Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Comments on losing our freedoms

It has been a while since I launched one of my attacks on the new requirements for obtaining driver's licenses in the state of Missouri, but my contempt for the requirements that we all prove we are American citizens has not lessened.
That being said, I doubt if I ever phrased it quite as well as Bryan of the Dad's on a Rant blog, did in a post today:

My problem is the false sense of security the current state and federal governments give people by making them jump through hoops when it is completely unnecessary.

Drummond receives pass on Joplin River of Life foulups

Governor Matt Blunt's appointment for director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Jane Drummond, sailed through hearings before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, with no questions concerning her role in allowing Joplin River of Life Ministries to continue to operate Guest House facilities in Anderson and Jasper County.
From Jason Rosenbaum's article in the Columbia Tribune:

Gov. Matt Blunt tapped the Columbia native, which required the support of state Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia. By tradition, nominees must have the blessing of a senator from their home district to go before the gubernatorial appointments committee. Graham initially questioned Drummond’s experience in the health-care profession. He also wanted to make sure she had acted appropriately in her legal advice to approve Joplin River of Life Ministries’ license to operate the Anderson Guest House, later the site of a fatal fire. Drummond, formerly legal counsel for the state health department, has said she told regulators that any decision to deny the company a license would likely have been overturned in court.

That's a lawyer speaking, not a leader.

Feb. 26 preliminary hearing set in Memorial Middle School shooting case

A 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26 preliminary hearing has been scheduled in Jasper County Circuit Court for Thomas Gregory White, who is charged with assault, armed criminal action and escape/attempted escape in connection with the October incident in which he took a gun into Memorial Middle School and fired it.
White, 14, who at the time of the incident was a seventh grader at Memorial, is being tried as an adult.

McCaskill forms leadership PAC

Money is the name of the game in politics and even before she has has the chance to get her feet wet as a United States senator, Claire McCaskill is showing she knows how the game is played.
According to Capital Eye, the newsletter of the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. McCaskill has already formed a leadership committee:

Traditionally, members of Congress seeking leadership positions or committee chairmanships would set up leadership political action committees to garner goodwill from other lawmakers. While this may still play a role in the decision to form a PAC, politicians say they establish the committees to help build their party. Analysts say the leadership PACs provide a chance for lawmakers to accept contributions beyond the limits established for campaign committees—and the sooner, the better.

A spokesman for Ms. McCaskill says she is doing it to help others who face tough election battles:

McCaskill spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said the new senator established a fundraising committee to help future candidates run against incumbents, a situation she faced in November’s race against fundraising powerhouse James Talent. "She wants to make sure she’s in a position to help others in the same circumstance," Marsh said. "She really does believe the system is discouraging. She supports public financing, but until there are sweeping changes in campaign finance, you’re stuck playing by the rules."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tribune article explores Goodman's late school start bill

The Columbia Tribune took a look at the bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, which would push back the school start date:

Some question Goodman’s motives. His district includes Branson, and Goodman received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Branson-area entertainment and development groups during his bid for the Senate in a 2005 special election. "The tourism community is driving this," (Missouri School Boards Association spokesman Brent)Ghan said.
Goodman acknowledged that the tourism industry supports the proposal; however, he denied filing the bill on behalf of Branson interests. "It’s not just a Branson issue, it’s an issue that families all over Missouri have expressed interest in," he said.

As I have noted in earlier Turner Report posts, when Goodman first began promoting this bill, he spoke only of its pro-family aspects, with nary a mention of those thousands of dollars of Branson money.

Committee stays silent, Missouri legislators receive pay increase

Members of the Senate Rules, Resolutions, and Ethics Committee stood mute today, effectively giving themselves and their fellow senators a pay increase.

Members of that committee can be found at this link.

Examiner article examines voucher issue

School vouchers and the back door method through which they are being introduced in the Missouri state legislature, tuition tax credits, are explored in an article in today's Blue Springs Examiner:

The article provides both sides of the controversy, as well as noting how much money the out-of-state pro-voucher organization All Children Matter has poured into state elections.

That amount, as noted in the Jan. 20 Turner Report, included $9,679.32 to support the candidacy of Rep. Ed Robb, who filed HB 498, which would provide tuition tax credits for students who attend unaccredited Missouri schools. All Children Matter also paid $24,710.59 for negative advertising attacking Robb's opponent, former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Jim Ritter.

Robb's bill is co-sponsored by numerous legislators, including four from the Joplin area, Ed Emery, R-Lamar, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City.

O'Sullivan officials emphasize imported products

At the same time O'Sullivan officials were trying to maneuver their way out of paying $1.2 million worth of utility bills at their Lamar plant, they were busily preparing a Las Vegas show totally spotlighting their foreign imports...with little or no mention of the work being done locally.
The debut of the new O'Sullivan emphasis came during a home show at the opening of Building B at the World Market Center in Vegas.
According to Furniture Today:

Traffic also was heavy at O’Sullivan, where each of the introductions in the company’s new 1,800-square-foot showroom in Building B is imported, not made at its Lamar, Mo. facility. All pieces incorporate Ledalock, a no-tool, snap-lock assembly system, part of a new O'Sullivan partnership with fellow ready-to-assemble producer Leda.
Introductions include the formal and stately Kingsley collection in vintage chestnut with antique bronze hardware, hand-turned solid-wood feet, framed wood drawers and keyboard management; and Piedmont, a transitional piece in golden cherry with satin nickel hardware and hollow core tops.
All hardware is pre-assembled into pieces.
"We want consumers to be able to purchase case goods quality furniture from us at an RTA price," said Keri O’Connell, product manager.

Former Springfield AP reporter receives promotion

Karen Testa, who served as an Associated Press reporter operating out of Springfield in the mid-1990s, continues to move up the AP ladder.
Ms. Testa has been promoted to AP editor for Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Local legislators co-sponsor Marsh bill

HB 678, which would forgive school days missed during the recent ice storm, has been filed by Rep. B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield, and appears to have plenty of support in the Joplin area.
The bill's 29 co-sponsors include five Joplin-area representatives, Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City; and Ed Emery, R-Lamar.

Hearing set in Memorial Middle School shooting case

The next hearing in the case of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White is scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
White, 14, formerly a seventh grader at Memorial, is being tried as an adult on charges of assault, armed criminal action, and escape or attempted escape.

Monday, January 29, 2007

St. Louis Democrat indicted for role in bank fraud scheme

Associated Press reports State Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, has been indicted along with 16 others, on bank and credit card fraud charges:

Bowman is accused of obtaining a $4,050 cash advance using the fraudulent credit line at a St. Louis bank branch, and also of obtaining things in value of $1,000 during a one-year period. As part of the general scheme, the indictment alleges that credit applicants misrepresented the names of their businesses, the amount of time they had been in operation or their annual income in order to appear worthy of receiving credit.

Arkansas woman, posing as man, arrested for sexually assaulting Joplin teen

A 19-year-old Arkansas woman, was arrested by Fayetteville police for posing as a man, both in MySpace conversations and in person, and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old Joplin girl.

Alesha Mariah Carr is in jail in lieu of $10,000 bond. The Northwest Arkansas Times says a warrant for the woman's arrest had already been issued by the Jasper County Sheriff's Department:

On Oct. 5, Carr asked the 13-year-old to leave her home in Joplin, Mo., and meet her in Arkansas for sexual relations. Carr then went to Joplin and picked up the girl and took her to her residence in Fayetteville. Parks said the girl was assaulted during the visit. (Fayetteville Sgt. Shannon) Gabbard said Carr and the girl had sexual relations before this incident in Joplin and the girl's grandparents found out about the relationship and contacted the police. Carr portrayed herself as a man online and in person. Detectives discovered the online chats that occurred in accounts.
Detectives confiscated forensic evidence from the girl's computer, according to a police report.

