Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Christian student sues Missouri State

When you come to Missouri State, you might as well leave your religious and personal values at home...unless, of course, you have the same values as your professors.
That is the charge leveled by a Christian student who is suing her professor and the Board of Governors after she was given a lower grade because she refused to sign a letter to the Missouri Legislature supporting the rights of gays to adopt and have foster children.
The lawsuit was filed this week in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
"Although Miss Brooker entered MSU expecting that college would provide her with the opportunity to engage in rigorous academic discourse and pursue greater understanding of life's deepest questions, what she found was much different," the lawsuit said. "Instead of encouraging debate and discourse, defendants, by policy and practice, stifled and silenced Ms. Brooker's speech and exercise of her religious beliefs because they fell outside the orthodoxy of the School of Social Work and MSU."
Ms. Brooker claims the professor, Frank G. Kauffman, "engaged in indoctrination, not education," and after she stood up to him, he and university officials "trumped up grievance charges in retaliation to her protected speech, failed to give her adequate notice of the charges, forced her to speak in favor of matters that are vile to her religious beliefs, and treated her differently than similarly-situated students."
Ms. Brooker claims Kauffman departed from the curriculum on a regular basis to engage in "leftist diatribes denigrating President Bush and the federal government." He told the students he was a liberal "made statements that social work is a 'liberal' profession." She questioned some of Kauffman's statements in class and was rewarded with a C grade, despite her accomplishments in class, the lawsuit said. "When Ms. Brooker approached Kauffman about the grade, he claimed she received fewer points on participation, which led to her C grade, because she was tardy and exhibited unprofessional behavior in class."
After Ms. Brooker appealed the grade to Kauffman's department head, her grade was increased to a B, though it took more than a year for the change to be made. After that course, Ms. Brooker had to take another required course taught by Kauffman.
As part of the class, the lawsuit said, Kauffman required the students to "engage in a semester-long social work advocacy project." Ms. Brooker initially joined a group doing its project on the homeless, but plans changed after Kaufman brought a guest speaker from a gay organization to class.
"After the speaker, Kauffman suggested that instead of allowing each class group to choose their own project on social work advocacy, the whole class should work on a project advocating homosexual foster homes and adoption."
Kauffman told the students they would learn about homosexual foster homes and adoption, "attend a town hall meeting discussing the issue, write a reaction paper, and then, as a class, write a letter advocating in favor of homosexual adoption to the state of Missouri legislature. Kauffman stated the letter would be sent on MSU letterhead and signed by each student."
Two students, including Ms. Brooker, said they could not sign such a letter because "of her Christian beliefs," according to the lawsuit. Ms. Brooker said she was willing to do the research and attend the town meeting. "She attempted to promote fostering and adopting children generally, without promoting homosexual foster homes and adoption." Ms. Brooker and the other student tried to schedule a meeting with Kauffman to discuss the assignment, but "Kauffman refused to meet with them after class, stating that they would discuss the issue in class. The students said they did not want to discuss the issue in class.
"Several weeks later, Kauffman entered the room and announced that all previous work on the syllabus was being thrown out. He issued an addendum to the syllabus, and he stated that each student had to complete an individual advocacy project and stop work on the group homosexual foster home and adoption advocacy project. One option was for the students to continue working individually on the homosexual foster home an adoption project."
The lawsuit indicates Kauffman thought some students had gone behind his back to sabotage the homosexual advocacy project. "Kauffman angrily left the classroom and did not hold class that day."
Ms. Brooker did her project on Missouri's Head Start program. A month later, on the Friday before finals, Ms. Brooker was told by phone she had "violated the School of Social Work's Standards of Essential Functioning in Social Work Education."
When the meeting was held, Ms. Brooker's parents were not allowed to attend, she was not allowed to tape record it, and she was not allowed to have a non-faculty advocate speak on her behalf. At the meeting on Dec. 16, 2005, she was told the violations were based on three issues: her grade appeals, tardiness, and her involvement in Kauffman's class. During the two and a half hour meeting, most of the talk centered around her "discriminatory conduct" according to the lawsuit.
Kauffman said Ms. Brooker 'resisted his instruction." The committee asked her "a series of personally invasive questions criticizing her Christian beliefs, including 'Do you think gays and lesbians are sinners." Committee members told her that her "Christian beliefs conflicted with the National Association of Social Worker Code of Ethics."
Ms. Brooker said the actions of the faculty committee and Kauffman affected her grades, keeping her from graduating with honors and kept her from being admitted into a master's degree program and violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. She is asking for damages, and for the court to keep the university officials from retaliating against her.

Joplin police chief's job interview set for Friday

Joplin Police Chief and perennial job hunter Kevin Lindsey's interview for the police chief position in Fort Smith, Ark., will be held Friday, according to an article in the Times Record of Fort Smith.
His chances to land the post have improved. Lindsey was initially one of four finalists for the position, but one of the candidates has withdrawn, the article said.
If Lindsey ends up being one of the one or two men the search is narrowed to, Joplin residents will have a chance to let Fort Smith know how they feel about Lindsey, the article indicated:

Reed hopes to narrow the list to one or two candidates and then dispatch two to three officers from the Fort Smith Police Department to the towns where the finalists live so that more thorough background searches can be completed.
Daniel, Lindsey and Thomas were chosen from a list of 45 candidates who applied to be the city's next police chief. The 11-person committee helped choose the finalists.

Lindsey has been invited to stay in Fort Smith for a couple of days, according to the article.

Media jobs open in Joplin, Springfield

The Joplin Globe is seeking a "visual journalist," according to an ad placed Oct. 27 with www.journalismjobs.com. The ad says the Globe is:

looking for a page designer to join its design desk. Applicants should be proficient in Quark, possess good language skills and have a keen visual sense. Daily newspaper experience as well as a degree in journalism or related field is preferred.

KY3 is looking for a weekend anchor/reporter. Its ad says:

The Weekend Anchor/Reporter will report to our News Director, Jeff Benscoter. Our anchors are newsroom leaders and frontline reporters with excellent live skills and storytelling ability. KY3 emphasizes the creation of lead stories that highly impact our fast growing community.

Resumes and tapes will be accepted through 5 p.m. Nov. 24, according to the ad.
The Springfield News-Leader is seeking a news editor. Its ad says:

"We're looking for a passionate editor who has high journalism standards, can write good headlines, ask good questions, collaborate to make stories better, can design and paginate strong news pages and sees opportunities for moving content to the Web.
We are looking for candidates with professional daily newspaper experience, but will consider recent college graduates with significant daily newspaper internships."

Area candidates contribute to NRA, NRA supporters

State representatives Steve Hunter and Marilyn Ruestman, both Joplin Republicans, have opposition in next week's general election, but that didn't stop them from spending some of their campaign money on the National Rifle Association.
Eight days before the election reports filed by the two indicate, in addition to money for their own campaigns, Hunter and Ms. Ruestman set aside some cash for the NRA.
Ms. Ruestman, whose frontier justice law was based on a law the organization is trying to implement across the nation, paid $45 to Friends of NRA in Carl Junction on Oct. 20, her report says. In the past, she has paid NRA membership dues from her campaign accounts, though taxpayers pay enough to be able to afford to take the dues out of her own pocket.
The same holds true for Hunter, who paid $35 in NRA dues, according to his report.
Hunter's report showed no contributions, the same amount as in his October quarterly report. He spent $11,366.37, leaving him with $6,488.40 in the bank. His biggest expenditure, $10,000, went to the House Republican Campaign Committee. He also contributed $325 apiece to Republican House candidates Don Scott and Dwight Schornhorst, $289 for Joplin Chamber of Commerce dues, and $237.97 on a Citi Card account for a chili cookoff.
Records do now show that Hunter spent any of his campaign money on his own campaign.

Hunter's opponent, Steve Daniels of Carl Junction, reported receiving $1,025 during the past three weeks, and spending $2,713.01, leaving him with $3,550.23.
Daniels' biggest contribution, $325, came from Carpenters' Local Union No. 311 PAC. He also received $300 from the Jasper County Democratic Central Committee, $200 from Local No. 124 Voluntary Political Fund, $100 from IBEW Local Union No. 545 PAC, and $100 from the Democratic 129th Legislative District.
Ms. Ruestman picked up $5,925 in contributions during the first part of October and spent $2,475.86, leaving her with $60,676.53. She has raised $130,436.68 during the two-year election cycle. Those contributing the maximum $325 to Ms. Ruestman were:

Justice Institute of Missouri PAC, Kansas City; American Family Insurance, St. Joseph; Nodler Leadership PAC, Joplin; Credit Union PAC, St. Louis; Missouri Medical PAC, Jefferson City; 129th Republican Legislative District Committeee, Joplin; HCA Missouri Good Government Fund, Jefferson City; Committee for Political Action of Missouri Certified Public Accountants, St. Louis; MMH PAC, Jefferson City; United Healthcare Services, Minneapolis, Minn.; and Competitive Enterprise Growth, Jefferson City. It should be noted that the Competitive Enterprise Growth and HCA Missouri Good Government Fund, both are listed as having addresses of 101 East High Street, Jefferson City, the same address as lobbyist Harry Gallagher.

Contributing $300 to Ms. Ruestman were: St. John's Family PAC, Joplin; Northport Health Services of Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Motor Carrier Public Affairs, Eldon; Missouri Association of Insurance Agents, Jefferson City

Ms. Ruestman's opponent, Democrat Ben Carnahan of Neosho, har raised $7,801 this year, but only $825 during the first three weeks of October. He spent $1,128.48 this month and has $3,234.35 in his account.

