Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Missouri Supreme Court will not hear appeal of TAMKO employee fired for making racist remarks

The Missouri Supreme Court last week rejected an attempt by a former TAMKO employee, who was fired for making racist remarks at a company picnic, to get unemployment benefits.

The court refused to hear Darwin Holly's appeal. The case, as noted in an earlier post, involved th eonly judicial ruling in recent memory that  included references to President Obama, watermelons, choking the chicken, and breasts.

iIn July the Southern District Court upheld the Missouri Division of Employment Security's decision not to allow Holly, who had worked for the Joplin company for nearly 16 years, to receive unemployment benefits.

The appellate court decision indicates Holly was fired after he told an inappropriate joke at the TAMKO company picnic:

The Commission found that a comment by Appellant that he was eating "Obama fruit" while holding a slice of watermelon at the company picnic of his employer, TAMKO Building Products, Inc. (“TAMKO”), violated TAMKO’s racial harassment policy; therefore, it amounted to misconduct related to work disqualifying him for unemployment benefits. We affirm the Commission's decision.

During an appeals tribunal hearing, the case against Holly was laid out:

TAMKO submitted two exhibits which were written statements made by two other TAMKO employees who heard Appellant's comment. The first statement, by Matt Parrish, recited that he was preparing food
for a company picnic when Appellant asked if he could sit down by him. Parrish answered in the
affirmative and then Appellant said, “I'm going to sit down and eat my 'Obama fruit.'” Parrish asked Appellant if he had said "Obama fruit," and Appellant answered in the affirmative. Parrish then "shook [his] head and said something to the effect of, 'That isn't right.’ . . . [Appellant] then told a story regarding antique cars and left a few minutes later." The second statement, by Larry W. Prewitt, Jr., also stated that Appellant sat down and said "Obama fruit." Prewitt stated further that "[n]othing was mentioned about the comment until Monday when [Parrish] asked me if I heard any derogatory comments from [Appellant] on the previous Friday at which point I confirmed that I had heard the statement." The Appeals Tribunal also heard testimony from Appellant and Bennett Cole Williams, TAMKO's Human Resources Manager. Williams testified that the term "Obama fruit" was a racially derogatory comment, and Appellant’s use of the term violated TAMKO's policy against racial harassment. Appellant testified that he did make the comment "Obama fruit," but stated that "in my mind I was calling the president a melon head, no reference to racial whatsoever, I'm not a racist, but it was just a political statement in my mind."

The review panel issued the following ruling, which was included in the appellate court decision:
The claimant made a comment that he was going to eat ‘Obama fruit.’ The term ‘Obama fruit’ taken alone is not a racially derogatory comment. But, the comment was made while the claimant was eating a slice of watermelon at a company sponsored cookout at the plant. In that setting, the claimant's comment
violated the employer's policy. Therefore, the claimant committed misconduct which resulted with the termination of his employment.

The appellate court rejected Holly's attorney's argument that it should follow the ruling from another case in which someone was fired after making an inappropriate remark about food. In that case, Dolgencorp, Inc. vs. Zatorski, the court ruled that comments about "choking the chicken" and "breasts" did not amount to sexual harassment.

Zatorski signed an agreement that he would "abide by Dolgencorp's sexual harassment policy." Id. Zatorski sought to organize a union. Id. at 815. At a lunch provided by the company, Zatorski decided to complete a demonstration and "selected a fried chicken leg to represent a union worker and a baked chicken leg to represent a non-union worker." Id. At some point, Zatorski "grasped the baked non-union chicken leg with a strangling or choking motion and squeezed the chicken between both his hands. As he did this, he said he was 'choking the chicken.'" Id. Several employees complained that this act was sexual in nature because it referred to masturbation; Zatorski was fired for violation of Dolgencorp's sexual harassment policy. Id. The Appeals Tribunal ruled that Zatorski’s action did not rise to the level of misconduct and found that he was not disqualified for benefits and Dolgencorp appealed. Id. at 816. The Court recognized that "Zatorski may have violated Dolgencorp's sexual harassment policy resulting in discharge, yet still qualify for unemployment compensation if his conduct is not proven to rise to the level of misconduct." Id. at 818. The Court also stated that "[i]t is not sufficient that other employees perceive that the actions of the employee are contrary to the employer's rules. The violations must be intended." Id. The Court noted that "no documents were in the record with the actual sexual harassment policy." Id. at 819. The Court also noted that the Commission did not "make findings on the issues of whether Mr. Zatorski's comments included the statement that he liked breasts and what he intended in making the gesture and comment about choking the chicken." Id. The Court then reversed the finding of the Commission because it "did not resolve all of the disputed factual issues . . . ." Id. at 820.

In this case, unlike Zatorski, there was a copy of TAMKO's harassment policy in the record, the Commission did not rest its conclusion solely on the perception that others concluded Appellant's comment violated the rules, and there are no unresolved factual issues. Here, the Commission resolved the factual dispute regarding Appellant's intent. The Commission found that he admitted to making the comment regarding “Obama fruit.” The Commission found that he did so while eating a slice of watermelon. Thus, the Commission concluded that the comment violated TAMKO's racial harassment policy in the context in which it was made.

Skelton campaign fights back against attempts to lump him with Nancy Pelosi

In his latest campaign video, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton tears into Vicky Hartzler's campaign for its consistent efforts to lump him with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

Kit Bond pushes for Blunt

During this Missouri Republican video taken at a Kit Bond barbecue, the senator pushes the election of Roy Blunt as his successor. Blunt is also featured on the video:

Democrats: Akin, Emerson, Graves, Lueketmeyer vote against 9-11 first responders; Blunt a no-show

A news release from the Missouri Democratic Party today notes that members of Missouri's Republican Congressional contingent voted against assistance for 9-11 first responders, while Seventh Disrict Congressman Roy Blunt was a no-show:

Unfortunately, Missouri Republicans refused to stand with Democratic representatives and members of their own party from other states in support of care for first responders, clean up workers and others exposed to harmful toxins after the 9/11 attacks.

Republican members of Congress from Missouri, including Todd Akin, Jo Ann Emerson, Blaine Luektemeyer and Sam Graves voted to deny assistance to first responders and others exposed to toxins as a result of the 9/11 attacks. What's even more unbelievable is Congressman Roy Blunt did not even show up to cast a vote. (

In response to Missouri Republicans' unwillingness to help 9/11 first responders and workers, Missouri Democratic Party Communications Director Ryan Hobart released the following statement:

“Congressman Blunt could not even show up to vote on a bill that would help first responders and clean up workers hurting in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, but other Missouri Republicans cast a unanimous no vote on behalf of their party in this state. Unfortunately, Missouri Republicans chose partisanship over helping those who are still suffering as a result of this hateful attack on our country. Members of their party from other states stood with Democratic members in support of this bill, but, instead, they refused."

USA Today reported that: "Republicans who opposed the measure called it an entitlement program for New Yorkers." (USA Today, 9/29/10)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Responders for Robin formed

The following news release was issued today concerning the formation of another group supporting Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in her bid for U. S. Senate:

Today, Robin Carnahan's campaign launched First Responders for Robin to bring together Missourians who share her commitment to the people who protect us every day. The group is co-chaired by Missouri first responders: Kevin Ahlbrand, President of Missouri Fraternal Order of Police; Tony Kelley, President of Missouri State Council of Firefighters; Jennifer Stuhlman, St. Louis County; Patrice Mullins, St. Charles County; Robert Palmer, Jackson County; and Shawn Martin, Greene County. Robin believes we must give our first responders the tools they need to keep us safe, which is why the Missouri State Council of Firefighters and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed her.

