin Business Journal added

I have added a link to the Joplin Business Journal in the links area of this page. I had an opportunity to see a few issues of it today at the public library and while there was nothing particularly outstanding about it, it did appear to be a serviceable business publication. The Journal is a publication of Asay Publishing.
I have yet to see its competitor, the Joplin Tri-State Business Journal, which is being produced by the same people who put out the Springfield Business Journal. It does not appear as if that publication has a website yet, but some of the work of its editor, former Joplin Globe writer Jeff Wells, can be found from time to time at the Springfield Business Journal link on this page.

Changes planned for KOAM website?

It looks like some changes may be in store for KOAM's website.
Today's Joplin Globe features an ad for a website manager. The ad reads, "We have the website, can you make it huge? Website manager wanted for popular high traffic local site."
Television station websites are woefully underused. For the most part, they reflect news that has already been on at 5, 6 or 10. When you consider how little of the programming time is devoted to local news, the station website can serve not only as a means of driving internet users to the channel, but also as a means of keeping them informed.

Police investigate mysterious illness at Leggett company

Nicholasville, KY police are investigating a mysterious illness that sent four workers at Adcom, a company owned by Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt, to a hospital for treatment.
None of the four workers were hospitalized, according to reports. It has not been determined whether the illnesses were the result of an intentional act. Leggett & Platt is also conducting an investigation into the incident.

Wednesday deadline set for bids on four former Knight-Ridder newspapers

Editor & Publisher says a decision is expected Wednesday on the sale of four former Knight-Ridder newspapers now owned by McClatchy.
The four, the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune; Superior (Wisc.) Daily Telegram; Grand Fork (N.D.) Herald; and Aberdeen (S.D.) American News, have drawn interest from six companies so far, including CNHI (Community Newspaper Holdings), the company which owns the Joplin Globe.

Nixon outlines reasons for opposition to campaign finance bill

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is urging Governor Matt Blunt to veto the so-called campaign finance reform bill.
In a column in today's Kansas City Star, Nixon outlines his reasons for opposing the bill.

Skelton keeps working during Rayburn Building lockdown

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton was among those who was in the Rayburn Building during Friday's lockdown over what at first appeared to be gunshots.
His story is covered in this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.

Examiner: Hostage may have been sexually assaulted

The grim tale of the fugitive couple arrested Thursday in Barton County grows worse with each new bit of information. The Independence Examiner is reporting the five-year-old kidnap victim of Richard Davis and Dena Riley may have been sexually assaulted.
The two have been charged with numerous counts, including first degree murder and kidnapping.

Appeals court ruling favors online journalists

Though it has no legal application in Missouri, where there is still no Shield Law for journalist, it was still heartening to read of a California appellate court decision in favor of online journalists.
On Friday, the appellate panel reversed a trial court ruling that bloggers were not journalists and therefore were not protected by California's Shield Law and had to reveal the source of their information on their writings about inner workings of Apple.
To quote from the New York Times article:

In its ruling, the appeals court said online and offline journalists are equally protected under the First Amendment. "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news," the opinion states. "Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Detailed account given arrest of accused killers

Leave it to the Joplin Globe's Jeff Lehr to get the complete story of what happened to lead to the arrest of two Kansas City area people accused of murder and of the rescue of a five-year-old girl.
Lehr's article is in the Saturday Globe.

More murder victims a possibility

Investigators believe Richard Davis and Dena Riley, the couple arrested Thursday in Barton County on murder charges, may be responsible for more deaths.
A spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's office says, "That is the belief here," according to a K. C. Star article.

Independent opposition surfaces for Hunter

Carthage Press Managing Editor Ron Graber broke the story today that Michael Emery, Carl Junction, is trying to gain enough signatures to run as an independent against Rep. Steve Hunter.
Emery is an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm and in Bosnia. According to the article, he works in the production department at a local television station.

Bond to hold economic roundtable in Joplin

U. S. Senator Kit Bond will hold an economic roundtable 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 30, at LeBarge Inc., 1505 Maiden Lane, Joplin,according to a news release from the senator's office.
The roundtable is one of eight Bond will hold over a two-day period to talk about the Congressional tax relief program which was recently signed into law. The news release says "Bond will stress that this tax relief plan will help build a stronger Missouri by preventing tax hikes, spurring economic growth and creating more jobs."

FCC looking into fake news reports on Fox 14, other stations

The airing of video news releases, reports done by companies or the government and disguised as news by KFJX Fox 14, and other other television stations is the focus of an FCC investigation.
According to a Washington Post article, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin ordered the investigation following the release of a report by the Center for Media and Democracy that claimed at least 77 stations, including Fox 14, aired the video news releases.
If the allegations are substantiated, the stations could each be fined $32,500. If the rules were broken for more than 10 days, according to the Post article, the fine could be as much as $325,000.

Fugitives arrested in Barton County

I am interested in seeing how our local media handles coverage of the arrest in Barton County Thursday night of a man and woman who were the subjects of a nationwide manhunt following the brutal videotaped sex killing.
Richard Davis and Dena Riley surrendered to Barton County deputies, according to various media sources. Reportedly, the couple were found with a kidnapped child from Pittsburg, Kan. More information can be found at the Kansas City Star site.
So far, local media websites offer varying amounts of coverage of the arrest. Though both Barton County and Pittsburg are in the Joplin Globe area of coverage, so far the only article posted on the Globe website comes from Associated Press. Globe editors did not even bother to correct the misinformation that Pittsburg is about 17 miles from Lamar. Pittsburg is closer to 30 miles from Lamar.
The Pittsburg Morning Sun website also offers the Associated Press story.
Only one local television station, KODE, has the story on its website.

