Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hearing scheduled for Cunningham anti-teacher bill

A bill submitted by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, the biggest enemy of public education in the state legislature, will receive a hearing March 4 from the Senate Education Committee.

This is the second attempt by Mrs. Cunningham to steer the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act through the legislature. She also made an unsuccessful attempt during her final year in the House. The legislation is one of a series of bills filed by Mrs. Cunningham, all of which have the intent of weakening public education, something which she has been trying to do since she was unable to get her way during a three-year stint on a public school board of education.

I wrote this about the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act in the Dec. 22 Turner Report:

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, has taken her brand of public school bashing from the House to the Senate.

On Monday, the first day of pre-filing 2009 legislation, Mrs. Cunningham filed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, the same bill which she unsuccessfully tried to navigate through the House in 2008.

It is the latest in a long series of attacks Mrs. Cunningham has made on public education since she attained elective office. Riding the publicity of an Associated Press article that showed Missouri had a large number of reported instances of teachers having inappropriate relations with students, Mrs. Cunningham immediately began hearings designed to push her personal agenda without even taking a close examination of the facts.

One of the reasons Missouri had such a high number of incidents is due to legislation that was enacted about a decade ago which made it mandatory to conduct background checks on those who would work with our children, and remove those who had committed crimes. Missouri's proactive stance enabled it to get some perverts out of the classroom, but its very success opened the door to demagogues like Jane Cunningham.

All that was needed was a fine-tuning, but Mrs. Cunningham is brandishing a sledge hammer.

Provide the Highway Patrol with a list of the state's teachers and prospective teachers and make it mandatory that people who commit crimes have their names checked against this registry. That makes sense.

Require training so that other teachers and staff members recognize when an adult is not behaving properly with a student. That makes sense.

Add those provisions to the laws already in place and you have a sensible pro-active policy that will work.

That doesn't satisfy Mrs. Cunningham, who prefers to take the opinion that all teachers are guilty of crimes that only a minute number commit. Teachers are already fingerprinted before they are hired; so Mrs. Cunningham is asking that they be fingerprinted twice. This apparently will thwart evil teachers who have their fingerprints changed to evade the law.

She has added to her bill, something that was not included in its original form last year, but which was added as an amendment, reportedly at her request, during a session of the Education Committee, of which she was the chairman. This time it is in the bill from the outset:

. Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and parents, or have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.

This, of course, is an attempt to stop teachers from communicating with students through sites such as Facebook and MySpace. I am one of those who has both Facebook and MySpace accounts, and I have students who have added me as a "friend." The opponents of this practice have jumped on the word "friend," but that does not imply an inappropriate friendship with a student. It is simply the term used by those websites. Students have asked me about papers they have been assigned, they have actually submitted papers, and sometimes they just want to say hi. It keeps the lines of communications open and helps me get through, in a thoroughly professional manner, to some students who may not normally like the idea of talking to a teacher, but are willing to do so through something like MySpace or Facebook, which they consider to be their territory.

My sites, whether it be this one, the Facebook site, the MySpace site or my collection of Room 210 sites, are open to the public. Parents, administrators, students, and community members are all welcome to visit. I know of other teachers who maintain social networking sites and accept students as "friends." These are responsible professionals, not lurking perverts, or people who have problems maintaining a proper distance from their students.

MySpace, Facebook, and other such sites are simply a convenient target for Mrs. Cunningham and her ilk. If the legislature takes this step, it is simply taking another slap at teachers, treating the people who have been giving their all for Missouri's children as if they were children.

Of course, there will a predictable quote from Mrs. Cunningham or another supporter of this bill who will say, "If this prevents just one child from being harmed, then it is worth it."

It is hard to argue with that kind of logic...dead wrong though it may be...because your words will be twisted to make it sound as if you are condoning the evil acts that a small handful of teachers have committed.

I cannot recall any cases being reported of teachers who have used social networking sites to lure children into sexual relations. I can recount numerous cases of teachers who have been able to use such sites to communicate effectively and professionally with students.

If Mrs. Cunningham is successful in bulldozing this bill through the Senate and then the House approves it, what will she try next? People like this are never satisfied with one step. Consider these possibilities:

-Teachers could be prevented from going to movies which might be attended by a younger audience. After all, this would provide ample opportunity for a teacher and student to sneak away during the movie or sit by each other.

-Teachers should not be allowed to live within a certain distance of any house in which underage children are living. Let's cut down the access.

-Teachers must not have listed telephone numbers, since this provides them with unlimited chances to have conversations with young ones.

-Signs need to be placed in teachers' yards warning parents and children that someone Jane Cunningham considers to be unworthy lives only a few feet away.

