Monday, October 31, 2011

Hell freezes over: Cynthia Davis is right!

In her latest column, former Rep. Cynthia Davis, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Constitution Party ticket, offers her thoughts on Jane Cunningham's Facebook Law and the misguided fix signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon.

And she is right on the money. The bill was a violation of the First Amendment rights of students and teachers and was heavily opposed by parents, as well. The fix, though some are lauding it, promises to add even more problems for public schoolteachers, something I am sure is already known to Sen. Cunningham.

Cynthia Davis' column is printed below:

For years I have been telling legislators we are not school board members, yet some still don't appear to understand. It is not unusual for a state legislator to start in a local office before going to the state house, but we must always be mindful of the responsibilities that accompany the respective jurisdictions. Through the years I have seen many disappointing bills emerge from the Republican majority having the effect of curtailing our first amendment rights, but the one that passed this year is especially problematic.

Do you want your government to control who can be friends on Facebook? The bill passed would make it illegal to communicate if you are a teacher, a student or a former student wanting to send messages to each other. This was based on a presumption that the teachers might be tempted to molest their students. F.Y.I., child molestation comes from having an evil heart, not from Facebook. People have been molesting children since before the internet was invented and unfortunately perversions will likely continue regardless of how many new laws are passed. The best safeguard for children is vigilant parents. We must confront the existence of bad actors in this world, but their repugnant behavior demands far more than merely another layer of laws.

The Democrats tend to be more philosophically inclined to trust government to solve our problems, so if they were in the majority, the passage of this bill would not be too surprising. However, with the Republicans in charge, many who publically claim to adhere to their party platform which pushes personal responsibility and limited government, this is a disappointing assault to our freedoms. The passage of this bill serves as one more example that the legislators from both parties have lost touch with the real world outside of the Capitol. Both the House and the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

When I first heard the legislature was prohibiting Facebook friendships, I thought it was one of those "unintended consequences" that happened by accident. It was sandwiched into a larger bill that dealt with sexual predators. This is a classic example of why a bill should not be passed if it is only a "little bit bad". The good can be repealed later, but the bad stays forever. The legislature used this special session to pass a correction bill. However, instead of repealing the Facebook provision entirely, they made a modification. (Click here to see the story on local 4 Fox News).

The new bill requires all school districts to establish written policies pertaining to Facebook and social media friendships. It still grows government bigger by not respecting the jurisdictions and duties of the school boards. The legislators who passed it still have an assumption that our school districts are not capable of knowing how to run our schools without the state telling them how to do so. The question is not whether the schools should have policies. The question is why the state thinks local school boards are incapable of running their schools in the manner they see fit.

If the legislature didn't have enough egg on their faces yet, now a lawsuit has been filed by the Ladue school district questioning the legitimacy of the new modification of the law.

The lawsuit was filed because a parent could not communicate with her child on Facebook--- because the parent was a school teacher and the child was a student.

Not too long ago, many people viewed the judicial system as a threat to the lawmaking capacity of the legislature. After what has happened with this misguided bill, the judicial branch of government may be able to offer relief from a law that is unconstitutional. Thank you, judges, for upholding our freedom of speech. It is comforting to know that some are trying to protect our first amendment rights. *

Oklahoma volunteers held build new homes for Joplin tornado victims

Tornado-affected Joplin citizens can call for volunteer assistance

(From the City of Joplin)

As repairs and rebuilding throughout the tornado disaster area continues, the City of Joplin reminds residents that if they need an extra set of hands, there are volunteers available to assist them.

More than 94,000 volunteers have worked thousands of hours to help Joplin, and we continue to see people offering assistance. Volunteer assistance is managed by AmeriCorps, an organization offering staff to match people with tasks requested by residents. Painting, minor repairs, and small construction projects, such as building a ramp or fence, are just some of the jobs volunteers have helped with for Joplin residents.

Residents needing assistance with various projects are encouraged to call the

Home Owners Assistance Hotline at 417-625-3558.

“Many people are working on their homes and may just need an extra set of hands to get a project completed,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “Residents can call the Hotline and request help from the volunteers who are providing their skills to help Joplin in our rebuilding efforts. We are thankful for our volunteers and want to remind our citizens that this service is available to them.”

In addition to this hotline number, the City reminds those wishing to help in these efforts, to call the

Volunteer Hotline at 417-625-3543.

5:41 available at Joplin Historical Museum Complex

Our book, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, is now available at the Joplin Historical Museum Complex on Schifferdecker.

It is also available at Hastings Books, Changing Hands Book Shop, and Countryside Floral in Joplin, and at numerous internet sites, including

The next signing for 5:41 is scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 1 to 5 p.m. at Countryside Floral. John Hacker and I will return to Hastings for a signing 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 10.

Nixon after Missouri/Missouri Southern game: People of Missouri are coming together

Missouri/Missouri Southern basketball game raises $100,000 for Joplin

Missouri defeated Missouri Southern 114-68 in an exhibition basketball game Sunday evening at the Leggett & Platt Center. The game raised $100,000 for Joplin:

The NCAA granted permission for Mizzou to play the exhibition game away from home. New Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith came up with the idea after a visit to the city days after the May 22 EF-5 twister. The storm damaged a 13-mile swath of the heart of Joplin, killing 162 and injuring hundreds more.

Missouri State will play the Division II No. 4 ranked Lions Saturday, November 5 for a similar fundraiser for the city's recovery.

Construction underway at Ten for Joplin site


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Progress Missouri: Sinquefield paying for misleading ads about tax proposals

Retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield, who has been doing his beat to buy Missouri government and turn it to his own ends, has begun airing ads in the Springfield market for his latest project, which would make his financial "burden" easier while piling it on those who can least afford it.

The following news release comes from Progress Missouri:

Rex Sinquefield's Let Voters Decide Campaign is already running radio ads in the Springfield area, and they're full of misleading and downright bogus claims. (Shocking!)

The truth is that the proposed 'Everything Tax' would shift the tax burden away from billionaires like Rex Sinquefield onto working families and seniors like you and me. If the new 'Everything Tax' is created, Missourians will be forced to pay more for almost everything we buy every day. Seniors living on a fixed income would be hit especially hard with new sales taxes on their food, medicine and in-home or nursing home care. The taxes all of us pay at the grocery store would quadruple.

It gets worse. Beyond forcing us to pay more for almost everything we buy, this billionaire's pipe dream would also blow a hole in Missouri's already tight budget. Conservative and progressive economists alike estimate the 'Everything Tax' will create a budget shortfall of up to $3.2 billion. That means even more devastating cuts to schools in our communities, Medicaid, important infrastructure projects, colleges and universities, and more.

To prop up this lose-lose proposition, the Sinquefield-funded Let Voters Decide committee is relying on downright misleading statements in their paid communications. Here are a few claims we've heard already:

BOGUS CLAIM: The radical Everything Tax plan will benefit everyone. "I know how you and me and everybody can have more money to spend, now and forever!" says an actress in one ad. Seriously!

REALITY: The Everything Tax would make things worse for almost all of us by creating a new, 10-percent sales tax. Missouri families will be forced to find more room in their budgets for things like milk, bread, baby food, diapers, health insurance benefits, emergency room visits, in-home nursing care costs and car insurance payments, just to name a few.

BOGUS CLAIM: "There's no state income tax at all in Tennessee."

REALITY: Tennessee does tax individuals' income, as you can see for yourself at the Tennessee Department of Revenue website. It's also worth noting that Tennessee's corporate income tax system is considerably more complex than Missouri's.

BOGUS CLAIM: Putting all of our eggs into one basket will make our tax code "fair and reliable."
REALITY: The radical Everything Tax plan will disproportionately benefit the very wealthy, and make our revenue in future years for schools, roads and other basic services less reliable.

BOGUS CLAIM: Missouri's tax code is unfriendly for business and economic growth.
REALITY: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Missouri as one of their Top Ten States for businesses. A U.S. Chamber study recently ranked Missouri as one of the most business friendly states in the nation. Business Insider featured the top ten states highlighted in the report (including Missouri at #7) as “shining stars in the union that can still keep taxes low and attractive for businesses.”

