Thursday, March 31, 2011

House approves fiscal year 2012 budget

Engler: Tax credit discussion is a necessity

In his weekly report, Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, says it is time to take a much needed look at tax credits:

Things are continuing to move slowly in the Senate. While we continue to debate issues, it’s rare that we actually pass a bill. Last session at this time of the year, the House and Senate had already passed three bills and delivered them to the governor’s desk. This year, we have not sent anything to the Governor. At the same time last year 17 percent of the bills filed in the Senate had been approved and sent to the House; this year, only 9 percent of Senate bills have been sent to the House. The pattern continues this week — after discussing several major issues, including abortion and tax credit reform, we have little to show for it.

We began the discussion on tax credits this week. The fact of the matter is that our state is facing a budget shortfall, and while we are forced to make cuts to state programs and services, we continue to award tax credits through 61 different tax credit programs. Every dollar that is used for a tax credit is a dollar that cannot be used for our local schools, prisons, or mental health facilities.

Senate Bill 280 would make changes to several tax credit programs in the state to repeal, reform, and improve certain programs. Many of the changes in the bill were suggested by the governor’s Tax Credit Review Commission, which was formed last summer to review the state’s tax credit programs. This process of reviewing and examining these programs is necessary to keep our state on solid fiscal ground. While some of these programs are economically valuable, others have a low return on investment for our state.

We did send several measures I sponsored to the House this week. These include:

·Senate Bill 226, which would make several changes to the laws affecting ambulance districts, including provisions to allow ambulance board members to be recalled, similar to the process available for recalling members of school, hospital, and other local boards. The bill would also allow new ambulance districts the option of asking voters to approve a sales tax or property tax when the district is established. Currently newly-founded ambulance districts have to begin with a property tax and must then get additional voter approval to convert to a sales tax.

·Senate Bill 96, which would convey certain state property to St. Francois County and to Habitat for Humanity of St. Francois County, Inc.

·Senate Bill 97, which would convey certain state property located at the South East Missouri Mental Health Center to the city of Farmington.

·Senate Bill 282, which would move the state’s presidential primary to seven days after the presidential primary is conducted in the state of New Hampshire. The legislation is in response to requests by the national Democrat and Republican parties that several states move the date of their primary.

McCaskill's mom sends out fundraising pitch

In a fundraising pitch sent out on the final day of the first quarter, Betty Anne McCaskill, mother of Sen. Claire McCaskill, says it is time to show her support even after the plane scandal:

For a lot of people in politics, “guided by my values” is lip service.

Not Claire. She never takes the easy way out when something she believes in is on the line. And as her mother, I couldn’t be prouder.

I’m not going to mince words -- Claire’s had a challenging couple of weeks, made more challenging by her commitment to transparency. But it seems to me that when most politicians make a mistake, their first instinct is to cover it up or try to blame someone else. Claire’s was to come forward and own her mistake.

One of my favorite Missouri values is loyalty -- and right now, Claire needs yours.

We have to raise $4,670 before midnight to reach our end-of-quarter fundraising goal. Make a contribution of $5 to show you stand with Claire.

My girl can handle getting pushed around a little -- especially by the Republicans. She’s tough. That’s the way I raised her.

If you want someone who walks the walk on transparency and accountability -- someone who takes responsibility and immediately corrects her own mistakes -- well Claire’s your girl, too.

Claire fights for us -- now it is our turn to fight for her.

We have just over eight hours until the midnight fundraising deadline, and $4,670 to go to reach our goal. Make a contribution of $5 now to help us get there.

This fundraising deadline -- coming on the heels of all that plane hubbub -- is especially important. It signals to all those folks trying to tear down Claire that they haven’t made a dent where it counts -- in her grassroots support.

So, put your money where your values are -- make a contribution of $5 to help Claire end this quarter strong.

Thank you for standing with us, through thick and thin.

All the best,

Betty Anne McCaskill

P.S. We have until midnight tonight to hit our $50,000 goal -- and the clock is ticking. Make a contribution of $5 now and help us get there.

Hartzler: Bill will relieve farmers of burdensome regulations

Rep. Vicky Hartzler says the Reducting Regulatory Burdens Act will make life easier for farmers. From her news release:

Needless government intrusion into the lives of farmers, foresters, and everyday citizens would be reduced under a bill, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4), that has passed the U.S. House. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, a bill that eliminates a permitting requirement regulating the distribution, sale, and use of pesticides, was easily approved in a bipartisan vote.

“The requirement is costly and redundant as it creates an extra layer of government bureaucracy,” Hartzler said. “Farmers already obtain an applicator’s license to apply pesticides. This added permit requirement is an unwelcome intrusion by the federal government.”

“This federal government regulation not only results in additional costs for individuals and private businesses, it forces state government agencies to spend time and money on a nuisance requirement. In Missouri, the Department of Natural Resources is charged with implementation and regulation. DNR and other state agencies across the country are simply not equipped with the resources to comply. Financially-strapped states, like Missouri, should not be burdened with this tremendous waste of valuable time and resources.”

Unless the current rule is changed, farmers will have to obtain a Clean Water Act permit – on every field - before spraying pesticides over or near water, beginning this fall. Having passed the House, the legislation now moves to the Senate.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leggett & Platt pours millions into top officials' compensation to keep them from bolting to another company

It's no longer a Fortune 500 company, but Carthage-based Leggett & Platt is apparently so successful that everyone is wanting to hire its two top officials, CEO David Haffner and COO Karl Glassman.

The following was included in a proxy statement filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):

On the Committee’s recommendation, the Board entered into employment agreements with Mr. Haffner, Mr. Glassman and Mr. Flanigan in May 2009. These employment agreements expire on the date of our annual shareholder meeting in 2013. The material terms and conditions of these employment agreements are described on page 46.

The Committee determined that these agreements were in the best interests of the Company and our shareholders for the following reasons:

• The Committee was aware that Mr. Haffner and Mr. Glassman were being pursued by other companies, at much higher compensation levels.

• Effective chief financial officers are in high demand and are heavily recruited, and the Committee valued Mr. Flanigan’s retention.

• These three executive officers have long tenures with the Company and extensive knowledge of our complex industries. They work extremely well together and their potential loss would pose a hardship for the Company.

• These key leaders have been instrumental in developing and executing the strategic plan announced in 2007; accordingly, the Committee chose a four-year term for the agreements to ensure their continued commitment to the Company’s strategic objectives.

The Company also has severance benefit agreements with Mr. Haffner and Mr. Glassman, but does not offer severance benefits to any other NEOs. These agreements have been in place for several years and have no stated expiration date. They are designed to protect both the executive officers’ and the Company’s interests in the event of a change in control of the Company.

Haffner's pay package for 2010 stood at $5,454,350, according to the proxy report. Glassman was paid $3,067,386.

