Wednesday, May 31, 2006


The Source, a right-leaning political blog, reports Thursday that a cousin of Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) will become the next U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

According to The Source:
The process of nomination to the position of U.S. Attorney is not very complicated. Typically the state’s senior Senator submits a nomination to the White House for approval. If there is no Republican senior Senator then that state’s Congressional delegation meets and submits a nomination. The nomination of the senior Senator/Congressional delegation is typically, after background checks and thorough legal review, submitted by the White House to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. This process of nomination is tradition and for the first time since Kit Bond has been a Senator, the path has deviated.

For the first time the senior Senator submitted a slate of nominees. On that slate were State Representative Bryan Stevenson (R-Webb City), attorney John Applequist, and Judge Jay Dougherty. Missing from that slate was John Wood. For the first time in Bond’s time as the senior Senator, the Department of Justice submitted a "special" nomination. Who was that nominee? You guessed right, it was none other than the senior Senator’s cousin, John Wood.
Wood is also chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security.

Applequist has been a good soldier for the GOP. Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore -- another loyal Republican -- wanted the job, too. But what's loyalty when blood is involved?


Doug Harpool, the candidate for state senate, called on Gov. Matt Blunt to veto a bill that lifts the limit on campaign contributions in Missouri.

In a Wednesday letter to Blunt, Harpool called the bill an "unparalleled retreat in the battle for government integrity" and added:
"The stench of improper relationships between lobbyists, elected officials and campaign consultants will be made even more sickening if limits on campaign contributions are lifted."
Blunt is expected to sign the bill into law, setting up a guaranteed court challenge from those who believe politics shouldn't be a free-for-all money grab.


All About Norma, the blog devoted to the political doings of state Sen. Norma Champion examines the startling chasm between Champion's salary and how much she pays one member of her staff.

Here's what makes it so delicious. Champion receives an annual salary of $31,351 as state senator. You won't believe how much she doles out to her chief of staff. With your tax dollars.


The news gods -- the quirky ones -- are smiling on Goshen, Ind., where cops say the driver of an ice-cream truck had an empty bottle of vodka between the seats and a snoot full of the stuff in his system. The Associated Press says:
Goshen Police Patrolman Jared Baer spotted the yellow-and-white van in a subdivision, after several motorists called Saturday to report the swerving vehicle in the city about 25 miles southeast of South Bend, police said.

The van was stopped, and the driver was selling ice cream to children, so Baer waited until Dennis D. Cogburn, 51, of Bowie, Texas, started up again.

Baer said he followed the van and pulled it over after Cogburn failed to signal turns and swerved into the wrong lane.

Cogburn failed field sobriety tests and was arrested on a preliminary charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cogburn reported having chest pains, so he was taken to a hospital, where a test showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent, three times the state's legal level to drive a car.

Baer impounded the ice cream van and found the nearly empty bottle of vodka, he reported.

Cogburn told police he's staying in a South Bend motel, working for the ice cream company, but planned to move back to Texas soon.
If only he had gone the Cheech & Chong route.


Chatsworth High School, 1976: It sounded like a really cool idea to deep-six a time capsule with cornball stuff from the bicentennial year.

But after an hour in the sun this week, watching a gardener dig holes in the school lawn, the question among alums is: Now, where did we put that time capsule? The Associated Press reports:
The capsule -- a three-foot length of plastic pipe -- was said to contain sheet music, American bicentennial commemorative tassel, mood ring and Pet Rock.

None of the alumni were present for its burial three decades ago and relied on rumors about its location.

They intend to keep looking.

"We'll do some more research and get to the bottom of this," Renee Serkin-Leshner, 47, said.

John Deary, 18, a member of the Class of 2006, had a possible explanation.

"Maybe it wasn't as good of a secret as they thought," he said. "Maybe someone else came and dug it up."
Or maybe they were high when they buried it.


Sen. Jim Talent finally gets around to his reelection campaign this week. The Republican politician makes his first announcement at 8:30 a.m. Friday -- not in St. Louis, but in Springfield, land of the governor's crib. The obvious suck-up escapes no one.

KYTV's political blog has the sked:
Friday June 2
8:30 am Springfield
11:00 am Joplin
1:30 pm Kansas City
4:30 pm Columbia

Saturday June 3
9:00 am St. Louis
11:15 am Cape Girardeau
2:30 pm St. Joseph
6:00 pm Hannibal
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in its political blog, notes that "Talent’s events are primarily slated to be held in hotel ballrooms." Talent keeps out the riff-raff (and probable protestors) while tossing a bone to his business-loving base. Smart politics, stupid strategy.


Last day of May, all that. It's supposed to rain in southwest Missouri, but that's what they said on Tuesday.

But hey, whee, it's a good day -- rich in history, bright in promise. They hanged Eichmann on this day in 1962, and then they burned his body in a specially built oven and tossed the ashes in international waters. Quite fitting.

Also on this day, it's happy 10th anniversary, dead Timothy Leary. Outside, yes, but looking in? No no no no.

And Tulsa, the city in the land that's allegedly grand, marks the 85th anniversary of a pesky little race riot that left several hundred dead. Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


The explosion cracked the air around Carlisle's crematorium, in north Cumbria, England.

The reason? Probably a pacemaker left inside a body. The News & Star explains:
No-one was hurt in the incident and there was no disruption to funeral services or cremations.

The crematorium, in Dalston Road, is operated by the city council’s bereavement services department. A council spokesperson said: "There was a minor explosion within the crematorium’s cremator yesterday afternoon.

"The machinery continued to operate normally and there was no lasting damage.

"Staff members overseeing the machinery were unharmed and are investigating the possible cause.

"Cremations continued as planned and there were no disruptions to services."

It is understood that prior to cremations, it is the responsibility of the family and funeral director to ensure that nothing is within a coffin which may cause an explosion.

In this instance, it is believed the go-ahead for the cremation had been given by two doctors.

Pacemakers should be removed before cremation.


Editor & Publisher has the story:
The deaths of two CBS journalists on Monday means the Iraq conflict is now the deadliest war for reporters in this century.

Since 2003, 71 journalists have been killed in Iraq, more than the 63 killed in Vietnam, 17 killed in Korea -- and now the 69 killed in World War II, according to Freedom Forum.

The Iraq numbers do not include the 26 members of media support staff who have also died, as counted by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Nor do they include the 42 journailsts kidnapped since the war began.

Damned media. Why can't they report the good news in Iraq?