ABC reporter: Blunt letter focus of FBI probe

A 2003 letter to former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton signed by Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is one focus of the FBI investigation into Congressional corruption, ABC reporter Brian Ross told WGN Thursday.
The letter, also signed by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay and chief deputy House whip Eric Cantor urged Norton to block construction of an Indian casino that would have competed with casinos owned by clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The revelation came in interviews following Ross's disputed story that Hastert is being targeted by the FBI.
A copy of the letter can be found at this link.

At least one local angle in Enron story

One local angle in the Enron story has been overlooked.
Former State Representative Roy Cagle from Joplin served as a lobbyist for Enron from from December 2000 through March 2002, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.
During that time, he recorded spending only $302.20 for the company, with all of that coming in April 2001. The biggest chunk of that, $91.25, went to meals for the entire General Assembly; another $58.90 went to then State Representative David Klindt, R-Bethany, for "meals, food, and beverage." Klindt, who is now a state senator, has been mentioned numerous times in this blog as the number one recipient of lobbyist gifts among Missouri legislators.
Former State Senator and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney also received $58.90, according to the Ethics Commission documents, while Rep. Gary Burton, R-Joplin (now a lobbyist) received meals, food and beverage worth $28.17.
The rest of the gifts were in $7.20 increments for meals, food and beverage and went to various legislative aides, most of them from southwest Missouri, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

'Natural Disaster' to perform at Relay for Life

Our band, "Natural Disaster" will be back in action a week from today, Friday, June 2, at Central Park in Carthage performing during the annual Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
We're scheduled to perform from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. I hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ryan trial on tap for next month

A June 14 trial has been scheduled in Cedar County Circuit Court for Jim Edward Ryan, the man charged with murder in connection with the May 25 death of John Kullie in Lamar Heights. Kullie, Ryan's brother-in-law, was beaten with a tire jack. The case is being heard in Cedar County on a change of venue from Barton County.
The trial is expected to last four days.

Governor vetoes campaign finance bill

I had the same reaction when I saw that headline on a Kansas City Star article.
Unfortunately, it was not Missouri Governor Matt Blunt who vetoed the bill, but Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who had the good sense and decency to veto similar legislation.
Governor Blunt is expected to sign the Missouri legislation into law.

Cape Girardeau paper supports photo ID, campaign finance bills

In an editorial today, the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian favors the voter photo identification and campaign finance reform bills recently passed by the state legislature.
While I don't have any big complaints about the photo voter ID bill, except for the vultures who are looking to cash in on the photo requirement, the reasoning used by the Cape Girardeau paper to support the campaign finance measure is flawed, to say the least:

"Opponents of the bill claim the legislation defies the will of the state's voters, who in 1994 voted to limit political contributions -- an action later thrown out by the courts. The then-Democrat-controlled legislature adopted higher limits.
"What the opponents fail to mention is that none of the voters in 1994 who said they wanted to cap campaign contributions had any inkling that political operatives would quickly find a way to siphon huge sums of money to their favorite candidates by using the sham of the political committees in both parties -- in effect an end run around the caps."

So why didn't they simply pass laws closing those loopholes? Instead, their solution was to remove the caps, and yes, the voters wanted the contribution caps and still want them. Requiring immediate disclosure of who donates how much money to whom is going to make little difference when that money is already being used to launch round after round of television ads and discourage not only opposition from the other party, but also opposition from within the candidate's party.

Post-Dispatch article outlines license fee office operations

The operation of license fee offices in Missouri by a number of management companies connected to close associates of Governor Matt Blunt is detailed in an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The license fee operations are reportedly the subject of an FBI investigation.

Bloggers need not apply

The headline to this post is probably the philosophy Governor Matt Blunt and lobbyist Jewell Patek will follow from now on following the revelations earlier this week on the Missouri Fired Up blog that a Chillicothe teen had interned for both of them last summer.
Today's New York Times has an exploration of interns and blogging.

Landfill permit should never have been granted in the first place

I was a bit irritated to read the letter to the editor in this morning's Joplin Globe from Leanne Tippett Mosby of the Department of Natural Resources.
The letter was in response to citizen efforts to prevent a newly created company from operating a landfill in eastern Jasper County.
"The department cannot require the permit holder to restart the permitting process each time a permit changes hands or require that the geology of the site be re-examined," Ms. Mosby wrote.
The tone seemed to be one of lecturing the people who will be the neighbors of this landfill, even though it is their lives that will be affected and not Ms. Mosby, who I am sure lives nowhere near a landfill or any of the other environmentally unfriendly sites that are supposedly regulated by her department.
Perhaps it is time for a little history lesson. In 1991, when this landfill was first being considered, I wrote a two-part series for The Carthage Press detailing the federal felony conviction of property owner Bud Gehrs of Joplin for committing crimes against the environment (if anyone has a copy of that article and can get it to me, it would be much appreciated. Unfortunately, when you have written more than 20,000 articles, it is impossible to keep all of them and that one appears to have slipped through the cracks.)
That felony conviction should have disqualified Gehrs from having anything to do with operating a landfill in this state, according to Missouri state statutes, but those were ignored by the DNR and the permit was eventually granted. Even though, as far as I know, Gehrs is no longer involved in this project, the process that resulted in the permit being granted was flawed and violated state law.
The last thing people in this area need is a state bureaucrat lecturing us about the law. What would be nice is to have state bureaucrats who believe in following the law.
(Note: Anyone with a copy of that newspaper article or any other information can mail it to: Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO 64801, or e-mail it to

Wright candidacy covered in Globe article

Joplin clinical social worker Kim Wright's efforts to launch an independent candidacy for the state senate seat currently held by Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, are the subject of a story in this morning's Joplin Globe.
The Globe was a bit late with this information, since it has been out in the community for three days, but better later than never.

