Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Twenty-six file for bankruptcy in Joplin Tuesday

The final day of September was a busy one in Bankruptcy Court.

Twenty-six filed for bankruptcy protection today in Joplin, according to U. S Bankruptcy Court records.

Winans attorney asks for separate trials

The public defender representing accused killer Darren Winans is asking that his trial be held separately from that of his co-defendant, Matthew Laurin.

Winans, 22, Jasper, and Laurin, 19, Springfield face first degree murder charges connection with the Oct. 11 slayings of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage.

Winans' motion was filed Monday. Laurin's public defender filed a similar motion earlier this month.

The next hearing in the case is set for Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Liquidation sale for Joplin Business Journal set for Thursday, Friday

The liquidation sale for inventory and supplies of the late, unlamented Joplin Business Journal will take place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday at 420 North Range Line Road, Suite 21, Joplin.

Items for sale will include "cameras, printers, monitors, computer speakers, mobile beverage cart, light tables, waxer, drafting table, folding tables, file cabinets, file folders, binders, letter trays, staplers, easels, magazine racks, book cases, plastic displays, trash containers, shipping containers and hundreds more miscellaneous items."

KSPR airs birther infomercial

The lunatic fringe that claims that President Barack Obama is not an American aired its message on KSPR, Springfield, last Thursday at midnight.

"It's obvious President Obama is trying to hide where he was really born," blasts the infomercial.
Despite verification from the Hawaii Department of Health that the president has a valid state certificate of birth, Live has teamed up with the United States Justice Foundation to urge people to write $30 checks to help pay for faxes asking every state Attorneys General to launch an investigation.
As a thank-you, recipients will receive a bumper sticker, which reads, "Got birth certificate?"
It may be a fringe movement, but Ky3 Incorporated General Manager Mike Scott said the station will only restrict content if it violates the law or is deemed libelous.
"Obviously, the opinions of this particular program may be a minority of our viewers, but certainly I think this group has the right to express themselves. I don't think it's libelous in any fashion," Scott said.

Obviously, KSPR's advertising department has much lower standards than its news department.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Post-Dispatch editorial- The difference between bribery and campaign donations

A. St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial examines the difference between campaign contributions and bribery...and really doesn't find any difference:

On Thursday, state Rep. T.D. El-Amin, D-St. Louis, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of soliciting and accepting $2,100 in bribes.

Bad. Very bad. As state Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, told the Post-Dispatch’s Jake Wagman, it causes people to ask, “What are they doing in Jefferson City?”

Part of the answer is this: Soliciting money.

On Wednesday, as El-Amin awaited his day in court and prepared to resign from office, Gov. Jay Nixon’s campaign committee received a $25,000 contribution from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas City.

Since July, Republican Tom Schweich’s campaign for state auditor has received seven contributions of $10,000 or more. In August, state Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, who probably will be the next Missouri House speaker, received five matching $10,000 donations from a group of nursing homes.

Cynthia Davis: My senators won't talk to me

In this video, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O"Fallon, says that U. S. senators Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill are not responding to her messages (Bond sent a form letter):

Previous posts on Cynthia Davis can be found at this link.

Rosenbaum commentary addresses Ike Skelton's opposition

In his latest commentary for public radio station KBIA, Jason Rosenbaum talks about the opposition faced by Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton in his re-election bid:

The Hill: GOP targets Skelton

The GOP has targeted Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton for retirement, according to an article in the Washington-based The Hill:

And, in between, Missouri state Sen. Bill Stouffer became the second formidable candidate to run against Skelton (D-Mo.).

The magnitude of the change in the environment is most apparent in Stouffer, who just four years ago sponsored a bill to name a bridge after the incumbent he is now challenging.

“My beef is with the leadership of Congress, and the only way the 4th district can have their say about the leadership is to change their congressman,” Stouffer said. “This has a whole lot more to do with the congressional leadership than it does with Ike Skelton.”

Committee to submit final report to Faculty Senate Monday

The ad hoc committee appointed by the Missouri Southern State University Faculty Senate to explore a no-confidence vote in President Bruce Speck will deliver its report to the Senate Monday, according to the campus newspaper, The Chart:

The no-confidence vote is expected to take place Monday. The procedure for a no-confidence vote iis outlined in the Chart article.

MSSU turns over 3,000 e-mails to Joplin Globe

Missouri Southern State University officials turned over 3,000 e-mails to and from President Bruce Speck and former vice president Jack Oakes today.

Swift Boater drops $100,000 into Republican Seventh District Congressional Committee

Texas home builder Robert Perry, who bankrolled the Swift Veterans for Truth campaign that gunned down John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, is meddling in Missouri politics again.

A 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission, shows Perry and his wife Doylene donated $100,000 to the Seventh District Congressional District Committee.

On March 3, 2008, the Perry contributed $100,000 to the Missouri Republican Party which funneled the money through various district committees and eventually into the successful re-election campaign of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and the unsuccessful campaign of attorney general candidate Michael Gibbons.

APRIL 19, 2008
Texas homebuilder Robert Perry, who bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign that torpedoed John Kerry's 2004

The Perrys contributed even more money, $350,000, to former Gov. Matt Blunt's campaign committee in 2007 before Blunt elected not to run for a second term.

Perry was the largest contributor to the Swift Boat Campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission records, donating $4,450,000.

Top criminal defense lawyer signs on for Pete Newman

Springfield criminal defense attorney Tom Carver (pictured) will represent former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman, who is charged with four felony sex crimes involving underage boys.

Carver, who has 35 years of experience has received national, state, and regional acclaim for his work.

Newman's next appearance is scheduled for Oct. 29 in Taney County Circuit Court. He is free after posting $50,000 bond.

Just when did MSSU decide on new position for Agee?

In a news release issued to the Joplin Globe Monday, It was announced that Terri Agee, who recently stepped down as a Missouri Southern State University vice president, will be taking on a new position as an "in-house legal counsel."

And just when was this decision made? It has been quite a while since the last Board of Governors meeting. Unless all of he media missed it, there was no discussion of it during the most recent meeting.

I am sure those who use "personnel reasons" as a blanket excuse for every decision that is made behind closed doors are already reaching for that answer, but in this case, it does not wash.

The Board of Governors can decide who to hire for the position during a closed session, but the creation of a new position is something that has to be done in full view of the public.

And why in the world does Southern need an in-house counsel when, as the Joplin Globe article points out, it already has a lawyer in Jon Dermott?

Though it is made clear in the article that Ms. Agee will not receive as much for being the in-house legal counsel and a teacher as she did as vice president of business affairs, it still seems less than financially prudent to be creating a new position at a time when the university is allegedly in a financial crisis situation.

Besides that, as President Bruce Speck notes in the article, he has not even had time to think about a replacement for Ms. Agee's administrative position. I am sure it will have to be someone who knows how to raise funds for the university.

Monday, September 28, 2009

BlackAmerica Web: More telling remark may have come later in Blunt monkey joke speech

Jackie Jones, writing for BlackAmerica Web, joins the discussion on Congressman Roy Blunt's infamous monkey joke speech, but notes that the real news may not have come from the joke, but later in the speech:

But while the joke is what’s blowing up in cyberspace, the truly telling remark may have come later in his speech as Blunt talked about the health care reform battle in Congress and former President Jimmy Carter’s remarks that Obama is being targeted by politically orchestrated racial attacks that bring out underlying bigotry among Americans that could undermine the president.
“Don’t be intimidated out of this fight,” Blunt said. “President Carter said if you disagree with this president, it’s somehow fundamentally racist in nature... That’s not what this is about. And we can’t be intimidated into believing that that’s what this is about... You do have to play the ball where it’s thrown in this case.”

Speaker Richard receives $25,000 from St. Charles committee

Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received a $25,000 contribution from the Lewis and Clark Regional Leadership Fund of St. Charles, according to a 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Columnist notes St. Louis Democrats did not drag us through long court cases

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist BilL mClcllan offers his take on the recent resignations and guilty pleas of Sen. Jeff Smith and representatives Steve Brown and Talibdin El-Amin, all St. Louis Democrats. McClellan notes that the three wasted no time dragging us through long court cases and ends his column this way:

El-Amin did his best to maintain his dignity Thursday. That was not easy. He had solicited and taken a bribe. The reporters peppered him with questions outside the courthouse. "What were you thinking?" one asked him. He repeated the question as if that itself was an answer. In the end, perhaps the best thing you could say for him was that he didn't drag the whole thing out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ruestman: We may make cuts to Career Ladder

Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, says Missouri teachers had to be warned about possible cuts to Career Ladder so they would not do the work and not get paid for it. And those cuts, despite what several legislators are saying, are very much possible.

