Thursday, November 30, 2006

AP: Guest House fire may lead to mandatory sprinkler systems

The Anderson Guest House did not have a sprinkler system, which might have helped save some of the 10 people who died in a Nov. 27 fire. It was not required to have one, but that soon may change.
Associated Press reports Monday's blaze should bring about a new push for mandatory sprinkling systems for group homes.

News Leader: Guest House owners didn't check wiring in Carl Junction

No electrical wiring inspections were conducted at the Carl Junction Guest House between 2001 and 2004, according to an article posted today on the Springfield News-Leader website. The Carl Junction facility is officially owned by River of Life Ministries, though everything uncovered by authorities and reporters indicates convicted felon Robert Dupont, 62, Joplin, has been calling the shots at area Guest Houses, including the Anderson Guest House, which was destroyed by a fire that took 10 lives.
The article by Tracy Swartz includes the following passage:

Such inspections should be conducted every two years, but investigators in June 2004 found the wiring had not been reviewed since November 2001. Other fire safety hazards were noted. Officials said Wednesday they found improperly spliced wiring in the Anderson Guest House, which may have sparked Monday's deadly blaze. Authorities continued Thursday to probe the cause of the fire and any negligence by the facility's owners.

***
I have been surprised that the News-Leader has not examined Dupont's connection with the failed Springfield Guest House, which I detailed in the Nov. 27 Turner Report.

Payment review hearing set for Barton County Memorial embezzler

The weather could play a role in whether a payment review hearing for convicted Barton County Memorial Hospital embezzler Kim Schlup, set for 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1, in Cedar County Circuit Court, takes place.
If it is postponed for weather or for any other reason, it will mark the fifth time the hearing has had to be rescheduled.
Ms. Schlup, who has to repay the hospital $100,085, asked for previous hearings, set for Sept. 1, Sept. 28, Oct. 2, and Oct. 27, to be delayed. So far, no payment review hearings have been held, according to court records. Ms. Schlup, 42, the former finance director for the hospital helped herself to the money between 1999 and 2003. She was sentenced to four years in prison, placed on probation, but served 120 days of shock time.

Dec. 5 arraignments scheduled in McDonald County cult sex cases


Dec. 5 arraignments have been scheduled in McDonald County Circuit Court for Rev. Raymond Lambert and his wife Patty, who face felony sex charges in connection with sex rituals connected with the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church.
The Lamberts were bound over for trial following Nov. 27 preliminary hearings.
Lambert is charged with four counts of child molestation and three counts of statutory sodomy, while Mrs. Lambert is charged with one count of child molestation.

Mental evaluators may need more time with Lindstedt

The scheduled Dec. 14 review of perennial candidate Martin Lindstedt's state of mind may not take place.
The Fulton State Hospital filed documents in Newton County Circuit Court Nov. 13 asking for an extension of time, according to case.net.
Judge Kevin Selby issued the committal order for Lindstedt June 15. Lindstedt was charged in 2005 with statutory sodomy.
Lindstedt, 48, Granby, has been an unsuccessful candidate for a number of public offices, including U. S. Senator, Granby Municipal Judge, East Newton R-6 Board of Education and governor.

Gaming Commission fires attorney general

The Missouri Gaming Commission fired Attorney General Jay Nixon Wednesday after Nixon criticized the Commission's decision to take over operation of a casino in Caruthersville.
The Commission will have its legal work handled "in-house."
Apparently, the cabal of Blunt contributors who now run the Gaming Commission are playing politics. Nixon was quite rightly concerned about how it would look for a group which has the sole function of overseeing gambling to actually be running a casino.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Attorney general sues FAG Bearing

Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday accusing FAG Bearing of Joplin of contaminating the environment and asking that the company reimburse the state for the money it has spent and will spend to make drinking water safe in Silver Creek.
In the lawsuit, filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Nixon, representing the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, says drinking water in Silver Creek was polluted by trichlomethylene (TCE) used by FAG Bearing between 1977 and 1982. "TCE was used as a degreaser in the ball bearing manufacturing operation within a self-contained distillation unit which operated in a closed loop system," the lawsuit said.
Its presence in Silver Creek wells was confirmed when the wells were sampled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 1991, according to the lawsuit. The EPA had already signed an action memorandum on Aug. 14, 1991, initiating a bottled water program for Silver Creek residents. Permanent public drinking water systems later had to be installed for Silver Creek and nearby Saginaw, the lawsuit said.
In June and July 1992, the MDNR installed four groundwater monitoring wells at FAG Bearings, the lawsuit said. Three of the wells showed TCE contamination.

Darned global warming

The weathermen are predicting five to seven inches of precipitation, including snow and freezing rain, beginning Wednesday night.
Of course,that does not mean it will become a reality, but we may actually get a reminder of what winter can be this year.

Surface reports to jail


KOAM is reporting this morning that Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface checked himself into the county jail Monday to begin his 48-hour stay after pleading guilty Nov. 22 to a charge of driving while intoxicated.
If Surface is able to keep from getting into trouble for the next couple of years, the arrest will be removed from his record.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dupont houses have history of fires

The blaze that killed nine residents and one worker at the Anderson Guest House Monday was far from the first time that homes owned by convicted felon Robert Dupont, Joplin, have had fires.
Today's Joplin Globe notes that Dupont's local Guest Houses in Carthage, Carl Junction, and Joplin, have been cited for fire safety violations, though the Anderson Guest House had not been.
It was also noted that a small-scale fire occurred at the facility over the weekend.

But state officials had long been aware, or should have been, of problems at Dupont-owned facilities. As former Carthage and Lamar Press reporter Cait Purinton noted in an article published July 11, 1997, during her investigative series that eventually led to the closing of the Lamar Guest House, that facility had a troubling history with fires:

Four fires have been set at the Lamar Guest House, two of which were "deliberately set by residents and two were accidentally started by residents." According to the documents, the basic structure of the facility creates a situation in which the building could burn rapidly, if a fire occurred. "At the time of a previous fire, a fireman said he did not know why the building did not burn to the ground," according to the inspection report.


Among the problems found by Division of Aging (the forerunner of the Department of Health and Senior Services), during a March 11, 1997, inspection and a June 19, 1997, reinspection:

-The operator knowingly allows the admission and continued care of residents whose behaviors create a fire danger.
-The operator knowingly allows the continued use of padlocks on the exterior of resident room doors.
-The operator knowingly fails to install flame resistant curtains or drapes or to treat them with a fire retardant substance.
-The operator knowingly fails to maintain electrical wiring in a safe manner.
-The operator knowingly fails to repair structural deterioration which aggravate existing fire safety problems.
-The operator knowingly fails to install carpeting that is certified as fire resistant.
-The operator knowingly fails to provide appropriate services to residents who exhibit behavior problems in order to control their behaviors and safeguard themselves and others.

Miss Purinton wrote of one particular incident in which a Lamar Guest House resident nearly lost her life during a fire:

A Lamar Guest House resident crept his way into the northwest corner of the residential care facility March 17, 1997. In a small upstairs room, the man piled paper and combustible materials into the closet. He set a small spark that grew into a fire, according to Division of Aging inspection documents. He saw the fire was growing, became scared and fled the room. As he bolted out the door, he closed it behind him. Shortly after he left the room, the fire alarm sounded and alerted the facility's staff and the Lamar Fire Department. According to the inspection documents, staff members approached the fire and tried to extinguish it, but they said the fire had extended too far to be put out with portable fire extinguishers. The fire department responded to the call and put out the fire. Firefighters entered the building to ensure safety before allowing anyone back inside. "The firefighters found a female resident in her room asleep," the inspection sheets said. "Facility staff said she must have went back in after the fire was out. The firefighter said the building was not determined to be safe when she was sleeping downstairs in the same section of the building where the fire occurred." The room in which the fire was set was completely destroyed.

Anderson Guest House cited for August violation

It hasn't been mentioned in the articles I have seen in the Globe, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Associated Press, and the New York Times, but the Anderson Guest House was cited for a Class 1 Violation, the most serious type, in August 2006, according to the Missouri Coalition for Quality Care website.
According to the site, the citation was because "the facility staff failed to maintain comfortable and safe temperatures inside the facility during the time a local, excessive heat warning had been issued by the National Weather Service."