And since Haffner and Glassman are in such demand, their best payouts will come if they leave the company.

If Haffner decides to lay off Leggett employees, they undoubtedly receive some sort of severance pay, but it is unlikely they will pull down the $8.7 million Haffner receives his company decides to let him go without cause. If the company changes hands and the new owners decide Haffner is not going to be a part of the new management, he receies more than $30 million, the proxy statement says.

Glassman, not being as key an official as Haffner, would receive only $16 million if the company sells and he is shown the door.

Don't hold this kind of excess against Leggett's Board of Directors, though. Apparently, it's almost impossible to get a good CEO if you're only going to pay him $10 million if he's fired.

Akin: Trust Amendment will control federal spending

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo, has introduced an amendment that he says will get government spending under control. From the news release:

Congressman Todd Akin (MO-2) today introduced the TRUST Amendment, H.J. Res. 51.

Akin stated:

“In 2010, every penny of federal tax revenue was spent on entitlement programs and paying minimum interest on our national debt. Then, after entitlement programs were satisfied, we went on to borrow enough money to fund our national defense and general government operations.”

“For the last forty years, our tax revenues have averaged 18% of our GDP, while our spending has averaged 20.4% of GDP. This year, our spending rose over 24% of GDP and, driven by mandatory spending, it is expected to keep rising, reaching 26.4% of GDP in 2021.”

“Not only is our current level of spending unsustainable, it jeopardizes our national security as we become increasingly indebted to foreign countries.”

That’s why I am introducing the TRUST (Taking Responsibility for the US Today) Amendment. This simple constitutional amendment would constrain federal spending to eighteen percent of GDP – unless two-thirds of Members of Congress vote to override this limitation. It would go into effect five years after ratification.”

“Decades of uncontrolled spending have proven that Congress lacks the willpower to restructure entitlements in a way that brings spending under control. Yet the consequences of continuing on our current trajectory are almost too severe to contemplate. My amendment will force Congress to make the tough choices that will preserve prosperity and opportunity for future generations.”

Nixon fundraising letter: We're doing things differently and it's working

In a fundraising letter leading into the final day of the first quarter, Gov. Jay Nixon points to his administration's success:

When you look around the country at other states these days, here’s what you’ll see: huge budget deficits, massive cuts to education, tax increases on families, and workers who are being vilified by their elected leaders instead of trained for the jobs of the future. No wonder Americans are rallying at state capitals across the country.

Here in Missouri, I’m proud to report we’re doing things differently – and its working.

But to keep making progress during these challenging times, I need your help to gear up for the months ahead. A contribution of $10, $25 or $50 will help us build a strong re-election effort.

I’m proud that each year I’ve been in office, we’ve balanced our state budget – without raising taxes and without reducing funding for our K-12 classrooms. We’ve done it by making tough choices and by taking bold steps to make government smarter and more efficient, which has saved the taxpayers millions.

This has allowed us to make job-creation our top priority – helping thousands of families get back on their feet. After two straight years of job losses due to the national recession, we’re turning the corner – and had a net gain in jobs in 2010.

While times remain tough, I know the people of Missouri are tougher – and we must continue moving forward and making progress. That’s why I need your help to make sure we’re in a strong position to get re-elected.

Tomorrow, March 31st, is the first fundraising deadline of the year – and the reporters and pundits will all look at those finance reports to see how strong the campaigns are at this early stage. Help us show strength by making a contribution today.

Together, we’re providing the tough leadership to get through these challenging times. But we can’t stop now.


Jay Nixon
Missouri Governor

Hartzler to Reid and Do Nothing Senate: Pass a bill

Not that we expect what freshman House GOP members say to have any impact on the Senate, but nevertheless they're in a critical mood. From Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's news release:

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) is expressing her frustration with Senate Leadership over its failure to pass a long-term bill to keep the federal government funded through the end of 2011. She has joined more than two dozen House Republican freshmen who signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking that he show leadership on this critical issue.

“The House has done what the American people sent us to Washington to do,” Hartzler said. “We have passed legislation that cuts out-of-control government spending. But the Senate has been AWOL, refusing to seriously consider a spending package that funds the government for the remainder of this year. It is time for Senator Reid to stop playing political games and to pass a long-term bill.”

“It was a lack of leadership that got us into the current budget situation,” added Hartzler. “The previous Congress failed to pass a budget for 2011, forcing new Members to deal with the mess left behind. We have come up with proposals that cut spending and create jobs, but the Senate will not do its job. Mr. Reid, pass a bill!”

The new Congress has passed two continuing resolutions to keep the government running. The current short-term spending package keeps the government funded through April 8th.

McCaskill questions whether budget cuts will affect border security

Blunt: More American energy will mean more American jobs

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

KOAM continues ratings domination during February sweeps

The February Nielsens have been announced and KOAM not only retained its number one rating with all newscasts, but it even increased its advantage.

KOAM not only clobbered KODE and KSNF in viewers, but beat both stations combined for every newscast as can be seen in the table below.

Whether it is because of new KODE anchor Tiffany Alaniz or terrible NBC lead-ins, KODE defeated its sister station KSNF in every hour in which both station had newscasts except for 6 p.m.

The veteran morning news team of Alan Matthews and Shannon Bruffett on KODE had three times the viewership of KSNF. On the other hand, KOAM's Tawnya Bach and Dave Pylant beat Matthews and Bruffett 17,000 to 6,000 viewers.

A continued success story is KFJX's hour-long 9 p.m. news, which raked in 13,000 viewers, less than any of sister station KOAM's newscasts, but more than any on KODE or KSNF except KSNF's 6 p.m. news, which had 17,000 viewers.

That 6 p.m. newscast was the best news for KSNF. The 17,000 viewers was 8,000 more than the Jim Jackson-Toni Valliere newscast received in the November Nielsens.

A bad sign for KSNF's hour-long news is that it loses 10,000 viewers, from 17,000 to 7,000 in the 6:30 to 7 time slot, where it not only lags behind the 45,000 viewers who watch KOAM's Wheel of Fortune, but the 14,000 who watch Two and a Half Men on KFJX, and the 12,000 who watch Entertainment Tonight on KODE.

But KOAM's continued solid, rock-steady team of Dowe Quick, the station's anchor for the past three decades, and Rhonda Justice, continues to set the bar high on the 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. newscasts.

