Monday, April 30, 2007

Casino officials upset with tax compromise

Missouri casino officials are not happy about a compromise which would repeal the loss limits, something they have long wanted, but would increase their taxes by 4.25 percent:

Now, under a bill that narrowly won initial Senate approval last week, that rule could go, too. But in an odd twist, casinos have dropped their support for the measure, a longtime industry priority.

The problem: The bill includes a $49 million gaming tax increase. Advertisement

Mike Winter, a lobbyist for the Missouri Gaming Association, said the group "is opposed to moving the bill forward" with the tax increase. Most casinos had agreed to a smaller increase.

Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, who is sponsoring the bill, indicated he plans to concentrate on getting 18 votes to pass the bill and send it to the House, then work to reduce the tax there.

As I noted earlier today, Shields' loyalty to the casino interests has been amply rewarded.

Frontier justice bill set for final vote

The House will have the third reading for Sen Jack Goodman's frontier justice bill Tuesday.
The bill will be handled by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, who filed a similar bill earlier this year. The bill will give Missourians what they have already had- the right to protect themselves with deadly force when their lives are on the line.

Ms. Ruestman and Goodman, a Mount Vernon Republican, claim this bill was filed in response to requests from throngs of people (In her weekly column, Ms. Ruestman even said a throng of people testified in favor of her bill.). The main people pushing this unnecessary legislation are the officials of the National Rifle Association. Both Ms. Ruestman and Goodman claim the bill will prevent nuisance lawsuits against people who defend themselves with deadly force. Goodman acknowledges no such case has ever occurred in southwest Missouri and neither he nor Ms. Ruestman has ever cited one specific lawsuit of this sort happening anywhere in the state.

This is unnecessary and quite possibly dangerous legislation.

Nodler awash in money from gambling interests, lobbyists

During the past couple of weeks in the Missouri Senate, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has been involved in two controversial proposals to increase scholarships for Missouri students, both of which, critics have said, have used the money for needy students as a disguise for the real intention of the bill.

Nodler's MOHELA bill has been criticized as a paean to special interests, while he was on the winning side last Tuesday of a 17-16 vote to raise the loss limit on Missouri casinos, a stance which puts him at odds with his own party's platform.

While certainly it is not difficult to believe the senator sincerely wants to improve the lot of Missouri college and university students, it is also hard to overlook just how much money the senator has been raking in from casino interests and from those connected to the industry.

In his April disclosure form filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Nodler reported receiving $3,950 that can be connected to gambling including:

-$650 from Isle of Capri Casinos
-$500 from Michael Winner, lobbyist for the Missouri Gaming Association
-$500 from Brent Hemphill, lobbyist for Argosy Gaming
-A total of $2,300 from Missouri Pharmacy Association, Missouri Physician Assistant, Missouri Dental PAC and Southwest Missouri Dental PAC, all of which are represented by the lobbying firm of Gamble and Schlemeier, which represents the interests of Ameristar Casinos.

During the 2006 calendar year, the Elect Nodler Committee picked up approximately $6,000 connected to gambling, including $650 (the maximum amount allowed at that time) from Harrah's, $650 from Isle of Capri Casinos, and $2,950 from interests represented by Gamble & Schlemeier.

Though it could very well be coincidence, the 32nd District Senatorial Committee donated $2,400 to the Elect Nodler Committee March 31, the same day it received $2,500 from the 129th Legislative District Republican Committee, virtually the same amount that committee had received during the reporting period from interests represented by Gamble and Schlemeier.

The gambling loss limit may take some profit away from the casinos, but they are still making money, big money. The idea of allowing them to hurt families by removing the loss limits that prevent addicted gamblers from losing too much money during a casino visit just so they can add to those totals is obscene.

So is the idea of pouring money into legislators' campaign accounts to make it happen.

Carthage Press general manager apologizes for "humor"

In his second column, for The Carthage Press, newly-minted General Manager/Editor Buzz Ball apologized for the first one.

In the column, headlined "Eating some crow," Ball wrote:

"In my introductory column last week, I made the comment that I was looking forward to becoming a Carthageinian or Carthage-ite, whatever you call yourselves. In my feeble attempt at humor, I misspelled Carthaginian. I have been reminded of my mistake a few times this past week through e-mails, blogs and phone calls.

"Yes, I could have looked up the word or even asked someone. But my excuse is 'I didn't.' There was no intention to offend anyone, but I realize that your first impression of me as the general manager and editor of The Carthage Press was not a good one."

Tip to Associated Press: Follow the gambling money

Associated Press writer David Lieb has written some insightful articles and analysis on Missouri politics, so it is rather surprising that he weighs in on Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to remove the loss limit for gamblers in state casinos without mentioning the incredible amounts of money that are involved:

The Missouri Republican Party platform is clear: Republicans oppose the expansion of gambling. And they support Missouri's one-of-a-kind law that limits how much gamblers can lose.
So how is it, then, that the Republican majority leader of the Missouri Senate is taking the opposite position? And why are almost half the Senate Republicans going along with him?

That's the question simmering among some anti-gambling Republicans, who have long been a majority in the party but now find themselves on the legislative defensive.

In the April 28 Turner Report, it was noted
just how much money Shields and committees connected to the Senate majority leader had received from gambling interests:

During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.

That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog over the last three years, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.

Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.

I suspect more contributions from casino interests can be found in the Shields for Pro Tem Committee, but that name has been changed since the beginning of the calendar year, and once committee names have been changed, the inadequate search system on the Missouri Ethics Commission website does not allow a searches under the former name. Again, I ask for anyone with information about what that committee has been called, or access to the committee's disclosure reports, to contact me.

SB 430, which is scheduled for a final vote today, is described as the "Start Smart Scholarship Fund." A more accurate description would be the Big Casino Payback.

Blunt donates Ney, Foley campaign contributions to charity

The April financial disclosure form filed by Missourians for Matt Blunt with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows that contributions from disgraced Congressmen Mark Foley, R-Fla. and Bob Ney, R-Ohio, to the governor's campaign were donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Missouri in October.

The announcement that the governor was going to donate the Foley contribution to charity was made in early October, but I don't recall a similar announcement being made for the Ney contribution.

As I noted in the Sept. 30, 2006, Turner Report, Federal Election Commission documents showed 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.

Ney was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in September after pleading guilty to trading political favors for gifts and campaign contributions.

The decision to return the Foley contribution was prompted after Fired Up Missouri, a blog ran by former Carnahan aide Roy Temple, picked up on another Sept. 30 Turner Report post in which the contribution from Foley's Friends of Mark Foley committee was revealed.

The Florida Congressman resigned his seat after ABC News reported he had sent suggestive e-mails to a teenage male page and other reports of inappropriate activity with male pages began to surface.

Americans still looking for House Democrats to keep promises to curb corruption

Democrats were swept back into power in 2006, thanks largely to what they called the "culture of corruption" surrounding Republicans, including the removal of Bob Ney, Mark Foley, and Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
An editorial in today's New York Times suggests not much has been done by Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move against this corruption since they took the reins:

The Abramoff specter should be a warning as the Democratic House confronts its election promise to crack down on the sordid giving and taking of outsized chunks of special-interest lobbying money.

The House would be wise to follow the Senate’s lead in shining sunlight on the notorious “bundling” of contributions by powerhouse lobbyists who become money harvesters at campaign time. They call in numerous individual donations from their various clients, then personally deliver mega-bales of the lucre to lawmakers left warm with gratitude.

The Senate’s remedy — which House members are reported to be resisting — would not ban bundling but require detailed disclosure of packaged donations and who is giving, bundling and taking.

The editorial concludes:

If the Abramoff ghost is not enough of a prod to clean up the Capitol, members need only check out their current ranks. Two House Republicans have recently been forced to step down from committee assignments because of ongoing criminal investigations of suspected special-interest machinations. Last November’s voters are still watching for something better than business as usual.