Mother who waited to take drugs when children were asleep will not get kids back

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals rejected a Greene County woman's attempt to regain custody of her two daughters.
The woman, listed only as "Mother" in the court opinion, had her children removed from her home in 2002:

At around 6:45 p.m. on September 28, 2002, Officer Mark Gann responded to a call to check on the well-being of the Children at a Wal-Mart store in Springfield, Missouri. While there, he made contact with Mother and the Children. He noticed that Mother appeared disoriented, had slurred speech, and did not comprehend what he said to her. S.C.M informed him that she was hungry and had not eaten anything since the previous night. Mother told him that she had taken several different types of drugs, some prescription, and that on occasion she used recreational drugs. She maintained that while the Children had seen her take pills and drink, they had never seen her shoot up dope because they were already asleep. Office Gann arrested Mother on charges of child endangerment, contacted the Division of Family Services ("Division"), and took protective custody of the Children.

The mother's problems stemmed from an untreated mental illness according to the opinion:

Mother has a long history of mental problems. When she was younger, she was raped by an acquaintance and left for dead in a shallow grave. She did not receive adequate therapy for this trauma. She has suffered from bipolar disorder since she was a teenager. There was no evidence presented other than this was a permanent condition. The events at Wal-Mart which led to the assumption of jurisdiction over the Children were the result of Mother's failure to adequately manage her mental illnesses and her medications therefor, her chemical dependencies on illegal substances, or a combination of both.

'Good Morning Four States" vastly improved since DiNardo departure

Several months ago, I noted that KODE's Good Morning Four States program was substantially better whenever co-host Antonia DiNardo was gone and Gretchen Bolander filled in.
Since Miss DiNardo left KODE, Ms. Bolander has been filling in on a regular basis and the show has vastly improved. Whether or not she is being considered as a full-time replacement, I don't know. Personally, I prefer to see her remain on the front lines, since she is one of just a handful of local television reporters who actually know the area, and she always offers reports that dig beneath the surface.
That being said, Ms. Bolander reads the news professionally, and handles interviews smoothly, something that could not be said of the last two people who served as Alan Matthews' co-hosts.
Sweeps Month is coming. I have already seen ads touting an expose' of brown spiders on KODE (that should rake in the ratings), and yet another blockbuster investigation on internet predators on KOAM.
I haven't seen any other sweeps promotions. If anyone has any information, please add it to the comments to this post or send me an e-mail.

GateHouse Media continues to expand

GateHouse Media officials today announced the purchase of Southwest Directories, a California telephone directory business, for $110 million.
In this area, GateHouse publishes The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel.

Globe editorial: Make up those missed school days

In an editorial in today's edition, the Joplin Globe comes out against any waiver for missed school days:

We believe the value of the learning experience in the classroom — and the possibility of further school days lost — should override convenience.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mantle book, not Simpson fiasco, led to publisher's firing

An article in New York magazine says it was a heavily fictionalized account of Mickey Mantle's life, not the notorious O. J. Simpson book, led to the firing of ReganBooks Publisher Judith Regan.
Today's New York Daily News features excerpts from the article.
Mantle, of course, was born in Commerce, Okla., and prior to his major league career with the New York Yankees, which began in 1951, he played minor league ball in numerous area venues, including Joplin and Carthage.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The money behind the late school start bill

A reader left a comment a few moments ago to a previous link concerning the late school start bill being proposed once again by Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon. In the post, I noted the amount of Branson tourism money that Goodman receives, as well as the money that has been contributed to Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, who supports the bill.

The reader wrote:

This post is very deceiving. Goodman is a senator that represents Branson. I can understand why such a concern could raise eyebrows if such funding went to someone like Nodler. But a senator getting funding from within his district just doesn't seem like news to me. Regards, Branson Edge

Branson Edge is absolutely correct. The Branson tourism interests are in Sen. Goodman's district, and I have no problem with the senator receiving donations from them.

My reason for continuing to mention this, however, dates back to my first post on the subject, which came in the March 23, 2006, Turner Report:

In a news release, Goodman said the bill "protects families' ability to take summer vacations, be involved in sports and summer camps and take advantage of other important non-classroom learning opportunities."
Goodman continues, adding that this simple maneuver will increase student attendance "as parents are relieved of the burden of choosing between their children's education and these other vital activities."
These things may all be true, though I am inclined to doubt it, but even if they are, Goodman left out one important reason why he sponsored this is a pet bill of the state's tourism industry, and if anyone is beholden to that special interest segment, it's Senator Goodman.

There is no doubt that a key reason for this legislation is that it will benefit the tourism industry. Yet the wording of that press release indicated Goodman was avoiding that issue, deliberately trying to keep Branson out of it.
While I appreciate the well-reasoned comments of Branson Edge, I have nothing but contempt for the Nodler supporter who, as usual, took my words, twisted them, and came up with nothing that resembled reality. I have noted that Gary Nodler received his Branson campaign contributions close to the time he announced his support for Sen. Goodman's legislation. The anonymous Nodler supporter continues to claim that Nodler supported this legislation much earlier so I am lying. I have never said he did not support the legislation, all I said was that the donations came just about the time he began showing that support in public. I have yet to find any news articles or any other sources that say Nodler spoke in public in favor of this bill. The first show of public support that I learned about came when he spoke last May at the Southwest Regional Center in Webb City to a group of school counselors. His Branson contributions came right about that time.

And as Branson Edge correctly points out, Branson is not in Sen. Nodler's district.
According to the Missouri Senate website, a hearing on the bill was held earlier this week. As far as I can tell, the media ignored it.

PubDef: Wilson resigns as Missouri Democratic chairman

The St. Louis blog is reporting that former Governor Roger Wilson resigned today as state Democratic party chairman:

One possible reason for Wilson's departure is the controversy surrounding who will be the next executive director of the party. The state's highest ranking Democrat, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, has committed to having an African-American fill the post. Word is Wilson as well as Attorney General Jay Nixon (next year's Democratic candidate for governor) also agreed to a black E.D. But who?

Tri-State Business strikes again

The latest edition of Joplin Tri-State Business, which I plucked out of my mailbox a few moments ago, features another scoop, something which is becoming almost expected of the fledgling enterprise.
In the story, co-written by TSB Editor Jeff Wells and Springfield Business Journal reporter Matt Wagner, the newspaper reveals that Gulfstream Bioflex Energy LLC, a Mount Vernon company, has been talking with Neosho officials about building an ethanol plant near Camp Crowder.

Richard favors plan to forgive five missed school days

Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, told Missouri Southern State University's newspaper The Chart that he favors the bill proposed by Rep. B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield, to forgive five school days missed during the recent ice storm:

"I support it," Rep. Ron Richard (R-Joplin) told The Chart Thursday. "In case of an emergency, like the forces of nature we are facing right now, a proposal like this is necessary. I suspect there's only so many days you can make up, and when you don't have electricity in the school building you can't bring the kids in so you have to deal with what you've got."
Richard also said citizens would likely appreciate such a bill.
"I think most of the locals of southwest Missouri think it's a great idea," he said.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Abused children will not be returned to mother

Three Jasper County children whose father disciplined them by duct-taping them into their beds, feeding them raw eggs, making them run in place, forcing them to lie naked on the floor, and beating them with a dog leash will not be returned to their mother.
On Thursday, the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision by the Missouri Department of Social Services to remove the children from their home.
According to the opinion, Social Services removed the children from their home in December 2002 because of the father's "bizarre discipline" and the mother's not doing anything to stop it.
Social Services tried to keep the family together, the opinion indicated, having the father go through anger management classes, parenting classes, and counseling:

Mother was to attend programs on domestic violence, safety for children, alternatives to violence, parenting techniques, and stress management. Both parents cooperated and complied generally with their plans.
Next, the Division assigned a parent aide to supervise visits, assess parenting skills, provide suggestions, etc. -- a "hands-on teacher while the children are with the parents," as one witness put it. The aide noted Mother was strongly dependent on Father, and became very dependent on the aide too, frequently calling the aide about things not particularly difficult. Mother could not reach common sense answers to fairly basic questions.

Almost immediately after the family was reunited, the father committed another act of inappropriate discipline and the mother again did nothing. At that point, the children were removed from the home once more.