His biggest contribution, $325, came from Carpenters Local 311, Joplin. Other contributions were: McDonald County Democratic Central Committee, $200; David Page, Seneca, $100; Joan and Mike Banks, Joplin, $100; and Kim Wood, Joplin, $100.

Out-of-town jury to hear sex case against Granby pastor

A Feb. 26 court date has been set for the trial of Granby pastor George Otis Johnston, 63, on felony sex charges involving an underaged girl. Today's Joplin Globe says that during a hearing Monday Newton County Circuit Court Judge Tim Perigo approved a request for a change of venue, then took the once unusual, but now more commonplace step of importing a jury that will be sequestered during the trial, which is certain to receive much publicity. Johnston's alleged crimes were recounted in the article, including this passage about the alleged victim:

She testified that children in the church were taught to regard Johnston as "Grandpa," and that his approval was sought by church members on a variety of family matters, including instruction of their children. It was during one such consultation in Johnston's trailer home when she was 8 that he first sexually abused her by taking her onto his lap and touching her genitals with his hand, the girl testified. Johnston allegedly told her he was "ordained by God to fulfill her needs," and that she "shouldn't feel any shame about it." The girl testified that he continued having such sexual contact with her two or more times a week until she left the church at the end of April of this year.

The arraignment of Johnston, who is the pastor of the Grandview Valley North Church, will be held Thursday. Johnston is one of six area church leaders, including five from the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church who have been charged with felony sex crimes related to ritual sex with underaged girls.

Internet pervert's appeal rejected

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals Monday rejected Donal Wadsworth's appeal of his conviction on seven counts of attempted enticement of a child.
You may recall that while Wadsworth, 47, Fayetteville, Ark., was free on bond during his appeal he was arrested for similar crimes by the Fayetteville Police Department. He pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to 30 years in prison on those charges.
Wadsworth's primary point on appeal was that he should not have been charged with multiple counts since all of the crimes were with the same "victim," an underage girl named Cindy, who turned out to be Diamond Police officer Jim Murray.
The appellate opinion offers considerable detail on the conversations between Wadsworth and Murray:

The message continued with defendant asking Cindy what she would tell anyone who saw her with him and whether she was scared to meet a stranger. They talked about possibly meeting in Joplin. She said she would tell them he was her uncle; that she didn't know a lot of people in Joplin. She asked him if he would want to show her how to have sex. He responded, "[A] movie first." The discussion continued. Defendant explained in detail how they could perform oral sex with one another. After Cindy said her mother had told her to go to bed, he asked about what she was wearing; if she was wearing a bra and her bra size. When she told him she was "not nearly as big as some of the girls at school," he replied, "[B]ut i like small ones." At the end of the message defendant told Cindy, "[G]oodnight sweetie."

Details were also provided on Wadsworth's arrest:

On the afternoon of April 24, 2004, Detective Murray watched the residence he had represented to defendant as being where Cindy lived. He watched it from his residence, across the highway from the one he had described to defendant. Detective Murray had learned defendant's identity and the kind of vehicle he drove. He saw defendant drive by the residence. Detective Murray described what he observed when he first saw defendant's vehicle.
It was -- came in from the west, was going east, and then it turned south on Carver Road, which is approximately 60, 70 yards away from the trailer [where Cindy had been represented as living], or maybe 80 or 90, but he went south on Carver Road, and turned around, came back up to Highway V, crossed Highway V, went north on Carver Road, turned around, came back to V Highway, and then he went east on V Highway, and he went right by in front of the trailer.As soon as defendant had passed, Detective Murray got in his vehicle and followed defendant into Diamond, Missouri. He saw defendant buy gas. Detective Murray had his next contact with defendant "[a]bout 6:45" April 26 at Carver memorial site. He was asked the nature of the contact. Detective Murray answered, "Newton County deputies were set up in the park itself as well as across the road, and the police chief and I were set up behind the Newton County deputies across the road waiting for [defendant] to arrive."
Defendant's vehicle turned into Carver Park. Law enforcement personnel followed him. Defendant was approached and taken into custody. Detective Murray told defendant it was a good thing they caught him before Cindy's father; that the father was extremely upset. He told defendant what the father might have done. Defendant answered that he understood; that he had a daughter himself.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Underdog candidacy receives $1,500+ in contributions

The underdog candidacy of independent Kim Wright for 32nd District State Senator, received only $1,527 in contributions during the first three weeks of October, according to the eight days before election report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The Joplin social worker spent $4,044.39, leaving her with $1,219.60 in her account going into the campaign's final days.
Ms. Wright has spent $1,139 with KOAM and $1,093 with KODE, the report said.

Voucher supporters pouring money into Missouri legislative campaigns

You won't find it on his campaign finance disclosure reports, but Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, has been the beneficiary of more than $33,000 supporting his candidacy for 18th District state senator from a national group that is pushing for educational vouchers.
According to its eight days before election filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission, All Children Matter, based in Michigan, has invested more than $100,000 in this election with a third of it going to Rep. Behnen's attempt to succeed John Cauthorn. Cauthorn cannot run again because of term limits.
The Missouri chapter of All Children Matter received $200,000 in contributions this month, according to the report, with all of the money coming from the All Children Matter Virginia State PAC.
The group put the money into two senatorial races, spending $33,847.04 for Behnen, and $17,987 for Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, and against Wayne Henke, D-Troy, in the 2nd District, and six House races, spending $20,280.70 for John DiStefano, R-Parkville; $0,679.32 for Ed Robb, R-Columbia; $15,324.19 for Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin; $8,958.49 for Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Valley Park; $10,007.93 for Rex Rector, R-Harrisonville; and $8,975.13 for B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield.
All Children Matter was started by Dick DeVos, a founder of Amway and currently a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan.
The impact of the group has already been felt in Missouri politics. It contributed nearly $200,000 for anti-Claire McCaskill ads during the waning days of her 2004 governor's race against the eventual winner, Matt Blunt. Governor Blunt later recently appointed All Children Matter's former treasurer Ed Martin as his chief of staff and has made no secret of his support for sending public money to private schools.
Last week, as noted in The Turner Report and Fired Up Missouri, but not mentioned anywhere else as far as I can tell, the governor appointed an outspoken opponent of public schools, Donayle Whitmore-Smith, head of the pro-voucher Coalition for School Choice, to the State Board of Education.
The support of All Children Matter is not the only connection to pro-voucher interests notable in the eight days before election reports. The report filed today by Rep. Behnen showed the following contributions:
-The maximum $650 from the Jane Cunningham Campaign Committee. Ms. Cunningham is the General Assembly's biggest voucher proponent and became infamous two years ago for lobbying for head of the House Education Committee by reminding Speaker Rod Jetton in a letter of the money she was bringing to state Republicans from All Children Matter.
-$650 from lobbyist and Sarcoxie native Tony Feather, who represents Advocates for School Choice.
-$650 from Feather's wife, Jean.
-$650 from the Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage, which was home to Blunt's chief of staff Martin during the time he served with All Children Matter. The firm also represents other voucher proponents.
-$577.50 in an in-kind contribution from lobbyist Travis Brown, who represents K12, another pro-voucher organization.
Behnen's opponent, Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, had not filed his eight days before election report as this was being posted.

Hensley outspending Bartosh during campaign's final days

Danny Hensley, write-in candidate for Jasper County presiding commissioner, raised more than $12,000 during the first three weeks of October, according to the eight days before election report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission. He has spent $9,284.37, the report indicated.
Among those contributing to Hensley were:
Dean Peterson, Kansas City, $650; Larry and Elizabeth Deffenbaugh, Carthage, $250; Charles Compton, Joplin, $250; John and Sharon Stevens, Carthage, $120; Sue Vandergriff, Carthage, $200; Ray Grace, Carthage, $500; John Lewis, Sarcoxie, $200; Michael and Sally Randolph, Carthage, $500; Larry McGuire, Carthage, $250; Curtis Garner, Carthage, $500; Richard and Ruth Rubison, Carthage, $650; Ron Mitchell, attorney, Joplin, $200; Bob and Jo Ferguson, Carthage, $300; Linda Kinney, Carthage, $200; Karl and Cathi Glassman, Carthage, $250; and Glenn Wilson, Joplin, $200.
Hensley's disclosure report also noted that most of his money, $8,575, came from a fundraiser held by Richard and Ruth Rubison, Carthage, but that $3,755 came in amounts of $100 or less from person whose names and addresses are not listed.

The only candidate whose name will be on the ballot, Carthage businessman John Bartosh, who defeated James Spradling and incumbent Chuck Surface in the August Republican primary, received $2,425 in contributions during the first three weeks of October and spent $4,944.95, leaving him with $229.37.

Out of the money coming into the Bartosh campaign, $1,500 was from a loan to himself, while David Knost, Carthage, contributed $500, and former State Representative Mark Elliott, Webb City, and the law firm of Collins, Webster, and Rouse, Joplin, each contributed $200.