Blunt: Better results needed in Iraq

Congressional Republicans, including Seventh District Congressman and Minority Whip Roy Blunt are ready to see progress in Iraq and indicate their patience with the president's plan may be about to wear out, according to an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

"We need to get some better results from Iraq both politically, economically and militarily, and that needs to happen in the foreseeable future," said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a Bush administration loyalist.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Barbre's versatility, showing at combine impressed Packers

Green Bay Packer fans were expecting Randy Moss to join the club Sunday. The star wide receiver ended up with the New England Patriots while the biggest target on the Packer radar as Missouri Southern State University and East Newton High School graduate Allen Barbre:

Barbre, at 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds, dominated at his tiny school in Joplin, Mo., and offensive line coach James Campen said Barbre (pronounced BAR'-burr) would be able to play either guard or tackle in the NFL.

"At the combine, we put him on the board, we bring a grease board and draw Xs and Os and asked him (blocking scheme) questions and that type of thing. His retention was excellent, so we don't see a problem with that," Campen said.

Barbre, named to AP's Little All-America team, even worked as a gunner on the school's punt coverage units.

"At first, it was kind of a joke, I thought, 'I won't be doing this,'" Barbre said of the position typically reserved for receivers or cornerbacks. "I ended up being pretty good at it and just done it the whole year. I made a lot of plays and just really enjoyed it."

It's time for Lindstedt to have his day in court

(Note: This is a reprint of my column from the April 26 Newton County News.)

Justice may be about to arrive for Martin Lindstedt.
For those who have been on the wrong side of Lindstedt (and that includes most anyone who is living and breathing), having him separated from society for the past two years has been a blessing.

Lindstedt is loud, profane, obnoxious, and just about any other negative adjective you can think of, and even worse, he is awaiting trial in Newton County Circuit Court on a charge of first degree statutory sodomy, a crime that, if he is guilty of it, ranks Lindstedt as the lowest of the low.

Justice, however, has been anything but swift, in the Martin Lindstedt case. Lindstedt was arrested in May 2005 for the crime, which allegedly occurred in March 2003. His next court hearing in the case is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, May 17, before Circuit Court Judge John LePage. Though Lindstedt has either been in jail or in a mental hospital for more than two years, this at long last will be his preliminary hearing...barring yet another delay.

Early proceedings in the Lindstedt case could accurately be described as a circus. He shaved on one half of his face and let his beard grow on the other. He refused to concede that the court had any authority over him and created disruptions every few seconds.

A fed up Judge Kevin Selby eventually leveled 33 contempt charges against Lindstedt and ordered the Granby resident to undergo a mental evaluation. And this was just for seeing Martin Lindstedt do what Martin Lindstedt has always done.

To Newton County residents, and everyone else who has had dealings with him, any time he has filed another lawsuit or filed to run for another public office, we just shrugged our shoulders and said, "That's just Martin."

It was only two years ago that Lindstedt's lawsuit against Governor Matt Blunt was rejected by a federal judge. Lindstedt ran against Blunt in the Republican primary for governor in 2004. Blunt was serving as secretary of state at the time and refused to provide a link to Lindstedt's homepage on the secretary of state's website due to racist content.

In his lawsuit, Lindstedt contended that was an illegal decision. He was also irritated by Blunt's refusal to allow him to use the nickname "Martin 'Lawsuit' Lindstedt" on the ballot. As a solution to the problem, Lindstedt suggested that Blunt be required to run on the November 2004 general election ballot under the name "Matt 'Runt" Blunt." For some reason, Judge Richard Dorr did not agree to this.

For a long time, Lindstedt's lawsuits have been an irritant to the public officials who have been sued, and an amusement to the rest of us.

That all changed when Lindstedt was charged with a sexual crime involving a minor.
At that point, even the racists dropped their support of Lindstedt, who says he is a minister of the Church of the Sons of YHVH. That group expelled him from the ministerial ranks.
Morris Gulett, church leader, in a letter to his small flock, said, "I have been made aware that Martin Lindstedt, from a jail cell in Grandby (sic) Missouri, is writing and distributing some very disturbing ideas, such as and I quote, 'Prion Poisoning, which is the mass poisoning of wild game food sources. The skinning alive of prisoners and execution by slow torture and the gang rape of female whigger herd animals to use them as brooding stock.' "
Gulett added, "This letter is to make public that this (Lindstedt's status as a pastor in the church) is no longer the case. As of this moment, Martin Lindstedt's ordination as a pastor is null and void and his membership status with the Legion of Saints is revoked. I cannot in good conscience allow anyone who promotes such ungodly behavior and tactics to carry a valid Ordination Certificate that bears our church standard and my signature."
Gulett said he does not believe that Lindstedt is guilty of child molestation.
Gulett is no prize, either. He is an Aryan Nations leader, who was arrested in March 1997 for ramming a Dayton, Ohio, police department cruiser with his van. He served one year in prison for that act, following a plea agreement.
The action to expel Lindstedt from the church was taken in November 2005, shortly after Lindstedt's letters became public.
Now it's time for Missouri's judicial system to provide justice for Lindstedt, whether it be a long prison sentence, freedom or something in-between. The value of a society is in how it treats its most despised individuals. To many, he falls into that category.
We may have to cover our ears, but Martin Lindstedt, the same as any American, deserves his day in court.

MSSU standout, East Newton grad Barbre picked by Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers selected Missouri Southern State University lineman Allen Barbre in the fourth round of the NFL draft today.
Barbre is the first East Newton High School graduate to be drafted by an NFL team.

Kraske: Graves connection to license fee scandal "awkward"

Kansas City Star political reporter Steve Kraske pulls his punches today in a column about former U. S. Attorney Todd Graves.
Graves has been back in the news recently with the revelation that he was one of the U. S. attorneys who had been targeted by the Bush Administration. Of course, one of those who was eventually fired was Bud Cummins of Arkansas, who was in the middle of an investigation of Governor Matt Blunt's awarding of lucrative license fee offices, including one to Graves' wife.

Kraske has an interesting phrase to deal with that situation:

Graves was a John Ashcroft guy. He had few, if any, ties to Alberto Gonzales and the new gang at Justice after Ashcroft announced he was stepping down as attorney general in November 2004.

All those things — and maybe even the widely noted, but awkward, fact that Graves’ wife accepted a driver’s license fee office appointment — could have added up to make Graves a replacement target.

Kraske may consider it awkward, I consider it a blatant conflict of interest. U. S. attorneys' wives and other close family members have no business being involved in situations that smack of political patronage. Common sense should have told the Graves family to reject this political plum, but apparently greed or arrogance or both got in the way.

May 19 signing set for Devil's Messenger

The kind folks at Hastings in Joplin have invited me back for another signing for my novel, Devil's Messenger.
This one is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, will start sometime mid-afternoon (I will have a more exact time later; it appears that our band Natural Disaster may be playing at 1 p.m. that day in Webb City) and last well into the evening.

I enjoyed my first signing for Devil's Messenger on April 21 and the October 2005 signing for Small Town News. I not only had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with many old friends, but I met several Turner Report readers, and had some wonderful conversations (except for the man who stalked the signing area April 21 because he thought Devil's Messenger was sinful).

I will provide more information about the signing in later posts.

(Photo: My former Diamond Middle School students Samantha Young, Michelle Nickolaisen, Shane Gallagher, and Alicia Bradley were among those attending the April 21 signing at Hastings.)

Edwards ties to GateHouse Media owner troubling

An article in Saturday's Washington Post brings to light disturbing connections between presidential candidate John Edwards, D-N.C. and the owners of GateHouse Media.

Edwards was hired by Fortress Investment Group in 2005 after running for president in 2004 and being a part of the losing Kerry-Edwards ticket. In his campaign stump speeches, he refers to America as a country with two economies- "one for wealthy insiders and then one for everybody else."

The article notes:

A midsize but growing player in the hedge fund industry with more than $30 billion in assets, Fortress was the first hedge fund manager to go public, thereby subjecting itself to far more scrutiny. But it was an unusual choice of employment for Edwards, who for years has decried offshore tax shelters as part of his broader campaign to reduce inequality. While Fortress was incorporated in Delaware, its hedge funds were incorporated in the Cayman Islands, enabling its partners and foreign investors to defer or avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Fortress announced Edwards's hiring as an adviser in a brief statement in October 2005. Neither Edwards -- who ended his consulting deal when he launched his presidential campaign in December -- nor the firm will say how much he earned or what he did.

He is still reaping the benefits of his employment, however:

But his ties to Fortress were suggested by the first round of campaign finance reports released last week. They showed that Edwards raised $167,460 in donations from Fortress employees for his 2008 presidential campaign, his largest source of support from a single company.