February 2011 Nielsen ratings KFJX KOAM KODE KSNF
Time Program
6:00am - 7:00am Local News n/a 17,000 6,000 2,000

12:00pm - 12:30pm Local News n/a 17,000 n/a 7,000

5:00pm - 5:30pm Local News n/a 26,000 12,000 7,000

6:00pm - 6:30pm Local News n/a 37,000 12,000 17,000

9:00pm - 9:30pm Local News 13,000 n/a n/a n/a

10:00pm - 10:30pm Local News n/a 36,000 12,000 11,000

Hartzler: Drill, baby, drill

She didn't use the phrase in her news release, but Fourth District Congresswoman is ready to start drilling for oil:

As citizens of the 4th Congressional District cope with gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) is calling for an all-encompassing oil exploration policy that includes opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and reversing the de facto moratorium on new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hartzler is co-sponsor of a bill that would allow the United States to develop its energy resources in ANWR and use a portion of the federal royalties to fund renewable and alternative energy projects that are currently unfunded or are being funded with borrowed money. She also co-sponsors additional legislation to put the Gulf back to work by ending the de facto moratorium on drilling for oil in the Gulf.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in Alaska’s ANWR,” said Hartzler. “That’s almost half of the total U.S. proven reserve of 21 billion barrels – That amount would provide one million barrels a day for 30 years. Opening ANWR to oil exploration would also create American jobs. According to expert analyses, ANWR energy production would create between 250,000 and 750,000 quality jobs in America. A study from the National Defense Council Foundation says the figure could be as high as one million new jobs.”

“Jobs would also be created if we end the de facto drilling moratorium in the Gulf,” added Hartzler. “While the moratorium that was imposed in May of last year was officially lifted in October, the Obama Administration continues to slow-walk the permitting process – imposing a de facto moratorium. According to the Obama Administration’s own estimates, the six month official moratorium on drilling cost up to 12,000 jobs.”

The ANWR legislation would be environmentally sound with energy exploration limited to just 2,000 acres of ANWR. In addition, the Interior Department would be required to ensure that exploration would result in no significant adverse effect on fish and wildlife, their habitat, or the environment.

GateHouse Media awards $1 million plus in bonuses: They're the right guys to right size

Add GateHouse Media's top officials to those who live in the lap of luxury on the backs of their employees.

At one time, it was called firing workers, then to the more genteel it became downsizing, but even that was too good for GateHouse CEO Michael Reed. In a company report filed November 2, Reed (pictured at left) used a new term that certainly makes the act seem much more civilized:

Over the past several years, and in furtherance of the Company’s cost reduction and cash preservation plans outlined in Note 1, the Company has engaged in a series of individual restructuring programs, designed primarily to right size the Company’s employee base, consolidate facilities and improve operations. These initiatives impact all of the Company’s geographic regions and are often impacted by the terms of union contracts within the region. All costs related to these programs, which primarily reflect severance expense, are accrued at the time of announcement.

Apparently, that right sizing was just the right size for GateHouse's Board of Directors.

Michael Reed, whose management of GateHouse Media continues to leave the company billions in debt, received a $750,000 bonus, including information that was buried at the bottom of the company's annual report, filed March 2 with the SEC.

President and Chief Operating Officer Kirk Davis pulled down a cool $275,000, while Melinda Janik, senior vice president and CFO received $160,000, senior vice president, secretary, and general counsel Polly Sack, $140,000, and Mark Maring, treasurer, $80,000. The top five Gatehouse officials were awarded $1,415,000.

Last year, Reed received a $500,000 base salary and a $500,000 bonus giving him a cool million. This year, he will receive at least $1,250,000.

Unlike the reporters, advertising salespeople, and others who have fallen victim to his "rightsizing," Reed has absolutely no worry about losing his job. If the company sells and the new owners send him packing, Reed is guaranteed three quarters of a million, including $500,000 in severance pay, a $200,000 bonus and continued health insurance payments.

COO Kirk Davis isn't far behind Reed. SEC records indicate Davis will receive $726,000 if new owners rightsize him, including a $461,000 severance payment and a quarter of a million dollar bonus.

GateHouse Media must be doing extremely well since this year's bonuses are over a quarter of a million more than the company awarded in 2010. At that time, Reed received a half-million dollar bonus, more than twice the $200,000 bonus stipulated in his contract. Ironically, that bonus was awarded the same time the GateHouse CEO trumpeted the news that his company was initiating more cost-cutting moves:

“We are in the process of implementing additional cost saving initiatives in order to better align our overall cost structure with current revenue trends.”

Not surprisingly, Reed did not mention the half million dollar bonus as he was talking about downsizing, whoops, rightsizing valued employees and shortchanging the customers at the more than 300 newspapers owned by GateHouse, including The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and Pittsburg Morning Sun.

How can we expect the media to give us the lowdown on what is going on in today's economy, when the head honchoes of the media company are riding the gravy train while steering their products down the path of destruction?

(Note: The first source, and sadly, the only source until now to report on this, was Billy Dennis in Peoria, another town that has been slighted by GateHouse Media. Check out his story at this link.)

Talboy bill aimed at ending economic border wars

Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, has filed a bill aimed at ending the back and forth poaching across borders of jobs. From the news release:

Seeking to foster regional economic cooperation, House Minority Leader Mike Talboy today filed legislation that would prohibit Missouri from offering tax credits to companies that seek to relocate jobs to the state from within 30 miles of the Missouri border provided that the neighboring state that would lose the jobs has a similar law preventing it from poaching Missouri jobs.

“When Missouri uses taxpayer money to lure jobs from Kansas or Illinois, the benefit is merely short-term as those states will retaliate by subsidizing the poaching of Missouri jobs,” said Talboy, D-Kansas City. “Missouri and its neighboring states must enter into an armistice in this economic border war so that we all can grow our economies and create jobs without harming each other to do so.”

Rather than engaging in costly and never-ending economic combat with its eight neighboring states, Talboy said the millions of taxpayer dollars Missouri spends every year on economic development would be better spent on encouraging companies to create in state that are truly new and not merely relocated from a few miles away.

“Some companies, particularly in the Kansas City and St. Louis metropolitan areas, know that the mere threat of hopping the state line can help them extract taxpayer funds from their home state without creating a single new job in the region,” Talboy said. “A no-poaching agreement between Missouri and its neighbors would take such threats off the table and save taxpayers millions of dollars.”

All Kansas City-area state representatives from both parties are co-sponsoring Talboy’s legislation, House Bill 901, as are House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, and House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

Another Natural Disaster video

Monday, March 28, 2011

A six-pack from Natural Disaster

Hartzler: We have debt crisis because Washington spends too much, not because it taxes too little

Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler addressed the debt situation during a Budget Town Hall in Jefferson City. From the news release:

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) continues to voice concerns from citizens of the 4th Congressional District that Washington's reckless spending is hurting our economy, destroying jobs, and saddling our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt. She hosted a "Budget Town Hall" in Jefferson City, where she briefed citizens on her efforts to rein in runaway spending.

"We have a debt crisis because Washington spends too much, not because Washington taxes too little," Hartzler said. "The federal government is borrowing more than 42 cents of every dollar it spends. It is unsustainable. We’ve got to reverse course now!”

"The debt crisis threatens our national security and sovereignty," continued Hartzler. "Those concerns were voiced by General Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he said, 'I think the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt.'"