A Class I violation, as defined by the Department of Health and Senior Services, is:

"A violation which presents either an imminent danger to the health, safety or welfare of any resident or a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm would result. This is the most severe classification of State deficiencies. If an inspection results in any Class I violations, inspectors will revisit the facility within 20 days."

Blunt action allowed Dupont to continue operating managed care facilities


Governor Matt Blunt rushed to Anderson today, to a town that was shocked by the deaths of 10 people, nine residents and one worker, at the Anderson Guest House.
As I noted in an earlier post, one area that should be looked at is how the Department of Health and Senior Services allowed a convicted felon like Robert Dupont to own managed care facilities. Not only did he plead guilty to defrauding the federal government's Medicare and Medicaid programs, but he also has been involved in two bankruptcy proceedings and has had considerable financial difficulties, two things which state regulations prohibit for those who operate managed care facilities.
At the beginning of this decade, Dupont dissolved the corporation that ran his Guest Houses, Guest Houses of Missouri, but it wasn't long before he formed another corporation to operate managed care facilities.
An article posted earlier today on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website details some of the background of the Anderson Guest House:

In June 1982, the state first awarded the Anderson Guest House a license. On March 21, 2002, the Joplin River of Life Ministries took over the home. The non-profit takes in $1.23 million a year to operate four group homes in three cities, including Joplin.


On the day Joplin River of Life Ministries was incorporated, Robert J. Dupont had already been indicted and was awaiting trial in U. S. District Court on fraud charges. He had already had three Guest Houses, in Lamar, Butler, and Springfield, closed due to various problems, which are outlined in my earlier post.

He had already had one bankruptcy proceeding.

On that day, March 21, 2002, the Secretary of State put his official seal on the incorporation documents, which read:

"Said corporation is organized exclusively for charitable, educational and/or scientific purposes. The purpose of the corporation is to organize and operate a Christian church, to lease and operate residential care facilities in the state of Missouri and for any other lawful purpose under the Missouri Nonprofit Corporation Act."


Once Secretary of State Matt Blunt imprinted the "Great Seal of the State of Missouri" on the document, Robert Dupont's corporation was "entitled to all rights and privileges granted corporations organized under the Missouri Nonprofit Corporation Law."

Two years later, Joplin River of Life Ministries let its incorporation lapse when it failed to file an annual report. It was reinstated in May 2004 with Laverne Dupont, Robert Dupont's wife as the one who signed the papers. The Great Seal was once again applied by Secretary of State Blunt.

Now Governor Blunt has the bully pulpit and the ability to see to it that state agencies work together to keep people with the kind of track record Robert Dupont has compiled from ever running managed care facilities.

***
The governor issued the following statement about the Anderson Guest House deaths:

"Melanie and I are deeply saddened to learn of the deadly fire at Anderson Guest House. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families during this difficult time. We have committed all available state resources to help determine the cause of this terrible event. I have committed the expertise of the Department of Public Safety's Division of Fire Safety and the Missouri Highway Patrol to conduct the investigation. DPS Director Mark James, Highway Patrol Colonel Jim Keathley and State Fire Marshal Randy Cole have all responded to the scene to establish a unified command and ensure the state is providing maximum support to the local and county authorities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting. The Departments of Health and Senior Services and Mental Health are also responding to the incident. Uninjured residents at Anderson Guest House have been moved to safety at the local armory where facility staff members are providing for their care."

Hacker receives New York Times byline

Joplin Daily Editor John Hacker has hit the pages of the nation's number one newspaper.
Hacker shares a byline with Ralph Blumenthal in an article posted a short time ago on the New York Times website:

Survivors who spoke to grief counselors from the Ozark Center of Joplin said they had heard a loud bang or an explosion that filled corridors with smoke and sent residents jumping out their windows to escape. Some said the staff member who died had been trying to help the injured out of the building. Four bodies were recovered from the ruins; the six other people died later.

Convicted felon involved in operation of Anderson Guest House

The first thing Governor Matt Blunt should do in response to today's fire at the Anderson Guest House that left 10 people dead and two dozen injured is to call for an immediate investigation into the Department of Health and Senior Services' oversight of managed care facilities.
If there had been oversight, there would be no way that a man with Robert Joseph Dupont Jr.'s background could ever have been involved in the operations of a state-licensed facility.
Dupont Jr, Joplin, is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 13, 2002. to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Dupont was the primary target in a 22-count indictment issued June 15, 2000, alleging a health care fraud scheme involving several residential care facilities, thousands of claims, and more than 200 patients, according to court records.
Government prosecutors said Dupont and others, including his stepdaughter, Kelly Liveoak charged certified patients as homebound and submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Government officials said the agencies that were affiliated with Dupont worked with doctors to file the false claims.
Though the Missouri secretary of state's office's corporation documents for Joplin River of Life Ministries, which owns the Anderson Guest House, do not list Dupont anywhere, three members are listed on the Ministries' board of directors...and two of them are Dupont's wife, Laverne.
Joplin River of Life Ministries' president, according to the 2006 annual report is listed as Calvin Wheeler, 716 Lexington Avenue, Webb City, an address which has also been listed as the home address of Dupont's stepdaughter, convicted felon Kelly Liveoak.
Dupont has checkered background
Dupont's connection with any managed care facility seems highly questionable in light of his checkered background. In addition to his federal fraud conviction, Dupont has had at least two facilities closed due to excess violations.
Former Lamar Press reporter Cait Purinton wrote about the closings of the Lamar Guest House and Butler Guest House during an award-winning series published in 1997.
For an article entitled "Savage Beating Brings State House Under State Scrutiny," in the July 11, 1997, Lamar Press (the final issue of that newspaper) Miss Purinton wrote this lead

Mitchell Henry was found in his room at the Lamar Guest House face down on the floor in a puddle of his own vomit June 9. His clothes were soaked with urine and his face was stuck to the floor with the dried vomit, according to Division of Aging documents. (The Division of Aging was the forerunner of the Department of Health and Senior Services.)


It was Henry's beating which apparently had happened more than 24 hours earlier that led the state to begin the investigation that eventually led to the Lamar Guest House's closing. He had beaten by 17-year-old Matthew Wolff in an argument over a cigarette. Woolf had been placed at the Guest House as part of condition of his parole. He had a history of multiple criminal arrests, a past of explosive behavior and inappropriate sexual behavior, according to Division of Aging documents.

The Guest House took on Wolff though it had no one on its staff trained to deal with someone with Wolff's needs, putting the other residents at risk, according to the documents.

The beating resulted in two Class I violations, the most severe handed out during state inspections.

At the time, Paul Shumake of the Division of Aging told Miss Purinton "it could be a lifetime sentence (not being able to operate homes in Missouri) if it there is abuse or neglect to a resident."

However, today's tragic fire indicates that apparently nothing, not a federal fraud conviction and not endangering residents at a managed care facility, is enough to force state officials to hand down that life sentence.

Violations lead to closing of Butler Guest House

One thing that we found out during Cait Purinton's Guest House investigation was that Division of Aging officials seldom communicated with each other. It was Cait who ended up telling them that the same people who had problems in Lamar, were the ones who had a facility in Butler closed. You might have thought the state agency would have checked into any other homes owned by the same company (which at that time was Sandhill, Inc., and the same people, but that was not the case.
The near-fatal beating of Mitchell Henry at the Lamar Guest House might have been prevented had the Division of Aging closed the facility after it closed the same company's facility in Butler, the Butler Guest House, in May 1996.

Cait Purinton took this description of the Butler Guest House from Division of Aging documents:

In the rooms, the windows can't be easily opened, the rooms are filthy and disorderly, and the windows are dirty with smoke residue, dust, and fingerprints with dead insects lying in the window sill.
As the residents of the care facility wander down the corridors, they see brown buildup of dirt along the floor with grease and debris growing on the dust. The original gray linoleum floor now has a brownish cast to it due to the floor being littered with food debris and dirt.
The dining room and kitchen where the residents receive all their meals, are not any different from the rest of the facility. The ice machine is covered with white stains, red stains, and food debris. The pass-through window counter located between the dining room and dish washing room is covered with food debris. And the only place to sit is on the metal chairs heavily soiled with food and grease. The residents' rooms and bathrooms are dirty and unkempt in several degrees of severity. More food debris or dirt is on the floor, cigarette butts and ashes are all over the floor and window sills, the beds are unmade with dirty sheets and insects are found crawling the walls and light fixture covers. Dusty brown cobwebs climb the walls and ceilings. Dirty clothes are thrown about the rooms and the baseboards are filthy with dust.


