Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transcript provided for Obama press conference on Rev. Wright

The press conference held by Sen. Barack Obama Tuesday regarding the continuing controversy with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright may turn out to be the turning point that leads Obama to the presidency, or it could end up being another stumble on the road to either a general election loss or even a loss to Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

The transcript of the press conference is featured below:

The following is a transcript of a press conference held by Senator Barack Obama in response to recent statements by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as provided by Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign and Federal News Service.

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Before I start taking questions I want to open it up with a couple of comments about what we saw and heard yesterday. I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am. That's what I believe. That's what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.

You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He's built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people. And what attracted me has always been their ministry's reach beyond the church walls.

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Let me just close by saying this: I -- we started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided, that, in fact, all across America people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past.

I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the country; that the only way we can deal with critical issues, like energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism, is if we are joined together. And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we had moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign. It is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think American stands for.

And I want to be very clear that moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks.

But what I do want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the American people, is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am.

And anybody who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who has seen what this campaign's about, I think, will understand that it is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.

Last point: I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign has never been about me. It's never been about Senator Clinton or John McCain. It's not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be talking about. And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage, for three or four consecutive days, in the midst of this major debate, is something that not only makes me angry but also saddens me.

So with that, let me take some questions.

Q: What are you going to do --

Q: Senator --

Q: Senator --

SEN. OBAMA: Yeah, go ahead.

Q: Why the change of tone from yesterday? When you spoke to us on the tarmac yesterday, you didn't have this sense of anger, outrage --

SEN. OBAMA: Yeah. I'll be honest with you: because I hadn't seen it yet.

Q: And that was the difference you --


Q: Had you heard the reports about the AIDS comment?

SEN. OBAMA: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was that he had given a performance. And I thought at the time that it would be sufficient simply to reiterate what I had said in Philadelphia. Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than just a -- it was more than just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that -- that -- that contradicts who I am and what I stand for. And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that -- that I am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the -- the commonality in all people.

And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan has -- has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs.


Q: Senator, what do you expect or what do you plan to do about this right now to further distance yourself, if you think you're going to do that? And does this say about your judgment to superdelegates, who are right trying to decide which Democratic nominee is better? Because your candidacy has been based on judgment, what does this say about it?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I had come to know over 20 years. I understand that -- I think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously, during the first stage of this controversy. I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted to defend himself.

I understand that, you know, he's gone through difficult times of late, and that he's leaving his ministry after many years. And so, you know, that may account for the change.

But the insensitivity and the outrageousness, of his statements and his performance in the question-and-answer period yesterday, I think, shocked me. It surprised me. As I said before, this is an individual who has built a very fine church and a church that is well- respected throughout Chicago.

During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted. And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church.

So you know, I think what it says is that, you know, I have not, you know, I did not run through -- run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years. But I don't think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

Q: What effect do you think this is going to have on your campaign?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, that's something that you guys will have to figure out. And you know, obviously we've got elections in four or five days. So we'll find out, you know, what impact it has.

But ultimately I think that the American people know that we have to do better than we're doing right now. I think that they believe in the ideas of this campaign.

I think they are convinced that special interest have dominated Washington too long. I think they are convinced that we've got to get beyond some of the same political games that we've been playing. I think they believe that we need to speak honestly and truthfully about how we're going to solve issues like energy or health care.

And I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people. And that's part of what, you know, going back to what you asked, Mike, about why I feel so strongly about this today.

You know, after seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard, for what the American people are going through and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems.

You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together.

And that's what we've been doing in this campaign. And, you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.

Q: Have you had a conversation with Reverend Wright and --


Q: What's going to happen if these distractions continue?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, the -- I want to use this press conference to make people absolutely clear that obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this. I don't think that he showed much concern for me. I don't -- more importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and with the American people.

And obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.

Q: I remember after the story -- when the story immediately broke, Trinity Church -- the current pastor kind of defended Reverend Wright. I'm wondering -- I don't know how they reacted to the latest, but I'm wondering if you continue planning on attending Trinity.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, the new pastor -- the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This -- I'll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss but because this has become such a spectacle.

And, you know, when I go to church it's not for spectacle. It's to pray and to find -- to find a stronger sense of faith. It's not to posture politically. It's not -- you know, it's not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And so -- you know, and I certainly don't want to provide a distraction for those who are worshipping at Trinity.

So as of this point, I'm a member of Trinity. I haven't had a discussion with Reverend Moss about it, so I can't tell you how he's reacting and how he's responding.

Okay? Katherine (sp)?

Q: Senator, I'm wondering -- to sort of follow on Jeff's question about you, know, why it's a little different now, have you heard from some of your supporters -- you know, you have some -- (off mike) -- supporters who expressed any alarm about what this might be doing to the campaign?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, the -- I mean, I don't think that it's that hard to figure out from -- if it was just a purely political perspective. You know, my reaction has more to do with what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make certain that people understand who I am.

In some ways, what Reverend Wright said yesterday directly contradicts everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how I was raised and the setting in which I was raised. It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically. It contradicts what I've said in my books. It's contradicts what I said my convention speech in 2004. It contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been saying on this campaign trail.

And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in America -- of which, you know, Reverend Wright is a part and we're all a part -- and try to make something constructive out of it. But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. All it was, was a bunch of rants that -- that aren't grounded in truth, and you know, I can't construct something positive out of that. I can understand it. I, you know, the -- you know, people do all sorts of things.

And as I said before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a -- a -- a leader in the South Side. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He provided, you know, valuable contributions to my family.

But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough. That's -- that's a show of disrespect to me. It's a -- it is also, I think, an insult to what we've been trying to do in this campaign.

Q: Senator, did you discuss with your wife, after having seen Reverend Wright -- (off mike) -- and what was her --

SEN. OBAMA: Yeah. No, she was similarly -- anger.


Q: Reverend Wright said that it was not an attack on him but an attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that?

And second of all, the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, you explained something about the anger, that feeds some of the sentiments in the church, in Philadelphia.

How important a strain is liberation theology in the black church? And why did you choose to attend a church that preached that?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, in terms of liberation theology, I'm not a theologian. So I think to some theologians, there might be some well-worked-out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation-theology.

I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I heard, and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches, there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness -- a social gospel.

So I think a lot of people would rather, rather than using a fancy word like that, simply talk about preaching the social gospel. And that -- there's nothing particularly odd about that. Dr. King obviously was the most prominent example of that kind of preaching.

But you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn't see this as a member of the church but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed, that you lose sight of what we have in common; that it overrides everything else; that we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens. Then it doesn't describe properly what I believe, in the power of faith, to overcome but also to bring people together.

Now, you had a first question, Joe, that I don't remember.

Q: Do you think --

SEN. OBAMA: Do I think --

Q: (Off mike.)

SEN. OBAMA: You know, the -- I did not view the initial round of soundbites, that triggered this controversy, as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was and, you know, more than anything, something that piqued a lot of political interest.

I didn't see it as an attack on the black church. I mean, probably the only -- the only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was shouting. I mean, that is just a black church tradition. And so I think some people interpreted that somehow as -- wow, he's really -- he's hollering and black preachers holler and whoop and -- so that, I think, showed sort of a cultural gap in America.

You know, the sad thing is that although the sound bites I've -- as I stated, I think created a caricature of him. And when he was in that Moyers interview, even though there were some things that, you know, continued to be offensive, at least there was some sense of rounding out the edges. Yesterday I think he caricatured himself, and that was a -- as I said, that made me angry but also made me sad.

STAFF: Last question.

SEN. OBAMA: Richard.

