Friday, June 30, 2006

Photos of KY3 reporters' arrest featured on KC station website

Photographer Kevin Griffey was on the scene in Clinton when KY3 photographer and former MSSU student Cliff Erwin and reporter Sara Sheffield were arrested for refusing a Highway Patrol trooper's request to move from an area where they were doing a live remote.
The photos are on the website of KMBC, Channel 9, in Kansas City.

Some thoughts about Old Mining Town Days

Granby's Old Mining Town Days celebration began tonight with the traditional appearance of Bill Pierson, whose big band music has had quite a following in this area over the past six decades.
Pierson, whom I have been fortunate enough to call a friend since the days he was a columnist for the Newton County News and I was that newspaper's editor, was named Granby's Citizen of the Year in a ceremony that immediately followed the performance by Jim Hunter and the Mellotones with Pierson performing as a special guest. Pierson has performed on the opening day of Old Mining Town Days since it began over 20 years ago.
Thanks to master of ceremonies John Styron, who graduated a year ahead of me at East Newton High School, for his kind mention of Small Town News
Our band, Natural Disaster, will play shortly after 7 p.m. tomorrow night in Dick Smith Park. We are scheduled to perform for about 45 minutes. I hope to see some of you there.
Each year when I attend Old Mining Town Days, I usually park near the Methodist Church, which gives me the opportunity to look at the fountain beside the church building.
It was placed there over 25 years ago in honor of the late Barbara McNeely, who was murdered in September 1977 at Northpark Mall in Joplin. When I made my first efforts to write a novel back in the mid-1970s, it was Barbara who did my typing for me and took care of mailing the manuscripts to publishers (all of whom mailed them back, but that was my fault). I talked with Barbara's mother, Brownie McNeely, a longtime employee of the Granby bank, tonight. We talked about her grandsons, both of whom have been selected to attend service academies and about her son and daughter, Brad and Becky.
Barbara would have been proud of how her family turned out. Today would have been her 49th birthday. (I wrote about Barbara last October, you can read more at this link.)

Blunt still angered about Christian-center movie's rating

More than 2,500 Americans have died in Iraq; gasoline in America costs $2.50 a gallon (and that's just at the cheapest spots), immigration questions are being discussed across the United States, so naturally Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is on top of the issues that mean the most to his constituents.
A story that went out over the wires earlier today indicates Blunt is still steaming about the Motion Picture Association of America's decision to give a PG rating to the movie, Facing the Giants, allegedly because of its "strong Christian content."
It appears Congress, which a few days ago postponed a debate on immigration, will soon be holding hearings on movie ratings.

Virginia newspaper contains more O'Sullivan information

For the most part, it contains the same information, but there are a few tidbits about the closing of O'Sullivan Industries' South Boston, Va., plant, in an article posted just a few minutes ago on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website.

Bankruptcy court approves O'Sullivan payments

In a little bit of irony, on the same day O'Sullivan Industries officials notified South Boston that its plant would be closed and jobs moved to Lamar, a bankruptcy court judge approved the payment of approximately $15 million in fees and expenses to companies that helped O'Sullivan officials with their Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The documents were filed in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Company expansion diminishes impact of O'Sullivan South Boston closing

The community of South Boston, Va., suffered a long-expected hit today when O'Sullivan Industries officials announced they would close the plant by the end of the calendar year, causing 200 to lose their jobs.
The impact was slightly diminished, however, by an announcement earlier in the week that ABB, Inc., plans to expand its operation in Halifax County and add 127 jobs, with an average salary of $38,462, according to the South Boston Gazette-Virginian.

Settlement approved in Braxton Wooden wrongful death lawsuit

It only took 10 minutes today for U. S. District Court Judge Gary Fenner to approve a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by survivors of eight-year-old Braxton Wooden who was shot to death while in the foster care of an Alba couple.
Court records indicate the only two people called as witnesses during the hearing were Braxton's mother, Brandie McLean, and his great aunt Rhonda Stone, who testified as representatives of Braxton's siblings.
The document, filed earlier today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, indicated Ms. McLean testified for five minutes and Ms. Stone for two.
Details of the settlement were not included in the court records.
The lawsuit was originally filed Aug. 26, 2005, in Jasper County Circuit Court by Ms. McLean. Braxton was in the care of Mark and Treva Gordon, Alba, when he was shot to death by their 15-year-old son, Ethan. Ethan Gordon is also a defendant in the lawsuit, as are Social Services caseworkers John McGinnis and Mickey Morgan. A notice or removal to federal court was filed last week.
According to the petition, "Ethan Gordon knew or should have known that the gun was loaded with ammunition."
Mark and Treva Gordon owned the 38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun that killed Braxton Wooden, as well as other weapons and ammunition, the petition said. "Weapons, specifically firearms, were accessible to the children in the foster home in violation of state foster care regulations and Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division policy."
The petition continued, "Mark and Treva Gordon knew or should have known the location in which they kept the gun was accessible to the minor child," and that Ethan Gordon "was not mature enough to exercise the proper degree of care in the use and control of the gun."
Ms. Morgan and her McGinnis, who was her manager and supervisor, were also responsible for Braxton Wooden's death, the lawsuit said, because they failed to determine "that Mark and Treva Gordon were unfit persons to act as foster parents."
The caseworkers also failed to "monitor" and to provide "adequate supervision and caseworker services to Braxton Deshawn Wooden," the petition said.
It also said the caseworkers failed to investigate whether hazardous items were accessible to children. The petition says, "Braxton Deshawn Wooden was subject to physical and emotional deprivation" and he suffered "severe and violent injuries," and was "subject to extreme emotional and psychological distress in that he suffered and endured an unstable family environment, humiliation, mental anguish and fear."
The state workers were "negligent, careless, grossly negligent, imprudent and reckless and totally without thought as to the safety and welfare of others and with complete indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others," the petition said.

O'Sullivan Industries to hire 150 in Lamar

Production at the O'Sullivan Industries plant in South Boston, Va., will be closed and moved to Lamar, company officials announced today. The Virginia facility will close by the end of the calendar year.
The move will mean the hiring of 150 workers at the Lamar plant over the next 12 months.
The closure is designed to improve "operational efficiency," company officials said in a news release.
President and CEO Rick Walters said, "The closure of our South Boston facility is consistent with our strategic plans. O'Sullivan will continue to serve our customers' long-term needs from our Lamar, Missouri facility; which has the capability currently in place to manufacture and distribute all of our product categories. We are working with the customers served from our Virginia plant to execute a smooth and efficient transition. This has been a difficult but necessary decision for us. We determined that this was the most effective course of action to
align our available capacity with the market, and to make our total cost structure more competitive. The closure is a result of industry wide excess capacity and is not a reflection on the workforce or management team in South Boston. In fact, the plant has demonstrated continuous improvement operationally and is consistently meeting customer quality and delivery requirements. However, there is an immediate need to improve capacity utilization and optimize overall company performance."
O'Sullivan officials are meeting today with plant employees to discuss
closure plans, the news release said.
The officials were told about the company's decision today, the news release indicated.

Former Cox employees want to know if criminal investigation continues

Two former CoxHealth employees filed documents in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri asking what the government intends to do now that a grand jury's session has closed without seeking any indictments in a Medicare fraud investigation.
In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Roger Cochran and Dennis Morris, who claim they were fired after they took information about illegal activity at Cox to the government, ask the government if it intends to continue investigating Cox officials, and if it does not plan to do so, asks that a stay in the wrongful dismissal lawsuit be lifted so they may continue the discovery process.
The court papers indicated Cochran and Morris went along with the government's request for a delay in the lawsuit, "believing that some form of grand jury action was likely imminent."
Since the government took no action, the document says, Cochran and Morris intend to continue with their suit. "Plaintiffs feel strongly that any individuals guilty of misconduct should be brought to justice."
The document continues, "However, in fairness to the individual plaintiffs, who have now waited more than a year to even begin discovery, they are entitled to some assurance that the prejudice they will face due to the continued delay in their civil case will not be in vain."
The former employees say they will agree to a continuation of the stay if the criminal investigation continues and is or will be the subject of further grand jury procedure." That would require that a new grand jury be impaneled.
In their motion, Cochran and Morris ask to be allowed to conduct limited discovery into job performance issues that have nothing to do with the government investigation.
One person the fired employees ask to depose is Charles McCracken, chief administrator of Ferrell Duncan Clinic. "The government's previous filings have not indicated that Mr. McCracken is the subject and/or target of the federal investigation. Therefore, there is no reason not to proceed with Mr. McCracken's deposition or to believe that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights."
More background can be found in the June 8, 2005 Turner Report.