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that government employees do not have pure First Amendment protection when it comes to blowing the whistle against alleged misconduct.

The Associated Press reports:
By a 5-4 vote, justices said the nation's 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government's inner-workings. New Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court's majority, said the First Amendment does not protect "every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job."

The decision came after the case was argued twice this term, once before Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired in January, and again after her successor, Alito, joined the bench.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles prosecutor, who said he was demoted for exposing a deputy's lie on a search warrant application.


Not Tony -- not yet -- but John Snow, the treasury secretary. His resignation was announced early Tuesday. His replacement, according to The Associated Press, is Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr.

Other Tuesday news:

•A three-armed baby in Shanghai may have surgery, depriving the world of a helluva juggling act. The boy, Jie-Jie, also has but one kidney.

•If it's a dog's life, it must suck. In New York, a five-month-old cockapoo died after its owner left it in the car while she went to catch a movie. Laurie Balcerak, 49, of Hemlock, N.Y., is the selfish suspect. Cops say a truck driver heard the dog barking and called 911. But the temperature was 92 degrees on Monday. We can only hope that Balcerak isn't a mom.

Monday, May 29, 2006


To the right you'll find a link from Click&Pledge, a company that gives candidates the opportunity to raise money online.

CHATTER's candidate of choice this season is Doug Harpool, the former state representative running for senate. He's one of those guys who genuinely believes public service is a good thing to do. He also vows to restore solid ethics to Jefferson City, and if anyone can do it, it's Harpool; when he was a state rep in the 1980s and early '90s, his legislation created the Missouri Ethics Commission.

So click the link to the right, or this text link, and flip some bucks into the campaign. As an individual you can donate up to $650 to Harpool's campaign. Any amount will be appreciated.

If you're a blogger and you want to spread the word, dash us an e-mail and we'll share the code with you, so you can add a Donate to Harpool link to your site.


Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run over the weekend. The Associated Press reports on how the moment played on radio:
The broadcast went dead at the worst of all moments, and thousands of Bay Area fans listening on radio missed Barry Bonds' 715th homer.

They could not hear the radio account Sunday because the microphone of play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming stopped working at precisely the wrong time.

Flemming had begun the call at the beginning of Bonds' fourth-inning at-bat before his hand-held mike quit during the broadcast on the Giants' flagship station, KNBR.

"Three-and-two. Finley runs. The payoff pitch, a swing and a drive to deep cen ..." -- that's all Northern California listeners got when Bonds passed Babe Ruth to move into second place on the career homers list.
Flemming, the broadcaster, was able to crack wise about the glitch: "If you only heard the rest of the call. It was an unbelievable call. Too bad we don't have the proof."


The St. Louis Business Journal is the latest Missouri publication to pick up on the fact that the state senate race between Norma Champion and Doug Harpool will be a corker.

From the Journal:
Across the state, Democrats are penciling in Wes Shoemyer to win the 18th district, the northeast corner of Missouri. A former state representative who's being term-limited out, he's in a heavy fund-raising battle with Republican Bob Behnen. Finally, Doug Harpool in the 30th district, running against Norma Champion in Springfield, [Matt] Blunt's back yard, is considered a possible pick-up.
The story goes on to note the difficulties facing Democrats -- the state senate is ruled 23-9 by the GOP -- but notes the erosion of Republican support across Missouri.

The 30th District seat was the most competitive state senate race in Missouri in 2002. There is every reason to believe it will be just as tight this year.



The principal in "The Breakfast Club." This guy.

The Associated Press reports:
Gleason died at a local hospital Saturday of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason.

"Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

A native of Miami, Gleason was an avid athlete. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, family members said.

Through his career, Gleason appeared in over 60 movies that included "Die Hard," "Johnny Be Good," and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder." Most recently, Gleason made a handful of television appearances in hit shows such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry.
Don't you forget about him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


In this local corner of Blogworld, at least. KYTV reporter David Catanese has launched a blog, just in time for the horse races to begin. Click here to get there; we've also included it in our CHATTERWORTHY blogroll, at right.


Three men, a case of beer and a raft bought at Wal-Mart.

Versus Class III rapids on the upper Colorado River between Radium and Rancho Del Rio.

Dudes win. Barely. The Associated Press reports:
One man, Thomas Williams, nearly drowned when the raft overturned last Sunday. He was rescued by a nearby rafting guide.

"I was under for so long I just blacked out," Williams told the Vail Daily. "I didn't realize I was being dragged along by the river."

Class III rapids, on a scale of 1 to 6, include a large continuous set of waves with small drops, ledges or waterfalls. Scouting is suggested for all but the most experienced rafter.

Williams described the trio's attempt without proper equipment or lifejackets as simple "stupidity."

His two friends managed to swim to shore, but not before they suffered scrapes from the knees down and were stripped of most of their clothes.

Williams suffered a hairline fracture on his ankle.

The adventure is nothing new to Williams, who said he also seeks thrills skateboarding, snowboarding and bungee jumping. "If I didn't do that stuff I'd be a lazy couch potato," he said.
One day these guys will win Darwin Awards.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Ben Kessler graduated from St. Thomas University in Minnesota. The 21-year-old man was the student speaker, and he used the occasion to say that women who use birth control are "selfish." He didn't condemn condoms.

Kessler intends to be a priest, and St. Thomas is a Catholic school. Still, his remarks triggered an uproar, and Kessler has since apologized "to all offended by my words."

Dude had a right to speak. Pity that he was roundly condemned, because now he's a hero to the morality police.

The web site No Room for Contraception may sound like something published in the first half of the last century, but it's for real, and it wants Kessler's words to become a mandate for our world:
Society has a lust affair with birth control to the point of not being able to think outside of the box. We live in a contraception "matrix" where it's impossible to believe that there are any harmful effects on marriage, society, and the health of women.

This "contraception deception" is the primary force behind the attacks against the contra-contraception message.

For the most part, society doesn't want to hear the message. This message is that, in our culture, contraception leads to increases in abortion, teenage sex, affairs (and subsequent divorce), health problems, and statutory rape. These facts are apparent by simply comparing statistics.

Why are people willfully preserving their ignorance? For the past century, people have lived in a society that endorses the practice of a contraceptive lifestyle of easy, commitment free, and on-demand sex without challenging them to question possible adverse effects. ...

The contraception debate is long overdue, and it is people like Mr. Kessler who are breaking down the walls of ignorance, selfishness, and deception. Society may be resistant to this message, but over time the truth will prevail.
How long before they decide to make sex (the non-procreation kind) illegal?