"An increasing amount of our debt is owned by foreign interests, with more than 29 percent of that debt owned by China," concluded Hartzler. "With the interest we pay to China, that country can afford to buy three new Joint Strike Fighters every week - with $50 million per week left over. That’s a fact that should motivate all of us to get our fiscal house in order.”

According to U.S. Treasury Department statistics the percentage of foreign holdings has risen from 5 percent in 1970 to 19 percent in 1990 to 47 percent in 2010. 29.2 percent of that debt is held by China.

Video provided for President Obama's speech on Libya

Text provided for President Obama's Libya speech

Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya – what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.

I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved. Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda around the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I am grateful to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and their families, as are all Americans.

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt – two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant – Moammar Gaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world – including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Gaddafi’s grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, “For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.”

Faced with this opposition, Gaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our Embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. We then took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Gaddafi’s aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of the Gaddafi regime’s assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Gaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Gaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.

Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League, appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution that authorized a No Fly Zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.

Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Gaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.

At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gaddafi declared that he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we had seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now, we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi – a city nearly the size of Charlotte – could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973. We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Gaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit his air defenses, which paved the way for a No Fly Zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gaddafi’s deadly advance.

In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies – nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey – all of whom have fought by our side for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibility to defend the Libyan people.

To summarize, then: in just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a No Fly Zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.

Moreover, we have accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation, and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.

Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the No Fly Zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi’s remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role – including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation – to our military, and to American taxpayers – will be reduced significantly.

So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: the United States of America has done what we said we would do.

That is not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Gaddafi regime so that it is available to rebuild Libya. After all, this money does not belong to Gaddafi or to us – it belongs to the Libyan people, and we will make sure they receive it.

Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than thirty nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve. Because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.

Despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Gaddafi does leave power, forty years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and – more importantly – a task for the Libyan people themselves.

In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home.

It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful – yet fragile – transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.

Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Gaddafi and usher in a new government.

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do – and will do – is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners as they’re in the lead to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Gaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Gadaffi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I have made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies, and our core interests. That is why we are going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

That’s the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States – in a region that has such a difficult history with our country – this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, “We are your friends. We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies.”

This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer. Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently in different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns addressed.

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one’s own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.

Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith – those ideals – that are the true measure of American leadership.

My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas – when the news is filled with conflict and change – it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I have said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength at home. That must always be our North Star – the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring of our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer and brighter if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity. Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward; and let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Olmstead returns to Joplin market

Mike Olmstead, former KSNF sports anchor, is back in the Joplin market, joining Jordan Aubey anchoring the 9 p.m. newscast at Fox 14.

I don't know if the plan is for the two to share the duties, but considering the job Aubey has done since Michael Corcoran left for KOLR-KSFX,Fox 14 is in the enviable position of having a pair of anchors who match up well with KOAM and KSNF, and is ahead of KODE.

(Apparently not, since Aubey just said that he is returning to his reporting duties.)

The arrival of Olmstead should help continue the momentum KJFX has been building in the 9 p.m. position for the past couple of years, a time in which it has equaled and occasionally passed the number of viewers who watch KSNF and KODE an hour later.

Olmstead has been working as a sports anchor in Louisville. He began his broadcasting career in the Joplin market 15 years ago and since then has been in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Tulsa, and Louisville.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

McCaskill: This was a big, sloppy, stupid mistake

This video from Kansas City's NBC Action News questions if Sen. Claire McCaskill can salvage her career and win re-election after the plane fiasco.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Graves: SBA cuts must be made, but not to programs that create jobs

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo. opens a committee hearing by noting that the Small Business Administration, like nearly every other federal government agency must make cuts, but Graves said programs that are creating jobs must not be among those cuts.

Tilley: We have done quite well with Fix the Six: Talboy: We have not added any jobs

hasmuch of a surprise here. The Republicans think the legislative sesskon with its emphasis on Fix the Six items wanted by business groups, has been a success, but Democrats, noting the lack of new jobs, disagree:

KC Star: McCaskill damaged her reputation

The Kansas City Star, in an editorial, said today that Sen. Claire McCaskill has damaged her reputation with the ongoing plane scandal:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a driving force for rooting out waste and fraud to protect American taxpayers, just tripped on Politics 101: Make darn sure you pay your own taxes correctly. She apologized this week for failing to pay several years of personal property taxes owed on a private plane


Gannett CEO: How I doubled my pay and I only had to fire 2400 employees

It received just a small mention in a proxy statement filed by Gannett with the SEC Thursday.

Because of the continuing tough economy, all company employees will have to take a one-week unpaid furlough during the first quarter of 2011. Most of them have already done so.

But in the spirit of shared sacrifice, it isn't just the people selling ads or covering news at our area Gannett newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, who are shouldering the burden. CEO Craig Dubow will also take a week off, giving up his salary. Whether he can file for unemployment during that week I don't know. He probably could if he were living in Missouri. After all, he will be giving up far more money than his Springfield News-Leader employees since he pulls down $1 million in base pay.

Times have been tough at Gannett over the past year, just as they have been at every newspaper organization in the United States. Employees have taken multiple furloughs and some, an estimated 2,400, have even lost their jobs, many of them in their 40s and 50s, a time when new jobs are not easy, almost impossible, to find.

In the Associated Press article on Gannett's SEC filing, the reporter diligently noted that Dubow had voluntarily reduced his base salary (it had been $1.2 million) and the proxy statement dutifully noted that everyone was taking the furlough.

But when all compensation is taken into consideration, the proxy statement shows a completely differenct picture of this shared sacrifice.

While Gannett employees take unpaid time off and wait for the day when the bell tolls for them, Dubow received a pay package totaling $9,405,049, an increase of nearly five million from 2009. Chief operating officer Gracia Martore's compensation was $8,175,946, up more than four million. Three other top officials, including the publisher of USA Today, also received massive increases in their total compensation.

Even CFO Paul Saleh, who only took over that job in November, had a total pay package of more than $2 million.

And thanks to their ironclad contracts, Dubow and his fellow top Gannett officials will never have to worry about that day when someone taps on their shoulders and tells them to clean out their offices. They are covered for every situation that could possibly occur.

The proxy statement shows upon his retirement or if he quits, Dubow will take away $22.9 million and Ms. Martore, a much more reasonable $13.3 million.

If Dubow dies while devising ways to make much lower paid employees take unpaid time off, his family will receive nearly $34.6 million. For Ms. Martore, that figure is $20.9 million.

Disability would work out even better- $37 million for Dubow and $23.5 million for Ms. Martore.

The best situation for the top Gannett officials would occur if there is a change in company ownership. In that case, Dubow would receive a package worth $45.1 million and Ms. Martore would rake in $34 million. If the new owners decided to clear the decks and remove Gannett's top six officials, those six would walk away with approximately $115 million, according to the proxy statement.