Publication date set for Colby book

For those of you who have read "The Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzan," it should be welcome news that author William Colby's second book, Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America, will be published next week. Colby, of course, was the lawyer who represented Joe and Joyce Cruzan in their long battle to have their daughter Nancy removed from feeding tubes following a 1983 auto accident near Carthage that left her in a persistent vegetative state.
Since his involvement in the Cruzan case, Colby has become an advocate of the right to die and living wills. His latest book is advertised as a way of helping people to understand the "Terri Schaivo phenomenon."
The book is being published by Amacom Books. I will let you know more when I have more information.

Magazine details CNHI reporting project

The recent series on gambling featured in the Joplin Globe is the first in a company effort to pool its resources and work on major projects, according to an article in Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry magazine.
"More recently," the article said, "the news service launched a new program that takes reporters from some of the chain's newspapers for a month-long 'fellowship,' during which they receive multi-media training and produce a special series on a national topic for use by each paper. Ten reporters from nine CNHI papers have been chosen for the program, which will result in 10 different projects and series.
My understanding is that the first batch of reporters did not include one from the Globe, but that will take place in the near future.
As for the gambling series, it did make for fascinating reading, but it cried out for local sidebars. How has gambling affected the four-state area? Does the money it puts into schools and other governmental entities make up for the damage it has done to lives? Does it end up costing more because of the crime and other problems associated with it? And how about the incredible amount of money being poured into the campaign coffers of our local politicians and state and district party committees by gambling interests?
Gambling would seem to be an area that would be fertile for some Globe investigative reporting.

Revolving door continues

The revolving door between Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt and the lobbying industry continue as another former top Blunt aide has landed a lobbying position.
The Hill, an influential Washington magazine, reports Mark J. Anderson, a former senior policy aide to Blunt, "is the newest federal-affairs manager (i.e. lobbyist) at the Southern California Edison energy company, where he will focus on issues including nuclear power."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Talk about a boring task

A few moments ago, I accidentally stumbled across a new blog called Turning Turner, which has the task of trying to figure out what makes me tick.
I am having a hard time discerning why that would interest anyone, and apparently it didn't, since the blog was started eight days ago and has not had any responses as of yet.
The first post reads:

"Welcome to my newly created blog! The main purpose of this blog will be to figure out just exactly what is going on in Randy Turner's head. Randy Turner's blog can be found at It really is quite entertaining. Is it pure boredom? Is it the product of some sort of trauma? Let us embark on this adventure of picking apart the mind of Mr. Turner."

The blog is authored by someone known as "Conservative Connie."

Business Journal offers more information on Moark deal

Thanks to a reader who passed along this link, which provides more information about Moark's deal, which was announced Tuesday, to sell its liquid egg assets to Golden Oval Eggs.

Star editorial: Poor excuse for campaign finance reform

In an editorial today, the Kansas City Star says what any intelligent Missourian can clearly see: The campaign finance reform bill just passed by the General Assembly and awaiting Governor Matt Blunt's signature, has nothing whatsoever to do with reform.
"Big money soon will be influencing candidates in amounts that aren't allowed in most states," the editorial says. "A new law will make it virtually impossible to control the spending on state and local political campaigns by wealthy individual contributors and political action committees."

Teen blog details internship for governor, lobbying firm

Fired Up Missouri had a fascinating post Tuesday about a Chillicothe teen who worked as an intern for Governor Matt Blunt and for his old House of Representatives buddy, lobbyist Jewell Patek last summer.
The post is based on a reading of the teen's MySpace blog, which features her odes to drinking and cursing.
After reading it, I am left with two questions:

1. Don't the governor and Patek realize how bad this connection between the state's top elected official and a lobbyist looks?

2. If they are going to offer internships, couldn't they have found someone more deserving than this foulmouthed airhead?

More information about legislative power survey

When I provided a link to a story about a legislative power ranking which placed Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt as the 19th most powerful member of the U. S. House of Representatives, it appeared the source was a survey conducted by the Associated Press.
Most newspapers did not clarify where the rankings came from, but the Washington Post did:

"A company serving lobbyists published its 'Power Rankings' of Congress online yesterday after five months of combing through legislative records, committee assignments, news articles and fundraising documents," the Post reported Wednesday, pegging Knowlegis as "a new firm that provides software and information to clients who want to influence public policy." The rankings, the Post added, "take into account such factors as tenure, committee positions, party membership, money contributed to Congressional candidates through leadership PACs and the degree to which a politician was able to shape legislation through amendments."

This appears to be saying that Blunt is more powerful than 416 representatives because he pours a lot of money from lobbyists into the campaign coffers of his fellow Congressmen and those who seek to join that elite crew and because he has been able to effectively use an amendment system which has come under sharp criticism lately.