The inspection included 43 pages of deficiencies, which were not addressed properly and eventually led to the closing of the facility.

Recent financial problems of Robert Dupont
When government rules and regulations are utilized properly they can save some lives and improve the quality of others. One such rule is that those who operate managed care facilities in the state of Missouri have to prove that they are financially solvent.
This is important in a business in which cutting corners could end up costing lives. The state has never paid much attention to the finances of Robert Dupont, even though he has owned and operated multiple facilities here for two decades.

As The Turner Report noted on Sept. 29, 2004, Dupont filed for bankruptcy in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri. Though he had already been convicted of fraud at that time, he still listed his job as executive director of River of Life Ministries. The Guest House locations in Anderson, Joplin (2), and Carl Junction were listed as belonging to Dupont.
At that time, he owed $57,500 to the Internal Revenue Service, and $120,100 in fines connected with his fraud conviction. In another court case pending at that time, he was being sued by Land Purchase of Jasper County, which he owed $370,000, according to the bankruptcy court documents. He listed $994,000 in assets with $975,000 of that coming from real estate, and $1,419,675 in liabilities.
According to the bankruptcy court documents, at that point Dupont not only served as River of Life Ministries' executive director and pulled down a salary of $60,000 plus, but he also charged the not-for-profit organization $12,000 per month rent, with $11,400 going to the bank and the other $600 to Dupont.
The bankruptcy petition was later dismissed with Dupont and his wife filing a document saying they "would prefer to pay their creditors off on their own."
Federal Court records indicate Dupont has been paid slightly over $12,000 of his $120,100 fine.

Dupont has long history of financial problems
The 2004 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Robert Dupont was not the first time the Joplin businessman had seen the inside of a federal bankruptcy court. Former Barton County Recorder of Deeds Jean Keithly (at that time the deputy recorder) tipped me off that federal tax liens had been taken out against Dupont's Sandhill, Inc., owner of the Lamar Guest House and numerous other facilities. After checking those out, I checked with Barton County Treasurer Frances Cato and found that not only had Sandhill not paid its county taxes, but that it had filed for bankruptcy in 1994. I passed those tidbits on to Cait Purinton, who by this time, was knee-deep in Division of Aging documents detailing the numerous violations at the Guest Houses.
Cait's investigation discovered the company's aborted attempt to open a Guest House in Springfield, an attempt which Dupont claimed led directly to the bankruptcy.
"The city of Springfield refused to issue necessary local licenses," company officials claimed in court documents. Sandhill sued the city of Springfield claiming discrimination against its clients because they were mentally ill. The city closed the Guest House in Springfield, claiming it was not properly zoned. The closing caused cash flow problems and caused Sandhill to default on some of its debts.

Blunt Board of Education appointee comes under fire

Governor Matt Blunt has appointed a leading advocate of educational vouchers to the State Board of Education.
That was the big scoop the St. Louis Post-Dispatch trumpeted in an article in its Nov. 22 edition. Of course, Turner Report readers knew of Donayle Whitmore-Smith's background nearly four weeks earlier.
The Post-Dispatch article said:

For the past five years, she has headed an effort called School Choice Missouri, a campaign aimed at raising awareness about options such as charter schools, vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. The initiative is funded by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, an Indiana-based group that advocates for public vouchers.


Governor Blunt's chief of staff Ed Martin told the Post-Dispatch that any thought that Ms. Whitmore-Smith would be anti-public education is ridiculous:


"If we thought that, she wouldn't be on the state board of education, because the governor is committed to public education," Martin said.


It should be noted that before becoming chief of staff Martin was the attorney for All Children Matter, the number one educational voucher proponent in the country. Gov. Blunt was the keynote spokesman at All Children Matter's national convention in Colorado last year and as I noted in a post Sunday, All Children Matter spent $196,252.33 for attack advertising against Blunt's opponent, Claire McCaskill in the 2004 governor's race.

So far the Post-Dispatch article is the only one I can find that follows up on information first noted in the Oct. 26 Turner Report. The following passage was included in that post:

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.


This is the person the governor thinks is qualified to provide leadership for public education?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

News-Leader editorial: Vouchers are not the solution

In an editorial published today, the Springfield News-Leader strongly criticizes educational vouchers:

The problem is, vouchers provide no accountability at all.When applied in a system that involves spending public money on private schools, a voucher system will do one of two things:
It will provide no accountability because the long arm of government has no control over private schools.Or it will bring accountability by allowing the government to exercise some control over private schools because public money will be involved. Either way, the result is a bad one, and that's why we remain vehemently opposed to a voucher system in the public schools.


The newspaper also included an op-ed column by Nixa Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith who says:

The cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act is accountability. Public schools are required to meet academic achievement and teacher quality standards, maintain open meetings and release data such as attendance, graduation, dropout rates and test scores. Private schools are not similarly accountable to the taxpayers who pay for vouchers, either directly through public funding or indirectly through tax credits.


But those in favor of educational vouchers also received their say in today's News-Leader, which featured an op-ed piece by Governor Matt Blunt on the same subject. Of course, the latest effort to open Missouri to educational vouchers comes under a different title, tax credits. The governor notes:

A program to grant low-income students a privately funded scholarship to attend private school, another public school or education enhancement programs offers one option to expand opportunities for students. The initiative would allow businesses or Missourians to receive tax credits in exchange for a donation to a not-for-profit organization. This organization would provide these private donations as scholarships for students who attend failing schools to take advantage of education opportunities that better meet their needs. As we continue to help schools make necessary long-term reforms, Missouri children deserve more than a school that is "under construction." They deserve and they need a quality education now.


This idea, which failed in the 2006 legislative session, will rear its ugly head again in 2007. As the News-Leader editorial rightly notes, there is no accountability when money is going into private schools. This plan offers nothing more than a backdoor way to get vouchers entrenched in Missouri, and give businesses a tax break at the same time.

The Governor has a vested interest in educational vouchers. In the 2004 election, the interest group All Children Matter, one of the nation's leading voucher proponents spent $196,252.33 during the last couple of weeks of the governor's campaign funding attack ads against Blunt's opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill. Blunt later was the keynote speaker for the organization's annual convention.

This blog has documented some of the spending All Children Matter did during the past election, money that went to Democrats and Republicans alike. As usual in politics, it is money that is doing the talking.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Skelton, McCaskill to appear on Sunday interview shows

KY3 Blog reports Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton and Senator-elect Claire McCaskill will appear on Sunday morning interview shows.
Skelton is scheduled to appear on Meet the Press, while Ms. McCaskill will be featured on Face the Nation.

Globe readers offer views on Surface sentence

Joplin Globe readers have strong opinions on the sentence given to Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface Wednesday, ranging from those who think he was given preferential treatment to some who believe he was treated too harshly because of his office.

News-Leader offers 'rose' to judge in Surface case


The weekly "Roses and Thorns" section in the Springfield News-Leader's editorial section offers a rose to St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dawson for having Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface serve shock time after Surface pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated.
Though the newspaper mistakenly referred to Dawson as a Jasper County judge, it is still good to know it is keeping any eye on events in this area of the state. The News-Leader's take:

Surface pleaded guilty Wednesday to a DWI and rather than sentencing Surface to "shock detention" — a common sentence for first-time offenders, Dawson chose to send Surface to jail for two days to "demonstrate the seriousness of driving while intoxicated." Good for him.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Devil's Messenger available at various sites

Latest news on the Devil's Messenger front:
My second novel, which was officially published Nov. 17, is now available for $13.95 (at most sites) from numerous internet sources, including:

Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million
I-Universe

I will have an announcement later this week about the initial local signing for the novel.

For anyone who is not comfortable using a credit card to buy anything over the internet, send a check for $17 (to cover postage and expenses) to me at 2306 E. 8th, Apt. G, Joplin, MO 64801 and I will be happy to mail an autographed copy.

Messenger misses point on New York Times' Blunt column

While I have been appreciative of the levelheaded fairminded attitude Tony Messenger has brought to his new position as Springfield News-Leader editorial page editor, I have to disagree with his take on this week's New York Times column criticizing Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt.
Messenger claims some of the criticisms of the congressman are "old news" and that Blunt's personal life, in other words his divorce and marriage to a powerful Phillip Morris lobbyist, are not proper areas for criticism.