Of course, that is not how Career Ladder works. The teachers who participate in the program have always been at the mercy of the legislature. And the teachers will go ahead and do the work. The legislature has to decide if it will pay its portion.

Mrs. Ruestman's comments on Career Ladder were in her latest capitol report, published last week in district newspapers:

The General Assembly is not currently in session, but the work still continues. The largest issue on our minds, and yours, too, I'm sure, is the budget shortfall. Missouri is currently facing a revenue shortage of approximately seven percent. That leaves the House Budget Chairman in the unenviable position of having to make funding cuts to many programs.

One such program that has come to the forefront in the past few weeks is the Missouri Career Ladder for teachers. This program rewards teachers for various activities or duties they perform throughout the school year. Most of the funding for the program (60 percent) comes from the local school district and the state funds the remainder. About half of all school districts in the state participate in this program.

Several weeks ago, the House and Senate budget chairmen sente letters to school districts warming them that given our present budget situation, we may have to make cuts to the program. There are three key things to remember.

We DO NOT anticipate cutting the Career Ladder funding, but since it's paid in arrears, we owe it to our teachers to warn them about the budget situation and the possibility of a cut so they don't complete work for which they won't be paid.

The current Republican majority in the General Assembly has appropriated more funding to education than any other General Assembly in history. WE WILL NOT RAISE TAXES TO CLOSE THE BUDGET GAP!

In addition to continuing to work in communities and on the budget, the General Assembly has a constitutional requirement to meet in mid-September for veto session. This is our opportunity to override any vetoes the governor has handed back. This summer, the governor vetoed House Bill 544 which put the Missouri Accountability Portal into state law. The accountability portal was created by Gov. Matt Blunt to make the state government completely transparent to its citizens.

HB 544 passed during session by an overwhelming vote of 144 to 10. That is well over the two-thirds required for an override. In a massive flip-flop, members of the minority caucus who voted for the bill during session, switched their vote during veto session preventing an override of the veto. I wonder why those members who previously supported transparency and accountability no longer felt it necessary or important.

As a new session is quickly approaching, I will continue to keep you informed of budget, accountability, and education issues. The 2010 Session will be my last one in the House. I am happy to report that my colleagues and I have kept our commitments to the following:

-A balanced budget without any tax increase

-Keeping education as our budget priority

-Transparency and accountability in state government

Mayer; Economic outlook for 2010 is uncertain

In his latest capitol report, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, points out the economic uncertainly Missouri faces in 2010:

Missouri’s most recent leading economic indicators point to a good deal of uncertainty regarding the state’s budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2010 and for Fiscal Year 2011. As our nation grapples with the worst economic conditions in a generation and our state deals with falling revenues and nearly double-digit unemployment, balancing the state’s budget will be more challenging than in past years, including the budget shortfalls from earlier this decade.

Already, the governor has vetoed $105 million in spending — and withheld $325 million (primarily in capital improvements) — from the FY 2010 budget. Those actions were required to balance the state budget for a budget scenario in which revenues declined by only one percent. Given the 5.6 percent decline in state revenues at the end of August, additional withholding could be likely before the current budget year ends on June 30 or could translate into a reduction in state spending in the FY 2011 budget, which lawmakers will begin drafting in January.

As vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of the appropriations conference committee that negotiates the state budget, I understand the budgetary challenges that lie ahead. With a record of fiscally responsible budgeting over the past several years, our state has weathered the economic crisis better than most, without tax increases and minimizing the loss of vital programs and services. With the current lagging economy, however, crafting the state's 2010-2011 budget will likely mean some very tough budget decisions in order to ensure that we balance spending with state revenues as required by our state constitution.

The next few years will be made yet more challenging by the phase-out of the federal budget stabilization funds. Even if we assume a turnaround in the economy and increased state revenue collections in FY 2011 and FY 2012, there will likely be a significant gap between available revenue and normal spending growth. It often takes six to 18 months for such increases to be received and implemented in the state budget.

Our state like many others faces challenging financial times. With continued conservative, fiscally responsible management of our state’s dollars, we can — and will — keep Missouri on a strong fiscally sound path as we work to recover from this economic crisis.

Cunningham, Jones seek to keep Missouri away from federal healthcare mandates

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis, and Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, will introduce legislation in their respective chambers next year to keep federal healthcare mandates out of Missouri. The following news release was issued:

Senator Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, is announcing that she will introduce legislation during the 2010 session of the General Assembly designed to protect health care freedom of choice for Missourians.

Senator Cunningham and Representative Tim Jones, R-Eureka, plan to introduce legislation accompanied with a proposed state constitutional amendment that could protect Missourians from federal health care mandates and guarantee they can choose their own health care and insurance options. The proposed legislation would also protect small business owners from fines for declining to participate in government health care mandates.

Senator Cunningham’s proposals would add Missouri to a list of dozens of states calling for legislation or state constitutional amendments to guard citizens against attempts to socialize health care through the “public option” health care mandate currently under consideration by Congress. Arizona already has such a measure on its 2010 ballot.

“If this measure is passed by the Legislature, Missouri voters would have an opportunity to decide if they want to send a message to Washington that participation in an insurance plan is a personal decision and a right which should not be infringed upon,” Sen. Cunningham said.

Talboy forms leadership committee

Missouri Ethics Commission records show Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, tabbed by his party to be the next speaker if, by some miracle, the Democrats pick up enough seats in 2010, has formed a leadership committee.

Talboy for Leadership was established Sept. 17, according to the documents, with Anthony Bonuci, Kansas City, as treasurer. Bonuci is also the treasurer for Talboy's campaign committee.

Schweich picks up $57,500 from St. Louis interests

Republican state auditor candidate Thomas Schweich, received $57,500 in six days, according to 48-hour reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Schweich received $10,000 apiece from Don C Musick III, Musick Construction Co., St. Louis; Southwestern Enterprises, Inc,, St. Louis; Hunter Engineering Co., Bridgeton; Scott Wilson, S. M. Wilson & Co., St. Louis; and Robert Herrmann, Herrmann Company, Inc, St. Louis.

A $7,500 contribution came from Centene Management, St. Louis.

Blue Cross Blue Shield gives $25,000 to Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon received a $25,000 campaign contribution from Blue Cross Blue Shield Wednesday, according ot a 48-hour report filed Friday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

It was the first oversized contribution Nixon had reported since July 31.

A Coors Field look at the Cardinals clinching the Central Division

The accompanying YouTube video shows the final out of the St. Louis Cardinals' division-clinching win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Stadium in Denver Saturday night:

Cardinals clinch NL Central, Rockies whine about calls

While the St Louis Cardinals were clinching the National League Central Division title Saturday night, the Colorado Rockies were whining about the umpires' calls, according to the game account in the Denver Post:

The crowd was already disgruntled Saturday night when Adam Wainwright began his windup with two out in the eighth inning.

Throughout the game, disgust with plate umpire Dan Iassogna had mushroomed. Brad Hawpe didn't like Iassogna's strike zone. Neither did Yorvit Torrealba or owner Charlie Monfort, who voiced his complaints from above the dugout.

Against this backdrop of anger and boos, Wainwright delivered a two-strike curveball to Jason Giambi. Giambi thought it was low. Iassogna disagreed, calling him out as manager Jim Tracy jumped from his seat in shock.

That was the enduring image from the Rockies' stinging, 6-3 loss to the Cardinals before a paid crowd of 47,741 at Coors Field.

GateHouse Media shuts down daily

Kiss another Gatehouse Media daily goodbye.

The beleaguered newspaper chain is converting the Dedham Daily News Transcript in Massachusetts into a weekly. The announcement was made during the same week that GateHouse sold the Kansas City Kansan to one of its reporters.

The Kansan was another GateHouse Daily that bit the dust and was converted into an internet-only publication.

The following passage comes from the Daily News Transcript's announcement of its demise:

The new strategy "will strengthen our local support of your local news," Reibman, the publisher, said. "By focusing on our weeklies, we can deliver a more complete, better-organized local newspaper."

The newspapers in all four towns will print once per week, but they will publish local news, features and other items on their Wicked Local Web sites every day.

This should work about as well as the rest of GateHouse Media's internet strategy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Natural Disaster performs at Newtonia Fall Festival

We weren't quite as exciting as the parade or the drawing for the La-Z-Boy chair, but Natural Disaster had a good time today performing for the sixth time in the past eight years at the annual Newtonia Fall Festival. We opened our set with "Memphis." In the "Tracks of My Tears" video, you can hear someone who was sitting near my niece, Kiley Finkbiner, as she shot the video, singing along with the song.

In the third video, we perform the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man."