-Teachers should be required to have special license plates identifying themselves as teachers and offering a special 1-800 number to call if the person who is driving this car ever waves at you or says hello.

At first glance, the last few items seem quite ridiculous, but if you examine the bills that have been proposed in Missouri every year for the past several years, there have been two types of people who have been targeted on a consistent basis- registered sex offenders and teachers.

No matter what Jane Cunningham is trying to insinuate, those terms are not synonymous.

SB 41, termed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, is nothing of the kind. The bill is named for a student whose case fell through the cracks, something which should never happen. It does little or nothing to prevent such a situation from ever happening again. All it offers is a slap in the face to the thousands of Missouri teachers who protect students every day.

I will soon be addressing more bills filed by Mrs. Cunningham that reek of her anti-public school agenda.

Blunt calls for freeze in government spending

In this appearance on Fox Business, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt now a candidate for the U. S. Senate, calls for a freeze in government spending:

Sodomy charges dismissed against Lindstedt

The Newton County prosecuting attorney's office has dropped statutory sodomy charges against racist pastor and perennial candidate Martin Lindstedt.

In a rambling, hate-filled letter, Lindstedt explained what happened. Notably, the letter contained the information that the charges might be refiled since the statute of limitations has not run out.

Memorial Middle School shooter hearing postponed to March 13

The hearing in the case against Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, originally scheduled for Friday, has been postponed until March 13.

White, 16, has been locked up since October 2006 awaiting trial on two charges of assault and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon, and attempted escape.

White was a seventh grader at Memorial when he took an assault rifle to the school, fired into the ceiling and then pointed the gun at Principal Steve Gilbreth and tried to pull the trigger, but the gun jammed, according to the police.

Goodman declares for Congressional seat

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, officially announced his candidacy for the Seventh District Congreasional seat Friday in Joplin, smack in the middle of possible rival Gary Nodler's senatorial district:

If elected, Goodman said he would fight against a move toward socialized medicine.

"I don't want the government deciding whose health care is a good investment and whose is not," Goodman told reporters.

Goodman said he supports legislation that opens up the health care market so consumers can shop around for the best deal and doctor. He also favors legislation that makes it easier for small businesses to pool health insurance coverage.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Article: GateHouse Media $1 billion in debt

GateHouse Media is $1 billion in debt and its credit line has been reduced by $35 million, according to an article in the Boston Business Journal:

Struggling newspaper publisher Gatehouse Media Inc. has had its lines of credit reduced by $35 million through an amended loan agreement with its lenders.

The amendment agreement also enables Gatehouse to repurchase certain outstanding term loans at prices below par value, assuming it doesn’t default on those loans and can meet certain liquidity and credit benchmarks at the time of purchase.

State treasurer to be in Joplin today

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel will be in Joplin today to discuss his Invest in Missouri plan.

Zweifel is scheduled to have a news conference 1:30 p.m. at The Botany Shop, 710 Minnesota Avenue.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Memorial Middle School shooter's mental evaluation filed in Jasper County Circuit Court

The mental evaluation of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 16, was filed under seal today in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The contents will be revealed during a case update Friday, at which time a decision will be made on whether White will stand trial.

White is charged with two counts of assault, and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape. He has been in jail since October 2006 when he took an assault rifle into Memorial Middle School, fired the waapon at the ceiling and then attempted to shoot at Principal Steve Gilbreth but the weapon jammed, according to the police report.

Girard officials in last ditch effort to prevent GateHouse Media from closing newspaper

GateHouse Media appears to be in the process of shutting down a third Kansas newspaper.

Fresh on the heels of the closing of two daily newspapers in Kansas City, Kan., and Derby, it looks like the weekly Girard Press may be on its last legs.

Rumors of the newspaper's closing have been circulating in Girard for the past few weeks. A meeting to discuss the newspaper's future, arranged by Stephen Wade, publisher for both the Pittsburg Morning Sun and the Press, will be held Thursday night. Speculation is that the meeting will serve as more of an effort to steer Girard advertising and readers toward the Morning Sun. GateHouse Media had already closed most of the newspaper's operation in Girard, shifting operations to Pittsburg.

The following letter was sent to Girard Area Chamber of Commerce members today by City Administrator Gary Emry:

There will be a public meeting with Steve Wade of the Pittsburg Sun to discuss the future of the Girard Press. The parent company of the Press is currently considering closing the paper. You are being invited to attend on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 6:30 at City Hall in the council chambers.