Blunt-Graves connection works overtime for Thomas

The eight days before election filing by Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas leaves no doubt just how deeply she is beholden to Governor Matt Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves, who have supported her candidacy from the beginning.
The report, filed today by the Republican state auditor candidate's campaign committee, also featured more evidence that Ms. Thomas would have serious conflicts of interest when it comes to any audits of the Missouri Department of Revenue.
The final page of Ms. Thomas' disclosure report reveals two donations from field coordinators for the Department of Revenue, Josh Judd and Stanley Smith. Their contributions were small, $50 apiece, but another major contributor with a connection to the Department of Revenue was not listed as having a contractual relationship.
On Oct. 25, Ms. Thomas received a maximum contribution, $1,275, from Election Day Enterprises, the political consulting firm run by lobbyist and former state representative Jewell Patek. Print reports have indicated Patek was smack in the middle of the license fee office scandal that led to a federal investigation earlier this year. The lobbyist was pushing Highridge Services, a management firm, to operate the lucrative fee offices.
As I reported in the July 29 Turner Report, Ms. Thomas' campaign has been run by Axiom Strategies, a consulting company owned by former Election Day Enterprises employee, Jeff Roe, who along with Patek, at one time worked for Congressman Sam Graves. Roe is also the author of the conservative blog, The Source.

These are far from the first conflicts of interest Ms. Thomas has had with people connected with the Department of Revenue and the license fee offices. Her October quarterly report showed four maximum $1,275 contributions from contract agents running fee offices, David Jerome, Neosho; Matt Gerstler, St. Joseph, and two from the Nodler Leadership PAC, which is operated by her campaign treasurer Nick Myers, who also runs the license fee office in Joplin. Myers had already contributed $1,275 personally, and $1,275 from his CPA business.

The revenue fee office agents' contributions are not the only conflict of interest evident on Ms. Thomas' disclosure form. She also received a $500 contribution from Gene McNary, St. Louis, who was recently appointed by Governor Matt Blunt to head the Missouri Gaming Commission, which is a state agency which must be audited. More from the October report can be found in the Oct. 16 Turner Report.

The Thomas money trail also leads to Governor Matt Blunt's baby brother, lobbyist Andrew Blunt. Blunt himself contributed $500 on Oct. 20, one week to the day after three of Blunt's clients contributed to Ms. Thomas' campaign. AT&T Missouri Employee PAC donated $1,200, Burlington Northern Railway $500, and Missouri Hospital Association PAC $500. It was noted on the final page of the report that Burlington Northern Railway often does business with the Missouri Department of Transportation, another department that Ms. Thomas will be required to audit if she is elected.

The largest contribution to Ms. Thomas' campaign is the most disturbing one. She received $10,000 Oct. 25 from the 32nd Senatorial District Committee out of Carthage...a committee which 10 days earlier had only $867.46 in its bank account, according to the October quarterly report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, the 32nd District Committee, whose deputy treasurer is Victoria Myers, daughter of Ms. Thomas' campaign treasurer Nick Myers, will not have to file its next report until more than two months after the election is over, so there is no way of knowing just where this money originated.

Pronunciations of towns' names are important

Though, as I recall, the project was never completed, during my first years at The Carthage Press, Marvin VanGilder began work on a stylebook for The Press, designed to provide information for new reporters on everything from official designations of roads and highways in this area to proper titles for elected officials.
I thought about that project Friday when I heard the names of two small area towns, Alba and Avilla, butchered on one of our local television stations.
Let's face it. Most of the young people who come to work in this television market are not from around here. There are exceptions, but for the most part, that is the way it is.
I would imagine our local TV news operations would have some kind of guidebook to help these young reporters with such knotty problems as pronunciation of town names. If not, there should be such a guide.
In addition to Avilla and Alba, I have heard Monett, Nevada, and other towns mispronounced, and you know it has to drive the people in those communities crazy when that happens.
During my 22 years of covering school sports, nothing irritated me more than public address announcers who did not take the time to learn how to pronounce the names of the players before the pre-game introductions. All it would have taken was a couple of seconds to talk to someone from the visiting team and find out how the names were pronounced.
Those of us who were in print journalism had a major advantage- no one knew if we could pronounce the names, only if we could spell them. For those in electronic journalism, or those like the aforementioned public address announcers, one lesson should be learned right from the start- names are important.

Columnist remembers Huntley-Brinkley

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas offers some thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, and in doing so, offers some cogent commentary on the state of today's network television journalism:

When a great and accomplished person passes from the scene through retirement or death, some like to say, "There will never be anyone like him again." That is true of Huntley and Brinkley, not because there are none to equal them, but because management no longer wants their type. You can see why by reading some of Brinkley's books or watching tapes of "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" when you visit New York's Museum of Broadcast Communications or Vanderbilt University's Television News Archive in Nashville. These guys had class and conveyed credibility and authority.

I missed much of the heyday of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, though I remember the "Good Night, Chet, Good Night, David," signoff that both men reportedly hated.
I do well remember enjoying David Brinkley's wry look at the news, which combined with his knowledge of politics and his journalistic credibility is something that is sorely missed today.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another $1,300 for Nodler campaign

The deadline for submitting eight days before election reports has not arrived, but already Sen. Gary Nodler's campaign has submitted a 48-hour report, which is done for contributions made after the eight-day report has been filed.
The latest filing, which was made earlier today, lists two maximum contributions, one from Novartis Pharmaceuticals of East Hanover, N. J, and the other coming from the First State Bank of Purdy.
I neglected to mention one interesting contributor on Sen. Nodler's eight days before election filing: The senator received $300 from U. S. Smokeless Tobacco Public Affairs, Inc., Greenwich, Conn. UST is the manufacturer of such brands as Skoal and Copenhagen.

Nodler spends $33,000+ on advertising during recent blitz

Sen. Gary Nodler's advertising blitz has cost more than $33,000 thus far, according to the eight days before election report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Nodler has spent nearly $4,000 with KSNF, more than $5,000 apiece with KODE and KOAM, and more than $3,000 with KFJX.
The campaign has also included radio advertising with KZRG, KDMO, KMXL, and KBTN, ads with CableNet in Neosho, and Cable One in Joplin and print advertising with the Greenfield Vedette, Webb City Sentinel, Sarcoxie Record, Neosho Daily News, Newton County News and Seneca Dispatch.
During October, Nodler raised $15,200 and spent $33,542.09, leaving him with $101,692.08 in his campaign account. During the two-year election cycle, Nodler has raised $189,644.13.
Contributing the maximum $650 were:
Justice Institute of Missouri PAC, Kansas City; National Federation of Independent Businesses Missouri Safe Trust, Washington, D. C.; Missouri Medical PAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Independent Bankers Association PAC, Liberty; Residential Care Facility PAC, Jefferson City; MORESPAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Assisted Living PAC, Jefferson City; Missouri Chamber PAC, Jefferson City; American Family Insurance, St. Joseph; The Boeing Company, St. Louis; Carpenters Local 311 PAC Fund, Joplin; Local 95 Voluntary Political Fund, Joplin, $650; Laborers' Local Union Mo. 319 PAC, Joplin; and PCI Political Account, Des Plaines, Ill.
Other big contributors were: Associated Industries of Missouri PAC, Jefferson City, $500; GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia, PA., $600; Northport Health Services of Missouri, Joplin, $500; Missouri Architects PAC, Jefferson City, $500; Merck and Co., West Point, Pa., $600; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Chicago, Ill., $500.
Nodler also reported receiving $200 from lobbyist J. Scott Marrs.

Do editorial endorsements matter?

In January 1992, the editorial board of The Carthage Press met in our conference room, the first such meeting to which I had been invited. My recollection of the meeting is that Publisher Jim Farley, Managing Editor Neil Campbell, City Editor Jack Harshaw, Marvin VanGilder, and I attended the meeting.
The meeting had only one purpose- to determine how we would endorse Carthage native Bill Webster for governor. As I recall, there was absolutely no consideration of the other Republican candidates, Secretary of State Roy Blunt, or State Treasurer Wendell Bailey. Webster was from Carthage, so he was going to receive our endorsement.
I assumed that we were going to endorse Webster for the GOP nomination, then examine the Democratic candidates and endorse one of them for that party's nomination. I quickly learned that was not the case. The entire purpose of the meeting was to make sure that we were the first newspaper to endorse Webster for governor. There was no need to endorse anyone for the Democratic nomination.
As it was explained to me, Bill Webster could do much more for Carthage than any of other candidates. Showing just how naive I was at that point, I said, "Isn't he running for governor of Missouri, not governor of Carthage."
From a couple of members of the board, I received that look which says, "Man, you have a lot to learn."
The board's decision (and I was not there as a voting member, but simply as the person who was handling most of the newspaper's political coverage) was quickly made and later that week our editorial endorsing the Webster candidacy was published. We didn't need to be in that much of a hurry. There was never any race to endorse the attorney general. In fact, Webster was only endorsed by two newspapers, The Press and the Joplin Globe. The Press, however, was the only newspaper to endorse him twice.
The memories of that meeting came back to me when I read an e-mail Friday from University of Missouri Extension specialist David Burton asking for feedback on the question that is in the headline for this post- Do editorial endorsements matter?"

I would say they are still important, but nowhere near as important as they were in the past. They are not going to have any effect on those who made up their minds before the race got underway. Those who are going to vote for Democratic candidates no matter what are not going to change, and the same applies for those who are only going to vote for Republican candidates.
For those whose minds are not made up, a well-reasoned endorsement could make a difference, especially if the editorial board that makes that endorsement goes about the process in an evenhanded fashion.

Such an approach can be seen in the way the Springfield News-Leader endorses candidates. It has endorsed candidates from both of the major parties and has quite obviously not taken the responsibility lightly.
In two of the major races affecting the Springfield area, the News-Leader Editorial Board showed its independence, supporting Jim Talent, the Republican candidate, for U. S. Senator, and Doug Harpool, the Democratic candidate, for State Senate.
The same approach is seen from the newspapers in Missouri's two largest cities, the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
On the other hand, is is hard to take seriously anything that is written on the editorial pages of the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian since its publisher has poured a considerable amount of money into the Republican party and its candidates.
Check out Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger's take on David Burton's question in today's column.