Emery: Push for Fair Tax will continue in 2010

Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, has been the most prominent proponent of the Fair Tax in the Missouri House of Representatives and he will continue to push for it during the 2010 session, according to his latest report:

I was privileged to make a few remarks at a Tea Party in Camdenton, MO on September 17, 2009. It was a large event with hundreds in attendance and over two hours of content. I provided the last four minutes with just enough remaining light almost to make out my notes. I am reproducing them here:

Today more than at any other time in my life I believe we are glimpsing the emotional turmoil and mental anguish of our founding fathers as they envisioned liberty and contemplated confrontation with King George and the most powerful nation in history.

Some say our constitution is "under attack." But I disagree; there is no need for our enemies to attack America's Constitution because we have stood by and allowed it to become trivialized and irrelevant through our violation and neglect. Both public and private institutions whether willfully or for convenience have convinced us that promises of political power or economic development or social progress are more important than constitutional integrity. Nothing is more important than our Constitution. Only the people can change it, and it is up to us to defend it.

Now we are awakened and asking "how do we return to America's founding principles?" Various challenges and ideas are offered today, but I will take the next three minutes to describe a simple but profound step back toward personal liberty and individual responsibility. It is called the Missouri Fair Tax.

The Missouri Fair Tax reforms the way Missouri collects taxes. It changes it from a tax on your success and productivity to a tax on your consumption - the goods and services you buy. It eliminates the income tax and replaces it with a tax that is (a) cheaper to collect, (b) harder to cheat, and (c) more popular. It would replace Missouri's 4.225% tax on goods with a tax on goods and services of 5.11%. It would ensure that Missouri citizens would not be required to pay state taxes on any expenditures up to the poverty level.

The Fair Tax empowers individuals and consumers instead of government bureaucrats and large corporations. It neither raises nor cuts taxes but is designed to be revenue-neutral. By eliminating the Missouri income tax The Missouri Fair Tax increases take-home pay, eliminates the need for state government to have access to your personal and financial information, and provides a real incentive for relocation of people and businesses to Missouri. The Missouri Fair Tax allows businesses to focus their attention on customers rather than tax policy and government officials. It neither penalizes success nor rewards failure as the current income tax system so often does. With your help we can pass the Missouri Fair Tax in 2010 and enact it at the ballot box in November of that year. It would take effect in January of 2012.

Douglas, Board following playbook used at other universities

There is nothing new about the way Dwight Douglas, Rod Anderson, and other members of the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors are trying to handle the controversy surrounding President Bruce Speck.

in the latest edition of the campus newspaper, The Chart, an article by Brennan Stebbins, an expert, constitutional law professor Mae Kuykendall, examines those methods and notes they are the same as those used at other universities where the president is under fire:

"Let's not get the cart before the horse," Douglas added. "Let's get procedures. Let's assure everybody in this process has an opportunity to review what's done and to respond to it."

University President Bruce Speck later said he shared the same concerns.

"I think Dwight Douglas raised issues of procedures that do concern me because I don't know there is a clear procedure here," Speck said. "Certainly they've talked about procedure, but I don't know, I've not been given a written procedure. I've not been told you'll have so many days to respond or any of those things, as we would normally have in, say, a faculty handbook for faculty members."

Kuykendall said, however, that no-confidence votes typically have no formal procedures, and a lack of procedures is often used as a defense.

"I began to see it's a standard script, they always attack the procedures by which the vote happens," she said.

"They always attack the motives of whoever's participating and trying to make them petty," she added. "It's always a generic charge."

Billy Long hunting voters in Nodler territory

Springfield auctioneer and former radio personality Billy Long's campaign is zeroing in on Gary Nodler territory. According to a tweet posted earlier this morning by Long:

Hitting Jasper County hard this week - getting a lot of interest from that area in our campaign all of a sudden. Word of mouth is nice.

Long, Nodler, and Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, are widely considered to be the top three candidates in the race to succeed Roy Blunt as Seventh District Congressman.

Hunts challenge assertions made by Speck, Douglas

In an op-ed for the Joplin Globe, retired Missouri Southern State University officials Duane and Gwen Hunt challenge many of the assertions that have been made by University President Bruce Speck and Board of Governors members Dwight Douglas and Rod Anderson. These include statements that the university is in dire economic condition due to the administration of former President Julio Leon, statements about the university's international mission, and the need for a medical school:

The proposed formation of a medical school on the campus raises other questions. If the university truly is in the dire financial straits that have been described, then how can it afford to build a new facility and fund such a major program in the long term, even in consort with another university? What studies have been done with regard to the interest and need for such a program locally? In the Globe story, MSSU President Bruce Speck said, “We must do this for the future of Missouri Southern, for the future of Joplin.” What is the basis for such a sweeping statement? Where is the groundswell of demand for such a step? Surely prospective donors would need these answers before committing their money to such a venture.

Shockingly, Dr. Speck and board member Dwight Douglas admit that they have no idea what implications instituting a medical school would have for the international mission (and presumably other programs) and that they were in such a hurry to seal the deal they haven’t even discussed it! Isn’t that what you do first? Find out what the impact would be for the whole campus?

Bond drops out of probe into Bush administration interrogation tactics

Kit Bond is one of three Republican senators who dropped out of a probe into Bush administration interrogation tactics. The decision, Bond said, came as a result of Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to look into CIA abuse of detainees:

"Had Mr. Holder honored the pledge made by the President to look forward, not backwards, we would still be active participants in the Committee's review," the ranking Republican on the intelligence panel, Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, said in a statement. "What current or former CIA employee would be willing to gamble his freedom by answering the Committee's questions? Indeed, forcing these terror fighters to make this choice is neither fair nor just."

Skelton: World community should seek sanctions against Iran

In light of the revelation that Iran has secret nuclear facilities, Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC Morning Meeting host Dylan Rhatigan it is time to seek strong sanctions against Iran:

Taney County Sheriff's Department receives tips of other alleged crimes by Pete Newman

The Crime Scene blog quotes Taney County prosecutors as saying that tips have been received of more alleged crimes committed by former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman.

Newman has been charged with four felony sex crimes, all involving underage boys:

(Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff) Merrell says that anyone with information of potential illicit activity by Peter D. Newman should contact his office. Newman, 33, was charged last week with second-degree statutory sodomy, enticement of a child and two counts of sexual misconduct involving a child, Merrell said some calls have come into the office, though he declined to say how many.

“We've fielded a few,” he said. “With each contact it's basically a new investigation.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Want to know what Dwight Douglas thinks? Read some of the letters supporting Speck

The Chart, Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, has provided a public service, printing the copies of letters supporting embatteld University President Bruce Speck. (It should be noted that the Joplin Globe had access to the same letters and did not print them.)

From reading the letters, it is obvious that Board of Governors member and former president Dwight Douglas, who launched the petition drive supporting Speck, also supplied much of the information cited in the letters as reasons to support Speck.

Read the letters. You will not have trouble finding the ones that are parroting Douglas.

Pink Slip Blues not affecting pampered Speck

It is easy for Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck to warble his "Pink Slip Blues" song. While Speck guts programs that have been key components to the university, he himself is sitting pretty, thanks to the generosity of his benefactor Dwight Douglas and the other members of the Board of Governors.

The Joplin Globe told us of Speck's $180,000 annual salary and his $3,333.33 per month (about $40,000) housing allowance. In the latest edition of the campus newspaper, The Chart, the rest of Speck's perks are outlined in a copy of his contract that was released to the media.

Among those perks:

-Speck is provided with an automobile with all expenses covered, including fully paying for his insurance. (It's hard to get auto insurance these days when you are only making $180,000 a year, and don't have to worry about rent or making mortgage payments.)

-He is reimbursed for entertaining guests at his home, as long as he can connect it in some way to university business.

-All of Speck's dues for membership in country club and Chambers of Commerce are paid for

Let me get this straight- Bruce Speck is getting paid $180,000, $40,000 for housing, gets a free car, with car insurance and expenses paid, gets paid for membership in country clubs and Chambers of Commerce...and he has the nerve to make light of those who are not seated in the lap of luxury?

LIvengood traces e. coli scandal into Nixon's inner circle

Is it possible the timing of Gov. Jay Nixon's announcement of a cleanup plan for the Lake of the Ozarks has something to do with the the revelation that Nixon's inner circle knew about e. coli infestation in the lake a full four weeks before that information was revealed to the public.

The Springfield News-Leader's intrepid political reporter, Chad Livengood, in an article posted this evening, quotes a former DNR official as she saying she relayed the information to Nixon communication aide Jeff Mazur May 29:

E-mails previously obtained by the News-Leader indicate DNR staff had a press release ready around May 29 to announce the high levels of E. coli. Testing conducted on May 26 found E. coli levels exceeded safe limits for swimming in 29 of 55 cove sites tested. Since then, new test results have indicated E. coli levels have dipped under the federal limit, according to DNR.