This is a very important meeting. For those serving in a leadership position within your organization/business that cannot attend, I strongly urge you to send a representative to speak on your behalf. After talking with Steve concerning this matter, it is apparent to me that a decision is near. I would stress to you that this isn’t a complaint/gripe session but a conversation to share positions from both the business and community perspective. This will quite possibly be our one shot to discuss this. As a matter of taking advantage of opportunity, I would come prepared to discuss various ideas or options you may have in your mind.

For those of you who represent boards or committees, my opinion is that it isn’t important to have your entire board there but it certainly is important that your leader(s) are in attendance to speak on behalf of the organization. Feel free to pass this information along to citizens you feel should be in attendance. I was told this meeting will be advertised in the Press and the Sun today and tomorrow.

I look forward to seeing you all there.

Local readers continue to pay the price for GateHouse Media's brilliant idea of going deeply into debt to buy one newspaper after another. For now, it looks like the company's idea of saving money is to eliminate one newspaper after another.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Transcript provided for Jindal response to Obama speech

WASHINGTON – The Republican National Committee (RNC) released the full Republican address – embargoed until delivered – entitled “Americans Can Do Anything,” that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will deliver immediately following President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress:

“Good evening. I’m Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American President stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the President completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall … to Gettysburg … to the lunch counter … and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the President’s personal story - the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world. Like the President’s father, my parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4 ½ months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a ‘pre-existing condition.’ To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery - so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country - and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day. Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

As the President made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes - and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families … cutting taxes for small businesses … strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers … and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.

But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history - with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times - including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences, and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, DC.

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump - and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation … increase energy efficiency … increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels … increase our use of nuclear power - and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything - and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage - period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. We oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients - not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything - and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is under water - and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation - and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, DC - so we can rid our Capitol of corruption … and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America’s fighting men and women can do anything. And if we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive … defeat our enemies … and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope - but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you - the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democrats’ view that says -- the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear - because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust - and rightly so.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share … the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America’s best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery … overcame the Great Depression … prevailed in two World Wars … won the struggle for civil rights … defeated the Soviet menace … and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man - and the American spirit will triumph again.

We can have confidence in our future - because, amid today’s challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens, the most abundant resources … the most resilient economy … the most powerful military … and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. God bless Louisiana. And God bless America.”

Remembering Loren Lamoreaux

It is with sadness tonight that I read of the death of longtime Neosho Daily News photographer Loren Lamoreaux.

During my years at The Carthage Press, I had dozens of occasions to run into the Daily's sports tandem of Editor Dean Keeling and photographer Loren Lamoreaux at Neosho's home and away games. It is hard to believe that neither of them is with us any more.

At tournament time, I had many an occasion to see both of them enjoying the fare in the hospitality rooms. It still seems strange to see a Neosho bench without Dean Keeling sitting at the end of it, or the area underneath a Wildcat basket without Loren Lamoreaux's metal folding chair.

The folding chair, Neosho fans will remember, was to help Loren, who kept up a staggering pace with his photography well into his 80s. It was a matter of respect that the chair was provided for him, not only at Neosho, but also when he was at other schools in the old Southwest Conference.

The departure of Loren, following so soon after Dean Keeling left the building for the final time, and only a few months after the death of longtime Nevada Daily Mail Sports Editor Kelly Bradham has deprived this area of three of the last of the growling curmudgeonly type who provided southwest Missouri sports coverage with such distinctive flavor.

When you saw what Dean Keeling and Kelly Bradham wrote about Neosho and Nevada, respectively, or when you talked to Dean, Kelly, or Loren in one of the many tournament hospitality rooms they haunted for decades, you had none of this pretense of objectivity, and none of this homogenized, devoid of any heart, cookie cutter sports pages that dot the area map in 2009. Dean and Loren were Neosho Wildcat or Crowder College Roughriders fans through and through, and nothing was more enjoyable than to hear them going back and forth with Kelly Bradham over whether Neosho or Nevada was the better school.

Today's sports pages are undeniably what the journalism experts would consider more professionally done, but I miss their character, the human quality that you let you know that every word on the pages, and every photo provided by Loren Lamoreaux was placed on that page by someone who genuinely cared about Neosho and wasn't just picking up a paycheck.

With local newspapers continuing to bite the dust right and left these days, it makes you wonder when the people who ran newspapers forgot the value of hiring people who care.

Loren Lamoreaux will be missed.

Transcript of Obama presidential address provided

(The following transcript of Barack Obama's first presidential address to Congress was provided by the White House.)

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States:

I’ve come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When there is no lending, families can’t afford to buy homes or cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.

That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don’t need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of the world’s.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in all nations are once again upon us – watching to see what we do with this moment; waiting for us to lead.

Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but also a great privilege – one that has been entrusted to few generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill.