CNBC ranked Missouri as a top state for businesses in 2011. Missouri ranked #3 in cost of doing business (improving from 5th in 2010).

Missouri has the sixth lowest state tax burden in the country. According to an analysis by Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich, Missouri’s tax burden relative to personal income is lower than all but 6 states in the nation.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers raise walls for 10 Joplin families

(From Habitat for Humanity)

About 400 volunteers from the Tulsa and Joplin area joined hands and hearts today to raise the walls on 10 homes for tornado-impacted families. It’s a testament to the power of community and what can be accomplished when people come together to help those in need.

The grassroots effort began with a few people from Tulsa asking how they could help after a visit to witness the May 22 EF-5 tornado’s devastation firsthand. Within a few months, those questions blossomed into the Ten for Joplin project to build 10 homes over 16 days.

The project is a partnership between Tulsa and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity teams, the City of Joplin, surrounding businesses and organizations, and thousands of volunteers to rebuild Joplin.

In just a little over seven weeks, Ten for Joplin has raised $789,000 toward its $800,000 cash goal and approximately $270,000 worth of in-kind gifts. Donations will be accepted through the 16-day build on its website at Any excess cash raised will be applied to future Habitat
for Humanity builds in the tornado-ravaged area of Joplin.

“This project is about more than constructing houses, it’s about rebuilding a community,” said Paul Kent, executive director of Tulsa Habitat for Humanity. “We’re starting with just a few walls today, but in a matter of weeks this place will be transformed. We’re all excited to be a part of providing a fresh start and secure environment for these families.”

In addition to a community developer sponsorship from the Habitat for Humanity International’s Women Build program, companies sponsoring houses are The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Arvest Bank, BKD CPAs & Advisors, Chase, Hilti, Samson and T.D. Williamson, Inc. Organizations that have signed on to sponsor a half house include Advanced Industrial Devices, Inc., Commerce
Bank/William T. Kemper Foundation, Helmerich & Payne, Unit Corporation and Valley National Bank. Other major contributors include Asbury United Methodist Church, Bank of Oklahoma, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, The Home Depot Foundation, The Mary K. Chapman Foundation and Williams.

Companies donating gifts in-kind include Thermal Windows, Turner Roofing, TAMKO Building Products and numerous others.

To find out more about the project, go to the website at

Cleaver: Plan offers support for students, old and new

In his latest EC from DC report, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-MO, talks about the Obama Administration's Pay as You Earn proposal.

On October 25, 2011, the Administration introduced a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal that will reduce monthly payments for more than one and a half million current college students and borrowers. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income. Many students need relief sooner than that. The new “Pay As You Earn” proposal will allow about 1.6 million students the ability to cap their loan payments at 10 percent starting next year, and the plan will forgive the balance of their debt after 20 years of payments. Additionally, starting this January an estimated 6 million students and recent college graduates will be able to consolidate their loans and reduce their interest rates.

Current law allows borrowers to limit their loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years. However, few students know about this option. Students can find out if they are currently eligible for IBR at Last year, the President proposed, and Congress enacted, a plan to further ease student loan debt payment by lowering the IBR loan payment to 10 percent of income, and the forgiveness timeline to 20 years. This change is set to go into effect for all new borrowers after 2014—mostly impacting future college students.

Current college students now have the chance to limit loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income starting in 2012. In addition, the debt would be forgiven after 20 years instead of 25, as current law allows. For many who struggle to manage their student loan debt – including teachers, nurses, public defenders and others in lower-paying jobs – these proposed changes could reduce their payments by hundreds of dollars each month. Overall, this proposal would provide an estimated 1.6 million borrowers with more manageable monthly payments.

The Administration is also planning to offer student borrowers the chance to better manage their debt by consolidating their federal student loans. Today, approximately 5.8 million borrowers have both a Direct Loan (DL) and a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) that require separate payments, which makes them more likely to default. To address the needs of these borrowers, the Administration will allow borrowers the convenience of a single payment to a single lender for both loans. Borrowers who take advantage of this consolidation option, which begins in January, would also receive up to a 0.5 percent reduction in their interest rate on some of their loans, which means lower monthly payments that would save hundreds of dollars in interest. Eligible borrowers will be contacted by their federal loan servicer early next year with information on how to consolidate.

Friday, October 28, 2011

AP video coverage of St. Louis Cardinals' World Series victory

LaDue teacher, ACLU drop Facebook Bill lawsuit

LaDue teacher Christina Thomas filed a motion today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri asking for her lawsuit against the LaDue Board of Education and the State Board of Education be dismissed.

The suit apparently became unnecessary after Gov. Jay Nixon signed SB 1, the revision of Sen. Jane Cunningham's SB 54. The revision eliminated the social networking portion of SB 54 and requires every school district in the state to create a policy for student/teacher communications by March 1, 2012.

Ms. Thomas had filed her lawsuit, claiming that SB 54 prevented her from even being able to communicate with her own child via social networking. She was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Post-Dispatch columnist: The impossible dream is complete

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell describes the conclusion of the Cardinals' World Series miracle in a story posted shortly after the conclusion of the game:

With three outs to go, the sold-out crowd was all on its feet, waving white towels, snapping photos on their cell phones and poised to storm the field to toast the most improbable World Series title that this storied franchise had ever won. There were already 10 Series flags fluttering above the right-field scoreboard more than any other team not named the Yankees and the only thing standing in their way was a quick close out by fire-balling closer Jason Motte.

Twenty four hours earlier, the Rangers were one strike away from a World Series title twice. But now they were suffering from the same fate of the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers, who made the fatal mistake of not killing off these resilient Cardinals when they had the chance. The Phillies could have saved themselves the trouble of dealing with the Cardinals in the playoffs by simply letting the sagging Atlanta Braves win one game down the stretch of the last week of the regular season. The Brewers could have choked them off with one more win over the last two months of the regular season.

And the Rangers could have done in the Cardinals at any number of critical moments on Thursday night.

But now at the end of this chilly Friday night, they had to stand by and watch the Cardinals slip on those championship caps, hoist the World Series trophy and gallop all around the infield floating on a championship cloud.

When the Cardinals got within that amazing last strike to the World Series title, this is what they did:

Fly out to center.

Ground out.

Fly out to left.

Job done.

Impossible Dream complete.

Video: Cardinals win 2011 World Series

Dallas newspaper on Rangers' loss: Even the collapses come bigger in Texas

A half century of frustration continued tonight as the St. Louis Cardinals thwarted the Texas Rangers' attempt to win their first World Series.

The Dallas Morning News headlined its story "Close isn't good enough: Rangers now at 51 title-less years and counting." The story includes the following passage:

A day after twice coming within one strike of champagne, a glittering trophy and a championship parade in Game 6, the Rangers went as dry as an overcooked Texas T-bone in Friday night's finale.

Pitchers Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson fizzled rather than sizzled, and the St. Louis Cardinals won 6-2 in Game 7 to send the Rangers home as World Series losers for the second straight season.

Last year, this was a new experience. The first American League pennant was satisfying, even if the five-game loss to the San Francisco Giants was a disappointment to a franchise searching for success as the expansion Washington Senators through 1971 and the Rangers since the move.

This loss left wounds that will never be forgotten for the oldest Major League Baseball team without a Series title. "2011" will be remembered by Rangers fans, much like "1986" weighed on the memory of the Boston Red Sox until they finally ended their long championship drought in 2004.

Only once before in baseball history had a team come within an out of a Series title and not brought home a championship — those '86 Red Sox, infamous for Bill Buckner's error.

These Rangers will be remembered for a triple failure, for Neftali Feliz allowing David Freese's tying triple in the ninth inning of Game 6, for Scott Feldman giving up Lance Berkman's tying single in the 10th and for Mark Lowe allowing Freese's game-ending home run in the 11th.

Even the collapses come bigger in Texas.