The tough economy has forced Missouri's state and local governments to make painful cuts to public safety services. And out of touch Washington politicians have slashed funding for cost-effective and proven programs like Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) - the main program supporting local Missouri police departments. Robin believes more must be done to protect our communities and keep cops and firefighters on the job.

As Secretary of State, Robin worked across party lines to establish the Safe at Home program, which provides a substitute mailing address to victims of domestic violence to help prevent their abusers from finding them. Since it started in August 2007, the program has helped more than 800 people.

"Robin Carnahan is the pick of the Missouri State Council of Firefighters for US Senate. She is a proven fighter for Missouri families and communities. We know that she will advocate for fully funding programs that keep our firefighters safe in the line of duty, said Tony Kelley, President Missouri State Council of Firefighters. "She will stand up to the corporate special interests and fight on the side of our local firefighters and other first responders in Washington."

Kevin Ahlbrand, President of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Robin's candidacy saying, "Robin knows that in this tough economy, we must not turn our backs on the police officers that keep our communities safe. When it comes to supporting our local Missouri police and sheriffs departments, we know that Robin will fight for the funding that is critical to law enforcement."

McCaskill: We can't wait any longer for better Afghanistan oversight

In her latest newsletter, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, continues her call for the firing of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction:

During the past 18 months, I have repeatedly voiced my concerns and frustrations regarding the performance of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the government watchdog responsible for investigating tax dollar misuse on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

The independent Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency recently released three reviews of SIGAR and found numerous problems with the agency's work, including a failure to produce any meaningful strategic plan for their audits and investigations. The reviews say that leadership at SIGAR remains more concerned with the quantity of their work rather than the quality. Corrective action must be taken.

Last week, amid mounting evidence of SIGAR's incompetence and mismanagement, my colleagues Tom Coburn, Susan Collins, Charles Grassley and I sent a letter asking the president to immediately fire Arnold Fields as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. A copy of our letter is available here.

The event that prompted us to take action was Fields’ questionable judgment: he recently entered into a non-competitive, $95,000 consulting contract with Joseph Schmitz, a former Department of Defense Inspector General who resigned in the thick of serious allegations of misconduct, including obstructing criminal investigations, quashing audits and misleading Congress.

It’s obvious that taxpayers would be better served with new leadership at SIGAR. I am disappointed by the Administration’s ongoing failure to take decisive action and will continue to urge President Obama to take immediate steps to improve Afghanistan reconstruction oversight.

Blunt campaign video features testimony concerning Carnahan's job performance in Missouri

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's handling of alleged voting fraud was the subject of testimony in front of the Civil Rights Commission and it is the latest offering from the Roy Blunt campaign on YouTube:

In Democratic ad, Roy Blunt explains his wife's lobbying job

The latest Missouri Democratic Party ad does not appear to be one of its better ones. In it, a video of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt explaining who his lobbyist wife Abigail Perlman works far, is played. Big deal! We know she's a lobbyist and we also knew Blunt tried to help her by slipping in wording into:

 the Homeland Security Bill that would benefit Phillip Morris and tobacco companies.

Hartzler ad: I'm a friend to business

In her latest ad, Fourth District Republican Congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler describes herself as a friend of business and opponent Ike Skelton as the opposite:

Seahawks sign Allen Barbre

The career of the first pro football player to graduate from East Newton High School will continue in the Great Northwest.

The Seattle Seahawks signed G Allen Barbre this week. Barbre was cut loose by the Green Bay Packers earlier this year after starting nine games for the team during the 2009 season:

Barbre was a fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2007, when current Seattle general manager John Schneider was in Gree.n Bay. Barbre, 6′4″ 300 pounds, started seven games at right tackle last season and gave up seven sacks―a sign that guard might be his better position. He’s coming off a back injury but obviously is healthy enough for Schneider to scoop up.
Barbre played his college football at Missouri Southern State University.

The lies they tell about teachers

Thirty-three percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years.

Fifty percent leave within the first five years.

These statistics, and as far as I know they are accurate, have been trumpeted for years, most often as an indicator that our best and brightest are forsaking their classroom careers for other, more lucrative, positions.

At some point over the past few years, the teacher flight percentages changed into something far more ominous- an indictment of tenure laws.

As I have listened to the drumbeat of criticism of public education reaching a crescendo this week, I have heard many trumped up charges that have little or no basis in fact. And one of those that keeps being featured in the sound bites is this myth that young, talented teachers are being pushed out in favor of incompetent instructors who cannot be fired because they have earned tenure.

This portrait is backed up only by anecdotal evidence that shows when teacher layoffs were forced by our current economic situation some good teachers were put out on the street while tenured teachers remained employed.

That record never indicates if the tenured teachers are competent. As far as I can tell, no one has bothered to look into it. It is far easier to make the accusation.

Undoubtedly, good young teachers have lost their jobs while tenured teachers (most of whom are qualified and competent) continue working.

That being said, that number makes up just a small portion of those who are leaving the teaching profession.

As a reporter, a job I held for 22 years before entering the classroom, I talked to many teachers about their jobs and I ran into some who were overwhelmed by the responsibility of dealing with children hour after hour, day after day. The best teacher preparation programs in the world can never completely prepare a teacher for that day when he or she stands in front of 30 children. The responsibility is staggering and some people find that teaching is not what they thought it would be.

Even with better preparation and far more mentoring programs, there are still thousands of teachers across the U S. who decide the classroom is not for them after surviving a year or two in the trenches.
This weekend, I heard the teaching profession unfavorably compared to law and medicine, with the talking heads noting that those professions police their own and do their best to rid their fields of incompetents, leaving the impression that teachers circle the wagon and protect everyone from the teacher who cannot impart knowledge to his students to the ones who cannot keep their hands off the children.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In the first place, the people who were making those statements cannot really expect us to believe there is not some wagon-circling occurring in those other professions. But like doctors and lawyers who want the best for their professions, the vast majority of teachers do not want to have our reputations besmirched by people whose lack of competence or moral character endangers children and their learning.

Many of those 33 percent who leave in the first three years and 50 percent who leave within five years are those who are removed due to their failure to improve as teachers or due to character flaws that make them poison to any faculty.

When good administrators are doing their jobs properly, and that is what takes place most of the time, the bad eggs are never in the classroom long enough to receive tenure.

The tenure laws also play no role in the number of teachers who leave the profession because they cannot make ends meet on their salaries. I have been reading education critics talk about the myth that teachers’ salaries are actually much better than what the public normally hears. Perhaps that is true in some districts, but those of us who teach in Missouri, where schools can still pay as little as $24,000 a year to a beginning teacher and less than $40,000 to teachers with as much as 20 years of experience, are not seeing that level of luxury.

Many teachers are also leaving because they see the change from education that stresses learning to hour after hour of teaching test-taking skills, something they know is going to be of minimum benefit to the children when they enter the adult world.