Remembering Bill Denney

It would be hypocritical and nowhere near the truth to say Bill Denney and I were close friends. For most of the short time the Carthage native served as sports editor of The Carthage Press he and I were at odds.
At the beginning of his time at The Press, I was assigned to cover Carthage High School girls varsity sports to take some of the pressure off Bill, who had never worked on a newspaper before.
One night, I covered a basketball game that Bill happened to attend. As usual, when I covered a game, there was not only a game story afterward, but one of my Sports Talk features. When the Press came out the next day, Bill had written a story about the game and my articles were nowhere in sight. I wasn't happy, to say the least. I realize now there was no evil intent in Bill's decision. He genuinely thought he had written a better story than I had. We both had pretty high opinions of our writing skills.
Bill made a big impact in a short time. He ticked people off by stating what he truly believed. When attendance at Carthage High School boys basketball games was down, Bill wrote a column exhorting people to attend the games. Nothing unusual about that, but when it was pointed out to him that many more activities existed at that time than when Bill was a high school basketball star, including ninth grade basketball, girls basketball and junior high basketball, Bill laid it right on the line...It didn't matter. Carthage High School boys basketball was the main sport and it should be supported. He had a lot of people angry at him, but that never swayed him from giving his opinion. I should mention there were a number of people who were in total agreement with him.
Even though we didn't work together long, I can still picture Bill as if it were yesterday, wearing bulky, white turtleneck sweaters, towering over everyone else in the newsroom, his booming voice reverberating off the walls.
Fortunately, I ran into Bill one more time after his days at The Press ended in 1992. A few years later, I saw him when I was covering Carthage High School's Project Graduation at Missouri Southern.
Bill Denney never held a grudge. Any problems we had were in the past. It was as if he were seeing an old friend he had not seen in a long time. We must have talked for more than an hour. It was the last time I saw him.
Life was an adventure for Bill Denney. It led him in many directions, including a brief acting career, in which he appeared in about a half-dozen episodes of Dallas as one of J. R. Ewing's evil henchmen. He also appeared in numerous theatrical productions both in Texas, where Dallas was filmed, and in Missouri.
He served his country early in life and at the end of his life. Bill was a Vietnam veteran and at the time of his death Monday, he worked for Homeland Security, operating out of the Social Security office in Pittsburg, Kan.
Bill Denney packed a lot of living into those 60 years.

Drury grad named executive director of B.B. King Museum

Connie Gibbons, who earned her bachelor's degree at Drury University in Springfield, shouldn't have any trouble finding good music.
Ms. Gibbons has been named executive director of the B. B. King Museum, according to an article in the Jackson MS. Clarion-Ledger. Seven years ago, she directed the construction of the Buddy Holly Center for Art and Music in Lubbock, Texas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this woman's musical taste.

Moark sells liquid egg assets

The dismantling of Land O'Lakes unprofitable egg subsidiary began this week with the sale of Moark's liquid egg assets to Renville, Minn.-based Golden Oval Eggs, according to a current report and news release filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The deal, which is expected to be completed by July 1, involves processing facilities in Neosho, Millersburg, Ohio, Abbeyville, Ala., Vernon, Calif., and Norco, Calif.
The filing said Moark will contine its primary business, the production of marketing and shell eggs.
"A supply agreement for shell eggs from MoArk facilities and a licensing agreement for the use of the LAND O LAKES brand on liquid egg products are also included in the transaction."
In the filing, Dana Persson, president and CEO of Golden Oval Eggs, said,
"With this expansion into the further processed egg products business, Golden Oval Eggs will be better positioned for continued strategic growth, to provide greater shareholder value, and to offer expanded quality products and services. With both companies’ commitment to customers and employees, combined with the experienced management and employees of MoArk, customers can expect business as usual and a seamless transition."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Regional papers blow it with political coverage

For one of the few times, I did not pick up a copy of the print edition of The Joplin Globe today, but I do know that nowhere on the Globe website did I find any reference to the Public Citizen report that indicated Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt had accepted more than half a million in campaign contributions from lobbyists since 1998, more than all representatives, except three, including disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Wait, let me take that back. There was one reference to that information; that came in a response to a letter to the editor.
No matter what Globe editors may have thought of the source (Public Citizen, which published the information, was started by Ralph Nader), the information in it comes from public records. It is information that any media organization could have compiled, but didn't.
I failed to notice the story on the Springfield News-Leader website, either, but the News-Leader was guilty of an even more egregious omission. Monday afternoon, former five-term state representative Doug Harpool officially launched his candidacy for state senator, taking on the formidable incumbent Aunt Norma Champion, the longtime host of KY3's "Children's Hour."
While I would be the first to say that most of these campaign launches are staged for the media and are not worthy of coverage, this one was actually had substance.
Harpool unveiled a plan for sweeping ethics reform, with specific details, not just generalities. And he has a record in this area, having been the legislator who sponsored the bill that created the Missouri Ethics Commission.
So many times, newspapers' political coverage is devoid of substance and is limited to who has raised how much money. Harpool offered detailed plans on a critical issue...and the News-Leader didn't have a word as far as I could tell.
Even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch deemed Harpool's plan worthy of coverage, but not his hometown newspaper.
If Southwest Missourians have to depend on the News-Leader and the Globe for their political information, they are going to remain woefully uninformed.

Harpool candidacy subject of Post-Dispatch article

Former State Representative Doug Harpool's efforts to dislodge Aunt Norma Champion from her state senate seat are examined in an article from the Monday St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The article touches on Harpool's bill that created the Missouri Ethics Commission and his campaign to restore ethics to the State Legislature.

Survey: Blunt has more power than man who defeated him

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt has more power in Congress than Rep. John Boehner, the man who defeated him in the majority leader vote, according to a survey released by Associated Press.
Blunt ranked 19th out of 435 representatives, while Boehner was rated 33rd.
The survey ranks legislators by their committee and leadership positions, political influence and legislative activity, the article said.
Sen. Kit Bond ranked 30th and Jim Talent 72nd on the list, the story said. The top senator was Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, followed by Arlen Spector, R-Pennsylvania, and John McCain, R-Arizona.

Immigration issue causes rift between Bush, Blunt

President Bush's proposal to offer many illegal immigrants a route to citizenship has drawn opposition from leaders within his own party, including House Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt, according to a Washington Post article.
Those two, among others, are not thrilled with the president's plan.