Ten for Joplin: Meet the families

From Barry Manilow's official site: Bringing music to Joplin

Joplin South Little League introduced before World Series Game 7

People Magazine names Joplin Schools Superintendent C. J. Huff one of its five heroes of the year

Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, who made the vow shortly after the May 22 tornado that school would open on time less than three months later and followed through on that promise, has been named one of the five heroes of the year by People Magazine.

Huff will receive $10,000, which will go to a local entity. No announcement has been made yet of which specific organization will receive the money.

The remarkable feat of opening the schools on time after the tornado devastated more than one third of the city came despite more than half of the school buildings being destroyed or heavily damaged.

The Bright Futures initiative started by Huff and Joplin Schools months before the tornado became the hub of activity after the tornado, not just for the schools but for the entire Joplin community.

In the accompanying video, Huff talks to returning teachers August 15 about how Joplin Schools bounced back after May 22.

Streets to be closed for Ten for Joplin project

(From the City of Joplin)

Several streets east of the intersection of 20th Street and Main Street will be closed due to construction projects in the area. The streets include:

Virginia Avenue from 22n Street to 23rd Street; Pennsylvania Avenue, from 21st Street to 22nd Street; and Kentucky Avenue, from 21st Street to 25th Street.

These streets will be closed starting Saturday, October 29 and will remain closed for the next few weeks, allowing work to be completed for the Ten For Joplin project.

The Tulsa and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity teams, surrounding businesses and the City of Joplin are partnering on one of the most aggressive rebuilding efforts since last May’s devastating EF-5 tornado. The Ten for Joplin project team plans to build 10 homes during a 16-day period for low-income families in Joplin by Thanksgiving.

Motorists are asked to use caution and may wish to seek an alternate route.

Some thoughts on Game 6 of the World Series

Just a few thoughts about one of the best (if sloppily played) games in World Series history:

-A lot of attention has been placed (and deservedly so) on David Freese's comeback from dropping an easy popup to blasting two clutch extra base hits, including the game-winning homer in the 11th, but overlooked has been the contributions of center fielder John Jay. Jay had absolutely no hits in the Series and drew Manager Tony LaRussa's ire when he overthrew the cutoff man late in the game, but his two hits played key roles in the Cards' win.

-Don't forget about the contribution of Allen Craig, who stepped in for Matt Holliday, who did not have one of his better nights, and hit a key home run. Prior to this game, Craig's World Series had been defined by two caught stealing incidents.

-Fox announcers made a big deal about the Rangers playing too deep when Lance Berkman's run-scoring single tied the game in the 10th, but I don't recall anyone mentioning that the only reason the game was in the 10th was because Nelson Cruz was playing too shallow and clearly could have caught Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth.

-With all of the offensive heroics, it is easy to overlook the contribution Jake Westbrook, normally a starting pitcher, who was not even on the roster for the divisional series or the league championship, made. Westbrook retired the Rangers in the top of the 11th without allowing a run, something the Redbiards had not been able to do in previous innings. Of course, it was a bit worrisome that Westbrook, who has earned a reputation for inducing ground ball outs with his sinker, retired two batters on fly balls.

-Joe Buck's "See you tomorrow night" call after David Freese's walk-off home run was, obviously, a tribute to his father, the legendary Jack Buck, who made the exact same call in game six of the 1991 World Series when Kirby Puckett's home run enabled the Twins to tie the World Series (which they eventually won) against the Braves. Clearly, Buck had the call prepared from the outset if something similar were to happen since it was foreshadowed earlier in the game with talk about Puckett's homer and Jack Buck's memorable call. It was planned, but in this case, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that.

LaRussa: We don't ever quit trying

Video: Barry Manilow donates $300,000 worth of band instruments to Joplin schools


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Texas reporter on Cardinals comeback win: Did that really just happen?

It's not quite a Jack Buck "I don't believe what I just saw," but Dallas Morning News reporter Jon Machota asks, "Did that really just happen?" about the St. Louis Cardinals' come-from-behind (numerous times) 10-9, 11 inning victory in game six of the World Series:

Did that really just happen? On two occasions, the Rangers were within one strike of clinching their first World Series title in the franchise's 50-year history. The Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since late August, but this one might be different. This will easily be their toughest loss to bounce back from.

Here's hoping they don't.

Freese hits walk off home run; Comeback Cards headed for Game 7

Drury University offers $1,000 scholarships to all 2012 Joplin high school graduates

(From Drury University)

Extreme Home Makeover Home Edition built seven houses in seven days for seven families that lost their homes on May 22. Drury has granted $25,000 scholarships to the 14 children under the age of 18 who live in those homes.

Also, Drury has pledged a $1,000 scholarship to any 2012 high school graduate living in the Joplin School District. The graduate can be a public school, private school or a home school student. The scholarship is contingent upon the student being admissible to Drury University.

"Move That Bus" Extreme Home Makeover Joplin project completed

Joplin mascot Eddie the Eagle dances during halftime at Arrowhead

Joplin tornado costs Empire District $20 to $30 million; quarterly dividends suspended

(From Empire District Electric)

Empire District Electric Company reported consolidated earnings for the third quarter of 2011 of $25.2 million, or $0.60 per share, compared with 2010 same quarter earnings of $23.0 million, or $0.56 per share (or $0.55 per share on a diluted basis). Earnings for the twelve months ended September 30, 2011 were $54.7 million, or $1.31 per share. This compares to earnings of $46.9 million, or $1.19 per share, for the 2010 twelve month period.

-- Approximately 3,900 residential, commercial and industrial customers remain unable to return to service due to damaged or destroyed structures resulting from the EF-5 tornado that struck the Joplin, Missouri area on May 22, 2011. Approximately 600 temporary housing units have been added to our system during the third quarter to shelter local residents displaced by the tornado. Estimated storm restoration costs remain at $20 million to $30 million, of which approximately $19.1 million has been incurred to date. The majority of these costs have been capitalized. The ongoing loss of revenue associated with the tornado was mitigated by increased customer usage due to storm recovery efforts, rate increases that became effective during 2010 and early 2011, and record hot weather during the quarter. Based on monthly Cooling Degree Days, the third quarter was the warmest in the past 30 years due primarily to extreme temperatures in July and early August. The loss of electric load and corresponding revenues from the tornado is expected to continue as customers rebuild. An Accounting Authority Order filed with the Missouri Public Service Commission shortly after the May 22 tornado remains pending. It requested authorization to defer expenses associated with the storm and to allow for the recovery of the loss of the fixed cost component included in our rates resulting from lost sales.

-- In response to this expected loss of revenues, our level of retained earnings and other relevant factors, our Board of Directors suspended our quarterly dividend for the third and fourth quarters of 2011. Based on current conditions and knowledge, at today's meeting the Board of Directors reaffirmed their expectation to re-establish the quarterly dividend at an approximate level of $0.25 per share for the first quarter of 2012.

Many Cardinals could be playing last home game tonight or tomorrow

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Albert Pujols is not the only St. Louis Cardinal who might be playing his last home game tonight or tomorrow as the World Series comes to a close:
Besides Pujols, the Cardinals will make hard decisions on whether to retain or abstain on pitchers Edwin Jackson, Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel and Kyle McClellan, infielders Rafael Furcal, Nick Punto, Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker, catcher Gerald Laird and outfielder Corey Patterson. If a 25-man roster is the denominator, and Pujols is included, that represents a 44 percent slice of the pie.

The particulars involved vary from player to player. The Cardinals have options to honor contracts on some, such as Furcal, Rhodes and Dotel. They can choose to tender or non-tender arbitration offers to others, such as McClellan and Schumaker. They would have to negotiate new deals with others, such as Jackson, Punto, Theriot, Laird and Patterson.

Video: Joplin High School cheerleaders rev up crowd at Extreme Home Makeover reveal

Tilley addresses Crowell's role in derailing economic package

GOP: Middle class McCaskill sells private plane for $1.9 million

(From the Missouri Republican Party)

Seven months after Claire McCaskill made national headlines for failing to pay $320,000 in property taxes on her private plane, and just three weeks after she told POLITICO that she “would be considered middle class,” McCaskill revealed yesterday that she had finally sold her plane… for $1.9 million dollars.