Appellate court tosses white supremacist pastor's resisting arrest conviction

In a decision issued today, The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals reversed the resisting arrest conviction of self-proclaimed white supremacist pastor of the Sacerdotal Church of David, Robert Joos. The case was initially heard in McDonald County Circuit Court.
The court upheld Joos' conviction for operating a motor vehicle without a proper license.
In tossing the resisting arrest conviction, the court said:

To convict Defendant of resisting a lawful stop by fleeing, "the jury would be required to find that [Trooper Bearden] was making an investigatory stop of Defendant, Defendant knew he was making a stop, and that for the purpose of preventing the stop, resisted by fleeing from the officer." Brooks, 158 S.W.3d at 852 (citing MAI-CR 3d 329.61). In the present case, in order to convict Defendant of felony resisting arrest, the jury was instructed to find that Trooper Bearden was making an arrest of Defendant, Defendant knew he was making an arrest, and for the purpose of preventing the arrest, Defendant resisted by fleeing from the officer.
"The facts needed to determine whether an officer was making a stop versus the facts needed to determine if an officer was making an arrest are different." Id. In convicting Defendant of felony resisting arrest, the jury was not required to find that Trooper Bearden was making an investigatory stop. While there may have been sufficient evidence from which a jury could have made such a finding, the jury did not have the chance to consider whether Trooper Bearden was making a stop. Because the jury was not required to find all of the elements of the misdemeanor offense of resisting a lawful stop by fleeing, we decline to enter a conviction for that offense.

The following description of Joos' offense was included in the opinion:

On November 14, 2004, Highway Patrol Corporal Brad Bearden ("Trooper Bearden") was driving through Powell, Missouri, when he saw an unidentified male, who he later determined to be Defendant, sitting in a truck near a closed store. As Trooper Bearden turned around to investigate, Defendant drove off. Trooper Bearden followed Defendant, and activated his lights because he could not read Defendant's license plate, and Defendant was driving in the middle of the road. When Defendant did not pull over, Trooper Bearden pursued him with both his lights and siren activated. During the pursuit, Defendant was traveling anywhere from thirty-five to fifty miles per hour, swerving at times toward the left side of the road. At one point, Defendant forced an oncoming truck to pull to the side of the road. After being pursued for eleven minutes and several miles, Defendant reached a lane that went through the woods, stopping near a cluster of trailer homes and outbuildings, which was later determined to be his property.
As Defendant got out of the truck, Trooper Bearden drew his gun and ordered Defendant to come towards him. Defendant, who was very animated and agitated, began yelling at Trooper Bearden, telling him that he wanted witnesses so Trooper Bearden would not beat him up. Defendant also told Trooper Bearden that he did not have the authority to stop him or arrest him without a search warrant or court order.
After taking off his coat and emptying his pockets, Defendant approached Trooper Bearden, and was arrested without further incident. Defendant was then taken to jail, where Trooper Bearden discovered that Defendant did not have a driver's license and had two prior convictions for driving without a license.

Feb. 6 hearing set in state lawsuit against Duponts, Joplin River of Life Ministries

A 10:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 9, hearing is scheduled in McDonald County Circuit Court in the state of Missouri's lawsuit against Robert and Laverne Dupont, owners of the Anderson Guest House, and their Joplin River of Life Ministries, which operated that facility and three Guest Houses in Jasper County.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Jay Nixon alleges the defendants defrauded the Missouri Medicaid program out of more than $689,000 over a three-year period.
The news release issued by the attorney general when the lawsuit was filed said:

While Laverne Dupont is listed as the executive director of Joplin River of Life Ministries Inc., her husband Robert directs operations of the ministries, Nixon said. In 2003, Dupont was excluded for 20 years from the Medicaid program because of a felony conviction for healthcare fraud.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants submitted false statements to the state of Missouri on the Joplin River of Life Ministries applications filed with the Department of Health and Senior Services to operate the ministries’ facilities. The applications concealed the fact that Robert Dupont was a principal in the operation of the ministries. Nixon said the River of Life Ministries was formed by Dupont in 2002 soon after his guilty plea to conceal his continued role as a principal.

Democrat plan emphasizes students, not buildings

Democrats are offering an alternative to Governor Matt Blunt's Lewis and Clark Initiative (the sellout of Missouri's college students). Parker Willis offers coverage in the latest edition of The Chart.
Willis' article includes an interview with the man with the plan, Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Shelbina:

He and other Democrats oppose the plan because it has too many stipulations and focuses more on capital assets than students. "Our future of the state of Missouri is not in a facility, it is in the minds of the young folks that we educate," Shoemyer said.

The article continues:

Shoemyer said the Democrats plan will be able to do much more with MOHELA's money than the Lewis and Clark Initiative. Though he hasn't consulted the MOHELA Board, he has talked with individuals who support his plan. "What Missourians will be most comfortable about is that you're not selling off the farm, you're investing and growing," Shoemyer said.

The return of The Chart to Jefferson City is welcome and offers a fresh alternative...state coverage we are definitely not receiving from the Joplin Globe.
It's nice to know that while Missouri Southern State University justly praises its international program, its newspaper is also keeping its eye focused on news closer to home.

Former Globe reporter joins Joplin Tri-State Business

Because of its targeted readership, the success of Joplin Tri-State Business has been largely overlooked.
The newspaper, which began in 2006 and is a sister publication of Springfield Business Journal, has delivered the goods, consistently scooping the Joplin Globe on business-related stories and announced in its Jan. 15-28 edition that it will increase its staff from four to six this year.
The newspaper has received strong reporting from its editor, former Joplin Globe reporter Jeff Wells, and former Springfield News-Leader reporter Matt Wagner. As of Feb. 5, former Globe and Carthage Press reporter Chris Roberts, who most recently has been working for GateHouse Media, will join the staff.
The Globe is still on top of the mountain, but its challengers are carving out their own chunks of readership. Joplin Tri-State Business, using its own pages and the Springfield Business Journal website, has made a name for itself with extensive business coverage and with its scoops.
The Joplin Daily is beginning to show more consistency and is having some success at playing the good cop to the Globe's bad cop.
New Globe Editor Carol Stark has her work cut out for her.

City of Lamar wins showdown with O'Sullivan Industries

The Joplin Globe is reporting O'Sullivan Industries blinked and paid the company's $200,000 plus overdue utilities bill. The company had been given a noon deadline by Lamar city officials.
The city's hardball approach came after O'Sullivan officials asked the city to allow the company to go six months without paying utilities, a decision which would have cost the city $1.2 million over the period and possibly for longer if O'Sullivan officials were not able to repay the debt.

Sunday Globe to offer more from Anderson Guest House owner

Sunday's Joplin Globe will feature another interview with Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont.
According to the information being put out by the Globe, the interview will feature more of Dupont's claims that he has been wronged by the media.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Andrew Blunt adds three clients

The state of Missouri's best-known lobbyist Andrew Blunt has added three clients this month, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission.
His new clients include the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, an organization started by conservative education interests who are attempting to make money by playing on the idea that America will have better teachers if people can bypass education schools to become teachers.
Also on the list are Harmony Health Plan, Belleville, Ill., and BJC Healthcare, St. Louis.

Vouchers not mentioned, but governor leaves no doubt about his plans

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt did not mention vouchers in his State of the State message Wednesday night, but his intentions came through loud and clear:

"For me, no option is off the table, and I am willing to work with anybody who cares about our children," he said, drawing applause from Republicans and the handful of Democrats who support the tax credits.

Tuition tax credits are widely perceived as the way to open the door for vouchers and the pouring of public money into private schools.

Follow this link to the complete text of the State of the State message.

Times editorial: Explanation needed for dismissal of federal prosecutors

An editorial in today's New York Times demands that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales provide an explanation as to why seven U. S. prosecutors, including an Arkansas-based prosecutor were removed. So far, Gonzales has refused to give any reasons and has just indicated the prosecutors will be replaced by good people:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is refusing to provide Congress with details on these unmerited dismissals. He insists that there's no attempt to quash fresh Republican scandals and says only the "very best" will be named as replacements. We are skeptical, especially since the White House's reported choice to replace Little Rock’s federal attorney is a Republican operative close to Karl Rove. Congress must demand a clear explanation from Mr. Gonzales and the White House on why these prosecutors are being ousted.

Among the prosecutors being replaced was the one who handled the case against Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who is in prison for taking bribes, and the aforementioned H. E. Cummins of Arkansas, who was right in the middle of investigating the scandals surrounding the awarding of license fee offices in Missouri when he was fired. The Times editorial indicates Cummins is being replaced by a close friend of White House aide Karl Rove.

Sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Joplin Globe

A former Joplin Globe page inserter filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the newspaper Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
In her petition, Kathleen Willis claims the Globe created a "hostile work environment" by "allowing its employees and agents to make unwanted sexual advances and contact with (Ms. Willis) and fellow female employees."

Ms. Willis says that after she complained to supervisors about the sexual harassment her employment schedule was changed and after she filed a complaint she "was threatened with the loss of her job." Ms. Willis says no action was ever taken against any of the people who were doing the harassment.

Ms. Willis said one of her fellow employees touched her and other female employees on the "breasts, waist, and rear" but even after complaints "nothing was ever done." She said that ater he complaints, her supervisor told her "Someone is going to get fired and it might be you."

The three-count petition charges the Globe with creating a hostile work environment, sex discrimination, and retaliation. Ms. Willis is asking for actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dupont: I'm not shady

Former Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont, in a series of interviews that included sitdowns with the Joplin Globe and KOAM, also told Marcus Kabel of the Associated Press that he is an upstanding citizen and has been wronged by the media since the Nov. 27 fire in which 11 were killed at the Anderson facility:

"The media reports, all these things, they make me out as some kind of shady character," DuPont said at the offices of Joplin River of Life Ministries, the private group that operated Anderson Guest House. "I don't think I'm shady. Anyone who knows me would say I have nothing but compassion for the mentally ill."

Dupont also insists he was not guilty of the federal fraud which he pleaded guilty:

DuPont contends he pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud only because federal prosecutors offered to drop related charges against his daughter, who was then convicted on one felony count of submitting inflated claims to Medicare for patient care at home.

Cron deposition scheduled for Feb. 15

A 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, deposition has been scheduled for former Missouri State University drama instructor George Cron, according to documents filed Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The deposition, which will be followed immediately by a deposition of Deborah Cron, will be held at the law office of Jennifer A. Mueller, 901 St. Louis Street, Suite 1900, Springfield, according to court documents.
Ms. Mueller is the attorney for dance professor Rhythm McCarthy, one of the defendants in Cron's lawsuit against the university and numerous officials.
The trial for Cron's wrongful dismissal lawsuit has been scheduled for Sept. 10.
The trial, which will be held in Springfield, became necessary after an Aug. 29 mediation session failed to bring an agreement between Cron and the defendants in his suit.
The mediation session was part of the court's Early Assessment Program, in which cases that appear to have the possibility of being settled can be mediated in hopes of unclogging the court docket. Cron is suing Ms. McCarthy, who was the head of the search committee that hired him, as well as Jay Raphael, department head; Bruno Schmidt, vice president of academic affairs; John Black, Missouri State's general counsel; and The MSU Board of Governors. In addition to wrongful dismissal, Cron says the defendants defamed him.
In his lawsuit, George Cron, who has acted in such films as "Flying Tiger" and "Larva," says his problems with Ms. McCarthy began even before he was hired at Missouri State in October 1998 when she was chairman of the Search Committee which hired Cron. "(She) began to aggressively pursue a personal relationship with Mr. Cron," the lawsuit said. Cron says Ms. McCarthy helped him with his application and supported his hiring, which took place in May 1999.
After he was hired, Cron told Ms. McCarthy "that he did not reciprocate her romantic feelings and did not intend to consummate an affair," according to the lawsuit.
After that, he claims, she began "a series of actions designed to undermine (him) and ruin his reputation within the Department of Theatre and Dance." These actions, the lawsuit claims, included a series of statements about Cron's teaching methods, his fitness to teach, and his being "sexist" and "bigoted." Still, Cron was rehired each year until he came up for tenure in 2004. The Tenure Committee voted 6-2 to offer him tenure, the lawsuit said, with Ms. McCarthy and Sara Brummell casting the dissenting votes.
The committee recommendation was forwarded to Raphael, who rejected it. Cron appealed to Schmidt, who denied the appeal. On April 12, 2004, Cron appealed those decisions to the Academic Personnel Review Commission, which in a split decision, said "Cron's complaint was not frivolous." His appeal was again rejected. The case eventually went to an arbitrator, who ruled in Cron's favor July 29, 2005. Nonetheless, the board voted Oct. 4, 2005, not to extend tenure. Cron is asking for reinstatement and damages.
In court documents filed in May, the university fought back, claiming Cron had fostered an atmosphere of sexual harassment in his classes, leading to his dismissal.
The documents included a long passage written by Jay Raphael, department head, one of the defendants in the lawsuit. After praising Cron early in his statement as a "team player" who had been responsible for many "quality productions," Raphael lowered the boom.
"However, I am deeply concerned about the number of young women who have seen me each semester on every academic level to complain about Mr. Cron's judgment, his approach to teaching acting, and his respect for them as individuals. Last spring, a young woman experienced what she considered to be sexual harassment and inappropriate physical behavior from a male student in an audition for Mr. Cron's show. She did not suggest that Mr. Cron required the approach but he neither seemed to be aware of it nor did he bring it under control.
"This past semester, an entry level student indicated that she felt intimidated by the classroom environment. She also believed that Mr. Cron's reference to a 'dumb blonde' while coaching her work was not to character but rather to her as an individual. Ultimately, she risked her grade rather than to return to the class on a regular basis."
Raphael wrote that he had received many positive comments about Cron, but all of them had come from men. He said he was troubled that the complaints he had received, all of which came from female students, were about them being "treated insensitively and they were frightened."

Liebrecht, Bucher dropped from sexual harassment lawsuit

Archbishop John J. Liebrecht and Father Phillip Bucher have been dropped as defendants in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last year by Glenna McKitterick of Branson.
According to documents filed Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the counts against both men have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again. Usually, this indicates that some kind of settlement has been reached, though there is no mention of a settlement in the court documents.
Remaining as defendants in the case are Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau,Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church.
Glenna McKitterick was the sole proprietor of Discipleship Ministry Resources when she was hired by the church on July 1, 2002 for a two-year term as a pastoral associate.
Her responsibilities, she said, were training coordination "for an evangelization program and model for the church and its parishes." Bucher was the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and served as Bishop Liebrecht's vicar general.
Shortly after her employment, Ms. McKitterick claims, she began having to fend off Bucher's unwelcome advances, which included"
-"Unwelcome questioning by Bucher about plaintiff's personal sex life and her intimate sexual likes and dislikes.
-"Bucher's regular recounting to plaintiffs of his own personal sex life and details of his intimate sexual likes and dislikes, including his sexual dislikes with his then 'girlfriend,' (whose name is given in the lawsuit, but which is not going to be listed here).
-"Plaintiff being 'hushed' during business meetings in the parish offices, so plaintiff would not be overheard by Bucher's girlfriend when Bucher and the girlfriend were talking on the telephone.
-"Plaintiff being invited to 'business' dinners with Bucher, which he began conducting like personal dates.
-"Plaintiff being subjected to Bucher's unwelcome comments about his personal preferences 'as a man' regarding plaintiff's makeup, etc., to which plaintiff objected.
-"Numerous uncomfortable private 'hugs' by Bucher which he defended as 'pastoral' and which he repeatedly attempted even after being rebuked by plaintiff.
-"Regular telephone calls by Bucher to plaintiff at her home in the evening about personal matters.
-"Regular romantic and sexually suggestive remarks and advances by Bucher."
Ms. McKitterick says Bucher's actions created "a hostile work environment."
She claims that Liebrecht and other church officials had been warned about Bucher's problem and they should have known he was likely to sexually harass her.
Ms. McKitterick was fired after she made a written complaint against Bucher in a letter dated Jan. 12, 2004, one of a series she had made, according to the lawsuit.
After the Jan. 12 letter, she received a call from the church's lawyer who said, "Bucher has terminated you." Her last day of work was Jan. 16, 2004, five and a half months before the end of her contract. The firing, she said, "was retaliation against plaintiff for her reporting and complaining about the sexual harassment and hostile work environment."
Ms. McKitterick is asking for "lost earnings and employment benefits; for such punitive damages as are proven at trial; for reasonable attorneys' fees; and for such other relief as may be appropriate."
She is also suing church officials for misrepresentation, saying they had told her that "if she became employed by the church, Bucher would not sexually harass her nor would he create a hostile work environment for her."
An additional count charges church officials with copyright infringement, claiming that Ms. McKitterick owns the rights to her work, "Discipleship: An Old Model for a New Day," registered Aug. 3, 2001, with the U. S. Copyright Office. "Since Jan. 16, 2004, the Church, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church without the consent or permission of plaintiff; have claimed a copyright interest in plaintiff's work and have distributed and collected the benefits, revenue and profits from the work and from derivatives of the work."
She claims Bucher and Liebrecht supervised the infringement of her work. She is asking for $150,000 for each copyright infringement, attorneys' fees, and interest.
Ms. McKitterick now serves as president of LAMPS, a national group that is seeking reform in the Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau includes all of the Catholic churches in the Joplin/Springfield area.