Q: You talked about giving the benefit of the doubt before -- mostly, I guess, in the Philadelphia speech, trying to create something positive about that. Did you consult with him before the speech or talk to him after the speech in Philadelphia to get his reaction -- (off mike) --

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia. Wasn't able to reach him because he was on a -- he was on a cruise. He had just stepped down from the pulpit. When he got back, I did speak to him. And I -- you know, I prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him. I will talk to him perhaps some day in the future. But what I can say is that I was very clear that what he had said in those particular snippets, I found objectionable and offensive and that the intention of the speech was to provide context for them but not excuse them, because I found them inexcusable.

So -- yeah, go ahead.

Q: The other day, on Sunday, you were asked whether -- to respond to -- (off mike) -- is this -- you said you didn't believe in irreparable damage. Is this relationship with you and Wright irreparably damaged, do you think?

SEN. OBAMA: There's been great damage. You know, I -- it may have been unintentional on his part, but, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this. Now, to some degree, you know -- I know that one thing that he said was true, was that he wasn't -- you know, he was never my, quote-unquote, "spiritual adviser."

He was never my "spiritual mentor." He was -- he was my pastor. And so to some extent, how, you know, the -- the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, wasn't accurate.

But he was somebody who was my pastor, and married Michelle and I, and baptized my children, and prayed with us at -- when we announced this race. And so, you know -- so I'm disappointed.

STAFF: Thank you.

SEN. OBAMA: All right. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An emergency clause for special interests

(This post is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

Most of the bills that are passed by the Missouri House and Senate and then signed into law by the governor go into effect Aug. 28.
Sometimes, however, a bill is considered to be of such importance that it is passed with an emergency clause, which allows it to take effect immediately. You might guess that such bills would be limited to those that could involve the possible loss of life or property.
You would be wrong.
One bill to which Missouri legislators have attached an emergency clause is SB 1038, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-Clinton. The bill, which has passed the Senate and should be voted on in the House within the next several days, calls for the repeal of campaign contribution limits.
Missouri voters, by a wide margin, approved contribution limits in the mid-90s, but it did not take long for the Democratic and Republican parties to figure out loopholes, including the creation of party committees to enable well-heeled special interests to contribute far above the maximum. So instead of correcting these loopholes, Sen. Shields and those who favor the infusion of hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest money, argue the best bet is to remove the limits altogether and simply make sure every dollar is reported so voters will know who is contributing how much.
This bill was tried last year and for slightly more than seven months, unlimited contributions were provided for Missouri politicians. Retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield made a six-figure contribution to Matt Blunt’s campaign, as did Texas developer Bob Perry, the chief financier behind the Swift Boat attacks that derailed John Kerry’s 2004 presidential candidacy. Sinquefield also made huge contributions to Republicans and Democrats who favored his agenda of giving taxpayer money to private schools.
When the Missouri Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in July 2007, Sinquefield tried another attack, creating 100 political action committees, with each of them contributing the maximum to Attorney General candidate Chris Koster, D-Harrisonville. Sinquefield’s committees donated heavily to other candidates this year, including $9,750 to Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and $1,000 to Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, during the first three months of 2008, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
Now, it appears that Sinquefield and other wealthy individuals will be able to continue to openly attempt to buy candidates without having to go to all of the trouble of creating shell committees. And what’s worse, our elected officials think it is so important that these few people have so much power in the system, that they are attaching an emergency clause so it can take place immediately after the bill receives the governor’s signature.
Many conservative pundits have said campaign contributions are freedom of speech. Perhaps…but if this speech is free, then why are the rest of us paying for it?

Skelton supports Hillary Clinton

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, a Missouri superdelegate, has announced he supports Sen. Hillary Clinton:

Skelton has been one of Missouri’s seven neutral superdelegates. He told the Associated Press that he’s supporting Clinton, D-N.Y., ”because of her support in rural America, her commitment to national security and her dedication to U.S. troops.”

Blunt praises U. S. Supreme Court decision

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt praised the U. S. Supreme Court decision, announced Monday, that upholds Indiana's strict Voter ID law. Blunt issued the following news release:

"By a convincing majority of six-to-three, the Supreme Court today affirmed a principle the American people have overwhelmingly supported for some time: asking citizens to produce a simple form of identification before voting is neither unreasonable nor unconstitutional - and if it helps impede voter fraud, absolutely necessary to ensure the basic integrity of the democratic process.

"Only in a place like Washington, D.C. does it make sense that a valid photo ID should be required to board an airplane, enter a federal building, or swipe a debit card - but not to discharge one of our most sacred duties as citizens and most precious rights as Americans. That's why I was glad to submit a 'friend of the Court' brief back when the case was first being considered, and why I'm happy today that the Court has heard those arguments in rendering this important and common sense decision."

The release contained the following note:

In an amicus brief sent this past December, Blunt joined Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), U.S. Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah), as well as Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), in asking the Court to rule in a manner to ensure our "elections are fair and honest and that all eligible citizens have an opportunity to cast a ballot that is fairly and accurately counted." The opinion in the case, Crawford et al. vs. the Marion County (Ind.) Election
Board, was announced this morning (

Springfield News-Leader: Out with the old, in with the new

On the same day that Ron Davis in his Chatter blog broke the news that veteran reporter Steve Koehler was leaving the Springfield News-Leader after a quarter of a century, the newspaper advertised on for a "data editor."

The advertisement reads:

The News-Leader Media Group in Springfield, Mo., seeks an innovative and passionate editor to lead and shape our efforts to gather, analyze and distribute data for a variety of print and online publications, including newspapers, magazines and Web sites.

The ideal candidate for this position is a journalist with a background in computer-assisted reporting, someone who loves numbers and can help us use those numbers to explain to our readers what is happening around them. We’re looking for a journalist who can engage the community in many different and unique ways and is a fervent defender of federal and state sunshine laws.

The job requires excellent computer, reporting and analytical skills; the ability to cultivate diverse sources and create innovative ways to gather and disseminate data, passion to work with reporters to develop data projects and the polish to represent the company in public – whether before the Chamber of Commerce or an elementary school class. Knowledge of PHP a plus. Because the data editor oversees a staff of five, supervisory skills are also a plus.

We’re a Gannett media company and at the forefront of developing content for multiple print and online platforms. We’re reinventing our newsroom, so you’ll need to be energized by innovation and change. Our reporters and editors create multimedia content – including audio clips, podcasts, videos, photos and photo galleries – and interact with our readers/users through blogs, online forums and beat advisory groups.

I certainly cannot fault the News-Leader for moving into the future, but it seems determined to do so without retaining any institutional memory of its past. Koehler is leaving on his own, as many other veteran News-Leader reporters have done over the years, while others have been shown the door.

It also seems ironic that Koehler, an old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter is heading down the highway only a few days after the News-Leader advertised for a "shopping reporter."

The Springfield News-Leader with all of its efforts to point its way toward the future seems to be forgetting the key to its success is still blanket coverage of Springfield and the surrounding area, something that has to be done by reporters.

Thankfully, that tradition will continue when we see blanket coverage of the shopping beat.

Perhaps I should change the headline on this post to "Springfield News-Leader: Out with the old, out with the news."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Barbre relives draft day memories for Packers website

Former East Newton High School and Missouri Southern State University football standout Allen Barbre relived the 2007 NFL draft day in an interview with

"I was back home, hanging out with my family. I just remember the suspense, never knowing what's going on. Every time the phone rings, not knowing who it is. It's a great memory. I had a great day, and it was a great turning point in my life.

Allen Barbre"Atlanta had called me, Jacksonville had called me. They were all checking up on me. But it was total suspense, you know. I had just gotten off the phone with Dallas, and they said they were going to take me with pick 122, and then as soon as I hung up the phone, I set it down for maybe a second, and then it rang again. I picked it up and they said, 'Is Allen Barbre there?' I said, 'Yeah, this is him.' They said, 'This is the Green Bay Packers, and we're looking to draft you. Can you hang on a second?' Then they came back and said, 'All right, we're taking you.'