Life is Insane, Part 43, courtesy of WPXI in Pittsburgh:
A Lower Burrell, Pa., school student is facing a three-day suspension for sharing gum with a classmate.

Jolt chewing gum has caffeine and ginseng.

The Lower Burrell school superintendent said consuming and passing out the gum violates the school's drug awareness policy. That's because caffeine is considered a stimulant.

Parents told Channel 11 they did not understand the suspension.

Resident Elizabeth Grombacher said, "I think it's stupid. Everything's getting too politically correct it's so wrong."

"It's probably just like Mountain Dew or something like that. If it's got a lot of caffeine in it and they probably sell the pop at school," parent Nita Serene said.

Jolt chewing gum is sold over the counter at drug stores and vitamin distributors.
Two pieces of Jolt gum have the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Wow. The General Theory of Relativity might get the one-up. Read all about Braneworld at Science Daily:
Scientists at Duke and Rutgers universities have developed a mathematical framework they say will enable astronomers to test a new five-dimensional theory of gravity that competes with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

Charles R. Keeton of Rutgers and Arlie O. Petters of Duke base their work on a recent theory called the type II Randall-Sundrum braneworld gravity model. The theory holds that the visible universe is a membrane (hence "braneworld") embedded within a larger universe, much like a strand of filmy seaweed floating in the ocean. The "braneworld universe" has five dimensions -- four spatial dimensions plus time -- compared with the four dimensions -- three spatial, plus time -- laid out in the General Theory of Relativity.

The framework Keeton and Petters developed predicts certain cosmological effects that, if observed, should help scientists validate the braneworld theory. The observations, they said, should be possible with satellites scheduled to launch in the next few years.

If the braneworld theory proves to be true, "this would upset the applecart," Petters said. "It would confirm that there is a fourth dimension to space, which would create a philosophical shift in our understanding of the natural world."
So, there is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. You know -- vast as space, timeless as infinity. The middle ground between light and shadow, science and superstition. Between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. A dimension of imagination. What was it called?


Without him you might never have heard of REM or The Police. the Average White Band or Squeeze. Copeland was a music promoter. The BBC reports:
Copeland, whose brother Stewart was a founding member and drummer in The Police, was a booking agent for many of the "new wave" rock acts of the 1980s.

His strategy of making bands tour small venues and nightclubs around the US helped to break acts like Squeeze and The B-52's into the mainstream.

He died of melanoma at his home in Los Angeles, his publicist announced.

Born in Syria, Copeland was the son of Miles Copeland Junior, a jazz musician turned US intelligence officer.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The blog devoted to the antics of Norma Champion has been updated. Click here, get there.

By the way, the 73-year-old senator has written another letter to a constituent about the stem-cell initiative, due to face voters in November. This voter has MS and asked Champion if she supported the initiative.

Champion, of course, again dodged the question, but expressed "hope" that a cure for MS would be found, even if the stem-cell initiative fails. We'll post the text of the letter later today on CHATTER.

Updated 5:40 p.m.
A person with MS wrote Champion and asked for her position on the stem-cell initiative. Champion sent back her dodgy boilerplate letter with this fresh paragraph:
I am very sorry to learn that you have Multiple Sclerosis. I believe that we will be getting new cures through adult stem cells even if the voters should reject research with somatic cell nuclear transfer. We can only hope that one of the cures that comes out of the research will be for MS.
Hoping, wishing, praying, believing. Just not answering the question. Again.


Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) faces a difficult reelection campaign this year, and his poll numbers aren't helping his cause.

Talent, the state's junior senator, is tied for 90th place in approval ratings for U.S. Senate, according to Survey USA, in polling done for KCTV and KSDK.

Talent's approval rating is 43 percent. His disapproval rating is 44 percent. By comparison, Missouri's other senator, Kit Bond, is relatively beloved in 77th place, with a 48-41 approval-disapproval split.

In last place is Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), with 36 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval.


Nike and Apple announced a "unique partnership" on Tuesday:
[Y]our iPod nano becomes your coach. Your personal trainer. Your favorite workout companion. Introducing Nike+iPod.
Basically you buy special Nike shoes that have this sensor; the wireless sensor sends info to your iPod Nano; you learn how long you've been running, how many miles, etc.

Really a rather interesting concept. The companies are marketing it as "Nike+iPod" instead of "Nike+Apple," and we think we understand why.


Anthony Jennings, 43, is a police constable in Maroochydore, in Australia.

Maria Klaus, 38, is a biter.

This story helps explain why police dread domestic-disturbance calls. Even in Australia. The Sunshine Coast Daily reports:
Jennings and Constable Leonie Scott were called to Ms Klaus' unit in Beach Parade at 5:30pm on June 12.

The pair testified that Kevin Hughes was waiting at the door of the unit and had invited them in to speak "to her".

Const Jennings said the 38-year-old Klaus appeared, wet and wrapped in a towel, and started yelling ...

Const Jennings said the first assault ensued when he placed his hand on Ms Klaus' left arm and told her he was detaining her under the Domestic and Family Violence Act.

He said he had trouble gripping Ms Klaus because she was naked and wet and the pair ended up on the ground.

"It was a flurry of head-butts, bites, kneeing me and punching," he said.

"There was ... gnashing of teeth. As her face was coming towards me she was snapping her teeth, chomping.

"I actually felt her nose go into my mouth. When I was on the ground I felt my face, it was covered in saliva and there was blood."

Const Jennings said he had to break his tie to release Ms Klaus' grip, whereupon she kicked him in the chest and shoulder with her feet.

"She was yelling at me that she was going to get my balls," he said. "Even though she was small ... she was quite muscular and powerful."

Back-up arrived after the pair eventually got handcuffs on Ms Klaus to help escort her downstairs to a van.

Const Jennings said his attention was only diverted for a few seconds when he felt "a sudden crushing pain".

"I felt an excruciating pain at the end of my penis ... I looked down and her head was over the top of my groin and she was biting me,"
he said.

"I was in a lot of pain, shock and I screamed."
The Courier-Mail has mugshots of the officer and the chomper. She looks the part.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


He was Mike Dukakis' veep choice in 1988, and the only bright spot on an otherwise lame ticket.

He was Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, and a former U.S. Senator from Texas (he won that seat by beating George H.W. Bush in 1970).

Most memorable line, served up to Dan Quayle during the 1988 veep debate, when Quayle claimed he was as experienced as John Kennedy:

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy," Bentsen declared. "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy!"