They are finding other professions because they are tired of being beaten down by a public that is rapidly losing respect for those who care for their children because of an unending coordinated attempt to destroy public education and teacher unions.

When the lie that teachers are incompetent, selfish, and care more about themselves than they do about the children in their classrooms, when they find that lack of respect coming from the parents who hear those lies, and eventually, from the children who view much of the world through their parents’ eyes, is it any wonder that many young teachers decide enough is enough?

Obviously, there are many reasons that young teachers are leaving the profession, and sadly, sometimes the best and the brightest are the ones who choose to take their talents elsewhere.

But many of those who leave the classroom behind are those who found out they were not cut out for teaching or those whose incompetence or lack of character made them a danger to the students.
Tenure laws, contrary to another of those lies that has been told about the teaching profession, do not prevent incompetent, lazy teachers from being fired. They simply offer those teachers, as well as competent teachers who come under the gun, due process, something that Americans should hold in high regard.

The direction in which the so-called educational reform movement is taking this country will end up causing more talented young teachers to seek other employment than any problems caused by tenure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Teacher Town Hall offers viewponts of nation's teachers on education

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' Town Hall with teachers, which aired Sunday on MSNBC, has been one of the few pieces of programming, whether on broadcast or cable television which actually offers the viewpoints of classroom teachers.

I have grown increasingly tired of hearing the viewpoints of those who will benefit financially from the crippling of public education and the union chiefs whose narrow-minded viewpoint has enabled teachers to become the target for anyone looking to inflame public opinion.

This week's Education Nation programming on NBC and MSNBC has been mostly from one viewpoint, but at least this program offers the viewpoints of people who are actually in the trenches:

City councilman sues Springfield Public Schools over lockdown, search

A lawsuit filed today in U. S. District Court for Western District of Missouri charges Springfield Public Schools and the Greene County Sheriff's Department with violating students' rights during an April 22 lockdown drill at Central High School.

The action, filed by Springfield City Councilman Doug Burlison, his wife Melony and his stepson and stepdaughter, both Central High School students, alleges students were told to leave their third hour classroom and ordered ot leave all their belongings in their classrooms. While they were out of the rooms, the lawsuit says, officers and drug dogs went through the belongings.

Defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to Springfield Public Schools, include Superintendent Norm Ritter,  Central High School Principal Ron Snodgrass, and Greene County Sheriff James Arnott.

Following is the description of the drill from the lawsuit:

On or about Thursday April 22, 2010, C.M., (Burlison's stepson) then a freshman at Central High School, was in his third period classroom when an announcement was made over the school’s public address system by Defendant Snodgrass.

 Defendant Snodgrass announced that the school was going into “lockdown” and that students may not leave their classrooms.

At that time, deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were present at Central High School along with dogs.

On information and belief, the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were present at Central High School with the knowledge, consent and invitation of Defendants SPS, Snodgrass and Ridder, and the activities and conduct of the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office were engaged in at the request of and with the knowledge of Defendants SPS, Snodgrass and Ridder.

About fifteen minutes after Defendant Snodgrass’s announcement, deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, with their dogs, entered C.M.’s classroom. The deputies ordered students and teachers to leave the room. Students were told not to take any possessions or effects, such as backpacks, notebooks and purses, with them but to leave them in the classroom.

 C.M. did as instructed, leaving his possessions in the classroom and going out into the adjoining hallway to wait. C.M. could not see into the classroom.

After approximately ten minutes, the law enforcement officers left the classroom and C.M. and his classmates returned to the room.

The condition of the effects C.M. observed when he reentered the classroom made it clear to him that the students’ effects had been searched by the law enforcement officials. Backpacks and other student belongings had been moved around, zippers had been unzipped and saliva on the effects indicated that the dogs had come in contact with the students’ belongings and effects.

 In particular, C.M. observed that although all the zippers on his backpack were shut when he left the room, when he returned the zippers on his backpack were open and items within the backpack had been moved. At least three other students in his third period class also pointed out that their effects, i.e., purses and backpacks, had been moved and the students observed signs indicating that police had rummaged through their belongings.

C.M. observed that the law enforcement officers and their dogs then moved on to another classroom. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that the law enforcement officers engaged in the same activities in most, if not all, of the other classrooms at the school.

 Defendant Snodgrass extended the time for third period that day so that the deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office could complete searches of the student effects and classrooms at Central High School.

At about 11:00 a.m., Defendant Snodgrass announced to students that they should move to their fourth period class.

Plaintiffs allege, on information and a belief, that in conjunction with the search of students’ effects in classrooms, law enforcement officers guided dogs through the hallways of Central High School, allowing the dogs to examine lockers and students throughout the school. If a dog alerted on a student, police seized the student and conducted a full search of the student’s person and effects.
Burlison's stepdaughter arrived at the school during third hour, but was not allowed to enter the building, until fourth hour, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, Ridder indicated the search was not prompted by any incident, but was standard procedure at Central and other Springfield schools.

After Burlison spoke at a school board meeting and board members did not offer any response, he brought his action, which charges the school officials and the sheriff with violating the students' Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure, as well as Missouri state statutes.

The Burlisons are represented by Springfield attorney Jason Umbarger, whom court documents indicate is working with the conservative Rutherford Institute.

The changing expectations of teachers

Taking the time to talk with a student who has dropped by unexpectedly after school to talk to me is something I just consider to be a part of the job.

So when those occasions arise, even if I have a stack of papers to grade, or some kind of satisfy-the-bureaucracy type of documentation to complete, I put the task aside and I talk with these 13 and 14-year-olds.

Sometimes they want to talk about assignments, how they are doing in class, or they want to help with their writing. Other times, they stop by simply because they need someone who is willing to listen to them.

Five years ago, one of my most gifted students, whom I shall refer to Betty Smith, wandered into my classroom after school and she was clearly upset. For nearly an hour I talked with Betty and the subjects we touched on were completely mundane; still I could sense that she had something she wanted to tell me.

Finally, I said, “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Are you all right?”
Betty looked at me for a moment, smiled, and nodded. A few moments later, she left.

A few weeks ago, I had another conversation with this young woman, who is now attending college. Betty reminded me of that conversation and thanked me.

“I was thinking about killing myself.”

That information shocked me. This was a young woman who seemingly had everything to live for.

“You took the time to talk to me,” she said. “I thought if someone like you cared about what happened to me, maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought.”
It was just a simple thing, something thousands of classroom teachers across the United States have done day after day, year after year.

But education is not the same as it was even five years ago. I am no longer sure I will be there for students like Betty Smith, who need someone who cares.

This is the age of testing and documenting and data. We can never have too much data I am told. We  have to have a reason for every single step we take as educators, so we can satisfy public education’s critics, who demand standardized testing be the basis for all decisions involving schooling.

Schools across the United States are not only taking high stakes annual standardized tests, but we are taking multiple practice tests, often designed by the same company that makes the year-end test. In our school, we take seven practice tests, called ACUITY, and we have redesigned our curriculum to match up with ACUITY.

Rather than spend professional development meetings learning teaching skills that can translate into learning, we learn how to decipher these tests and how to use the mountain of statistics that come from them, more statistics than most teachers can use in a lifetime.