“Claire McCaskill is a lot of things—liberal, out-of-touch, a tax-cheat, a rubberstamp for the Obama agenda—but the $1.9 million sale of her private plane shows yet again that she is certainly not middle class,” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “McCaskill can pretend to be middle class and she can claim to be a government watchdog—but the ‘Air Claire’ scandal proved once and for all that McCaskill’s walk doesn’t match her talk.”

Last March, the quick succession of embarrassing revelations surrounding McCaskill’s private plane—reimbursing herself for travel on the plane, billing taxpayers for political travel, and failing to pay $320,000 in property taxes—cast doubt on McCaskill’s competence and obliterated her carefully-cultivated image as an auditor and government watchdog.

Compounding her problems, McCaskill’s own statements prove just how out-of-touch she has become.

At the same time she told POLITICO that she was “middle class,” an online listing for her luxury plane described its “six-seat Platinum Executive interior, which also includes pleated-leather seats, all with articulating headrests and adjustable lumbar support for ever-so-comfortable flights.”

And in March, during the media firestorm surrounding her failure to pay taxes, McCaskill even claimed that she used the private plane “much, much more as a mom, and a grandmother, and a wife than I did as a United States Senator.”

Of course, Missourians see through McCaskill’s charade—because everyone knows that real middle-class moms, grandmothers, and wives can’t afford “ever-so-comfortable flights” in a multi-million dollar private plane.

Extreme Home Makeover's Ty Pennington: This is the biggest thing we've ever pulled off


Extreme Home Makeover homes revealed to Joplin families


Joplin School Orchestra rebuilds after losing everything

A Nov. 1 concert has been scheduled at Missouri State University for the Joplin High School Orchestra, which, of course, was hit especially hard by the May 22 tornado:

The Joplin Orchestra lost most of their instruments, all of their music, and the place they practice. They now, like many students in Joplin, have to go to another school to practice.

"We're practicing here because our other high school was completely destroyed," explained Joplin Orchestra Violists Quinton Anderson.

"We're not at the same place as the rest of my classes," said Joplin Orchestra Violinist Sarah Kessler, "so I have to drive between orchestra and the rest of my school day"

"About 75 percent of my students lost their instruments in the school," said Joplin Orchestra Director Kylee Tripoli.

A great poet once said, "music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Everyday life for members of the Joplin Orchestra is filled with the dust of tragedy. That tragedy now defines their town.

"I'm actually lucky to be alive," said Quinton Anderson, "the tornado destroyed my house, killed my parents, and put me in the hospital for 5 ½ weeks."

From that tragedy inspiration was born. "If you think about it," said Quinton, "we're another inspirational comeback. We lost a lot of instruments, our school got destroyed, but yet we are still here practicing every day."

The free concert is Tuesday, Nov. 1st from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

Donations will be accepted to help the orchestra replace the music lost during the tornado.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5:41, Kansas City Star, Joplin Globe tornado books all available on this page

Those wanting to pick up the three major Joplin Tornado books available through Amazon. com need look no further than the right hand side of this page.

Copies of 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado written by Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker and me, the Joplin Globe's 32 Minutes in May, and the Kansas City Star's Joplin 5:41 can find links on this page.

As of this writing, the Globe book is standing at about number 153,000 on Amazon's charts, while the KC Star book, coincidentally is at 20,541 and our 5:41 book is at 20,348. I expect those will go back and forth as our book has been with the Kansas City Star's over the past couple of weeks.

Volunteer food servers help with Joplin Extreme Home Makeover project

Branson gives $160,000 check for St. John's employees

Ribbon cutting scheduled for Frank's Lounge

(News release)

The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce will celebrate the rebuild and re-opening of Frank’s Lounge with a ribbon cutting on Friday, October 28, at 10 am. Presented by Southwest Missouri Bank, the JACC Ambassadors, Frank’s Lounge staff, and Farrell Construction will all be on hand to celebrate the special event.

Frank’s Lounge owner Judy Petty is excited that she has been able to re-open, and thrilled the process went so smoothly. “I’ve been here for 40 years and a tornado was not going to put me out. Frank’s Lounge is not just my business, it’s a meeting place where my friends are.”

Financing in place for $15 million renovation of Joplin housing complex

(From U.S. Bank)

U.S. Bank, lead bank of U.S. Bancorp /quotes/zigman/278238/quotes/nls/usb USB +0.64% , in partnership with developer Dominium and state and city officials, announced today at a ceremonial groundbreaking that financing is in place for the $15 million renovation of Oak Meadows into "1502 Michigan Place," a 138 unit affordable housing complex heavily damaged in a tornado that devastated Joplin in May of 2011. Residents moved out when Oak Meadow's 14 apartment buildings were deemed inhabitable due to roof, window and water damage. Nearly all of the tenants are planning to return in the spring of 2012 when the interior and exterior improvements, and a new community center, are complete.

U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Bank, committed more than $11 million of federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity in support of the redevelopment and made a $1.8 million Affordable Housing Assistance Program (AHAP) donation for the benefit of the project. Great Southern Bank is providing a construction loan and a more than $1.6 million first mortgage, with funds from Dominium completing financing sources.

Dominium is renovating the exterior of the buildings and landscape as well as completely remodeling the interior units, adding new appliances, mechanical systems and bathroom fixtures. A new community center will house a centralized laundry facility, leasing office, computer lab, indoor and outdoor play area, multipurpose and maintenance room and police substation. During the groundbreaking on October 25, USBCDC also announced a commitment pledge of $10,000 in support of a computer lab within the new community center.

Complete renovations will be finished by April of 2012 with some buildings to be ready for occupancy by February 2012. Residential units in the newly rebranded 1502 Michigan Place will be available to families who make less than $28,860 a year for a family of four, or about 60 percent of the area medium income.

John Schiffer, Director of LIHTC Asset Management for USBCDC, noted that investing in projects like 1502 Michigan Place is critical to putting people back to work while filling the gap in cost-effective housing. "In the wake of Joplin's recent tornado, access to affordable housing and new job opportunities are of critical importance for the recovery of the city," said Schiffer. He noted that at least 96 jobs will be created during the rehab construction process, and four permanent jobs once the building is up and running.

Schiffer recognized the important work of the federal and state governments, its agencies, and local non-profits and faith-based organizations in actively engaging in citywide recovery efforts. He went on to say that the redevelopment of 1502 Michigan Place would not have been feasible without the use of federal and state incentive programs aimed at promoting the rehabilitation and construction of affordable rental housing. Federal and state LIHTC financing and the Missouri AHAP Program--which are administered by the Missouri Development Housing Commission--accounted for 86% of total development costs. The state LIHTC program, in particular, is a major component to the continued development of safe and secure housing for those residents on fixed and low incomes throughout Missouri.

"Affordable housing is desperately needed in Joplin, which currently has less than 1% rental vacancy," said Armand Brachman, co-managing partner of Dominium. "This renovation will put much-needed needed affordable housing units back on the Joplin market."

Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston noted the magnitude of the clean up and rebuilding efforts. "More than 7,500 of our residential dwellings were damaged, of which, approximately 4,000 suffered extensive or catastrophic damage, in the 3/4 mile-wide, 13-mile long tornado," said Woolston. He added, "We appreciate that community leaders like U.S. Bank stepped up early on with $100,000 for our relief and rebuilding efforts and that they continue to take part in the restoration of our close-knit community."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An update on 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado

A couple of book signings are scheduled over the next several weeks for our book, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado.

Co-author John Hacker and I will be at Countryside Floral, 109 3. 39th, Joplin, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 6. Countryside is currently one of three Joplin outlets for the book, along with Changing Hands Book Shop and Hastings.

We will return for our second signing at Hastings, where the book had its launch Saturday, September 24, and has become the biggest selling locally written book in that store's history with more than 400 sold there the last time I checked. Our second signing is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, December 10.