"It was awesome. It was overwhelming, and I was in total awe. It took a little while for it to hit me, where I was going, what I was doing. It was unreal."

Globe: Barton County sheriff's wife has had previous "character issues"

Susan Michelle Higgins, Golden City, who faces felony identity theft charges in Barton County, has had previous "character issues," according to an article posted on the Joplin Globe website.

Mrs. Higgins is the wife of Barton County Sheriff Shannon Higgins:

The Joplin Globe has learned that Susan Michelle Higgins, the wife of Barton County Sheriff Shannon Higgins, ultimately ended up surrendering her license to operate Golden City Day Care in Golden City, Mo., according to terms of a settlement she reached with the bureau in December of 2006.

Kimberley Sprenger, a spokesperson for the department, said the agency began the investigation to look into allegations that the day care was claiming to provide care for low-income childen who were not receiving care at the facility.

Democrats ask Richard to abstain from vote on contribution limits

Claiming that he has a conflict of interest, House Democrats have asked Speaker-in-waiting Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to abstain from voting on Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to repeal campaign contribution limits.

The conflict, the Democrats say, comes from a Missouri Ethics Commission decision which will enable Richard to keep all of the money he received from excess campaign contributions in 2007 if the limits are repealed during this legislative session:

Reps. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, and Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, were all named in a March 18 Missouri Ethics Commission release that stated they would have to return campaign contributions if the Missouri legislature did not overturn the caps on campaign limits.

The legislation that has already passed in the Senate would repeal individual campaign finance limits and mandate that donations over $5,000 would have to be disclosed within 48 hours of the gift.

Democrats have asked the three legislators to abstain from voting on the legislation, claiming they would each benefit financially from the vote.

Icet and Smith both said they have not decided yet whether they would abstain from voting. Richard could not be reached for comment.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, sent out letters Monday asking some Republicans not to vote on the important measure. Other important House Democratic leadership signed on to LeVota’s news release.

LeVota said the issue is clear. “If you directly benefit from a vote, you should abstain from voting,” he said.

On March 31, Richard told an Associated Press reporter he might abstain from the vote:

Richard, R-Joplin, said he supports repealing the limits again. But when asked whether he had an extra incentive to back the legislation this year, Richard replied that he might abstain from the vote.

"I don't want to have any innuendo that I'm doing it for monetary reasons," Richard said.

Simpson letter asks for outside review of Ohio attorney general's office

After trying to get by with investigating alleged improprieties in-house, the Ohio attorney general's office is asking for an outside investigation.

Former Joplin Globe Editor Edgar Simpson, the chief of staff for Attorney General Marc Dann, wrote the letter asking for the outside investigation, according to the Columbus Dispatch:

Anthony Gutierrez, a friend of Dann’s from Youngstown who ran the general services section of the attorney general's office, is on paid suspension pending the outcome of sexual harassment charges filed against him by two of his female employees.

Gutierrez also damaged two state vehicles, one of them seriously, and had them repaired at state expense. He did not file the required accident reports.

Simpson said that the harassment investigation raised other issues, prompting a review of policies, including the purchase, maintenance of use of state vehicles, accident reporting, and use of state gas and credit cards. He said the review should result in "recommendations for improvements to ensure compliance with applicable state law and policy."

Neosho Forums back on line

Neosho Forums is back up and running after being unavailable for the past few days.

The Forums have played a major role in bringing many issues to the public over the past few years and have broken a number of big stories in Neosho and the surrounding area.

House Committee approves removal of campaign contribution limits

Sen. Charlie Shields' bill to remove all campaign contribution limits received a "do pass' recommendation from the House Rules Committee.

Shields, a St. Joseph Republican, says that removing the contribution limits will increase transparency and eliminate the various committees that have been laundering contributions.

Apparently, he never considered the idea of maintaining contribution limits and making the laundering process illegal.

The bill, has an emergency clause, meaning that instead of waiting until Aug. 28 to take effect as most laws do, this one is so important that it has go to into effect immediately. It is great to see that our legislators know their priorities.

Government asks that identity theft scheme participant's bond to be revoked

In documents filed today in U. S. District Court in Jefferson City, the government asked that the probation of Clayton Deardorff, one of those convicted in an identity theft scheme that included information obtained from state agencies, be revoked.

Deardorff was arrested Tuesday in Grandview for driving while intoxicated and driving while revoked, and has outstanding warrants on other charges, according to the motion.
The identity theft scheme was outlined in this March release from the U. S. Attorney's office:

John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., man who was formerly incarcerated in a state prison and a Jefferson City, Mo., woman who was formerly employed by the Missouri Department of Revenue were each sentenced in federal court yesterday for participating in a $160,000 fraud conspiracy that involved stealing the identities of other persons and using them to provide cell phone service to state prison inmates.

Clayton J. Deardorff, 30, of Kansas City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright to five years and five months in federal prison without parole. Co-defendant Erica Daniece Kelley, 29, of Jefferson City, was sentenced to five years of probation. The court also ordered Deardorff and Kelley to pay more than $160,000 in restitution, for which they are jointly and severally liable.

Deardorff and Kelley are among seven co-defendants charged in a May 31, 2007, federal indictment, all of whom have pleaded guilty. From January 2002 through December 2006, conspirators used stolen identity information, such as names and Social Security numbers, to set up multiple accounts for cell phone service so that inmates at state corrections facilities could communicate with the defendants and others outside prison.

Among the identity theft victims were mentally disabled and other residents of group homes in Jefferson City and Columbia, Mo., Sprint customers, and Missourians whose information was stolen by two employees of the state Department of Revenue. The fraud scheme resulted in more than $80,000 in unpaid telephone charges as well as additional losses for credit card accounts that were opened using stolen identities.

Co-defendant Angie Marie Roark, 30, of New Bloomfield, Mo., was sentenced on Feb. 5, 2008, to five years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Co-defendant Brenda McKay Adams, 34, of Jefferson City, was sentenced on Feb. 5, 2008, to five years of probation. Roark and Adams are also jointly and severally liable for more than $160,000 in restitution.

Clayton Deardorff was incarcerated at various Missouri prisons, including the Tipton, Mo., Correctional Facility. Clayton Deardorff recruited his wife, Robin Lynette Deardorff, 32, of Kansas City, and others to steal identity information so he and others inside prison could make telephone calls. Robin Deardorff worked at a Jefferson City nursing home operated by New Horizons Community Support Services, Inc., where she had access to identity information of residents of the home. Robin Deardorff stole this information to set up the phone lines and order cell phones. A sentencing hearing for Robin Deardorff has not yet been scheduled.

Kelley was an employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Bureau until January 2003. In this position, she had access to identification of Motor Vehicle Bureau customers, which she delivered to co-conspirators during the scheme. Kelley admitted that she provided conspirators with personal information from 10 to 15 individuals.

Roark was an employee of Sprint PCS at various times, where she had access to identity information of Sprint customers. Her position at Sprint and her knowledge of the company's methods and operating procedures enabled her to assist the other conspirators in the scheme. In addition, she had land lines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence as part of the scheme.

Adams participated in the conspiracy during 2005 and 2006 by using her home address to have telephone lines installed and cell phones delivered, all of which had been ordered as part of the fraud scheme.

Co-defendant Krystal G. Stephens, 22, of Jefferson City, was a part-time employee of the Missouri Department of Revenue, Division of Taxation and Collection from 2003 to 2005 and had access to identification information of division customers. She delivered 10 to 20 names and Social Security numbers to co-conspirators as part of the scheme.

Co-defendant Anna M. Stephens, 31, of Jefferson City, the sister of Krystal Stephens, was an employee of United Telephone Company (Sprint) at various times, where she had access to customers' identification information and knowledge of the company's methods and operating procedures. She used that information to assist the conspirators in their scheme, and also had phone lines installed and cell phones delivered to her residence.