This argument that Blunt's private life should remain just that is one with which I would normally agree, but not in this case. Altria (the Phillip Morris company) and its subsidiaries have poured considerable money into Missouri political races and into Congressman Blunt's campaign coffers, as well as putting money into Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" fund, which has sent money to Republicans across the nation (including to such notables as Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, and Mark Foley). In just the past few months, the clients of Mrs. Blunt and Blunt's son, Andrew, have steered more than $100,000 into the Seventh District Congressional Committee.

This is all in public records, there for anyone to obtain, but the simple fact is most people do not take the time or the effort to obtain them, and they should not have to be doing so.

The media claims that it is in the business of representing the people, yet as far as I can recall, I never read anything about Roy Blunt's second marriage in either the Joplin Globe or the Springfield News-Leader at the time when it was happening.

I do not recall reading anything in either of this region's two major newspapers about Blunt's secretive unsuccessful attempt to slip a provision into the Homeland Security Act dealing with contraband cigarettes, a provision which I might add would greatly benefit his wife's client.

I do not recall reading in either of those newspapers that the Rely on Your Beliefs fund contributed $12,000 to DeLay's defense fund.

I have no problem with our area newspapers proclaiming the funding that Blunt has brought to the Seventh District, but they also have the responsibility of giving full disclosure about the congressman's activities.

Tony Messenger's mention of the New York Times column is a commendable step in the right direction, but he needs to re-examine his thinking about Blunt and his wife. Roy Blunt's second marriage and his K Street activities have had a dramatic impact in Washington and in Missouri.

Meek's Lumber closes Stockton, Calif., store

Meek's Lumber, which was founded 86 years ago in Lockwood, closed its Stockton, Calif, plant the day before Thanksgiving. According to the Stockton Record article:

About a half-dozen former employees were gathered in the Meeks parking lot Wednesday morning. They said they were told at 3 p.m. Tuesday that business was off, the Stockton store would be closing and their jobs were terminated. Later this week, they were to be contacted if jobs would be available in the company's other stores, including the nearest outlets in Martell and Elk Grove. However, there would not be enough jobs for all of them, the former employees said, declining to give their names. Store management refused to comment, and no one from the company's West Division headquarters in Sacramento returned messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman in the company's executive office in Springfield, Mo., referred questions to the Sacramento office.

Surface talks to Joplin Daily

Joplin Daily Editor John Hacker topped his print competition by landing a brief interview with Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface after Surface pleaded guilty Wednesday to a driving while intoxicated charge. Surface offered this comment on his two-day jail sentence:

"I'll go in at 5 o'clock Monday morning so I can get out on Wednesday morning and get home in time to shower and make it to a county budget hearing," Surface said. "I still maintain that I made a personal error and I will pay the consequences. I asked for no personal consideration and I don't think I got any."

Times column criticizes Blunt

A column in the Now. 21 New York Times ripped into House Republicans' decision to retain Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt as minority whip:

Roy Blunt embodies the insidious, half-legal corruption that has permeated the G.O.P. majority since 1995. Blunt's election as minority whip, by a 137-to-57 margin, was a defiant Republican rejection of calls to clean up their act. Warnings by Blunt's
challenger, John Shadegg of Arizona — "We ceded our reform-minded principles in exchange for a ...tighter grip on power" — went unheeded.


The columnist, Thomas B. Edsall of Columbia University, criticized Blunt's work as head of the GOP's notorious K Street Project:

In 2003, after DeLay moved up to majority leader and turned the so-called K Street Project over to him, Blunt promptly converted a legion of Republican lobbyists into an arm of the House whip operation. Lobbyists have always been close to Congress, under rule by either party. What DeLay and Blunt did was to sacralize this
relationship. In doing so, they transferred a chunk of power from Capitol Hill to business interests. This unholy alliance was a crucial factor in transforming the G.O.P. into an army of spenders whose earmarks, appropriations and tax cuts
rivaled the government largess of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.

Arrest will re removed from Surface's record

Against the wishes of special prosecuting attorney Robert E. George of Lawrence County, the DWI conviction of Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface will be removed from the books after he has completed his probation, according to an article in today's Joplin Globe:

It was not discussed in the courtroom, but George after the hearing said he had recommended a $300 fine, a 30-day suspended sentence and a year of probation. Under a suspended sentence, the conviction would remain on the record permanently.


Apparently, Surface's two days of shock prison time won't include much of a shock. He won't be near any of the other prisoners:

Sheriff Archie Dunn said Wednesday that Surface would be kept in a holding cell, away from other prisoners, for the two days. "He'll be booked in just like anyone else, but he will not be put in the general population," the sheriff said. "This is a safety issue; this is a profession, like police officers, where you wouldn't mix them in with the other prisoners."

Election changes things for K Street lobbyists

When the Democrats captured Congress earlier this month, it changed everything for the K Street lobbyists who have been in control for the past dozen years.
The changes are explored in an article in today's Washington Post:

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.


It should be interesting to see how, or if, these changes affect Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, whose rise to power in Congress has been accompanied by a partnership with K Street lobbyists.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Surface receives suspended sentence


Lame duck Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface will spend two days in the Jasper County Jail, beginning Monday, Nov. 27, after pleading guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated.
Surface received a suspended sentence and was placed on unsupervised probation for two years. A second charge, failure to drive on the right half of the roadway was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
The judge ordered Surface to pay court costs, but the presiding commissioner did not receive the $300 fine recommended by the special prosecutor, Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Robert George.
Surface was arrested July 28 by the Jasper County Sheriff's Department after he left the Elks Lodge in Joplin. He finished third in a three-way race for the Republican nomination for presiding commissioner, losing to eventual winner John Bartosh and James R. Spradling.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

MSU agreement with Christian student filed in federal court

The settlement between Emily Brooker, the former Missouri State University student who sued the university after a professor required her and other students in her social work class to write letters to the Missouri General Assembly favoring gay adoption, and the university was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
As the Springfield News-Leader reported earlier, the university agreed to:


• Clear Brooker's official record of the Social Work Level 3 review referenced in the complaint.

• Pay Brooker an amount of $9,000 and she will be responsible for her own legal fees.

• Waive academic fees at Missouri State University, or in lieu thereof, reimburse an amount equal to two years of degree work toward a Master of Social Work degree (or a graduate degree of equivalent length) at any public institution in the state, which is estimated at approximately $12,000, plus Brooker will receive $3,000 per year in living expense for two years of graduate education.

GateHouse Media buys 11 newspapers

GateHouse Media, owner of The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and Big Nickel, announced the purchase of 11 more newspapers today, according to a
filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission
.

GateHouse bought the Messenger Post newspapers, one daily and 10 weeklies in New York.

Democrats plan piece-by-piece vote on ethics legislation

Congressional Democrats plan to unveil ethics reform in a new format, according to an article in today's Washington Post.
Instead of the traditional watered down omnibus ethics legislation, reform is going to be introduced piece-by-piece with each part given its due in every aspect, including debate:

Under that plan, freshmen would offer, over as many as five days in January, separate amendments to ban gifts, meals and travel financed by lobbyists, said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. New rules mandating the disclosure of all contacts with lobbyists would be another vote, as would a rule requiring that the sponsors of funding for home-state pet projects be identified. The House would also vote on whether to reinstate budget rules, known as pay-as-you-go, or "paygo," requiring that any new spending or tax cuts be offset by equal spending cuts or tax increases.


The Democrats will face opposition, including plenty from their own ranks, as they push through this legislation, but the time for it is now and compromise would be a grievous mistake. Americans need to know Congress is no longer for sale, and we are not willing to accept legislators' word that they're on the straight and narrow.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Globe carries Moark story

Readers of the Joplin Independent were the first to learn of Moark's latest environmental violation. Today's Joplin Globe features the details.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Devil's Messenger site created


The official publication of my second novel, Devil's Messenger, is only a few days away. It's an exciting time for me, especially since this book does not include any preaching on the state of the present-day news media (for the time being, I will limit that to this blog).
A link to the book's website, which I have spent the last several hours working on, is being added to the links bar on the right hand side of this page. The website features a plot summary. a larger version of the book's cover, an about the author page, links to the IUniverse Devil's Messenger page, and to the novel's first chapter. More links will be added, as the novel becomes unavailable at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other websites. It can be pre-ordered now from IUniverse.