Considering the amount of stories the newspaper has run on CEO pay packages and employee layoffs, it is remarkable that one place that doesn't consider the pay packages of Gannett offficials to be news is USA Today.

The newspaper does not have one mention of the proxy statement in its weekend edition.

Maybe its editors are on furlough.

Hartzler- There are far better ways to reform health care than Obama's plan

In her weekly update, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler observes the first anniversary of the passage of the federal health care plan by offering alternatives:

What a week my team and I had as we traveled to many parts of the 4th Congressional District during our March In-District Work Week. Topping our list of activities was a series of Military Listening Posts we held in four locations: Jefferson City, St. Robert, Warrensburg, and Clinton. The response was tremendous as active duty personnel, veterans, and military families showed up to voice their concerns about numerous issues.

The concern expressed most by the veterans involved the care they receive at VA hospitals. We heard complaints about back logs for disability claims and other services. Several of the veterans on hand for the meetings spoke of the appeals process for rejected claims taking too long. Members of my staff were in attendance at each of the four meetings and gathered information from those with problems needing to be addressed. In the short term, my case workers have already begun making calls on behalf of veterans who had particular complaints. Long term, I am going to be asking a lot of questions to get to the bottom of why these problems exist and I’ll be working with other members of the House Armed Services Committee to eliminate these problems. Our men and women in uniform have given us so much. They were there for us. Now we need to be there for them.

We enjoyed a great day in Lebanon, this week, as well. I had the opportunity to tour two outstanding businesses - one a large manufacturing plant and the other a start-up company doing cutting edge research that could impact our national defense. It is great to see businesses in our district providing needed jobs and quality products. I want to continue to do all I can in Washington to promote job growth so businesses like these will be able to continue to thrive.

The day included the formal opening of the 4th District Congressional office in Lebanon. It's located at 219 North Adams. I enjoyed visiting with the people who came by to welcome us to Lebanon. This is truly one of the best things about my job – the opportunity to meet the people I represent and work for in Congress. I hope you will stop by if you are in the area. We also have office locations at 1900 North Commercial Street in Harrisonville, 2409 Hyde Park in Jefferson City, and in the Pettis County Courthouse in Sedalia. Your staff is here to assist you, so please don't hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance to you or if you have an idea you'd like to share with me on how to improve our government.

The nation marked the first anniversary, this week, of implementation of the new national health care plan. It was a 2,801 page bill that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. I oppose this law and join my U.S. House colleagues in saying there is a better way to get skyrocketing health care costs under control. Last year's bill places burdens on small businesses – burdens that are costly and are destroying jobs. Uncertainty prevents these companies from moving forward with business plans and that includes plans to hire personnel. Many of these businesses can't afford the government-mandated health care for their employees and are cutting back the number of full time workers to avoid having to provide expensive health care coverage.

There is a better prescription for reform to make health care more affordable and accessible. It includes increasing competition and working on solutions to help those with preexisting conditions. Medical liability reform is also essential to cut costs associated with doctors and other health professionals practicing what is known as defensive medicine to ward off lawsuits. We must also allow patients to shop for health insurance plans across state lines to have access to more choices at lower costs. Portability saves money for American families. It is understood that it is much less expensive to prevent health problems than to treat them. Preventative care and wellness programs also make sense and should be part of the solution.

As the week comes to an end we see gasoline prices taking another huge jump. In some parts of the 4th District people are paying close to $4 a gallon. We know that part of the reason for the higher pump prices is the uncertainty in the Middle East. But there is more we can do here in the United States. We learned, this week, that President Obama wants to aid the Brazilian government in its off shore oil drilling ventures. I want to see more oil exploration and drilling in the United States and off the coast of the U.S. I hope all Missourians, both Republicans and Democrats, come together to encourage President Obama to join the push for America to take advantage of our resources. With more of our own energy resources we protect ourselves against being held hostage by Middle East dictators who do not have our best interests at heart.

We’re back to Washington next week with the budget being one of the top priorities. We’re already looking to the 2012 budget as we pass spending proposals for the remainder of 2011. We are going to continue to cut out wasteful government spending and stop spending money we don't have. I’ll keep you up to date on our debt-cutting efforts.

Steelman ad criticizes McCaskill over plane scandal

Republican U. S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman has posted a YouTube ad taking her potential 2012 opponent Claire McCaskill to task over the ongoing plane scandal:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stouffer: We have passed three of Fix the Six

The Legislature has completed the first half of the 2011 legislative session. Although we still have a long way to go between now and May 13, a lot has already been accomplished.

In his weekly newsletter, Sen. Bill Stouffer notes that his chamber has passed three of the so-called Fix the Six goals set by Missouri business interests. He doesn't explain why the businesses which will benefit from these bills have yet to start hiring more people:

In the Missouri Senate, we have managed to pass three of the mandates of “Fix the Six.” These include:
FRANCHISE TAXES (Senate Bill 19): Capping the state’s corporate franchise tax and phasing it out over a five-year period. The franchise tax was devised in 1917 as a way to help pay for the First World War. At the same time Missouri started to impose this, the federal income tax came into being — for exactly the same reason. The franchise tax is double taxation and has been unnecessary for almost as long as it has been law. Ending this tax will mean businesses can grow again, plus new businesses will want to move to Missouri.

WORKER’S COMPENSATION (Senate Bill 8): Making changes to Missouri’s workers’ compensation system. For nearly a decade, judges have been scooting around the comp laws and have started to allow bigger awards to folks who sue coworkers and employers. When lawmakers passed tort reform in 2005, we started to make a dent in this. But activist judges continue to skirt the law and make interpretations that do not match what is on the books. We need to change this before it gets so far out of hand that no company will want to do business in Missouri.

FEWER FRIVILOUS LAWSUITS (Senate Bill 188): Changing the Missouri Human Rights Act so that it again mirrors the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a similar situation to what has been happening with workers’ comp. Judges make decisions that add their own interpretation to the law and instruct juries to only look at parts of the law. These cases have been benefitting folks at the same time they have been scaring companies from coming to Missouri. Instead of having only case law, judges would have statutory law, which means there is a clear definition to follow once again.

We will start on the Fiscal Year 2012 Missouri budget after we return from mid-session recess. As in previous years, balancing the budget and getting it to the governor by May 6 will be a large task. Fortunately, smart fiscal policy has kept Missouri’s head above water.

Other issues ahead include considering laws regarding nuclear energy, dog breeding, education reforms and lawsuits against farms. The Legislature will continue to seek input from the public on ways to put Missouri back to work and to also reduce the size of our state’s government.

I have every confidence we will continue to make the tough decisions and hold on to necessary programs that benefit our state and its future.

MIchele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and those evil public school teachers

My latest Huffington Post column, a response to comments made by Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at a home schooling conference in Des Moines yesterday, can be found at this link.