Sentencing hearings for Krystal Stephens and Anna Stephens have not yet been scheduled.

Prisoners in the Missouri Department of Corrections are allowed to make calls while confined, but have to have a method to pay for the calls. Often this is done by making collect calls. Conspirators set up phone lines and purchased cell phones using the stolen identities so that inmates could make the collect calls. The calls from the prison would then be automatically directed and forwarded from a local number to a cell phone. Generally the fraudulently-opened telephone services would continue until the telephone company canceled the service for non-payment.

Bowman unable to make first payment, asks judge to amend payment schedule

Former Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, who was placed on probation April 4 after pleading guilty to bribing a bank official, says he will not be able to make the first required restitution payment.
In a document filed Thursday in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Bowman's attorney, John P. Rogers, says his client who was required to make a lump sum payment of $10,000 within 30 days of sentencing, is far short of having that amount.

"At this time, Mr. Bowman is unable to meet the first installment payment of $10,000 as mandated by the minimum payment schedule." The document indicates Bowman made a $1,000 payment Thursday.

Rogers said the U. S. Attorney's office is unopposed to the motion, as long as Bowman makes complete restitution of $19,874.38 by the end of his five-year probation period.

Bowman was placed on probation after admitting to his role in a bank and credit card fraud scheme masterminded by former Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner.

Conner, Bowman, and others involved in the scheme were indicted in January 2007 by a federal grand jury, which said Bowman and his co-defendants agreed to a scheme in which Conner took a bank lending program which provided money to small businesses by offering a $25,000 credit limit, then arranged with the other defendants to apply for the loans, often with fictitious companies, then give Conner kickbacks ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 on each loan.
According to the indictment, Conner approved $1,213,970 in fraudulent loans. Conner was sentenced in January to nine-and-a-half years in prison.

Defense lawyers ask for continuance in church shooting case

The public defenders representing accused killer Eikan Elam Saimon have asked for a continuance. Saimon, 53, Neosho, is charged with three counts of first degree murder, four counts of assault, and single counts of felonious restraint and armed criminal action in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting rampage during an afternoon Micronesian service at the First Congregational Church of Neosho. The murder victims were Pastor Kernal Rehobson and church deacons.

His trial is scheduled to begin June 23.

The motion was filed Friday by public defender Sharon Turlington, a specialist in death penalty cases who was added to Saimon's defense team last week, along with Cynthia Dryden, an attorney who has handled many cases involving DNA evidence.

Robinson waives preliminary hearing, bound over for trial

Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, waived his preliminary hearing Friday in St. Francois County Circuit Court and was bound over for trial. Robinson's next scheduled court appearance is 9 a.m. Friday, May 23.

Robinson, 44, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident. His wife Tara, 37, was charged with misdemeanor making a false declaration.

Robinson allegedly was driving his pickup on Jan. 1 when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video purportedly shows Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Mrs. Robinson was driving, and then leaving the scene. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, five passengers in the pickup have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against the Robinsons.

Court records indicate Tara Robinson's preliminary hearing, also scheduled for Friday, was postponed at her request, and will be held July 18.

Hearing scheduled in Memorial Middle School shooter case

A 9 a.m. Friday, May 23, hearing is scheduled in Jasper County Circuit Court in the case against Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White.

Court records on say the hearing was scheduled by Judge David Mouton for "pre-trial motions or change of plea and scheduling conference for special trial setting."

This has been the first development of any kind in the case since the Missouri Supreme Court denied a motion by White's public defenders to return the case to juvenile court.

White, 15, was a 13-year-old seventh grader at Memorial when he entered the school on Oct. 6, 2006, with an assault rifle, fired the weapon into the ceiling and then attempted to shoot Principal Steve Gilbreth when the gun jammed, according to authorities.

White, who has been in jail since that time, is charged with two counts of assault, and single charges of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape.

Jetton offers update on immigration legislation

In his latest Capital Report, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, offers an update on immigration legislation:

I want to give you an update on the immigration reform bills that are working their way through the process this week. I have talked to you often of the need to handle this problem. While I have often pointed out immigration reform is primarily the responsibility of the Federal Government, Missouri can no longer sit idly by waiting for Washington to take action.

Three key pieces of immigration reform legislation are currently in the Senate. HB 1463 prohibits illegal aliens to enroll in institutions of higher learning with the registrar of each college verifying the citizenship of all new students.

HB 1549 also deals with the verification of citizenship status. This bill requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship status of anyone arrested within 48 hours of being arrested. If the person is found not to be a legal citizen then the arresting agency is required to contact the Federal Government. This bill also prohibits so called "sanctuary cities" from being created in Missouri. These cities act as havens for illegal immigrants and this bill will not allow them to be created in Missouri.

HB 1626 mandates that illegal immigrants cannot receive local or state public assistance unless mandated under federal law. Basically you have to be a legal citizen to receive public assistance or state aid. All three of these bills, HB 1463, HB 1549, and HB 1626 have been passed out of the House with strong bi-partisan support. They are all now in the Senate and working their way through the committee process to reach the floor for a vote. I am confident that all three of these bills will pass out of the Senate with little trouble.

A final bill dealing with immigration reform, HB 1736, is also being considered by the House, and this is the possibly the most contentious of the immigration reform bills. HB 1736 deals with employer verification of immigration status of new workers. There is a real fear on the part of many in the business community who do not want to be forced to pick up the slack of the Federal Government and become INS agents.

It is the job of the Federal Government to ensure the orderly immigration of people into this country, but with their failure to do so Missouri must step in and find away to check immigration status. HB 1736 would require employers to verify immigration status of all new employees. Employers would not be held liable for unknowingly employing illegal aliens if the employer provides proof of enrollment in a Federal work authorization program. They also wouldn't be held liable if they have a sworn affidavit attesting that all employees are lawfully present in Missouri.

This bill will not punish employers who unknowingly may have hired an illegal immigrant. This could be due to the illegal immigrant having false documentation or stolen social security number. However, if an employer "knowingly" hires an illegal immigrant they will be punished. This bill will go a long way to removing the magnet of employment to illegal immigrants coming to Missouri. Right now HB 1736 is on the House calendar to be heard on the floor.

As we approach the final weeks of session I will keep you informed of the progress of these important pieces of legislation.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nodler: Wealthy students deserve scholarships, too

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, came to the defense of wealthy Missourians who are seeking a break defraying college costs. State budget writers, including Nodler, who is chairman of the Sneate's Budget Committee, crafted a deal which will allow families which earn more than $200,000 a year to be eligible for financial need scholarships:

“For someone making $200,000 with four kids in college, I’m not sure a scholarship opportunity for that family is inappropriate at all, particularly with the tax burden they pay,” said Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.

Friday, April 25, 2008

First quarter earnings up for Empire District Electric

First quarter earnings were up, but annual earnings down for Empire District Electric Company, according to information filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The following highlights were offered in a company news release:

* The Company reported consolidated earnings for the first quarter of 2008 of $7.0 million, or $0.21 per share, compared with 2007 same quarter earnings of $4.5 million, or $0.15 per share. Earnings for the twelve months ended March 31, 2008 were $35.7 million, or $1.14 per share. This compares to earnings of $42.2 million, or $1.44 per share, for the 2007 twelve month period.
* The Company’s Asbury plant returned to service February 10, 2008 after an extended maintenance outage. The Company estimates the outage added pre-tax incremental expenses for the first quarter of approximately $5.8 million.
* The Company successfully completed a solicitation of consents from holders of its Electric First Mortgage Bonds on March 11, 2008. The consents approved an amendment to the Company’s Indenture of Mortgage and Deed of Trust which allows the Company additional flexibility to pay dividends to its shareholders by increasing the basket available to pay dividends by $10.75 million. Consents were received from over 94% of the bondholders.