Most of lawsuit against former Hollinger CEO dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed six of the eight counts in a shareholder lawsuit against former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black. Black still faces federal charges in connection with the alleged theft of millions of dollars from his company.
At one time, Hollinger's U. S. subsidiary, American Publishing, owned The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News.

Grand jury issues no indictments in Cox case

The federal grand jury investigating CoxHealth in Springfield issued no indictments, according to an article in today's Springfield News-Leader.
Officials would not say if the investigation is continuing or if the information would be presented to another grand jury.
The Medicare fraud investigation was first revealed in the June 8, 2005 Turner Report.
This News-Leader page features links to all of the newspaper's coverage of the investigation.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Racist newspaper hits Joplin

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before Frazier Glenn Miller began distributing his racist newspaper in Joplin, Fortunately, I wasn't one of those who received the paper.
It is during times like these, when a national debate is centered around immigration, that people like Miller and his ilk think they can make inroads by playing on hatred and divisiveness.
Miller, an Aurora resident, was in the News and mentioned on this blog recently concerning his unsuccessful effort to have his name placed on the Democratic ballot for the August primary for Seventh District Congress. The court upheld the Democrats' right not to have Miller representing them. He was also turned aside by the Republican and Libertarian parties.
Judging from the report I just watched on KODE, Miller's publication was not welcomed by those who received it. Hopefully, Mr. Miller and his followers will leave Joplin alone and take up residence somewhere with nice big rocks they can crawl under.
I will defend Miller's First Amendment right to print trash...however, there is no amendment that says anyone has to read it or welcome it onto their lawns.

KY3 photographer has Joplin connections

Cliff Erwin, the KY3 photographer who was arrested for ignoring a Highway Patrol trooper's orders to move while shooting a live remote during coverage of the Clinton Elks Lodge collapse, has ties to Joplin, according to an e-mail I received a few moments ago from a reader.
Erwin attended Missouri Southern State University, worked on the campus newspaper, The Chart, and reportedly was employed as a photographer for a time at either KSN or KODE.
If anyone has any further information, please drop me an e-mail at or leave a comment.

Skelton decries talk of weapons of mass destruction discoveries

Rep. Ike Skelton made it clear where he stands on the recent (muted) uproar over discoveries of alleged weapons of mass destruction during a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee, according to KC Buzz Blog.

KY3 website has no mention of reporters' arrest

A quick examination of KY3's website shows no mention of Tuesday's incident in Clinton in which a reporter and a photographer were arrested when they did not move after Missouri Highway Patrol troopers told them to.
The Springfield station has six stories on the collapse of the Elks Lodge building in which one man was killed on its website, but no mention of the incident which has become a major topic of discussion in newsrooms across the state, and thanks to publicity from blogs such as Lost Remote, across the nation.
The station's coverage of the collapse was thorough, which is documented on the website, with stories and video links, and despite the hubbub over the arrest, the building's collapse and the death were the most important stories. Still, it would seem that KY3 should have something on the site.
What happened to reporter Sara Sheffield, pictured, and photographer Cliff Erwin, on the face of it, would seem to exemplify the type of cutthroat local journalism that I satirized in Small Town News, but a close examination of the situation shows it to be a bit more complex.
Ms. Sheffield and Erwin were not interfering with law enforcement officers and rescue workers. They were in a public section, just not the media section. Sure, it can be argued that they should have stayed where they were told, but wouldn't it have made more sense to let them do their job, get their footage on the air and perhaps keep other sightseers glued to their television screens instead of heading for the Elks building site.
While I can understand the necessity of keeping control when you have a situation that draws a swarm of media, wouldn't keeping them with the public have done the job just as well?
It is too easy to play the blame the media game and people are far too quick to get in line and take their shots. This one merits a closer examination and a reasoned discussion.
Here are some links to KY3's Clinton coverage:
Building collapse killed one man
Rescue took hours because of age of historic building
Elks Lodge leader was brother, father, jokester, friend
Elks Lodge collapse damaged building next door
Building collapse shows need to protect old structures
Elks Lodge building rumbled before it collapsed
Surprisingly, no mention of the incident can be found on the websites of the other Springfield television stations either. KOLR and KSFX, the Nexstar stations, have solid coverage of the building collapse, while KSPR has no mention of it.
The print media, of course, had the story

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

McCaskill blasts Talent on MSNBC program

State Auditor Claire McCaskill took her U. S. Senate campaign to the nation today with an appearance on Chris Matthews' Hardball program on MSNBC.

Lamar native to run minor league baseball team

Lamar native Matt Kentner has been named interim general manager of the minor league St. Joseph Blacksnakes. He will be in charge of all baseball operations. Formerly, he had been assistant general manager/ticket sales for the club. St. Joseph is in the Class AA American Association.
Kentner is a graduate of Missouri State University with a degree in entertainment management, according to the Blacksnakes website. He is attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
He was an intern last year with the Springfield Cardinals minor league baseball team.

Schnelle: journalist with passion for stories, dead at 23

Troy Schnelle, a writer for the Sarasota FLA Observer and SRQ Magazine, died in a freak accident outside his home Friday. Schnelle's parents live in Webb City and he has many family members in the Lockwood area.
SRQ Editor Lisl Liang praised Mr. Schnelle, saying:
"He was someone you could trust, even within the first few minutes of meeting him. A good writer is more interested in understanding someone else's life and seeing it through their eyes rather than through your own eyes. In the process of covering a story, he'd see things differently."

Memorial donations may be made to the Immanuel Lutheran Church Lighting Fund, P.O. Box H, 212 W. Fourth St., Lockwood, MO 65682.

KY3 crew arrested for interference in Clinton situation

A news team from KY3 in Springfield was arrested Tuesday for interfering with emergency workers at the Elks Club building in Clinton, which collapsed Monday, killing one man.
Reports indicate the crew was told repeatedly to leave and did not do so.

Star: RES not admitting it did anything wrong

You have to love these businesspeople.
Today's Kansas City Star, in an article over the $175,000 fine RES has agreed to pay for creating the horrific odor that has plagued Carthage in recent months, quotes the company's managing partner, Brian Appel, as saying his company did not admit liability or fault.
I'm sure company officials just handed over the $100,000 (the other $75,000 comes if there are further violations) out of the goodness of their hearts.

McClellan: Bush can help Talent appeal to blockheads

Columnists love to get people ticked off and St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan is no doubt in for some hate mail after his most recent effort.
In preparation for the upcoming visit by President Bush to St. Louis to attend a swanky fundraiser for Senator Jim Talent, McClellan has some actual praise for the senator and some backhanded praise for the president.
He says the president is needed so Talent can win the blockhead vote.

RES to pay $100,000 for environmental violations

Though it's not much comfort to Carthage residents who had to put up with foul odor in their community for months, Attorney General Jay Nixon announced Tuesday that RES has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for its environmental violations.
The fine is actually $175,000, but the other $75,000 will not have to be paid unless there are further problems.
For some reason, I expect that $75,000 to be forked over sometime in the near future.

Goodman heads panel to address public defender problems

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has been tabbed to head a panel that will investigate problems in Missouri's public defender system.
The panel will be required to have its final report issued by Jan. 26.