I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth – to become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the trivial.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered." Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

(NBC News photo)

Stock market recovers, but Gatehouse Media drops

Though news of President Barack Obama's speech brought the stock market to a rousing finish today, that didn't have any effect on GateHouse Media's trading on the Pink Sheets.

The company closed trading at eight cents per share today, down a half cent from Monday.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, Aurora Advertiser, Greenfield Vedette, and Pittsburg Morning Sun in this area.

Empire District Electric issues annual report

Empire District Electric Company filed its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday.

Obama: We will rebuild, we will recover

President Obama sent a positive message at the beginning of his address, saying, "We will rebuild, we will recover, and America will emerge a stronger nation than before."

Transcript of Obama State of the Union coming

President Barack Obama is just about to deliver his first State of the Union message. He was greeted with thunderous applause by Congress.

I will have the transcript of the speech posted as soon as possible.

GateHouse Media stock back in single digits

GateHouse Media stock closed at 8.5 cents per share on the Pink Sheets Monday, falling back into single digits.

The company owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the U. S.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Internet Viagra sales firm props up Koster campaign funds

A company that claims buying erectile dysfunction medication over the internet is safer than getting it prescribed by a doctor has contributed $10,000 the campaign fund of Attorney General Chris Koster.

Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate Koster received the oversized contribution from PCM Venture I, Scottsdale, Ariz. Feb. 18.

The company has battled in many states to be able to sell drugs over the internet without prescriptions.

PCI Venture is a distributor for all of the top erectile dysfunction drugs, including Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blunt challenges Carnahan to debates

Assuming that he will be the Republican candidate for U. S. Senate even though 18 months remain before the GOP primary Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt challenged Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the only announced Democratic candidate at this point, to a series of debates.

Blunt said he wanted to begin the debating this year.

Win your primary first, Congressman. The last thing we need is a never-ending series of debates lasting two years. Speaking as if you are already your party's nominee does not necessarily make it so.

Stevenson: They'll have to pry my cell phone from my cold, dead hands

Don't count my representative, Bryan "Big Gun" Stevenson, R-Webb City, who according to published reports is seriously considering a bid for the Seventh District Congressional seat, among those who want to stop people from talking on cell phones while they are driving.

Taking a "principled" stand for personal liberty, Stevenson explained his opposition to legislation which would ban talking on handheld cell phones while driving:

Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, expressed displeasure, calling the legislation another example of the government intruding upon residents' liberties.

"My general rule of thumb is, I am generally opposed to anything that is a further government intrusion into personal freedoms," he said. "There has to be a compelling, overriding interest in order for the government to intrude on individual rights and individual freedoms. I think restricting people from using cell phones in their vehicle doesn't meet that test."

Stevenson said driving while engaging in other distracting behaviors such as eating or drinking coffee can be just as dangerous.

While I have no problem with allowing people to have liberty, what Stevenson is conveniently ignoring is that the activities that he mentioned, eating and drinking coffee, while obviously not ideal things to do while you are driving, do not represent the double risk that talking on a cell phone does. Every day I see a near accident caused by someone who is ignoring other traffic while concentrating on a cell phone conversation.

To talk on the cell phone while you are driving, means you are not only holding the phone, but you are involved in a conversation, two acts that siphon concentration from the act of driving. The same thing does not apply to eating while driving, unless of course, Rep. Stevenson has a habit of arguing with his cheeseburgers.

GateHouse Media online guru has left the building

Howard Owens is no longer the director of online news projects for GateHouse Media, according to Media Nation.

The departure of Owens, whose allegedly brilliant ideas have included burying two GateHouse newspapers in Kansas and leaving them with only an online presence, was revealed in a company memo written by President Kyle Davis and obtained by Media Nation:

I'm pleased to announce an expansion of the services provided to you and our employees through the GateHouse News Division. Beginning today, Brad Dennison, VP News, will assume the additional responsibilities inherent in overseeing our online news operations and support. Brad will be incorporating Howard Owens' duties, as Howard has left the company. Howard did volumes to advance our digital strategy and leaves GateHouse with our deep appreciation.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications across the United States.

Globe article examines Memorial Middle School shooter case

The ongoing saga of Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 16, who has been behind bars awaiting trial since October 2006, is explored in an article in today's Joplin Globe:

It has been assumed that if convicted, White might be a candidate for placement in Missouri’s dual-jurisdiction program for juvenile offenders. An alternative-sentencing provision in state law allows a juvenile certified to stand trial as an adult to receive both adult and juvenile sentences, with execution of the adult sentence suspended and placement in the program’s secure-care center at Montgomery City.