CNHI in running for Grand Forks Herald

Editor & Publisher reports CNHI, owner of the Joplin Globe, toured the Grand Forks Herald plant in North Dakota, one of the former Knight-Ridder newspapers that McClatchy Newspapers, the buyer of that company, has put up for sale.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lamar swindler files another court action

You have to give Patrick Dallas Graham credit.
He has been rejected more times than Harold Stassen but he keeps on trying. It was less than a month ago, that this blog reported that Graham, who was sentenced in 1997 to 15 years in prison for fleecing 500 investors in his company, Conquest Labs, out of more than $5 million, had a habeas corpus petition rejected in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Graham is back in court again. Last time, he claimed his lawyer was ineffective. This time, according to court documents, he is saying Missouri's sentencing laws are unconstitutional.
Graham still has an action pending in Cole County Circuit Court.
Graham was convicted of fraud after bilking his investors, including pop singer Pat Boone, and the Herschend family, owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, out of the money they invested in Conquest Labs, which Graham said was working on a vaccine to cure the AIDS virus, as well as other vaccines that would cure cancer and Alzheimer's Disease. In fact, no vaccines existed, and Graham was pouring the proceeds into his own pockets.
He was indicted by a Barton County grand jury in February 1996, following a May 23, 1995, raid of his office on the Lamar square.

Courts reject Granby bank robber's motion

Last December, The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Granby's most famous bank robber, William J. R. Embrey, in his attempt for freedom, but that intrepid Embrey has not given up. Unfortunately for him, his luck remains bad.
The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District Friday rejected Embrey's petition for a writ of mandamus. He did win one small victory; the court allowed him to have the costs of his petition footed by the taxpayers.
According to his U. S. Supreme Court appeal, Embrey claims he should not have been sentenced to consecutive 20-year terms for bank robbery and kidnapping in connection with the March 11, 1979, robbery of a bank in Southwest City.
During that robbery, according to court records, Embrey and his half-brother, Luie White of Diamond, approached bank official Darrell Spillers and his family at their Southwest City home and demanded money. Spillers took more than $11,000 from the bank, while Embrey and White held his family hostage. Embrey and White left for Oklahoma in Spillers' car, taking him with them as "insurance," in case Spillers had called the police while he was at the bank.
When they reached their getaway car, they released Spillers unharmed. Embrey was later convicted in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on charges of armed bank robbery, in violation of the Federal Bank Robbery Act and kidnapping in violation of the Federal Kidnapping Act. On Sept. 19, 1980, Embrey received the consecutive 20-year sentences. Embrey received a break in 1997 when an appellate court panel ruled that he should not have received consecutive sentences and he was released since he had already served the time for one crime. The full court overruled that decision, however. Embrey was free on appeal, but he was unable to leave well enough alone.
On Dec. 5, 1998. Embrey, 64, and White, were each charged with possession of firearms by a convicted felon following a traffic stop, according to court records.
White, who was driving, initially denied knowing who Embrey was, according to a news release from the U. S. Attorney's office, but then identified him as Herbert Jensen. After further questioning, the passenger identified himself as William Embrey. The trooper asked for permission to search the car.
At that point, according to the federal indictment, Embrey began to show heart attack symptoms and asked for antiglycerine pills which he said were in the trunk of his car. Embrey has a history of heart problems.
As he got out of the car, the trooper noticed two 9 mm ammunition clips on the seat where Embrey was sitting, according to the indictment. After putting Embrey in an ambulance, authorities said, a loaded handgun was found on the ground where he had been sitting. Three shotguns, three revolvers, more ammunition, Halloween masks, wigs, makeup, gloves, a police scanner and two-way radios were also found in the car's trunk.
According to an Associated Press report, one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said state and federal authorities believed Embrey and White were preparing to rob another bank.
Since that time, Embrey has made at least two attempts to sue the Highway Patrol officers who stopped him. claiming they violated his civil rights. Embrey, acting as his own lawyer, claimed troopers Stephen L. Grass and C. N. Ponder, were "trolling the highways for the purpose of targeting out-of-state and rental vehicles then creating and/or finding reasons to stop said vehicles for the sole purpose of searching for drugs."

Teacher drops lawsuit against Nevada R-5 School District

The question of whether depression is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act will have to be decided at some future place and time.
That question had been at the center of veteran schoolteacher Lisa Hubler's wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Nevada R-5 School District, which she voluntarily dismissed today.
Ms. Hubler's decision came only hours after a federal judge refused her request to delay her deposition for at least 30 days because she was "not in an emotional condition to be deposed." That deposition was scheduled for today. Had she failed to appear, the decision, which was filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri indicated, she risked having her case dismissed by the court and not being able to file it again.
By dismissing it herself, she has retained the right to file the lawsuit again.
In the suit, Ms. Hubler claimed she was wrongfully fired by the Nevada R-5 School District because of depression-related problems.
According to her petition, Ms. Hubler was hired by R-5 Superintendent Ted Davis on April 14, 2000. to teach first grade students in the district's Reading Recovery program. Previously, she taught fourth grade for 10 years in the North Kansas City School District.
From Oct. 9 to Oct. 20, 2000, the lawsuit said, Ms. Hubler was given two weeks of paid sick leave to deal with the onset of depression symptoms. The school offered her a reduced work schedule for three weeks after her leave, then she returned to working full time.
On Feb. 20, 2001, the lawsuit said, the principal, Debbie Spaur, and director of special services Geraldine Johnson "confronted plaintiff with allegations that she had abused her sick leave in October of 2000." Ms. Hubler was told that her trainer from Southeast Missouri State University Carrie Kleinsorge had reported that Ms. Hubler was not doing well in the reading recovery program. "Plaintiff was told that there was concern about her medical condition and her ability to do the job."
At the end of that meeting, Ms. Hubler was told she needed to decide whether she wanted to continue at Bryan Elementary. "The implication was clear that Principal Spaur and Director Johnson wanted her to resign. She asked if she was being told to quit." She was told it was up to her and that if she stayed job target goals would be set for her.
The next day, Ms. Hudler called Ms. Kleinsorge who told her that she was doing fine and expressed surprise about what the school officials said.
Ms. Hudler then spoke with the superintendent who told her her absences had "hurt her chances for a contract renewal."
The principal had also told Ms. Hudler there had been a parent complaint about her, according to the lawsuit. After talking with the parent, she said, it became apparent that was not the case.
On March 2, 2001, Ms. Hudler's psychologist prepared a request for medical leave for the rest of the school year. Ms. Hudler's husband told school officials she could return to work with proper accommodations and that she could not work due to the hostile work relations with the principal and Ms. Kleinsorge.
On April 12, 2001, Ms. Hudler received a letter telling her her contract would not be renewed.
Ms. Hudler claims that she was discriminated against because of her disability and that her civil rights were violated.
In documents filed with the court, school officials denied Ms. Hubler's claims.