Missourian article explores office swap

It has been a week since the decision was made but the dispute surrounding the swap of office space between the lieutenant governor and the state auditor continues, according to an article in the Columbia Missourian.
If you remember, the swap, which takes effect when the new auditor takes office in January, was approved by two of the three members of the building committee, Governor Matt Blunt and Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, with Attorney General Jay Nixon casting the lone dissenting vote.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blunt PAC taps lobbyists for big bucks

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt appears to have no concerns about calls for reform in Washington. D. C.
Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission by the congressman's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC showed that out of $45,500 in individual contributions the PAC received in May, more than $40,000 came from lobbyists.
In addition to the $45,500, the PAC received $224,500 in corporate and PAC contributions during the month.
At least 20 members of the lobbying firm of Wiley, Rein & Fielding contributed $200 apiece. The firm represents Nucor, Verizon, Kansas City Southern, Qwest, Aquila, Motorola, and Gannett, among other clients.
Other lobbyists contributing the PAC include:
-Michael Bates, lobbyist for Bell South, $2,500
-John Cline of the C2 Group, which represents Pepsi Co and Fannie Mae, $1,500
-Thomas Crawford of the C2 Group, $1,000
-Douglas Davenport of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which represents Bell South.
-Sarcoxie native Tony Feather of Feather, Larson & Synhorst, whose clients include AT&T, General Motors, Teamsters, and Advocates for School Choice, $1,000
-G. O. Griffith of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, represents Bell South, Delta, GlaxoSmithKline, $1,500
-Richard Hohlt, lobbyist for Altria, Bristol Myers, Chevron, and Sallie Mae, $5,000
-Brant Imperatore of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, $500
-Nelson Litterst, former White House aide, now working for C2 Group, $2,000
-John O'Rourke, lobbyist for Securities Funding Associates, $5,000
-Andrew Shore of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, representing Harrah's Casinos, Atlantic City Coin and Slot Service, Cottonwood Financial, State Farm, $5,000
-Karen Smith, lobbyist for Proctor & Gamble, $2,500
-John Veroneau, former aide to Sen. Bill Frist and to former Senator William Cohen, now works for Cohen's lobbying firm, $5,000
It should be mentioned that not only were none of these people described as a lobbyist in the place on the forms for employment, but no employment at all was listed.

Among the PACS contributing to the Rely on Your Beliefs PAC were: Burlington Northern $5,000, American Hospital Association $2,500, American Express $2,500, American Council of Life Insurance $5,000; American Apparel and Footwear $5,000, Capital One Associates $5,000, Cash America International $5,000, Charles Schwab Corp. $2,500, Chicago Board of Trade $5,000, Edison International $2,500, Ernst & Young $2,500, Financial Services Roundtable $5,000, GE PAC $2,500, J. P. Morgan Chase & Co $5,000, Mastercard Employees $5,000, Merrill Lynch & Co. $5,000, Met Life Employees PAC $2,500, Morgan Stanley $2,500, Mortgage Bankers Association $5,000, New York Mercantile Exchange $5,000, New York Stock Exchange $2,500, Northwestern Mutual Life Federal PAC $5,000, R. J. Reynolds $2,500, Sallie Mae, $5,000, US Bancorp $5,000, Wachavia Group $5,000

The Rely on Your Beliefs PAC donated money to three Congressional races, including the successful efforts of Brian Bilbay to win the Congressional seat formerly held by Duke Cunningham, who is in prison after pleading guilty to accepting bribes. The Blunt PAC donated $5,000 to that race and $1,200 to the California Republican Party.

Blunt: GOP must focus on faith, family values

It's an election year.
Republicans are planning on avoiding issues like immigration between now and November, while concentrating on social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, the Pledge of Allegiance, flagburning, etc.
Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is among the GOP leaders quoted in this Associated Press article.

Appeals court upholds Barton County conviction

In an opinion issued today, the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals said no mistakes were made in issuing the search warrant that led to the arrest and conviction of Brian Neher on various drug possession, and possession with intent to distribute charges.
Neher, 28, was found guilty by a Barton County jury on July 21, 2005, and is serving 10 years in prison.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Skelton: No amnesty for insurgents who killed Americans

In the latest column posted on his website, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, senior Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, speaks out against any amnesty proposals for insurgents who have murdered American soldiers.

McCaskill favors flag burning amendment

Senatorial candidate Claire McCaskill said today she favors an amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. The AP article notes her position on the issue is the same as that of incumbent Jim Talent.
However, Ms. McCaskill notes, quite rightly, that this is not a pressing issue. At a time when the nation should be working on settling major problems such as Iraq and immigration, you can tell it is an election year when non-issues such as flag burning and gay marriage are taking precedent over the aforementioned issues, or other pressing needs such as jobs and health care.

Champion plans to steer clear of reform

Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, wasn't in the loop as far as a delayed Republican plan to reform how license fee offices are awarded in Missouri is concerned, she told KY3 Sunday.
Apparently, she plans to steer clear or anything that smacks of reform, since that is the campaign platform of her opponent, former Rep. Doug Harpool, D-Springfield.
According to the KY3 blog:

Meanwhile, when asked for her opinion on reforming the way fee offices are run, Sen. Norma Champion said she couldn't comment on something she didn't know about.

"I didn't know there was a flyaround," Champion said. "You're catching me on something I've not been a part of."

"I don't have a plan," Champion added. "That's fine if he has a plan but I don't have a plan to do that."

When I requested an on-camera interview for a story I plan to air Monday night on KY3 News at 10, Champion replied, "No thank-you. I'm not going to let him (Harpool) define the agenda."

Of course, the reforms being mentioned, although Harpool has said virtually the same thing, were going to be offered by Republican representatives, until the governor asked them to delay the announcement so he could have some input.

This reminds me of the line from the great 1960 movie and famed play, "Inherit the Wind," when Matthew Harrison Brady, played by Fredric March said, "I do not think about things...that I do not think about."
To which his opposing attorney, Henry Drummond, played by Spencer Tracy responded, "Do you ever think about things that you do think about?"

Supreme Court overturns Vermont campaign limits

The U. S. Supreme Court today struck down a Vermont law limiting campaign contributions, saying it infringed upon candidates' free speech rights by limiting the campaign they could do.
Let's hear the conservatives talk about those activist judges now.
What this decision, and the decision made by Governor Blunt and the Missouri General Assembly made with the state's new campaign finance law is to make sure that if you're a special interest and you have big bucks, your free speech means more than that of the average citizen.
The full text of the Randall vs. Sorrell case can be found here.

So much for license fee office reform

The news conferences scheduled by Rep. Ryan Silvey and others who were planning to introduce a proposal to reform the awarding of lucrative license fee offices has been delayed, according to a posting on KY3's political blog.
It appears Governor Blunt, whose awarding of the offices has come under the scrutiny of the FBI, wants time to work with the representatives on their plan. This should be interesting.

Cox grand jury to conclude this week

The federal grand jury investigating allegations of Medicare fraud at CoxHealth is scheduled to conclude its session this week, according to an article in this morning's Springfield News-Leader.
The news of the investigation was first revealed in the June 8, 2005, Turner Report.
In that article, this blog revealed that two former Cox employees claimed they were fired because they cooperated with the federal investigation into possible criminal activity by hospital officials.
The two claim Cox used an illegal method to jack up Medicare reimbursements for patients, and paid kickbacks to doctors who referred patients to their dialysis center, but did no other work for the money.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Call of federal lobbying reform fading

It appears Congress has determined to just ride out the anti-lobbyist wave and it has almost done so, according to an article in the Washington Post.
Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is among those quoted in the article. It indicates the most senior officials on both sides of the aisles were the ones who complained the most when reforms were suggested, and were the ones who did the most to derail those reforms.

Ethanol gold rush explored in Times article

The ethanol gold rush has begun, and some serious problems may be on the horizon, according to an article in today's New York Times.
Not only is there debate about how much good ethanol is going to be in solving the country's energy problems, there also is concern about the effect the increased production might have on the food supply and on the type of land that eventually might be used to grow corn to make it.

Scott tops area senators on April lobby gift list

Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, received more gifts from lobbyists during the first four months of 2006 than other area senators, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
Scott has received $330.28 in gifts, compared to $294.08 for Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, $235.45 for Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and $187.25 for Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield.
Nearly half of Scott's total, $160.95, came during April, the most recent month posted on the Commission website. That included $145.95 for meals, food and beverage from Cory Ridenour, lobbyist for the Missouri Optometric Association.
According to the Ethics Commission documents, April totals for the other area senators were $82.50 for Goodman, $33.55 for Ms. Champion, and $31.68 for Nodler.

Sentencing hearing set for Ryan

A 2 p.m. July 17 sentencing hearing has been scheduled in Cedar County Circuit Court for Jim Edward Ryan, who was found guilty earlier this month of murdering his brother-in-law, John Kullie, with a tire jack May 25, 2005, in Lamar Heights.