Nixon has previously said nobody in his office knew about the dangerously high levels of E. coli until June 23 when DNR Director Mark Templeton met with the governor's chief of staff, John Watson. At that meeting, Watson ordered Templeton to release the results, according to Nixon.

Cynthia Davis: Some of my best friends are black people

Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon has added her two cents to the racism debate that is going full force across the country.

In her latest capitol report, Mrs. Davis criticizes those who are playing the racism card, and notes that race problems in this country are a thing of the past. Not only is she not prejudiced, she said, but some of her best friends are black people.

And to hammer home her point, she posted a picture of her with one of her black friends:

I love a great debate. The national congress is providing our country with lots of content for dinner-table conversation. However, when some play “the racism card” it destroys our community and national spirit. This is becoming especially common when people lack the logic to back up their positions or beliefs. As we have been watching the public debate concerning the destiny of this country, I am most disappointed in the decline of civility and the insult slinging. The most offensive part about name calling is that it implies we can read the minds of others.

The former president Jimmy Carter made news by his vitriolic and inflammatory remarks when he accused Americans of racism. When he told NBC News-anchor Brian Williams in an interview last week, "An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man," he needed to clarify that those were his thoughts, not others, especially since nobody is capable of knowing what is in the heart of another person.

While it may be possible for some to have racist thoughts, most people I know consider it a topic that has been resolved and reconciled in the hearts of everyone that cares. Racism may have affected some people decades ago, but now that we are in a new millennium, the only people trying to perpetuate racism are people who are still trying to live in the past or those who are intentionally trying to stir up unrest.

Even 30 years ago when I was attending college in New York, I did not see any racism. I played the piano for two choirs—the youth choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church and “His Voice” on campus. I was the only white person in the bunch, but they treated me like one of them. Of course it probably helped that I played the piano with the right amount of soul. I have seen the day when people are judged not by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character (and for some, their musicianship). To this day, if anyone is in the Capitol and needs to be accompanied on We Shall Overcome, Never Alone, I'm On the Battlefield for My Lord, or Lift Every Voice, I could be ready in less time than it would take to roll out the piano!

God created mankind in His image. Therefore all human beings are valued and respected because they bear the image of their Creator. If all people are descended from Adam and Eve, then our differences are only related to physical features, which have no bearing on our value as people. Furthermore, the Lord commands us to love our neighbor and over 70% of our country still claims to be Christian. I don’t know who wants to promote racism, but it is not coming from people who fear God and adhere to what is taught in the Bible. Perhaps Jimmy Carter should acknowledge he speaks for himself and get help with his personal prejudices.

Here is the bottom line: We have far too much to work to accomplish getting this country back on track than to allow ourselves to be distracted by those who are being divisive. Making petty and false assumptions about what others may be thinking will send us down a destructive path. If we are going to be able to pull ourselves out of this recession, it is going to take us working together, helping each other and rolling up our sleeves. Everybody has something valuable to contribute, so let’s do what they suggest in the song, America the Beautiful, “and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”.

Your thoughts are important to me, so please let me know what you think about racism.

(Photo: Cynthia Davis with her friend, musician Larnelle Harris)

Stouffer challenges Ike Skelton

Sen. Bill Stouffer has joined the race for Fourth District Congress, hoping to get the chance to unseat veteran Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Lexington:

In a press release that coincided with his announcement events, Stouffer said the actions taken by the Democratic-run Congress and the Obama administration in Washington, D.C., led him to conclude that "enough is enough," as did Skelton's votes for Democratic priorities such as a climate change bill that includes a cap-and-trade plan for limiting industrial emissions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MSSU Student Senate examining performance of Bruce Speck

The Missouri Southern State University Student Senate may explore its own vote of no confidence in embattled President Bruce Speck.

During a meeting today, the Senate formed a seven-member committee, five men, two women, to look into what, if anything, it and the student body should do concerning the problems surrounding Speck.

As noted in earlier Turner Report posts, the Dwight Douglas-led Board of Governors (Rod Anderson is the official president, but let's call it what it is) delivered a slap in the face to the Faculty Senate Friday when it not only ignored the 23 complaints compiled by an ad hoc committee against Speck, but then extended Speck's contract two more years.

Link provided to Blunt response on monkey joke controversy

Judging from the number of websites that are now writing about Roy Blunt's monkey joke at the Value Voters Summit Friday, the Congressman's remarks are going to be circulating through cyberspace for some time to come.

Blunt made his response to accusations that his joke was racist during an appearance on The Dana Show, a St. Louis program, Sunday night. The show has posted the audio, which includes a number of shots at his opponent, Robin Carnahan, and the Fired Up Missouri blog:

Judge denies change of venue for accused killers of Carthage couple

It appears the trial of Darren Winans and Matthew Laurin, the two men accused of murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage Oct. 11, will be held in Jasper County.

In a decision handed down Sept. 18, Judge Gayle Crane denied the request by the public defenders representing the accused killers for a change of venue.

A motions hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 5.

The Hill: Blunt gains slight edge in Senate race

The Washington newspaper, The Hill, is giving Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt the edge in his battle against Secretary of State Robin Carnahan for the U. S. Senate, with both receiving 46 percent support from those polled:

Blunt polls better with male voters, leading Carnahan by 17 points -- but Carnahan polls better with female voters, a demographic she leads by a sizable 13 points. Both candidates have favorability scores that top the 50 percent mark, and they are almost equally popular among their respective party's bases, the poll also found.

But Rasmussen's findings perhaps mean Blunt is slowly gaining an early edge.

Commenter: I was locked up with Ohlsen; he's a great guy

Milton "Skip" Ohlsen, the renegade political operative whose dirty tricks campaign against Russ Carnahan brought about guilty pleas and resignations from Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis, received a ringing endorsement in a comment on the St. Louis Riverfront Times website today:

In a response to an article about the postponement of Ohlsen's sentencing on bank fraud and weapons charges, a reader notes, "I was locked up with him; he's a good guy."

Who knows if it's true or not, but somehow I find it doubtful that kind of testimonial will get Ohlsen the lighter sentence he is seeking.

Goodman defends Second Amendment in constitutional forum

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Roy Blunt, defended the Second Amendment during a Constitution Day debate at Drury University recently, according to an article in the campus newspaper, The Mirror:

If law-abiding citizens are stripped of the right to protect themselves with firearms, Goodman argued that this would leave innocent people at the mercy of criminals.

For Goodman, the Second Amendment makes it clear that the Constitution intended to give individual citizens the right to own weapons in order to deter tyranny and protect their lives.

Crowell: Federal health care plan could force skyrocketing costs on our state

In his latest report, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau warns of the cost the state might have to pay thanks to the federal health care plan:

We in Southeast Missouri are all deeply concerned about the federal healthcare plan currently being debated in Washington, D.C. Currently, the healthcare legislation tops 1,000-pages. The proposal contains measures to increase government control, lessen personal choice in healthcare and institutes a serious and disturbing spike in spending. While the federal House and Senate have some differences in their proposals, each health reform bill in Congress achieves part of its insurance coverage expansion by increasing eligibility for Medicaid (also called MO HealthNet in Missouri). Proposals would increase Missouri’s eligibility significantly. While I support expanding healthcare to those in Missouri who need help, I am strongly opposed to spending on the federal level that will seriously impact Missouri and force us to spend outside of our state’s ability.

Currently, Missouri has one of the lower income eligibility cutoffs for state-sponsored healthcare. It is not an easy task to balance costs and coverage, but the state continues to explore options that will allow us to increase access to healthcare and help more families, without breaking the bank. During the upcoming legislative session, I expect many of these ideas to be debated, and I am hopeful that we can find an affordable solution. We cannot have the federal government barging in and raising costs in an economy that does not support these increases. The federal plan would increase the eligibility cut-off to approximately $2,440 a month, nearly seven times our current eligibility cut-off. This sort of skyrocketing cost is just plain unmanageable and could add more than a billion dollars to the cost to administer Medicaid in Missouri.
We are currently facing a tight budget year, and the last thing Missouri needs is significant financial pressure from Congress to raise costs. The Legislature has worked hard, even in these difficult times, to make sure Missouri’s budget is balanced and fiscally responsible. In order to continue this practice while also succumbing to the federal government’s healthcare cost increases, we would need to find the money somewhere, forcing the state to raise taxes or make massive cuts to areas like education.

I join most Americans when I say that our country’s health care system is in need of innovative solutions to fix the problems we now face. Under no circumstances, however, will I support increasing costs so that a tax increase or cuts to education are necessary. No matter how fast the printing presses in Washington work, Missouri will not spend money we do not have or place the burden of expanding government on taxpayers.
Our country was founded on the principles of empowering individuals, not expanding the government so that it interferes with our personal choices. This is a fundamental ideal that I will continue to uphold.