Report indicates Blunt has received more than half a million from lobbyists

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt has received $504,733 from lobbyists and an additional $148,838 from lobbyists' political action committees since 1998, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.
That total ranks Blunt 8th in Congress during that time period, but the report shows that he has picked up the pace during the last election cycle.
Since the beginning of 2005, FEC documents examined by Public Citizen show Blunt ranking fourth among all legislators, receiving $152,258 from individual lobbyists and $56,500 from political action committees. The only three who have received more contributions from lobbyists are: 1. Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, $387,239, 2. Rep. Jim McCrory, R-Fla., $245,372, 3. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, $215,229.

Harpool calls for sweeping ethics reform

Five-term state representative Doug Harpool, a Democrat, is launching his State Senate campaign in Springfield at the moment this was published with a call for "sweeping ethics reform in Missouri government."
Harpool,49, was the legislator who was primarily responsible for the creation of the Missouri Ethics Commission, is challenging incumbent Norma Champion, R-Springfield.
"Lobbyist control of campaign contributions – together with gifts and other expenditures on politicians are destroying public service," Harpool said in a news release. "Too many politicians are now using public service for self service. Our senators should look out for the best interest of all citizens, not just those who pour cash into campaign coffers, or fill political pockets with perks."
Harpool also released his ethics reform plan, which features the following components:

Only non-profit entities should be eligible to serve as fee agents with the Department of Revenue. Priority in the award of fee agent contracts should be given to not-for-profit groups willing to designate school districts, public colleges and universities, and public health clinics as exclusive beneficiaries of all net proceeds of the office. Money earned in operating fee agent offices should be returned to taxpayers in the form of services, and not used to line the pockets of the governor’s political supporters or relatives of the powerful elected officials.

No public servant should be employed as a lobbyist or campaign consultant. Lobbyists should not serve as campaign consultants, or employees of elected officials. Campaign consultants should not be on the payroll of elected officials. The financial separation among the three occupations (lobbyist, campaign consultant and elected official) should be absolute. Prohibitions imposed upon public servants should also extend to the employees of public servants and their immediate families.
Elected officials and their staff should not be able to leave office and immediately start lobbying. A four-year interval between the two should be required by law.
Elected officials should be required to annually disclose the identities of any relatives of lobbyists on their office or campaign payroll. They should also have to disclose the names of any of their relatives who are employed by lobbyists or are registered as lobbyists.
Public servants should be prohibited from accepting travel, meals and gifts from lobbyists and the special interests which employ them. This prohibition should extend to public servants, their employees, and their immediate families. The prohibition should also prohibit any political action committee (candidate, party, or otherwise) from paying personal expenses of an elected official. Special interests should not be able to provide personal perks to politicians through campaign contributions.
Legislation repealing limits on the amounts of campaign contributions recently passed by the Missouri General Assembly should never be signed into law by the Governor. If the Governor signs the legislation, the first order of business in next year’s session of the General Assembly should be reinstating the limits.
No political action committee (PAC) should be allowed to launder money to any other political action committee. The prohibition should apply to all committees whether designated as party, candidate, or continuing committees. Limits on contributions by PACs should be the same as those for individuals.
No candidate should be allowed to maintain funds in a campaign committee for more than ninety (90) days after an election date. Funds remaining should be contributed to charity, returned to donors, or contributed to the political party of the candidate’s choice. No candidate should be permitted to receive a campaign contribution more than one year before or within one month of an
election. No campaign committee should be allowed to borrow money, not even from the candidate. No committee should be allowed to incur obligations in excess of money on hand.

Presently there is no consequence to a legislator who overspends the amount budgeted for the operation of their office. Legislators are allowed to carry over excess money from one budget year to another budget year when other departments of government are prohibited from doing so. Legislators are frequently reimbursed for expenses that are primarily of a personal nature or are more related to furthering political interest rather than serving the public. Unfortunately, legislators
are free to police themselves concerning the propriety of these expenditures. The power to regulate the office expenditures by legislators should be transferred to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission should be empowered to impose fines on legislators who over spend their office budgets. The Ethics Commission should determine when the in-district expenditures of the legislator on matters such as office staff, telephone, fax, internet, mileage, etc. are properly reimbursable as
public service related expenses rather than personal or political expenses.
The Ethics Commission should be given broad authority to investigate ethics concerns even where no formal complaint is filed. The investigative staff of the Commission should be expanded. Penalties for ethics and campaign finance violations should be enhanced. Vacancies on the Ethics Commission should be filled by vote of the Missouri Supreme Court if not immediately filled by the Governor.