Joplin Independent: Moark issued emissions violation notice

Even as Moark officials continue to pave their way to expansion in Neosho by greasing the palms for various elected officials, they have been issued a violation notice for excess odor, according to an article posted by Mari Winn on the Joplin Independent website:

The MDNR staff from the Neosho Satellite Office claims to have identified noticeable odors on November 2, 2006 in the morning en route to their office. According to Vitzthum, after returning with sampling equipment, the staffers obtained two detections of odor through the use of their scentometer on the National Guard property to the north of the composting facility. The Guard previously had given the MDNR officials permission to come on their property any time they needed to check for odors. The air samples were then sent to St. Croix, a laboratory in Minnesota, and were found to be above the regulated detection threshold.

Some Democrats laying the groundwork for more corruption

Some national Democrats are accurately taking the results of the November election as a sign that Americans are ready for much stronger ethics regulations, including the elimination of lobbyists' gifts for Congress.
Unfortunately, as an article in today's New York Times indicates, others are quite willing to go with the status quo and blame everything on the Republicans:

Other Democratic lawmakers argued that the real ethical problem was the Republicans, not the current ethics rules, and that the election had alleviated the need for additional regulations. "There is an understanding on our side that the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved," said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, alluding to earmarks. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the scandals of the current Congress were "about the K Street Project for the Republicans," referring to the party's initiative to put more Republicans in influential lobbying posts and build closer ties to them. "That was incestuous from the beginning. We never had anything like that," Mr. Harkin said of Democrats. "That is what soured the whole thing."


That kind of thinking is opening the door for even more Congressional scandals. Any look at history decries the notion that Republicans have cornered the marketplace on corruption.
Allowing the current system to continue without any substantial changes is an invitation for more scandal down the road.

Globe editorial criticizes immigration committee findings


The bizarre insertion of abortion into a report detailing how to deal with immigration problems in Missouri was criticized in an editorial in today's Joplin Globe.
Emery insists that if babies weren't being aborted there would be enough workers to take care of all jobs without having to hire illegal immigrants. His beliefs were put into the record without the consent of any of the other committee members and the committee's six Democrats refused to sign the report, noting that it gave short shrift to their beliefs that a good deal of the problem can be attributed the companies who knowingly hire illegal workers.
The Special Immigration Committee's report may have shocked many, but it came as no surprise to those who read the Aug. 6 Turner Report.

Survey says majority of students cheat

More than 80 percent of teens admit lying to their parents about something, and more than 60 percent admit to having cheated on tests, according to an article in today's Washington Post. That brings back memories of the time I was asked to speak at the Lamar Middle School Academic Assembly in the late 1980s.
I praised the seventh and eighth graders who were being awarded for making top grades for the entire school year, and noted that they did things the right way- they didn't cheat to receive their honors.
Then I told the story of someone who did. When I was a freshman at East Newton High School, I was not doing well at physical science to put it mildly and a major test was coming up.
Though I tried to study, I could not understand the material, so finally I decided to try something different, something I had never tried up to that point. The physical science class was seventh hour and I had a study hall in the cafeteria sixth hour. After spending a few minutes making a futile effort to understand my notes and the material from the textbook, I devised a plan. I began writing a few notes on the bottom of my shoe.
It occurred to me that when I walked to my next class, the notes might be erased, so I tested it by asking the teacher if I could get a drink. I walked in a normal fashion down the hallway and when I looked the notes were still there. Phase one was successful. Since I only had a couple of lines written, I figured I should see if the notes could be removed by rubbing vigorously against the floor just in case the teacher were to catch on. I tried it and the notes were gone.
When I returned to the cafeteria where the study hall was held, I furiously scribbled notes on the bottom of both shoes. Since the teacher had indicated we would have to be able to draw a diagram of a steam engine, I turned to the page in the book with such a diagram, pulled up my pants leg and drew it on my leg. I was ready for the test.
The bell rang and I bopped down to the science classroom, confident I was going to ace the test. Of course, that was not the way things worked out. Not one thing that I had on the bottom of my shoes was on the test and instead of drawing a diagram of a steam engine, Mr. William Keith, the teacher, had us draw a picture of a turbine engine.
I flunked miserably.
After I related that story to the Lamar Middle School students, I noted that it proved once and for all that cheaters do not prosper. I felt pretty good about that speech, especially when an eighth grader approached me while I was covering a track meet at the high school later that week.
"Mr. Turner," he said, "Your speech meant a lot to me."
Beaming, I replied, "Thank you, that's always nice to hear."
"We had a test today and I put the answers on the bottom of my shoes and I didn't miss a one."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

AP picks up Joplin Daily exclusive

Though it is still early in its existence, the fact remains that it is difficult to recall any particular hard news story written in the Joplin Daily.
That changed late this week with the publication of the Daily's interview with the mother of the Memorial Middle School shooter. Reporter Michelle Pippin's exclusive, in which the woman says her son was a victim of bullying, was picked up by Associated Press and marks the first time, at least that I can recall, that a Daily story has escaped the confines of Joplin.
Hopefully, it is a sign for things to come. Nothing would be better for Joplin readers than to have an energized (if woefully understaffed) news outlet to challenge the Globe and perhaps to wake that slumbering giant and bring about even more solid journalism.

Post article examines effect retention of Blunt, Boehner will have on House Republicans

For the first time in a dozen years, Republicans will be in the minority in the U. S. House of Representatives.
An article in today's Washington Post examines what might happen and what the reelection of Minority Whip Roy Blunt and Minority Leader John Boehner will have.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tribune blog: Minority whip victory likely to extend Blunt's stay in Congress


Columbia Tribune political reporter Jason Rosenbaum speculates in his latest post that Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's successful effort to retain his minority whip post might keep him in Congress longer than anticipated.
It could also derail talks of his son, Governor Matt Blunt, leaving that post to run for his father's seat. University of Missouri political science professor Marvin Overby offers this thought:

"But I think it makes more likely he will stay in the Congress, at least for the next couple of cycles where there will be the possibility that the Republicans can gain control of the House of Representatives in 2008 or 2010," Overby added. "And then he would be in the position to become Majority Leader, or even Speaker. That's got to provide someone like Blunt a reason to stay where he is.”

Buzz Blog offers link to Emery committee's report

Kansas City Star's Buzz Blog offers a link to the controversial report submitted by the Special Committee on Immigration Reform headed by Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar.

The march toward taxpayer financing of private schools

If there was ever any doubt that the Republican-led Missouri General Assembly is marching headlong toward taxpayer financing of education, including vouchers, it comes from the very words used by the people in charge.
Take for instance the special committee appointed over the summer by Speaker of the House Rod Jetton to examine education issues. It wasn't called the Special Committee on Educational Problems or the Special Committee on the Crisis in Education; it was the Special Committee on School Choice.
Ironically, many of the legislators who support educational vouchers are anti-abortion, yet they use the same language to push their idea. With abortion, it's not pro-abortion, it's pro-choice, a phrase designed to make the idea more palatable. Educational vouchers also seem much more palatable if you call them school choice.

Today's Springfield News-Leader features an article by Cory DeVera on Springfield Superintendent Norm Ridder's opposition to what has been termed "tax credits" for scholarships for students in St. Louis and Kansas City. A voucher by any other name is still a voucher.
The proponents on these thinly-disguised voucher proposals use other key words, like "competition." What they aren't doing is anything that remotely addresses the problems in education.

Private schools are not equipped to handle the types of students who attend classes in Missouri public schools every day, ranging from the educable mentally handicapped to the kinds of delinquents who make teachers steer clear of inner-city schools. My guess is that even if a voucher system were to be put in place, the private schools would still never see any of those students. They will get the students they want, brag about their high test scores and live high on the hog at the taxpayers' expense. This has nothing to do with competition; it's a welfare program for the elite.

If our legislature truly wanted to address the problems in education, it might look at addressing the societal problems that have children in homes where things take place that most of us do not want to think about. Many of the problems come from broken homes, homes where the parents are abusing drugs and alcohol, or where the children are physically or sexually abused. Please tell me how private schools will be equipped to handle the kinds of problems that public school officials (and not just in the inner cities) have to deal with daily.

And now federal and state programs that once offered funding to deal with some of these problems, such as the financing which once paid for an alternative school for troubled students in the Joplin R-8 School District, have been slashed to the bone or no longer exist.