Post-Dispatch examines U. S. Senate race

The effect state issues will have on the U. S. Senate race between incumbent Jim Talent and his challenger, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, is explored in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

News Leader: Blunt wasting time with movie issue

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt appeared on Fox News Channel's Cavuto Report Friday addressing what he seems to feel is one of the most important issues facing the United States.
While the House leadership has delayed any kind of vote on immigration, the majority whip is going on national television upset that a movie received a PG rating, allegedly because of strong Christian content, though that version of events is being disputed.
Today's Springfield News-Leader features an editorial about the congressman's crusade. The News Leader feels Blunt's efforts are a waste of time.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Silvey to announce license fee office reform plan

Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, will announce a license fee office reform plan Monday, according to KC Buzz Blog.
Silvey's plan would award license fee contracts to not-for-profit organizations and end the patronage system that has existed in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Natural Disaster has busy holiday weekend on tap

I received confirmation today that our band, Natural Disaster, will perform at the annual Old Mining Town Days celebration in Granby at approximately 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 1. We will play our brand of 1950s/60s rock and country music for about 45 minutes, according to the festival organizers.
This will be our first time to play at Granby in three years, so we are looking forward to it. Of course, our band's leader, Richard Taylor and I both graduated from East Newton High School, so this gives us an opportunity to catch up with a lot of old friends.
We are also scheduled to play at the annual Carthage Fourth of July celebration. I am not sure about the time, but when I find out, I will post it on this blog.

Column: Bloggers the ones having fun in journalism

With a neverending raft of stories about declining newspaper circulation, reporters jailed for not revealing their sources, and job cuts across the board, a National Journalist columnist poses the question, "Is anyone having fun in journalism any more?"
The answer, he says, is yes, bloggers are.
He's absolutely right.

McCaskill plans July 7 SW Missouri appearance

Other stops may be planned, but I have been told that U. S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill will return to Southwest Missouri with a 7 p.m. Friday, July 7, appearance at the Willard Rec Center.
Ms. McCaskill has revised the approach that cost her a win in the 2004 governor's race, when she concentrated totally on the Kansas City and St. Louis areas and left out southwest Missouri.
Though I am sure her strategy team does not think she will win this area, they know that enough votes in this corner of the state could push her over the top. Southwest Missouri could end up seeing more than just Republicans at future election events.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A review of the last six months

The connection between money and politics has always been a focal point of this blog and since The Turner Report has picked up a few hundred extra readers per day over the last several months, I thought I would provide a brief review of some of the investigative stories newer readers might have missed during the first half of 2006:


More about Gary Nodler and Ethics- This article revealed information of money poured into Gary Nodler's campaign coffers by Moark and its officials.

Hunter loses lobbyist gift title, no recount expected- This post unveiled the first Turner Report Wall of Shame with Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, slipping by Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, to take the dubious honor of receiving more gifts from lobbyists than any other representative.

Moark attorney/former DNR director defends top polluters- The attorney representing Moark's plans to build new egg laying facilities in the Neosho area, former Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director David Shorr, has changed from representing the people to representing the state's top polluters.

Lobbying firm funneling money to Nodler, PAC- This article was the first to note the money that the powerful lobbying firm of Gamble and Schlemeier has been pumping into the Elect Nodler Committee and the Nodler Leadership PAC.

St. Louis senators top 2005 Hall of Shame- Rep. David Klindt, R-Bethany, topped the senatorial Hall of Shame, with several St. Louis Democrats making the top 10.

National lobbyists pouring money into Blunt campaign- At least $30,000 of Governor Matt Blunt's campaign contributions came from national lobbyists with connections to his father, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt.

Missouri lobbyists also contributed to Blunt campaign- The headline should explain everything.


When great minds think alike- Some area representatives had a bad habit of plagiarizing their weekly columns.

The best task force money can buy- Most of the members of the Healthcare Information Technology Task Force appointed by Governor Matt Blunt had two things in common- they were connected to the medical industry and they donated to the governor's campaign fund.

Governor's brother cashes in on ethanol proposal- Months before word spread about Andrew Blunt's investment in a company that was attempting to cash in on ethanol legislation, this article concerning connections between the Blunts and ethanol interests ran.

More MOARK money connected to Nodler

More about MOARK, committee shell games- This post examined contributions made by MOARK and others to legislative district committees.


Speaking with one voice- More on the state representatives' plagiarism

Outside money helps buy Jasper County election- Rep. Steve Hunter convinced many of his legislative buddies to pour money into his wife's successful 2004 face for Jasper County public administrator.

Goodman deals with critical issues- Sen. Goodman described his bill, SB1114 as a bill to protect families; it called for a later start for schools. What he didn't mention was how much extra money it would make for the tourism interests- or how much he was receiving from those same interests in the form of campaign contributions.

Area legislators co-sponsoring vouchers legislation- An incredible amount of money has been poured into the campaign coffers of Missouri legislators by proponents of school voucher programs.


Nodler still raking in the bucks- More lobbyists contribute to senator's campaign fund.

Scott leads charge to keep Wal-Mart out of banking- Sen. Delbert Scott, who sponsored a bill to keep Wal-Mart out of the Missouri banking industry, receives considerable funding from banking interests.

June hearing set for Emery- State Rep. Ed Emery asks his lawyer, Sen. Jack Goodman, to have his court date for driving on the wrong side of a roadway and causing an accident delayed because the General Assembly was in session.

Missourian article explores state lobbying reform efforts- Noting Sen. Carl Bearden's quotes in a Columbia Missourian article, The Turner Report pointed out the connections between lobbying gifts received by Bearden and legislation he has sponsored.

Homeschool proponents donate heavily to Nodler PAC- K12, William Bennett's organization contributed $5,000 to the Nodler Leadership PAC. Of course, K-12 is a company that provides curriculum for virtual schools, such as the one in the bill recently signed by Governor Blunt.

Contributors pay Ruestman's NRA dues- It's amazing the things politicians find to spend their campaign contributions on.

Nodler sings praises of virtual school- Sen. Nodler, whose Nodler Leadership PAC received $5,000 from a company that provides curriculum for virtual schools, naturally effusively praises the virtual school bill.

Feb. 21 a banner day for Blunt campaign- The governor's campaign funds increased by more than $15,000, just from the 60-plus contributions that came from people connected with the Thompson Coburn law firm on Feb. 21.

Kinder piling up lobbyists' contributions- This one is just what it sounds like.

Cashing in on voter IDs- Not surprisingly, as it became apparent that the voter ID bill was going to pass in Missouri, a Texas firm that specializes in such things hired a new lobbyist to work in Missouri, Jay Reichard, who shares many of his clients with Andrew Blunt.

Hunter has more lobbyists' gifts than other area legislators combined- An examination of lobbyists' gifts received by Rep. Steve Hunter during the first three months of 2006.


Rector actions keep doors open for telemarketers
- A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story told of how Rep. Rex Rector, R-Harrisonville, singlehandedly derailed legislation that would have toughened Missouri telemarketing laws. The Turner Report noted the campaign contributions Rector had received from the special interests who were opposed to the legislation.

Schaaf's friends are not yours and mine- Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a doctor, put a roadblock on legislation that would have helped Missourians by penalizing doctors for Medicaid fraud, but would have hurt the doctors who are bankrolling the representative.

Joplin Globe investigates Nodler- When the Joplin Globe began its two-part series on the money behind Sen. Gary Nodler, The Turner Report provided some helpful links.

Shine the light on everything except lobbyists- Sen. Gary Nodler was a co-sponsor of the campaign finance bill which supposedly is going to shine the light on money in politics, yet Nodler has received many campaign contributions from lobbyists, almost none of whom are labeled as such.


Democrats lead Hall of Shame inductees- Democratic senators topped the Hall of Shame list for the first half of 2006.

State auditor candidate tops Springfield area in lobbyist gifts- Rep. Mark Wright, a candidate for state auditor, has accepted more gifts from lobbyists in 2006 than any other Springfield-area legislator in 2006.

Gates, lobbyists providing fund for Blunt PAC- Lobbyists' contributions to Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC are outlined.

Gaming Commission appointment is big Blunt contributor- Lawyer Samuel Hais, his firm, and his family all poured money into the governor's campaign fund.

Monroe Street laundry cited by Democrat blog- Rep. Marilyn Ruestman's laundered campaign money is examined.

Governor's health care advisor is lap dog for special interests- The conflicts of interest of Governor Blunt's advisor and former state representative Jodi Stefanick are explored.

La-Z-Boy annual report issued

For those interested in the annual report of La-Z-Boy, Inc., a major employer for Neosho and Newton County, it was filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission and can be found at this link.