Nearly 100 Fortress employees or their family members donated to Edwards around the time of a fundraiser his campaign held at the firm in mid-March. Senior executives, individual fund managers, lawyers and a secretary gave the maximum $2,300 donation. Three administrative or executive assistants gave smaller amounts.

Though it was not noted in the article or in the documents provided by the Washington Post, Federal Election Commission records show that on March 17, Michael Reed, GateHouse Media CEO, donated $2,300 to Edwards' campaign.

GateHouse Media owns the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel and the Neosho Post in this area.

Romney not only GOP contender to shift opinions on issues

An article in today's Boston Globe points out that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the preferred presidential candidate of such Missouri public officials as Governor Matt Blunt, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton and Sen. Gary Nodler, is not the only one who has shifted his position on major issues.

Of course, up to this point, Romney is the only one who has been tagged with the dreaded "flip-flop" label. This assessment was made of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani:

Giuliani, who led New York City as a tough-talking, socially liberal Republican, has distanced himself from several past positions as he's tried to transform himself into a palatable choice for conservatives in early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

He's abandoned his past calls for strict gun control. He now speaks favorably of a flat tax, an idea he disdained a decade ago. And he's moved to the right on abortion, an issue that once made him an acceptable candidate to abortion rights advocates.

Arizona Senator John McCain was not left out of the article:

As for McCain, who has long prided himself on his straight-talking, take-it-or-leave-it style, he, too, has veered from some of his past positions.

He has changed his mind on President Bush's tax cuts -- he had voted against them and opposed making them permanent; now he says they should be made permanent, and that not doing so would be a tax hike. He now calls himself a supporter of ethanol, the corn-based fuel important to Iowans, despite blasting federal subsidies for it in the past as "highway robbery." And he's taken a slightly tougher line on illegal immigration.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Romney makes big inroads with lobbyists

In a column published this week, Republican presidential candidate and the party's leading fundraiser thus far, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is sharply critical of McCain-Feingold:

America has a rich history of protecting speech, and these protections draw on the unambiguous language of the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech." We step into dangerous territory when politicians start eviscerating our fundamental freedoms in the name of amorphous principles, like campaign finance reform. If I am elected President, a top priority will be to push for the repeal of this deeply-flawed measure, and restore the full freedom of political participation and expression to the American people.

Despite his obvious disdain for the current system under McCain-Feingold, Romney has used the current system well, taking a few pages from his supporter Matt Blunt's playbook...actually, the playbook he is using may belong to former Congressman Tom DeLay and Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt.

An examination of Federal Election Commission documents indicates most of Gov. Romney's big contributors were lobbyists or lobbyists' spouses. A quick check of contributions from the Washington, D. C. and Virginia areas alone, showed contributions from 28 lobbyists, who gave $71,500. He received more than $10,000 from Missouri lobbyists and their spouses, including Andrew Blunt, Tony Feather, and Harvey Tettlebaum. Feather, of course, has signed on with Gov. Romney's campaign.

Those contributing to the Romney campaign include:

-Elliott Stanton Berke, former general counsel for Tom DeLay, $2,300. Berke's wife also contributed $2,300.

-Gregg Hartley, former chief of staff to Roy Blunt, $2,300. Hartley's wife also chipped in with $2,300.

-Mark Isakowitz, Isakowitz of the lobbying firm of Fierce & Isakowitz, served as host for a Tom DeLay fundraiser on Nov. 17, 2005. His firm has major nationwide clients, but also represents the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Joplin Coalition, and Greene County. Isakowitz gave $2,300.

-Craig Fuller, former chief of staff to Vice President George H. W. Bush, now a powerful lobbyist with the Fuller Group, $2,100

-Andrew Maloney, former chief of staff for Tom DeLay, now a lobbyist, $2,300

-Roy Coffee, not the sheriff of the same name from "Bonanza," but a lobbyist with ties to disgraced former Congressman Bob Ney, $2,300

-Jim Murray of DCI Group LLC, a firm associated with Missouri lobbyist Tony Feather. DCI boasts of supplying third-party support for issues, which means creating basically fictitious grass roots group to support legislation wanted by powerful special interests. Murray gave $2,300.

-Lobbyists from the powerful Patton Boggs firm contributed $16,400.

Imagine how much money Romney might have received from these lobbyists if there was no McCain-Feingold in place.

Nexstar to unveil new website for KSNF, KODE

Nexstar Broadcasting has a new website in the works for KSNF and KODE and the prototype is already on line.

The website is a model that will be used for Nexstar stations across the country, and appears capable of cutting into the classified advertising revenue currently going to the Joplin Globe and to GateHouse Media's Big Nickel.

Judging from the few items on the prototype, Nexstar is shooting at having this site be a one-stop shopping center for news and advertising. Included in the mix will be a number of free classified listings, which are designed to increase traffic to the website and make it much more attractive to larger advertisers.

The big ads will be limited, also making them more attractive, and enabling Nexstar to charge a premium price.

Senator hides debt to gambling interests under guise of scholarship fund

SB 430 sounds like something any reasonable Missourian could support.
In the first place, it is titled "Creates the Start Smart Scholarship Program" and who can argue with scholarships?
The bill summary reads:

This act establishes the Smart Start Scholarship Program. The program will offer grants for educational expenses incurred while attending a qualifying institution for no more than two academic years to each person who attends a Missouri high school for three consecutive academic years immediately prior to being graduated from the institution, and who, within two calendar years from the date of graduation, applies for a grant under this act.

It's at the bottom of the summary that the true objective of Sen. Charlie Shields' bill comes into play:

Repeals the maximum loss limit of five hundred dollars per individual player per gambling excursion;

This repeal is something that Missouri gambling interests have wanted ever since the state had the wisdom to put it into place when gambling was legalized here to protect families from being devastated by the acts of problem gamblers. Obviously, such a limit cuts into the casinos' profits.

And Charlie Shields, a St. Joseph Republican, always has the best interests of the casinos at heart.

During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.

That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog over the last three years, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.

Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.

I suspect more contributions from casino interests can be found in the Shields for Pro Tem Committee, but that name has been changed since the beginning of the calendar year, and once committee names have been changed, the inadequate search system on the Missouri Ethics Commission website does not allow a searches under the former name. Again, I ask for anyone with information about what that committee has been called, or access to the committee's disclosure reports, to contact me.
The perfected bill was approved 17-16 with area senators Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Norma Champion, R-Springfield, voting to remove the loss limits, and senators Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, and Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, voting no.

The bill is scheduled to have its final Senate vote Monday.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Former KODE anchor leaves Dayton TV job

Michelle Kingsfield, who was weekday anchor at KODE News in the late 1990s, has resigned her position at WRFT and WKEF in Dayton, Ohio, according to an article in the April 16 Dayton Daily News:

Kingsfield will stay in the Dayton area and work with charities including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

"I'm still going to continue to see a lot of people and be involved in the community, so from that perspective it made it a little bit easier to say goodbye," she said.

Kingsfield has been in remission for more than two years after being diagnosed in 2004 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Kingsfield plans to spend time with her family and continue her involvement in a professional speaking circuit.

"I'm also in the process of writing a book about my experience," she said.

The following information about Ms. Kingsfield is featured on the Speakers on Healthcare website:

When she was 14 weeks pregnant with her second son, Michelle Kingsfield was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She not only shared the shocking news with family and friends, she also shared it with the thousands of people who watch her during the week on the news in Dayton, Ohio where she's a Main Anchor for the FOX and ABC affiliates.

The local newspaper, The Dayton Daily News, followed Kingsfield's amazing story, detailing her incredible strength and inspiration as she went through six rounds of intense chemo therapy and then delivered a healthy baby boy.

Kingsfield also shared her challenges with the nation during two appearances on "Good Morning America." In March 2005, Charlie Gibson did a story on her and then interviewed her via satellite to talk about being pregnant with cancer, her positive attitude fighting the disease, and her determination to deliver a healthy baby. In June 2005, Kingsfield flew to New York with her family to appear again on "Good Morning America" for a follow-up story with her "miracle son" Robert, who was just seven weeks old. Kingsfield shared some of the tough choices she encountered, her unwavering will to survive, as well as the added difficulties of being pregnant during her treatments.