Our legislators are pushing a bill to keep students in school to age 18. On the face of it, it sounds like a wonderful idea, but many of these same students who would be affected are the ones who create disturbances in classrooms and have little regard for anyone but themselves. Keeping them in school is a laudable goal, but while these children are crying out for an alternative-type school environment, we are instead forced to put them back in situations where they most likely will not succeed- and will do their level best to keep others from succeeding.

When and if educational vouchers are approved by our legislature, you are not going to see these troublemakers in private schools. They're not the kinds of students private schools will ever accept.

Vouchers are a flawed and dangerous public policy.

The problem with bullying

Some of the major problems facing teachers and school administrators concerning bullying are spelled out in an article posted on the Joplin Daily website.
Daily reporter Michelle Pippin interviewed the mother of the Memorial Middle School shooter, who paints a portrait of a pattern of a bullying that led to the incident:

"He came home once limping; he had been kicked by an older kid in the halls," she recalled. "He came home once with a huge welt on his head from someone slamming his locker door on his head when they passed him in the hall. His hand was injured once too. He did suffer from bullying. He would come home crying, begging us not to send him back to school."


The article make some strong points about bullying. It's there and it is not easy to deal with. School officials make every effort to deal with it, but principals and teachers are outnumbered and bullies are usually good at knowing how to hide their activities and which students are never going to say a word about them.

Of course, I note that the parents who talked to the Daily article never actually talked to school administrators about the problem, which would seem to have been the natural, logical step.

I am not native enough to think that things are perfect at South Middle School. Bullying incidents do take place, but we do our best to catch them and stop them as quickly as possible. Still, we do miss a few. We work to cut down on the number of problems by having teachers in the hallways between class periods and by having them all over the place before and after school. While it is impossible to catch everything that happens, we do manage to stop a number of potential problems before they begin just by our presence.

It just amazes me that with the amount of education students receive about the negative effects of bullying, and the publicity that the recent wave of school shootings generated, that we still see bullying. What in the world is it going to take to get through to these kids that their behaviors could have deadly consequences?
***
From a journalism standpoint, this article, though it has some flaws, is a welcome one and a sign that the Joplin Daily may yet be able to stamp itself as something other than a good-news alternative to the Joplin Globe.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

NARAL message to Emery: Women are not brood mares for employers

Leave it to NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri to make Rep. Ed Emery's outrageous personal additions to his Immigration Committee report seem almost logical.
Emery, a Lamar Republican, inserted a brief note in the committee report blaming abortion for Missouri's problems with illegal immigration. Apparently, he indicated this did not come up until a hearing at Joplin though a Turner Report post had already noted him talking about it following a hearing in Springfield.
As we should have expected, the NARAL group is lambasting Emery for his opinion that if there were no abortions, there would be so many workers we not have to hire illegals:

NARAL's response included the following passage:

"Apparently, the Special Committee has concluded that poor people on public assistance who were not aborted (possibly because there is no federal or state funding for poor women's abortions) are too lazy to work," the statement said. "Presumably, the aborted fetuses would all have been industrious engines of commerce. We call on Speaker Jetton and Chairman Ed Emery to retract the committee report that has made the 'Show Me State' the 'What's That? State' to the rest of the thinking world, and to apologize to the women of Missouri for demeaning them as brood mares for the state."


All we needed to remove all common sense from this controversy is to make it pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion. The issue is one man placing his personal view, not backed by any evidence, and not featured in any testimony during numerous public hearings, into a report on a serious issue.
This is something that pro-lifers (and as I have written before, I am one) understand. Having a one-issue group like NARAL chime in, is going to make it seem like the only issue is abortion. Emery trivialized an important issue by dragging in an irrelevant observation. All NARAL has done is to trivialize it further.

'Devil's Messenger' coming soon

It has been quite a while since I have mentioned Devil's Messenger, my second novel. I tried to spare Turner Report readers from having to read interminable reports on its status as I was in the process of writing, rewriting, rewriting some more, and rewriting even more. (The interminable reports will start now.)
Most of the first draft of the novel was completed early this summer and I have been rewriting it and getting it ready for publication since then. The publication date is drawing close. The final revisions and corrections were sent to the publisher last weekend.
Devil's Messenger is about as far from Small Town News as you can get. This is not another novel about the media, but a combination horror story and murder mystery. This is the description of the novel from its back cover (which also features a photo of me, an entirely different sort of horror story):

On one hot August night, 15-year-old Cassandra Harper’s life is shattered. First, she becomes a victim of date rape, then the body of her beloved father, Richard Harper, is found slumped over the computer he gave Cassandra for her 15th birthday. From that point on, Cassandra withdraws from the world, reserving her communications to her anonymously-written blog…and to instant messenger conversations with her dead father. Devil’s Messenger, a combination horror story and murder mystery, is the story of how Cassandra battles from the brink of despair to reclaim her life, and her evil father who attempts to continue his reign of terror from beyond the grave. Adding to the mix is Richard Harper’s murderer, who is manipulating Cassandra’s family and everyone else in the small community of Westport seeking the hidden fortune that Harper left behind. Devil’s Messengeris a roller-coaster ride of terror from beginning to end.



I will let you know when I have information about exactly when and where Devil's Messenger will be available.

No Child Left Behind criticized at Columbia forum

Some of the many flaws in No Child Left Behind was explored during a forum in Columbia Tuesday.
One is the incredible assertion that all students should be proficient at math and reading. Absolutely nothing exists at which everyone is proficient. Some people are always at the top of the scale, some people are always at the bottom, and the majority fall somewhere in-between.
As some of those at the forum noted, the goal should be to see steady improvement in each person, something that may occur even among schools that are being characterized as failing:
Also mentioned is a sort of conspiracy theory that I have no problem believing since it is easy to trace its growth through campaign contributions and lobbyists' actions: Though the original intent of No Child Left Behind is laudable, NCLB is being used as a tool by those who support educational vouchers, many of whom are now in charge of the Missouri General Assembly:

Though Congress enacted NCLB with bipartisan support, some might not have foreseen the negative consequences, said Peggy Placier, a professor with the University of Missouri-Columbia's education and policy department. However, she noted the existence of a "conspiracy theory," in which those who support vouchers and school choice intentionally set public schools up to fail.


No Child Left Behind is a program that is doomed to fail. As long as there are students who simply do not care, and parents who do not care, you can have a highly qualified teacher in every classroom in the United States and still have children who are left behind.
The entire concept of No Child Left Behind is flawed. It makes it sound as if somewhere along the line, we decided, "Hey, let's leave some of these children behind." The successful education of every student has always been the goal of classroom teachers and administrators. To suggest otherwise is an insult and a lie.

Tribune article explores immigration panel's recommendations


The Columbia Tribune looks at the final report of Rep. Ed Emery's special Immigration Committee which, as you recall, includes Emery's assertion that abortion is a major factor in illegal immigration.

Emery said it would be "na├»ve" not to look into the connection. "It’s hard for me to imagine how you can escape drawing a parallel to the fact or at least asking the question: Would that condition still be here if in fact we had an additional 250,000 Missourians between the ages of 20 and 30?"


From all reports, Emery inserted his opinion into the report even though no testimony was given during his committee's hearings about this abortion connection.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

GateHouse announces third quarter earnings

The news was good for investors of the newest public newspaper entity, GateHouse Media, today as officials announced an 88.6 increase in revenues during the third quarter.
Revenues for the quarter were $97.5 million, according to a company news release, and were $216.9 million for the first three quarters of 2006.
GateHouse Media owns more than 300 publications, including The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and The Big Nickel.

News-Leader editorial blasts Immigration Committee report


An editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader blasts Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, for his insertion of his own personal beliefs into the report issued by the special Immigration Committee he headed. In the report, Emery opined that the blame for the illegal immigration problem can be placed on abortion:

Emery, Republican chairman of the House Special Committee on Immigration Reform, ruined any hope of credibility his committee might have by inserting some of his personal opinions into the final report. In short, Emery blames the nation's illegal immigration problem on "liberal social welfare policies" and the effects of 30 years of legalized abortion. The way Emery sees it, all those aborted fetuses would have grown up into the kind of laborers that would take the jobs that immigrants from Mexico and other places are crossing our borders illegally to obtain.