Nexstar Broadcasting CEO to make $1,125,000

If he can meet goals set by his board of directors, Nexstar Broadcasting CEO Perry Sook will make $1,125,000 in 2008, according to a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sook's base salary s $750,000, up from $700,000 in 2007. He can earn an additional $375,000.

Sook has a great deal if Nexstar happens to decide it no longer needs his services. According to the proxy statement, if Sook is fired, he will receive double his salary and bonus. If the parting of the ways occurs in 2008, Sook would stand to pick up $2,250,000.

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

GateHouse to release earnings May 9

GateHouse Media will announce its first quarter earnings during a May 9 conference call, according to a company news release filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

The Company has scheduled a conference call to discuss the financial results on Friday, May 9, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The conference call can be accessed by dialing (877) 675-4749 (from within the U.S.) or (719) 325-4915 (from outside of the U.S.) ten minutes prior to the scheduled start and referencing the “GateHouse Media First Quarter Earnings Call.”

A webcast of the conference call will be available to the public on a listen-only basis at Please allow extra time prior to the call to visit the site and download the necessary software required to listen to the internet broadcast. A replay of the webcast will be available for three months following the call.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press and Neosho Daily News.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Irony of Simpson's situation explored in editorial

The irony of former Joplin Globe Editor Edgar Simpson's role in the scandal-ridden Ohio attorney general Marc Dann's office is explored in an editorial in his old newspaper, the Warren Tribune Chronicle:

One has to wonder what agony Dann’s chief of staff, Edgar Simpson, suffers these days. As a Tribune Chronicle metro editor, Simpson zealously attacked public officials for the slightest misstep. He screamed in headlines about the smallest deviation from sanctity he observed in public servants. If he were still here he would be hounding, ironically, the man who now is his boss. One has to wonder if Simpson, who has been eerily quiet as the shenanigans developed, is regretting his decision to work for Dann.

Joplin Globe promotion does little to help newspaper

The 2008 award for highway robbery should go to the advertising agency which came up with the campaign the Joplin Globe has been using for the past few months. (Actually, it is hard to believe that anyone other than the out-of-date Globe leadership could have created the ad.)

Using background music that was outdated three decades ago, the Globe, the stodgy old codger of area journalism, does nothing to shed its image. The advertisement, which has no spoken words, features dramatic music and still photos (yes, I said still photos) of Globe Editor Carol Stark and reporters Susan Redden and Wally Kennedy, noting that all three have been with the newspaper for more than 30 years.

While those three certainly contribute to the Globe, this business of emphasizing them over and over, instead of using up-to-date advertising techniques to promote other reporters and editors, is definitely not encouraging anyone to pick up the Globe.

Of course, I am sure this campaign came from the same people who came up with the idea to tell Globe readers there was not enough room in the Joplin newspaper for Joplin news, thus necessitating a free weekly newspaper that no one wants or needs.

Cooper adds Jimmy Buffett to list of lobbyist-financed concert tickets

Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, is nearing the end of his time in the Missouri House of Representatives, thanks to term limits, but before he goes he is obviously trying to milk lobbyists for tickets to every concert that pops up.

His latest cultural exploit, tickets to see Jimmy Buffett perform, is detailed in a Virginia Young post on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Fix:

Rep. Shannon Cooper is among those headed to St. Louis tonight for the sold-out Jimmy Buffet concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Cooper, R-Clinton, said he got a complimentary room for the night at the nearby Ameristar Casino hotel.

“Of course they got me a room,” he said.

From that sound of that quote, Cooper clearly considers it his right, as an elected official and representative of his district to collect concert freebies, standing in for his constituents who were either unable to buy tickets or who cannot afford them. This is not the first time Cooper has relied on friendly and oh-so-willing lobbyists to provide him with free entertainment.

From the Feb. 10 Turner Report:

By all accounts, the performance given by country music legend George Jones June 10, 2007, at the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City was a rousing success and Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, had eight tickets to that event, worth $440, courtesy of lobbyist Betsy Morgan.
Though Missouri Ethics Commission documents show that Ms. Morgan's clients who footed the bill for the tickets were the Missouri Beverage Association and the Missouri Railroad Association.
Another of Ms. Morgan's clients, which was not mentioned on the disclosure form, is Ameristar Casinos.

From the Oct. 6, 2007 Turner Report:

May 9 was a big night for freebies for Shannon Cooper. He accepted five Kenny Chesney tickets worth $345 from Stephen Knorr, University of Missouri lobbyist, and $343 in travel and lodging from Ameristar Casinos lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier, though Schlemeier only attributed a part of the cost to Ameristar, since it was the last day of the legislative session, it appears Cooper did quite a bit of celebrating.
Cooper also received a ticket to a Gordon Lightfoot concert, worth $50 from James R. Moody, representing Carlson Gardner of Springfield.
Cooper's gifts also included Missouri wine, valued at $15, from lobbyist William Shoehigh, representing United Health Care.
Cooper also took a cruise provided by Ameristar Casinos lobbyist Sarah Topp during the National Conference of State Legislators in August.

And though it has nothing to do with concerts, Cooper's connections with Ameristar Casino lobbyists were also explored in the March 31 Turner Report:

Two days before Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, submitted a bill to remove the loss limits for Missouri casinos, he may have been conducting some in-person research at one of those facilities.
Documents posted minutes ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website indicate Cooper, whose bill would also limit the opening of new casinos in the state, thus lessening competition for those already here, had $771.17 for "hotel accommodations" paid for by Matthew Clark, lobbyist for Ameristar Hotel and Casino in Kansas City.

GateHouse Plus buried, replaced by niche division

Niche magazines and pages, seen by GateHouse Media, Community Newspaper Holdings, and other newspaper chains as a way to invigorate their print product, are already contributing to the destruction of newspapers.

It had already started when I left newspapers nearly a decade ago and it has steadily increased ever since. Actual local lifestyle reporting has been replaced by these generic niche pages, usually poorly written and offering nothing more than a way to convince advertisers they are receiving something of value.

I have written about the destruction of the lifestyles and editorial pages, once key ingredients in successful community newspapers in favor of one special section or niche product after another. These moves have hastened the flight of readers from traditional newspapers to the internet.

At least for a long time, GateHouse Media was helping the local economy by basing its GateHouse Plus niche division in Joplin. When now-departed GateHouse official Randy Cope began losing his influence in the company, it was obvious GateHouse Plus was not going to remain in this area.

The GateHouse website details the launching of GateHouse News Service Niche Division.

Bush administration continues to blame low graduation rates on public schools

The Bush Administration has launched its latest attack on public schools, placing the blame for low graduation rates entirely on the schools, when it is clearly a societal problem.

The latest charges were made by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings as she campaigned for a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, something which is unlikely to happen during an election year.

While the push for having a uniform graduation standard is something that is long overdue, any effort to combat low graduation rates strictly through schools is doomed for failure. Mrs. Spellings makes no mention of parents who do not care about their children's education (and unfortunately, there are many of those), children whose home lives include physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, communities in which poverty is a fact of life. Unless everyone teams together to combat this problem, low graduation rates will continue to be a serious problem in this country.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Five links added, five removed

I have finally updated the links section on the right-hand side of this page, adding five links and eliminating five.

Gone from the section are Dad's on a Rant, Jericho's Journal,, KSNF, and Ozarks Messenger. Tony Messenger, of course, is now with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, so Ozarks Messenger will not be updated again. Dad's on a Rant, Jericho's Journal, and Joplin. com have not been updated for a considerable time, but I will keep checking on Dad's on a Rant in case he starts blogging again.

KSNF has simply been combined with KODE since they share the same website.