In the March 2006 edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, Kingsfield authored a story on her struggle and survival with cancer while being in the public eye. She explained how food played a big role in her emotional and physical healing in a segment called "Dish Fulfillment."

Goodman: Earlier school starting date was intended to help families

Sen. Jack Goodman's bill to require Missouri schools to open later has zipped through the Missouri House this week and appears well on the way to becoming law.
An article in today's Columbia Tribune notes that the law won't require much of a change for Missouri school boards, who simply have to publicize the starting date will be discussed at an open hearing, hold the hearing, then approve an earlier starting date by a majority vote.
What I find fascinating is Goodman's insistence that his reasons for proposing the bill have nothing whatsoever to do with the larger number of Branson tourism special interests who are in his district, and who have donated heavily to his campaign:

Opponents earlier this year questioned Goodman’s motives for sponsoring the bill. 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

This morning, Goodman said he drafted the bill because constituents have expressed concerns that schools start too early.

"Kids aren't able to concentrate because it’s too hot," he said. "In August, schools are closing midday because the heat is too much. Obviously, that’s not productive."

More information about Goodman's Branson support can be found in the Dec. 3, 2006 Turner Report.

Jetton absolutely right on gambling bill

Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to repeal the loss limits at Missouri casinos sailed through the Senate, but it appears to be in for some rough sledding in the House.
Speaker of the House Rod Jetton has problems with the repeal, which would encourage problem gamblers to lose far more money than they can afford:

Jetton said he likes the idea of more college scholarships for younger Missourians. But he said he was still put off by ending the loss limits — a move gambling critics say curbs the so-called “sucker factor."

“Yes, I love the scholarship part of that bill. I think that would be wonderful for the kids of Missouri. I would love to try and get that accomplished,” Jetton said. “Even with this MOHELA talk, this is where I wanted to go. Now the governor was very cooperative in putting $50 million extra in scholar-ships this year, which I thought was a great investment. I’m not as big on tax increases, but you know, I guess I could suffer through a tax increase if it would go through that scholarship program. But you know, loss limits again — I think more harm comes from removing them.”

The post on Jason Rosenbaum's Columbia Tribune political blog notes that the bill's proponents say that leaving the loss limits in place encourages gamblers to go to other states.

It's bad enough that the state of Missouri is in the gambling business at all. Let's at least leave the loss limits in place and maintain a semblance of decency.

Nodler announces support for Romney

Add Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, to the growing list of Missouri politicians jumping on the Romney for President bandwagon, announcing it at the same time as the former Massachusetts governor received endorsements from Governor Matt Blunt and Speaker of the House Rod Jetton:

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, also tossed in his endorsement, praising Romney’s role in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Nodler said Romney salvaged the reputation of the games, ranking his role as one of the greatest examples of executive leadership in the 20th Century.

May 24 hearing may conclude O'Sullivan bankruptcy case

A decision on O'Sullivan Industries' request for a final decree in its bankruptcy case is likely to be delivered during a 10 a.m. May 24 hearing in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
If the court issues that order, all remaining claims against the company would be closed.

May 25 arraignment set for Salva

It looks as if Rep. Ray Salva, D-Independence, has pushed the arraignment date on a drunk driving charge back so it does not take place during the current legislative session.
Cole County Circuit Court records indicate Salva's arraignment, initially scheduled for March 27, then moved to April 24, has been changed again, this time to 10 a.m. May 25.
Salva, 59, was arrested Feb. 21 by the Cole County Sheriff's Department. News accounts indicate he was returning from an event at the capitol when he was stopped.

Article bemoans lack of investigative reporting

In an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, author Greg Palast decries the lack of true investigative reporting in the United States:

One of the biggest disincentives to doing investigative journalism is that it jeopardizes future access to politicians and corporate elite. During the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, the testimony of Judith Miller and other U.S. journalists about the confidences they were willing to keep in order to maintain access seemed to me sadly illuminating.

Expose the critters and the door is slammed. That's not a price many American journalists are willing to pay.

It's different in Britain. After the 2000 election, when Harris' lawyer refused to respond to our evidence, my BBC producer made sure I chased him down the hall waving the damning documents. That's one sure way to end "access."

Reporters in Britain must adhere to extraordinarily strict standards of accuracy because there is no Bill of Rights, no "freedom of the press" to provide cover against lawsuits. Further, the British government fines reporters who make false accusations and jails others who reveal "official secrets."

I've long argued that Britain needs a 1st Amendment right to press freedom. It could, of course, borrow ours. We don't use it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moark division finally earning keep for Land O'Lakes

Land O'Lakes layer egg division, Moark, bounced back from a $6.3 million deficit in the first quarter of 2006 to post a $4.2 million profit in the first quarter of 2007. according to a news release posted today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earnings were significantly improved in the company’s Layers/Shell Eggs business, conducted through its MoArk LLC subsidiary. For the quarter, Land O’Lakes reported $4.2 million in pretax earnings in Shell Eggs, compared to a $6.3 million pretax loss for the same period one year ago. Sales for the quarter were $120 million, up $12 million from the first quarter of 2006.
Company officials indicated stronger markets (pricing); improved volumes (up 11 percent over the first quarter of 2006); effective cost control; and volume growth in higher-margin branded and specialty eggs. Average shell egg prices were $1.06/dozen over the first quarter versus 77-cents/dozen for the first quarter of 2006. This market improvement was somewhat offset by an 11-cents/dozen increase in feed costs (first quarter 2007 over first quarter 2006).

Moark, of course, is a major employer in Neosho.

Ice storm maintenance costs top $5 million for Empire District Electric; restoration costs top $29 million

Joplin based Empire District Electric Company suffered a $5 million plus hit due to maintenance costs during the January ice storm, according to a news release filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

The electric maintenance cost increase of $5.2 million noted was mostly due to the impact of the January 2007 ice storm. Costs associated with the restoration effort due to the ice storm were approximately $29.0 million, of which $18.0 million was capitalized as additions to the Company's utility plant. Approximately $4.4 million was recorded as maintenance expense in the first quarter and approximately $6.5 million was deferred as a regulatory asset as the Company believes it is probable that these costs will be recoverable in future electric rate cases.

That would certainly sound like Empire's customers should be prepared to pay the price.

Despite the January ice storm, Empire recorded earnings more than three times higher than those posted in the first quarter of 2006:

The Company reported consolidated earnings for the first quarter of 2007 of $4.5 million, or $0.15 per share, compared with earnings in the same quarter of 2006 of $1.6 million, or $0.06 per share. Earnings for the twelve months ended March 31, 2007 were $42.2 million, or $1.44 per share. This compares to earnings of $25.6 million, or $0.99 per share, for the twelve months ended March 31, 2006. The Company issued approximately 3.8 million shares of common stock in June of 2006 which caused a dilutive effect to earnings per share of $0.02 and $0.21 for the first quarter and twelve-month periods, respectively.

Nexstar Broadcasting boss earns $2.1 million plus

Perry Sook, CEO of Nexstar Broadcasting, earned $2.1 million in 2006, according to a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sook received a base salary of $674,519, a $900,000 bonus, $566,656 in stock option awards, and $18,507 in "all other compensation," according to the statement.
The other compensation includes $9,633 described as "personal benefits," $6,152 in insurance premiums, and $2,722 put into his retirement plan.
Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield, and manages KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield, which are technically owned by Mission Broadcasting.

MAP tests conclude at Joplin

Finally, the long ordeal is over. MAP tests at South Middle School lasted five days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week and Tuesday and Wednesday this week. During the first week, I administered math tests to my first hour communication arts class, while this week, I roamed through the six eighth grade testing sites as reading/communication arts tests were given.

It was easy to see one of the basic flaws in No Child Left Behind. As I roamed through the rooms, I saw one student who was protesting a dress code decision she did not like by writing one sentence over and over to each answer on her test. Fortunately, she did change her mind before the testing session was done, but how easy it would have been for one dress code decision to bring down the school's scores.

Other situations were not so happily resolved. One student, angered by the teacher who was administering the test, refused to write more than one sentence on a writing assignment that required considerably more.

I saw students who appeared to have had little or no sleep and I suspect there were one or two, or perhaps more, who might have used some kind of illegal substance the previous evening. (No evidence, but the odds would indicate that as a strong possibility.)