Romenesko's Obscure Store uncovered this eye-popping headline from the Democrat-Reporter, a newspaper in Marengo County, Ala.:
Residents reject retard housing
Yes, "retard." As in "retarded." The cutline accompanying a photo described the house as a place where "retarded and mentally unstable people would live." A proponent is quoted as assuring people that the home's residents -- "other than giving strange looks or constantly staring" -- were harmless.

By the way, this story was written in April 2006.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Monday's announcement by Doug Harpool -- he's running for state senate against Norma Champion -- has already drawn good early coverage across the state.

Jo Mannies at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes in her Political Fix blog:
[Harpool] says he is making another try for the state Senate because he is concerned that state government is responding "only to lobbyists and people with money," and ignoring everyone else.

Harpool says he’s also running because he’s "morally offended" by last year’s Medicaid cuts.

Among other things, Harpool’s ethics platform calls for next year’s state Legislature to restore the campaign-donation limits that this year’s Legislature just voted to abolish (Gov. Matt Blunt plans to sign the bill.)

Harpool contended that the Legislature could easily have passed a measure that eliminated or restricted the "committee-to-committee transfers" that have become a key problem, without tossing out the donation limits for individual candidates.
Tony Messenger at the News-Leader offers this on his newspaper's blog:
Early handicappers would give the nod to incumbent Norma Champion, and I'd say that's fair, but she has a legitimate opponent in Doug Harpool, a former member of the House of Representatives. I met Harpool for the first time over coffee this morning. We share a similar background, having both been high school debate champions. It's clear Harpool has found an early wedge issue with the so-called ethics legislation passed by the General Assembly and supported by Champion. Attorney General Jay Nixon is advising Gov. Matt Blunt not to sign the bill. I don't often agree with Nixon, but he's absolutely right on this one. As for Champion and Harpool, it's good to have two strong candidates for an important seat. Let the campaigning begin!
Randy Turner at The Turner Report also has a write-up on the Harpool candidacy. True to his fact-loving soul, Turner also has a blurb up on a report that Rep. Roy Blunt has gotten more than a half-million dollars from lobbyists since 1998. Congress has been very, very good to Roy Dean.


Former state representative Doug Harpool is expected to publicly announce his campaign for the state senate seat now held by Norma Champion.

Harpool's got a 3:15 p.m. news conference scheduled at Parkview High School. The 49-year-old Harpool is also expected to unveil his plan for sweeping ethics reform in Missouri government.

Updated 5:25 p.m.: Harpool made it clear during his announcement that he's ready, willing and beyond able to appear before any group -- with Champion -- to debate and discuss the issues. So if you're a member of a service organization, a neighborhood group, an alliance, invite Harpool and Champion to speak. He'll accept the invite. Will she?


Pinney lives in Arlington Heights, Ill., and she's a member of the school board there. She's also quite clearly a tremendous pain in the anus. The Chicago Sun-Times explains why:
A northwest suburban high school board member seeks to ban seven books from classroom use because she thinks the profanity, depiction of graphic sex, and drug and abortion references in the literature are inappropriate for teenagers.

Leslie Pinney admits she only read passages of the controversial selections, including Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Toni Morrison's Beloved, which were on the American Library Association's 100 most challenged books list between 1990 and 2000.

But Pinney said perusing the questionable parts of the books made it clear they weren't suitable for children and should be taken off Township High School District 214's proposed required reading list next year.

Pinney was particularly offended by the explicit tales of masturbation and teen sex in Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The popular novel, often described as a modern-day Catcher in the Rye, was among the ALA's top 10 most challenged books two years ago. ...

Other books Pinney wants replaced are The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien; The Awakening by Kate Chopin; Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World.
Pinney tried to tell the newspaper that she's in it for the kids -- aren't they all? -- but she comes across as a typical busybody:
"[W]hat are we feeding the minds of our students? They're getting a steady diet of foul language, violence and sexuality outside the classroom by the media. But when it comes to the classroom, isn't there something of a higher level to feed the minds of our children?"
In Pinney's world, no one has sex or takes drugs or uses profanity. They probably don't even have bathrooms, much less use them.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Alberto Gonzalez, the attorney general, drew his line in the sand on Sunday, telling ABC's "This Week" program:
"There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," Gonzales said, when asked if the government could prosecute journalists for publishing classified information.
The Justice Department is probing a leak last December to The New York Times; the resulting Page One story about the Bush Administration's domestic spying program has created an uproar.

More from the Reuter's story:
Gonzales did not rule out prosecuting the Times or its reporters for publishing the leak.

"We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action in that particular case, so I'm not going to talk about it specifically," Gonzales said.

"But as we do in every case, it's a case-by-case evaluation about what the evidence shows us, our interpretation of the law. We have an obligation to enforce the law and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity," he said.
Gonzalez saved the really scary stuff for his riff on the importance of the First Amendment:
"I will say that I understand very much the role that the press plays in our society, the protection under the First Amendment we want to promote and respect, the right of the press. But it can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity."
A real right -- freedom of speech -- is trumped by an imaginary right in Gonzalez's wishful world. Benito, Francisco, meet Alberto.


If what police say about him is true, then Benjamin Breiner, 18, is an idiot.

The Berkeley, Calif., man was stopped by Oregon state police during a righteous road trip with two buds.

The cop stop was near the town of Green, Ore. Yes, irony lives, according to the Associated Press:
Police said a large bong fell out as Breiner opened the car door.

The trooper said he found a bag of psilycybin mushrooms and several bags of marijuana.

One occupant, 19-year-old Michael Fox of Oakland, Calif., told the officer he had a California medical marijuana card, but the card is not valid in Oregon.
Next time, go with the dugout.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Toga. Toga. Toga. From the Telegraph:
Archaeologists exploring one of Rome's oldest catacombs are baffled by neat piles of more than 1,000 skeletons dressed in elegant togas.

The macabre find emerged as teams of historians slowly picked their way through the complex network of underground burial chambers, which stretch for miles under the city.

They say the tomb, which has been dated to the first century AD, is the first known example of a "mass burial".

The archaeologists are unable to explain why so many apparently upper-class Romans -- who would normally have been cremated -- were buried in the same spot, apparently at the same time.

Forensic tests are being carried out to try to establish whether the Romans suffered violent deaths, or were victims of an undocumented epidemic or natural disaster.
Likely cause of death: Individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.


The San Francisco Giants slugger tied Babe Ruth's mark for home runs on Saturday with a second-inning shot of some 400 feet, against Oakland.