We end up being encouraged to take practice tests to get ready for the practice tests, which prepare us for the one which determines whether we will be ridiculed as failures in the local media for the next year, or whether we will simply be ignored, which is what usually happens when something positive occurs.

And many schools, including ours are adding even another layer of testing for students who are falling short of the mark.

When all is said and done, we have not prepared our students to succeed in life, but to succeed on standardized tests.

Teachers, primarily those in the tested areas of math and reading, are coming into school two hours before it starts, leaving two or more hours after it ends and taking work home for long hours on weeknights and weekends. The beast that demands data is never satisfied.

Many teachers have been steered toward dropping the kind of lessons that make learning engaging for students in favor of test preparation.

And those times after school, when teachers’ doors have always been open to students who needed help?

Those are rapidly becoming a dim memory, as the appetite of the beast that demands data and documentation can never be satiated.

You won’t find many teachers who feel differently. The most popular sport going these days is teacher bashing. Politicians and people with scores to settle have made teachers a symbol of everything that is wrong with today’s schools.

I cringe every time I hear an administrator say we are compiling this deluge of data so that we will know how to best to serve “our children.”

Those words are easy to say, “our children,” but at times I wonder if the phrase is just one that comes easily to the tongue.

I am not here to crunch numbers on abstract children. I come to school every day to teach 150 children, all of whom have names, not just numbers.

I am here for Betty Smith and all of the others who are or who have been in my classroom.

When our doors are not open for the children who need us, that is when we truly have a crisis in education.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The demonization of teachers

One of the most useful tools teachers have to help students is parent-teacher conferences.

In the Joplin, Missouri, School District, where I teach eighth grade communication arts (English), regularly scheduled conferences are held twice each year, once in the late fall and once in the spring.

To ensure that more parents attend, the district schedules the conferences for four hours after school on a Thursday night, and then for four hours the next morning. This offers parents with job constraints the flexibility to be able to attend either session.

We try to get parents to attend these conferences through a variety of methods, including calls sent to their homes, publicity about the sessions, and through personal contact.

In my eight years in the district, I have averaged 30 parents per conference, with most of those attending during the evening hours. That number is a sad commentary on the value our parents put in education.

I deal with 30 parents, but I have approximately 150 students.

I could understand this lack of concern if the 120 sets of parents who do not show up had children who were making straight As, or even just decent grades, but that is not the case.

The majority of those who take the time and the trouble to drive to the school and talk to me are parents of students who are excelling in my class. These are parents who want to know if there is anything they can to do to help.

These are parents whose children are generally well behaved and hard working, and it is immediately obvious that those traits come from the people who raised them. And there are many other parents whose children are doing well who do not come to these sessions.

I enjoy the conversations I have with these concerned parents, but I would gladly double the time I spend at parent-teacher conferences if the parents of the children who are struggling in my classroom would take the time to come in and talk with me.

With all of the media and political firepower that has been turned on teachers in the past few years, we have been labeled, unfairly, as the root cause of all of education’s ills.

Last week, Time Magazine followed that pattern, and Newsweek did it several months ago. NBC has just begun a weeklong teacher-bashing frenzy, disguised as a forum on education.

For Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President Obama, and leaders of both political parties, teachers have become a convenient whipping boy, not only for problems in schools, but also for problems throughout our society.

What teachers realize is that successful education requires not only good teachers, but parents who take an active interest in their children’s education…and children who care enough to try.

What I do not hear in this so-called national conversation on education is any mention of the incredible number of children who have received a good education, despite a lack of support from home. No one ever talks about the teachers who spend the extra time and effort to successfully work with children who not only have no books at home, but who are living in conditions of poverty, physical, mental, and sexual abuse that most people cannot even begin to fathom.

We have to deal with children whose families are breaking up, whose parents may be in prison, children who may spend their days shifting from one foster family to another and who may have their own problems with the law, often because of that home environment.

And we also have to deal with children who have wonderful, concerned parents, but who simply do not care about school.

Any real national education reform plan would deal with all three areas- teachers, parents, and students.

That will never happen as long as it is more politically expedient to demonize teacher unions. No one ever succeeded politically by calling out parents and children and asking them to live up to their responsibility to themselves, to their communities, and to their nation.

Count me among those who do not want bad teachers in the classroom, but any politician who thinks the solution to our nation’s education problems can be found by perpetuating the lie that teachers are standing in the way of reform is performing a disservice to this country.

KC Star: Carnahan running an outdated campaign

Kansas City Star reporter Thomas McClanahan opines today that Robin Carnahan would be running the perfect campaign, charging opponent Roy Blunt with corruption, if this were 2006, but that this year's election is a referendum on Barack Obama:

If this were 2006, Blunt would be losing badly.
Voters were fed up with the Republican Congress and its chronic scandals and heavy spending.
Carnahan’s portrayal of Blunt as the symbol of all that’s wrong with Washington would have been devastating.
Blunt, the consummate insider, wouldn’t have much to say in reply.
He was the Republican whip, one of Tom Delay’s key lieutenants.
He’s been stuffing earmarks into legislation for years.
Heck, he even married a lobbyist.
Fast forward into the present, and it’s as if we’ve entered a parallel universe with everything reversed, although Carnahan conducts her campaign as if she’s utterly unaware of the turnabout.
She’s running the campaign that would have been unstoppable in 2006, except that it’s 2010 and the Republican Congress is no longer an issue. Republicans haven’t controlled Capitol Hill for four years.
Instead, this election is a referendum on President Obama and the Democratic Congress.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nodler delivers last address to Missouri Senate

This link will take you to the last speech delivered by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, to the Missouri Senate. Nodler has served in the Senate since January 2003.

Lead attorney for Al Franken campaign to defend Carnahan in Fox News Channel lawsuit

Marc Elias, the lead attorney for Al Franken's prolonged, but eventually successful, campaign for U. S. Senate has signed on to represent the Robin Carnahan campaign in defending against the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Fox News and its anchor Chris Wallace.

Documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri show the motion for Elias and Ezar Reese to appear in court representing the Carnahan campaign was filed Tuesday, with Judge Gary Fenner signing off on it Wednesday.

Reese, a Washington-based lawyer, specializes in political law.

Both men are with the Perkins Cole firm.

Judge denies Ellefsens' request for bond

Carthage doctor Brian Ellefsen and his brother, accountant Mark Ellefsen will remain behind bars as their appeal works its way through federal court.

In the ruling, which was issued Wednesday, Judge Greg Kays acknowledged that neither Ellefsen would present a flight risk, but said the normal practice is to keep convicted felons behind bars during the appeal process.

The Ellefsens were convicted earlier this year on fraud charges.

Slate article notes the dangers of Fox News lawsuit against Carnahan campaign

An article at points out the dangers of the unprecedented lawsuit filed by Fox News against the Carnahan for Senate campaign, including an overreaching use of copyright law as a means of political censorship:

Other news outlets have in the past asked political candidates to take down videos that included short news clips. But this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a news organization has actually filed a lawsuit against a political candidate for showing a clip in the midst of a campaign. Fox says that the use of the clip in the ad misleadingly suggests that Wallace or the network has endorsed Carnahan and that this suggestion undermines the network's "objectivity." But the lawsuit undermines Fox's objectivity far more than the ad itself. According to the Carnahan campaign, Blunt has used Fox footage in his own ads with no objection from the network. And in the Carnahan ad, the clip is clearly identified as Fox News footage from January 2006. Since the campaign for Missouri's Senate seat had not even begun at that time, the ad can't possibly represent an endorsement of Carnahan.