Mr. Rogers says goodbye to neighborhood, thanks Neosho Daily News staff

The Neosho Daily News has posted the news, noted first in The Turner Report, that its publisher Rick Rogers is leaving to take a corporate position working for his former boss Randy Cope at American Consolidated Media in Dallas"

“This was an extremely tough decision for both myself and our family,” said Rick Rogers, a St. Louis native who has called the four-state area home since 1994. “My tenure here at the Neosho Daily News has been the most rewarding experience of my career. I have had the pleasure to work in several communities in the four-state area, and Neosho welcomed me with open arms from the day I began as publisher in April 2005. I can’t express enough how welcomed we have felt in this community, and because of that it made this decision to leave that much harder for us. Each community I have worked in throughout by 17 years in Southwest Missouri has been a special place to work and be a part of."


“The success of the newspaper during my time here is because of the hard working and dedicated employees we have at the Daily News,” Rogers said. “The day I informed them of my decision to step down as publisher was one of the toughest days of my life. My staff here at the Daily News is like family to me. We have been through many battles — ice storms, a church shooting, a devastating tornado, the horror of a young girl’s life taken too soon and a blizzard that crippled our city — and each time big news hit our town, the staff at the Daily News rose to the occasion. I am so proud of what this team has accomplished in the past six years, and I will be even more proud as I watch them do more great things in the years that come.

“Again, I want to thank the readers of the Neosho Daily News for welcoming me into their homes through this newspaper and our digital products. I want to thank the businesses who have been wonderful working partners to help Neosho grow. I want to thank all of the hard-working citizens who strive to make a difference in this community every day. And I want to thank my employees — those who are working beside me today, and those who have worked with me in the past — for giving their heart and soul to producing a quality product for our readers to enjoy.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rick Rogers leaving Neosho Daily News

Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers announced to his staff that he will be leaving the newspaper and GateHouse Media next month.

Rogers has reportedly taken a position with American Consolidated Media, a newspaper company run by former Daily News Publisher Randy Cope, who at one time was also a top official for GateHouse. American Consolidated's stable of newspapers includes area products in Miami, Columbus, Grove, and Baxter Springs.

Rogers will relocate to American Consolidated's Dallas headquarters.

Rogers, a St. Louis native, has been involved with newspapers owned by GateHouse and its predecessor, Liberty Group Publishing, since the mid-90s, when he worked for me as a sports stringer while attending Missouri Southern State University.

He returned to the newspaper as sports editor in August 1998 and became managing editor in charge of news and sports in 1999 when I was shown the door. Rogers later was named publisher at Neosho and for the past several  years has also served as publisher of The Carthage Press and GateHouse products in Aurora and Greenfield.

During his time at the Daily, the newspaper has become an awards magnet, primarily for its design and its ability to cover such breaking news stories as the shooting at the Micronesian church service, the 2009 tornadoes, and the murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella.

Missourinet: GOP worried primary might weaken fight to unseat McCaskill

Missourinet reports that Missouri Republican officials are concerned that a U. S. Senate primary next year might hurt the party in its efforts to unseat incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill:

State Republican Party Chairman David Cole acknowledges a primary challenge worries him.

“You’re always concerned that the potential that a primary could become divisive and destructive. It doesn’t have to be that way,” Cole tells the Missourinet.

State Republican Chairwoman Ann Wagner, who is considering a Senate run herself, says a primary could cripple the GOP’s chances to win the race.

“If it’s a bloody, expensive primary, it will be very tough. I think it will,” Wagner tells the Missourinet. “We’ve seen that in the past. Whether it was in the most recent gubernatorial race or one two decades ago, back in 1992, it’s very tough.”

So far, two candidates, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and former Matt Blunt chief of staff Ed Martin have entered the race.

Pre-trial conference set for Peggy Newton

A pre-trial conference for Joplin businesswoman Peggy Newton, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on 25 counts of fraud and forgery, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13, in Springfield.

Mrs. Newton allegedly bilked her business partner in Evergreen and Amber, Diane Pine, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Previous Turner Report posts on Peggy Newton can be found at this link.

Engler points to productive session on jobs, but where are they?

In his weekly report, Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, explains all of the job-creating bills he and his fellow senators have passed this year, but not when we are going to see any jobs:

This week marks the midway point of the 2011 legislative session. As in previous years, I am expecting a flurry of activity as we move towards the final days (the last day of the 2011 session is May 13). Much of our work during the second half will also be focused on crafting the state budget, which, as I have discussed in previous columns, will be no easy task this year.

Since this week is the annual spring recess, I thought it might be a good opportunity to catch you up on the progress of some of the key legislation moving through the process so far.

Focusing on Job Creation

This year, I was honored to be named the chairman of the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee. Much of my own legislation this year has been focused on job creation and making sure Missouri’s business environment is competitive with our neighbors. Some of these bills include:

Senate Bill 19, which is one of the first pieces of legislation to be approved by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration. The bill would cap and ultimately phase out Missouri’s outdated corporate franchise tax. With the passage of this legislation, our state would be more competitive with our neighbors and would end the double taxation we currently impose on businesses that already pay income, sales, and property taxes. The bill was sent to the House in mid-February and was approved by a House committee earlier this month.

 Senate Bill 146, which would provide an income tax deduction for business income, benefiting companies of all sizes throughout the state. After the legislation is fully phased in, the tax relief measure would give Missouri one of the lowest effective tax rates for businesses in the nation. The deduction would apply to all businesses reporting income on individual returns, including corporation income tax returns. This legislation was approved by the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee on February 16.

Senate Bill 189, which is an effort to encourage job creation at the site of the former Chrysler plant in Fenton. The bill would make changes to the existing Missouri Quality Jobs Act to make it easier for companies that might be interested in the site to utilize the program. This site could be valuable to a variety of industries and the incentives are designed to be flexible and apply to any company within the requirements. The incentives would not be available to the company until the investment is made and jobs are created. The bill was approved by the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee on March 9.

 Senate Bill 296, which would establish the Compete Missouri Job Training Program, which would combine three existing job training programs that provide financial assistance for job training for new jobs created by qualified companies. Financial assistance would also be available to business and technology centers established by Missouri community colleges, or state technical colleges, to provide business and training services for growth industries. The bill was heard in the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee on March 2.

· Senate Bill 390, the Aerotropolis Trade Incentive and Tax Credit Act, which would allow the state to take advantage of one of our most important assets — our location — being in the Center of the Center. The measure would help redirect much of the freight currently moving through Chicago to St. Louis by providing an incentive for freight forwarders. The bill also has provisions to put the infrastructure in place to make St. Louis an international trade hub for the long term. The legislation has the potential to change the trajectory of the economy not just for our region, but the entire state. The bill was heard in the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee on March 16 and was voted out of committee 9-0.