The editorial points out the flaws in Emery's anti-abortion, pro-business report:

The one thing Missouri lawmakers have within their power to do is create a business environment that punishes industries that purposely hire illegal immigrants. That sort of enforcement is already going on in the state and is supported by Democrats and Republicans. That concept earned one measly sentence in Emery's report.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hemphill shines in awkward situation


It's the kind of story that local television news does better than anyone.
A Miami, Okla. fireman is critically injured while performing his duties. People have heard about it and they want to know the latest information.
Two of the three local stations led their 5 p.m. newscasts with this powerful local story. KOAM and KODE had the story placed exactly where it should have been- front and center- leading off their program.
The third newscast, KSNF's Live with Gary and Tiffany took a different approach. While the other stations delivered the news and told a tale of an injured hero, Tiffany Alaniz and Gary Bandy were enlightening their audience with yet another major news story...apparently, Gary has a new haircut.
As one of those who is follically challenged, I can sympathize with this misguided news placement, but after the haircut was discussed, the emphasis shifted to the weather forecast. It was a full two minutes before Ms. Alaniz began delivering some actual news.
KSN opened the news segment with the story of the fireman, as delivered by Dianna Hemphill, the Colorado transplant who has impressed during her 10 months in the Joplin area. Ms. Hemphill conducted a live interview with one of the injured fireman's co-workers, and as usual, she was professional and the interview was informative.
But how in the world can you make a fireman who is worried about his friend wait to do a live interview while back in the studio, the two anchors are talking about a haircut? And how in the world can you not lead off your newscast with a live interview with someone involved in the biggest news story of the day?
Ms. Hemphill had the goods, but news had to wait until the Regis and Kathie Lee segment was completed. It definitely makes KSN viewers appreciate the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts when the grownups are back in charge.

More thoughts on Immigration Committee report


The fallout over the insertion by Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, of a brief passage linking abortion with the illegal immigration problem into his special immigration committee report is featured on a post on the Columbia Tribune blog:

It's hard for me to imagine how you can escape drawing a parallel to the fact or at least asking the question — would that condition still be here if in fact we had an additional 250,000 Missourians between the ages of 20 and 30?" said Emery. "It seems to me rather naive not acknowledge that."

Messenger: Emery is 'yahoo in GOP hat'

In his latest blog post, Springfield News-Leader Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger addresses the special immigration committee's report, which included a section blaming abortion for the state's immigration problems:

House Speaker Rod Jetton has got to put an end to such madness. Missouri has much more serious business to attend to than to have yahoos in GOP hats running around the state screaming "abortion" and "illegal immigration" from the mountaintop. The Democrats on the committee, rightfully so, are refusing to sign the report. For one, no matter what you think of abortion of illegal immigration, combining the two issues NEVER CAME UP during committee discussions.

Christian student's lawyers explain lawsuit

In today's Springfield News-Leader, Dee Wampler and Joseph Passanise, the attorneys who represented Christian student Emily Brooker in her lawsuit against Missouri State University and professor Frank Kauffman write about the lawsuit and why it was necessary:

Professors' beliefs inevitably translate into strong support for controversial issues. Often when students are taught, no alternative views are offered to counterbalance the professor's political presentation and of students surveyed, many believe that agreeing with their professor's politics is necessary for good grades. When leftist preaching sees the world only in terms of race, sexual preference, class, and ethnicity, students are robbed of diverse perspectives that make a classical liberal arts education valuable.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Committee report says abortion major cause of illegal immigration


Not long ago, I criticized our Joplin print media for its lack of coverage of the Special Immigration Committee hearing held at Missouri Southern State University.
The committee, headed by Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, was charged with coming up with a strategy for dealing with illegal immigration in the state. No one from the Joplin Globe or Joplin Daily covered the meeting (as I recall, our local television stations did provide coverage).
That indifference was not limited to Joplin. Few articles were written about the Emery committee's hearings and an article posted today by Associated Press reporter David Lieb indicates that neglect may keep the mainstream media from determining the background of the committee's controversial report, which has just been released.
The committee report blames "liberal social welfare policies" for illegal immigration problems in Missouri and particularly singles out abortion:

"We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers," Emery said. "You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers


In the AP article, Emery says testimony about abortion's link to the immigration problem came up during a question-and-answer session during the committee's hearings, but he could not recall who brought it up. The AP article noted that transcripts of committee hearings are not kept.

Readers of The Turner Report were already aware that this "testimony" came from Emery himself and was in the form of a lecture during a hearing in Springfield (the Springfield media apparently failed to cover the hearings, as well). The Aug. 6 Turner Report, citing a post in the Ozarks Angel blog, indicate that the impetus for adding the abortion references in the report can be directly traced to Emery.
***
I have never been hesitant to say that I am pro-life, but to boil down the immigration problem in Missouri to a breakdown of society caused by abortion and by all things that Ed Emery considers to be liberal makes this committee's report laughable.
Fortunately for Missourians, the state, much like the federal government, has a long habit of holding hearings, suggesting reforms, then allowing those suggestions to gather dust on the shelf. Hopefully that will be the case with this report, or Missouri could end up being a laughingstock.

Joplin man sues MySpace

Details are sketchy, but a Joplin man is suing MySpace.com, claiming the company's decision to delete two of his profiles amounts to depriving him of his freedom of speech.
In his lawsuit, filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Brian Mora, 35, says he had profiles deleted on Oct. 5 and Nov. 1 "because an administrator for the respondent simply disliked something displayed on the petitioner's profile, citing a fraudulent reason and calling it 'a violation of terms of service.' "
The petition says MySpace has "abusively attacked the petitioner for displaying and exercising protected freedom of speech and freedom of expression" and won't talk with him about the problem in person.
Mora's lawsuit does not give specific details of what was on the deleted profiles but he asks the court to stop MySpace from interfering with his:

-Support of specific political candidates
-Support of specific causes and organizations
-Support of specific individuals and their professional and humanitarian efforts.
Mora is representing himself.

Gannett may bid on Tribune newspapers

A Chicago Tribune article indicates Gannett Co., owner of 90 daily newspapers, including the Springfield News-Leader and USA Today, has emerged as a potential bidder for Tribune Company newspapers.
The Tribune Co.'s newspapers include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

Hunter closes in on $4,000 mark


The 2006 legislative session ended months ago, but Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, continues to pile up the lobbyists' gifts.
According to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, Hunter added $165 in entertainment from University of Missouri lobbyist Erin Elliott on Oct. 28. It was his only gift during that month, but followed a September which saw him collecting $458 in gifts. For the year, Hunter has $3,812.44.

Globe owner tries to assure newly-purchased paper that nothing will change


Four years have passed since the Joplin Globe and three other newspapers from Dow Jones' Ottaway Newspapers subsidiary were sold to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.
Recently, six other Ottaway newspapers were purchased by CNHI and, as usual when a newspaper changes hands the rumor mill goes on overdrive about cuts and changes that are going to take place.
CNHI CEO Donna Barrett tried to allay those fears during an interview with one of those newspapers, the Traverse City Record-Eagle in Michigan:

In a letter to editors and publishers at the newly acquired papers, Barrett said the company doesn't plan staff layoffs. She also told a Record-Eagle reporter that the company typically doesn't make significant management changes. "You will see by our track record that we keep management teams in place," she said.

Public Citizen calls on new Democratic majority to enact ethics reform

The emergence of Democrats as the winners in last Tuesday's election does not guarantee it won't be business as usual when the next Congressional session begins.
Public Citizen, a group formed by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, released a statement last week calling for the new majority to enact reforms. The following statement was issued by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook:

The new majority leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has promised that the first day the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, they will introduce legislation to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.” Last month, Public Citizen and other good government groups asked Representative Pelosi to add one essential element to the Democratic plan, and that was to create an Office of Public Integrity to administer new ethics rules and investigate violations.

The current House leadership this year refused to allow votes on key lobbying and ethics reform proposals. With the new leadership in January, there will likely be new openness and stronger support for strengthened ethics and reform legislation. The Senate last year considered strong lobby reform legislation, but it was watered down, and procedural devices were used to stop debate and block amendments. Given that the new Senate will be almost split evenly between the parties, we expect that such tactics will stop.