While No Child Left Behind is a laudable goal, as long as you have students who do not care, students whose parents do not care and provide no backup to the teachers, and as long as students have to deal with home lives that include poverty, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and all kinds of entertainment that diverts them from education, you will never reach a time when no child is left behind.


I never saw anyone follow up on this, but in the Sept. 3, 2006, Turner Report, I pointed out some flaws in Missouri MAP testing, none of which have ever been investigated as far as I can tell:

Joplin's score of students reaching the proficient level (those scoring on the top two levels of the test) was 41.7 percent. Scores from Joplin-area schools I checked ranged from 50.2 at Webb City and 47.4 at my old high school, East Newton, at the top end of the scale to 25.8 at Sarcoxie and 28.5 at Golden City at the bottom.
As I was examining the test scores on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, I happened across Willard's score, one I checked out because that is the school system where my nieces attend though neither is in eighth grade. Willard had a 54.3.
At that point, I checked the Springfield schools...56.6...and I wondered if a pattern was beginning to emerge. I kept checking...Republic 44.6, Nixa 59.0, Strafford 53.6, Ozark 45.2, Fair Grove 50.6, Clever 51.3, Ash Grove 47.1.
I looked back at the scores for this part of the state:
Joplin 41.7, Webb City 50.3, Seneca 45.2, Neosho 41.0, McDonald County 35.2, Lamar 41.7, Jasper 36.5, East Newton 47.4, Carl Junction 42.6, Carthage 37.0, Sarcoxie 25.8, Pierce City 32.4.
What are the odds of six of the nine Springfield-area schools I checked having higher scores than the top school district in the Joplin area? What are the odds of the bottom school on that list scoring almost 20 percentage points above the bottom score in the Joplin area?
The top five schools in the Springfield area averaged 54.9, while the top five schools in the Joplin area averaged 45.4, 9.5 percent lower.

Undoubtedly, grading systems were applied differently in these two areas and who knows how they were handled elsewhere?

Blunt, Jetton to endorse Romney for president

Media coverage of political campaigning continues to mystify me after all of these years.
KY3 Political Blog reports Governor Matt Blunt and Speaker of the House Rod Jetton will endorse the presidential candidacy of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney today.
On Wednesday, the networks and cable news channels were offering coverage of Arizona Senator John McCain's announcement that he will run for president.

If memory serves me correctly, and in this case, it definitely does, Sen. McCain has been running for president for the past few years. Why offer such heavy coverage of a so-called official announcement?

As for Blunt's endorsement of Romney, I seem to recall that he was at the kickoff for Romney in Massachusetts, manning the phone lines and calling all of his well-heeled connections to raise money. If that is not an endorsement of Romney's candidacy, I hate to think what our governor will have to do today to prove his loyalty.

It's time we stopped offering coverage of these non-events and actually offer some coverage of these candidates' views and the source of their campaign funding.

Senate Education Committee begins discussion of Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act

Sen. Gary Nodler's Education Committee began discussions on the Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act Wednesday.
The act is named after the Missouri State University student whose professor required her and other students to write letters to the Missouri General Assembly supporting gay adoption.
Though the university handled the situation quickly, settling a lawsuit filed by Miss Brooker, Rep. Jane Cunningham offered this bill, which will require university and college officials to produce reams of paperwork to show they are providing "intellectual diversity:"

David Robinson, a history professor at Truman State University, said 28 other states have introduced bills similar to Cunningham's and all have been defeated.

"Legislation would stop the free market of ideas and rifle debate," Robinson said.

But Cunningham said this would encourage debate and stop students from being afraid to speak against their professor’s opinions. She added that 51 percent of students at MU and MSU said they had to agree with a professor to get a good grade.

Mesa to offer expanded airline services out of Joplin

On Wednesday, Mesa Airlines announced it will provide more services out of the Joplin Airport and other airports it serves.

According to an article in the Grand Island, Nebraska, Independent, Mesa announced a codeshare agreement with Midwest Airlines:

The agreement means that passengers from Grand Island will be able to buy a single ticket to fly from Grand Island into Kansas City, Mo., to connect with Midwest's 44 daily departures there.

Those departures include 17 nonstop destinations to places such as Washington, D.C.-National, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New York-LaGuardia and Los Angeles.

"With the addition of the Midwest Airlines codeshare ... we now offer not only great local fares to Kansas City but great new connecting opportunities with Midwest Airlines," Mesa spokesman Jeffrey Hartz said.

The agreement affects not only the Mesa flights from Grand Island but also those from Columbia/Jefferson City, Mo.; Joplin, Mo.; Kirksville, Mo.; McCook; and Omaha.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More about GateHouse Media

Last week's post about GateHouse Media's firing of Carthage Press General Manager and Managing Editor Ron Graber and Associate Editor Michael Davison has become a continuing source of comments, with 46 at last count.

The comments have been critical of everyone from Graber and Davison to GateHouse Media, to Rick Rogers, John Hacker, Chip Watson, and as usual, me.

I have grown used to people who comment on this blog making negative references about everything from my teaching ability (which not one of them knows anything about) to my reporting ability, to my motivation for writing this blog. One childish commenter was so upset that I deleted his post which included an obscenity, that he wrote an even more childish response.

One thing seems undeniable. Even though all of the national reports say newspapers are dying, the people who are interested in them are passionate about that interest. Count me among that group. I have loved newspapers since my dad, driving a truck for the Neosho Nurseries at the time, used to bring me copies of the Tulsa World, the Daily Oklahoman, and the Kansas City Star. We always subscribed to the Joplin Globe and the Neosho Daily News, and I used to pay 15 cents every afternoon to Alan Oxendine for a copy of the Joplin News-Herald.
Every afternoon, after school, I sat in the back of Gum Mercantile with my friends, drinking a Doctor Pepper, as we waited for the car to arrive with the Neosho Daily. Newspapers were important, they're still important, but the times have changed and so have the newspapers.

One of those who commented last week said the Press has been declining for years, and that is absolutely true, but that was not the way it was before American Publishing (later Liberty Group Publishing, later GateHouse Media) took over. When that happened, The Press had a larger circulation and a better newspaper than the Neosho Daily and it remained that way up until my last day at The Press in May 1999.

But the moves that eventually cost The Press much of its support in the community had already started while I was there. I wrote about it in the July 14, 2004, Turner Report:

A page one story in The Carthage Press tonight dealt with The Press' purchase of the building that used to house Honey's Restaurant on Central Avenue. The article saddened me.
It's not that I'm that connected with the present Press building, though I have plenty of good memories of my nearly 10 years there, the final five and a half as the managing editor. The reason behind that move is what is depressing.
The Press is currently located in a three-story building at 527 S. Main. The building is far too large for the newspaper's needs...primarily because the newspaper has been gutted by Liberty Group Publishing, the company that owns The Press, the Neosho Daily News and The Big Nickel.
About six years ago, after Liberty bought the newspaper from Thomson, the company decided it could save money by pulling out the press, selling it, and sending the paper 25 miles to Neosho to be printed. Sure, it improved the company's bottom line, and it improved the Neosho Daily's bottom line, but it cost The Press plenty. The Press was printing nearly every high school newspaper in the area at that time, as well as a few small-town weeklies. Also, the sense of ownership a town has about a newspaper is diminished when it is printed somewhere else. Those things were sacrificed for the bottom line. Also sacrificed were the jobs of the three people who ran the press, including one who had been there for nearly three decades. Chalk another one up to progress.
I didn't know until early last month that there is no longer a composing room at Carthage. That, too, is also done at Neosho now. These steps have saved the company money and improved the bottom line, but they have forced artificially early deadlines on The Press, which can no longer deal with any kind of breaking news in the morning. That doesn't appear to be a problem that bothers anyone connected with Liberty.
Whatever happened to a newspaper being in the business of providing a public service?

That public service aspect of newspapers, like the importance of the medium, may soon exist only in memory.