Lambert hearing set for Feb. 20

A pre-trial hearing in the felony sex cases against Rev. Raymond Lambert of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, originally scheduled for Jan. 16, will be held 10 a.m. Feb. 20 in McDonald County Circuit Court, according to court records.
Lambert, his wife Patty, church deacon Paul Epling, and Laura Epling face numerous counts in connection with what authorities have described as ritual sex.
Lambert is charged with three counts of statutory sodomy and four counts of child molestation.

Dupont: Guest House problems caused by everybody but me

In an interview in this morning's Joplin Globe, Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont says the problems that have been revealed in the media about the operation of numerous Guest House facilities, past and present, are wrongfully being placed at his doorstep:

"If I was that bad of a person, why would the state keep giving me licenses?" he asked.

Considering what has been written about the state's role in this matter, the answer to that question is obvious.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the State message to be broadcast locally

Two Joplin stations, KGCS the Missouri Southern State University station and KOZJ, Ozarks Public Television, will carry Governor Matt Blunt's annual State of the State message 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to the governor's website.
The speech will also be carried live on 1310 KZRG.
KOZJ will rebroadcast the speech at 10 p.m.
C-Span will carry the address at a later date.

Report: Stevenson motion would gut reforms that could prevent tragedies like Anderson Guest House

David Catanese of KY3 is keeping track of some motions and votes that the rest of the media seem to be ignoring.
In a series of blog posts Monday, Catanese explored a motion by Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, which appears designed to gut some requirements that a new law established for assisting living centers.
In the post offering Stevenson's explanation for his motion, the representative said the rules were legally flawed:

Stevenson's motion includes stripping language requiring background checks for workers in facilities, specific responsibilities for workers during an emergency, immunizations for residents and staffing provisions. When I asked Stevenson if he would introduce legislation to make these rules legally sound, he said he would not.
"I'm not going to do that. I mean, I wouldn't be opposed to it. I'd probably support legislation that did it, but it's not something I have time to file," Rep. Stevenson said.

In his first post on the Stevenson motion, Catanese bluntly states what is going on:

In essence, this is the story of how one lawmaker can try to make sweeping changes to legislation (that's already been passed) in a small committee room, mostly out of the public eye.

Star columnist: Nodler proposal is waste of time

Kansas City Star columnist accurately assesses Gary Nodler's proposed constitutional amendment that all Missouri business conducted in the English language as a "waste of time" and "pandering to voters." The column includes this passage:

There might not be much of one in Missouri, where Republican Sen. Gary Nodler of Joplin has proposed a constitutional amendment. "English shall be the language of all official proceedings in the state of Missouri," is all it says.
And that means what?
"It is what it says," Nodler told me. But his interpretation, Nodler said when pressed, is that state agencies would be absolved from feeling they have to translate documents into other languages. Some of them, though, probably still would provide that service because it would be in the public interest.For instance, the state now administers driver’s license tests in nearly a dozen languages. But other than that, the amendment would be mostly symbolic.
In other words, a complete waste of time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

KOAM ad appears to take shot at KSN

"Accomplishment...more than just experience."
That's the tagline for KOAM's latest promotional ad featuring anchor Dowe Quick, who has been a fixture at the station for more than a quarter of a century. The ad mentions the honor recently awarded Quick at the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Convention, where he received the Sonny Slater Award for outstanding service to his station and community. The ad also mentions that Quick has received the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for broadcasting excellence.

The ad seems to be directed at the recent KSN advertising trumpeting the experience of their anchors Jim Jackson, Tiffany Alaniz, and Gary Bandy. The Jackson ad notes that he has covered more than 65,000 stories, which is accurate only if you equate reading stories with covering them.

Links added to KZRG,

Two links have been added in the section on the right-hand side of this page. Over the next few days, I will probably remove a few links that are not being updated.
The new links are 1310 KZRG, Joplin's news radio station, and, a St. Louis-area political blog.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Area legislators co-sponsor tuition tax credit bill

Four of the six Joplin-area state representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of tuition tax credit legislation.
Ed Emery, R-Lamar, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, are listed as co-sponsors of HB 498, which was filed Thursday.

The bill would create a tax credit that would encourage people and corporations to donate to new education scholarship foundations. Under the bill, 65 percent of a donation would be reimbursed, in the form of reduced taxes. The privately run foundations would then award scholarships averaging $5,000 to students who currently attend one of the 13 school districts in Missouri that lack full state accreditation due to low performance.

An article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, as saying that he hopes to convince rural legislators, who have opposed previous incarnations of this bill of the bill's value. Apparently, he did not have to do much to persuade Mrs. Ruestman, Emery, Hunter, and Stevenson.

The Post-Dispatch article dwells on the money that pro-public school forces have used to oppose this kind of legislation, which is seen by public school supporters as a transparent effort to open the door for educational vouchers.

What the article fails to mention is the amount of money being poured into this state by the out-of-state pro voucher movement. A prime example is the bill's sponsor. According to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, leading voucher supporter All Children Matter paid $9,679.32 to support Ed Robb's candidacy in 2006...and paid for $24,710.59 worth of negative advertising against Robb's Democratic opponent, former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Jim Ritter.

One of the co-sponsors of HB 498 is Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Valley Park. All Children Matter spent $3,3338.24 to support Scharnhorst, and paid $6,355.42 to attack his opponent.

All Children Matter spent $31,640 supporting co-sponsor Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis. The co-sponsor list also includes Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who campaigned for her position as chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee by writing a letter to Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, bragging about how much funding she brought to House Republicans from All Children Matter. Jetton, too, was a recipient of a maximum $325 contribution from the organization, as were most of the bill's co-sponsors.

Among the local co-sponsors, Mrs. Ruestman, Emery, and Hunter all received maximum contributions from All Children Matter. Stevenson did not receive a contribution from the organization.

If there is any doubt as to the true intent of the Robb bill, it should be erased by the title given to it- the Milton Friedman 'Put Parents in Charge' Education Program. Mr. Friedman, who died late last year, is widely known as the father of the voucher movement. He created the concept in the 1950s and has helped push it over the years through the Friedman Foundation.

O'Sullivan officials ask for six months without utility bills

You have to give new O'Sullivan Industries CEO Jim Malone credit. If nothing else, he has nerve.
The Lamar Democrat, in an article written by Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis, reports in today's edition that the company is asking to be allowed to go the next six months without paying its utility bills to the city of Lamar. After that, they said, they would pay it back over an extended period of time.
Based on O'Sullivan's normal power usage, the city would be out $1.2 million.

According to (Lamar City Administrator Lynn) Calton, he and council members were invited to the plant on Monday to meet the new CEO, Jim Malone, and to tour the plant and have lunch. They were certainly surprised to hear the request concerning the utilities. Calton says the city council has made no response to the request but has discussed the situation and will make a decision soon. He says, “I don’t see any way what they requested can be done.”

I'm sure there are a lot of people with financial problems who would love to go six months without paying their utility bills and then be allowed to repay them at their own leisure. It's only the million-dollar CEOs who have the gall to ask.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The undermining of teachers

You need look no further than the reader response to the Joplin Globe internet story on Rep. B. J. Marsh's proposed legislation which would allow schools to waive making up five snow days to realize just how much success has been realized by those who have made it their mission to undermine public schools and public schoolteachers.
The comments are full of people belittling the work teachers do. You have those who claim teachers work one year, and then repeat their lesson plans year after year until they retire.
You have others who talk about how little work teachers do. After all, they have three months off in the summer, they don't work weekends, they get two weeks off for Christmas and a week for spring break, and they don't have to go to work when there's snow or ice on the roads.
At one time, teachers were among the most respected people in the community, and to some extent, that is still the case, but as the comments on the Globe website prove, years of undermining public schools and public schoolteachers are finally taking their toll.
So let's take a look at the truth about teachers:

Yes, there are a few who use the same lesson plans year after year, but those are the exception, not the rule. Most teachers look for ways to improve their lesson plans, trying new techniques, adding technology, or using the latest educational research to improve their results. During those three-month summer vacations, many teachers are attending seminars or taking classes aimed at improving themselves and therefore the quality of the instruction they offer to their students.