The American public has given Congress a mandate. Voters are outraged by congressional scandals – sex scandals, money laundering, travel junkets, lobbyist abuses and ethical lapses. The only way these will be stopped is with new legislation. It is time for the 110th Congress to carry through and do what the 109th Congress would not:

Break the nexus between lobbyists, money and lawmakers.
Prohibit private interests from paying for trips for members of Congress and staff.
Ban lobbyist gifts to members of Congress and staff.
Establish an independent congressional Office of Public Integrity to oversee and enforce ethics rules and lobbying laws.
Slow the revolving door by prohibiting members of Congress and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for two years after leaving their positions.
Shed sunshine on lobbying activities and strengthen financial disclosure reports.
Voters are fed up. The time to act is now.

***
I would like to echo Ms. Claybrook's sentiments. Lobbying serves an important purpose in our government, but when lobbyists are allowed to add to their influence by buying gifts, paying for trips, and fundraising for candidates then their influence is far beyond what it should be.
Just as bad, public service, both among officeholders and their staff, has now become just a stop along the way to cashing in by becoming lobbyists. As long as these abuses remain unchecked, laws will continue to be passed that benefit only the special interests, and not the public as a whole.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

KODE anchor gone without a trace


The reason for the abrupt departure of KODE anchor Tara Brown depends on whom you ask.
Some readers have told me it came as a result of a principled stand by Ms. Brown over a decision made by the higher-ups in the KODE news department.

Others describe it as either a "prima-donna" move by Ms. Brown or a shrewd maneuver to enable her to leave the station and take a position at another television station.

One thing cannot be denied- Ms. Brown is no longer being mentioned in the intros for KODE's 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts, at least not the ones I watched Friday night. On Friday, Ms. Brown's photo was still on the KODE website. Now, it has been erased from the television station's homepage, though her photo and biography are still on the KODE website's "Meet the Team" section as I write this.

Here is the information on that page, since it may not be there by the time you check out the link:

Tara Brown anchors the 5, 6 and 10 pm newscasts. Before arriving in Joplin, Tara anchored the 6 & 10 pm news in Harrisonburg,
Virginia. Her first anchoring job was in South Dakota, where she got up before the roosters crowed in an early morning show. But Tara's very first TV gig was reporting in Vancouver.

Born and raised in Canada, Tara found herself in the national spotlight after becoming Miss World Canada 1991. Tara traveled all over the world including a trip to South Africa where she represented Canada in the Miss World Pageant. After her reign ended she graduated from Columbia Broadcasting in Vancouver, British Columbia...and the rest is history!

Tara leads a life of gratitude and while thrilled with all of her many professional accomplishments, she is most proud of her own family life...She credits her husband Duane as being her biggest supporter. "He plays Mr. Mom in our house," she says. "And when I'm home, I spend as much time with my two daughters as possible." Tara says her biggest accomplishment is yet to come..."when I survive the teenage years with my two daughters." Tara says she loves what she does and thanks God everyday for her many blessings.

Favorite Movie: The Passion of the Christ

Favorite Book: Easy -- the Bible

Favorite Food: Chocolate covered anything!

Favorite type of music/band/group: Contemporary Christian and Christian Rock

***

Ms. Brown walked out on KODE Monday, cleaning out her desks and leaving the station after a disagreement over the use of a sweeps package on the McDonald County cult/ritual sex story, a story on which Ms. Brown has led the way since the arrests of leaders of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in late August.

Sources have told The Turner Report Ms. Brown was angered by an order to turn over the videotape of her report to KSNF to use on its broadcast. Ms. Brown was adamantly against that idea, but finally agreed to let KODE's sister station use the tape the following day. That idea did not fly with station officials, who reminded Ms. Brown of the shared services agreement that Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF (and obviously, the party in control since Mission is obviously a dummy corporation), and Mission Broadcasting have.
At that point, the sources say, Ms. Brown walked out and immediately cleaned out her desk.
***
Ms. Brown's detractors do not depict this as a principled stand in favor of her story and its use on KODE. They say Ms. Brown was grandstanding in an effort to find a way to walk out of her contract with KODE and accept a position with a station in a larger market. Reportedly, Ms. Brown's contract allowed her to leave KODE, which is in one of the smallest markets in the United States, to go to a top 50 market. Ms. Brown's detractors indicate she has a job in waiting at a larger market, but not a top 50 market.
***
As usual, the one place you can count on not getting the news when something like this happens is from area news outlets. KODE had the luxury of putting an experienced reporter, Gretchen Bolander beside the remaining anchor, Brian Hamman, the next night for election coverage. Ms. Bolander, as usual, was professional and the KODE coverage was solid.

Nexstar issues optimistic quarterly report

Nexstar Broadcasting issued an optimistic third quarter report this week despite the company's still being more than $640 million in debt.

The company news release said:

Net revenue for the quarter ended September 30, 2006 grew 16.3% to $63.6 million from $54.7 million in the third quarter of 2005. Income from operations for the three months ended September 30, 2006 grew more than three-fold and totaled $9.8 million compared with $3.2 million in the quarter ended September 30, 2005. The Company recorded a basic and diluted net loss per share of $0.14 for the three months ended September 30, 2006 compared with a basic and diluted net loss per share of $0.31 in the third quarter of 2005. During the third quarter 2006, the Company incurred $0.4 million of non-cash employee stock option expense pursuant to its adoption of SFAS No. 123(R) on January 1, 2006. The Company did not incur any employee stock option expense in the third quarter of 2005.

Broadcast cash flow rose 42.9% to $24.0 million in the third quarter of 2006 compared with $16.8 million in the third quarter of 2005. EBITDA totaled $20.8 million for the third quarter of 2006, a 45.4% increase over the third quarter of 2005, while free cash flow rose to $3.6 million in third quarter of 2006, a $1.2 million increase compared with the third quarter of 2005. "Broadcast cash flow", "EBITDA" and "Free cash flow" are non-GAAP financial measures. For a definition of these measures and reconciliation to GAAP financial results, please see the "Definitions and Disclosure Regarding non-GAAP Financial Information" section and supplemental reconciliation tables at the end of this release.

Third quarter 2006 political advertising revenue was approximately $6.3 million, compared to approximately $0.2 million in the third quarter of 2005. Excluding political advertising, gross local and national advertising revenue for the 2006 third quarter increased by 5.7% compared with the same period in the prior year.


Nexstar owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and is de facto owner of KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

MSU dance instructor: No lusting for fired professor



A Missouri State University dance instructor denies fired university instructor George Cron's allegations that she played a role in his dismissal after he rejected her romantic overtures.
According to documents filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Rhythm McCarthy, a professional dancer as well as an instructor, denied Cron's assertion that she began pursuing him when she was a member of the screening committee that recommended that he be hired. In his petition, Cron said Ms. McCarthy "began to aggressively pursue a personal relationship."
In his petition, Cron said after he was hired, he told Ms. McCarthy "that he did not reciprocate her romantic feelings and did not intend to consummate an affair." In her filing Friday, Ms. McCarthy denied that ever happened.
Information about Cron's petition can be found in the Sept. 28 Turner Report.

News-Leader election analysis falls short


While reporter Tracy Swartz' analysis of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's reelection correctly notes that his vote margin dipped slightly from his previous two elections, it failed to note some items that make the smaller vote total even less impressive.

Two years ago, Blunt recorded a higher vote margin against a respected lawyer, James Newberry, who was running on the Democratic ticket. This year, Blunt's Democratic opponent was an out-of-district candidate with virtually no name recognition (unless you count his change of last name to Truman and the hope it would be associated with that great Missourian), his leadership in a fringe church, and his movie directing career which includes "Phone Sex Grandma" and the upcoming "Son of a Stripper."
The "Phone Sex Grandma" director polled better than Newberry did during the 2004 election.

The opposition also included, as Swartz' article notes, racist Frazier Glenn Miller as a write-in candidate, and though unfairly, almost lost in the shuffle, Libertarian Kevin Craig.

The only reason Roy Blunt's victory total was not smaller than it was is the lack of organization by the Democratic party in southwest Missouri.
***
That being said, Blunt's victory margin might have been even bigger had the media done its job. As I have noted numerous times, this blog was the only southwest Missouri media outlet that examined Truman's background as a candidate. As far as I can recall, the Joplin Globe and Springfield News-Leader never touched upon Truman's history. Though Truman never had much of a chance for victory, voters still had the right to know the background of anyone for whom they might consider voting.