News-Leader endorses Talent

In today's edition, the Springfield News-Leader endorsed incumbent Sen. Jim Talent:

"Our choice is Talent.We think he's a better fit for the job. We believe he's done nothing in the past four years to disqualify him from our continued support. And we believe his views are most in line with southwest Missouri voters."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Globe parent company outbids GateHouse Media for Dow Jones newspapers

Community Newspapers Holdings, Inc., parent company of The Joplin Globe, was the successful bidder for five Dow Jones newspapers, according to published reports.
GateHouse Media, owner of The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel, was one of the unsuccessful bidders.

Springfield church may be kicked out of

University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield is one of 18 churches that may be expelled from the Missouri Baptist Convention when that group meets next week in Cape Girardeau.
Associated Baptist Press reports the churches are being expelled because their moderate approach is not in step with the conservative churches which run the convention.

Globe: Elimination of straight ticket voting could help write-in candidates

I would be surprised if anyone except Carthage businessman John Bartosh ends up as Jasper County presiding commissioner after the November election, but as an article in today's Joplin Globe notes, the recent law removing the straight ticket voting option could help write-in candidates such as Danny Hensley and Bill Rowland, both of whom are opposing Bartosh, the Republican candidate for the position:

One advantage for both Hensley and Rowland is that Missouri no longer has straight-ticket voting. Previously, as many as one-third of the votes cast during general elections in Jasper County were straight-ticket Republican ballots, meaning the voter made a single mark or punch that voted for every Republican candidate on the ballot.

Column describes essence of Cardinal fans

Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post is one of the top sports columnists in the country and his take on Friday night's concluding game of the 2006 World Series is probably as accurate a description of what makes St. Louis Cardinals' fans different from those of other teams. Though there is a touch of mild sarcasm to Boswell's column, the column, for the most part, speaks admiringly of the Cardinal faithful:

"As the Cardinals swarmed into a joy scrum near the mound, not one fan -- not o-n-e -- so much as attempted to come onto the sacred field to celebrate. Only Cardinals, their great Cards, ever set foot there. To invade that space would be bad manners. Let David Eckstein, the Series MVP who played with a half-dozen minor injuries, roll in that grass with Jeff Weaver, the winning pitcher, who was acquired as a salary-dump castoff in July. Here, baseball is not only loved, but revered and respected."

Post: Ballot issues could help Missouri Democrats

The minimum wage hike proposal and the stem cell ballot initiative could add votes to the Democratic totals in Missouri, according to an article in today's Washington Post:

The article indicates the ballot proposals could make a difference in close Senate races, such as the one between incumbent Jim Talent and State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

Baptists expected to come out against stem cell ballot issue

No surprise here.
The Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian reported Friday that the Missouri Baptist Convention which will meet next week in Cape Girardeau, will come out against Amendment 2.

Truman says he is closing in on Blunt

While he makes a legitimate point about the lack of media coverage of his candidacy, Democratic candidate Jack Truman obviously needs a lesson in how to read public opinion polls. In a news release from his campaign today, Truman said:

"In the remaining Republican controlled Districts around the country, Democratics are within 2 percentage points in safe Republican districts. So, with 10 days to go, according to national polls, I trail Majority Whip incumbent Roy Blunt by only 2 points."

Hmm. Now that is an interesting way of looking at things.

In the news release, Truman asks supporters to buy political advertising for him in the area's major newspapers:

"We have 2 major newspapers in this conservative district: the Joplin Globe in Joplin, Missouri and the Springfield News Leader in Springfield, Missouri. I am speaking to everyone out there. If there is any way that anyone could afford to contact one of these local papers and put in an ad for our campaign, please do. Any advertising in the last few days will make a difference. My party is not providing any financial help with a long shot race in a conservative district. But public opinion has changed. Currently, most Southwest Missouri voters have no idea they have a choice for change in Congress."

Let me see if I am understanding this news release. Most voters do not know they have a choice, but Truman has pulled to within two points. That must be one heck of a guerilla campaign.

While I still firmly believe the coverage of the Seventh District Congressional race has been disgraceful, it seems clear that added coverage would not benefit Jack Truman's campaign.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blunt appoints leading voucher proponent to State Board of Education

Governor Matt Blunt's latest appointment to the Missouri State Board of Education is not only a voucher proponent, but is a sworn enemy of public schools.
Earlier today, the governor appointed Donayle Whitmore-Smith, head of the pro-voucher group Coalition for School Choice to the board. Her leadership role in that organization was not mentioned in the press release from the governor's office:

Donayle E. Whitmore-Smith (D), 38 of St. Louis City, is the founder of the
Ptah Academy of Arts & Science. Whitmore-Smith holds a bachelor's degree in
communications from Southern University A&M College in Louisiana.
Whitmore-Smith's appointment is subject to Senate confirmation for a term
ending on July 1, 2012.

Ms. Whitmore-Smith, is not an educator, but did form the Ptah Academy a St. Louis private school.

An Oct. 16, 2001, article described the beginning of the day at the academy. "The ribbons of incense and the children who meditate beneath them at the start of each school day leave no doubt that the Ptah Academy of Arts and Sciences isn't your typical school."

The academy is named after an ancient Egyptian god and "includes of elements of ancient spiritualism in its instruction," according to the Post-Dispatch article, which continues, "The school is not religious, Whitmore said, but it does encourage children to tap in to their 'spiritual energy.' "

The article indicated the school included "yoga, organic meals, tai chi and daily 'inner studies' or sessions of meditation" in its curriculum.

In a February 2005 article in the pro-voucher publication School Reform News, Ms. Whitmore-Smith said that she had attended private schools until high school and her experience at a public school was "hell."

Ms. Whitmore-Smith said, "Academically, it just couldn't match what I'd been getting (in private schools)."

Ms. Whitmore-Smith was one of the leading proponents of unsuccessful pro-voucher legislation that was considered this year in the General Assembly.

(Photo: Ms. Whitmore-Smith is shown with Rep. Rodney Hubbard, Governor Matt Blunt, and Rep. Ted Hoskins. The two Democratic representatives, both voucher proponents, were recently placed in charge of the Special Committee on School Choice by Speaker of the House Rod Jetton.)

Reader's letter on school shooting lacks logic

News of the Oct. 9 Memorial Middle School shooting was spread across the nation and the world through Associated Press articles and, as usual, some people have rather simplistic ideas of how to prevent school shootings.

A letter to the editor in the Hi-Desert Star in Yucca Valley, Calif., insists that if Memorial Middle School had the Ten Commandments posted prominently the incident probably would not have happened:

If the Ten Commandments were prominently displayed in this young man's school in years past, he most certainly would have read each one. This includes the one that reads "Thou shall not kill."

Now let me get this straight. If this kid saw "Thou Shalt Not Kill," he would have left his guns at home, when he did not pay any attention to the signs which are prominently placed at every Joplin school saying firearms are not allowed in the building?

While I have written numerous times about the kneejerk reaction of some people to allowing any kind of religion in the schools, this is a different matter altogether. School shootings are not taking place because of the removal of God from the schools and as long as there are people who actually believe that simplistic suggestions like posting the Ten Commandments would make a difference, we are dooming ourselves to more such tragedies.

Champion: Voters are tired of debates

Sen. Norma Champion has created a novel new argument in her attempt to steer away from a debate with challenger Doug Harpool- voters are tired of debates. At least that is what she told KY3 reporter Dave Catanese.

When I asked Champion why she would not agree to a debate with Harpool, she said voters "are sick of them." "You can talk to anyone about the Talent-McCaskill debates, they said they didn't learn anything. They are not very useful. They set up a platform for one candidate to distract attention to another candidate. They get to be name-calling kinds of things," Champion said.

Apparently, she will be involved in one whether she wants to be or not, according to KY3's political blog.

The debate, or at least everyone except Ms. Champion refers to it as a debate, is scheduled for tonight at Glendale High School in Springfield.

Hearing set for father of Memorial Middle School shooter

Arraignment for Gregory Lynn White, 44, Joplin, who was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on weapons charges will be held 9:30 a.m. Nov. 13 in Courtroom 2601, U. S. Courthouse, 222 North John Q. Hammons Parkway, Springfield.
White is the father of the Memorial Middle School student who brought a gun to the school Oct. 9 and fired a shot. No one was hurt in the incident. White is being charged with illegally owning firearms since he has been convicted twice on felony charges.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nexstar to announce third quarter results Nov. 8

Nexstar Broadcasting will report its third quarter financial results Wednesday, Nov. 8, according to a company news release. A conference call and webcast will be held at 9 a.m. local time.
Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and operates KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

GateHouse gets off to roaring start

The old media isn't dead yet.
GateHouse Media's initial public offering (IPO) has been a roaring success thus far with the stock already increasing $3.08 from its original $18 per share to $21.08.
GateHouse, formerly Liberty Group Publishing, owns hundreds of publications, including The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel in this area.

Joplin police chief job hunting again

In a story that I believe was broken locally by KSN Tuesday night, Joplin Police Chief Kevin Lindsey is one of four finalists for the police chief position in Fort Smith, Ark..
Since this is at least the second time Lindsey has applied for a position that pays less than Joplin police chief, it appears the chief is serious about looking elsewhere for employment.
Today's Joplin Globe gave more details on Lindsey's job search.