Of course, 5:41 is also available online from its own store at CreateSpace and from, as well as from other internet book sellers.

THe success we have had with the book thus far has primarily come through word of mouth. As of this writing, we have not had any publicity from newspapers, but we offer a big thanks to our Joplin area television stations which have been extremely supportive.

The accompanying photo was taken when John Hacker and I visited Toni Valliere and Gary Bandy at KSN's Living Well show September 22.

Joplin superintendent to speak at Best Practices in Emergency Preparedness seminar

Dr. C. J. Huff, Joplin Schools superintendent is the scheduled feature speaker at a Best Practices in Emergency Preparedness for Child-Serving Organizations today at Tan-Tar-A Resort at Osage Beach.

According to the website for the event:

Dr. C.J. Huff, Superintendent of Joplin Public Schools in Joplin, Missouri, will discuss the critical role of community engagement and resilience in emergency recovery as it relates to the F5 tornado that ripped through the Southwest Missouri community on May 22, 2011. The three-quarter-mile twister was the single deadliest tornado to ever hit American soil (since the National Weather Service began keeping records sixty-one years ago).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blunt talks about Joplin Extreme Home Makeover

Blunt on WDAF: Jobs should be our number one priority

Federal judge refuses to expedite hearings on Facebook Law

A federal judge Friday rejected a motion filed by Ladue teacher Christina Thomas to expedite hearings on the Missouri Facebook Law.

The decision was issued before Gov. Jay Nixon signed SB 1, which revises the law and now requires all Missouri school districts to enact a policy concerning teacher-student communication by March 1, 2012.

The judge rejected the motion to expedite the hearing and to make it a class action suit.

The lawsuit was filed after school officials told Ms. Thomas she could not communicate with her own child through social networking sites.

According to the petition, "Ladue School District has notified its teachers that they cannot have exclusive communications with their own children on Facebook, if they meet the statutory definition of student or former student. Specifically, Plaintiff and other teachers at Ladue School District were notified in writing that because of the statute they will be prohibited from communicating exclusively through Facebook or other social-networking sites with their own children or members of their Sunday School classes, athletic teams, or scout troops “unless or until exceptions are enacted[,]” if the children are students or former students as defined by the statute."

The lawsuit says that SB 54 is "a prior restraint on speech in that it requires promulgation and enforcement of a policy that restricts the speech of Plaintiff and members of the Plaintiff Class before the speech occurs."

The petition asks the judge to certify the lawsuit as a class action suit in which all Missouri school teachers would be members of the class and asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions against enforcement of the law.

Tulsa station provides coverage of Extreme Home Makeover in Joplin

Nov. 30 demolition deadline set for Joplin commercial properties

(From the City of Joplin)

Demolition has become an all-too familiar activity in Joplin since the May 22 tornado and we aren’t quite done with it yet. Commercial property owners now need to follow in the footsteps of residential property owners and clear their storm-damaged properties and leftover concrete in the coming weeks.

City officials are setting a November 30 deadline for commercial property owners to have their lots cleared or have a provable plan in place for the work to occur shortly thereafter. If neither is done, the property owners face action by the City to have the work done and the costs associated with that work billed against the property. Parking lots do not need to be removed as part of this effort.

“Together, as a community, we have made amazing strides in cleaning up and rebuilding Joplin since the May tornado,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “We need to keep that momentum going within our business community and clear the last of these lots so that our recovery can continue.”

Commercial properties include retail and service businesses, as well as residential rental units such as apartments, condos, four-plexes and other multi-family dwelling units.

While the deadline does not apply to those who are rebuilding on an existing slab, basement or footings, it does pertain to the following scenarios:

•Tornado-damaged structures that cannot or should not be rebuilt. This applies if the structure is dangerous or if it’s not cost-effective to rebuild.
•Slabs, basements, crawl spaces or footings that aren’t safe to reuse because they are not structurally sound.
•Slabs, basements, crawl spaces or footings that cannot be reused because the size of the replacement structure is different.
•Slabs, basements, crawl spaces or footings that will not be reused by the current property owner.
•Any other remaining concrete appurtenances that are no longer needed.

A provable plan for the demolition and removal of foundations means that a property owner has a signed contract from a private contractor to do the work. If you are rebuilding on an existing slab, basement, or footing, you do not have to remove your existing foundation, but you must notify the City of your plans by this deadline by calling 417-627-2900.

Property owners can do a demolition themselves or use insurance or other funds to hire a professional, certified contractor to complete the work. A demolition permit from the City of Joplin is required. Demo permits are FREE until Dec. 31, 2011 and are available from the Joplin Building Division on the 4th floor of Joplin City Hall, 602 S. Main St.

The resulting debris cannot be pushed to the public rights-of-way. Instead, it must to be hauled off to a proper landfill. Concrete that is removed cannot be recycled because some of it is old enough that it may contain mine chat. All concrete needs to be taken to a landfill instead.

After November 30, the City will begin a process to declare the structure or remaining structure a danger to public health and safety. This process will closely follow the one used recently for residential properties, which includes posting a notice on the property and publishing a notification of a hearing before the Building Board of Appeals.

For more information, contact the City’s Tornado Assistance Information Line (Tail) at 417-627-2900 during regular business hours.

Kander welcomes Schoeller to secretary of state race

Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, who announced his candidacy for secretary of state after incumbent Robin Carnahan chose not to seek re-election, welcomed Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, to the race today with the following statement:

“I’m running to be Missouri’s next Secretary of State because I believe we need to focus on ensuring well-run elections, making it easier to start a business, and protecting our seniors and their investments. Over the past few weeks I’ve been traveling across the state talking to Missourians about these issues. I welcome Rep. Schoeller and the other Republican candidates to the race and look forward to comparing our visions for the office.”

Halloween party funds to go to food for families affected by Joplin Tornado

(From the City of Joplin)

Mark your calendars, and dig into your closet as you prepare to enjoy the Amazing 80’s Costume Halloween Party at the Downstream Pavilion on Oct. 29 from 8 pm to midnight. The event is designed as part of the Arts Building Community (ABC) project administered by the Joplin Chamber’s Cultural Affairs Committee.

It’s also in collaboration with Downstream Casino and Resort and Joplin Parks and Recreation. Chris Cotten, Director of Parks and Rec, will serve as disc jockey that evening, spinning favorite tunes from the 80’s. Those working with the ABC project has created this event to focus on those in need, with funds raised from the event going to meet the food needs of residents affected by the May 22, 2011 tornado.

This fun-filled night will include cash prizes for Halloween costumes (Best 80’s woman; Best 80’s man; Best Mullet, Best 80’s Band, etc.). Prizes will also be handed out to winners of an 80’s trivia game and winners of classic 80’s arcade games. Shelly Kraft and her professional partner will perform their winning freestyle dance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” from the 2011 Chamber Dancing with the Joplin Stars event.

Tickets for the party may be purchased online at or at the gift center inside the first floor of the Downstream Hotel. Tickets are $20 per person and include a commemorative t-shirt. Canned food donations are encouraged, but not required, and will be donated to Joplin area food pantries by the Cultural Affairs Committee.

“We continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support from around the world and certainly from our friends and neighbors in this region as we seek to rebuild literally and emotionally from the May 22, 2011, tornado. This fun event is just another way we can meet our Arts Building Community goal by linking the art of dance with the food needs of our friends and neighbors still recovering from the storm,” said Brill.

For more information, please log onto Facebook and like ABC Spotlight or Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce pages for updates and pictures from the event.

Branson Theater League to deliver $50,000 to Joplin Tuesday

(News release)

The League of Branson Theatre Owners and Show Producers says it will deliver a check to Joplin Tuesday to help with tornado relief efforts. The organization hosted the Branson Cares telethon in June at The Mansion Theatre.

Dozens of Branson area entertainers performed during the telethon broadcast nationwide on television, radio, and the internet. The theatre league has said it would donate all of the proceeds to St. John’s Hospital, The Joplin School District’s Music Department and St. Mary’s School in Joplin.

