Sunday, September 19, 2004

I hadn't realized how much Southwest Missouri newspapers have turned into shills for Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt until yesterday when I read a column written in April by Sarah Overstreet of the Springfield News-Leader.
Ms. Overtreet, who at one time had a nationally-syndicated column before returning to Springfield to take a management position at the News-Leader, was addressing the conflict of interest issue Blunt has regarding the Phillip Morris company.
That conflict has been mentioned in a couple of earlier editions of The Turner Report. Abigail Blunt, the congressman's new wife, is the top lobbyist for Phillip Morris One of Blunt's sons (the one who is not running for governor) also has a top position with the company. Ms. Overstreet's argument was that she had known Blunt for more than 25 years, he was a good guy, so naturally he could not be doing anything wrong.
She was writing specifically to rebut a March 30 Gannett News Service article about legislators who have family members in companies that could affect the path of legislation. Blutn was mentioned in the article.
"I had to read the story twice," Ms. Overstreet wrote. "This wasn't the Roy Blunt I'd known over 25 years of reporting." Then she spent a few paragraphs writing about how Blunt had been helpful to her during his days as Greene County clerk
She interviewed Blunt about this alleged conflict of interest. The congressman pointed out to her that he could hardly recuse himself on every vote that came up that concerned Phillip Morris since that company also owns Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer and companies that employ 2,500 people in southwest Missouri. If he did that, he said, he would not be representing his constituents effectively. Blunt acknowledged receiving PAC money from Phillip Morris, but noted that the PAC money represents several industries in addition to the copmany's best-known product, tobacco.
"I've always taken money from their PAC," Blunt told Ms. Overstreet. "Kraft employees always put more money in their PAC than (the tobacco industry) would ever give me. I don't have any hesitancy in taking money from that PAC."
Ms. Overstreet concluded her column by commenting, "Yes, these relationships bear watching, but the next step is legislative spouses without the right to hold jobs."
Her column is based on two specious arguments. One, that Blunt was a good guy a long time ago so he must be a good guy now; and 2. This issue involves a woman's right to hold a job.
Neither of those arguments addresses the most important question...Is Roy Blunt letting his connections with the Phillip Morris company, his marriage to the company's top lobbyist and the fact that the company provided his son with a cushy job, affect his performance as this district's congressman.
Ms. Overstreet's column was written several months after Blunt attempted to attach a rider to the Homeland Security Act which would crack down on counterfeit cigarettes. While this country was attempting to put in place the machinery to deal with possible terrorist attacks, Congressman Blunt was looking for ways to help his new wife's company. His proposal was so outrageous that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, no stranger to placing pork in important legislation, made sure it was quickly removed. Blunt's argument was that Hezbollah, the Palestinian terrorist group was financing terrorist attacks with the revenue from selling these counterfeit cigarettes. Of course, his motives had nothing to do with the revenues the fakes cost Phillip Morris.
I could be wrong, but I don't recall the Springfield News-Leader ever running the story about the Homeland Security fiasco.
I, too, have covered Roy Blunt for a long time and have had no problems with him. I don't believe one incident should outweigh a long, respected career, but it may be more than just one incident.
As I wrote earlier in The Turner Report, the congressman has apparently used his considerable influence to convince at least 75 of his fellow congressmen to donate money to his son Matt's Missouti campaigns. These contributions would seem to be more about pleasing a powerful congressman than helping a candidate who is not even in their states. Matt Blunt has also received a considerable amount of money from people connected to Phillip Morris.
Southwest Missouri media need to keep a close eye on both Blunts, not with the aim of turning one or both out of office, but to make sure they know they are being watched and that even the appearance of conflict of interest is unacceptable. In this case, there is obviously more than just the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The final defendant in the Freeman Neosho drug scandal has pleaded guilty in Newton County Circuit Court. Dr. Jeffrey Wool pleaded guilty Thursday to a Class D felony of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. He received a suspended sentence and four years of supervised probation, according to articles in the Neosho Daily News and The Joplin Globe.
There is more to this case that hasn't been told and it probably could hvae been uncovered just by looking into the five malpractice lawsuits filed against Dr. Wool and lab technician Neidra DePuy, another defendant in the case,. All five lawsuits were filed against the two, plus Freeman Hospital, plus "John Doe Pharmaceutical Companies," in Jasper County Circuit Court.
I have been told that at least one media outlet is fully aware of the lawsuits, but does not plan on doing anything about it. Could this be laziness or is it just possible that the story might reflect unfavorably on Freeman, whch buys considerable advertising in local media outlets?
I have also received reliable reports that a top official connected with a governmental body in the Jasper/Newton county area has gone to considerable lengths to cover up at least two alcohol-related traffic offenses.