GateHouse IPO raises $248 million on first day

Apparently, a market exists for old fashioned newspaper companies.
The Boston Globe reports

The newspaper says 13.8 million shares were sold Tuesday, the first day of the company's initial public offering, for $248.4 million.
GateHouse Media owns hundreds of publications, including The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel.

Article focuses on forgotten candidate

Not much attention has been paid to Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's opponent in the November election, and I am not referring to the Democratic candidate Jack Truman.
Even the sparse coverage Truman has received, has been more than that of white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, who is running as a write-in candidate. I have no problem with that, even though Miller is profiled in a story posted Tuesday by the Associated Press.
It is a shame that a man like Miller with thoroughly discredited ideas receives coverage while a serious candidate such as Kevin Craig, who is running on the Libertarian ticket, continues to campaign in anonymity.
While media outlets are not obligated to provide free publicity to campaigns, it would be nice if newspapers devoted more space to the discussion of ideas that third parties such as the Libertarians add to the political marketplace. Our history tells us that many commonly accepted ideas proffered by the Republicans and the Democrats originally came from third-party and independent candidates.

Nexstar Broadcasting stock up slightly

After falling 30 cents per share in a two-day period, Nexstar Broadcasting stock rebounded slightly Tuesday closing trading up eight cents per share to $3.59.
The stock only two years ago was selling for more than $10 per share.
Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and also operates KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Former Lamar educator making difference with Monett test scores

In an article in the Monday Monett Times, Former Lamar High School teacher (and LHS graduate) Dr. John Jungmann, now Monett Middle School principal, related his school's strategies which brought a stunning increase in MAP scores.
Jungmann, as Lamar readers will recall worked his way through high school as a sports reporter for the Lamar Democrat, and later was the sports reporter for the Lamar Press when we published that newspaper from August 1996 through July 1997.

Boston Globe columnist: Odd timing for GateHouse IPO

At a time when the nation's largest newspaper companies are seeing their stock prices slumping, GateHouse Media is ready to take its stock public.
The company, which owns The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel, among hundreds of daily and weekly publications, is saying its strategy of buying small newspapers in areas with little or no competition helps insulate it from some of the problems facing other newspaper companies.
The $16 to $18 per share touted by the company is steeper than what stock for the nation's largest newspaper company Gannett Co. and the owner of the Kansas City Star, McClatchy, is going for, according to a column in today's Boston Globe:

The GateHouse offering isn't exactly cheap, either. Based on valuations relative to cash flow, GateHouse shares priced at their preoffering estimate of about $17 would be a bit more expensive than McClatchy Co. stock and much richer than Gannett Co. shares, says analyst Melanie Hase of Renaissance Capital Corp. , a Greenwich, Conn., firm that follows IPOs.

GateHouse officials are saying their method of operation keeps the company better protected from internet advertising competition:

The GateHouse stock pitch comes with four elements. Most importantly, the company hammers away at its "hyper-local" newspaper strategy, which it claims is better insulated from Internet advertising threats. There may be something to that today, but no publisher is immune to the Internet threat. Meanwhile, Morton notes, the stocks of public companies that own smaller community newspapers have stumbled, just like those of the industry leaders. What happened to their insulation?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Post-Dispatch profiles auditor candidates

State auditor candidates Sandra Thomas and Susan Montee are profiled in an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The article notes that the race, which is an important one, has been overshadowed by this year's ballot issues.

Nexstar Broadcasting continues freefall

Nexstar Broadcasting's stock continued to drop Friday, falling another 12 cents to a low of $3.69 at the end of trading. The stock was trading for more than $10 per share only a couple of years ago.
Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

High stakes testing comes under fire

High stakes testing, the centerpiece of No Child Left Behind, has come under fire in Florida and Texas, and that may be only the beginning, according to an article in today's Washington Post.
Regular Turner Report readers know I am no fan of No Child Left Behind. You won't find many teachers who are. It starts with the assumption that public schools have been deliberately leaving children behind up until this overblown law was passed.
The law demands that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by 2014, which is impossible. In order for that to happen, it would mean that all students would have to care, that all parents would get involved in their children's education, that no student be sick on the day of testing...well, you get the picture.

Numerous reasons are stated in the article for this backlash against testing:

But teachers unions and some parents groups have argued that an overemphasis on the tests has reduced education to rote drills and needlessly heightened stresses on elementary students, and that the reported test gains have been illusory, overstated or short-lived.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Former O'Sullivan official to serve eight years in prison

As other media outlets have reported, including the Neosho Daily News and Joplin Globe (I haven't had much of an opportunity to catch the local news the past couple of days), former O'Sullivan Industries official Gary Reed Blankenship, 56, was sentenced Thursday in Newton County Circuit Court to consecutive four-year prison terms for possession of child pornography and promoting obscenity.
Blankenship pleaded guilty in September to the reduced charges after initially being charged with nine felony counts.
Blankenship was caught in one of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's internet sex stings.

Solution to newspaper problems is increased local news coverage

Andrew Cline's Rhetorica blog often explores journalism issues from an academic viewpoint, but his latest post offers a common-sense solution to the problem that has faced print journalism for the past several years- declining readership:

What has worked in the few markets that have tried it: Serious local reporting. (I suspect that interactivity using the web may also work, but that's a long way off.)Let's get serious. It's the one thing American journalism hasn't tried in a very long time.

Dr. Cline goes into detail about what has not worked:

Here's a radical idea, a stupid idea, and idea so far out in the ozone as to be thoroughly without merit: Try taking citizens seriously; try treating them as citizens rather than consumers.

It's the one thing American journalism has yet to try in recent history. Shortening stories didn't work. More graphics didn't work. Putting fluff above the flag didn't work. Targeting free publications to young people didn't work. Shrinking the news hole didn't work. Cutting editorial staff didn't work. Cutting foreign news didn't work. Running wire fluff didn't work. Ignoring the poor and working class in favor of the middle class didn't work. Partnering with the advertising department didn't work. Speciality publications aimed at the rich didn't work. Re-design after re-design after re-design didn't work.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved with two newspapers that attempted to stave off eroding readership by increasing news coverage:

When I was at The Lamar Democrat in the 1980s, Publisher Doug Davis tried a revolutionary approach (and one which can only be done one time at any newspaper). Davis doubled the price of newsstand copies, increased subscription rates and gave me the go-ahead to increase news coverage. We could not afford to hire full-time staffers at a twice-weekly newspaper, so Davis gave the green light to my idea of using a stable of high school and college interns. By using people like Kari Wegener, Peggy Brinkhoff, Amy Lamb, Holly Sundy, Randee Kaiser, Mindy Atnip, Cherie Thomas, Mary Lou Newman, and others, plus the indispensable Judy Probert, who served as a grandmotherly influence on the young staff, we were able to publish a paper that was jam packed with local material (and those young people did not just cover school stories either).

The second time I was fortunate enough to have an experience with pouring money into the local news product was in 1998 at The Carthage Press. After working for five years with limited money to hire either experienced reporters or skilled younger ones (though I was fortunate enough to have worked again with such talents as Kaiser and Ms. Lamb, and be there for the beginning of Brian Webster's career and again started the youth program with such finds as Cait Purinton, Stacy Rector, and Michelle Dixon) Publisher Ralph Bush opened the pocketbook and for nearly a year I had a chance to work with an all-star crew of reporters: In addition to holdover Ron Graber and me, we hired former Joplin Globe reporter Jo Ellis, John Hacker and Rick Rogers. Fallout from a frivolous lawsuit filed by Carthage native Terry Reed and interference from Liberty Group Publishing's upper management, shoved Hacker and me out the door by May 1999, but I would suggest anyone wanting to see what dedication to local news coverage can accomplish should get hold of those Carthage Press newspapers published between August 1998 and May 1999.

Unfortunately today's newspaper publishers and business managers (most likely on orders from corporate suits who have never written a story in their lives) have decided that the only way to make profit from newspapers to create a flurry of niche publications and special sections. The daily newspaper has almost become an afterthought.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Lamar board votes against Bible class

Today's Lamar Democrat features an article on the Lamar R-1 Board of Education's decision not to add a Bible class to its curriculum. The vote was 4-2 with George Haag and Michelle Crockett voting for the class, and Jason Stansberry, Marilyn Selvey, Dale Norwood, and Deana Cook voting against it. Tim Riegel was not present.
While I certainly can't argue with the decision, (I don't believe a course specifically on the Bible has a place in a public school system) some of the reasoning mentioned in the article shows the misconceptions that people, including many who should know better, have about the place of religion in public school curriculum.

To offer the course, the teacher must remain neutral, and although a case has never reached the supreme court, it has been made very clear religion can not be taught in public schools.

It is not clear from the article if the Lamar R-1 Board of Education or Democrat Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis was responsible for the statement, but it is simply not true. While the First Amendment clearly prohibits public schools from imposing religion on students, it does not say religion cannot be taught. In fact, any education that does not touch on religion is shortchanging the students.
Religion plays a role and is often the key factor in nearly every major historical event. Teaching history without religion is not teaching history at all. The same holds true for literature. Much of the background of many great works of literature and art can be traced back to the writers' and artists' religious beliefs.
How in the world can anyone teach current events without bringing religion into it? An interpretation of the Islamic religion is responsible for 9-11 and the basis of the current war on terrorism. How can anyone even to attempt to understand what is happening in Iraq without bringing religion into the discussion?

Part of the problem has been overzealous public school officials who are so afraid of having any mention of religion in their schools that they have made the mistake of not allowing children to have their Bibles with them, or not allowing students to bring up religion in classroom discussions.

That being said, most public school officials do realize that religion is a part of public education and make sure that students not only have the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs, but they make sure that religion is not shortchanged when it comes to the teaching of history, civics, and other subjects.