Nodler challenger to run as independent

Kim Wright, the social worker who plans to run against Gary Nodler for his 32nd District Senatorial seat, has begun a petition to secure enough names to be listed on the November ballot as an independent.
"I have until the end of July to complete the petition drive but hope to be finished much sooner," Ms. Wright told The Turner Report. "My name would be listed on the November ballot when the petitions are validated. I am not in a position to say much from the Democratic perspective since I am running as an Independent. Hopefully we will be able to provide your readers a location they can go to in order to sign petitions the first weekend in June when we begin our petition drive in earnest."
As reported earlier today, a meeting for those supporting or having interest in Ms. Wright's candidacy is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at 711 W. 32nd in Joplin.

Columnists favors national voter photo ID bill

The controversy over the recently-passed photo voter ID bill in Missouri is going to be replayed on a national scale. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has sponsored legislation that would require photo identification for voters across the United States.
Syndicated writer John H. Fund supports the plan in his latest column.

Opposition surfaces for Nodler

Gary Nodler will not go unopposed in his effort for a second four-year term in the State Senate.
Kim Wilson, a clinical social worker from Joplin, who has been involved in Democratic politics, has agreed to run against him. A planning meeting has been set for 7 p.m. today at 711 W. 32nd in Joplin.
I hope to have more information later today.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Those who hide in the shadows

My name is at the top of the page, my biography is on this blog; and there is no secret as to who writes the words that are added to it everyday. I stand behind my writing.
I allow anonymous comments to be made on this blog and I have no problem with them. There are good reasons for many people to remain anonymous and I welcome points of view, whether I agree with them or not.
That being said, I was surprised today to find two lengthy comments, and two shorter ones, supporting Sen. Nodler coming from IP addresses listed for Frankfurt, Germany. At first, I was impressed to find someone in Europe who had such encyclopedic knowledge of Senator Nodler's campaign and legislative activities, down to this little tidbit concerning occupations being left off for some campaign contributors: "The Nodler campaign has always complied with those good faith efforts and only 9% of the contributions lack that employer information although all report the identity and address of the contributor." Nine percent, hmmm, that's pretty exact.
The rest of this comment also appeared to have first-hand knowledge of the senator's campaign machinery and of his legislative accomplishments. The comment said, "It is obvious that Nodler is very popular and very effective." Also, "The Nodler critics will just have to face the fact that they are vastly outnumbered by those that recognize that Nodler is the most effective state legislator in our area since the death of Dick Webster."
It was the first indication I had that Nodler had the same kind of inexplicable popularity in Germany that Jerry Lewis has in France. But then, I took a closer look at that German IP address. First, let me assure readers, I don't have any idea who is reading this blog unless someone tells me. I have information that indicates what city the person is in and if that person arrived at my site through a link on another website or through a search engine result, but that is all. This IP address was listed for something called "Anonymouse."
I checked it out and apparently, this is a service that allows people to surf the net and not be traced. Not that there is anything wrong with that. We do give up a lot of privacy when we surf the net, but this person apparently wants to make absolutely sure that his or her identity is not revealed.
I have nothing but a few educated guesses as to who this person is who left two comments on the most recent Nodler post and two more on an earlier one today. I have no idea why this person has such a lofty opinion and such detailed knowledge of Gary Nodler, but cannot be coaxed into adding a name to the comments, but I do know one thing:
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew Dick Webster and Gary Nodler is no Dick Webster."

A second look at the Globe's Nodler series

Now that some time has elapsed, it is time to look back on the Joplin Globe's recent series, "Spheres of Influence," which examined the money behind Sen. Gary Nodler.
I have no problem with the series itself. Max McCoy, as usual, did a thorough job detailing who is putting money into Gary Nodler's campaign and into the so-called leadership PAC, which bears Nodler's name.
Unfortunately, while McCoy was doing his steadfast best to expose the machinations of the powers-that-be on the local political scene, the powers-that-be at his own newspaper were leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Where was the Joplin Globe Editorial Board during all of this? Certainly, a major series of this kind should have sparked some kind of editorial about the evils of the campaign finance system, and how they have stripped the voters of any real choice in many elections.
Where was Globe Editor Ed Simpson? As many readers jumped all over Max McCoy and accused him of having an ax to grind against the senator, Simpson did not use his Sunday bully pulpit to explain the reasons why the series was done and to explain that McCoy was just doing his job. McCoy's tough enough to take criticism; he has been doing this kind of expose' for years, but it would have been nice if his editor had used the same kind of fervor he displayed during the recent Joplin Police problems.
By not following up on the Nodler series, the Globe is taking the same approach it did last year when it ran an article on lobbyists' influence on our area legislators. The story ran, listing amounts received by legislators, but there was no backup to the reporter, no one to explain why the story was important. Then it vanished as if it had never existed. No further mention was made of lobbying. If The Globe had stuck with that story, it would have been ahead of the curve, since lobbying has become a cause celebre this year.
Most likely the same thing will happen with the Nodler investigation. No one can ever say the Globe did not look into Nodler's campaign contributions; no one can ever say it didn't examine the Nodler Leadership PAC. Odds are, no one will ever mention it again.