Tyler Snyder, 17, of Pleasanton, Calif., caught the ball and to his credit did not throw it back onto the field in disgust at Bonds' reported use of steroids to enhance his athletic performance.

The Associated Press reports:
Bonds ended a nine-game homerless drought -- a stretch of 29 at-bats -- since hitting No. 713 with a 450-foot drive May 7 in Philadelphia. His teenage son, Nikolai, a Giants bat boy, was waiting for him at home plate and they embraced.

Next up is Hank Aaron's record of 755 ... Bonds has said that could be a long shot considering he turns 42 on July 24, is playing on a surgically repaired right knee and with bone chips floating around in his left elbow.
And considering he's no longer sucking on the steroid teat.


The Missouri Radio forums have gotten off on a tangent involving a certain Springfield radio yakker and his Ptolemy-like belief that the world revolves around him.

The thread, putatively about radio research, devolved into a food fight poking fun at the ersatz broadcaster. A poster with the handle "Desdinova" led the poking. Said talker replied:
Desdenova (sic), you have posted something close to a death threat on another website. I HAVE requested SPD investigate.
Perhaps the voluble morning guy is referring to the comments from Desdinova on this CHATTER post. But then we would have to assume the quidnunc actually reads our little blog, and why would this be?

One thing's for sure. The boys and girls at Missouri Radio don't have to worry about the modern-day Momus darkening their virtual doorstep:
I will NEVER read this board again nor will I post again.
Thank God for small favors.


Mayor Dan gets the point in our continuing game of Breaking News Of The Dead. CNN reports:
British pop star Freddie Garrity, former lead singer with 1960s band Freddie and the Dreamers, has died at the age of 69.

Garrity died on Friday in hospital in North Wales, his agent said on Saturday.

His five-piece band had hits in Britain and the United States with "I'm Telling You Now" and "You Were Made For Me."

Garrity, who lived in Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, was on holiday with his wife Christine when he was taken to hospital.

He had been suffering from emphysema for several years and had been unable to work since 2001.
Lord have Mersey.


Congratulations, Gerald Telford of Springfield. Your letter in Saturday's News-Leader is a keeper. Only you could take the issue of minors in bars and torque it into something so freakish:
Do the 18-year-olds think their parents want them to get a degree in alcoholism, and is that how their parents want their money spent? If the city allows underage drinking, tragic car accidents could hurt or kill innocent persons.

While they're at it, they might as well change the name from Springfield to Sinfield.
The city's not "allowing" underage drinking, of course, and Telford seems to foolishly believe that only people under 21 can kill people in drunken-driving wrecks (notice he calls them "accidents" -- oopsie!).

But it's the "Sinfield" line that splits our gut. If things here are so bad, perhaps Telford should consider packing his things and moving east to a more hospitable climate.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Chris Sifford was a Springfield journalist -- of KTTS and News-Leader stock -- when he went to work for Mel Carnahan, a politician running for governor.

Carnahan won, and Sifford became his trusted aide. In late 2000 the governor, now running for the U.S. Senate, and Sifford set out on a campaign trek. Carnahan's son was piloting the plane. It was raining. You know the rest.

Those lucky enough to have known Sifford still smile when they remember the boy from Puxico. On June 10 they -- and you -- can honor Sifford's memory and raise money for a good cause.

From a news release:
The inaugural Chris Sifford "Day at the Ballpark" Walk/Run and Springfield Cardinals" game on June 10 will raise scholarship funds to honor the memory of Chris Sifford, a former Springfield journalist who was working as an aide to Gov. Mel Carnahan when they, along with the Governor's son, were killed in a 2000 plane crash.

The 5K and 2.5K Walk/Run begins at 8 a.m. on June 10 at Hammons Field in downtown Springfield. Friends, family, former associates, supporters and members of the public are encouraged to also attend the Springfield Cardinals game at 6:10 p.m. against the Arkansas Travelers, which will include a tribute to Sifford.

Registration fee for the Walk/Run is $15 in advance and $20 on race day. Participants will receive a 3/4-length sleeve baseball practice-style shirt and trophies will be awarded for the top three finishers in each age category. First-place trophies will include a "home-plate" base and game-used Springfield Cardinals baseball.
Find entry forms at Ridge Runner Sports, 3057 S. Fremont Ave. Or go online to learn more.

The money goes into a scholarship fund at Missouri State University for students in the communications and journalism departments.

Chris loved baseball and "Andy Griffith" and discussing the news of the day. A few people called him "Cliff" or "Cliffy," a nickname born when someone jumbled his last name with his first: Clifford Sifford.

He died when he was 37, far too young for anyone, especially when there is so much promise. If you have the chance, on June 10, do this in memory of Cliff.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


David Burton of Southwest Region News Service -- a University of Missouri Extension program -- points us to this interesting survey conducted by Northwestern University's Medill School.

The survey of 527 randomly chosen print journalists at 218 daily newspapers found most everyone in agreement with the perception that the public has very little confidence in the mainstream media.

But who's to blame? Seven in 10 print reporters and editors pointed to "factors beyond their control," rather than anything their newspapers had done. Not only that:
Newspaper journalists say problems in television news, on Web sites and blogs, and even in tabloids and shopper publications all have a deleterious effect on the credibility of newspaper journalists.
One in five also blamed politicians who blame the media. But the best dig in the survey?
More than 70 percent say they themselves have been accused of bias in the past 12 months and often blame poor editing as contributing to inaccuracy in their articles.
Damned editors. Always screwing up a potential Pulitzer Prize winner.


For the love of Richard Simmons, this is stupid. The Associated Press reports on the madness in Penn Hills, Pa.:
Parents and at least one school board member said they believe an elementary school in Pennsylvania overreacted when it suspended 14 students earlier this month for mixing sugar and Kool-Aid crystals and calling it "Happy Crack."

Officials in the Penn Hills School District said the kids were suspended for imitating drug activity.

The students put the mixture in plastic bags and labeled it "Happy Crack."

But some parents said they don't think that should have gotten the students suspended from Shenandoah Elementary School.

School Board Member Erin Vecchio told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she agreed with the parents.

"My own kids used to make it at school. It's Kool-Aid and sugar," Vecchio told the newspaper. "It's colored. It doesn't look like drugs. It looks like Pixy Stix. I didn't find anything wrong with it."

The principal and school superintendent haven't commented on the incident.
Those with candy cigarettes will be executed at recess.