One thing the politicians' constant sniping at the "failures" of public schools (most of the schools are not failing, but you would never know that from listening to the rhetoric being offered by voucher supporters) has done is to give the impression that teachers are slackers who are living off the public trough. While there are teachers who fall short, the push for "qualified teachers" fails to take into account other factors that are playing much greater roles in the scores of students who are not making the grade, including:

-Students who come from broken homes, homes in which they are exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, and homes where the children are victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

-Students who come from homes where there are no books, only the ever-constant presence of television and the Internet.

-Politicians who demand that the schools handle all of society's ills, whether they be sex education, information on alcohol and drugs, personal finance information (which has become necessary thanks to politicians' coddling of those in the banking, credit card, and payday loan industries). Every time a politician adds something to the school's schedule, it takes away from the three R's that they say should be our focus.

-Fears that students, teachers, and administrators have each time they hear of another school shooting incident

-Students who simply do not care whether they learn

I am so tired of the argument that teachers knew how much money they were going to get paid so they have no business complaining about it. It is true to some extent; we do know we are not going to become wealthy from teaching, but at the same time, do we ever accept that type of talk when it comes to other public servants, such as police officers and firemen? Obviously, those are high risk, stressful occupations, but nearly every study of stressful occupations puts teaching right at or near the top. Teachers who care about the success of their students (and I have only met a handful who do not fit into that category) agonize over the ones who are failing, the ones who are having problems at home or at school, even the ones who seem to resist everything we try and have no interest whatsoever in school.

Most teachers are not 7:30 to 3 people who take off for home the second the last bell rings. Many teachers work with children after school, sponsor activities (some of which they are reimbursed for, but many of which they are not) and work on lesson plans and grading long after they have taught their final classes for the day. We do have 48-minute planning periods, but much of that time is devoted to dealing with parents and grading papers. I know of very few teachers who do not do a great deal of work at home. It's part of the job. For the most part, we don't go around talking about it, but with the constant belittling that seems to be the norm these days, somebody has to tell the story.

Most teachers are in the business because they truly love to work with children and help pave the road for their students' later success. As long as politicians and sensation-seeking media (i.e. John Stossel) take a handful of public school failures and make them appear to be commonplace instead of describing them accurately as the aberrations they truly are, we will continue to see the kind of anti-teacher sentiment that was expressed this week in the Joplin Globe.
As long as self-serving politicians are willing to take those rare failures and use them as an excuse to open the door for vouchers and tuition tax credits, we are in danger of putting a torch to American public schools, the most successful experiment in the history of education.
When that happens, you can forget about No Child Left Behind. The children left behind will number in the millions.

Backroom politics leads to Turner convention loss

So close, yet oh, so far away.
Apparently, my grass roots campaign for the presidency came up just short as a couple of the Columbia Daily Tribune bloggers had some fun and set up a presidential campaign between the Media Bloggers Party and the Political Bloggers Party.
A blow-by-blow account of this battle, including my primary wins in Michigan, Louisiana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, and Montana, is featured in the Tribune's GameOver blog.
Going into the convention, under Tribune political writer Jason Rosenbaum's scenario, I had the lead, but when John Combest bowed out, most of his delegates opted for Jeff Roe of the Source and he became the nominee. The other candidates from our party were Antonio French of and Roy Temple of Fired Up Missouri.
In the media blogger category David Catanese of KY3 was the winner over Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star, Tony Messenger of the Springfield News-Leader, and Rosenbaum.
In the general election, Catanese defeated Roe (blowing any chance I had of landing a Cabinet position).
Thanks to Jason Rosenbaum for including me with the bigwigs of the state bloggers. Give me a few months and I will start an exploratory commitee for the next election cycle.

Novak: Speculation increasing that Blunt won't seek re-election

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak becomes the latest to speculate that Missouri Governor Matt Blunt may not seek re-election next year:

Missouri Republican Gov. Matt Blunt's prospective 2008 re-election campaign was not on the agenda of a recent meeting between him and his political team, leading to informed speculation that he might not run for a second term in the barometer state. Republican fortunes in Missouri nose-dived after Blunt, at age 33, rode a 2004 GOP tide to victory. He was at war with his conservative base last year after endorsing a ballot initiative supporting embryonic stem cell research that was passed in the 2006 election. State Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon, the state's most experienced Democratic office-seeker, is expected to be a formidable candidate for governor.
A footnote: Blunt was the only governor present at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's recent presidential fund-raising extravaganza.

Blunt contributor sentenced to 30 months in prison in Abramoff scandal

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, was sentenced today in 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to trading political favors for gifts and campaign contributions.

As I noted in the Sept. 30 Turner Report, Federal Election Commission documents show that Ney's American Liberty PAC donated $1,200, at that time the maximum amount allowed by Missouri law, to Governor Matt Blunt's 2004 campaign. The donation was one of a number of contributions from K Street lobbyists, elected officials, and special interests, who had little connection to Missouri, but had good reason to do a favor for the governor's father, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt.

Among others contributing to the governor's 2004 campaign were: disgraced Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., Don Sherwood, R-Ohio, and two controversial congressmen who are no longer in office, Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who was also linked to the Abramoff scandal.

Attorney general defends firing of prosecutors

During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, U. S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the firing of several prosecutors who were involved in high-profile investigations of wrongdoing by Republican officials was not political.
Among those prosecutors were the one who investigated the Duke Cunningham case, which resulted in Cunningham's conviction, and H. E. Cummins III of Arkansas, who investigated possible corruption in the way in which Missouri Governor Matt Blunt awarded lucrative license fee offices to campaign contributors, with many then being managed by a company set up by Lathrop & Gage, a law firm with ties to the governor.

The investigation ended with no prosecution, but as the Democratic blog Fired Up Missouri points out, most of the investigation took place after Cummins was asked to resign:

Clearly the Blunt investigation was a matter of concern within the Bush administration and his Justice Department. The idea that they "didn't realize" Cummins was investigating a GOP Governor at the time he was asked to resign is simply not plausible.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Senate passes lobbying reform bill

Perhaps there will be meaningful reform in Congress this year, after all.
Tonight, the Senate, by a 96-2 vote approved the reform package that appeared totally lost earlier in the day.

Among those casting votes for the bill were Missouri senators Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill. The only senators voting against the bill were Tom Coburn,R-Okla., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., was one of two senators who were not present for the vote.

Among other things the bill includes restrictions against spouses lobbying the Senate, and bans gifts, meals, and travel from lobbyists. Those go into effect immediately. Other provisions also need approval from the House:

One of those legislative provisions would force lobbyists to publicly disclose the small campaign donations they collect from clients and "bundle" into large donations to politicians. Bundling is a way for lobbyists to contribute far more money to candidates and thus wield far more influence than they could by making individual contributions, which are currently limited to $2,100 per candidate for each election cycle. Lavish gatherings thrown by lobbyists and corporate interests at party conventions would be banned.

Attorney wants Memorial Middle School shooter's psychological evaluation sealed

James Egan, attorney for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, has asked that his client's psychological evaluation be sealed.
White is being charged as an adult with three felonies: assault, armed criminal action, and escape or attempted escape.
His preliminary hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but has been postponed.

Tribune: Graham weighing decision on health director appointment

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, is weighing whether to support Gov. Matt Blunt's appointment of Jane Drummond as state health director, according to an article written by the Columbia Tribune's Jason Rosenbaum.

The article indicates Graham is concerned about Ms. Drummond's failure to take steps to strip Joplin River of Life Ministries of its licenses to operate group homes, despite the recommendations of staff during Ms. Drummond's time as the department's attorney. That decision came under much scrutiny following the Nov. 27 Anderson Guest House fire in which 11 people were killed.