Neosho Daily: Snow days bill screwed up by legislature, joint committee to work out problems

In an article in today's Neosho Daily News, new Managing Editor John Ford writes about the latest development in the ever-winding road being traveled by Rep. B. J. Marsh's bill to forgive school days missed during the January ice storm.
Apparently, eagle-eyed Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, found an error in the wording of the bill, which would have prevented the Joplin R-8 School District from taking any of the missed day off its calendar. Rep. Kevin Wilson, one of the bill's co-sponsors, explained the problem in a telephone interview with Ford:

According to Wilson, it was there that a drafting error was discovered by state Sen. Gary Nodler. Wilson said the initial language of the bill contained an exclusion for the Nixa school district.

"On bills, you can't just exclude a school district, you have to give a description of the district," Wilson said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon with the Daily News. "The description also fit Joplin, and Joplin wanted to use it."

Wilson said when the error was discovered, the measure was added as an amendment to a Senate tourism bill, Senate Bill 376.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the bill was headed into conference, with members expected to meet today. After that, the bill will again be presented to the House and Senate.

"The way it's written could end all of the unintentional confusion," Wilson said. "I haven't heard any opposition. I expect it to be done Thursday."

I hope someone lets the legislators know that May begins next week.

Information needed on Shields for Pro Tem Committee

If any readers have the information on what the new name of the campaign committee formerly known as Shields for Pro Tem is, please leave the information in the comment section to this post.
Two e-mails I sent to the Missouri Ethics Commission trying to uncover this information went unanswered. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Remembering the work of David Halberstam

One of the things I have enjoyed most over the past three decades has been the work of author David Halberstam, who died earlier this week in an automobile accident in California.
The first book Of his I came across was The Powers That Be, his examination of the modern media, with a particular emphasis on CBS, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Time Magazine.
His The Best and the Brightest offered the definitive look of how the U. S. became mired in Vietnam.
But Halberstam's works was not limited to typical, serious non-fiction topics. He also wrote some of the best non-fiction sports books of the past several decades, including The Breaks of the Game, which examined an NBA season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Summer of 49, which detailed a pennant race between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, The Friends (I believe that was the title), which told of former Red Sox Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr taking a trip to Florida to see Ted Williams before he died, and the book I enjoyed most of all, October 1964, which told the story of how the St. Louis Cardinals came from six games out with 11 to go to win the National League championship, then beat the heavily-favored Yankees in seven games in the World Series.
As I read Halberstam's book, the memories of sitting by the radio and listening to Harry Caray and Jack Buck describe those games came back. Halberstam was also able to get into the psyche of the sports heroes I had as a child, with memorable tales of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Bill White, Curt Flood, Mike Shannon, and other members of that Cardinal team, as well as Yankees Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford, among others.
I will miss seeing new Halberstam books arrive, but fortunately he left behind nearly two dozen books which will be read for generations to come.

Office of Special Counsel to investigate U. S. attorney firings

The Office of Special Counsel will examine the firing of eight U. S. attorneys, according to an article in today's Washington Post.
Investigators will look into possible violations of the Hatch Act, which is designed to ensure federal resources are not used for political purposes.
The firings included Bud Cummins of Arkansas, who was in the middle of an investigation into the awarding of lucrative license fee offices in Missouri when he was given the heave-ho.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The case against Blunt administration laid out by blog

With nearly every mention of the scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, I have noted that one of them is Bud Cummins of Arkansas, who was in the middle of an investigation into Governor Matt Blunt's awarding of lucrative license fee offices and the franchising of those offices.
It has been a backburner story among the other more publicized firings, but it appears that is about to change. An article from BradBlog connects the dots with well-sourced accusations that Blunt apparently misspent $20,000 in campaign funds to cover personal legal fees, that Congressman Sam Graves and his brother, former U. S. Attorney Todd Graves are connected to the license fee scandal, and of the involvement of powerful law firm Lathrop & Gage. The post concludes by noting:

We hope the folks in both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees might find these pointers useful, even as we hope to offer more in the near future on all of this. "No Underlying Crime"? Only if someone slipped another new provision into the PATRIOT Act making it legal to politically interfere with ongoing criminal investigations.

Ironically, Cummins investigation was wrapped up in October of 2006, with no charges being brought. But we'd suggest there are more than enough grounds for a fresh investigation into the attempts to scuttle the original one in the first place, and the plan that led to Cummins having his legs cut out from under him mid-course.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blunt machine raises big bucks for Romney in southwest Missouri

It may be the only place left in Missouri where this holds true, but in the southwest corner of the state, Governor Matt Blunt is still a political powerhouse.
Evidence of that can be seen in examining presidential contributions from this area. According to Federal Election Commission documents, Blunt's preferred candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has raised $36,000 from southwest Missouri during the first quarter of 2007...more than all other presidential candidates combined.
The other candidates received $32,175, led by Arizona Sen. John McCain with $9,750 and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with $7,625. Other candidates and the amounts they received include: Rep. Ron Paul $250, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani $3,000; New York Sen. Hillary Clinton $2,000, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback $100, California Rep. Duncan Hunter $500; and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards $1,450. Contributors are listed below:

Mitt Romney- Jodee Herschend, Branson, $2,300; Peter Herschend, Branson, $2,300; Mrs. Randy Brown, Diamond, $2,100; Dorothy Farber, Neosho, $2,100; Rudy Farber, Neosho, $2,100; Mark Gardner, Springfield, $2,100; Valia Gardner, Springfield, $2,100; Glen Garrett, Purdy, $2,100; Sharon Garrett, Purdy, $2,100; James Hackney, Carl Junction, $2,100; Leigh Ann Hackney, Springfield, $2,100; Jerry Hall, Monett, $2,100; Patricia Hall, Monett, $2,100; Robert Plaster, Lebanon, $2,100; Mary Jean Plaster, Lebanon, $2,100; Jean Willard, Carl Junction, $2,100; James Combs, Bradleyville, $2,000

John McCain- Andy Williams, Branson, $4,600; Debbie Williams, Branson, $4,600; Bryna Justice, Springfield, $250; Robert Wooldridge, Springfield, $300

Rudy Giuliani- Richard Davidson, Neosho, $1,000; Rudy Farber, Neosho, $500; Eloise Ragland, Neosho, @50; Ronald Neville, Springfield, $500; Christopher Varisco, Branson, $500; Chris Fuldner, Monett, $250

Sam Brownback- Vera Pember, Springfield, $100

Duncan Hunter- Douglas Young, Webb City, $500

John Edwards- Robert Baird, Springfield, $500; Phillip Roberts, Monett, $700; Constance Fine, Springfield, $250

Barack Obama- Robert Bone, Cassville, $2,300; Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, Branson, $2,000; John Joslyn, Branson, $2,000; Margo Reid, Nixa, $500; Christina Fugett, Springfield, $300; James Gammill, Nixa, @50; Jonathan Lee, Springfield, $275

Hillary Clinton- Ron Campbell, Nixa, $1,000; Sam Hamra, Springfield, $1,000

Republican candidates received $49,600, while Democratic candidates picked up $11,075.

(Note: It appears I overlooked a couple of Branson contributions for Romney, which bring up the total to at least $1,500 to his total, making it $37,500.)

Farbers put $4,200 into Romney candidacy

You can add another $4,200 to the money contributed by Neosho banker and newly-minted State Highway Commission member Rudy Farber and his wife, Dorothy.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) documents indicate the Farbers chipped in with $2,100 apiece to Governor Matt Blunt's favorite presidential candidate on Jan. 30.
As noted earlier in The Turner Report, Farber, chairman of the board of Community Bank and Trust, contributed $50,000 to Governor Blunt's campaign on March 4, just two weeks before Blunt nominated him to serve on the Highway Commission. The Senate approved Farber's nomination Thursday.

Goodman's "Castle Doctrine" bill approved by committee

Sen. Jack Goodman's version of the so-called "Castle Doctrine" (i.e. Frontier Justice) bill which would give Missourians the right to blast away at people entering their property, was approved by the House Rules Committee today.

SB 62, which is being handled in the House by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, Joplin, who introduced a similar bill which has been approved and is in the Senate now, offers Missourians a right to defend their properties and their lives...rights which they already have.

Though Goodman, a Mount Vernon Republican, and Mrs. Ruestman have said this bill is absolutely necessary to prevent lawsuits against those who do protect themselves, neither has cited one incident in which this kind of lawsuit has ever occurred. In fact, Goodman as much as told KY3 political reporter David Catanese that it has not been a problem. This segment from Catanese's blog was quoted in the March 14 Turner Report:

Is this a widespread problem?
"There have been not a lot of cases, but there have been some cases in Missouri of people who were victims of home intruders, being sued as a result of injuries they inflicted defending themselves," Goodman said. "Not a lot of cases, but some."