An email over the weekend announcing the check presentation said it would take place Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 at the site of St. John’s temporary hospital. The hospital took a direct hit from the deadly twister May 22nd.

The theatre league has already given 50-thousand dollars toJoplin since the telethon. 45-thousand went to the Joplin High School band, while 5-thousand was sent to St. Mary

Ten for Joplin to raise walls for 10 homes Saturday

(From Tulsa, Joplin Habitats for Humanity)

Ten families affected by May’s devastating tornado in Joplin will take a huge step in rebuilding their lives as they raise the walls on their new Habitat for Humanity homes on Saturday, Oct. 29. The Tulsa and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity teams and hundreds of volunteers will work along side the families to raise the walls simultaneously on 10 homes in a tornado-ravaged neighborhood.

Who: Tulsa Habitat for Humanity, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, the City of Joplin, company and foundation sponsors, and hundreds of volunteers

What: Wall-raising ceremony to kick off 16-day blitz build

When: 9 a.m. central time Saturday, Oct. 29

Where: Intersection of E. 22nd St. and S. Kentucky Ave. in Joplin

Why: As the citizens of Joplin move into the rebuilding phase of their recovery following the devastating EF-5 tornado that hit their community on May 22, the need to help the victims without homes continues.

About Ten for Joplin

In a blitz build from Oct. 29 to Nov. 13, the Tulsa and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity teams have joined forces with the City of Joplin to construct 10 homes for low-income families impacted by the devastating May 22 tornado. The Ten for Joplin project provides an opportunity for Tulsans and others in surrounding communities to contribute their time and money to help their neighbors in need. More information is available at

Schoeller announces bid for secretary of state

As expected, Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, announced today he is running for secretary of state. Following is a message to his supporters:

Today, with family, friends, neighbors and supporters at my side, I announced my candidacy for Missouri Secretary of State. I made this decision after months of thoughtful prayer, discussions with my family, and candid conversations with Missourians.

Over the past ten years, nearly every major issue facing our state has been impacted by the Secretary of State, including, human cloning, proposed tax increases, gay marriage, renewable energy mandates and burdensome regulations on Missouri’s agriculture industry.

But unfortunately, for too long, these important issues have not been handled in a fair manner. Instead, with liberal Robin Carnahan in charge, the Secretary of State’s office has been beholden to liberal special interests that have worked to use it to their political advantage. And, unfortunately, with liberal Robin Carnahan in charge, these groups have been extremely successful in advancing their special interest causes.

They have been able to write unfair ballot language on a wide range of issues, including last year’s so-called ‘Puppy Mill Cruelty Act.’ Fortunately for Missourians, Robin Carnahan has decided not to run for re-election.

And today, I am asking you for your support.

I’m running for Secretary of State because I want to safeguard the institutions that set America apart from the rest of the world: Democracy and Free Enterprise. The Secretary of State’s office is uniquely positioned to defend these sacred institutions because of its role in overseeing the election process, business regulations and securities oversight. It is time we restore the faith.

As Secretary of State, I’ll work to guarantee fair and accurate elections, make it simpler for employers to create jobs and protect Missourians from predatory investment practices. I will work to see that Missouri implements a commonsense photo identification requirement for voting. And, most importantly, I will stand up to special interests that want to play politics with this office.

Together, we can move past this unfortunate period in our state’s history. We can join together to ensure that conservative voices are not drowned out in the election process. We can work together to make it easier to start a business and ease the government burden on Missouri’s existing businesses.

Together, we can defend what’s sacred!

I hope you will join the cause by contributing to my campaign. A gift of $100, $50, or even $35 will help us spread our commonsense conservative message to all corners of this great state.

I hope you will also visit our website,, follow me on Twitter and join my Facebook page.

This campaign is about you, the issues you care about, and the state you hope to leave for the next generation. Join me today and, together, we can ensure the next generation enjoys the opportunities that we have been blessed with.

Blunt receives Joplin progress report


News-Leader: Extreme Home Makeover offers inspiration to Joplin

Today's Springfield News-Leaders offers a feature on how the seven homes in seven days project the ABC program Extreme Home Makeover is doing in Joplin is helping inspire the community:

Five months ago, Tom Mourning was helping any way he could after his Joplin apartment was destroyed by a tornado.

This week, he is watching, supporting and enjoying the spectacle as seven new homes quickly rise up for a future episode of the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Mourning works for Metro Appliance & More at its Joplin office, which is warehousing the appliances that are going into the homes for seven Joplin families.

He described the May 22 EF-5 tornado as devastating. Sunday could not have been more different.

"I'm seeing people out here working with smiles," he said.

The home-building began Oct. 19, and the lucky families (who have been sent on a vacation to Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla.), will see their new homes during an unveiling Wednesday, with the cameras rolling.

Extreme Home Makeover Joplin project to conclude Wednesday


Trunk-or-treat at Landreth Park helps those affected by tornado

Aldi's back in business after May 22 Joplin Tornado

Another business that reopened its doors last week after being rebuilt following the May 22 tornado was Aldi's, as seen in this KOAM video:

Frank's Lounge reopens after Joplin Tornado

Frank's Lounge, a mainstay of Joplin for four decades, reopened this week after being destroyed during the May 22 tornado.

Extreme Home Makeover almost done in Joplin

House Republican leaders give update on special session

Talboy: Special session was "a sad state of affairs"

New York Times: Why not occupy newsrooms?

An article in today's New York Times notes that the same excesses being protested in the Occupy movement are evident in the media industry.

Case in point, Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader:

Craig A. Dubow resigned as Gannett’s chief executive. His short six-year tenure was, by most accounts, a disaster. Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after he took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns.

Never a standout in journalism performance, the company strip-mined its newspapers in search of earnings, leaving many communities with far less original, serious reporting.

Given that legacy, it was about time Mr. Dubow was shown the door, right? Not in the current world we live in. Not only did Mr. Dubow retire under his own power because of health reasons, he got a mash note from Marjorie Magner, a member of Gannett’s board, who said without irony that “Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.”

But the board gave him far more than undeserved plaudits. Mr. Dubow walked out the door with just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years.

And in case you thought they were paying up just to get rid of a certain way of doing business — slicing and dicing their way to quarterly profits — Mr. Dubow was replaced by Gracia C. Martore, the company’s president and chief operating officer. She was Mr. Dubow’s steady accomplice in working the cost side of the business, without finding much in the way of new revenue. She has already pocketed millions in bonuses and will now be in line for even more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cynthia Davis Chapter One: "Don't send in the clones" or "Some of my best friends started in a petri dish"

In her latest newsletter, former Rep. Cynthia Davis, once a Republican and now a candidate for lieutenant governor on the Constitution Party ticket warns against the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, claiming it is socialism and opens the door for cloning. She also notes that some of our finest people started in a petri dish.

One of the actions of the legislature during this special session was the passage of SB7, also known as MOSIRA. The Acronym stands for Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act. In short, it allows the taxpayers to subsidize science experiments. The selling point is that some businesses pay high wages and having a tax credit would help to incentivize these types of companies to stay in Missouri.

This is wrong on two levels: First, it allows for an involuntary redistribution of the wealth. In a socialistic government this would be normal. In a free market economy, this does not allow the businesses to stand or fall on the value of their contributions to society. Some of the greatest inventions known to mankind were not subsidized by the taxpayers. They were the fruit of human ingenuity using their God given skill, effort, imagination and wisdom.

The second point of concern is that this opens the door for our state to do taxpayer funded human cloning. Some people are fuzzy about whether life begins at conception, but there is no other obvious point of beginning. Everything after that is part of a growth continuum from the point of origination. Although Missouri already has laws acknowledging life begins at conception, our laws are now conflicted and there is a vast gray area because of the convoluted wording of Amendment 2 in 2006. Human cloning for the purpose of experimentation in the laboratory has never been outlawed.