In Nicosia there lives -- dammit, he lives -- a raccoon with the will to survive. As Reuters notes, the animal was zapped with 11,000 volts of electricity but managed to survive:
The nocturnal mammal triggered a two-hour power outage at the town of Aradippou in southeast Cyprus after it scaled the pylon. It was eventually captured with a net and has been impounded by vets as an illegal import.

"It suffered some burns which we treated and is now recovering ... it certainly has the will to live," Charalambos Kakoyiannis of the island's veterinary department said on Thursday.

Raccoons, a native of the Americas, were introduced to Europe last century but are alien to Cyprus and authorities said the animal, whose owner was unknown, was smuggled onto the island.
Not only pesky, but an illegal alien raccoon. Where's the outrage?


The world's first sex theme park is set to open in London's West End. The Australian has the scoop:
Amora: The Academy of Sex and Relationships, featuring "high-tech and interactive exhibits together with new media displays", expects up to 600,000 visitors within its first year in the Trocadero Centre at Piccadilly Circus. "Titillation is not the goal," the promoters -– who include sexologist and self-help book author Sarah Brewer -– said in a statement, refuting comparisons with museums of erotica in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris.

"Our vision is to build a Kinsey-type institute in Europe for Generation X and Y to bring modern thinking around sexuality. ... It truly is the world's first theme park dedicated to sex and relationships."
Come one, come all.


Thursday's talker is enough to make us pluck bugs out of our fur. The Washington Post reports:
When the ancestors of human beings and the ancestors of chimpanzees parted ways 6.3 million years ago, it was probably a very long goodbye. Some of their descendants may even have gone back for a final tryst.

That is the conclusion a group of scientists has reached, using a comparison of the genes of humans and their closest animal relatives to sketch a picture of human origins far more detailed than what fossil bones have revealed.

According to the new theory, chimps and humans shared a common apelike ancestor much more recently than was thought. Furthermore, when the two emerging species split from each other, it was not a clean break. Some members of the two groups seem to have interbred about 1.2 million years after they first diverged -- before going their separate ways for good.

If this theory proves correct, it will mean modern people are descended from something akin to chimp-human hybrids. That is a new idea, and it challenges the prevailing view that hybrids tend to die out.
Going back for some sweet, sweet monkey loving.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Norma Champion tries to claim that Missouri legislators passed meaningful ethics reform. All About Norma has the details.


To anyone over the age of 50, it's a blast from the past. The New York Sun reports on the death of Lew Anderson, aka Clarabell the Clown:
Anderson, who died Saturday at 84, was known most recently for his big band's regular Friday night gig at Birdland, but in the 1950s, he burned his way into the psychic landscape of millions of boomer kids as Clarabell the Clown on the "Howdy Doody Show."

Dressed in a striped clown suit, big clown shoes, and a clown nose, and armed with a trademark bottle of seltzer to facilitate carbonic interplay, Anderson was a jolly, unpredictable presence on the Howdy Doody set, and a foil for the more rational, reassuring Buffalo Bob. Clarabell did not speak, and like another silent clown, Harpo Marx, he was fond of communicating via squeeze horns. It thus came as a shock when, on the show's final day in September of 1960, Clarabell turned to the camera, and said, "Goodbye, kids."

"Howdy Doody" was an atypically silent interlude in an otherwise fairly mainstream pop music career. Anderson grew up in Kirkman, Iowa, and after attending Drake University on a music scholarship, joined the Lee Barron band, touring Midwestern venues by bus. He played reeds, mainly alto sax, and was beginning to learn to arrange music when he entered the Naval Air Corps in 1942. Anderson spent the bulk of the war on a Pacific submarine tender, and assembled his own big band in free moments.

After the war, Anderson joined the Carlos Molinas Latin Orchestra, where he created American-style dance arrangements. From the late 1940s, Anderson toured with a vocal group called the Honeydreamers, which developed a wide radio following. It was during an appearance on a variety show with the Honeydreamers that Anderson came to the attention of "Howdy Doody's" producers, in 1955.
The peanut gallery mourns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The Springfield bloggers met Tuesday evening at Patton Alley Pub, drawing more than a dozen of the Unusual Suspects. For those who give a shattenkirk about it, Tony Messenger of the News-Leader made an appearance but brought no mugs.

Sitting there it occurred to us that the local bloggers -- so different in backgrounds, so varied in writing styles and textures of thought -- are pretty much the homely home version of "Lost," that television show on ABC.

We've got Andy @ Rhetorica, who's the hip Charlie, only Charlie would know Nirvana. Fat Jack is Hurley, sans hair. Marmot is Michael, if Michael wasn't a dude. Chiles is Jin Kwon (again with the gender caveat).

John Stone is Locke -- potentially insane, but the smart guy at the table and the only one who can save us from this damned island. God help us all.


President Bush on Monday delivered an anticipated speech on immigration. During the primetime address he acknowledged:
[T]he United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security ... we do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that.
Our national security depends on secure borders. Bush said terrorists could sneak across the U.S.-Mexico border. Given that backdrop, it was amazing that Bush didn't make a single reference to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Why not?

Monday, May 15, 2006


The latest state-by-state listing of President Bush's approval rating is out, and Missouri is the (supposed) Red State with the lowest regard for the president's job performance.

The poll, conducted in Missouri for KSDK-TV in St. Louis and KCTV-TV in Kansas City, has Bush's approval rating at 29 percent. No other state that Bush carried in 2004 registers so low. Here, see it for yourself.

Missouri's approval for the president is 40th in the country, by the way. In the lowest fifth. Down there with California, where Bush's approval rating is 28 percent.

The president's weighted average across the country is 33 percent approval. Missouri may be a bellwether state in this regard.


No, not Tony. This is a real sentiment, being expressed by the loudest self-proclaimed patriots in America.

All because reporters insist on doing their jobs.

On Monday, ABC reported:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.
An alert reader pointed us to ABC's blog, The Blotter, where a discussion about the story is underway.

There are many scary people in this world. A sampling of the comments:
I am a journalism graduate, UNC-Chapel Hill. I am also a veteran. I hope they catch every government leaker of classified secret information and put them in prison for life. And any reporter publishing known classified secret information should be shot. It is called treason, not first amendment rights.
I am tired of thae (sic) news media leaking secret information in order to hurt PREDIDENT BUSH. I would prosucute the news media leakers for treason like LINCOLN did. We are at WAR with a enemy who whants to take over the world by force or kill all of us.
Personally, as I don't call anyone associated with Al Qaeda, I don't CARE if the Government tracks me, listens to me or records me. Only the guilty should be nervous. Is ABC and the NYT Guilty of aiding terroism or are they/you simply guilty of undermingin (sic) our security by letting the terrorists know what we are trying to do to stop them? In either case, you should be ashamed.
If the U.S. government is spying on its citizens, the terrorists have won. President Bush said so in September 2001, remember? He told us why the terrorists had attacked the U.S.:
They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other ...

Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
But surely we have failed. There is fear and loss of freedoms, and the dark threat seems to come not only from our enemies, but also from our government.

One paragraph from Bush's 2001 speech now evokes a double meaning. He was speaking of al Qaeda then, but now the mirror has turned:
By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
We the people deserve no less.


Springfield's ragtag group -- we few, we happy few, we band of bloggas -- meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Patton Alley Pub (remember, kids: Time, date, place.)

It's expected that Tony Messenger, the new editorial-page editor of the News-Leader, will make an appearance; whether we'll all be mugged has yet to be determined.


Where do you stand on the stem cell initiative, coming to Missouri voters in November?

Most everyone we know has taken a stand. But Springfield's state senator refuses to do so. Norma Champion, 73, would rather duck and weave than answer the question. Read the awful truth at All About Norma.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


A Saturday morning fire caused significant damage to Nearly Famous, an iconic local eatery near Sunshine Street and Glenstone Avenue.

First reports say a portion of the roof was collapsed and there was extensive smoke damage.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Missourians who vote this fall must show a valid photo ID to cast a ballot.

The Missouri General Assembly on Friday sent the bill to Gov. Matt Blunt for his signature. Blunt has already told Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- the election authority in Missouri -- that he will sign the bill.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
The governor called Carnahan’s concerns about the requirement 'exaggerated.'"

"I have been a longtime supporter of a photo identification requirement," Blunt said. "The improvements we made to the identification requirements in 2002 helped restore Missourians confidence in the elections process after the disastrous 2000 general election which was eclipsed only by Florida in terms of fraud and irregularities.

"Senate Bill 1014 continues the good work we started in the secretary of state’s office that contributed to record voter turnout in both the August and November 2004 elections. I look forward to signing it into law when it reaches my desk."
Will it lead to voters being turned away from the polls? That's the fear of many Democrats, and it explains why the soon-to-be-law will wind up in court before it's ever enacted.


A 34-year-old Springfield man was arrested Friday as a suspect in a Wednesday morning home invasion in the 700 block of South Warren Avenue.

Brannon Troy Holmes was arrested at 2 p.m. Friday, police say. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree burglary, first-degree assault and second-degree assault. At this hour, prosecutors haven't filed charges.


Here in the states, we'd never heard of "Barehand" Bates, a UK Navy officer who did something quite remarkable during World War II. Now that Bates has died, his story has been fully told. The Telegraph offers a deep and satisfying obit:
Captain "Barehands" Bates, who has died aged 89, played a vital role in sinking the German battleship Scharnhorst by climbing the mast of his ship to adjust its radar aerial.

On Boxing Day 1943 Bates was electrical officer in Duke of York, the flagship of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, when Scharnhorst slipped out of the Norwegian fjords to attack Russian convoy JW55B, off the North Cape.

It was blowing a force 8 gale in the bitterly cold permanent dark when Bates, whose action station was high in the ship under the tripod mast, reported the echo of Scharnhorst, which had been trapped by Fraser’s tactical manoeuvring while being shadowed by the cruiser Belfast.

Bates’s report enabled Fraser to close within visual range at 8,000 yards, enabling Duke of York to surprise Scharnhorst with a first salvo.

German near-misses were soon falling around the British ship when, with a sudden whoosh, the radar failed.

Bates and his two operators were thrown in a heap to the deck, and when he picked himself up the radar, though seeming to work, showed no echoes.

Puzzled, Bates climbed two-thirds the way up the swaying mast. Feeling about in the dark, with the aid of a small torch between his fingers, he found that the aerial was pointing skywards: the shock wave of a German 11-inch shell, which had passed though the tripod mast and under Bates’s feet, had blown it out of alignment.

Bates returned the aerial to the horizontal and restarted the gyro-stabiliser so that within a few minutes the radar was working again, thus restoring to Fraser the advantage of a clear tactical picture in the prevailing low visibility.

At about 18:20, Duke of York scored a direct hit, which penetrated Scharnhorst’s starboard side and put a boiler-room out of action, thereby reducing the speed so that she was was sunk a few hours later.

Radar was still a complete mystery to most people, and the story of its restoration was therefore all but incomprehensible.

Afterwards the ship’s company believed that Bates, a strong man standing six foot three inches tall and weighing 19 stone, had climbed the mast to hold together the radar antennae; but the public was told that he had repaired wireless leads.

He was awarded the DSC for great gallantry, determination and skill while his radar operators, Able Seamen Horace Badkin and Geoffrey Whitton, were awarded the DSM.

Nevertheless, Bates was exasperated after the war by the way he was regularly depicted as "Barehands Bates", holding live electrical wires together, in comics and on the backs of cereal packets.
Bates' real name was Harold Raymond Kingsmill Bates. His friends called him "King." Postwar he became assistant director of Naval Intelligence before he retired in 1969.

His retirement was spent this way, according to the Telegraph:
Bates then bought and ran a filling station and shop at Yarnbrook crossroads, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, where he was assisted by an ex-chief petty officer, known only as "Mr Fido", who was vigilant in guarding the sweet counter from small boys.

Bates enjoyed a beer at the Long Arms opposite, from where he could view the forecourt and sally forth as necessary to serve customers.

Bates had a passion for motor cars, owning a Rover Speed 20 drophead coupé, a Jaguar XK120 and many later models of Jaguar.

He also bought one of the first Mini Coopers, which he had to drive with his large frame doubled-up. In his spare time he was usually head under the bonnet, stripping down engines and maintaining cars for family and friends - not always an easy task with his huge hands.

He preferred the company of woman and enjoyed being at the centre of things, never more so than at a good party. Latterly, with his second wife, he became an incurable traveller by cruise liner and by jet, usually to the Mediterranean.
Good night, Barehands.


Now that a gym teacher and the principal of the Springfield elementary school have been charged in a sex-abuse investigation, there is the usual media fallout.

KSPR, the ABC affiliate, sent a shooter to the school on Friday afternoon, probably hoping for some fresh footage of scampering kids. Note to KSPR: When your shooter sets up on a sidewalk on the school parking lot, don't be surprised when school administrators ask him to leave.