There is no place in public schools for teachers and administrators who try to force their religious beliefs on students, but religion definitely has a place in public schools.

Article explores dangers of GateHouse IPO

GateHouse Media, owner of the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Joplin Daily, and the Big Nickel, will go public this week, and some experts are questioning the wisdom of that strategy at a time when newspaper circulation and revenues are down across the United States.
The problems are examined in this article from the Dow Jones News Wire.

Supreme Court allows Arizona voter ID law

Though it will have no effect on Missouri for the November election, the U. S. Supreme Court's decision Friday to allow a photo voter ID law to be used in Arizona leaves no doubt that the issue is a long way from being resolved.

Republican operative makes case for state auditor candidate

Should a newspaper give the background of those whose letters are featured in its columns.
While it is obvious from his letters that he is a partisan Republican, there is more than that to Joplin businessman Allen Shirley's devotion to GOP candidates, and readers have every right to know that.
In today's Globe, Shirley wrote the latest in his series of pro-GOP letters, this one boosting the candidacy of Sandra Thomas for state auditor.
I have no problem with Shirley's letters running in the Globe or in any other publication, but they should not run without a disclaimer.
Allen Shirley is not just someone who votes Republican, he is a longtime party official, serving as the local co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004.
He is also the treasurer of the 129th Republican Legislative District committee, which has invested $1,525 in the Thomas campaign, in the form of $1,275 on Aug. 22 and $250 on Sept. 22, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents. The deputy treasurer of the 129th District Committee is Victoria Myers, whose father, Joplin CPA Nick Myers, is the treasurer of Sandra Thomas' campaign committee.

In his letter, Shirley examines the contributions to Democrat Susan Montee and finds much that he says is sinister. He also says Ms. Thomas plans to take the politics out of the state auditor's office.

Nowhere does he mention (no surprise here) that Sandra Thomas has accepted $500 from Gene McNary, head of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which will be under her jurisdiction if she is elected and thousands of dollars from those who were chosen to run license fee offices, even though those, too, should be under her watch.

The Joplin Globe has no obligation to make arguments against one of its letter-writers, but it does have an obligation to let the readers know that this is not an ordinary Joplin Globe reader, but someone with a vested interest in seeing a candidate elected.

Globe article examines Nodler-Wright state senate battle

The race between incumbent 32nd District State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Kim Wright, the Joplin social worker who is running as an independent, is explored in an article in today's Joplin Globe.
Though I have not seen today's print edition, the internet headline is simply "Nodler vs. Wright." In the past, the Globe headlines on nearly every article about Ms. Wright have referred to her as "woman" and not mentioned her by name. It may just be an accident, but hopefully the Globe is moving away from some of its sexist attitudes.

Friday, October 20, 2006

News-Leader endorses Harpool

KYTV's Children's Hour is a remnant of the past and today, the Springfield News-Leader suggested that the program's long-time host Aunt Norma Champion also be relegated to memory.
The newspaper endorsed Sen. Champion's challenger, former Rep. Doug Harpool, for 30th District State Senate:

Champion has been a loyal Republican senator who follows Gov. Matt Blunt's lead. She has stepped up for Springfield, such as this year when she helped defeat a pension bill that would have had devastating effects on the city's future revenue. But Champion has not become a leader in the Senate, not in the way we believe Harpool would. She doesn't have a handle on the issues like Harpool does. We were disappointed she refused to debate her opponent. "I didn't see any advantage to a debate for me," she told the News-Leader editorial board. The advantage should have been for voters to see and hear the candidates side by side.

If they had, we're sure that most would agree with us that while Champion is a wonderful person who has served her district well, Harpool is more qualified to represent the district in the Senate.

Daily explains decision not to name teen shooter

In a column posted early this morning, Joplin Daily Editor John Hacker explains the news outlet's decision not to publish the name of the Joplin Memorial Middle School teen shooter:

It also didn't take long for our education reporter, Kaylea Hutson, to find out the shooter was a 13-year-old Memorial student, and to confirm several bits of information about this student, including his name and address. The police told us they were searching a house at a certain address on Gray Avenue, and the boy's attorney, Charles Lonardo, started speaking in his defense the next day.

We, at JoplinDaily.com, have seen other news outlets in the area publish this boy's name. We have decided not to, at least as long as he remains charged under the juvenile system.

It may seem like a pointless gesture, especially since federal charges have been leveled against his father, meaning that man's name is out in the public record, but we have made the ethical decision not to name this boy as long as his case remains in the juvenile court system.

The opposite decision, of course, was reached by most other area media outlets, but it is refreshing to know that such decisions are not taken lightly.

Nexstar stock continues to struggle

Nexstar Broadcasting stock fell 14 cents to $3.81 per share in trading Thursday. The struggling stock only a couple of years ago was selling at more than $10 per share.
Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Committee ready to pave path toward educational vouchers

The Missouri House Special Committee on School Choice appears designed to pave the way for educational vouchers in this state, starting with a tuition tax credit program for students in failing schools in Kansas City and St. Louis.
The committee was stacked from the beginning with Speaker of the House Rod Jetton attempting to give the appearance of bi-partisan cooperation by appointing two Democrats to be the chairman and co-chairman of the committee.
Those Democrats, Ted Hoskins and Rodney Hubbard, are two of the few Democrats who support this transparent effort to open the door for vouchers.
Our local representative on the committee, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, indicated that anyone who opposes this legislation must be doing so for racial reasons:

The failing schools serve mostly black students. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Mo., sees it as partly a racial issue. "It is a racial problem because the white people out there want to ignore it," said Hunter, who is white.

It appears that many of the people supporting this program are doing so because they believe disruptive students will receive the kind of discipline in private schools that they do not receive in public schools.
This is a dangerous myth. While many private schools have excellent, and I am sure well-earned reputations for academics and discipline, one reason many of them hold such reputations is because they do not have the kind of disruptive students who so often deprive well-behaved students of valuable learning time because they have to wait for the teacher to take care of disciplinary problems.
This is another of those issues that No Child Left Behind fails to address- How can every child become proficient in math and reading when you have some children who have no intention whatsoever of learning while they are in school, and don't care if anyone else does either.
If those students are placed in private schools, it would not be long before we would hear about those schools having the same sort of problems that face inner-city public schools.

President calls for expansion of No Child Left Behind

President Bush doesn't learn from his mistakes, and in this instance, I am not talking about Iraq.
The president is calling for an expansion of one of the most ill-conceived laws this nation has ever seen- No Child Left Behind- and surprise, surprise, he wants this expansion to include vouchers to allow students to attend private schools:

Bush's interview with ABC came as he visited North Carolina to highlight his education program. The president visited a fast-improving elementary school to make a pitch for expansion of the No Child Left Behind law when it comes before Congress for reauthorization next year.

Bush said the law should include vouchers for low-income students to attend private or parochial schools while offering salary incentives for teachers whose students show sharp improvement on standardized tests or who work in tough schools. He also wants the law's requirements for annual standardized testing, which currently apply to most elementary and middle school students, extended to high schools.

"The reauthorization of this important bill is going to be a top priority of mine," Bush said. "And it's not only just the reauthorization, it's the strengthening of the bill and not the weakening of the bill."

It is amazing how supporters of educational vouchers are the people who demand all sorts of mind-numbing paperwork for public schools to show compliance with different aspects of federal regulations, but want to open the floodgate of federal dollars to private schools without requiring any documentation whatsoever.
Private schools are also able to conduct their business without public supervision, unlike public schools. Private schools are permitted to conduct board meetings behind closed doors, even in those venues where educational vouchers are in place and public money is being spent.
And, of course, private schools do not have to follow the same guidelines when it comes to curriculum and course offerings that public schools are required to follow.
I might add that most private schools are not equipped to handle the same wide range of students that are enrolled in public schools, students ranging from the most gifted to those who have severe mental and emotional problems.
And now, the president is also calling for No Child Left Behind to be expanded to the high school level. This is a case of a lame duck president closing his eyes and ears to reality.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

KOAM to receive honors at KAB Convention

KOAM will receive a number of awards when the annual Kansas Association of Broadcasters (KAD) meeting is held Oct. 22-24 at Harrah's Praire Band Casino Hotel and Convention Center in Mayetta.
Veteran news anchor Dowe Quick will receive the Sonny Slater Award for outstanding service to his station and community. Quick started at KOAM in 1980.
Danny Thomas, president and general manager, will receive the KAB Mike Oatman Award for broadcast sales excellence. Thomas has been with the station since 1988.
Quick and Bret Falcetto will also receive the first place award for in-depth news report in medium market television for "Invading MySpace," while Dale Switzer earned a first place in station promotion announcement for "What's Cooking?"

Bartosh ready for final push

Carthage businessman John Bartosh, the Republican nominee for Jasper County presiding commissioner, began picking up contributions from a few of the traditional GOP sources during the past month, according to the October quarterly report filed Monday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Bartosh received $2,050 in contributions during the past month, and spent $1,195, leaving him with $2,749.32.
Those contributing to the Bartosh campaign were:
Gary Burton, lobbyist, Joplin, $100, Contract Freighters, Joplin, $650; Seventh District Congressional Republican Committee $1,000; Wayne Putnam, Carthage, $200; and Daniel Scorse, Joplin, $100.
A post on the quarterly report for Bartosh's write-in competitor, former Presiding Commissioner Danny Hensley of Carthage, was featured in the Oct. 15 Turner Report.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

News-Leader editorial board endorses Blunt, but tells him to straighten up

The Springfield News-Leader endorsed incumbent Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's re-election bid today, but did it with some qualifiers. The News-Leader dismissed the challenge by Jack Truman of Lamar on the Democratic ticket saying:

"He faces no legitimate opposition, which in today's environment in which Democrats are enjoying a bit of a revival says something about Blunt's staying power in southwest Missouri."