Both of the traffic stops were made in Jasper County. This official used his connections to have the cases transferred to a county that does not have, the system most Missouri counties use to put their court cases on the Internet. Initially, these offenses were listed on the Jasper County site with no real information given on what the offenses were, only that they were traffic offenses. Both cases had notations that they had been transferred to other counties, which not so coincidentally did not have Reportedly, this officials used a high-powered lawyer to whittle the offenses down to misdemeanors, with no mention of alcohol involved.
This blatant manipulation of the judicial process is not the only problem involved. This official has a serious drinking problem which has affected job perforrmance.
I am asking that anyone who has evidence of these arrests or of other incidents involving this official, get the information to me. I need documentation of this before I go on the record because this official has considerable influence. As those of you who have dealt with me over the past 25 years or so know, I do protect my sources.
The media continues to pile on Conrad Black, the former CEO of Hollinger International, the company which once owned The Neosho Daily News and The Carthage Press. The Chicago Sun-Times, a Hollinger newspaper, reported earlier this week that Black's wife, Barbara Armiel Black, continued to reap financial benefits from Hollinger after her husband was fired.
The article said Mrs. Black exercised options to buy company stock, valued at $5.4 million, or only $3.1 million, making an instant profit of $2.3 million. Earlier articles in the Sun-Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other newspapers reported on a Hollinger investigation which claimed Black and others milked Hollinger out of more than $400 million.
The case of Edward Meerwald Jr., the man who allegedly was driving drunk when his car smashed into James Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his seven-year-old granddaughter, Jessica Mann of Joplin, on July 31, will be heard in Jasper County on a change of venue. Meerwald is charged with two counts of manslaughter. If he had been convicted of DWI at least twice in the past 10 years, he could have been charged with second degree murder. If The Joplin Globe or some other media outlet does a thorough investigation, I would almost guarantee they would find at least one incident or maybe more in which Meerwald was stopped when driving under the influence and charged with lesser offenses. Despite the increased awareness of drunk driving, this kind of abuse continues to take place on a regular basis in our judicial system.
The life sentence of a Jasper County killer, was upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District Sept. 16.
Eldon Tinsley's lawyers claimed that two potential jurors were removed from the jury panel for no cause. The appellate court rejected the argument.
The court decision gave an account of Tinsley's crime.
On May 9, 2001 at the American Bank in Baxter Springs, KS, Myung Kyu Kim tried to cash three checks written to him by Tinsley. Kim was told the checks were no good because Tinsley's account had been closed for more than three years.
The Baxter Springs Police Department told Kim to contact the Joplin Police Department, but Kim took matters into his own hands, a decision he never had the chance to regret. Kim went straight to Tinsley's house. Tinsley was inside, but did not come out.
Tinsley's daughters came by and saw Kim there, but Tinsley still did not come out. According to the court record, Tinsley later called his daughter, Tonya, and told her to come home quickly and come alone.
When she got there, Tinsley told her he had killed somebody, according to the court record. He said he had gotten into an argument with Kim and had killed him. Tinsley's daughter, knowing her father kept a 9-millimeter gun in a cabinet, asked if he had shot Kim. He told her it was none of her business. She saw blood in Tinsley's laundry room.
At about 3 p.m. that day, Tinsley rented a storage unit and placed the contents of Kim's truck there. When they returned home, Tinsley told his daughter they were going to see a friend about buying a metal drum. The daughter told a friend about the murder and the friend told the Joplin Police Department.
Tje police put Tinsley's home under surveillance and caught him moving the drum. When the lid of the drum was removed, the police found Kim's body inside.
Tinsley was convicted after a jury trial in Jasper County Circuit Court.
After a good start yesterday, the Natural Disaster performance nearly turned into...well...a natural disaster. I didn't realize it until I listened to the audiocassette tape I made of the performance, but when I was introducing the band to the audience at the Newtonia Fall Festival, for some unknown reason I said I was originally from Diamond. Of course, I was born in Newtonia and spent the first 22 years of my life there. I am surprised no one booed me.
I also had a few difficulties with two or three of the songs we did. Let's just say that if Bobby Bare weren't still living, he would be turning over in his grave after my rendition of "500 Miles"
It was nice to see some of my friends from Diamond at the performance, DMS math teacher Nancy Berry, and her husband, Charles, were there, along with my former students Alicia Bradley and Ryan Baker. Reportedly, the Pepto-Bismol concessions were thriving after my singing.
I also had the pleasure of running into three of my former South Middle School students at Norhtpark Mall last night when I stopped by Dairy Queen to have a banana split blizzard. Kristin Haddad, Staci Hoofnagle, and Erin McTaggart were in the food court and I had a nice conversation with them. They're doing well at Joplin High School. It's always great to see your former students succeeding.

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