Natural Disaster to perform at Newtonia Fall Festival today

Our group, Natural Disaster, will perform from 2 to 3:30 p.m. today at the annual Newtonia Fall Festival. I hope some of you have a chance to drop by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

McCaskill asks Obama to fire inspector general over Afghanistan

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, has asked President Obama to fire the inspector general in Afghanistan:

Carnahan video shows visit to Rolla

The latest Carnahan for Senate YouTube video features a Norman Rockwell view of her life in Rolla:

Giuliani campaigns in St. Louis for Roy Blunt

Cleaver explains Patient's Bill of Rights

In ihs latest EC from DC column, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver explains the Patient's Bill of Rights, a part of the federal health care program that just went into effect:

Yesterday, one of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act, the “Patient’s Bill of Rights”, began to take effect. Here’s what it means for you.

If you are privately-insured:


Up until now, insurance companies had been able to retroactively cancel your policy when you became sick, if you or your employer had made an unintentional mistake on your paperwork.

Under the new law, health plans are now prohibited from rescinding coverage except in cases involving fraud or an intentional misrepresentation of facts. Due to pressure from Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration, insurers agreed to begin implementing this protection early, this spring; so rescissions are now a thing of the past. This protection applies to all health plans.


Each year, thousands of children who were either born with or develop a costly medical condition are denied coverage by insurers. Research has shown that, compared to those with insurance, children who are uninsured are less likely to get critical preventive care including immunizations and well-baby checkups. That leaves them twice as likely to miss school and at much greater risk of hospitalization for avoidable conditions.

The new law prohibits insurance plans both from denying coverage and limiting benefits for children based on a pre-existing condition. This protection applies to all health plans, except “grandfathered” plans in the individual market. These protections will be extended to Americans of all ages starting in 2014.


Young people are the most likely to be uninsured – with currently one in three young people having no health coverage. One reason is that young people are less likely to be offered coverage through their jobs.

Under the new law, insurance companies are required to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents’ insurance plan, at the parent’s choice. This provision applies to all health plans. (For employer plans, only those young people not eligible for their own employer coverage receive the benefit, until 2014.)


Millions of Americans who suffer from costly medical conditions are in danger of having their health insurance coverage vanish when the costs of their treatment hit lifetime limits. These limits can cause the loss of coverage at the very moment when patients need it most. Over 100 million Americans have coverage that imposes such lifetime limits. The new law prohibits the use of lifetime limits in all health plans.


Even more aggressive than lifetime limits are annual dollar limits on what an insurance company will pay for health care. Annual limits are less common than lifetime limits – but 19% of individual market plans and 14% of small employer plans currently use them.

The new law phases out the use of annual limits over the next three years. For plan years beginning on September 23, 2010, the minimum level for the annual limit will be set at $750,000. This minimum is raised to $1.25 million in a year and $2 million in two years. In 2014, all annual limits are prohibited. The protection applies to all plans, except “grandfathered” plans in the individual market.

If you are purchasing a new plan, you will have the following additional protections:


Today, too many Americans do not get the high-quality preventive care they need to stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, and lead productive lives. Nationally, Americans use preventive services at about half the recommended rate.

Under the new law, insurance companies must cover recommended preventive services, including mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, and pre-natal and new baby care, without charging deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance.

Today, if your health plan tells you it won’t cover a treatment your doctor recommends, or it refuses to pay the bill for your child’s last trip to the emergency room, you may not know where to turn. Most plans have a process that lets you appeal the decision within the plan through an “internal appeal” – but there’s no guarantee that the process will be swift and objective. Moreover, if you lose your internal appeal, you may not be able to ask for an “external appeal” to an independent reviewer.

The new law guarantees the right to an “internal appeal.” Also, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage for needed care without a chance to appeal to an independent third party.


Being able to choose and keep your doctor is highly valued by Americans. Yet, insurance companies don’t always make it easy to see the provider you choose. One survey found that three-fourths of the OB-GYNs reported that patients needed to return to their primary care physicians for permission to get follow-up care.

The new law: 1) guarantees you get to choose your primary care doctor; 2) allows you to choose a pediatrician as your child’s primary care doctor; and 3) gives women the right to see an OB-GYN without having to obtain a referral first.


Many insurers charge unreasonably high cost-sharing for emergency care by an out-of-network provider. This can mean financial hardship if you get sick or injured when you are away from home.

The new law makes emergency services more accessible to consumers. Health plans will not be able to charge higher cost-sharing for emergency services that are obtained out of a plan’s network.

GOP asks Skelton to return campaign contributions from disgraced lobbyist

In a news release issued today, the Missouri Republican Party asked that Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton return $1,500 in campaign contributions from a disgraced lobbyist:

Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party, issued the following statement regarding the guilty plea of Paul Magliocchetti, the disgraced Democrat lobbyist who personally made campaign contributions to Congressman Ike Skelton:

“In federal court, disgraced Democrat lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti admitted to making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. The Missouri Republican Party is calling on Congressman Ike Skelton to return the contributions from Magliocchetti and his family. The fact that Ike Skelton is caught up in this scandal demonstrates once again that he has been in Washington for far too long, and after more than three decades in Congress, it’s time for a change.”

Note: Magliocchetti and his wife, Nancy, contributed $1500 to Skelton’s campaigns over the past 7 years.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rosenbaum; Missouri may be crucial to makeup of U. S. Senate

Returning to his radio commentaries after a few months' absence, Jason Rosenbaum addressed the U. S. Senate race between Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan and the effect it may have on which party controls that chamber:

Missouri Democratic Party releases Blunt answers to Chris Wallace questions

The lawsuit filed by Fox News and anchor Chris Wallace over the Robin Carnahan campaign's use of a clip featuring Chris Wallace grilling Roy Blunt includes a reference to the Carnahan ad only showing Wallace's question and not Blunt's answer.

The Carnahan campaign may have been doing Blunt a favor by not using his answer. What he said is included in a news release issued today by the Missouri Democratic Party:

Today, the Missouri Democratic Party released the facts behind Congressman Blunt’s answers from his now-famous interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The fact-check comes after Fox News’ frivolous lawsuit against the Robin Carnahan campaign for trying to tell Missourians the truth about Blunt’s record. The motives behind the lawsuit, which has already been called a “dramatic step” and criticized by copyright experts, have come in questions as Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, has donated nearly $10,000 to Blunt’s campaign.

See the Truth Behind Congressman Blunt’s “Answers” About the Fox News Interview

(False) Rhetoric:

Blunt: “Well, I'm pretty sure that last figure is absolutely not accurate.”

[NOTE: Cong Blunt is Referring to the Fox News graphic that shows his campaign paid $485,000 to a firm linked to Jack Abramoff]

Blunt’s committees paid Alexander Strategy Group $470,485 from 1999 to 2002 for fundraising and consulting services. [Public Citizen, January 2006]

NOTE: The report originally stated that Blunt’s committees had paid $485,485 to Alexander Strategy Group. The figure was overstated because two payments, for $10,000 and $5,000, were incorrectly included twice in the FEC data provided to Public Citizen.” The amended version corrects this.