Then the editorial board spanked Blunt for his role, or lack thereof, in some of the shenanigans that have been going on in Washington:

"Blunt is part of a leadership team in the Republican Party that has consistently put partisanship over good public policy, and we don't believe that sits well with independent-minded Ozarkers. Whether it's the stain of the Mark Foley embarrassment, or the unethical power grabs by Tom DeLay, or the stench of too much money from lobbyists that has emanated from the Beltway during the Jack Abramoff investigation, Blunt's party simply can't crawl out from under the clear feeling that power has gone to its head. That Blunt has yet to be pulled down by any of those incidents speaks well for his character, frankly. But make no mistake, the congressman didn't rise to power in the D.C. culture without knowing how to play the game."

Internet pervert receives 30-year sentence

Whatever the results of his appeal in Missouri, convicted internet pervert Donal R. Wadsworth, 47, Fayetteville, Ark., is going to be spending a long time in prison.
The Northwest Arkansas Times reported Oct 11 that Wadsworth pleaded guilty the previous day in Washington County Circuit Court to four counts of computer child pornography and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He had been charged with trying to have sex with someone whom he believed to be a 13-year-old girl after chatting with her over the Internet between Dec. 21, 2005, and Jan. 26, 2006.
His arrest in Arkansas came just a short time after a Jasper County jury convicted him of virtually the same offense. He was free on bond while appealing the Missouri case. Wadsworth was one of those nailed by Diamond Police Officer Jim Murray during one of his Internet stings. He was convicted on seven counts of enticing a minor.
Wadsworth's appeal was heard in September in the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals. No decision has been released.

Globe relies on AP for coverage of Johnston preliminary hearing

It appears the Joplin Globe must have been short on reporters Monday or there was a lot of news going on (something that is not evident from its website).
The Globe, led by Jeff Lehr and Derek Spellman, has been right on top of the coverage of these McDonald County and Newton County church ritual sex cases, but not this morning.
The coverage of Monday's preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court of Granby church leader George Otis Johnston was written by "AP and staff reports." Normally, the "By Staff Reports" means the staff did not have anything to do with it. In this case, it means the Globe sprinkled in information from its previous articles with AP reporter Marcus Kabel's coverage of Monday's preliminary hearing. It is surprising the Globe did not find some way to staff what has been a major news story over the past several weeks.

Transcript of Talent-McCaskill Springfield debate offered

I didn't get to watch KY3's debate between U. S. Sen. Jim Talent and his Democratic challenger State Auditor Claire McCaskill Monday night, but it appears from reading the KY3 Blog and the news accounts of the debate that the candidates did not acquit themselves well.
As I noted following the Meet the Press debate, candidates (at the time I singled out Talent, but in this debate it appears to be both of them) are avoiding the questions and working whatever their points are into every answer. It is a shameful practice and judging from the KY3 Blog, it was one that did not fool Missouri voters.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thomas disclosure report reveals conflicts of interest

Three maximum $1,275 contributions to Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas' campaign for state auditor came from contract agents running state license fee offices, according to her October quarterly report, filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Ms. Thomas received the maximum amount from David Jerome, Neosho, Matt Gerstler, St. Joseph, and the Nodler Leadership PAC, which is operated by its treasurer, Joplin CPA Nick Myers, who runs the Joplin contract office. The Nodler Leadership PAC reported contributing $1,275 to her primary campaign two weeks after the primary ended and an additional $1,275 the following month.
Myers, of course, also serves as Ms. Thomas' campaign treasurer, and has already contributed $1,275 personally, and $1,275 from his CPA business.
The revenue fee office agents' contributions are not the only conflict of interest evident on Ms. Thomas' disclosure form. She also received a $500 contribution from Gene McNary, St. Louis, who was recently appointed by Governor Matt Blunt to head the Missouri Gaming Commission, which is a state agency which must be audited.
Thomas' campaign is being managed by Axiom Strategies, LLC, a firm to which she has paid more than $90,000 this year...and also a firm created by the same attorney responsible for organizing the license fee office management companies that were investigated by the FBI earlier this year. Axiom is a campaign consulting firm run by Jeff Roe, former chief of staff for Congressman Sam Graves. Roe is also the author of the Republican blog, The Source.
Axiom was organized Dec. 6, 2005, by Jamison Shipman, an attorney for Lathrop & Gage, according to documents on file with the Missouri Secretary of State's office. Shipman is the lawyer who organized the management firms that were created to run license fee offices.

Newton County pastor bound over for trial following preliminary hearing

Granby pastor George Otis Johnston of the Grandview Valley North Church was bound over for trial on felony sex charges today following a preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court.
This passage is taken from the account written by Marcus Kabel of Associated Press:

A Newton County judge Monday bound over George Otis Johnston, 63, for trial after testimony from a 20-year-old woman who alleges Johnston, the pastor of her close-knit church commune, molested her in his trailer home when he was supposed to be tutoring her in algebra.

"He told me I needed to become one of his angels," the woman told the court in a preliminary hearing Monday.

Johnston is charged with nine felony counts of statutory sodomy and child molestation. His arraignment was scheduled for Oct. 26.

The woman said Johnston would put his hands inside her clothes to touch her genitals and breasts and kiss her with his tongue, which he called "angel kisses."

High court tosses out Voter ID law

The Missouri Supreme Court today upheld a lower court's decision striking down the controversial Voter ID law.
The court opinion said:

SB 1014's photo ID requirement fails to pass constitutional scrutiny because it creates a heavy burden on the fundamental right to vote and is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest.

Super lobbyist delivers big time to Scott campaign

Superlobbyist William Gamble of the Gamble & Schlemeier firm delivered at least $5,850 to Sen. Delbert Scott's re-election campaign on Sept. 12, according to the October quarterly statement filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The money came in ten $650 donations from Gamble clients including:

-Missouri Dental PAC
-Missouri Freight Rail PAC, formed in March of this year, which lists Sarah Topp, a lobbyist for Gamble's firm as its treasurer
-Missouri Pharmacy PAC
-Missouri ACTE PAC, which lists P. O. Box 1865, Jefferson City, which has an address of P. O. Box 1865, the same address as Gamble & Schlemeier, and lists Gamble as its treasurer
-Missouri Beverage PAC, lists P. O. Box 1866, also lists Gamble as treasurer
-Rural Telecommunications Committee PAC
-Missouri Physician Assistant PAC, P. O. Box 1865
-Residential Care Facility PAC, P. O. Box 1865
-Emergency Medicine PAC, lists Sarah Topp as its treasurer
-MO PLAN- P. O. Box 1865

Scott reported receiving $37,549.78 during the last quarter, giving him $105,241.21 in his bank account.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Nodler Leadership Fund doubles maximum contribution to Thomas

It's probably just one of those accounting miracles.
In its October quarterly statement filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, the Nodler Leadership PAC reported contributing $2,550 twice the maximum amount to Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas for her race for state auditor.
Donors are permitted to contribute the maximum amount for both the primary and general election campaigns, and that is exactly what the report indicates was done in this case...except for one thing.
The PAC's contribution for Ms. Thomas' primary campaign came Aug. 22, two weeks after the primary. The general election contribution was made Sept. 10, according to the disclosure form.
The treasurer for both the Nodler Leadership PAC and the Thomas for State Auditor campaign is Joplin CPA Nick Myers.
The Nodler Leadership PAC raised $38,650 during the past quarter and spent $51,028.10, leaving it with $6,475.98 in the bank. Those contributing were:

Missouri Health Care Association PAC, Jefferson City, $1,000; Committee to Elect Ron Richard, Joplin, $2,500; Tapjac Lumber, Carthage, $1,000; Missouri Association of Rehabilitation PAC, Jefferson City, $300; Freeman Physician Group PAC, $6,500; 129th District Legislative Committee, Joplin, $2,500; Missouri Council of School Board Administrators PAC, Jefferson City, $250; Nick Myers, Joplin, $1,600; Rudy Farber, Neosho, $10,000; Empire District Electric Company, $10,000; Home Building Industry PAC, St. Louis, $500; Missouri Cable PAC, $1,000; Russel Smith, Joplin, $500; Doris Carlin Team, Inc., Joplin, $1,000.

Contributions were made to the following:
In July: Rupp for Senate, Wentzville, $650; Friends of Carl Vogel, Jefferson City, $650; Bill Alter for State Senate, High Ridge, $650; The People for John Griesheimer, Washington, MO, $650; Friends of Delbert Scott, Wheatland, $650; Friends of Bob Behnen, Kirksville, $650; Susie Snyders for State Senate, Rolla, $650; Maupin for Senate, Clayton, $650; Senate Majority Fund, $10,000; Citizens for Shields, St. Joseph, $650; Bartle 2006, Lee's Summit, $650; Clemons for the Ozarks, Springfield, $650.