We are at a very dangerous place in the history of our state and this bill, MOSIRA has the capacity to pitch Missouri into the moral abyss of human destruction for the benefit of others. Those who think human cloning is acceptable behavior are using the same logic that allowed slavery to exist. They say, "As long as it benefits me or my family, who cares?" However, an abortion that occurs in a test tube or a Petri dish is still an abortion. Many people walking the planet today stand as living proof that some human beings started their lives in a Petri dish and they are just as valuable as the rest of us.

The most surprising part of this legislation is revealed by who voted for it. When I was first elected to the Missouri legislature in 2002, the vast majority of the legislators were pro-life. If we were aware that a bill allowing taxpayer funded cloning was about to come up for a vote, the result would be a resounding defeat. I am surprised to see how the thinking has shifted in nine short years. The bill passed with overwhelming majorities of the legislators supporting it in both chambers.

It was sad to see how much the cronyism and lobbyist pay offs have affected the ability of the legislators to think for themselves. The Speaker of the House who pushed this bill had already accepted a quarter of a million from the cloning industry, not including the $25,000 bonus tip he received for good service from the cloning industry after he delivered the bill to the governor's desk. The Governor signed the bill on Friday, October 21st, so it is now law.

Perhaps it is because of my experience as a parent, but I can tell when someone is lying and we shouldn't tolerate this. I remember my senator telling me a story of when he was "double-crossed". He had made a deal with the Democrats and after the vote, the Democrats went back on their word. At first I felt sorry for him, then I felt sorry for his constituents who were not well represented. We don't have to allow this to happen. The taxpayers expect their elected representatives to be vigilant and expend the time necessary to become fully informed on bills before they come up for a vote. I always took my responsibility very seriously and considered it to be part of the honor and obligation of the position. We ought to never expect anything less.

I urge you to have a conversation with your legislators about where they stand on the life issue. Here is some simple advice to the legislators: If you vote against a bill because you are unclear after carefully reading it, a good bill will come back again. If you pass it and find out later it is bad, it is nearly impossible to repeal it. We can stop our culture from deteriorating further if we remain vigilant to protect our constitutional legacy.

Tea Party says no to Steve Tilley for governor

I did not know there was a movement afoot to put Speaker of the House Steve Tilley in the governor's mansion, but a Facebook site, Tea Party Says No to Steve Tilley for Governor, was created Friday.

The first message on the site reads as follows:

Steve Tilley represents more big government. If you believe in free markets and less government, please send Steve Tilley a message that you will not support him for Governor. Just Say NO!

Motorcycle riders help Joplin Extreme Home Makeover project

More raw video of observance of Joplin tornado victims on five-month anniversary

Raw video: Five month anniversary of Joplin Tornado observed during Extreme Home Makeover project

KODE video: Extreme Home Makeover comes to halt at 5:41 to pay tribute to tornado victims

Cynthia Davis: The Republican Party is selling its soul

Newly-minted Constitutional Party lieutenant governor candidate Cynthia Davis explains how the Republican Party is failing. Funny how it wasn't failing until she lost a Republican primary race to Scott Rupp.

Video: Pujols' historic night puts Cardinals ahead 2-1 in World Series

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Child Left Behind revisions doomed to failure

(My latest Huffington Post blog)

It pains me to say this, but from everything I have been reading Sen.Tom Harkin's plan -- and every other plan to revise No Child Left Behind -- is destined to be the same miserable failure the original law has been.

Until politicians stop ignoring the fact that major influences on education take place outside the schoolhouse doors, no educational legislation will ever have any lasting impact.

Blaming problems in our nation's schools on "bad teachers" and teacher unions has proven to be a winning formula at the ballot box, but one that comes at a price.

The never-ending bashing of teachers and unions has devalued the public perception of classroom teachers, the very group that has offered the only protection the United States has had against the rising tide of mediocrity that threatens to engulf us.

What we need is a No Child Left Behind act that truly addresses the problems that face education and society as a whole.

- Any law that fails to address the role poverty plays in education is doomed before the ink is dry on the president's signature. When children are poor, hungry and living in homes without books, education becomes secondary in their lives.

- The role of crime and punishment has also been completely overlooked. As long as we have a society that stresses punishment over rehabilitation for small-time offenders, we are putting more and more young parents behind bars, breaking up more families, creating more poverty and providing obstacles to education. The same people in the American Legislative Exchange Council who have been pushing the privatization of schools have also written so-called "model legislation" that emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation to keep profits soaring at their privatized prisons.

- The cuts that have been made in state budgets across the U.S .have eliminated the programs that have helped keep young people off the streets and provide an opportunity for them to receive a quality education. At the same time, cuts to school districts have reduced the number of counselors, and those who are left have to spend most of their time administering and evaluating the endless stream of standardized tests and practice standardized tests that take up so much of the students' and teachers' time.

- A system that prizes those who invest over those who work. We have seen a change in emphasis in what our society prizes. We wonder why we are no longer producing as many scientists and engineers when all of society's rewards are going to investment bankers, hedge fund owners, and CEOs. This is not a formula designed to help someone race to the top. It is also not a formula designed to foster an interest in education.

-A political financing system that allows those who would destroy public education so they can privatize learning or not have to pay for it to control the talking points on educational policy. Can there be any good reason why education is the only area in which replacing seasoned professionals with youngsters with no experience is considered to be a reform? Can anyone explain why the politicians who are so gung-ho on constructing ever-growing testing regimens for public schoolchildren are the first to enroll their own children in schools that do not have to jump through these bureaucratic hoops?

Plans to reform education will never succeed as long as the only changes are made to the schools and not to society.

If education is failing in the United States, it is doing so because of the wounds being inflicted upon it by our elected officials and educational bureaucrats who try to curry favor by becoming lapdogs in the service of whatever reform trend is making headlines.

The only way to see our children's lives improve is to remember that the public schools are not the problem. The same classroom teachers who have been libeled by self-aggrandizing politicians for the past few years will be a major part of the solution -- if they are still there when the dust settles.

NIST conducting interviews with Joplin Tornado survivors

(From the National Institute of Standards and Technology)

As part of its technical study on the impacts of the devastating May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be conducting interviews in the Joplin area with survivors and the families and friends of victims from Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2011. The interviews will be designed to obtain information about what individuals saw, heard, felt and did before, during and after the tornado to better understand how people within the warning area responded.

False-color satellite image showing the 22-mile track of the tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011.

Credit: NASA's Terra satellite
View hi-resolution image

The interviews will help NIST determine the behavior and fate of individuals, both those who survived and those who did not, by collecting and analyzing information on injuries and fatalities, human behavior, situation awareness, and emergency communications before and during the Joplin tornado.

Anyone wishing to participate in the NIST interviews should call (240) 780-6701, or contact contractor Jennifer Spinney at or NIST researcher Erica Kuligowski at Interviews can be conducted by phone anytime during the Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2011, period, or in person when the interviewers will be in Joplin from Oct. 21 – 31, 2011.

The massive tornado in Joplin was rated category EF5, the most powerful on the Enhanced Fujita scale. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the multiple-vortex storm impacted an area approximately three-quarters of a mile wide by 22 miles long, destroyed or damaged some 8,000 structures in its path, and killed more than 150 people. This makes it the single deadliest tornado in the United States in the 61 years that official records have been kept.

From May 25-28, 2011, NIST sent four engineers to Joplin to conduct a preliminary reconnaissance of building performance and emergency communications during the tornado. Based on the analysis of the data collected and other criteria required by regulation, the NIST Director established a research team under the National Construction Safety Team Act to proceed with a more comprehensive study of the impacts of the disaster.

Along with the previously stated aim of better understanding public response and behavior, the other objectives of the NIST technical study are to:

•determine the characteristics of the wind hazard from the tornado;
•determine the performance of residential, commercial and critical (police stations, firehouses, hospitals, etc.) buildings;
•determine the performance of lifelines (natural gas, electrical distribution, water, communications, etc.) as they relate to maintaining building operation; and
•make recommendations, if warranted, for improvements to building codes, standards and practices based on the findings of the study.