Too much ado about MySpace

I would be the last person to deny that problems exist with social networking websites such as MySpace and Xanga. Undoubtedly, there are perverts who prowl cyberspace looking for easy marks. Some teens put far too much personal information on the Internet for anyone to see. Others use these sites for cyberbullying. Those uses have been highlighted time and again by the national and local media (who have especially been hyping the hysteria during sweeps month series), while the vast majority of teens have not been abusing or misusing these sites.
Unfortunately, all of this has been a bonanza for opportunistic politicians looking for a scare issue so they can charge in like white knights and slay the MySpace dragon.
Legislation has been proposed in Congress which would require schools and public libraries to eliminate access to social networking sites and other sites that use similar technology. That would not only include MySpace and Xanga, but sites such as, which is home to The Turner Report, and three of my four Room 210 sites, Room 210 News, which features work from the South Middle School Journalism Club; Room 210 Discussion, which is designed to give students an opportunity to read and write about issues that affect them; and my most recent addition, Room 210 for Teachers, which addresses educational issues.
I am not too worried about students losing access to my Blogger sites at school. They are already blocked at many schools in this area, and it has nothing to do with me or my style of writing (except perhaps at my former place of employment in Diamond).
I am more worried about the shortsighted attitude of people who would close the door on a technology that is already enhancing education. We already know the bad things about teen blogs. The media have focused on them, and in many cases deservedly so. There are, however, good uses for social networking sites.
-These sites, when used correctly, can encourage student reading and writing, skills which they normally make no effort to sharpen unless they are required to do so for school assignments.
-Though we hear more about the students who post their plans to commit mayhem on these sites, we hear far less about young people who are able to connect with others their own age who have similar interests. Sure, there are perverts who take advantage of that, but that has already been lessened with more education and with increased awareness among parents and other adults about the dangers of the Internet.
I am reminded of the 1950s hysteria surrounding two horrible evils that were threatening our young people- rock and roll and comic books. When adults decried these activities and tried to get them banned, teens craved them that much more and both are thriving today.
Instead of banning social networking sites, let's let educators, not publicity-hungry politicians, but educators, find a way to take this marvelous technology and make it a tool for education. If you think MySpace is popular with teens now, just wait until adults tell them they can't have anything to do with it.
That tactic did not work in the 1950s; it is not going to work now.

Joplin Daily publisher introduces himself

Joplin Daily Publisher Rodney Blaukat introduces himself in a column just posted on the Daily website. Hopefully, this won't be a one-shot effort.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Column analyzes effect of removal of contribution limits

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jo Mannies offers a sobering look at what will likely happen following the recent decision by the Missouri General Assembly to remove campaign contribution limits.

Leggett to webcast investor meeting

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt will webcast a Wednesday, May 24,meeting in New York with investors and analysts, according to a company news release.

Blaukat no stranger to dealing with Joplin Globe

Newly-minted Joplin Daily Publisher Rodney Blaukat is no stranger to dealing with his competition, the Joplin Globe.
I came across this post from the Sept. 5, 2004, Turner Report when Blaukat was still a member of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education and the Globe, as usual, failed to play up Joplin school achievements.

Nodler: Campaign finance bill was not perfect

Using his gift for understatement Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, told those attending an Eggs and Issues breakfast at Airport Drive Friday that the recently passed campaign finance bill was not perfect.
The Joplin Daily quotes Nodler as saying:
"Campaign finance and ethics reform, again, not a perfect bill, but one that certainly increases transparency so citizens will be able to follow the dollars more easily and know where campaign finances come from. It tightens up on the relationship between lobbyists and legislature, which is probably long overdue."

All it does is make it easier for the special interests to get their money where they want it to go in the first place. And it has no effect whatsoever on the relationship between lobbyists and legislators.
To restore voter confidence, these are the steps that should be taken:
-Forget about lobbyists' disclosure. Ban gifts entirely. I am tired of the whining from supporters of the status quo claiming that this violates the First Amendment which specifically enables people to petition their legislators. The First Amendment says nothing about paying for travel, booze, and gifts. Lobbyists will still hold the advantage since most of them have Jefferson City offices and easy access to our representatives and senators. They have the right to petition the legislators, not the right to buy them.
-Restore the campaign contribution limits that Missourians overwhelmingly approved 12 years ago. Even though the system still overwhelmingly leans toward incumbents of both parties, if the money the parties shell out is removed from the equation, the system is much more fair. That can be done without removing contributions. If a candidate deserves to win, this can be done without huge amounts of cash coming in from out-of-district (and sometimes out-of-state) special interests). If a candidate cannot raise money in his or her own district, that candidate deserves to go down to defeat.
It's not going to happen, but Governor Blunt should veto this bill. Compromise is an effective tool in politics, but this is not compromise; this bill does absolutely nothing to loosen the stranglehold special interests have on Missouri politics.

More than $5 million in bills submitted in O'Sullivan Industries bankruptcy

Final bills totaling more than $5 million were submitted by three of the companies that advised O'Sullivan Industries officials in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
According to documents filed Friday in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Lazard Freres & Co. submitted a bill for a $2,812,500 fee for work done between Oct. 14 when the bankruptcy was filed and April when the company emerged from bankruptcy. That did not include $106,572.86 Lazard claims for expenses.
FTI Consulting's bill was for $1,834,836.25, not counting $206,835.32 in expenses. Finally, Lamberth, Cifelli, Stokes & Stout submitted a bill for $216,526, not counting $29,231.92 for expenses.

GateHouse media seeking web designer

It appears designer for GateHouse Media's websites may be based in Joplin, according to an advertisement placed on The location for the position is listed as Joplin and the salary as between $30,000 and $35,000. The ad reads:
"National Publishing Company is seeking a website designer to assist with production and maintenance of several websites throughout the country. The successful candidate must possess the following skills and knowledge: Flash design knowledge/design experience, Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML, XML, JavaScript, Web Graphic Design, Web Savvy, Planning, Web User Interface Design, Web Programming Skills, Teamwork, Illustration Tools, Multimedia Content Development, Understanding Browser Capabilities, Internet Presence, Verbal Communication A minimum of 3 years of web design experience - 5 years or more of experience is desired."
Interestingly enough, knowledge of news does not appear as a requirement.
Those who are interested in the position are directed to contact new Joplin Daily Publisher Rodney Blaukat.
GateHouse's other area publications include The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News.