Arrangement Raised “Serious Questions About the Influence Lobbyists Exert on Lawmakers: Long before ASG was implicated in the Abramoff corruption scandal, Gannett reported that, “Groups that track the role of money in politics say the relationship between the lobbying firm and Blunt…raises serious questions about the influence lobbyists exert on lawmakers…Campaign watchdog groups commented that “it’s a rare example of a member of Congress hiring a firm whose clients have a stake in issues pending before Congress.” [Gannet News Service, 10/19/02]

(False) Rhetoric:

Blunt: “But in terms of cleaning up the House, you know, the fact is that I have set or met the highest standards in the history of the Congress on that wall of separation between people who are in your family and the work they do.”

Blunt Named One of 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress. In 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), named Blunt one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress. CREW included Blunt because of his alleged “misuse of his position for the benefit of his family.” The report cited Blunt’s involvement in pushing legislation that it says benefited Philip Morris and United Parcel Service. Blunt's wife, Abigail Perlman, is a lobbyist for the Altria Group, which owns Philip Morris, and a son, Andrew Blunt, lobbies for UPS in the Missouri Statehouse. [Joplin Globe, 9/27/05]

Missouri Citizens Deserve Certainty That Blunt Family Business, Private Business And Public Business Are Kept Separate. The Post Dispatch detailed the overlapping political interests of the Blunt family, citing Rep. Roy Blunt’s behind-the-scenes promotion of provisions beneficial to clients of his lobbyist wife and lobbyist son as evidence of “the family’s tin ear on conflict-of-interest issues.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Editorial, 11/28/04]

When Lawmaking and Lobbying Are All in the Family. “Perhaps it was inevitable in a city where passion and power live side by side: people who start as colleagues or contemporaries often wind up cohabitating. Journalists marry spokespeople. Government workers marry activists. Lawmakers marry lobbyists. It's the last category that often leads government watchdogs to grind their teeth.” [New York Times, Op-Ed, 10/9/05]

(False) Rhetoric:

Blunt: “My wife works for Philip Morris. She really works for Kraft Foods, which is part of that company now. She doesn't lobby anybody in the House of Representatives. That's about as strict a standard as you can get. It's the strictest that's ever been set by anybody.”

Abigail Perlman’s “Strong Ties To Republican Leadership” Made Her Successful Tobacco Lobbyist. As reported by Roll Call, “Though [Abigail] Perlman is not the head of the [Altria tobacco] office - that position is filled by John Scruggs - Perlman was a central part of the company's lobbying efforts in the House. Her strong ties to the Republican leadership help make her one of the most successful tobacco industry lobbyists in town.” [Roll Call, 9/8/03]

Abigail Perlman Blunt Actually Did Lobby the House…Including After Congressman Blunt’s Proclamation that She Didn’t. According to Altria Corporate Services’ mid-year 2007 lobbying disclosure forms, Abigail Blunt lobbied the House and Senate on a number of issues in the first half of 2007, including budget/appropriations, and food and agriculture issues that included a origin of labeling bill favored by Congressman Blunt. [Altria Mid-Year 2007 Filing, House Lobbying Disclosure Database, Accessed 6/17/09]

(False) Rhetoric:

Blunt: “In terms of that legislation that you mentioned in whatever year it was, that's since been passed by both houses of the Congress. It was good legislation. I wasn't trying to slip anything in. The New York Times is the only paper that's ever actually got that story right when they pointed out a letter from the majority leader at the time, Dick Armey, who said the leaders were working on this and we all worked together.”


Speaker of the House Spokesman: Provision Removed Because It Had Not Been Vetted Or Approved By Committee. Explaining why Blunt’s last-minute tobacco provision had been removed before the floor vote, House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s spokesman John Feehery said, "It had not been fully vetted and there was no sign-off from the Judiciary Committee, and that's why it didn't go in the homeland security bill." [Washington Post, 6/12/03]

Center for Responsive Politics: Blunt Recklessly Disregarded Legislative Process. The Center for Responsive Politics spokesman Steven Weiss called Blunt’s actions “a reckless disregard for the way the legislative process works. He flouted the interest of voters and his leadership.” [Gannett News Service, 6/12/03]

(False) Rhetoric:

Blunt: “This was not something I was trying to do on my own. It was good legislation, since been passed by both Houses. It was the right thing to do. We decided collectively it wasn't the right moment to do it. The sinister part about that story was somehow I was trying to slip that in. It just was not true. Look at The New York Times. They got the story right. The Washington Post got the story wrong.”

The New York Times article cites the same charges: “Representative Blunt's ethics drew greater scrutiny in 2003 when he was named House Republican whip. The Washington Post reported that in the final hours before a vote on a domestic security measure Mr. Blunt had tried unsuccessfully to insert a provision blocking the sale of tobacco over the Internet. Mr. Blunt, who had divorced the previous year, was dating Abigail Perlman, a lobbyist for Philip Morris, the tobacco division of the conglomerate Altria, which considered the measure vital. Mr. Blunt's son Andrew B. Blunt worked as a lobbyist for Philip Morris in Missouri as well. (Mr. Blunt's daughter, Amy Blunt, also works as a lobbyist.)” [New York Times, 9/30/05]

Blunt Did Not Cosponsor Related House Bills to Enact Same Policy. Despite Blunt’s claim that his last-minute efforts to insert the cigarette provision was an effort to pass “good policy,” Blunt never cosponsored the related House bills that would have enacted the tobacco policy through normal House procedures. []

Virginia governor stumps for Blunt

Virginia Governor Bob O'Donnell helped Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt raise more than $100,000 for his U. S. Senate race Tuesday night in Springfield, according to the Washington Post.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blunt ad: Why is Robin lying about me?

That Robin Carnahan must be a shameless hussy. Why else would a man like Roy Blunt accuse her of lying about him?

Hartzler: Ike wants government controlled health care

In her latest news release: former Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Republican candidate for Fourth District Congress calls for incumbent Democrat Ike Skelton to join his fellow party member, Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi in opposing the federal health care law.

4th Congressional District Republican candidate Vicky Hartzler is calling on 34-year Congressman Ike Skelton to be a leader and not a follower by signing a House "Discharge Petition" to move ahead on repealing the scourge of ObamaCare from Missouri and the rest of the country.

Mississippi Congressman Gene Taylor last week became the first Democrat to join the House effort to send a repeal to the House floor for debate and decision.

"It is quite clear that Ike Skelton isn't really opposed to government controlled health care," said Hartzler. "In March, he helped ultra-liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enforce her schedule to railroad this bill to passage. Later, once the Speaker had the necessary 218 votes for passage, she allowed Ike Skelton to cast a cosmetic negative vote so he could say he opposed it back in Missouri. Now, the first Democrat has come forward to sign up for immediate action to repeal and replace this disaster. But not Ike Skelton. He lacks the courage to openly oppose Nancy Pelosi to the detriment of the 4th District and to our country."

Vicky Hartzler takes principled stands on issues. She has opposed ObamaCare from the outset, fearing it will do irreparable harm to the best health care system in the world. She knows it will cut Medicare for seniors by $500 billion.