The veteran senator also worries about her lack of health care experience:

But Graham said Drummond lacks the health-care management background that’s required in the law for the position. "Obviously she's worked as a practicing attorney, but she really hasn’t worked in the health-care field," he said. That's problematic, he said, since Blunt and the General Assembly are planning to launch a massive reformation of Missouri's Medicaid system and health-care delivery service infrastructure.

Evangel graduate wages battle against sex discrimination

Evangel University graduate and former Montana State University women's basketball coach Robin Potera-Haskins has received some financial help for her sex discrimination case against the university.

Ms. Potera-Haskins, who compiled a 54-34 record during her time at the university, will receive $5,000 from the American Association of University Women. In her lawsuit, she claims:

Throughout her three-year tenure at Montana State, she was given fewer privileges than the male coaches in the athletic department. She claims she was paid 30 percent less than the male coaches and not given benefits that male coaches routinely received, such as use of vehicles and cellular phones. She also contends she was given less autonomy over her team and was forced to use substandard practice facilities.

The knocks against Ms. Potera-Haskins, according to published reports, are that she was unable to hold on to some of her recruits and her program committed some minor violations of NCAA rules.

Christian groups responding to natural disaster

Christian Post reports that religious organizations are doing their utmost to help people who have suffered due to the ice storms that hit much of the midwest last week:

Convoy of Hope's Disaster Response team quickly reacted to the powerful ice storm. The organization has distributed more than 84,000 pounds of food, water and personal hygiene kits throughout the Ozarks, which includes predominantly the states of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, reported the Springfield, Mo., based group on Wednesday. "The Springfield community has done so much to help so many around the world," said Kary D. Kingsland, director of Convoy of Hope U.S. Disaster Response. "We’re happy to come alongside these great organizations and help them serve our friends and neighbors during their time of need."

Former Messenger College student to plead guilty in Iraqi's death

A U. S. Marine who once attended Messenger College in Joplin will plead guilty to second degree murder in connection with the death of an Iraqi:

Seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were charged in June with kidnapping, murder and other offenses.Prosecutors allege the squad kidnapped Hashim Ibrahim Awad, took him to a roadside hole and shot him to death. They then placed an AK-47 and shovel by his body to try to make it look like Awad, 52, was an insurgent who had been caught in the act of planting a bomb, prosecutors said. Under their plea deals, the three Marines and the sailor who pleaded guilty each received prison terms of less than two years.

Power outages bring electric suppliers under scrutiny

The massive power outages that have rocked, and continue to rock, southwest Missouri over the past six days, have a member of the Public Service Commission saying it is time for something to be done.
In reporter Marcus Kabel's article for Associated Press, Robert Clayton says it is time for power companies to think about burying more lines and using stronger materials:

"We've been told we had the storm of the century in 2004, then there was one in 2005, then there were three in 2006. If weather patterns have changed, and I don't know that they have, then we have to change the way we're thinking about utility reliability," Clayton told The Associated Press. "I think all utilities in the state have room for improvement because it seems that the storm patterns we are facing are causing outages on a more frequent basis."

Lobbying reform fails in Senate

It was business as usual in the U. S. Senate Wednesday as ethics reform bit the dust in a squabble between the parties.
Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, are blocking a vote on the bill unless they can add an unrelated amendment which would give President Bush a line-item veto. An article in today's New York Times makes the following point, which should surprise no one:

It is an open secret that many members of Congress from both parties would be relieved to scuttle proposed changes in ethics rules. After all, the changes tend to limit the personal perks and political advantages of their positions.

Naturally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, laid the blame on the Republicans for standing in the way of reform:

In an interview after the vote, Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev. and majority leader, said, "The Republicans killed ethics reform, period. There is no way to put frosting on this. This is as sour as any piece of legislation."

Mickey Mantle book bites the dust

In the Dec. 16 Turner Report, I wrote about a controversial book scheduled to be published this spring, a so-called "inventive memoir" (otherwise known as fiction" about the life of the baseball superstar from Commerce, Okla., who spent his early pro baseball days playing on fields in Joplin and Carthage.
That book project, which was going to be published by the same woman, Judith Regan, behind the O. J. Simpson book, has been shelved, according to an article in today's New York Daily News:

"We spoke to [author] Peter Golenbock, and we mutually agreed to part ways with this book," Michael Morrison, president of HarperCollins' Harper/Morrow unit, told the Daily News. "We agreed it's probably best for him to sell it elsewhere," Morrison added.

Golenbock plans to market his book to other publishers. Among other highly suspect claims, the book says Mantle had an affair with ex-teammate Joe DiMaggio's wife, actress Marilyn Monroe, and claims that his teammate and later Yankee manager Billy Martin was a rapist.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Blunt explains involvement in Romney campaign

KY3 political reporter David Catanese, whose blog provides a consistent flow of thoughtful and knowledgeable information about Missouri politics, features an interview with Governor Matt Blunt concerning his support for the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Blunt told Catanese:

"I think the next President will face a number of tremendous challenges, Jihadists, competition from China, there will be more intense than any other global competition we've faced before, serious issues of our global competitiveness. I think the next President needs to be somebody that's a proven problem solver and I think Gov. Romney is," Blunt said.

Blunt says he has not formally endorsed Romney. No, of course not. All he did was leave Missouri, head to Massachusetts and make phone calls asking people to donate money to the Romney campaign. I shudder to think just how far Blunt would go if he formally endorsed someone.

Shield Law protections not likely for Missouri

Senate Bill 58, proposed by Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, would give Missouri its first shield law...a protection for reporters from overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors attempting to get at the reporters' sources. From all accounts, it is not likely to pass and one reason for that is the staunch opposition of Sen. Koster.
Despite my 22 years as a reporter (if the definition of reporter is one who is paid for gathering news), I have never been a big fan of shield laws. The whole concept that reporters should be given special privileges goes against the concept of the reporter acting as a representative of the average citizen.
Blogger Tim Hilton of The Radical Republican also notes another problem with shield laws: When these laws are enacted we essentially have government saying who is and who is not a journalist. And the law is geared toward traditional media, because it is based on bills in other states that were written by media lobbyists:

The basic problem with reporter shield laws in general is that they amount to governmental licensing of reporters. Sen. Koster's point that the importance of courts being able to compel testimony outweighs the detriment to freedom of the press is well taken, but that is still a value judgment. He and I might think that, Jo Mannies and Steve Kraske would surely disagree. However, all four of us, and Americans in general, should be able to agree that the government should not be handing down judgments on who has the full freedom of the press and who does not.

Hilton also notes:

I concede that it bothers me to see reporters punished for refusing to reveal their sources, and I salute them for sticking to their principles. However, on principle it is clear to me that the potential harms to the free press greatly outweigh the benefits of this law.

Blunt's choice for health care director under fire because of Guest House licenses

Missouri Health Director Jane Drummond may have a hard time keeping her job, thanks to her role in allowing Joplin River of Life Ministries to continue operating group homes despite recommendations to close the facilities.
Ms. Drummond, who is serving as director while waiting for Senate confirmation, may not receive the backing of her state senator, Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, according to an Associated Press article:

Records obtained by The Associated Press show health department regulators had met Jan. 17, 2006, in the office of Drummond - then the department's legal counsel - to discuss why the Anderson home and two others run by Joplin River of Life Ministries Inc. were operating under temporary permits, instead of full licenses. In a Jan. 24 e-mail to Drummond referencing the meeting, the department's long-term care program manager, Bill Toenies, said he and long-term care section director Debra Cheshier "would like to proceed with application denials" for Anderson Guest House and the two Joplin facilities. The e-mail referred to financial problems with the facilities. Instead of denying the licenses, the health department granted a series of temporary operating permits that were revoked only after the fire.