Morris: Democrats could retake U. S. Senate

Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris, in his most recent syndicated column, indicates he believes Missouri's junior senator, Jim Talent, will lose to State Auditor Claire McCaskill in November.
Morris analyzes what the Democrats will need to do to gain the 51 seats they need to control the Senate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Joplin city manager's lawsuit to go forward

Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr's libel lawsuit against a Piqua, Ohio, businessman will go forward following a June 16 ruling by the Ohio 2nd District of Court of Appeals.
A jury ruled in Rohr's favor May 13, 2005, but did not award him any damages. Rohr, who was city manager in Piqua before coming to Joplin in September 2004. Rohr sued bar owner Charles "Mo" Gustin, claiming Gustin defamed him in a May 2002 letter to state officials who were considering revoking Gustin's liquor license, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Rohr's lawyer, Grant Kerber, said the award of zero is less than the "nominal damages" to which Judge Jeffrey Welbaum said Rohr was entitled. Kerber also noted that the eight jurors had not signed the verdict forms properly, writing "nominal damages," instead of their names.
A judge had agreed with Kerber's view, but Gustin appealed that decision, leading to the appellate court ruling.
No trial date has been scheduled.

Former KOAM morning anchors succeeding in bigger markets

A reader provided the link to the newly-added page on the KWCH Wichita television state website for former KOAM morning and noon anchor Sarah Pierik. KOAM has had a nice run with the young women who have been placed opposite Dave Pylant on the morning program, including Ms. Pierik, Lori Prichard and current anchor Doreen Scanlon.
As for Ms. Prichard, she, too, has gone on to bigger things. The Joplin native is a reporter and weekend morning anchor at KJRH, Channel 2 in Tulsa.

Talent, Bond vote against minimum wage increase

Missouri's U. S. Senators, Kit Bond and Jim Talent were among the 46 senators who voted against a graduated increase in the federal minimum wage today.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, provided for an increase in the minimum wage from its current $5.15 to $5.85 two months after the legislation was enacted, $6.55 one year later, and $7.25 the following year.
The final vote was 52 to 46 in favor of the amendment, but it needed 60 votes to pass.

Blunt protests PG rating for Christian film

Waving the banner of family values, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, shown with his wife, Phillip Morris lobbyist Abigail Blunt, sent a letter to the Motion Picture Association of America protesting the decision to rate the film, Facing the Giants PG instead of G. Filmmakers said the decision was made due to strong religious content, though MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said religion had nothing to do with it.
In the letter, Blunt wrote:

“This incident raises the disquieting possibility that MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence. I am sure many of my colleagues share my concern."

The Hill, a Washington, D. C. magazine, said a meeting between Blunt and an MPAA representative may be scheduled for next week.
I would be a bit more concerned about the PG films which should be rated R but are not, due to our relaxed standards, especially where language is concerned.

More childishness from our elected officials

First, we had Governor Matt Blunt's spokesman Spence Jackson comparing Democratic blogger Roy Temple to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, while the governor shrugs and takes the "boys will be boys" attitude.
Now, Associated Press and other media sources are reporting that the governor and Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder voted to have Kinder take over State Auditor Claire McCaskill's office because it is larger and Kinder does not have room in his current office. That provided a 2-1 victory for Kinder, with the other member of the Public Buildings panel, Attorney General Jay Nixon, voting no. The move will not affect McCaskill since it will not take effect until January. Nevertheless, the people in the state auditor's office are upset with the move and terming it an office grab.
Kinder is the lieutenant governor, for heaven's sake! How much room does he need?
Perhaps he needs room for a bigger phone bank to call up lobbyists who might donate to his campaign fund (even though it's not clear what he's running for). In the April 22 Turner Report we noted that Kinder collected $7,875 in campaign contributions during the first three months of 2006, with $5,339 of that coming from registered lobbyists.
Over the past few decades in Missouri, we have seen many times when the governor and lieutenant governor were polar opposites. It appears Lt. Gov. Kinder is a perfect fit for this administration.

Emery receives another continuance

Rep. Ed Emery's arraignment on a traffic charge has been postponed again, at his request, according to Lawrence County Circuit Court records. It had been scheduled for June 20.
It has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, July 20.
The hearing had initially been scheduled for April 6, but was delayed after a motion for continuance was filed by Emery's former House colleague, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, who said Emery, a Lamar Republican, needed to be in Jefferson City for his work in the state legislature. Court files indicate Goodman continues to represent Emery.
Emery was charged with failure to drive on the right half of a roadway, following a 2:20 p.m. Feb 3 two-car accident on Highway 96 two miles south of Miller. Emery and a woman in the other car suffered minor injuries, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol report.

U. S. House manages to avoid ethics reform

Ignoring the public desire for actual reform in the way it does business, the U. S. House of Representatives has ignored calls to eliminate travel financed by private interests in favor of a new system that will require the House Ethics Committee to approve each such trip.
Apparently, legislators have grown so used to these freebies they can't let go of them. An editorial in today's New York Times addresses the subject.

News-Leader: License fee office system is bad for state

The Springfield News-Leader editorializes today that the system under which state license fee offices are awarded is broken and needs to be fixed.
Charges have been flying back and forth between the parties since Governor Blunt took office and began awarding license fee offices to various campaign contributors. Republicans noted, rightly, that this was nothing new and had been done in the past by Democratic administrations. Democrats say Blunt and his political allies have taken a bad system and made it worse.
It really doesn't matter who is at fault; changes need to be made.

'Hellcats" actor Franz dead at 86

Veteran character actor, Arthur Franz, whose long list of movie credits includes a film with a Lamar connection, died Saturday at age 86.
The most well known film Franz appeared in was the John Wayne war classic, "Sands of Iwo Jima," but he also had a featured part in the 1957 movie, "Hellcats of the Navy," based on the memoirs of Admiral Charles Lockwood, a Lamar native.
That movie is better known for being the only one to costar Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy Davis.

Simmons enters not guilty plea

Cory Simmons, Joplin, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter Tuesday...the same day that he turned 18.
Simmons waived his arraignment in McDonald County Circuit Court, where his case has been sent on a change of venue from Newton County. His trial is scheduled for July 18, with a motion hearings on tap June 29.
Simmons was charged in connection with the Feb. 11 traffic accident in which Joplin High School student-athlete Christina Freeman, a passenger in the car Simmons was driving, was killed. Joplin police say Simmons was driving while intoxicated.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Comments indicate Kupersmith pushed out at Thomas Jefferson

The Joplin Daily followed up Thomas Jefferson's news release on the departure of longtime Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School headmaster Leonard Kupersmith, with its own reporting today.
Reporter Kaylea Hutson put TJ's Board Chairman Debra Humphreys on record as to the reason for the change. It appears the board wanted someone to take the school "to the next level."
It will be interesting to see if the Globe follows up on the story. It ran the news release in today's edition.

Former Hollinger CEO may be headed to jail

Conrad Black, former CEO of Hollinger International, which at one time owned The Carthage Press and the Neosho Daily News, may be headed for jail as he awaits trial on charges that he and his associates stole more than $84 million from their company.
Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports Black has defaulted on the mortgage on his Palm Beach, Fla. home, which may prompt federal prosecutors to ask for an increase in his bond.
If he cannot pay the increase, he would be sent to jail to await his March 2007 trial.

Tupper named to Clean Water Commission

Jan Tupper, 70, Joplin, longtime president of the Allgeier, Martin and Associates engineering firm, has been appointed to the Clean Water Commission by Governor Matt Blunt, according to a news release issued today.
Tupper's appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