Nixon announces initiative to clean up Lake of the Ozarks

In the wake of the controversy over Department of Natural Resources officials not letting the public know about high e. coli levels in the Lake of the Ozarks, Gov. Jay Nixon today announced an initiative to clean up the lake. The following news release was issued:

Gov. Jay Nixon announced today a sweeping enforcement initiative aimed at improving water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks. The enforcement action will include a prompt and comprehensive baseline study of contaminants in the lake, enact a zero-tolerance policy for water quality violations, perform an inspection sweep of existing wastewater permit holders in the Lake of the Ozark watershed and apply rigorous scrutiny to applications for new wastewater discharge permits.

"The Lake of the Ozarks is a tremendous asset to our state, with hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors coming here for recreation every year. It is critical that the quality of the water in that lake and the health of those who use it are protected," Gov. Nixon said. "Unfortunately, it is not in dispute that present water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks is unacceptable. That's why I am ordering action that will gather data on precisely what is in the lake, find the sources of those contaminants, and stop more of those pollutants from entering the water."

The initiative ordered by Gov. Nixon calls on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to take four specific actions to improve water quality:

A massive inspection sweep of about 400 area facilities that hold current wastewater permits nearby the Lake of the Ozarks or major tributaries. A zero-tolerance standard for permit violations will be applied and violators found during the sweep will receive administrative penalties issued by the DNR Director Mark Templeton or referred to the office of the Attorney General for enforcement action. The sweep will take 8 to 10 weeks to complete.
The implementation of a zero-tolerance policy, resulting in administrative action or referral for prosecution for any violation of state clean water policy or of the conditions of a permit. No violation which leads to deterioration of water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks will be treated as too minor for action.
Simultaneous with the inspection sweep, DNR will complete a comprehensive baseline survey of water quality at the lake, testing for all relevant contaminants -whether bacteriological or from petroleum or pesticide-in locations across the entire lake. The comprehensive baseline survey will be submitted to the governor on December 31, 2009, and will illustrate what contaminants are present in the lake and where future enforcement efforts should be focused.
DNR will institute the most rigorous possible standard of review of every application for permit in the Lake of the Ozarks watershed. The department will apply a strict scrutiny standard when reviewing requests for permits that would allow discharge of wastewater or land disturbances that might affect water quality in the lake.
"We will clean up and prevent contamination in the Lake of the Ozarks," Gov. Nixon said. "And though this strict approach to water protection may be controversial, nothing should be off the table when it comes to protecting our waters and the public health."

In order to improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks, Gov. Nixon has instructed DNR to make full use of its authority to deny permit applications or to revoke existing permits where appropriate.

"The Department of Natural Resources will utilize every power at its disposal to ensure that water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks is not degraded any further, to better understand the chief causes of water quality problems, and to carry out our long term plan for maintaining high water quality at the lake," DNR Director Templeton said.

While the crackdown on violations of current permits and more stringent oversight of applications for new permits will cut down on pollution and improve water quality at the Lake of the Ozarks right away, careful long term planning of development at the lake will also play an important role in preserving water quality for future generations.

Globe: Speck problems unlikely to affect medical school bid

The continuing controversy surrounding Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck is unlikely to derail attempts to start a medical school here, according to an article in today's Joplin Globe:

Speck, who obtained a contract extension to 2011 following a three-hour meeting with MSSU’s Board of Governors on Friday, said this week he believes the board’s decision provides him with a “mandate” to make the medical school a reality.

“I think there has been some reassurance of that stable environment through the renewal of my contract,” he said. “I don’t think that is a hurdle now that we have a two-year contract signed by the board, and now that the board has made clearly an endorsement of the medical school. Now that the board has given me a clear mandate to raise funds for this medical school, my sense in all this is the board is absolutely behind this and they are willing to move forward.”

Former Gov. Blunt praises tort reform in Missouri

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt praised the tort reform measures that took effect while he was in office:

To counteract these problems we required that cases be heard in the county where the alleged injury occurred, and we changed the law so that defendants could only be forced to pay a full judgment if their fault exceeded 50%. We put a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages and created rules to prevent baseless cases from getting off of the ground.

Tort reform works. Missouri's medical malpractice claims are now at a 30-year low. Average payouts are about $50,000 below the 2005 average. Malpractice insurers are also turning a profit for the fifth year in a row—allowing other insurers to compete for business in Missouri.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blunt: Baucus plan will not reach Senate floor

Blunt posts complete Value Voters Summit video, including monkey joke

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt posted the entire video, nearly 20 minutes, from his speech Friday at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D. C. The clip includes the monkey joke, which has created controversy on the blogosphere:

Missouri GOP rips Democrats choice of Talboy as leader

In a statement issued Monday, the Missouri Republican Party praised its choice of Steven Tilley as successor to Speaker of the House Ron Richard and ripped the Democrats' selection of Mike Talboy, Kansas City, as their leader:

Leadership elections provide insight into the agenda of each party—and the Democrats once again showed how out of touch they are with the people of our state. Missouri House Democrats selected a PROMO and NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed trial lawyer who co-sponsored a bill that would have raised income taxes by more than $2 billion. By contrast, House Republicans rallied behind Steve Tilley, a pro-life optometrist who has consistently fought for lower taxes and common-sense Missouri values. The difference in the governing philosophy of each party is clear—and these selections demonstrate once again why it is vital that Republicans retain control of the General Assembly.

Note: Mike Talboy co-sponsored HB 567, a bill that would have increased income taxes by more than $2 billion.

Strip club killer threatens senator from death row

Richard Lee Tabler, who teamed with East Newton High School graduate Timothy Doan Payne in the 2004 killings of four people connected with a Killeen, Texas, strip club, is back in the news again- this time for threatening a state senator from death row:

In a statement released Thursday, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he is upset that Tabler continues to get messages out from death row, some of which threaten him and his family.

Less than 11 months ago, Whitmire, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, led a sweep of the Texas prison system for contraband after Tabler called him on a cell phone.

Whitmire said then that Tabler made threatening comments to him and Whitmire vowed to clean up the Texas prison system and rid it of smuggled cell phones. But now Tabler has apparently found a new way to communicate and threaten people.

Since May, he has had a letter posted on an Internet blog for inmates. In the letter he inquires about the health of one of Whitmire’s family members and writes “that just because I’m on death row does not mean that you cannot be gotten to … or your family.”

Payne was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murders.

McDonald County white supremacist enters not guilty plea

McDonald County white supremacist Robert Joos pleaded not guilty to federal weapons charges during a hearing today in Springfield.

Earlier this month, Joos was indicted with additional charges- two counts of unlawful transport of firearms and one count transporting explosive materials interstate.

Joos is being held without bond on those charges and a charge of being a felon illegally possessing a firearm.

Joos was arrested in connection with a federal investigation of a racially-motivated 2004 bombing in Scottsdale, Ariz. National white supremacist leader Dennis Mahon and his brother Daniel were charged with that crime.

St. Joseph columnist glad Western doesn't have MSSU's problems

St. Joseph News-Press columnist Ken Newton is happy Missouri Western State University is not going through the same kind of turmoil MSSU is facing:

My years in the academy left me with an enduring interest in Shakespeare, a working knowledge of news writing and a number of unhealthy habits I shed in subsequent years.

What happened in the administration building never concerned me. There, university personnel accepted my parents’ tuition checks and tolerated my GPA. That I earned a degree must have surprised them.

If I know little about the daily lives of deans, I know a few things about language.

This seems certain: If faculty members accuse a university president of “defensiveness bordering on paranoia,” that smacks of trouble.

The “paranoia” line sprang from a memorandum generated last week by a faculty senate committee at Missouri Southern State University. Senators at the Joplin school have in mind a no-confidence vote against their president, Bruce Speck.

Among allegations of leadership lapses, management failures and public embarrassment, the committee document accuses Dr. Speck of “shocking insensitivity” to salary-frozen employees by performing a song called “Pink Slip Blues” at a local Rotary meeting.

The corrupting influence of lobbyists

(The following, which includes most of one of last week's posts, is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

One of the biggest problems Missourians face when it comes to the corrupting influence of lobbyists in our government is the helping hand given to these special interests by the media.