There a juvenile may receive treatment and educational opportunities he or she would be unlikely to obtain in an adult prison. Jasper County judges have employed the alternative-sentencing provision in a couple of other cases.

But the law also requires that an assessment of the juvenile’s appropriateness for the program be completed by the Division of Youth Services before the offender’s 17th birthday. In other words, if White has not been convicted and an assessment completed by the time he turns 17 in December of this year, the door will have closed on his opportunity for placement in the program. And he will have to be sent to an adult prison if probation is not granted

Post-Dispatch: Quality Jobs Act isn't all it is cracked up to be

The Quality Job Act, shepherded through the Missouri House of Representatives by Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has only created about 10 percent of the jobs that proponents say it has created, according to an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The investigation comes at an opportune time, since the legislature is looking at dramatically expanding a program that does not appear to be doing what it was supposed to do:

State records show that since 2005, the incentives have produced only 2,373 new jobs — about 11 percent of the 22,000 claimed by the program itself and politicians in both parties.

Why such a disparity?

Officials counted all jobs that companies initially promised in their applications, while the actual number of jobs generated so far is much lower. A Post-Dispatch review shows that many of those projects fizzled or were put on hold when the economy nose-dived.

Steelman leaning toward U. S. Senate run

Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman appears to be on the verge of entering the U. S. Senate race, ensuring a primary battle with Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt:

Blunt was a predominant presence this weekend at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days conference in Kansas City, jumping from one speaking engagement to another while basking in the praise of incumbent Sen. Kit Bond and various other officeholders. Many attendees wore stickers proclaiming: "Roy Blunt U.S. Senate."

By contrast, Steelman neither was invited nor did she ask to speak at the conference. There were no Steelman campaign stickers nor signs and no Steelman hospitality suite for the guests. Instead, Steelman kept a low profile while visiting with Republicans outside the formal events.

After Bond announced in January that he would not seek election to a fifth term, Blunt moved quickly to position himself as a contender, and Steelman said she also was considering the race. Asked Saturday if she would run for Senate, Steelman said: "I'm leaning towards it."

The Republican Party is on the path to repeat the same mistake it made when it anointed Kenny Hulshof to replace Matt Blunt. Instead of inviting the best and brightest lights of the party to settle it in front of voters, the GOP bigwigs want to make the decision themselves.

This is something the party does not just on the state level, but on the national level. How else can you explain the nomination of Bob Dole as the party's candidate for president in 1996? A handful of top party leaders decide whose turn has arrived and anyone else is just out of luck.

As far as the 2010 U. S. Senate race is concerned, barring the entrance of another high-profile Republican into the primary, this race is made to order for Sarah Steelman. Roy Blunt is a far easier target than Kenny Hulshof, simply because of his greater prominence and his connection to the K Street lobbying factory. The fact that he is married to a lobbyist (for big tobacco) and now has three children engaged in lobbying activities, paints a giant target on his back

Blunt will do well in this corner of the state, where he can point to different pork barrel projects he has brought here, but there is no reason for any other part of the state to regard him with the same affection.

If Steelman is going to cash in on her advantage, she has to get better at pushing her views across as a speaker. Her ads worked well and her strategy was sound during her gubernatorial run, but the smooth, composed Hulshof (who had no plan whatsoever as far as I could determine) outshined her in debates and in personal appearances.

A Sarah Steelman without the halting delivery could be Roy Blunt's worst nightmare.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dave Guilford wasn't just a custodian

The words in the headline for this post are not mine.

I was never brought up to believe that someone was better than someone else because of what job that person might hold or what degrees that person might have hanging on the wall.

Dave Guilford, who has been building engineer (head of the janitorial crew) at South Middle School for years and has been in the Joplin R-8 School District for three decades, retired Friday. A surprise reception was held in his honor in the SMS cafeteria, which was packed for the occasion.

The room was filled with all of the trimmings that are usually featured with retirement receptions- the cake, the punch, the plaque, and of course, the rocking chair.

What made this reception stand out was the five-minute speech Dave gave. Though, of course, it will hold interest to those who know Dave and have been fortunate enough to have worked with him, he also says some important truths about education.

He opened the speech by noting that after starting out thinking it was just another job, one day he realized, "No, you're not just a custodian because you deal with children."

After that revelation, Dave devoted himself to doing what he could to help children, especially as he noted, "children who might be in need or have problems," and helping teachers and administrators to do whatever they could to help the children.

Dave has played a key role in educating the children at South Middle School. it is not going to be the same without him.

Hearing set Friday for Memorial Middle School shooter

A case review for Memorial Middle School shooter Thomas Gregory White, 16, will be held 9 a.m. Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

White has been a guest of the state since November 2006 when he took an assault rifle into the school, fired a shot into the ceiling, then aimed it at Memorial Middle School Principal Steve Gilbreath and attempted unsuccessfully to pull the trigger, according to police accounts.