Has this happened around here?
"Not in this immediate area that I'm aware of, but they have been in the state of Missouri," Goodman said.

So far, neither Goodman nor Mrs. Ruestman has provided any evidence that this law is necessary. I doubt if such evidence exists.

Committee approves House version of independent candidate bill

The House version of Sen. Gary Nodler's bill to make it more difficult than it already is for independent candidates to mount a challenge to incumbents received a "Do pass" designation from the House Financial, Governmental Organizations, and Elections Committee today.
It should be mentioned the committee chairman is Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, who faced a stiff challenge from indepdendent Michael Holzknecht in 2006.
HB 894, sponsored by Rep. Ted Hoskins, D-St. Louis, requires independent candidates to have to file at the same time as candidates of Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties, even though these candidates do not have to go through primaries (the main reason for the early filing date) and already have the added burden of having to gather signatures just to get on the ballot.
The bill is essentially the same as SB 409, proposed by Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, who ended up having to spend a considerable amount of his campaign warchest when he was challenged by independent Kim Wright of Joplin last year. Nodler's bill was co-sponsored by Scott and was placed in Scott's committee, where, of course, it received a "do pass" recommendation.

When there is so many important items that our state legislators need to be working on, it seems almost beyond belief that they are spending time with this spiteful bill, which is just designed to make things easier for the Democrats and Republicans, who already have access to more money and organization than independents.

Appellate court approved $4 million judgment against Empire District Electric

The Southern District Court of Appeals today approved a $4 million judgment against Empire District Electric Company of Joplin in connection with a 1995 accident in which a construction worker received serious injuries after coming into contact with live wires.
The court threw out an award of $2 million plus in pre-judgment interest.
A Jasper County jury found in favor of Ed English during an October 2005 trial. According to the opinion, English was electrocuted "when the scaffolding he was holding inadvertently contacted an energized 69,000 volt power line, owned and maintained by (Empire), at the Ramey's Supermarket in Webb City, Missouri."

The opinion continued:

The evidence indicated that in the ten-year period before this incident, Appellant acknowledged numerous accidental contacts with its electrical lines, including contacts causing six deaths and ten serious injuries, as well as thirty-two power line "hits" and three hundred thirty "close calls." Almost all of these accidental contacts or "hits" occurred at construction sites. Appellant's Director of Commercial Operations had investigated more than ten accident scenes involving the same kind of electrical hits. There was also testimony from Appellant's Director of Engineering and corporate representative that one such accident, also involving a forklift, occurred less than two months before English's incident.
The jury heard evidence that, unlike other hazards, electricity is an invisible and undetectable danger. Human factors studies have born out that power lines are difficult to see as, depending upon sky and lighting conditions, power lines are known to fade into the background and become less visible to those on the ground nearby. There are three recognized measures that can be implemented to protect against the hazard of accidental contact: eliminate the hazard, guard against the hazard, or warn of it.
There was testimony that Appellant knew that serious injuries and deaths often occur during accidental contact because workers often have trouble judging their distance to overhead power lines, even when they are trying to be careful. That knowledge came from various sources including government bulletins from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ("NIOSH"). The bulletins reminded Appellant that many contractors and construction workers were unaware and may not understand the danger of contacting uninsulated power lines with scaffolding, cranes and other construction equipment. NIOSH recommended that information be given to contractors regarding these dangers and even urged electric utility companies to distribute NIOSH's recommendations on the hazards of working around energized lines.

Empire's attorneys tried to have the judgment overturned with a claim that English had been drinking before the accident, but the judges ruled that while there was evidence he had been drinking (his BAC was .05) there was no evidence that the drinking had anything to do with the accident.

Georgia company asks bankruptcy court to order O'Sullivan to pay

It appears Missouri companies are not the only ones waiting to be paid by management at O'Sullivan Industries as the company enters its final days of existence.
Documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia indicate a temporary staffing company, Randstand InHouse Services, Atlanta, is owed $26,049.31. The company is a non-secured creditor and is asking the court to allow O'Sullivan Industries to pay the money.

Sentencing hearing set for Memorial Middle School shooter's father

Sentencing hearing for Gregory White, Joplin, who pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to federal weapons charges, is set for 10 a.m. Friday, May 4, in Springfield, according to a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
White, the father of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, was charged with violating federal weapons laws which prevent him from owning firearms since he has been convicted on two felony charges.

A hearing on a defense request to put the younger White's case in juvenile court will be held June 15 in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Thomas Gregory White, 14, a former seventh grader at Memorial, has been charged as an adult with two counts of assault, and one count each of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape, in connection with the Oct. 9 incident in which he took a gun into the school, aimed it at school officials and fired it into a ceiling. According to police reports, his attempts at firing the gun again were thwarted when the weapon jams.

Ball introduced in Carthage Press column

Former Neosho Daily News Managing Editor Buzz Ball introduced himself to readers at his new newspaper, The Carthage Press, in a column in Sunday's edition. (I would provide a link, but as far as I can tell, it has not been posted on the newspaper's website.)

In the column, Ball talked about his background and about what he wanted to see for The Press:

"My goals for The Carthage Press are quite simple: To be accurate, timely, local, respected and trusted. Sounds like simple goals, but maintaining them is the difficult part. But we cannot become the community newspaper that you deserve just by ourselves. It takes a team effort from the Press staff and our readers. We need to know what you want to read in your newspaper. We need to know what is happening. With just a four-person news staff, we cannot be everywhere at the same time.
John Ford, the new managing editor in Neosho, said it best: 'If it's news to you, it's news to us.' "

You might want to look that one over, Buzz. That can be taken more than one way.

The Sunday edition also included something Press readers will likely see many times over in weeks and months to come: Every page one article has John Hacker's byline.

Ball also says he wants to "become a Carthagenian or a Carthage-ite or whatever you call yourselves."

The word is Carthaginian. Unfortunately for Buzz, there was a time when a large number of people who worked at The Press could have told them that, but GateHouse (formerly Liberty Group Publishing) has neatly removed nearly all that is Carthage from the newspaper, as it fired workers to centralize operations in Neosho, and removed assets to improve the bottom line at Neosho.

Buzz has his work cut out for him.

Most unlimited contributions going to Blunt, Nixon

Another of the flaws of Missouri's new wave of unlimited campaign contributions has been shown during the first reports, according to an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
While the money is pouring into the coffers of Governor Matt Blunt and his challenger, Attorney General Jay Nixon, lower level candidates and political parties are receiving less. And, as you might expect, there are concerns that with that much money coming from a few sources, the voice of the average voter is going to be lost (you would have thought people would have seen that one coming):

Blunt's report shows that he received a whopping $3 million from about 500 donors during the past six months, while Nixon raised $1.3 million from roughly 2,000 contributors. Dozens of their donors gave $5,000 or more, and eight of Blunt's contributors wrote $100,000 checks. Advertisement

But the rest of the state's top officeholders or candidates were, with few exceptions, left with the scraps.

All of the campaign contributions for the top 14 of Missouri's other statewide officeholders, legislative leaders and declared statewide candidates totaled less than $1 million. And little of that money came from any of the top donors to Blunt or Nixon.

"The governor's race is sucking up most of the cash," said local Republican consultant Paul Zemitzsch

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Devil's Messenger signing goes well

It wasn't quite the success that the October 2005 signing for Small Town News was, but Saturday's signing for my novel Devil's Messenger at Hastings Books, Music and Video in Joplin went well. My understanding is that it was the second most successful book signing in the store's history, following the Small Town News signing.
As always, it was a pleasure to see a mix of folks ranging from current and former students and colleagues to old friends from the newspaper days and friends from the East Newton High School days.
I had an opportunity to talk with former Carthage Press General Manager and Managing Editor Ron Graber, who is upbeat despite the shabby way he was treated by GateHouse Media this week. I have no doubt Ron will wind up benefiting from this in the long run, and maybe even in the near future.
Thanks as always to my publicity director and former student at Diamond Middle School Michelle Nickolaisen, who helped lay the groundwork for the event and took photos, which will soon be available on this site and on the Devil's Messenger website.
And thanks to the staff at Hastings, which was extremely helpful and helped make the day a success.
For those who were unable to make the signing and wish to receive an autographed copy of Devil's Messenger, please contact me or Hastings, or check out the information at the book's website, and we will be sure to accommodate you.