It is considered business as usual when legislators accept free trips. concert tickets, meals, and booze from people who want to sway their vote on issues that will affect everyone in the state.
If you criticize the system, you are immediately labeled as na├»ve, a Pollyanna who is dreaming of a perfect world that cannot possibly exist. And even when “reforms” are pushed through the legislature, always grudgingly, they are left with holes big enough to put a semi-truck and a Chihuahua.
The media may not realize the way Missourians feel about lobbyists and special interests, but legislators do. Why else would they hide a system that allowed lobbyists to pay for parties and other gatherings, without any of the special interest money showing up on the reports filed for each legislator with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
That sweet arrangement for the Missouri General Assembly was revealed in audits of the House and Senate released last week by State Auditor Susan Montee.
The reports were almost universally ignored by the Missouri media, lightly touched on and then immediately forgotten, swept away with yesterday’s news.
So who can blame the legislators for the defiant tone they showed in their responses to its findings. The legislators appeared to be saying that they are having lobbyists foot the bill for their parties to save the taxpayers money.

Did it ever occur to any of them that we did not send them to Jefferson City to party?

The cover page letter for the audit of the State Senate begins:

“Donations are solicited from lobbyists by senators or Senate officials and used to pay various costs, including Christmas parties and gift cards for Senate staff, retirement receptions and gifts for outgoing senators, and food and beverage costs of senators and Senate staff when working late during legislative sessions. These donations have been deposited into a separate bank account maintained outside the state treasury, although it is not clear there is authority to do so. Since the establishment of the account in December 2003, donations totaling $76,070 have been deposited into this account, with $60,945 being disbursed from this account. Donations have been received from over 100 different lobbyists or lobbyist principals. Some of these donations (9 of 15 tested) were not properly reported by the lobbyists to the Missouri Ethics Commission, as required by law.

“Also, some control weaknesses were noted over the receipt and handling of these monies . Actively soliciting donations from lobbyists could give the appearance of, and may result in, a conflict of interest. In addition, constitutional and statutory provisions indicate that state funds are to be held and disbursed by the state treasurer. To promote compliance with laws related to lobbyist activities, the Senate should notify lobbyists of the reporting requirement when soliciting and receiving donations, and the need to amend expenditure reports filed with the Ethic Commission for any donations not previously reported.”

This was the Senate's response:

“Although the Administrator's Fund does not involve tax payers' funds in any way and may provide more convenience and efficiency in the handling of certain expenditures, its creation was also part of an on-going effort by the Senate to lower costs to the state. Previously, depending upon the expenditure, items would either be paid using the Senate contingent appropriation (general revenue), or via payment from a donor to a third party. Since its creation, relevant expenses are simply paid from this account (which is comprised solely of donations for the designated purposes) resulting in the saving of state resources.

The most important benefit the use of this account has afforded is transparency and accountability in the reporting of funds received and expenditures made. Each dollar received and expenditure incurred has been clearly detailed and documented.”

Obviously, having special interests chip in to make social occasions possible for Senate and staff is a wonderful thing for taxpayers.

The following passage is found in the cover letter to the audit of the Missouri House:

“Donations are solicited from lobbyists by House members and/or staff for various costs, including staff Christmas parties, retirement receptions, and food for late work sessions. The House did not maintain records of the expenses paid by lobbyists, therefore, the extent of such payments and the lobbyists who paid them could not be readily determined; however, the amounts could be substantial as our audit of the Senate noted over $49,000 was donated by lobbyists during the 3 years ended June 30, 2008, to pay similar expenses of the Senate and its staff. In addition, the House did not notify or remind the lobbyists of the need to report the expenses paid on behalf of the House to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

“Actively soliciting donations from lobbyists could give the appearance of, and may result in, a conflict of interest. To promote compliance with laws related to lobbyist activities, the House should notify lobbyists of the reporting requirement when soliciting and receiving donations, and of the need to amend expenditure reports filed with the Ethics Commission for any donations not previously reported.”

The House response is just as arrogant as the one given by the Senate:

“The House of Representatives agrees that all donations or gifts provided to reportable entities should be fully and correctly reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC). However, the House has neither the jurisdiction to enforce the MEC reporting requirements nor the legal obligation to notify lobbying entities regarding reportable events or reporting methods associated with lobbyist donations or gifts; this comports with the same level of jurisdiction and legal obligation as each state-wide office holder in Missouri. Such jurisdiction and obligations are placed within the Missouri Ethics Commission to be independent of and outside the immediate reach of individuals that may benefit from such lobbyist gifts or donations.”

In other words, the fault lies with the lobbyists, not the legislators who begged them to pay for their soirees. This kind of arrogance is precisely why voters have lost confidence in elected officials. It also unfairly tarnishes the many legislators who do not condone this kind of activity.

Now would be a good time for those legislators to start speaking up.

Taney County prosecutor's office searching for more Pete Newman victims

The Taney County Prosecuting Attorney's office is hunting for other victims of former Kanakuk Kamps director Pete Newman, 33, who was charged last week with four felony sex crimes involving underage boys.

From an article in the Selma, Alabama Times Journal:

Anyone who has information about Newman is encouraged to call (Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey) Merrell’s office at 417-546-7260 or through the Web site at

“We need to find out who the victims are,” Merrell said, “so we can be sure to get them what they need.”

Those who wish to remain anonymous may do so, the prosecutor said.

Conservative FM talk show station coming to Joplin today

This is probably the last thing an oversaturated market needs, but as of today Joplin will have its first conservative FM talk show station.

KZRG has announced that its programming will also be available at 102.9 FM. This will make three spots on the dial where Zimmer Radio provides conservative talk, including KZRG at 1310 and 1230 AM, which was dubbed "The Talker" during its recent conversion from sports talk.

Joplin also has a fourth spot on the dial for conservative talk, 1450 AM, KQYX.

The FM talk will sign on at 11 a.m. today with Rush Limbaugh.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Audio provided for Blunt's use of monkey joke in 2006

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's infamous monkey joke, made Friday during a speech at the Voters Value Summit in Washington, did not make much of an impact on the mainstream media, but has spread like wildfire on the internet.

Blunt's main problem appears to be that he tells the same jokes year after year and does not bother to consider the context in which he is telling those jokes. On Friday, he told the joke about having to play the ball "where the monkey throws it" during the same speech in which he blasted those who would cry out racism concerning opposition to President Barack Obama's policies.

Blunt told the same joke long before Barack Obama became president, including at a presentation before the Heritage Foundation in Washington in November 2006.

Dwight Douglas lectures Missouri Southern faculty

According to the Carthage Press account of Friday's Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors meeting, board member Dwight Douglas, who served as Bruce Speck's defense attorney during the meeting, lectured the Faculty Senate:

“I think my concerns that I expressed here today, if you are talking about the faculty, was that the cart is before the horse,” Douglas said. “I merely asked has the faculty senate developed procedures, that it would be fair to have written procedures of what procedure is going to be followed in developing any sense of resolution to call for a vote of no confidence. In this country we believe in due process and fairness and that’s based on written procedures so that everyone knows the rules before you go in and we’re already to the point in the press of talking about a preliminary report when on Aug. 31, I got a letter from the president of the faculty senate saying that his group would develop procedures and he indicated, apparently as I understand it, it’s not.

It takes real nerve for the man who was in charge of a search process that ended up with only one person interviewing for a $180,000 a year position to lecture anyone else on how to develop proper procedures. If Douglas had followed proper procedures, the turmoil at Missouri Southern might be non-existent.

Ruestman: Republicans are the only ones concerned about education

If you believe the capitol reports written by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, the only people who care about the education of Missouri children are the Republicans who are the dominant party in our state legislature.

In her last column, published in several area newspapers, including the Neosho Daily News and Newton County News, Mrs. Ruestman enlightened her readers with this information:

Missouri children must be prepared to excel in a competitive world. The Republican members of the Missouri Legislature will continue to make education our number one priority and provide our students will the most updated resources to keep us on the leading edge.

She continues, "Since I've served in the House, Republicans have been taking the lead when it comes to providing Missouri children with a quality education."

Obviously, if you follow Mrs. Ruestman's reasoning, Democrats would prefer that all students go to one-room schoolhouses and learn their math on abacuses.

In another segment of her column, Mrs. Ruestman praises the court decision which backed the latest edition of the foundation formula which funds Missouri schools. "This decision shows judicial support for our long-range plan," she wrote.

Now I am getting confused. I thought we had a bunch of activist judges who force their warped view of society down people's throats. Apparently, they are only activist judges when they disagree with the Republicans.

Website: Bankruptcy filing on horizon for GateHouse Media?

Connecticut website The Day is raising the question of a possible bankruptcy filing for GateHouse Media.

Moody's Investor Service has downgraded credit ratings for GateHouse Media Inc. and raised the possibility that the company could file for bankruptcy to get out from under $1.2 billion in debt.