White's long wait for a trial has been primarily because of efforts by his public defenders to have his case removed from adult court and returned to the juvenile system.

White is charged with two counts of assault and single counts of unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and attempted escape.

Two more oversized contributions for Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign committee received two more oversized contributions this week, according to documents filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Nixon received $7,500 from Archer Daniels Midland and $26, 306.07 (an in-kind contribution) from the Missouri Democratic State Committee on Feb. 17.

The source of the money from the Democratic State Committee appears to be the Boeing Company, which made a $25,000 contribution to the committee on the same day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

MSSU president dances around charge of sexism

Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck avoided a direct answer to a charge by Rep. Ted Hoskins that men are paid more than women at the university.

The exchange between Speck and Hoskins, which occurred during a House Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday, is featured in Brennan Stebbins' article in this week's Chart, the campus newspaper:

Rep. Theodore Hoskins (D-Berkeley) asked about a possible difference in pay for men and women on campus.

"If I look at your pay scale, women and men, would the salaries be comparable?" Hoskins asked Speck. "If I look in detail, because it appears you're paying the men more than you're paying the women."

Speck said when hiring a professor, Southern used CUPA data to determine a salary, and that gender plays no part.

"It's generally based on your field," he said. "For instance, if we're hiring somebody to teach management, that person is going to earn more money than somebody coming to teach, say, English."

Hoskins again asked if comparable salaries would exist between the sexes if he took a closer look, to which Speck responded, "I would hope so because we use CUPA data."

It does not appear that Speck ever answered the question. As the great comedian Groucho Mark once said at the conclusion of the Marx Brothers' movie Monkey Business, "Bobbing and weaving, nice work if you can get it."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A myth about Missouri's 2008 governor's race

As Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt prepares to announce his candidacy for U. S. Senate today, the political experts are continuing to repeat what has become of the enduring myths of the 2008 election...that the GOP primary race between Kenny Hulshof and Sarah Steelman weakened the party and enabled Jay Nixon to cruise to the governor's mansion.

Jay Nixon was going to win anyway, and it was not because of anything Sarah Steelman did.

I am sure many Republicans bigwigs will want to try to do the same thing they tried last year, to convince Mrs. Steelman that she should stay out of the U. S. Senate race, so as not to damage Roy Blunt's chances of beating the Democratic candidate, presumably Robin Carnahan in November 2010.

Some might even look back 17 years when Roy Blunt himself waged a primary campaign for governor, even though the anointed candidate was Attorney General Bill Webster. It has always been said that Blunt torpedoed Webster's candidacy with negative advertising that pointed out the attorney general's ethical lapses. These things were already being thorougly investigated by the media, primarily the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and don't tell me Mel Carnahan would not have mentioned them if Blunt hadn't brought them up first.

Had the primary been a few days later, Blunt, at the time unstained by associations with a laundry list of lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff, would have undoubtedly overcome Webster's lead and would have faced Carnahan in the general election. And Roy Blunt probably would have been elected governor.

Instead, primarily because of this backward thinking that the party elders should anoint one person (and it goes on the Democratic side, also), weaker candidates often end up on the general election ballot, and the voters are deprived of a choice.

Hopefully, Sarah Steelman or any other Republican who thinks he or she has something to offer to Missouri will not be discouraged by a failed system that should have been pushed out the door long ago.

Missouri Sunshine Coalition designed to promote open government

One common misconception, promoted by elected officials who would prefer to conduct the people's business behind closed doors, is that Missouri's Sunshine Law and other such similar laws across the U. S. are there solely for the media. And many legislators, suffering from the same mindset, give lip service to tough open meetings laws while at the same time making sure that business continues to go on as usual because no one ever gets punished for violating them.

The truth, as non-journalists who have fought unsuccessfully over the years to either receive information or to watch as decisions are being made, is that these laws are there for all of the people, not just journalists.

Missouri is one of the last states to form an organization designed to promote the people's right to access to the decision-making process and to documents that arise from that process:

A new organization for people who want to promote government openness at all levels in Missouri will hold a public reception and program on Thursday, March 12, in Columbia. The event is free. The Missouri Sunshine Coalition is seeking individual and organization members from all areas of the public. It will hold a 2 p.m. reception and 3 p.m. program at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at MU.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster will speak at the 3 p.m. program. Other speakers will be Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Center, which is based at the School of Journalism; and Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The group's founders have met three times to elect a board of directors, to approve bylaws and a mission statement, and to plan the March 12 program. On Jan. 15 the group elected Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, president.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bill designed to prevent octuplets in Missouri

The news has been filled with horror stories about Nadya Suleman, the California woman who gave birth to octuplets last month, bringing her collection to 14 children.

Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a medical doctor, has filed legislation to try to prevent the same thing from happening in Missouri.

HB 810, which had its first reading today, "limits the number of embryos a physician can implant to the current number recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine."

Jackson not running for U. S. Senate, declares State Senate candidacy

Another possible obstacle to Roy Blunt's ascension to the Republican nomination for U. S. Senate in 2010 has removed himself from consideration.

A short time after word leaked that Blunt plans to announce his candidacy during a whirlwind state tour tomorrow, Col. Jack Jackson, a former state representative announced he would not run for the U. S. Senate, but instead seek the 26th District State Senate seat.

Jackson becomes the second possible Republican candidate to remove his name from candidacy, following the lead of former Sen. Jim Talent.

At the moment, that leaves Blunt and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman as the candidates most mentioned in GOP circles.

The following news release was just issued by Col. Jackson:

An experienced veteran of the Vietnam War and Missouri government and politics now has his sites set on the state senate. Jack Jackson, the former State Representative and retired Marine Corps Colonel who led John McCain’s presidential campaign in Missouri today announced he is running for state senator in the 26th district. The district includes Franklin and Warren counties and parts of West St. Louis County. In a statement released online at the website Colonel Jackson issued a “call to arms” for concerned voters. “These are challenging times for all of us.” “Our economy, our moral values and the future prosperity of our families are all under siege.” “This is not the time to stand down.” “We must stand together and confront our challenges head on.” In the statement Jackson also vows to be a tough, strong voice for taxpayers. “As a Marine combat pilot in Vietnam I faced down the enemy almost every day.” “I’ve been shot at for real, so there is not much in the state capital that will make me back down.” Jackson was highly decorated for military service earning four Distinguished Flying Crosses, 33 Air Medals, The Navy Commendation Medal for Heroism and Valor, and the Legion of Merit. Jackson went on to become the Chief Test Pilot for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing Aircraft and set records for flight hours logged in Harrier Jump Jets. As an administrator he played a key role in keeping multibillion dollar taxpayer supported projects on time and on budget. His efforts to persuade members of congress to keep production lines open at Boeing are credited with helping save thousands of jobs in Missouri. As a State Representative and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee he chastised and challenged members of his own party on plans related to disaster preparedness that he felt were insufficient. As Chairman of the Veterans Committee he pushed through the Military Family Relief Fund which has provided financial assistance to a new generation of Missouri Veterans returning from combat duty. The winner of next year’s election will fill the senate seat currently held by Republican John Griesheimer who will have served the maximum 2 terms.

Blunt to run for U. S. Senate

The story is breaking that Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt is about to announce his candidacy for Kit Bond's U. S. Senate seat:

Blunt, of Springfield in southwestern Missouri, will formally enter the race at a news conference in St. Louis followed by several appearances in the state over the next two days. He plans to end up in Kansas City on Friday night in the company of Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, the retiring senator he hopes to replace.

Blunt’s first-day tour of his Senate race will highlight his career, focusing on schools, courthouses and public buildings. He will make the announcement at Harris-Stowe at 9:30 am, then head to Jefferson City. There, he will talk to the Republican caucuses of the House and Senate before holding a news conference at the Benton Gallery. Blunt will then head to Cape Girardeau and Joplin.

Judge finds Robinson guilty in felony hit and run case

Sentencing for former Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, who was found guilty by a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge earlier today, will be held March 26. Robinson was charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident in connection with a Jan. 1 incident which left the victim seriously injured:

Robinson, 42, a Bonne Terre Democrat, admitted in court testimony Wednesday that he was driving the pickup truck that struck a man walking along a St. Francois County roadway. Robinson and his wife pulled into a nearby high school parking lot to switch seats after the collision, then drove back to the scene, according to court testimony.

Robinson's wife and a friend administered aide to the injured man before paramedics and police arrived, but Robinson said he never left the pickup truck and did not talk with officers at the scene. Instead, he testified, he called the St. Francois County sheriff, Dan Bullock, to report the collision.

Robinson did not seek re-election.

Child care center approach should have been taken before cuts were announced

Missouri Southern State University officials have backed down on their plan to shut down the Child Development Center, a plan that supposedly was hatched solely from the mind of University President Dr. Bruce Speck:

Parents’ requests and their willingness to pay more prompted the university to find a way to keep the Child Development Center operating, said President Bruce Speck. The operation serves as a day-care center and provides field experience for education students.