New to the links section are five blogs/websites I have been checking on a regular basis:

-Missourinet: The Blog, a new entry to the blogosphere, and one which irritates me on a regular basis, but I keep returning to it, so Steve Walsh must be succeeding in doing the one thing a blog has to do to survive and thrive- hold on to the readers' interest.

-Missouri Press News is a blog started a few months back by the folks at the Missouri Press Association and features regular news about the state's newspapers.

-Show-Me Opinions is a new blog from a Missouri Southern State University student which has addressed a wide variety of topics in an entertaining fashion.

-Sunshine in Missouri is written by lawyer Jean Maneke, an expert in Missouri's Sunshine Law.

-Making a comeback after a long absence, The Chart, Missouri Southern State University's newspaper.

Please try out these sites, if you have not done so already. You won't be disappointed.

DNA specialist takes over defense of accused killer in Micronesian church slayings

Cynthia Ann Dryden, an assistant public defender who has a reputation as a specialist in cases involving DNA, is the new lawyer of record for Eikan Elam Saimon.

Saimon, 53, Neosho, is charged with three counts of first degree murder, four counts of assault, and single counts of felonious restraint and armed criminal action in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting rampage during an afternoon Micronesian service at the First Congregational Church of Neosho. The murder victims were Pastor Kernal Rehobson and church deacons. Ms. Dryden normally handles cases in the eastern part of the state.

Saimon's trial is scheduled to begin Monday, June 23, in Newton County Circuit Court. A Greene County jury will be brought to Newton County to hear the case.

Motion to dismiss two counts filed in McDonald County cult case

A motion to dismiss two of the eight counts against Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church pastor Raymond Lambert will be argued during a 10 a.m. May 6 hearing in McDonald County Circuit Court.
The charges against Lambert, 53, were filed in connection with alleged ritual sex with children. Lambert's lawyer, former McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Duane Cooper, has asked that two counts that date back to 1995 be dismissed, a sexual abuse count from May 31, and a statutory sodomy charge from July 31.

Lambert also faces four counts of child molestation and two other counts of statutory sodomy.

Lambert's trial is scheduled to begin Monday, June 30.

July 10 trial date set for Sen. Smith, lobbyist in Isle of Capri case

A July 10 trial has been scheduled in Cooper County Circuit Court for Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and lobbyist Lynne Schlosser in the Isle of Capri case. A hearing on Smith's motion to dismiss is set for June 10, according to court records.

Smith and Ms. Schlosser are each charged with a misdemeanor count of using a false ID to gamble at the Isle of Capri casino on July 31. Allegedly, at the behest of Ms. Schlosser, Smith, who did not have identification with him, used the identification of Rep. Joseph Aull, D-Marshall, to gamble, a violation of state law.

Aull's trial is scheduled for June 10 in Pettis County Circuit Court, where it has been transferred on a change of venue. Ms. Schlosser was serving as a lobbyist for Isle of Capri at the time. She was fired shortly after the incident became public.

Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate Smith and Aull were at the casino as part of a lobbyist-financed junket paid for by Chris Liese, also representing Isle of Capri. More information can be found in the Sept. 1 Turner Report.

Vernon County judge to handle sheriff's wife's felony case

Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Macbeth will handle the initial arraignment and/or preliminary hearing for Susan Michelle Higgins, 36, Golden City, who faces a felony identity theft charge. Macbeth took over after Barton County Circuit Court Judge Charles Curless recused himself.
No court date has been set according to court records.
Mrs. Higgins is the wife of Barton County Sheriff Shannon Higgins.

Lamar veteran receives Purple Heart

Today's Nevada Daily Mail features an article on the recent ceremony presenting four medals, including the Purple Heart, to Jack Dimond of Lamar, honors which had been four decades in the making.

The article is written by former Neosho Daily News and Joplin Daily reporter Michelle Pippin for the Missouri National Guard:

The weight of guilt kept Dimond from pursuing the medals -- the guilt, he said, of being alive.

Dimond was drafted straight out of high school and was deployed to Vietnam in February 1969 with the U.S. Army infantry. During the fourth month of his tour, he was wounded.

"We had been without water for three or four hours, so when a helicopter dropped off supplies, we all stood up and rushed in," Dimond recalled. "There was a booby-trap planted under a bunch of metal inside a foxhole, and when it went off, metal flew everywhere."

The explosion killed 18 men. Dimond himself felt fortunate to have only lost a portion of his upper lip and two teeth.

"I've been blessed all my life with a wonderful Family and friends -- you name it -- but I've probably never been more blessed than I was on June 10, 1969, when that booby-trap went off and I survived," Dimond said. "The kid standing next to me was killed, and I'm still walking around."

(National Guard photo)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Transcript offered of Clinton Pennsylvania victory speech

Thank you so much. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Oh, thank you.

It's a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenueand it runs right through the heart of Pennsylvania.

For six weeks Senator Obama and I have crisscrossed this state, meeting people up close, being judged side by side, making our best case. You listened and today you chose.

With two wars abroad and an economic crisis here at home, you know the stakes are high and the challenges are great, but you also know the possibilities. Those possibilities are endless, if we roll up our sleeves and get to work with a president who is ready to lead on day one.

That means ready to take charge as commander in chief and make this economy work for middle-class families. And I thank you. I thank you, Pennsylvania, for deciding I can be that president.

For me, the victory we share tonight is deeply personal. It was here in Pennsylvania where my grandfather started work as a boy in the lace mills and ended up as a supervisor five decades later. It was here where my father attended college and played football for Penn State. And I am back here tonight because of their hard work and sacrifice. And I only wish they could have lived to see this moment, because in this election I carry with me not just their dreams, but the dreams of people like them and like you all across our country - people who embrace hard work and opportunity, who never waver in the face of adversity, who stand for what you believe and never stop believing in the promise of America.

I'm in this race to fight for you, to fight for everyone who has ever been counted out, for everyone fighting to pay the grocery bills or the medical bills, the credit card and mortgage payments and the outrageous price of gas at the pump today.

You know, the pundit's question whether Pennsylvanians would trust me with this charge and tonight you showed you do. You know you can count on me to stand up strong for you every single day in the White House.

This has been a historic race and I commend Senator Obama and his supporters tonight. We are, in many ways, all on this journey together to create an America that embraces every last one of us. The women in their 90s who tell me they were born before women could vote and they're hopeful of seeing a woman in the White House. The mothers and fathers at my events, who lift their little girls on their shoulders and whisper in their ears, "See, you can be anything you want."

Tonight, more than ever, I need your help to continue this journey. This is your campaign and this is your victory tonight. Your support has meant the difference between winning and losing. We can only keep winning if we can keep competing with an opponent who outspends us so massively. So, I hope you'll go to and show your support tonight because the future of this campaign is in your hands.

Some people counted me out and said to drop out, but the American people don't quit and they deserve a president who doesn't quit either.

Tonight all across Pennsylvania and America, teachers are grading papers and doctors and nurses are caring for the sick, and you deserve a leader who listens to you.

Waitresses are pouring coffee and police officers are standing guard and small businesses are working to meet that payroll, and you deserve a champion who stands with you.

And of course, all across the world, our men and women in uniform, some on your second, third or fourth tour of duty, you deserve a commander in Chief who will finally bring you home and who will rebuild our strained military, do whatever it takes to care for our veterans wounded in both body and spirit.

Today, here in Pennsylvania, you made your voices heard and because of you, the tide is turning.

We were up against a formidable opponent who outspent us three to one. He broke every spending record in this state trying to knock us out of the race. Well, the people of Pennsylvania had other ideas tonight.

The presidency is the toughest job in the world, but the pressures of a campaign are nothing compared to the pressures of the White House, and today, Pennsylvanians looked through all the heat and saw the light of a brighter tomorrow - a tomorrow of shared prosperity and restored world leadership for peace, security, and cooperation. After seven long years of President Bush, we've got our work cut out for us and we don't have a minute to waste. So, it's high time we stop talking about our problems and start solving them and that is what my campaign is all about.