Skelton votes with Speaker Pelosi 95 percent of the time, on atrocious issues ranging from cap-and-tax to cash for clunkers to Obama’s reckless spending amounting to $3 trillion. Until she begins representing the 4th District in Congress, Vicky Hartzler calls on Congressman Skelton to stop doing Nancy Pelosi's job-killing bidding and - sign the Discharge.

Carnahan campaign asks Blunt to return $15,000 he received from convicted felon

The accusations that Roy Blunt is corrupt continue to flow from the Carnahan for Senate campaign. The following news release was issued today:

Today the Robin Carnahan campaign is calling on Congressman Blunt to return the $15,000 he has received from convicted felon Gladwin Gill. Gill pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison on money laundering charges after funneling money through other donors to skirt campaign finance laws.

Congressman Blunt is no stranger to money laundering in politics. In fact, as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has reported, "Rep. Blunt participated in an elaborate money-laundering scheme with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) during the 2000 presidential campaign. The scheme was designed to hide the source and use of funds solicited for the expressed purpose of financing Republican convention parties." [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, 01/24/06]

"Congressman Blunt should immediately return the $15,000 he took from convicted felon Gladwin Gill and needs to come clean with Missourians about whether or not he knew about this money laundering scheme that benefited his campaign," said Linden Zakula, a Carnahan campaign spokesman. "This is not the first convicted felon that Congressman Blunt has accepted contributions from and his repeated refusal to answer questions or return the money is just more evidence that he has become the very worst of Washington."

The news of more tainted campaign contributions and ties to convicted felons is just the latest in a mounting case against Congressman Blunt and his 14-year record of waste, corruption, and sticking it to the middle class. Missouri newspapers have been taking Blunt to task for his time in Washington highlighting secret deals for Big Tobacco that helped family and friends and his ties to convicted felon and super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. [KC Star, 9/3/10; STL PD, 9/7/10]

Gladwin Gill's contributions have already become an issue in campaigns across the country including the Attorney General race in California. [LA Weekly, 8/26/10]

Education group endorses BIll White

The Missouri School Administrators PAC has endorsed Bill White for 129th District state representative. From the news release:

William “Bill” White of Joplin, the Republican candidate for Missouri State Representative (129th District), has been endorsed by the Missouri School Administrators Political Action Committee (MSAPAC). MSAPAC made the endorsement due to his strong support of public education, according to Kevin Dinsdale, Chairman of MSAPAC and Director of the Career & Technology Center at State Fair Community College.

MSAPAC is comprised of four statewide school administrator organizations, including the Missouri Association of School Administrators, the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals and the Missouri Council of Career and Technical Administrators. The membership of these four organizations includes some 3,140 school administrators. MSAPAC was founded in 1991 to provide school administrators with the opportunity to become more involved in the political process through endorsements and contributions to candidates who are strong public supporters.

As a volunteer teacher, Bill White understands the vital importance of educating the next generation of Missourians. "We appreciate [Bill's] continuing support of public education," writes Penny Rector of MSAPAC, "and wish [him] success in the upcoming election."

SKelton ad: Vicky Hartzler is no friend of military families

In his latest campaign video Democratic Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton's campaign team features testimonials to Skelton's records and criticism of opponent Vicky Hartzler's record on military matters:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Missouri Democratic Party says new poll shows Carnahan campaign has momentum

The Missouri Democratic Party is trumpeting a new poll as evidence that it has momentum:

A recent Missouri statewide poll that includes the US Senate race between Robin Carnahan, Roy Blunt, Jonathan Dine and Jerry Beck conducted by Global Strategy Group (Sept. 14-18) and released by the Missouri Democratic Party shows the margin between Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan tightening, with each receiving 37 percent of the vote. The race remains within the margin of error when counting voters who are still undecided but leaning towards a candidate.

"This poll shows that the more Missourians learn about Congressman Blunt's ties to corruption and the 14 years he has spent as a Washington Insider, the less likely they are to vote for him," said Missouri Democratic Party Communications Director Ryan Hobart. "After 14 years of not being held accountable, Missourians are starting to realize Congressman Blunt represents the very worst of Washington when it comes to waste, corruption and sticking it to the middle class."

Congressman Blunt began airing television ads six weeks before the Robin Carnahan campaign was on television. In addition, his corporate special interest allies including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads have spent more than $2 million attacking Robin Carnahan. This poll shows Robin Carnahan gaining ground and closing the gap once held by Congressman Blunt.

Global Strategy Group conducted this poll of 601 likely voters statewide for the Missouri Democratic Party September 14-18. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 4%.
Buried in the stats below the news release are figures that indicate Blunt still has a slight advantage since he has a six percent to two percent lead among voters who are slightly leaning toward one candidate or the other.

Court filing: Carnahan campaign too lazy to ask Blunt about Homeland Security, Abramoff charges

Instead of using the face and voice of Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asking Roy Blunt questions about trying to slip wording into the Homeland Security Bill to benefit his girlfriend, a tobacco lobbyist, and his connection to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Carnahan for Senate campaign needs to get off its rear and ask Blunt those questions itself.

That's the argument attorney Bernard Rhodes, representing Fox, said in documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri:

Nothing in this action seeks to prevent Carnahan from posing those same questions or even from reporting that those questions were asked of Blunt during the FNS Interview. All that Plaintiffs seek is to stop Defendant from infringing FNC’s intellectual property rights and from misappropriating Wallace’s likeness and persona. Thus, the only thing preventing Defendant from communicating the facts of the FNS Interview to Missouri voters is its own laziness and resulting refusal to create its own intellectual property. That Defendant refuses to create an advertisement reporting the facts of the FNS Interview, without misappropriating Wallace’s likeness or identity and FNC’s intellectual property, makes clear that the sole value of the clip is that it falsely implies that Wallace endorses Carnahan.

Carnahan campaign asks that proceedings in Fox News lawsuit be expedited

Noting the chilling effect it could have on getting "accurate and truthful information" to Missouri voters, the Robin Carnahan for Senate campaign today filed a motion asking a federal judge to expedite proceedings in the lawsuit filed against the campaign by Fox News Channel and newsman Chris Wallace.

Fox and Wallace claim the Carnahan campaign infringed on a copyrighted 2006 Fox News Sunday interview in which Wallace noted that Roy Blunt, Carnahan's opponent in the Senate race, had slipped wording into the Homeland Security Bill that benefited the tobacco industry. Wallace noted that Blunt was dating a tobacco lobbyist at the time. Wallace also grilled Blunt about his connection to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

From the motion:

The present lawsuit appears to be one of the very few times that a television network has sued a political candidate challenging the fair use of an interview of another candidate. Because the lawsuit threatens to interrupt the free flow of information to Missouri' s electorate, and potentially impact a Senate election, Carnahan respectfully requests that the Court expedite the case.
The motion continues:

Good cause is present here in that Carnahan will suffer irreparable injury as a result of a delay in these proceedings. Fox's lawsuit has caused the campaign to devote time and resources on unnecessary litigation, interfered with Carnahan' s ability to communicate with Missouri voters, and created substantial uncertainty with Missouri broadcasters regarding whether they should air the ad. It would be a hollow victory if Carnahan's use of the interview clip is subsequently vindicated as a fair use by this Court, but not until sometime after the election. And there is a clear and demonstrable public interest in resolving the narrow legal issues presented by the Complaint as soon as possible.
The motion was filed by attorney Matthew Braunel of Thompson Coburn.