The foolishness of eliminating Christianity in schools

The case of the Monument, Colo., High School valedictorian whose microphone was cut off when she began giving credit to Jesus Christ brings the subject of religion and its place in the public schools to the forefront.
It would be wrong (and unconstitutional) for me to try to indoctrinate my eighth graders to my religious beliefs. I am a representative of the government when I stand in front of those students and according to the First Amendment I am prohibited from doing so. I have no problem with that. Church and home are the places where young people should learn about religion, except of course its role in history.
When I was at The Carthage Press, I wrote several columns about prayer in schools. I remember the battle when a threatened legal action by the ACLU stopped the traditional pre-game prayer that had always been given over the public address system at the Lamar High School football field.
I interviewed Leigh Hughes, a Lamar High School senior, in the fall of 1992 about her efforts to have the prayer restored. It did not happen while she was in high school, but people gathered in the end zone for prayer and if nothing else, it made the people of Lamar stop and think about the importance of religion.
A court ruling enabled Lamar to restore the pre-game prayer, as long as it was student-initiated, the following year. I remember standing in the pressbox with my trusty camera as Lindsay Hughes, Leigh's younger sister, gave the first prayer. I was so disappointed when the pictures came out and for some reason, everyone's eyes were shut.
Fortunately, my intelligence returned from its brief vacation and I realized the students' eyes were closed because they were praying.
Now, the wheels have turned in the other direction and the latest federal court rulings have banned prayers from events like football games even if they are student-initiated.
Judges are making the mistake of mixing up people feeling uncomfortable with the government trying to declare an official religion.
The principal at Monument, Colo., was wrong when he took away valedictorian Erica Corder's First Amendment freedom of speech rights by turning off her microphone. Did her references to Jesus Christ make some uncomfortable? Undoubtedly. The U. S. Constitution does not guarantee people the right to be comfortable when they listen to speeches. (If it did, people would never listen to speeches.)
When school officials become so afraid of Christianity that they begin eliminating all vestiges of it in the schools, they are sacrificing common sense in the name of being politically correct.
No school year goes by that we don't hear another horror story about a child who was not allowed to give a report on a book of a religious nature. We hear of students who are told not to bring their Bibles to school or not to write papers that deal with their religious beliefs. These things happen because some teachers are scared to death of dealing with anything that has to do with religion.
When we ask students to write papers that deal with their personal beliefs, we can't go ballistic if some of them happen to be Christians and want to express their beliefs.
When we so desperately want children to learn to enjoy reading, we can't tell those who like religious books, "You can read anything you like, but not those."
And when we ask students to deliver valedictory addresses, which are supposed to be personal in nature, and we prohibit top students like Erica Corder from saying what they feel in their hearts, we are sending the message that freedom of speech is okay...unless, of course, you plan on mentioning that you are a Christian.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Changes on tap at Thomas Jefferson

Leonard Kupersmith, longtime head of school at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, is out, and has been replaced by William Carter, the school's longtime principal, according to a news release that has been posted on the Joplin Daily website.
The news release left the circumstances of Kupersmith's departure unclear. "The former Head of School, Dr. Leonard Kupersmith, is pursuing other opportunities."
What is evident is that Thomas Jefferson is beating the bushes looking for students. I have heard several radio ads with parents and former students extolling the virtues of the school and encouraging parents to enroll their students. This is the first time I can recall such a major advertising campaign for Thomas Jefferson.
The news release also indicates that recruitment is going to be a major concern for Carter.
Kupersmith had placed an advertisement June 12 with The Chronicle of Higher Education seeking a director of advancement for Thomas Jefferson. The ad read:

Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, Joplin, MO Pre-K - 12 college prep, fully accredited member of ISACS, seeks a Director of Advancement, with primary duties of student recruitment and development leadership. Candidate should possess:
Initiative, drive, persistence, excellent communication skills, strong organizational skills, outstanding collaborative abilities

They'll milk you for every cent

Less than two weeks ago, industries at formerly Lamar-based O'Sullivan Industries filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating they would shell out more than $16 million in fees and expenses to third parties in connection with their bankruptcy proceedings.
Well, kiss that number goodbye and add another $382.16.
Dechert LLP, one of the consulting firms hired by O'Sullivan officials, filed a notice of request today in U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, saying it had missed some expenses. "Dechert is now requesting the reimbursement of an additional $382.16 in actual and necessary expenses that were incurred prior to April 12, 2006, but were not posted in Dechert's books and records prior to May 17, 2006 (when the expense forms were filed with the court)."
The $382.16 will make Dechert's final bill $2,186,264.96.

Neosho Daily sets record straight on Seneca principal

Sometimes you have to wonder if the people are paying attention at the Joplin Globe. Just a few days after the Globe ran an article saying the Carthage R-9 School District had hired Ron Wallace as its new junior high principal, it ran another article saying Tosha Fox was the new high school principal at Seneca because Ron Wallace had "retired."
The Neosho Daily News, though a bit tardy on the news of Ms. Fox's new position, reported today that Wallace had taken the position at Carthage because it offered more money than what he was making at Seneca.

Hunter receives St. Louis Business Journal Legislative Award

Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, is one of the recipients of this year's St. Louis Business Journal Legislative Awards.
Among the reasons he was deemed deserving of such a lofty honor:
-He didn't allow a measure to raise the minimum wage to make it through his Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee.
-Hunter also bottled up a measure which would have punished employers who hire illegal aliens.
Though the article was filled with praise for Hunter, it also features a strong criticism from a local source, Ron Lundien, business manager of the Joplin chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "I don't think he cares about labor at all. He does nothing for the working people in this area," Lundien said.

Joplin CPA is treasurer for state auditor candidate

An article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicates the state auditor race is heating up.
Articles last week from various sources indicated people connected with Governor Matt Blunt are becoming involved in the campaign of Platte County auditor Sandra Thomas. Her campaign committee's disclosure documents on file with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicate that Joplin CPA Nick Myers is her treasurer.
Myers, of course, is also the treasurer for the Nodler Leadership PAC. His wife, Victoria, is the deputy treasurer for the 32nd District Senatorial Committee, which has as its treasurer Tom Flanigan, who also happens to be Sen. Gary Nodler's treasurer. Mrs. Myers is also deputy treasurer for the 129th District Legislative Fund.
Though Springfield State Representative Mark Wright is campaigning as the only auditor candidate from southwest Missouri, it appears Ms. Thomas, with connections linking her to the governor and Sen. Nodler, may also have some pull in this area.
For the Post-Dispatch's campaign bios of the state auditor candidates, please go to this link.

News-Leader: Photo ID bill is a good one

The Voter ID bill signed into law last week by Governor Matt Blunt is a good one, according to the Springfield News-Leader Editorial Board.
In today's edition, the News-Leader says initial concerns by critics such as Secretary of State Robin Carnahan that voters might end up being disenfranchised were addressed by some of the measures in the bill. The editorial also praised the elimination of straight ticket voting.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fourteen-year-old to begin classes at MSSU this fall

Scott Thuong, 14, Joplin, will begin classes at Missouri Southern State University this fall. This isn't just one of these deals where students attend high school and take a few college classes at the same time.
Thuong has already graduated from high school and is ready to begin working toward a career as a college math professor.

Missourian exposes ethanol; conflicts of interest

State news sources have been all over lobbyist Andrew Blunt's connection to a company involved in ethanol speculation, but the conflicts of interest faced by some legislators has not been widely addressed until now.
Today's Columbia Missourian reveals five legislators, four Republicans and one Democrat, who proposed ethanol legislation, had interests in ethanol companies.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Webb City native addresses Ann Coulter controversy

For a time when I was editor of The Carthage Press, its owner, American Publishing, a subsidiary of Hollinger International, had a deal that allowed it to run features from the Los Angeles Times syndicate. One of the columnists whose work I ran regularly was Susan Campbell of the Hartford Courant, since she was a graduate of Webb City High School, and an excellent writer.
In her most recent column, Ms. Campbell addresses the controversy surrounding publicity-hungry Ann Coulter's latest book.
In response to Ms. Coulter's claim that her works are grounded in Christianity, Ms. Campbell writes:

I have searched for Coulter at the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, at summer Bible camp and at Wednesday night prayer service, but she's not there. And if she's cracked open her Bible, I defy her to find the word "broad" or "harpie" in there. Speak your piece, Annie, but don't drag Jesus into it.

Governor's health care advisor is lap dog for special interests

Former State Representative Jodi Stefanick sternly lectures the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a letter to the editor in today's edition for what she calls errors in one of its editorials.
It is hard to take Ms. Stefanick, who is now a senior policy advisor to Governor Matt Blunt on healthcare issues, when her past record shows more of a concern for the healthcare industry than for patients. I first addressed Ms. Stefanick's conflict of interest in the Aug. 24, 2005, Turner Report, shortly after her appointment to her current position:

Matt Blunt's decision to appoint Rep. Jodi Stefanick, R-Ballwin, as his senior health care policy advisor is yet another gift to the health and insurance special interests that shaped so much of the 2005 legislation.
Ms. Stefanick's campaign coffers were filled with special interest money from doctors and health care and insurance companies...and, of course, she donated $1,200, the maximum allowed under state law, from that campaign money to Blunt's campaign.
In her last few days as a legislator, Ms. Stefanick went out in style, accepting nearly $400 in money from health care lobbyist James R. Moody in June, well after the 2005 legislative session had concluded, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.
Moody's report indicates that he spent $368.40 on June 15 for travel for Ms. Stefanick, while representing Schaller Anderson, a national health care management and consulting company. It is not clear from the online Ethics Commission documents who Moody was representing when he paid $25 for meals, food and beverage for Ms. Stefanick on June 28, but it was either for Family Health Partners or Missouri Care.
Ms. Stefanick's campaign finance disclosure forms for 2004 cement her reputation as a handmaiden for the health care special interests. While she was played a well-recognized role as a chief architect of the Medicaid Reform plan and voted for so-called reforms that helped pad the pockets of the medical and insurance interests, Ms. Stefanick supplied more than two-thirds of her campaign funds with money from the same people.
Her campaign committee's October 2004 quarterly report shows that she received at least $8,350 from health-related interests during the three-month period, including:
Missouri Hospital Association PAC for Health, $300; Missouri Hospital Association Southeast District PAC, $300; Missouri Hospital Association St. Louis District PAC, $300; Midwest Radiological Associates PC, $300; Missouri Medical PAC, $300; Missouri Association of Health Plan, $200; Dr. Jeffrey Thomasson, $300; Professional Athletic Rehab Center, $250; Michael Neidorff, chairman of Centere Corporation, $300; Golden Rule Insurance Company, $300; West County Radiological Group, Inc., $300; Dr. Charles Fuszner, $300; American Family Insurance, $300; SSM Health Care, $300; Devereaux Chiropractic and Acupuncture, $75; Jim Moody (lobbyist) and Associates, $300; The Affton LeMay Chiropractic Center, $100; Dr. Donna Manello, $100; Eric Fink, Missouri Assisted Living Association, $300; Missouri Podiatry PAC, $300; someone listed as Dr. Crosby, $100; West County Care Center, $300; Missouri Insurance Coalition, $200; Whispering Lane Health Care Center, $300; Firsthand Health Center, $100; Deanna Mueller, therapist, $100; Gerald Grimaldi, Truman Medical Center, $100; Doral Dental USA, $300; Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center, $100; Midwest Imaging and Prevention, $100; Metro Heart Group of St. Louis, $300; Group Health Plan, $300; Donna Checkett, listed in one news story as director of Missouri Division of Medical Services, which administers the state Medicaid program, $200; Dr. Joan Pernaud, $150; Midwest Cardiovascular Center, $100; Abbel Chiropractic Arts, $75; Missouri Dental Hygienists PAC, $300.
Another huge batch of health-related donors kicked in to Ms. Stefanick's campaign in the second quarter of 2004, according to her committee's quarterly report. Among those listed:
Balanced Care for Women of St. Louis, $300; Eric Fink, Missouri Assisted Living Association, $300; Health Care Association Missouri Good Government Fund, $300; Health Care Leadership Committee State Account, $300; Joan Pernoud, $200; MD Pharmacy, Inc., $300; Missouri Orthopaedic Sports and Trauma Clinic, $300; Missouri Residential Care Services, Inc., $100; Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists PAC, $300; MOPLAN Missouri Psychologists, $300; Missouri Physical Therapy Association PAC, $100; Pharmacy Solutions, Inc., $300; United Healthcare Corp $150; and Whispering Oaks Health Care Center, Inc., $300.
Three hundred dollars, of course, was the maximum that could be contributed to state representative campaigns under Missouri law.
Even during the first quarter of 2004, before the campaigns really kicked in, Ms. Stefanick's campaign was already depositing checks from health care interests, according to the campaign disclosure form, including $300 from Sunrise Senior Living Services, $300 from Physicians for Sound Health Care Policy, $300 from Johnson and Johnson, and $200 from the Missouri Physical Therapists Association.
It should be remembered that while Ms. Stefanick was working to cut thousands off the Medicaid rolls, she was also helping pass and craft legislation which enriched those people who supplied the bulk of her campaign finances.

News-Leader offers thorn to Blunt spokesman

In the weekly "Roses and Thorns" section of the Springfield News-Leader editorial page, a thorn is directed at Governor Matt Blunt's spokesman Spence Jackson for his over-the-top comparison of Democratic blogger Roy Temple to Oklahoma City bomber.
At last look, Jackson not only had not apologized for an outburst that was most unbecoming in someone whose salary is paid for by the taxpayers, but he steadfastly insists he was not wrong in making the comment.
Perhaps it is time for the governor to show Jackson who is running the government, or is a government in which such slanderous statements are made by his employees the type of Missouri Governor Blunt envisions?

News-Leader story features Joplin skydiver who gave birth

The story of the pregnant Joplin skydiver who survived the failure of her chute to open has been a favorite of nearly all area media...except The Joplin Globe.
Let's see if I am remembering this right. The Globe didn't get the crash story, it didn't get the story about her wedding and it allowed other news outlets to beat it on the story of her giving birth to the baby she was carrying during her skydiving mishap.
There would appear to be only two reasons for this mishandling of the story:
1. Since the Globe missed out on the original story, it is following the old axiom that if we do not cover it, it is not news.
2. The editors don't realize they missed the story.
Obviously, Shayna Richardson's story is not that important in the grand scheme of things. It is a tabloid type story, something I have decried many times on this blog. But when the tabloid story is in your own backyard, you run with it, especially when it has already been determined that there is a public interest in it.
It's not as if the Globe is above running tabloid trash items on its pages. Lest we forget, this is the same newspaper than ran a page one photo and story about the FCC and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction on the same day it relegated the death of longtime staff writer Gary Garton to page three.
If any of you are interested in following the exploits of Ms. Richardson, her story is featured today in the Springfield News-Leader.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Federal court rejects Graham appeal

Convicted swindler Patrick Dallas Graham suffered yet another rejection in his years-long efforts to get out of prison.
U. S. District Court Judge Gary Fenner rejected Graham's appeal June 6, saying he had no jurisdiction over Graham's case any more since Graham had already filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the same conviction and "was denied on its merits."
Fenner wrote, "This court is without jurisdiction to review a second or successive petition for writ of habeas corpus until authorized to do so by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Petition should present his claims regarding exhaustion and his alleged actual innocence to the Eighth Circuit."
The case was dismissed without prejudice.
This latest appeal was filed in May, less than a month ago after this blog reported that Graham, who was sentenced in 1997 to 15 years in prison for fleecing 500 investors in his company, Conquest Labs, out of more than $5 million, had the first habeas corpus petition rejected in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Graham still has an action pending in Cole County Circuit Court.
Graham was convicted of fraud after bilking his investors, including pop singer Pat Boone, and the Herschend family, owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, out of the money they invested in Conquest Labs, which Graham said was working on a vaccine to cure the AIDS virus, as well as other vaccines that would cure cancer and Alzheimer's Disease. In fact, no vaccines existed, and Graham was pouring the proceeds into his own pockets.
He was indicted by a Barton County grand jury in February 1996, following a May 23, 1995, raid of his office on the Lamar square.

Blunt: United States will prevail in war on terror

House Resolution 861, declaring the U. S. will stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, was approved by a 256-153 vote, largely along party lines. Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, who voted for the resolution, delivered the following remarks during the debate:

Let’s be clear about what is at stake here today as we debate this issue: Whether or not we are successful in winning the Global War on Terror will define the future and define this generation of leaders in the eyes of future historians. Our resolve is being tested by clever enemies with primitive philosophies of religion and government. When my colleagues cast their vote today, they are sending a message about what they believe America is capable of doing and about whether the Global War on Terrorism is worth fighting. Our actions here on the House floor are being watched not only by our enemies, but by our friends and allies as well. The message we send will be received by the coalition partners fighting with us, the people and leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Americans fighting for peace and freedom, who believe in their mission. This vote should not be taken lightly. And, believe me, it should not be taken lightly.

The resolution we are considering is clear and unambiguous. We are declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror. This war is not a war of choice, but one initiated and sustained by the actions of terrorists. It is being fought in many parts of the world with all of the diplomatic, cultural, financial, and, when absolutely necessary, military resources available to us. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists have chosen to make a stand. They understand that the only way they can defeat the United States is not in battle with our soldiers, who are the best in the world, but in the battle of public opinion.

Information is the key weapon in that battle. Over the week of Memorial Day I was able to travel to both Iraq and Afghanistan to see again first hand our nation’s efforts to combat terrorists and assist in the establishment of modern democracies. Universally, in both countries, the people we talked to, including the leaders we met with, told our delegation that withdrawing American troops before democracy has had the chance to take root would lead to disaster.