In August: Sandra Thomas CPA for State Auditor, Kansas City, $1,275

In September: Citizens for Brad Lager, Maryville, $650; Susie Snyders for State Senate, Rolla, $650; Friends of Bob Behnen, Kirksville, $650; Bill Alter for State Senate, High Ridge, $650; Clemens for the Ozarks, Springfield, $650; Maupin for Senate, Clayton, $650; Senate Majority Fund, Jefferson City, $20,000; Re-Elect Rupp for Senate, Wentzville, $650; Friends of Carl Vogel, Jefferson City, $650; Bartle 2006, Leee's Summit, $650; The People for John Griesheimer, Washington, MO., $650; Friends of Delbert Scott, Wheatland, $650; Champion for Senate, Springfield, $650; Citizens for Shields, St. Joseph, $650; Sandra Thomas CPA for State Auditor, Kansas City, $650

Independent candidate raises nearly $8,000

It's not exactly the $100,000 juggernaut Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has created, but the Independent opponent for his 32nd District Senate seat, Kim Wright, Joplin, has raised nearly $8,000 during the last quarter, according to her disclosure report, filed Oct. 10 with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Of the $7,999.10 she has raised so far, a disturbing $3,359.11 is listed as in-kind contributions from persons giving $100 or less, which is the minimum amount for which committees have to list individual contributors.
So far, Ms. Wright has spent $4,262.11, leaving her with $3,736.99 in her bank account.

Among the largest contributors were:
Hillary Clinton Democratic Women's Club, Joplin, $325; Jasper County Democratic Committee, $300; Kevin Bussey, Neosho, $250; Missouri Federated Women, Springfield, $100; Dade County Democrats, Greenfield, $100; Shirley Bussey, Neosho, $250; Joseph Cowen, Joplin, $325; Sue Cowen, Joplin, $325; Elliott Denniston, Webb City, $500; John Fraire, Kirksville, $150; Dorothy Fulks, Webb City, $650; Herndon, Snider & Associates, Joplin, $250; Wendy Istas, Joplin, $140; Rob Lasswell, Neosho, $300; Janice Leeper, Joplin, $130; and Donna VanOtterloo, Joplin, $150.
Ms. Wright's expenditures included $1,109.25 to KOAM, $675.75 to KODE, $814.58 to Specialty Promotions, $356 to Run and Win, $125.57 to SignARama, $539.97 to Sign Elect, and $150 to Ozark Gateway Association of Realtors for room rental.

Unopposed Stevenson collects nearly $3,000

128th District Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, has no opposition in the November general election, but the fundraising machinery continues to operate at a brisk pace.
According to his quarterly report, filed Oct. 6 with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Stevenson collected $2,750, spent $3,944.99, and was left with $12,698 in his account.
Among those contributing to Stevenson were: Rudy Farber, Neosho, $325; Missouri Hospital Association Southwest District, $175; Missouri Hospital Association HealthPAC, $325; Missouri Health Care Association PAC, $325; Realtors PAC, $100; Nick Myers CPA, $325; MOAHA PAC, Jefferson City, $325; Cingular Wireless, El Paso, Texas, $325; and Political Action for Nurses in Missouri, Jefferson City, $325.
Stevenson contributed $1,275 to Republican state auditor candidate Sandra Thomas, with the most of the remainder of his expenditures, $1,433.38, going to Briarbrook Golf and Country Club.

Leggett CEO, wife put $1,000 into Hensley campaign

Former Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Danny Hensley's write-in campaign to regain his old post has received a $1,000 boost from Leggett & Platt CEO David Haffner and his wife, Connie, according to the October quarterly report filed this week with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Hensley, who is challenging Republican primary winner John Bartosh, received $500 apiece from the Haffners, $500 from G & G Construction, $125 from William D. Haughawout, Carthage; $200 from retired Judge Herbert Casteel, Carthage; $500 from Carthage Pump Supply, $200 from Jack and Mareece Robbins, Carthage; and $100 apiece from Laurence Flanigan, Carthage; George Flanigan, Carthage; and Ron and Marilyn Schultz, Joplin, for a total of $3,175. So far, Hensley has spent$1,426.50, according to the disclosure report, all going toward advertising.
So far, Bartosh has not filed his quarterly report; the deadline for doing so is Monday. The other write-in candidate, Carthage Fire Chief Bill Rowland, has not formed a campaign committee, indicating he is not in the fundraising mode.

Auditor candidate dodges charges that others did the work for which she received awards

During her campaign for state auditor, Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas has proclaimed the awards she has won in her present post as one of her qualifications.
A Platte County Landmark story says she paid another company to do the work that turned her county's audits into award-winners. The charge was leveled by the campaign of her opponent, Susan Montee, but was not denied by Thomas, who did not make any comment, but instead deferred the question to Jeff Roe of Axiom Strategies, which is running her campaign:

In her bid to become the next Missouri state auditor and on her campaign Web site, Thomas frequently highlights her nine instances of receiving the annual "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program," an award sponsored by the Government Finance Officers Association.

"Thomas bases her campaign on her status as an 'award-winning CPA' and claims that her office produces the award-winning reports. The fact is that she pays an outside auditor thousands of dollars every year to win this award and then claims credit,"claims Sean Spence, Montee's campaign manager.

Siobhann Williams, who is a certified public accountant, pledged on Monday that, if elected as the next Platte County auditor, she will immediately end the practice of paying an outside auditor extra money to complete reports in a format specifically geared toward winning an award.

"These financial duties should be done in-house. That's why it's appropriate to have a CPA as the county auditor," Williams said.

"Platte County pays Troutt, Beeman & Co., of Harrisonville, its external auditor extra money, over and above its fee to perform the county's annual external audit, to submit its annual report in the Government Finance Officers Association-suggested format specifically so Platte County may win the "Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting," Williams said on Tuesday.

Blunt, GOP leaders tell Ney to resign or be kicked out

Ohio Republican Bob Ney pleaded guilty Friday to accepting bribes from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a Syrian businessman.
So far, Ney has refused to resign, so House leadership, including Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, issued a joint statement saying that if Ney does not give up his office, he will immediately be expelled when the House is back in session.
Ney is the fourth Republican Congressman to be forced out of office in the past two years. Three of those, Ney, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Rep. Mark Foley, received sizable contributions from Congressman Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC, as I pointed out in the Sept. 30 Turner Report.

Skelton offers thoughts on Iraq situation

The following column, written by Congressman Ike Skelton, was distributed this week:

Fourth District Congressman

In 1926, Sir Gerald Ellison published "The Perils of Amateur Strategy," a book about the disastrous allied campaign at Gallipoli during World War I. In 2006, we find that the Bush administration's strategic mistakes during the opening years of our misadventure in Iraq have provided ample material for its sequel, "The Perils of Amateur Strategy II." Now the once-high hopes of bringing stability and democracy to that country are fading quickly, unless responsibility can quickly be shifted to the Iraqis.
Before the war began, the Bush administration failed to persuade Turkey to allow passage of our troops through that country. Flowing forces simultaneously from north and south might have stifled the subsequent chaos and prevented the situation turning from good to bad.

That failure was exacerbated by a rapid series of bad calls: the inability to quickly put an Iraqi face on the interim government; the de-Baathification policy, which combined with the disbanding of the Iraqi Army put thousands of disaffected Iraqis on the street; and the failure to secure the many weapons caches around the country has plagued our forces as a seemingly unending supply of munitions for roadside bombs is finding its way into the hands of our enemies.

Through it all winds the thread of consequences emanating from not sending enough troops to do the job right- not enough to control the chaos, to guard the caches, and most of all, to hold the ground they had paid dearly to take. Too often, our valiant forces defeated the enemy, only to move to the next fight, and the enemy returned when they had gone.

This is the simplest lesson that histories of counter-insurgencies teach us: Control territory and protect the population to allow civil society to take root within an umbrella of security. In this way, Iraqi confidence will grow and Iraqis will invest themselves in the future of their country. But sadly, this lesson seemed lost upon our amateur strategists haunting the administration's ranks.

Now we are in the midst of the Battle for Baghdad. In August, in a letter to the president, I predicted this would be the decisive battle of the war. Sadly, two months later, the sectarian violence rocking Baghdad has not slackened. Instead, Baghdad is coming apart at its seams. Those seams run along the divides separating the Shi'a and Sunni communities. Each is killing the other with increasing abandon in a struggle for control of Iraq.

Despite increasingly capable Iraqi Security Forces, there is no reduction in demand for U.S. forces, and no reduction in enemy activity. In fact, the opposite is true ? we've had to hold units beyond their scheduled redeployment to raise our own force levels, and enemy attacks are at an all-time high.

Here is the quandary. Our military is stretched so badly and so many of our non-de ployed units are unready that we approach the point of unacceptable strategic risk for the next conflict we may fight. Additionally, the American people are increasingly wary of what seems to be an unending conflict with little to show for the effort.

Former Secretary of State James Baker has spoken of developing alternatives for U.S. military action in Iraq that the American people might support something beyond "stay the course" and "cut and run." Iraqi progress is ultimately in the hands of the Iraqis, but creative options are needed to ensure that we can lessen the burden on American forces as quickly as possible. We should consider good ideas from any quarter.

My own view continues to lean toward the redeployment of some number of American forces, however small, before the end of the year. This would demonstrate that Iraqi security forces were taking at least small steps toward self-sufficiency.

Three and a half years into this war, with more than 22,000 dead and wounded U.S. service members, and at a cost of more than $350 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars, asking for a return on our considerable in vestment is not unreasonable.

That return should come in the form of the Iraqis bridging the gulf between their ethnic divisions, disarming the militias, and standing up their security forces to quell the violence wracking their neighborhoods. They must provide for all their citizens the resources needed for full and productive lives.

Americans are a giving people, but our generosity and creativity must be matched by an Iraqi good faith effort as well. Time is short to make changes. The final chapter of The Perils of Amateur Strategy II has yet to be written.