(Photo: Michelle Nickolaisen and Alicia Bradley take a rare break during the Devil's Messenger signing.)

Montana, Washington battling Real ID law

Montana and Washington are leading the fight against federal Real ID requirements that force Americans to prove they are Americans before they can receive driver's licenses, according to an article from

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) signed legislation Tuesday (April 17) that bans the state's Motor Vehicle Division from enforcing the national rules, which set uniform security features for driver’s licenses and require states to verify the identity of all driver’s license applicants.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed a bill Wednesday (April 18) barring that state from complying unless the federal government comes up with an extra $250 million to cover the state's expenses. The law also gives Washington's attorney general the right to challenge Real ID in court.

Montana's Schweitzer complained that the Real ID law is another way for the federal government to stomp on residents' personal privacy. "Montanans don’t want the federal agents listening to their phone conversations, rifling through their papers, checking on what books they read and monitoring where they go and when. We think they ought to mind their own business," he said in a written statement.

Gregoire in a statement said the Real ID Act "is another unfunded mandate from the federal government and, even worse, it doesn’t protect the privacy of the citizens of Washington."

Our legislators in Missouri should have been among the first to challenge this law, which requires that people who have been receiving driver's licenses for decades have to provide a birth certificate to show they are legally in this country. Americans should not have to prove they are Americans and please do not give me the nonsense about how people who have nothing to fear should not be concerned with having to show ID.

This is not legislation that protects us one bit. All it does is increase the cost of government and make money for people who specialize in providing voter IDs for driver's license or for voters. As I noted in the May 12, 2006, Turner Report:

Undoubtedly, companies will be vying to provide these voter IDs and one of the companies that stands a good chance of landing the state contract is Austin, Texas-based BearingPoint. On March 21, BearingPoint, which describes itself as a "leading global management and technology consulting firm," announced a teaming with Colorado-based Archon Technologies to "jointly pursue opportunities to provide information technology solutions for vehicle registration, drivers licensing and revenue management services to state, provincial, territorial and local motor vehicle departments in the United States and Canada."
The BearingPoint news release continued, " 'By aligning our business processes and information systems with Archon, BearingPoint will be better able to provide states with cost effective solutions to comply with the federally-mandated Real ID Act,' said Gary Miglicco, vice president for BearingPoint’s National Motor Vehicle Solutions Practice.
'Together, our two firms will review potential opportunities and work together to provide clients with integrated solutions that will allow them to upgrade their current systems and deliver results to citizens and other key constituents in an accelerated time frame.' Miglicco said the companies have already identified nearly a dozen potential market opportunities for 2006 and beyond."
Assuredly, Missouri is one of those markets since the following day, March 22, a Missouri lobbyist, Jay Reichard, filed documents with the Missouri Ethics Commission registering BearingPoint as a client. Reichard has some interesting connections. He shares a number of clients with another lobbyist, Andrew Blunt, younger brother of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, with most of those clients added to his list shortly after the governor took office.
Though Andrew Blunt is not listed as a lobbyist for BearingPoint (a wise move since the FBI is currently looking into the license fee operations in the state), there is little doubt that Blunt and Reichard are closely connected.

Reichard is still the registered lobbyist for Bearing Point. With the money to be made from these businesses is it any wonder that the politicians in the party which has always stood against government interference is willing to tolerate one intrusion after another? As usual, follow the money.

Sherwood: Media used by Giuliani, Blunt, during candidate's visit

KY3 reporter and blogger Michelle Sherwood offers a revealing glimpse at how politicians use the media. In an April 17 post, Ms. Sherwood describes the way the media was played by Giuliani and Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt when the former New York City mayor appeared at a Blunt fundraiser this week:

People paid to see Rudy Giuliani. I get that...but Roy Blunt's office sent out a press release to all the media, inviting them to attend. We were told that we could even have a one-on-one interview with Rudy. But instead, when we got there, Roy Blunt told the media that the one-one-one was off...that Rudy would be taking a few questions from the audience...but not from the media. He told the media that Giuliani wouldn't answer any questions because he didn't want it to become controversial.

Excuse me, huh?

We got used.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Politicians want media coverage, but naturally, they want to control it. It brings to mind the 1968 election when Richard Nixon took softball questions from audience members and from former University of Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson during a major election eve program. Media members were not allowed any access whatsoever.

I am also reminded of an incident in August 1992 at the Capital Plaza in Jefferson City at the victory party for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Webster. Since I was from the candidate's home town, I was told I would receive a one-on-one interview with him and would get 10 minutes.
Later that evening, Webster's aide Tony Feather of Sarcoxie told me I would only get five minutes. After that, it was, "Sorry, Randy, but it looks like you and the other newspaper reporters will have to interview him all at once."

Eventually, as I feared, we newspaper reporters were told we would not get to interview the attorney general at all. Then we watched as Webster went down a row of about a dozen television reporters, stopping to do one-on-one interviews with each reporter. One reporter, whom I believe was from a Columbia station, and who was standing barefooted on the hotel floor, climbed up on a chair and the dutiful candidate climbed up on a chair right beside her where she conducted the interview.

Of course, primary election night was about the last positive moment in Webster's campaign since he soon found himself inundated with the revelations about the Second Injury Fund (first raised by his primary opponent, Secretary of State Roy Blunt) that torpedoed his political aspirations and ended up with him serving time in prison.

As for the Giuliani incident, Ms. Sherwood rightly notes that there are many legitimate questions that the media could have asked and should have been allowed to ask him:

Secondly, controversial? Is it really too much to ask the former New York mayor what the heck he's doing in little-old Springfield? When Blunt introduced Giuliani, he said that the presidential-hopeful understood the needs and desires of Republican voters...but I beg to differ. For the most part, Mr. Giuliani holds non-traditional Republican views on issues like abortion, gay rights and gun control. So would it be too controversial to ask the guy why he thinks he can connect with the majority of Southwest Missourians??????? Can I get an AMEN?

News-Leader article explores decline and fall of O'Sullivan Industries

Lamar businesswoman Becky Maberry, O'Sullivan worker Donovan Taylor, and Lamar City Administrator Lynn Calton are among those interviewed in reporter Kathleen McLaughlin's account of the decline and fall of O'Sullivan Industries in today's Springfield News-Leader.

Foreign competition was just one of O'Sullivan's problems when it filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2005. By that time, the founding O'Sullivan family was no longer in control, and the new management had moved its headquarters to the Atlanta area.

O'Sullivan entered bankruptcy with $100 million in debt. The court approved debtor-in-possession financing, and the company emerged in April 2006.

Business continued to decline, and by the fall, the senior note holders, GoldenTree Asset Management and Wachovia bank, were in control, Britton, the plant manager, said.

GAO report to show nursing homes getting away with multiple violations

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, will issue a report this week showing that nursing homes are getting away with multiple, serious violations because they are only having their wrists slapped after each violation.
An article in today's New York Times examines that report, interesting leaving out one item: I see no mention of the incredible amount of money the nursing home industry pours into the campaign coffers of both Democratic and Republican candidates.
As usual, those who pay out the big bucks are treated with kid gloves and a respect that is not shown to the average citizen:

The Government Accountability Office said federal health officials hesitated to impose fines of more than $200 a day, in part because they believed that larger penalties "could bankrupt some homes." Fines are generally so small that nursing homes view them as a "cost of doing business," with "no more effect than a slap on the wrist," the report said.

In the rare cases when federal officials try to exclude a nursing home from Medicaid and Medicare, the home often avoids the penalty by making temporary improvements and then lapsing back into noncompliance, the investigators said.

Under federal policy, the government is supposed to take immediate enforcement action against nursing homes that repeatedly cause "actual harm" to patients. But the accountability office said "immediate sanctions are often not immediate" because the Bush administration gives homes a grace period.

As a result, "the immediate sanctions policy does not appear to deter homes from harming residents in the future," the report said, and "some homes with the worst compliance histories escape immediate sanctions."