”The company has a very high debt burden of about one-and-a-quarter billion dollars,” said John Page, a Moody's vice president and senior analyst, in a phone interview. “The amount of cash the company generates is relatively modest in comparison. We feel a restructuring of the debt could well be an appropriate way to address its very heavy leverage.”

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Pittsburg Morning Sun, and more than 300 newspapers across the United States.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blunt responds to monkey joke controversy

In an interview on Dana Loesch's show on 97.1, St. Louis, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt responded to criticism of the monkey joke he told during a speech at the Voters Value Summit.

"I think it's an insult to me to suggest there's anything racist about (that anecdote)."

Blunt blamed the Fired Up Missouri blog, noting its connection with the Carnahan family. Blunt's general election opponent next year if he wins the Republican primary, will be Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

"They'll say anything on that blog," Blunt said. To claim his monkey joke was racist, he added, was not only an insult to him, but an insult to the president.

Blunt says he has used that joke for years and first heard it from a Presbyterian minister. It not only is a joke, he added, but it is an important statement about life.

Scott praises Tour of Missouri

In his latest column, Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, extolled the virtues of the Tour of Missouri bike race:

For the third year in a row, Missouri hosted more than 100 bikers who made their way from east to west, traveling more than 600 miles from St. Louis to Kansas City. The tour contained several stops, including Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Farmington, Rolla, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Chillicothe, and St. Joseph. This year’s race visited the southeast part of Missouri, while spending a longer amount of time north of Interstate 70 — even highlighting some of the agricultural regions throughout Missouri that help define our state.

Tour officials will release in the coming months various results from this year’s race (which ran from Sept. 7-13), including the positive economic impact the tour had on our state. Since the tour’s inaugural race in 2007, the event has consistently brought dollars to Missouri. In 2008, the race brought in more than $29.8 million and more than 434,000 spectators (the average out-of-state visitor spent $270 a day). That number was up from 368,000 visitors for the 2007 race, which generated approximately $26.2 million.

And this year was no different. A survey provided by tour officials found that people from about 40 states came to Missouri for at least part of this year’s Tour of Missouri. And budget documents provided to major media outlets show a total of $1.344 million in corporate sponsorships for this year, including companies such as Drury Hotels Co., Edward Jones Financial Cos., and Emerson Electric Co. It seems that these totals mean that our state is well on the way to meeting or exceeding last year’s numbers. To see a complete list of the nearly forty 2009 race sponsors, visit

The American-based team Garmin-Slipstream took the overall prize for this year’s Tour of Missouri. American time trial specialist Dave Zabriskie received the Missouri Tourism Race Leader’s Jersey, which was presented to him by the 2008 Tour of Missouri champion Christian Vande Velde (Vande Velde had to withdraw from this year’s race in Stage 2 due to a broken bone in his right hand resulting from a crash that happened during Stage 1).

Talks are underway regarding plans for the 2010 Tour of Missouri. This race, which provides Missouri a platform to promote our state’s tourism on both a national and international level, continues to host some of the world’s top professional athletes. If our state extends the contract with this successful bicycling event in the future, the Tour of Missouri will continue to provide a significant economic impact on all of the participating cities and our state as a whole.

Purgason: Nixon's choice of Wood for Stone Couny seat was a good one

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, told constituents he is pleased with Gov. Jay Nixon's choice of Rep. Dennis Wood, a Republican, to fill a vacant Stone County Commission post:

The ill health of a county commissioner from Southwest Missouri has led to another vacancy in the Legislature. Presiding Commissioner George Cutbirth, from Stone County resigned his position in July. As I mentioned last week, Governor Jay Nixon has sole authority to appoint a successor. In the case of a vacancy at the county level, the County Central Committees of each political party usually select a candidate and submit the name to the governor. Almost always, the governor will appoint the candidate from his own party. I commend Governor Nixon with his appointment, Republican State Representative Dennis Wood, to fill the remainder of the term.

Wood, from Kimberling City, was term limited and would have been precluded from running for the House again. His current term will expire December 2010. He resigned his House seat on Thursday and was sworn in as a commissioner on the same day. Governor Nixon has called a Special Election for February 3, 2010 to fill the vacancy. This will ensure the people of the district will have representation for most of the next legislative session.

Pearce to introduce bingo bill in 2010 session

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, plans to reintroduce legislation that would give not-for-profit organizations more flexibility with bingo proceeds. From his latest capitol report:

My biggest disappointment this year was the veto of House Bill 620. This measure would have given not-for-profit entities greater flexibility with the funds they generate from bingo games, allowing more money to be available for use in local community projects. I am currently working on developing a similar bill for next year that will have the support of other lawmakers and the governor. I have talked with the governor’s staff to see what we can do to change the bill to make sure he will sign it next year if it crosses his desk again, and I will continue to work cooperatively with his office until we figure out a solution.

Mayer: Missouri leading in clean coal technology

In his most recent capitol report, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, details what Missouri is doing to address energy issues:

Missouri’s energy future is the focus of a new legislative committee on which I am serving. The committee conducted its organizational meeting on Sept. 16 and will soon begin drafting a long-term energy strategy for our state — one that ensures Missourians will benefit from an abundant and clean source of electricity at affordable rates.

As you know, our nation’s energy future is making headlines across the country as Congress considers the proposed cap-and-trade legislation that would cap carbon dioxide emissions and create a system for buying and trading emission allowances. Many view the energy-related proposal as a hidden national energy tax that would deal a crushing blow to business and consumers and result in higher prices and fewer jobs. The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the proposed cap-and-trade legislation — the Waxman-Markey Bill (House Resolution 2454) — in June. The U.S. Senate is still considering the bill.

Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by Missouri’s utilities points to the potential negative impact of cap-and-trade on our state, suggesting Missouri residents could expect their electric bills to jump somewhere between 12 and 50 percent by 2010 if the U.S. Senate passes the proposed legislation. The Missouri Public Utilities Alliance and City Utilities of Springfield organized the cost analysis, and among those participating were Missouri’s three investor-owned utilities — Empire District Electric Co., Ameren Corp. and Kansas City Power & Light Co — and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives The study appears to be the only one of its kind in the country.

The study concludes that Missouri utilities would likely need to buy around 40 percent of their allowances to offset their carbon emissions for 2012 based on an allocation formula contained within the proposed federal legislation. It also deduced that by 2020, average electric rates in our state could soar from 25 percent to 77 percent if a cap-and-trade system requires utilities to switch to natural gas from coal. More than 80 percent of Missouri’s electricity is generated from coal.

You will be pleased to know that Missouri is taking an active role in assessing the feasibility of carbon capture-and-storage technology — or clean coal technology — at Missouri power plant sites. With funding from the Department of Energy, researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, in cooperative with several other state agencies, are working with City Utilities of Springfield on a unique shallow carbon sequestration demonstration project. The project is being conducted at about 2,000 feet to determine the sustainability of carbon dioxide storage (CO2) in geologic formations available here in Missouri. Most carbon sequestration projects are conducted at extremely deep formations of
around 14,000 feet or more.

If Missouri is successful in its efforts to reduce CO2 emissions through this capture-and- storage technology, it will provide Missouri power plants with a possible alternative to constructing a network of pipelines and compression stations to transfer CO2 to other states for sequestration. Missouri could also share this technology with other power plants located in similar geographical regions.

Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers and some utilities have also been involved in another CO2 emissions study that involves creating biodiesel from algae through carbon dioxide sequestration from power plants.
Our state’s evaluation of alternative forms of renewable energy is also actively underway, with wind and solar options among those being explored. Just recently, a representative from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory told electric power conference participants in Jefferson City that potentially 20 percent of our state’s energy needs could be met with wind power, but will depend on transmission availability and the development of the smart grid.

The challenge of meeting our state’s energy needs must involve finding ways to provide reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity to our citizens. I look forward to serving on this energy committee and will keep you posted on our progress.

As always, if you have comments or questions about this week’s column or any other matter involving state government, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can reach my office by phone at 1-877-291-5584.

Nov. 10 hearing set for hearing in Westboro Baptist Church lawsuit against Ballwin

A 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10 hearing has been scheduled in U. S. District Court for a motion for a preliminary injunction against the city of Ballwin that would allow protests to be held at military funerals.

The lawsuit is one of a half-dozen filed by Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., against Missouri cities. Ms. Phelps-Roper, the sister of church pastor Fred Phelps, is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The history of these cases was outlined in a motion filed Sept. 2, 2008, in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri:

"Phelps-Roper alleges that her religious beliefs dictate that 'homosexuality is the worst of all sins and indicative of the final reprobation of an individual.' "

“Because of this belief, the motion said, "Phelps-Roper and the WBC believe that "God is punishing American for the sin of homosexuality by killing Americans, including soldiers." WBC members regularly picket outside of public buildings, churches, parks, and funerals, including the funerals of individuals who have died while serving the United States in Iraq.