Supporting New Home Construction

I am sponsoring Senate Bill 108 this year, which would extend a provision originally approved by the Legislature to promote consumer choice and keep home building prices in this tough real estate market from increasing.

The 2009 International Residential Code would have mandated the installation of fire sprinklers in all newly constructed homes. That year, the General Assembly passed a measure requiring home builders to offer buyers an option for the installation of fire sprinklers, allowing the consumer the choice to install or decline to install fire sprinkler systems. Senate Bill 108 would extend the current law until Dec. 31, 2019. The legislation has already passed the Senate and was heard in the House General Laws Committee on March 8.

Senate Begins the Task of Redistricting

With the census completed and detailed population data released, Missouri is now in the process of redistricting. Even with a 7 percent increase in population, our state’s growth was not as much as others, and we will lose a congressional seat this year. Reshaping the map of our congressional districts to reflect the change from 9 seats to 8 is a task completed by the Legislature.

The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting recently held several public meetings throughout the state to get feedback from citizens on their views about the redistricting process. The committee will now start working on a map that will be presented to the Legislature for approval. We must approve the new congressional district map by the end of session. Drawing the new districts for the state House and Senate will be assigned to two bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor.
Funding Our Schools

Tough financial times have led to spending reductions across the board in our state, but we are determined to protect our schools from facing severe reductions in state dollars. One of the greatest investments we can make is in the future of our children. Classrooms are funded on a state level on a per pupil basis through the state’s Foundation Funding Formula. In 2005, the Legislature approved a new formula to fund schools that set up a phase-in schedule that was supposed to last for seven years. However, the creators of the formula did not foresee these tough fiscal times. Last year, we were able to make sure this K-12 classroom funding remained stable and did not see a decrease. This goal to fund our school districts at the same level as the previous year will continue this year.

One aspect of funding that complicates the process is how “hold-harmless” school districts are often treated in the Formula. We have several of these districts in the 15th Senatorial District, like Kirkwood, Parkway, Lindbergh, Valley Park, etc. I will fight any efforts to balance our budget on the backs of hold harmless school districts. We need to make sure our local school districts get their fair share of funding and are not treated inequitably.

GOP provides update on McCaskill travel scandal, tax bill up to $320,000

The Missouri Republican Party has been kind enough to provide a rundown of the latest developments in the travel scandal surrounding Sen. Claire McCaskill:

MOGOP files supplemental ethics complaint: The Missouri Republican Party today filed a supplemental ethics complaint with the United States Senate Ethics Committee. The new complaint, available here, requests that the committee use its subpoena power to “force Senator McCaskill to reveal the full extent of her actions.” To date, McCaskill has refused to come clean or release tax documents that would prove once-and-for-all if any of her companies made a profit from her taxpayer-funded use of her own plane. Regarding the complaint, Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party said, “Elected officials shouldn’t be let off the hook when they are caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Claire McCaskill thinks that she can write a big check and make the problem disappear—but we hope that the Senate Ethics Committee will hold her accountable for her actions and determine if punishment is merited in this case.”

McCaskill’s tax bill higher than expected: Claire McCaskill’s substantial bank account feels a little lighter this afternoon amid revelations that her actual tax liability is much higher than originally announced. The St Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Claire McCaskill owes St Louis County nearly $320,000 in unpaid taxes on her private plane—not the $287,000 that had previously been reported. This information was first broken by the MOGOP yesterday, well before McCaskill herself became aware of the final total—which itself is embarrassing for McCaskill, who has falsely claimed to be on top of this issue. As Politico’s Dave Catanese asked via twitter: “How did @missouriGOP know about @clairecmc's final plane tab before the senator?”

NRSC puts McCaskill scandal into perspective: Following revelations that McCaskill’s total tax bill is close to $320,000—combined with McCaskill’s original $88,000 repayment for the flights—the NRSC released the following damaging statistics: “that amount is roughly 3x more than what former Senator Tom Daschle owed in back taxes before being forced to withdraw his name for HHS Secretary in 2009 and roughly 10x the amount U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was said to have owed in back taxes before he was censored by the U.S. House last year. “

National media turns on McCaskill: Scripps Howard News Service’s Bonnie Erbe declared that McCaskill “has likely cost herself re-election.” An Investor’s Business Daily editorial takes McCaskill to task for her hypocrisy and proclaims that elected officials who can’t run their “own affairs cleanly and openly, they shouldn't run ours.” And even NPR has gotten into the act, noting that McCaskill has a history of “lecturing…about fiscal responsibility” and stating that this “should not happen.”

Lembke explains his filibuster against extended unemployment benefits

In his weekly newsletter, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, explains his filibuster against extended unemployment benefits:

We have reached the halfway point of the 2011 legislative session. Much has been debated on the Missouri Senate floor since Jan. 5, and a lot more will be brought before us between now and May 13.

In early April, the Senate will begin work on the Fiscal Year 2012 Missouri budget. The $23.2 billion spending plan represents a decrease from this year’s $23.4 billion budget, which shows the Legislature’s commitment to cut spending without drastically slashing services. This is critical, as our state and nation continue to work out of a recession. We have to downsize state government. We cannot continue business as usual here in Jefferson City.

Government absolutely must live within its means and continue to use dollars more efficiently and effectively.

Part of working toward this goal includes work that is ongoing in the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee, which I chair. In addition to the legislation we review, we are also taking a tough approach to watching the actions of the government. A great deal of time has been spent looking into the mechanics of many of the departments in state government. The committee has been tasked with scrutinizing assigned government programs and assuring that tax dollars have been spent wisely. Our work will continue through the rest of the session.

Part of this panel’s work has entailed hearing my proposed Senate Joint Resolution 10, which would cut the size of the Missouri House. At 163 members, the Missouri House is among the largest in the country. My proposal would trim this back to 103, starting in the year 2023. On the other end of the spectrum is the Missouri Senate. At 34 members, it is among the smallest in the country. Each senator represents approximately 165,000, while each state rep has a constituency of roughly 35,000 people. Scaling back the size of the House would save millions in administrative costs in the years to come.

As we work toward a sensible goal in the Missouri General Assembly, the federal government in Washington, D.C. has not been making the necessary changes. The federal government needs to control spending immediately. We heard campaign speeches that talked of cutting $100 billion in federal spending this year. Now that the smoke has cleared, it is more along the lines of $6 billion, at best. According to the U.S. Treasury, the national debt rises each day by approximately $70 billion. Even if campaign promises were kept, $100 billion in federal spending cuts would barely dent the federal debt.