All through this campaign, I have offered solutions: solutions for good jobs you can raise a family on; jobs that can't be shipped overseas; and on Earth Day, clean, renewable green jobs that can put us on the right track to the future; solutions for independence from foreign oil and exploding gas prices; quality affordable healthcare not just for many Americans or most Americans but for every single American, no exceptions and no excuses; affordable college and real improvements in public schools, not the failure that is No Child Left Behind. We're going to end the war on science and have a renewed commitment to science and research. We will tackle everything from autism to Alzheimer's, cancer to diabetes, and make a real difference.

I look forward to discussing all of these issues with the people of Indiana, North Carolina and the states that I'll be visiting in the coming weeks.

Not long ago a woman handed me a photograph of her father as a young soldier. He was receiving the medal of honour from President Truman at the White House. During world war II, he had risked his life on a daring mission to drive back the enemy and protect his fellow soldiers. In the corner of that photo, in shaky handwriting, this American hero had simply written: "To Hillary Clinton, keep fighting for us." And that is what I'm going to do because America is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for.

It was in this city that our founders declared America's independence and our permanent mission to form a more perfect union. Neither Senator Obama nor I nor many of you were fully included in that vision, but we've been blessed by men and women in each generation who saw America not as it is, but as it could and should be. The abolitionists and the suffragists, the progressives and the union members, the civil rights leaders, all those who marched, protested and risked their lives because they looked into their children's eyes and saw the promise of a better future.

Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote. Because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colours could attend school together. And because of them and because of you, this next generation will grow up taking for granted that a woman or an African American can be the president of the United States of America.

I am so honoured by the support and the hospitality of all of the people of Pennsylvania. I want to especially thank Governor Rendell and Mayor Nutter, lieutenant governor Catherine Baker Knoll and the state treasurer Robin Wiessmann and state party chair TJ Rooney. These are great leaders and dear friends, as are my friends from the Congress, Representatives Murtha, Sestak, Schwartz and Kanjorski. Their support means the world to me and the support of 100 mayors across this commonwealth and so many other state and local leaders who worked hard for this victory tonight.

I want to thank my friends in our labour unions for standing with us every step of the way. And my outstanding staff, volunteers and supporters here in Pennsylvania and across America.

I especially want to thank my family for their incredible love and support. Bill and Chelsea have crisscrossed Pennsylvania from one end to the other. My brothers Hugh and Tony who love Pennsylvania with all their hearts, from our childhood summers in Lake Winola, and my mother who is with us tonight.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but if you're ready, I'm ready. I might stumble and I might get knocked down, but as long as you'll stand with me I will always get right back up. Because for me, in the end, the question isn't whether we can keep America's promise, it's whether we will keep America's promise.

So let me ask you tonight - will we once again be the can-do nation, the nation that defies the odds and does the impossible?

Will we break the barriers and open the doors and lift up all of our people?

Will we reach out to the world and lead by the power of our ideals again?

Will we take back the White House and take back our country?

I believe with all of my heart that together we will turn promises into action, words will become solutions, hope will become reality, so my answer to any who doubt is "yes, we will".

Thank you and God bless you.

It's no fun being Edgar Simpson these days

I find myself sympathizing with former Joplin Globe Editor Edgar Simpson, something I never thought would happen.
Simpson left the Globe to become chief of staff for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, who is currently embroiled in a scandal involving an aide who is charged with sexual harassment, and allegations that Dann's 28-year-old scheduler Jessica Utovich was lounging around the middle-aged Dann's apartment in pajamas. (Say what you want about Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, but he has been in office for 16 years and nothing like that has ever been reported.)

The Dann case has a similarity to some of the recent occurrences in Missouri state government, including officials seeking the release of e-mails. Dann's office released a batch which does not exactly reveal a businesslike atmosphere in the Ohio Attorney General's office:

In some 2,200 messages between Utovich and colleagues released late Monday, Dann's office appears to be informal and sociable, with e-mails floating between Utovich and colleagues about socializing after work.

"What are you doing?" Utovich e-mailed Dann on Oct. 16.

"Drinking," he replied.

But in other e-mails, Utovich appeared sensitive to the informal atmosphere and teasing atmosphere in the office.

"Keep making fun of me," she wrote. "That's fine ... I'm an idiot. Glad to make you laugh."

In another, she wrote, "I don't want to talk to you again."

In other e-mails, she called her boss a "dork," and he jokingly called her an expletive associated with a female dog.

A series of exchanges on Sept. 6 seemed to take a more serious tone. At one point, Utovich told Dann, "I do not appreciate being yelled at in front of everyone."

After he apologized, she wrote, "You are so fricking mean."

"And you are little mary sunshine," he responded.

"At least I care," she wrote back. A few minutes later, she wrote, "my face hurts and burns from crying and I can't keep fighting."

The e-mails include the period from September to November 2007, which covers the night Utovich was reportedly at Dann's suburban Columbus apartment in pajamas.

Though several top aides of Dann have run into problems or have been forced to leave, Simpson has remained untouched by the controversies surrounding his boss.

Springfield man's murder conviction upheld

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals upheld the first degree murder conviction of a Springfield man who killed a teenage girl he mistakenly thought was a police informant in August 2004.

In a ruling issued today, the court said Judge Calvin Holden did not err when he allowed videotaped testimony to be used against Lucas Campbell.

The following description of the case was included in the court opinion:

Defendant, Nick Gamblin, and their girlfriends lived together. Gamblin, who was on probation, was selling drugs as a middleman for Defendant. People regularly came to their house to use drugs, usually marijuana. Bobby Wilson (“Victim”) came one day with a lot of marijuana. After smoking awhile, Gamblin, Defendant and his girlfriend, and Victim borrowed a car to drive around and smoke some more.

Victim wanted to sell some of his marijuana. Defendant directed Gamblin, who was driving, to Sarena Hart’s rural home. Defendant took Victim’s marijuana, and along with Gamblin, went inside. Victim and Defendant’s girlfriend stayed in the car.

Instead of mentioning the marijuana to Hart, his former girlfriend, Defendant asked if she would stay his friend if he had done something really bad. Hart jokingly asked Defendant who he had killed. Defendant replied no one “yet.” Defendant asked Hart to leave for a little while. When she refused, he asked if he could hide a body on her property. He told Hart not to go outside when they left. She did so anyway, waved at the other two in the car, and Victim smiled and waved back.

The group left, drove around, and smoked more. Gamblin was driving down a farm road when Defendant said to pull over so he could urinate. All three men got out. Gamblin finished first and returned to the driver’s seat. He heard a gunshot and saw Victim lying near the ditch. Defendant returned to the car, holding a .40 caliber gun Gamblin had seen him carry before. Defendant said he was sorry to do that in front of them, but he thought Victim was a “snitch.” Defendant took over the driver’s seat, warning Gamblin to keep his mouth shut or he would be killed. Defendant drove to an acquaintance’s trailer, left the gun there, and drove home after stopping for something to eat.

Gamblin was scared and shaking when they returned. He called Richard Stacey, a friend who sold drugs and had known Defendant for years. Without going into details, Gamblin told Stacey that Defendant had done something bad and Stacey needed to talk to him. Stacey found Defendant, who (in two conversations with Stacey) said he “popped” Victim in the back of the head, “blew half his face off[,]” and dropped the gun off afterwards because he thought Victim was a police informant.