“On Jan. 26, 2007, the court ruled against Ms. Phelps-Roper, but she filed an appeal and the stay was issued in February 2007 and has been in place since that time.

“The Eighth District Court of Appeals overruled the district court Dec. 19, 2007, saying the case should be reopened since there was a chance that Ms. Phelps-Roper could prevail, though the decision was careful to say it was not commenting on the Missouri law's constitutionality.”

Ohlsen sentencing moved to Oct. 2

Sentencing for Milton Ohlsen, the criminal whose activities started in motion the downfall of Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis, has been rescheduled to Oct. 2, according to documents filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Sentencing was originally set for Sept. 23, but was pushed back at the government's request due to a scheduling conflict. Ohlsen pleaded guilty to bank fraud and weapons charges.

In documents filed earlier this month, Ohlsen protested the presentencing report, indicating it made his crimes seem worse than they really were.

Ohlsen's actions during the Smith-Carnahan race for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Rep. Dick Gephardt, ultimately led to guilty pleas by Smith, Brown, and campaign treasurer Nick Adams on felony obstruction charges. Smith and Brown resigned their offices the day they entered their guilty pleas in federal court.

Commenters rip Post-Dispatch for not mentioning Blunt's monkey joke in speech coverage

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's infamous monkey joke, in which he seemed to refer to President Barack Obama as being the monkey who sets the agenda for Washington has been widely discussed in the blogosphere, but was not included in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's coverage of the speech.

That omission was noted by those leaving comments on the Post-Dispatch website, including this one:

I find it surprising that this article makes no mention of the monkey joke Representative Blunt told at the Values Voter Summit. Not a very thorough story without it, I think.

The author of the article, Bill Lambrecht, explained the decision to leave it out this way:

The story resonated with me some because I’ve been in rural India and encountered more than a few monkeys with time on their hands and mischief on their minds. Blunt’s meaning — the monkey metaphor — seemed to have something to do with disorganization in Congress.
In response to my question, Blunt said he used to use the story in speeches but hadn’t recently.
I thought about putting it in the blog but it was long and didn’t seem to fit. Also, I’m generally averse to writing about politicians’ anecdotes unless there’s a clear reason for doing so.
One of the critics here said I should have just put the story out there and let readers decide for themselves. Decide what? If Blunt had some deep, dark meaning for talking about monkeys? We all know where that one would be headed. With so much silliness coming at people these days on the Web, one of the jobs of journalists is to act as a filter. I’ll keep doing it.
Freud famously said: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
In this case, my take was that monkeys were just monkeys.

I would gladly accept Lambrecht's explanation, lame as it appears to be, were it not for this section of his article:

He won applause when he took issue with former President Jimmy Carter’s assertion this week that recent criticisms of President Barack Obama have roots in racial intolerance.

“That’s not what this is about. We can’t be intimidated into believing that’s what this is about,” Blunt said.

The fact that Blunt used the joke in the same speech where he made that comment (and Lambrecht left most of that out, as well), makes it legitimate news.

Kanakuk quickly removes advertisement praising Pete Newman for his ability to build relations with kids

Shortly after its internet existence was revealed in the Sept. 15 Turner Report, Kanakuk Kamps has removed an old advertisement which extolled the abilities of Pete Newman to build relationships with kids.

The Taney County Sheriff's Department charged Newman Monday with four felony sexual crimes involving underage boys.

The advertisement read:

“Pete Newman is the most thorough relationship builder with kids in Kanakuk history. This guy has a raging love for God and it spills over constantly to the kids at kamp. A weekend with Pete will build a father-son relationship that will never be the same."

Clicking on the link that I provided with that Turner Report post shows it has been removed.

International program was criticized in state audit

One thing that has been missing during the controversy over the gutting of Missouri Southern State University's international mission has been an examination of how the money from the program is being spent.

Much of the criticism, some seemingly organized from inside the Board of Governors, has labeled the program as a way for university professors to take vacations at exotic foreign spots each summer at the taxpayers' expense.

That criticism would seem to come from a 2001 state audit, first revealed in the original Turner Report website, that blasted the operation of the international program and the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition, another program that bit the dust after the departure of former President Julio Leon.

The 2001 audit included this passage:

Between July 1, 1998 and March 31, 2000, the college spent approximately $655,000 on
international travel; however, the college has not established formal written travel policies and procedures. As a result, we noted inaccurate reporting of trip expenditures, inconsistency in the number of trip chaperones, and no bidding of travel agents.
In addition, the spouses of the chorale director and a music professor went on free trips to Austria with the student choir, a trip which the students raised money to attend. These complimentary trips, totaling $3,246, materialized when the travel agent awarded one free trip to the college for the large group attending, and the college’s International Studies department allocated excess funding to the music professor.
College officials, in response to our audit, have agreed to repay the costs of the free trips and develop travel policies and procedures.

That audit, however, was conducted eight years ago. What we have not heard from anyone is what changes have taken place in the program since that time. It appears the criticism revolves around an audit that is nearly a decade old, and that same audit is being used to cashier the international program out of existence.

Board hopes to study international program situation away from prying eyes

One of the methods the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors has used in recent years to avoid the prying eyes of people who want to know how and why it is making its decisions is the use of so-called retreats.

Judging from what Board President Rod Anderson said to Joplin Globe reporter Greg Grisolano, that appears to be the method the board will use to keep the public away from its discussions of the university's international program:

Anderson also said he would suggest to other board members to hold a retreat to discuss changes to the international mission, and what the board sees as the program’s future.

While the retreats are legal, in the past, they have been held in such sites as Branson and Springfield, which makes it extremely difficult for locals to attend, which is the whole idea.

And the discussion of what to do with the international program definitely cannot be held in a closed session, so this is as good a way as possible to keep the information away from the public.

Of course, it is hard to understand how a board that has made the case that the university's financial situation is dire can justify spending extra money to hold a retreat in some other town rather than having the meeting on campus.

In a 2005 Turner Report post, I wrote this following a retreat to Branson:

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors continued to snub its nose at patrons, students, and employees by conducting business at a retreat in Branson.
Though it could be argued that nothing major was discussed at the meeting, which has become an annual tradition, that is beside the point. Public meetings should be held at a place that is convenient for the public to attend. It doesn't matter whether the public would actually attend, what matters is that it is afforded the opportunity to do so.

It is not easy for a civic-minded person who wants to know how the Board of Governors is running the university to drive from the Joplin area to Branson to attend a meeting. The reasons for having the retreat are sound...from a business standpoint. It makes sense for the board of directors of a business to head to some scenic spot for a get-together and to recharge the old batteries.

That being said, boards that conduct the taxpayers' business are different. Their meetings must be open and accessible. It doesn't matter if 1,000 people want to attend the meeting or just one, all anyone who wants to see the Board of Governors in action should have to do is drive to the college.

A more recent retreat was held at the home of President Bruce Speck. I Wrote about that in the Jan. 11, 2009 Turner Report:

During its Nov. 21 "retreat" at Speck's home, the media was ushered into a downstairs area while Speck and the Board enjoyed a sumptuous meal.

Apparently, if the media had the temerity to go to Speck's home for a public meeting, they had to be punished, so Alexandra Nicolas, editor of MSSU's campus newspaper, The Chart, and John Hacker of The Carthage Press were guided downstairs by Dr. Speck and cooled their heels for approximately an hour and a half, while the board enjoyed its feast.

After about a half hour, Ms. Nicolas and Hacker were joined by the Joplin Globe's Melissa Dunson and several MSSU staffers, including Derek Skaggs, director of admissions; Rod Surber of public information, and Lee Pound, who also had to wait until the meal was finished.

Only then did the board and Dr. Speck deign to come downstairs and join those whom they had kept waiting.

Whether the board members discussed any university business during the luncheon is immaterial, though we have only their word that they did not, and quite frankly, that is nowhere near good enough. The Sunshine Law does offer an exception for social or ministerial functions, but if the university is in dire financial shape as Douglas and Dr. Speck have said, then let's forget about the socializing, get back to the campus, and brown bag it around a businesslike conference table.

In the Nov. 22 Turner Report, I criticized the scheduling of these board retreats. These people were appointed to represent the public and social outings are not necessary nor should they take place. Meetings should be held in a business setting that is easily accessible to the public. Dr. Speck's house, showplace though it may be, is not somewhere that someone from the general public is going to feel welcome while public business is being conducted. And while it is more accessible to the public than the Branson outing the board took a few years back, it is still a practice that needs to be discontinued.

Retreats are a bad idea. Conduct the public's business in a public setting.