For more information on the NIST Joplin tornado study, go to

Hartzler: Withdrawal of troops from Iraq could weaken Iraq ability to establish democracy

The following statement was issued by Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler about the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq:

The announcement by President Obama of the full withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in Iraq by the end of the year is a tribute to the tremendous effort put forward by American servicemen and women over the past decade. We are proud of their accomplishments.

While we look forward to their return home, we do remain concerned that the announced full withdrawal by December 31 could weaken Iraq's ability to establish a permanent democracy. We hope that is not the case and that Iraq will continue its firm commitment to a free and strong country of the people.

We thank our brave men and women who have served and are serving in Iraq to further the cause of freedom. Their sacrifices will not be forgotten.

VIdeo: Joplin scores first against Raymore at Arrowhead Stadium

The final result wasn't what Joplin High School football fans wanted, but the Eagles scored first in Friday night's game with Raymore-Peculiar at Arrowhead Stadium.

Joplin, Raymore high school bands play National Anthem at Arrowhead

Day Three of Joplin Extreme Home Makeover


Nixon: Facebook Law fix isn't much better than Facebook Law

I have written numerous times over the past few weeks that SB 1, the so-called fix to Sen. Jane Cunningham's Facebook Law, could end up being worse than the bill it is replacing.

Apparently, Gov. Jay Nixon does not hold the bill in high regard either, though he signed it Friday.

In a signing statement, Nixon said the law is not much better than the social networking provision in the original SB 54. I still contend that it is worse, since it will essentially relegate authority in most school disricts to the unelected Missouri School Boards Association, which provides policies for most school districts.

The governor's signing statement is printed below:

On October 21, 2011, I approved said Senate Commitee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1.

My approval of Senate Commmitee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 is provided after considerable deliberation. Although it eliminates particularly egregious provisions that were contained in Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 54, passed during First Regular Session of the Ninety-Sixth General Assembly, Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill Nov. 1 is not without flaws.

First, Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 requires each school district to promulgate a policy directed at the use of electronic communication between staff members and students rather than its substance and the policy must be drafted in a manner that will "Prevent" improper communications. School districts may find it challenging to promulgate a policy that erects adequate restrictions around the use of electronic media sufficient to "prevent" improper communications without also preventing otherwise appropriate communications.

Second, under Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1, a school district will need to determine whether its policy applies to "employees" as that term is used in 162.069.1(2), RSMo, to the extent such terms have different meanings.

These challenges could have been avoided with a more deliberate approach, which is why my Special Message was narrowly drafted to effectuate immediate relief for educators by simply repealing the offending provisions of Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 54.

Nonetheless, Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 is an improvement- primarily through subtraction- over Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 54. Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 eliminates three of the problematic provisions of Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 54 and Senate Commmitee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 will give school districts an additional two months, until March 1, 2012, to promulgate policies. Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 1 is not perfect, but the alternative of educators having to conform to the unreasonable restrictions of Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 54 is a far worse result.

This will eventually be decided in court, something which could have been prevented if Nixon had simply vetoed SB 54 in July.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nixon signs Facebook Law fix

Gov. Jay Nixon signed the fix to the social networking portion of Sen. Jane Cunningham's SB 54 into law today.

The law rejects the language of Mrs. Cunningham's bill, which banned communication between students and teachers through Facebook and other social networking sites, and many thought it would totally ban teachers from social networking.

Under the revised law, which was arrived at following talks between Sen. Cunningham and representatives from Missouri's teacher organizations, all school districts will be required to develop policies for communications between teachers and students by March 1, 2012.

The fix went further than Nixon had asked when he placed it on the agenda for the special session. Nixon said the Facebook part of the law should be repealed and mentioned nothing about "a fix."

SMB excited to help with Extreme Home Makeover Joplin project

(From Southwest Missouri Bank)

Southwest Missouri Bank (SMB) is excited to welcome ABC’s Emmy-award winning reality TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to Joplin. The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team will build seven homes in seven days for families who suffered losses in the May tornado that destroyed much of the city. The weeklong Extreme build began on October 19.

Finding ways to help Joplin recover and rebuild has been at the forefront for SMB since the devastating tornado, and that’s what led them to donate the funding for the purchase of one of the lots that the homes will be built on.

In addition, SMB has put together two teams of volunteers to assist with the project. According to Peggy Fuller, SMB’s Marketing Director, the volunteers lined up quickly. “We have a team going Saturday, and then another going on Monday. Within 30 minutes of notifying our staff, I had filled all of the slots and had a waiting list. The response has been amazing!”

“We are so excited to be a part of this. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition coming to town is evidence that Joplin remains in the hearts of people.” Fuller added. “It has been so wonderful to see people from all over the country continuing to come and help us through this disaster.”

Hartzler: Supercommittee must not cut defense spending

In her weekly newsletter, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler says the supercommittee must take defense spending off the table when it starts recommending budget cuts.

As representatives of the people return to Washington following a working week in their home districts, we are taking a fresh look at the many problems associated with President Obama’s health care law, passed last year. In a nutshell, the health care law is starting to unravel.

On the Friday before we left Washington, the Obama Administration cut a major planned benefit from the President’s 2010 health care law when it told Americans that a program to offer insurance for long-term care was unsustainable. This realization is not new to many of us who saw this problem from the beginning, but it marks the first time we are seeing the Administration publicly tell the country that an important piece of the plan is simply too expensive and unworkable.

This program, the Community Living Assistance Services (CLASS) Act, was to have been financed by participants and was intended to provide a basic lifetime benefit of at least $50 a day in the event of illness or disability. A major problem, totally overlooked by the Obama Administration, is that a benefits package this generous would have required premiums so high that few healthy people would enroll. A simple study of this program should reveal that it would have soon collapsed. It is a positive sign that the Administration has finally come around to admitting that a key component of its health care law is not financially viable and had to be dropped. Sadly, it is but one of many problems associated with this health care law. It is time to repeal this unworkable plan and replace it with common sense reforms which will increase access and lower health care costs without a government takeover. I will continue to work toward that end. America’s health care depends on it.

You might be aware that the so-called “supercommittee” of twelve Senators and Representatives is working on cutting about $1.5 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade. The House Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member, sent a letter to the “supercommittee” warning the panel that further cuts to the military will put our country at risk. It has been pointed out to the “supercommittee” that a plan to cut $465 billion in the military budget over the next ten years is already in place and deeper cuts would be irresponsible as they might put vital missions at risk.

The “supercommittee” must present a plan by Thanksgiving. Failure to reach agreement would trigger a $1.2 trillion cut in spending – with much of that total coming from national defense. We are strongly advising these members to avoid further cuts which would destroy jobs, stall the economy, and cut as many as 200,000 servicemen and women from our fighting force. They must not turn a superpower into a regional power.

Cutting our huge debt was the topic of discussion as I met with the Butler Rotary Club this week. I shared many of the concerns I have with Washington’s out-of-control spending and the need for the federal government to live within its means – just as American families must do – while at the same time preserving our national defense. It can be done. As for calls from President Obama to raise taxes on job producers, I offered some facts from the Internal Revenue Service regarding the tax burden. According to the 2010 IRS database, 70 percent of total U.S. taxes received each year are paid by the top 10 percent of American earners who make 46 percent of the income. The President says this group must pay its “fair share.” The facts say they’re paying it now! We don’t need to raise taxes to create jobs. We need Washington to get out of the way of small businesses by removing onerous regulations, lowering the corporate tax rate, repealing President Obama’s health care law, and promoting American energy.

We also talked about the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which I co-sponsor in the House – and the opportunity we will soon have to vote on it in Congress. That is the best way to force Washington to live within its means. As one Rotarian said, “We have to make do with what we have – Washington should, too.”

It is always a pleasure to hear from you and to listen to your views and concerns. If you plan to visit the Washington area, please stop by our office at 1023 Longworth House Office Building. In the 4th Congressional District, you are welcome to come by our offices in Jefferson City, Harrisonville, Lebanon, and Sedalia. You can also keep up with us by going to our website at where you can link to our pages on Facebook and Twitter. It is an honor to serve you.