Ironically, Stacey was a police informant. He relayed Defendant’s statements to law enforcement, which linked that information to Victim’s death and the crime scene. Police eventually found the car, which Gamblin had hidden, and arrested Gamblin on a probation violation warrant. They recovered Defendant’s gun, still holding eight live .40 caliber hollow-point rounds. They forensically established that the same gun fired a spent casing found at the crime scene. Police searched Defendant’s bedroom after his arrest and found a holster fitting a .40 caliber handgun, and a cash box holding ammunition, including one .40 caliber cartridge matching the live rounds still in the murder weapon. There was trial testimony that Defendant always carried a .38 or .40 caliber handgun. The autopsy showed Victim was shot in the back of the head with a bullet of similar caliber that cut his brain stem in half.

Defendant did not testify at trial. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life without parole.

(KY3 photo of Lucas Campbell)

Clinton still leading by 10 percent

With 83 percent of the votes counted, Hillary Clinton holds a 55 percent to 45 percent advantage of Barack Obama, which should mean the race for the Democratic nomination will continue for another month at least.

Neosho Forums will be down for a few days

I am told that Neosho Forums will return to the web in a few days. Though the site has received some criticism in the past (as has this one), it has also been the starting point for many major stories in the Neosho area during the past several years.

Attack on judiciary continues with call for Curless impeachment

In a letter printed on the Missouri Political News Service website, James Byrne appears to be calling for the impeachment of Barton County Circuit Court Judge Charles Curless.

The letter, which was sent to all members of the Missouri House of Representatives, followed the release of a letter written by Judge Curless criticizing Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, who has been relentless in his attacks on the Missouri judiciary. Curless' letter came following Emery's declaration that Aquila should not have to follow a court order and tear down a plant it built in defiance of zoning laws. The text of that letter can be found in the April 18 Turner Report:

While Judge Curless did not publish his e-mail as an open letter to the public, sending it to “several hundred recipients” would demonstrate intent to publish and have substantially the same effect as an open letter. In short, Judge Curless clearly intended the press to take notice of his attack of Representative Emery.

This is not a situation of Rep. Emery vs. Judge Curless. This is about the Citizens of Missouri vs. Judge Curless. The only way the citizens of Missouri can be ensured of a fair and impartial judiciary, is to call upon their representatives to exercise their constitutional check. The House of Representatives alone has the authority, and therefore, the responsibility, to impeach. Though impeachment may be viewed by some as an excessive remedy in this case, the possibility should at least be discussed, and, at the very least, some sort of disciplinary proceeding or investigation should be commenced immediately.

It is amazing that an organization like the Eagle Forum, which trumpets his love of the U. S. Constitution, has so little problem with continuing to bully Missouri judges. The last time I looked, the judiciary system is supposed to be an equal to the legislative branch. Perhaps the Eagle Forum members should take a closer look at the U. S. and Missouri constitutions.

What happened to Neosho Forums?

What's the deal with Neosho Forums?

A quick click on the Neosho Forums link on the right hand side of the page, shows one of those placeholder pages there, with the message that the domain has expired. If anyone has more information, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment.

Clinton continues to hold 12 percent lead

Only three percent of the vote has been tallied, but Hillary Clinton is holding on to a 12 percent lead, 56 t0 44 over Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary.

The pundits are saying that Clinton needs a big victory, likely about 10 percent or more, to remain a viable candidate, while Mrs. Clinton, naturally, is saying a victory is a victory.

So much for Hulshof's license fee office reform

Congressman Kenny Hulshof made big headlines last week with his declaration that he would reform the process of awarding license fee offices, which became a joke during the early days of Gov. Matt Blunt's administration.

Blunt, as you remember, awarded fee offices to big contributors, something which has been done by both parties in the past, but took the process one step further by having them operated by management companies set up by his buddies.

Hulshof said the spoils system will come to an end if he is elected governor, but after receiving donations from several fee office owners, suddenly it appears that those people will likely keep their offices in a Hulshof administration:

Hulshof spokesman Scott Baker insists that the candidate already has established an objective points system to evaluate fee office applicants. If you're now running an inefficient office, you won't be running an office under Gov. Hulshof, he said.

Those agents can be ferreted out, Baker said.

Asked how many current agents he expects will lose their contracts under Hulshof, Baker said he wouldn't put a number on it.

The new evaluation system does not take into account donations made to Hulshof, he said.

"Under a Hulshof administration, zero consideration will be given to political support," Baker said.

Still, under the newly devised Hulshof formula provided to Prime Buzz, applicants with prior experience can win points based on "past performance and reliability." A newcomer, presumably, couldn't win any points in that category, which appears to give current operators, even those who aren't providing stellar service, a leg up.

So much for reform.

Fox projects Hillary Clinton as winner

With only one percent of the vote in, Fox News Channel has projected Hillary Clinton as the winner of the Pennsylvania primary.
At the moment, Mrs. Clinton has 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Barack Obama.

Harris claims victory in debate that never took place

It's not exactly the kind of victory to write home to Mom about, but Democratic Attorney General candidate Jeff Harris is claiming victory in the first debate...after the debate was canceled because of scheduling conflicts for competitors Margaret Donnelly and Chris Koster. A news release issued by the Harris campaign earlier today read:

Chalk up one victory for Representative Jeff Harris in the Democratic battle for Attorney General. Harris’ campaign declared victory in the first round of debates as his leading rivals forfeited the event citing scheduling conflicts. With both Donnelly and Koster yielding the field, Harris’ campaign declared victory in the debate. Whether that victory gets recorded as a 9-0 win like Major League Baseball or 2-0 as in the NFL, the debate tally should clearly reflect that Jeff Harris was the only candidate prepared to face the tough questions and the voters in Northeast Missouri.

Harris issued the following statement:

“All joking aside, the unfortunate losers in this are the Young Democrats and other students at Truman State who worked hard to put this event together, and I am truly disappointed for them. They demonstrated a commitment to democracy and public service that we, as candidates for public office, should honor.

“Senator Koster and Representative Donnelly’s decision to skip this debate is an example of why we have often seen a generation gap within the Democratic Party in historically in voting. I can’t help but wonder if this event had been hosted by the Missouri Bar Association or some other similar organization, that my opponents then would have made the time on their schedules to attend. Since this event was put on by the Young Democrats, they for some reason felt it was OK to snub them.

“By listening to the concerns of voters and talking to them, we can bring Missourians and Americans together behind a common cause. As candidates and elected officials we should respect all voters, whether they are eighteen or eighty, and we should always stand by our commitments when we make them.”

The decisions by Senator Chris Koster and Representative Margaret Donnelly skip the debate both came after their campaigns had confirmed that they would in fact attend the debate, which was to be held this Thursday at Truman State University in Kirksville. Invitations for the debate were sent more than a month ago.

CNN: Voting irregularities reported in Pennsylvania

CNN reports that the League of Women Voters, which is unaffiliated with either the Clinton or Obama campaigns, is reporting scores of irregularities in today's primaries, including precincts where every single voting machine malfunctioned.

Another report had normal Republicans who wanted to cross the line and vote in the primary, which is permitted in Pennsylvania, were being told to go home and not allowed to vote, instead of being allowed to cast provisional ballots. In previous elections, many voters who crossed parties were casting their ballots for Barack Obama.

Too close to call in Pennyslvania

The polls have closed in Pennsylvania and it is too close to call, according to MSNBC and CNN.
For some reason, the pundits have made it that much more difficult for Hillary Clinton to claim a victory in this race. Chris Matthews on MSNBC just said that anything less than a nine or 10 percent win for Mrs. Clinton is a loss.

If Obama had an overwhelming lead in delegates that might be true, but neither candidate can win the nomination with just elected delegates. Now if Obama happens to win Pennsylvania, that would really ratchet up the pressure on Mrs. Clinton to drop out of the race and rightfully so.

Anyone who believes the continued presence of Hillary Clinton in the race is going to damage the Democrats in November, is underestimating the effect the economy and the war in Iraq are going to have in the general election. The Democrats will be united in November no matter which candidate wins.