In contrast, the Missouri Senate has debated the proposed extension of UI benefits to unemployed people from 79 weeks for an additional 13-20 weeks. Along with me, a number of true conservative senators filibustered this bill and fought to refuse this continued overspending by the federal government. A number of very valid points were discussed during the debate, including the notion that these dollars would NOT be used to reduce the federal deficit but would instead be sent to another state. We contacted the Office of Management and Budget and spoke with their representative Meg Reilly, who stated, “Not continuing the Extended Benefits (EB) program in the state would reduce the federal spending by an estimated $96 million.” That amount won’t erase the federal deficit, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Orlando Fox station: Ringheim had opportunity for contact with many Kanakuk boys

KSPR offers Missouri angle on latest sex crime arrest with Kanakuk connection

Previous Turner Report posts on Kanakuk can be found at this link.

Link provided for Florida TV coverage of newest Kanakuk sex case

This link will take you to WESH Orlando's coverage of the court hearing for Edward Ringheim, 39, who is charged with seven counts involving sex with two underage boys.

Police are seeking other victims, according to the broadcast.

Sex charges filed against Florida man with Kanakuk connection

Another sex scandal involving a trusted adult figure and underage boys has been connected to the Branson-based Kanakuk.

Kathee Baird's Crime Scene Blog broke the story locally this afternoon. Ms. Baird opens her post in this fashion:

A Windermere, Florida man who worked as a volunteer for K-Life in Orlando has been charged with allegedly molesting at least two young boys at his home there.

Edward L. Ringheim, 39, is facing seven felony charges of lewd and lascivious molestation in Orange County, and was fired from Universal Orlando after his arrest last week. Ringheim treated young men to free trips to Universal Studios by using his employee pass, one of the victims told authorities

Parents also let Ringheim accompany their children to Kanakuk's Branson, Missouri facility according to published reports. Investigators say he brought about 30 kids to Kanakuk for summer camp over a four year period.
The scandal hits Kanakuk just a few short weeks after a lawsuit filed in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleged that Kanakuk officials, including President Joe White, were negligent in allowing former camp director Pete Newman, now serving two life sentences plus 30 years in a Missouri prison, to molest dozens of boys over a 10 year period. The lawsuit alleges that White and Kanakuk officials ignored warning signs by allowing Newman to continue working at the camp and dealing with youngsters after incidents in 1999 and 2003 in which Newman and underage boys cavorted naked.

The lawsuit was the second filed this year against Kanakuk and Newman. The first, filed Jan. 31 in Taney County Circuit Court also charges negligence in allowing a minor boy to be molested.

In the Florida case, Ringheim is free on $10,000 bond, but has been equipped with a GPS device and is not allowed to use social networkins sites or to be in touch with anyone from Kanakuk's Orlando K-Life operation.

The details surrounding Ringheim's crime can be read on the arrest record and affidavits.

Previous Turner Report posts on Kanakuk can be found at this link.

Temple: I'll stand by Claire McCaskill

The most spirited defense of beleaguered Sen. Claire McCaskill since the private plane crisis first broke was posted on the Huffington Post today by veteran Democratic strategist Roy Temple:

For the last four years, Claire has been in Washington taking on the big fights that matter to Missouri -- sometime risking her political neck to do what she thinks is right for Missouri families and taxpayers.

Whether it's fighting to create jobs, taking on powerful defense contractors who were bilking the taxpayers, or fighting bureaucracies that weren't treating our veterans with the honor they deserve. And she has even fought to reform the old-school rules of the Senate that far too often prevent progress on issues important to Missouri families.

Those fights haven't come without a cost. In the process she's ruffled a few feathers. And now her opponents are trying to seize this moment for their political advantage.

"Teaching to the Test" column featured on Huffington Post

My second column about the problems with today's education, in this case, the forsaking of learning in favor of teaching to poorly written standardized tests, can be found at this link.

Daily Caller: Documents connect Obama to McCaskill's plane

Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller broke the news about the connection between President Barack Obama and the private plane owned by Claire McCaskill and her husband:

According to disbursement reports, on June 16, 2008, Obama For America paid $3,938 to Sunset Cove Associates, LLC in West Lockwood, St. Louis, MO.

Sunset Cove Associates was incorporated by McCaskill’s husband in 2002, and is the same company McCaskill’s campaign paid for her chartered air travel. It is also the parent company of the Delaware-based Timesaver LLC. Sunset Cove has received taxpayer dollars, while Timesaver LLC is the actual owner of McCaskill’s plane (which is registered in Delaware).

Federal election rules allow presidential candidates to reimburse corporate plane owners for the price of first-class commercial tickets. Though it is not provable, it is likely this was a reimbursement for a trip Obama’s campaign may have taken on McCaskill’s plane.

GOP trumpeting possible Obama connection to McCaskill plane scandal

The Missouri Republican Party is rolling out new revelations in the ongoing Claire McCaskill plane scandal, including a possible connection to President Barack Obama. From the news release issued moments ago:

From embarrassing videos to new information about potential high-profile passengers on her plane, Claire McCaskill’s airplane scandal has continued to unfold this afternoon. See below for some of today’s developments:

MOGOP calls on McCaskill to release tax records related to the travel scandal: Roll Call reported on the MOGOP’s afternoon press conference in which the Party called upon McCaskill to release tax records that will once-and-for-all prove whether her company made a profit from her taxpayer-funded official use of her private plane. In addition, the MOGOP announced that it would be expanding the scope of the ethics complaint filed with the Senate Ethics Committee.

McCaskill’s pattern of tax problems: Politico’s Huddle reported that McCaskill has a history of troublpaying property taxes on her property—including her failure to pay more than $2,300 in property taxes on a condominium at the Lake of the Ozarks. The non-payment of taxes was so severe that Camden County published a notice that it was going to put the condo up for auction.

Obama connection to McCaskill’s plane? The Daily Caller is reporting on a $3,900 payment for travel by Obama for America to Sunset Cove Associates, the same company that McCaskill routed taxpayer money through to pay for her flights. The payment raises questions as to whether candidate Barack Obama himself enjoyed the luxury of McCaskill’s multimillion dollar Pilatus aircraft.

Old campaign commercials come back to haunt McCaskill: Politico’s Ben Smith posted video of a devastating 2006 campaign commercial in which McCaskill claims that she has “paid every dime of our taxes.” And Politico’s Dave Catanese reported that McCaskill blasted her 2004 primary opponent for abuse of the state plane.

McCaskill avoids questions on scandal: posted video of McCaskill leaving a high-dollar New York City fundraiser while dodging questions related to her ongoing travel scandal. The camera operated pointedly asked McCaskill if she considered herself a federal employee, alluding to earlier legislation co-sponsored by McCaskill to fire federal employees who were severely delinquent on their taxes.

Hitting McCaskill where it hurts: The National Journal’s Sean Sullivan and Josh Kraushaar opine that this scandal “could do lasting damage to both McCaskill and Senate Democrats in 2012.” The piece notes that this scandal “cuts against the grain of her good-government image” and cities her “ineffectual apology” for reasons that this narrative has “sticking power.” The New York Times’ Michael Shear called it “the kind of unforced error that could come back to haunt the national party.”