Now, parents will pay $26 a day instead of $23, and the center will accept about double the number of children each day that it has been accommodating. The changes will allow the center to sustain itself monetarily.

“This has gone from being budget-negative to budget-neutral,” Speck said. “Given the number of children the center will have and the increase in fees, it should be able to support itself.”

Real leadership would have found this way to save the program before making the cut in the first place. There is nothing in the plan that was announced Tuesday that could not have been accomplished if the effort had been made earlier.

Apparently, a good method for dealing with Dr. Bruce Speck and the powers-that-be at Missouri Southern State University is inundate them with bad publicity. That forces them to do some actual thinking about how to save programs rather than simply take the easy way out and take the ax to them.

Post-Dispatch editorial: RIchard leadership slighting Missouri

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ripped into Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and his leadership methods in an editorial Monday, beginning with Richard's claim that he would rather send the stimulus money back to Washington than use it "to expand welfare.":

The data suggest otherwise. In December 2007, 3,711 people in the Joplin area were unemployed. Twelve months later, the number had risen to 4,717. According to estimates released by the White House on Tuesday, the stimulus plan will create 8,000 jobs in Missouri’s 7th congressional district. Next to Springfield, Joplin is the biggest city in the district, and some of its 1,006 newly unemployed people probably would prefer a paycheck.

But if Mr. Richard doesn’t want Joplin to get its share, it’s OK with us if he sends it back. Of course, this might disappoint city leaders in Joplin, who put together a wish list for stimulus spending. Sorry, folks. No $150 million highway bypass for you. No new reservoir for you. No building renovations at Missouri Southern State University for you.

You students at Missouri Southern, no tax cuts or Pell Grant increases for you. You, Luke Smith, the 19-old-year student who told the Joplin Globe that you wished you could afford something to eat except ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches: No milk and cereal for you. Suck it up.

Why, things could get so bad that people in Joplin might cut back on bowling, and there goes the business at Fourth Street Bowl. But you won’t hear the owner complain. Ron Richard, when he’s not guiding the deliberations of the Missouri House, runs the Fourth Street lanes and four other bowling houses.

Blogaroni nominations announced

The nominees for the annual Blogaroni Awards, given to the top blogs in the Springfield area have been released on the Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind blog. From the looks of things, blogs are thriving far more in the Springfield area than here in Joplin.

Congratulations to the nominees.

Robinson: I just hit something. I think it was a guy

Testimony during the first day of the trial of former Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, indicated that a coverup was suggested by a county sheriff and that Robinson was definitely behind the wheel when he struck a pedestrian on Jan. 1, 2008:

The witness, Kelly Rackley of Desloge, Mo., said that the St. Francois County sheriff suggested a cover story in which Tara Robinson, not her husband, state Rep. Brad Robinson, was driving the pickup that struck a pedestrian at 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2008.

Rackley said that Sheriff Dan Bullock met with the Robinsons and Rackley, who was a passenger in the pickup. Rackley said that Bullock noted it was an election year and said, "It'd be better if Tara was driving."

When the Robinson antics were captured by a school outdoor surveillance camera, he was arrested, charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident and eventually decided not to run for re-election.

Rackley's testimony continues:

She heard a loud pop as the truck, driven by Brad Robinson, traveled along Raider Road. She said that Robinson said, "I just hit something, I think it was a guy."

Robinson's wife, Tara, then said to the hysterical occupants of the truck, "I was driving," Rackley testified.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

GateHouse Media stock back in double figures

After a long dry spell, GateHouse Media stock finally hit the 10 cent mark today, closing at that figure on the Pink Sheets.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and more than 300 publications in the U. S.

La-Z-Boy stock still below $1

The once-fabled La-Z-Boy company has seen its stock dip below the $1 mark in recent days and even a 12 cent increase during trading Monday left it only at 95 cents per share.

La-Z-Boy, one of the biggest employers in the Neosho/Newton County area, had a stock price of $11.76 per share in 2008.

Robinson trial scheduled to start today

The felony trial date of former Rep. Bradley Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, who is charged with leaving the scene of an accident is scheduled to begin today in St. Louis County, where it is being heard on a change of venue.

Robinson, 42, was allegedly driving his pickup on Jan. 1, 2008, when he struck a man, severely injuring him. Surveillance video purportedly shows Robinson and his wife changing places to make it appear that Robinson's wife Tara was driving, and then leaving the scene. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, five passengers in the pickup have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against the Robinsons.

Robinson is represented by one of St. Louis' most powerful defense lawyers, Travis Noble, a former policeman and drug agent, who has earned a reputation for winning DWI cases (the Robinson cases involves no DWI allegations).