In his response, also filed today, Bernard Rhodes of Lathrop & Gage, says the lawsuit has not had any chilling effect at all on the Carnahan campaign:

While Defendant claims that this lawsuit has had a “chilling effect” on its “dissemination of accurate and truthful political information” (Defendant’s Suggestions in Support of Motion (“Def. Suggs.”) p. 1), the fact is that Defendant is continuing to display the offending campaign advertisement on its website, and
has defiantly announced that it will continue to air the advertisement on television.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Murder victims' families protest slow police movement in West Mesa murders

Frustrated families of victims of the West Mesa murders protested outside the Albuquerque Police Department Saturday, pushing for more action in finding the killer. The search of Joplin businessman Ron Erwin's properties last month is mentioned prominently in the accompanying video:

Billy Long to be on KZRG Morning Newswatch

Republican Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long will be on KZRG, 102.9 FM and 1310 AM during the Morning Newswatch time, at 7:06 a.m.. Monday.

Barbara McNeely killer: I'm so very, very sorry for what I did

If you have watched television legal shows, you will hear the constant refrain that the insanity defense almost never works.

.While it's comforting to know that killers are rarely able to abuse the system, the fact remains that there are some instances in which that much-maligned defense works.

One of those, to the regret of those of us who knew and loved Barbara McNeely, occurred in the trial of the man who brutally murdered her in September 1977. Barbara, a good friend of mine through my days at East Newton High School and Missouri Southern State College, was one of the first people to encourage my writing and, for a time, did my typing for me, as I made early efforts to sell my work.

She was only 20 when William McMurray stabbed her to death in the Northpark Mall parking lot. A jury found McMurray not guilty, he was sent to a mental institution, and seven years later, without any notice to the McNeely family, the Missouri Department of Mental Health saw fit to release him.

A few weeks ago, I heard from a reporter in McMurray's hometown of Crawfordsville, Ind., who told me McMurray had contacted him about a book he had written. The reporter wrote me to ask for some background on the murder. After I supplied the information, I wrote about the impending publication of the McMurray book in a post entitled, "Desecrating the Memory of Barbara McNeely."

The post included this passage:

Apparently, 33 years after the murder, William McMurray is ready to cash in on his notoriety, offering another of the endless stream of books authored by those who have done terrible things, gone through a redemption process, and have emerged to lead successful lives.

In this book, the reporter told me, McMurray plans to write about the horrible abuse he suffered as a child, what it led him to do, and how he “turned his life around.”

For this man, who deprived the world forever of the sunshine that was Barbara McNeely, to make money off the tragedy, is a desecration to her memory.

So many times I have been amazed at those who manage to gloss over the most horrific acts with homilies about the healing power of forgiveness.Well forgive me, but I am not buying it. Don’t tell me about the redemptive powers and inspiration that McMurray’s books may offer to those who have been abused as children.

Word of this post reached William McMurray, and Monday, September 13, a few days after the anniversary of his act that deprived this community of one of its shining lights, McMurray sent the following message:

There is no amount of abuse, nor insanity, that could ever justify the taking of an innocent life. I have struggled for years with the knowledge of my actions and know there is nothing I could ever say or do to turn back the clocks. Over the years I have reached out to others seeking to in someway express just how very sorry I am to the McNealy (sic) family and the Joplin Community, only to be strongly discouraged. So, I could only hope, by giving to others I may in a small way find some level of atonement for all I took. I know there will be those who, despite what I've done since, will forever define my life because of their loss. I know there will always be those who do not care to know of the childhood issues that brought a break with reality, nor choose to know the person I was privileged to become. Who I am today came only because others counseled and aided me in overcoming those past issues. I can only hope some of you may one day be able to forgive me.

Yes, I was released from the hospital in 1985. But few of you know very little of what I've done since. As an EMT and founder of an emergency medical program that grew to fifty-five medically trained and equipped members in one year, my program helped decrease automobile accident deaths by more than 50% in one Missouri county. Something recognized by the MO Hwy. Patrol in 1987. Despite the recognitions and awards received that year, including a Presidential Commendation from Ronald Reagan, a short two years later I finally realized that no matter how many lives were saved, it would never bring back the one that was taken. So I resigned and continued writing my books that taught projects and programs in need how to organize successful fund-raising events. Books that also raised funds for others with the profits made.

As a fundraiser, the fifty-seven I've assisted and organized have raised nearly a million dollars for children's causes, animal shelters, as well as school and community projects, including the MO Chapter, National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. In all but two of these 57 separate events I've donated my time. I went back to school to become a better provider for the family I feel blessed to have and eventually took over a business until I became severely ill in August 2005.

Now retired, I know there are still more things I can do for others. Even as my physical abilities are quickly diminishing.

As I read these words, this self-serving recitation of good deeds and atonement that McMurray says has marked the last quarter of a century, as well as his efforts to make us feel bad for the hard times he has had, I was filled with a quiet fury. I debated the wisdom of sharing McMurray's words, but in the end there was no question, people need to know that the death of Barbara McNeely is being used, whether coldly and cynically for cold cash, or through some effort to assuage his own conscience for an unforgivable act.

I will not mention where McMurray is living now, not out of any consideration for his well-being, but his family deserves consideration, and this is far more consideration than those who backed McMurray at his trial and in the years following have ever shown to Barbara's family.

My thoughts always drift to Barbara at this time of the year. I wonder what she would be doing today if she had not been in that parking lot more than three decades ago. I imagine the pride she would have felt at seeing her brother Brad enlisting and serving his country with honor, the joy of watching her baby sister Becky, who was born just a short time before Barbara's death, growing into womanhood.

I think of all the things that Barbara could have accomplished and the family that could have been hers. 

All of that, wiped out in the span of a few horrifying seconds by a senseless, violent act committed by William McMurray. So spare me your listing of good deeds and the praise you have received from President Reagan and others.

I will leave it to others, others who are far more charitable than I, to extend words of forgiveness.

Time does not heal all wounds, and it will be a cold day in hell before those words ever escape my lips.

Carnahan campaign in southwest Missouri shows difference in Democratic approach

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan brought her Senatorial campaign to Neosho Saturday and if that does not represent the continuing change in the Democratic Party's approach to southwest Missouri, I don't know what does.

Prior to Claire McCaskill's successful U. S. Senate run, the business-as-usual approach for the Democrats was to concentrate all of their efforts into getting out the vote in Kansas City and St. Louis, and writing off this corner of the state.

McCaskill proved there are votes to mine in the Seventh District. While there is no way Robin Carnahan will win a majority in this neck of the woods, she doesn't have to. All she has to do is energize the Democrats in southwest Missouri (and there are some) enough that they can cut Blunt's margin by five or six points and she can win a narrow victory.

That being said, Carnahan's primary goal has to be to define her campaign as something other than anti-Roy Blunt and to make it clear that she is her own candidate and not as Blunt defines her, "Rubber Stamp Robin."

Judging from the Neosho Daily article on the Carnahan visit, she is beginning to articulate her vision, and if she can eliminate the "rubber stamp" label that Blunt started hitting her with much too early and is beginning ot lose its effectiveness, she could give Missouri a second Democratic senator.