Lobbying wives likely to steer clear of reform movement

Two important stories that remained uncovered by our major regional newspapers in southwest Missouri, the Springfield News-Leader and the Joplin Globe, involved Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt and his personal life.
I have never been a big fan of delving into politicians' personal life. If a politician gets divorced and remarries, it normally is not a big deal. Unfortunately, divorce is going to happen to about 50 percent of the marriages in this country.
But Roy Blunt's divorce and subsequent remarriage to Abigail Periman is a major exception. It's not because Ms. Periman was much younger than Blunt. Quite frankly, that's good grist for the rumor mill, but it does not affect his work representing us in Washington.
It's not even because Roy Blunt has always proclaimed himself as a politician who supports family values. Just because someone is divorced does not mean the person cannot be in favor of family values. Divorce is a fact of life.
It is Miss Periman's job that makes Blunt's remarriage newsworthy. She is a powerful lobbyist for Phillip Morris/Altria. Maybe this was mentioned in an article in one of our regional newspapers. If so, I missed it.

And I have to admit I don't recall ever reading anything in the Globe or in the News-Leader about Blunt's surreptitious effort to amend the Homeland Security Act to include a measure designed to put the hammer down on contraband cigarettes, something he claimed was designed to cut out a source of terrorist funding, but it was not seen that way in Congress, even by his own party. It appeared much more like a way to sneak in a benefit for his wife's company at the same time our nation was reeling from the aftershocks of 9-11. Unbelievably, the Congressman who told Blunt that his plan was not going to fly was Tom DeLay, someone who has had considerable association with plans to benefit himself and special interests.

This week, the U. S. Senate is debating the kind of reform Democrats say they were voted into power to enact, but it looks as if they are going to look the other way when it comes to members of Congress who have wives and children who are lobbyists. (Blunt, as readers of this blog are well aware, has both, a wife and two children who are lobbyists).
The losing effort is chronicled in today's Washington Post, which includes this segment about Blunt:

On the House side, Abigail Blunt, the wife of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), has lobbied for years for Altria Group, the parent company for Kraft Foods and tobacco firm Philip Morris. The couple were married in 2003 and decided about a year ago that Abigail would no longer lobby any part of the House, Blunt's office said yesterday.

While there is nothing wrong with coverage that includes Roy Blunt's announcements about funding he is bringing to the Seventh District, or getting his reaction to major events, southwest Missourians need to have a complete picture of the man they have elected to represent them in our nation's capitol. The money from Abigail Periman's clients has had a major effect on politics, both in the Seventh Congressional District and statewide.
In-depth coverage of Roy Blunt should not be limited to outstate and national news sources.

Remembering a classmate

I have always hated the fact that my high school graduating class, the Class of 1974 at East Newton High School, does not have regular reunions; in fact, it does not have reunions at all.
We didn't meet to celebrate our 30-year anniversary or our 20-year anniversary. A 10-year reunion was held, but I missed it. I planned my entire vacation around it, but I got the week wrong and once I discovered the error, the reunion had already been held.
Since that time a few members of the Class of 1974 have died, including the class president, Terry Shepherd, founder of MidAmerica Hardwoods. A few moments ago, I read about the death of another member of that class, Patty Renfro. The following information was included in the obituary in today's Joplin Globe:

Patty A. Renfro

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Patty A. Renfro, 50, passed away on Monday, Jan. 15, 2007, at 4:05 p.m. at Freeman West Hospital in Joplin. She was a homemaker and a member of the College View Baptist Church.

Patty was born on Oct. 12, 1956, in Stella, Mo., to Fred Renfro and Billie English Renfro. Patty was a loving mother, grandmother and sister who will be missed by all who met her.

She is survived by her son, James Renfro and wife, Amy, of Webb City; daughter, Cassie Sofia and husband, Eric, of Joplin; granddaughter, Tommi Jo Sofia, of Joplin; grandson, Brock Renfro, of Webb City; mother, Billie Moffett and husband, Fred, of Joplin; sisters, Tonia Moffett and husband, Don, of Granby, and Mary Lou Messner and husband, Tom, of Joplin; along with numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 1 p.m. in the chapel of Simpson Funeral Home in Webb City. The family will be present on Thursday from 12 to 1 p.m. at the funeral home for a visitation. An open visitation will be on Wednesday from 12 to 5 p.m. at the funeral home. Burial will be in Granby Cemetery.


I have no idea if Patty attended that 10-year reunion; I have not seen her since the day we walked across the football field at what it now Don Johnston Stadium at East Newton High School and received our diplomas.
In fact, I have very few memories of Patty at all, and they are all concentrated in a about a two-week period during the spring of 1974...the last time I wore makeup.
It was the annual East Newton High School Drama Department play. After two years of outstanding productions under Janice Matthews; Mrs. Matthews was teaching at Springfield Kickapoo and the new drama teacher was primarily the wrestling coach and assistant football coach.
I don't remember the play, "The Mouse That Roared," with much fondness, but the experience was a memorable one. The cast bonded, we all get along, and put on a good show, despite our lack of guidance from the teacher, primarily because we learned so much from Mrs. Matthews the previous two years.
Most of the cast members put on their own makeup and did so skillfully, at least as skillfully as high school actors and actresses can. I was the exception. "The Mouse That Roared" would have turned into a horror show had I been allowed to continue applying makeup. And since I had the lead role, there would be no way to hide me.
That's where Patty Renfro stepped in. For two weeks, she became my personal makeup assistant, always patient, very good at what she did, and miracle of miracles, making me look presentable.
We talked quite a bit during those two weeks...and never again in the next 32 years.
It is easy to lose track of your high school classmates. It happens to everyone. You never think it will when you are that age, but it does. Still, when I heard of Patty Renfro's death, I was saddened, and sorry we never had a chance to catch up, but happy that I do have those fond memories.

(Photo: Patty Renfro succeeds at the impossible task of making my face look better during the 1974 East Newton High School production of "The Mouse That Roared." Also shown is drama teacher Stan Howe.)

Marsh to propose waiver for school days missed

Rep. B. J. Marsh, R-Springfield, plans to file a bill which would allow school districts to waive making up days missed due to the ice storm that has closed nearly all southwest Missouri schools.
In today's Springfield News-Leader, Marsh said he would propose forgiving five days for schools in counties that have been declared federal disaster areas.
Springfield schools will be out until next Tuesday at the earliest, while Joplin schools have missed two days this week, in addition to three days missed during the last storm.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sarcoxie native to run Romney campaign

Longtime GOP activist Tony Feather, formerly of Sarcoxie, has been tabbed to advise Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
The announcement, made in the Washington Post's political blog, The Fix, refers to Feather as the "godfather of grass roots politics."

The blog notes:

Feather is one of the pillars of the Washington Republican political establishment. He served as political director of President Bush's 2000 campaign and four years later was intimately involved with the Progress for America Voter Fund, a Republican-backed 527 group that spent heavily on ads attacking Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Feather is a principal in Feather Larson & Syndhorst, a direct mail and voter contact firm used frequently by Republican candidates and party committees, and retains a close relationship with the Bush White House.

Feather also headed Attorney General Bill Webster's campaign for governor in 1992, which featured a victory over Secretary of State Roy Blunt and State Treasurer Wendell Bailey in the GOP primary, and appeared headed toward a general election victory except for the legal problems that ended up sending Webster to prison.

Missourian profiles Blunt chief of staff

Edward Martin, who has been chief of staff for Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, was profiled in today's Columbia Missourian.
The profile is mostly a glowing portrait of Martin, but it does not shy away from the criticism that his job is a reward for the work Martin did as treasurer for the pro-voucher group All Children Matter:

All Children Matter advocates school vouchers and tuition tax credits that would create incentives for students to attend private schools. The group spent nearly $200,000 on radio ads during the 2004 Missouri gubernatorial race, supporting Blunt’s bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill. Some Blunt opponents say Martin's association with All Children Matter helped him land his new job. "Gov. Blunt was rewarding a pro-voucher interest group by hiring the former treasurer," says Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti, arguing that Martin would never have been hired had he not helped pour so much money into Blunt’s campaign.

Loss of Precious Moments leads to Enesco bankruptcy

Enesco, which cut its ties with Precious Moments in 2005, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has sold its assets to a private firm, Tinicum Capital Partners II LP, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Its shareholders are due nothing. The shares were dropped from the New York Stock Exchange last June and closed Friday at 19 cents each on the Nasdaq over-the-counter market. About a year ago, the shares were at the $2 level. The company has suffered severe business setbacks, including the loss in 2005 of its affiliation with the Precious Moments line of figurines.