In Afghanistan, President Karzai believes that the southern part of that country is keeping a lid on the Taliban precisely because of the presence of our troops. He believes his countrymen uniquely understand how important it is that our soldiers, American soldiers, maintain a visible role, even as the day-to-day operations are often turned over to our NATO allies. And while we were there our Ambassador was able to report to President Karzai that the Canadians and the Dutch had been vigorously and successfully engaged the day before. But President Karzai was equally vigorous in his sense that the commitment of Americans was the commitment the Afghan people were worried about.

Today I tell my friend President Karzai that America will not abandon our Afghan friends. We will not close that embassy again and lock the door and walk away for ten years.

In Iraq, which al Qaeda has called the ‘central front’ – their quote, not mine -- in their war against the West, the sentiment for America to stay is even more pronounced. In Baghdad I spoke to Speaker Mashhadani, a Sunni politician and a leader who had been opposed to the US coming to Iraq. He now believes our presence is essential for democracy to take root.

And while visiting the newly formed Kurdish government, I spoke with those leaders who have recently put aside generations of those differences in favor of a unified Iraq. The officials from the new Iraqi government I met with gave me additional reasons to be hopeful for the future. These elected leaders are committed to governing. Their predecessors have been committed to a political goal in each case: to write a constitution, to conduct temporary elections, to conduct permanent elections. This government is the first democratically elected government in the history – not just of Iraq, which has only been in existence since World War I, but in the history of the people that live in this area who have never before had a permanently democratically elected government. This government also happens to be a broad based government committed to serve.

I have said many times before – as many have said over the last two days -- that only the Iraqis are ultimately capable of solving their problems. The only way to solve them is through increased transparency, economic reform, and democratic participation in government. None of this will be easy, and I have nothing but admiration for Iraqi leaders who are undertaking these tasks in the face of enormous personal risks.

It is in the context of those personal risks that I appeal to my colleagues, who live peacefully and safely in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, the United States of America, not to turn their backs on the leaders of the world’s newest democracy.

Lauren Hieger shows grace under pressure

KSNF's Lauren Hieger had a thankless job this afternoon as she filled in for Tiffany Alaniz on the area's lowest-rated 5 p.m. news program, "Life with Gary and Tiffany."
While KSN's sister station, KODE, and KOAM led their newscasts off with the number one story of the day, the discovery of the body of Labette County teacher Brett Carlson in Costa Rica, KSN, as usual led with the type of fluff that gives fluff a bad name.
Co-host Gary Bandy was live at Buffalo Run Casino, so that was the focal point of the program's opening. "This is so exciting," Bandy gushed, as he related the events including the Cowboy Troy concert, a dance, and a poker run, then as the top story was already completed on the other newscasts, Bandy went right on into his weather forecast.
Nearly three minutes had passed, and as it was about time to deliver the sad news, Bandy didn't exactly make it easy for Miss Hieger, as he said, "I'm getting a nice tan. Thanks for noticing, Lauren."
Give Miss Hieger credit, the St. Louisan was able to maintain her professional demeanor and moved right into the Brett Carlson story.
This will be one of those stories she can tell about her days in small town local television, when she goes on to success in some larger market.
After that, KSNF spent only a couple of minutes on news, however, then went right back to Bandy. Where would he be on Father's Day, he was asked. "If I was smart," he replied, "and I'm not that smart, I'd go to Buffalo Run Casino."
It would be so easy to add a comment.

Lindstedt court decision covered on KC Star blog

The Kansas City Star's Buzz Blog features a review of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to toss out Martin Lindstedt's appeal.

Nielsens: KOAM on top, 'Live with Gary and Tiffany' tanks

The return of KODE and KSNF to Cable One has not done much to help the stations' Nielsen ratings.
The May book again showed KOAM on top in every local time slot. At 5 p.m. the news with Dowe Quick and Rhonda Justice had 27,000 viewers, more than the 21,000 posted by KODE, KSNF and Fox 14 combined.
At 6 p.m., the KOAM numbers increased, pulling in 35,000, while the other three stations combined for 28,000.
That led into Channel 7's best numbers, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. where Wheel of Fortune with 45,000 viewers, more than doubled the 20,000 for Entertainment Tonight, Friends and Seinfeld combined.
KOAM also won easily with its morning show and in the 10 p.m. timeslot.
5 p.m..- While KOAM won the 5 p.m. time slot, it appears viewers of the other stations opted for some meat on their plates rather than the fluff that KSN has been dishing out with its "Live with Gary and Tiffany."
While KOAM pulled in 27,000 viewers, Brian Hamman and Tara Brown's KODE newscast had 13,000. Live with Gary and Tiffany pulled a Poseidon and bottomed out at 4,000, tied with Fox 14's Malcolm in the Middle reruns.
6 p.m..- While you never know who is going to be manning the Nielsen books, which occasionally results in some surprises, the 6 p.m. ratings indicate that the problem may be with the light news format. With veteran anchor Jim Jackson back at the helm, KSN more than doubles its viewers, moving up to 9,000, KODE holds onto second place, moving from 13,000 to 15,000 viewers, while KOAM remains on top with 35,000 viewers.
10 p.m..- KOAM has a commanding 32,000 viewer for its 10 p.m. newscast, while Jackson and Tiffany Alaniz move into second place with 15,000 viewers. KODE has a slight drop from its 6 p.m. totals with 14,000 viewers.
Morning news- Dave Pylant and Doreen Scanlon's KOAM Morning News has 15,000 viewers, or as many as the prime time news programs for KSNF and KODE. Finishing in second place was KSN's Toni Valliere and Lucas McDonald, who have done much to improve that program, with 5,000 viewers. KODE finished third with 4,000.
Other time slots- Receiving the rights to air Seinfeld reruns has moved Fox 14 into a second place tie with the program KODE used to replace it "Entertainment Tonight," with seven thousand viewers. "Friends" on KSNF finished fourth with 6,000.
This area is probably one of the few where the perennial last place CBS Morning News from 7 to 9 a.m. is the dominant program. The Nielsens showed 14,000 viewers for the program, compared to 7,000 for "Good Morning America" on KODE, 6,000 for "The Today Show" on KSNF and 1,000 for programming including "Little House on the Prairie" reruns on Fox 14.

Daily pounds Globe on Southern story

If you compare the Joplin Globe's coverage of a major gift to Missouri Southern State University to the coverage offered by the upstart Joplin Daily's coverage, one thing is obvious: The Daily had a reporter at the meeting; The Globe relied on a press release.
Regular Turner Report readers know one of my major complaints is area newspaper editors' habits of affixing the byline "From staff reports" to a story.
For some reason, they do not seem to understand that "from staff reports" is a lie. It means either that you are running a news release in its entirety, which appears to be what the Globe did with the MSSU story, you're running an edited news release, or you found some additional information in one of your old stories (or in an old news release) and added it to the story.
The main thing is the Globe was not there. The Globe not only did not follow the MSSU Board of Governors to Springfield for the "retreat" meeting last week, but it didn't follow the board to Joplin Thursday.
And while the Daily was there in person, landing stories on the gift from Robert Plaster and on the three-year extension to University President Julio Leon's contract, what did the Globe have its reporters covering in person?
-Andy Ostmeyer covered the Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting. You can't argue with that assignment.
-Jeff Lehr was covering the conclusion of the Jim Edward Ryan murder trial. It's an interesting story, but it is questionable whether it was an efficient use of the Globe's money, especially when you are sending your go-to reporter to Stockton instead of using him on a story that would have more impact locally.
-Though it appears to have been based on information initially received from a news release, Ostmeyer did a story on a bequest from a Pittsburg State University alumnus. That lives up to the Globe's reputation for stressing out-of-town stories and neglecting similar Joplin stories of equal importance.
-Mike Pound handled a Carthage story concerning residents of the Super Six Motel and some mobile homes who might have to leave because of a contaminated water system. This is a much better use of Pound's time than having him write a column, but at the same time, just what the heck is the Department of Natural Recourses?
-Derek Spellman provided coverage of the decision by Joplin R-8 school officials not to pursue ownership of the Social Security Building on Main. Again, it is hard to argue with this story.
-Various and sundry other stories, some interesting, but none of overwhelming importance.
The Globe is in a difficult position. No one expects the Joplin Daily to beat the Globe on stories. The Globe has the manpower (though it is being woefully misused), the Globe has the money; the Globe is expected to land every major story. All the Daily has to do is carve its niche, something it has been slow in doing, but has done with a vengeance recently.
Of course, maybe all of these stories will be covered in depth by the Joplin Herald. What a brilliant strategy that would be, brilliant, that is, if the Globe is pulling for the Joplin Daily to succeed.