The teacher, Mark Washam, faces four misdemeanor charges of first-degree sexual misconduct and five misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault, according to KYTV:
Investigators think the victims in the case are five girls and one boy, all students at Rountree.

Principal Carolyn Harralson is charged with violating the state’s mandatory reporter law. That law requires people in certain professions to call a state hotline if they suspect or receive a report of possible child abuse. Investigators say Harralson didn’t take seriously the reports about the teacher that were given to her by students and parents.
Many Rountree parents have taken sides; some say there is no way Washam is guilty, and others stand by Harralson as a remarkable administrator.

Darrell Moore, the Greene County prosecutor, says Harralson was told of the allegations and didn't phone them into an anonymous hotline. Moore said that when people don't know if abuse allegations are true, they should go ahead and call the hotline. We don't believe it has to be all or nothing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


President Bush's approval rating is below 30 percent for the first time in his presidency. From The Wall Street Journal blog:
Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." This trend has declined every month since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction. Iraq remains a key concern for the general public, as 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. The immigration debate also prompted 16% of Americans to consider it a top issue, down from 19% last month, but still sharply higher from 4% in March.

The Harris poll comes two days after a downbeat assessement of Bush in a New York Times/CBS News poll. The Times, in analyzing the results, said "Americans have a bleaker view of the country’s direction than at any time in more than two decades."
And this poll was taken before news broke about the latest NSA spy scandal.


CNN's Jack Cafferty -- now there's a curmudgeon in the finest sense of the word -- blistered the Bush Administration on Thursday for spying on Americans.

Said Cafferty:
"We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 'cause he might be all that's standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country."
Specter plans to ask the heads of U.S. phone companies why they handed our phone records to the government. Here's hoping he doesn't run into a magic bullet.

Crooks & Liars has the Cafferty video. It's worth seeing for yourself.


Responding to a report in Thursday's USA TODAY that the government is collecting our phone records, President Bush said:
After September the 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they're saying.

Today there are new claims about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. I want to make some important points about what the government is doing and what the government is not doing.

First, our international activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.

We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil.

As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.
Didn't take him long to invoke the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did it?

He continues to claim that spying on us in the U.S. is "lawful," while still blatantly breaking the law.

He says our privacy is "fiercely protected," but government collection of our phone records without good reason is a blatant violation the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
He pleases his far-right (and media-hating) base by criticizing leaks of sensitive information, but he (and they) are oblivious to the irony. We now know Valerie Plame was monitoring Iran's nuclear capabilities -- sensitive stuff -- when she was outed by leaks from the Bush Administration.

The coming indictment of Karl Rove for his role in covering up the Plame scandal will only increase the descent speed of the president's poll numbers. What the administration needs now is a really big distraction. God help us if that comes to pass.


The former heavyweight champion of the world was 71. He died Thursday in New Paltz, N.Y.

According to The Associated Press:
Patterson, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer, had been hospitalized a week earlier. Funeral arrangements are pending. A second wife and four grown children from two marriages survive him.

Born in Waco, N.C., Patterson became a boxing phenomenon while competing in the New York Golden Gloves tournament. He later won gold as a middleweight in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1956, he knocked out legendary boxer Archie Moore in a pro title fight and became the youngest world heavyweight champion in history at age 21. He held the title for five years, and he won it again after a loss, making him the first heavyweight to reclaim the title.

He retired in 1972 at age 37 with a pro record of 55-8-1 and 40 knockouts. He went on to become New York state athletic commissioner.
Point to Smitty.


What an amazing scam. Our government breaks the law, spies on its citizens -- and then refuses to cooperate with investigators. The Associated Press reports:
The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers security clearance.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax Wednesday to Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York saying it was closing its inquiry because without clearance it could not examine department lawyers' role in the program.

"We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program," OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey's office shared the letter with The Associated Press.

Jarrett wrote that beginning in January his office has made a series of requests for the necessary clearances. Those requests were denied Tuesday.

"Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation," Jarrett wrote.
Case closed. Freedom hosed.


USA TODAY has the talker of Thursday:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews ...

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
Only Qwest has refused to bend over and comply with the government's rape. The result:
Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest's patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest's refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.
There is nothing to joke about, no smart-ass crack to make. Our phone habits are being monitored. Our government is actively spying on us. This is not America.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


The legend of The New York Times died Wednesday; the Associated Press obit says Rosenthal succumbed to complications from a stroke.

According to the AP:
Rosenthal spent virtually all of his working life at the Times, beginning as a lowly campus stringer in 1943. He rose to police reporter, foreign correspondent, managing editor and finally to the exalted office of executive editor, a post he held for nine years beginning in 1977.

"Abe was a giant among journalists," retired Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said in a statement. "He was a great editor with extraordinary loyalty to his troops."

On Rosenthal's watch, the Times published the "Pentagon Papers," a history of America's secret involvement in Vietnam, which won the paper one of its many Pulitzer Prizes in 1972. But the paper started slowly on Watergate and never caught up with the rival Washington Post on the seminal story that brought down a president.
At least he lived long enough to see Judith Miller shoved out the door.


Sometimes it's fun to see where CHATTER readers come from. Do a Google search for the words "chatter" and "Ron Davis" and there we are up top where we belong.

But a looksee for Ron Davis might take you anywhere -- to a bad-ass company that makes radiators; to a California real-estate agent who scarfed up the web address of our dreams; to a jazz musician in Canada who candidly has a much better mugshot than anyone around this joint.

There is an upside. Google the words "television," "chatter" and "chimp" (as a recent reader did) and voila -- there's CHATTER at No. 1, unfairly pushing aside such fine sites as Mr. Monkey's Index of Famous Monkeys. Turns out there was a chimp named Chatter who appeared on Chicago television in 1953. "Possibly the finest chimpanzee to appear on the small screen," Mr. Monkey writes, and who are we to argue with his knowledge?

We do know this: Searching Google images for Ron Davis is not something you want to do on a regular basis. Not unless you appreciate photos like this one, this one, or especially this one.


It's a fairly new crime in Springfield. Police say a man walked into an unlocked home in the 700 block of South Warren Avenue, around 6:25 a.m. Wednesday, and beat up the person inside. From the SPD news release:
The victim was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The motive for this assault is unclear at this time.

Officers are looking for a w/m, 6’0” with a slim build. He was described as having light brown hair and is approximately 20-30 years of age. He was last seen wearing a red/green/blue plaid jacket with hood, blue jeans and brown work boots. He did not have facial hair.

The suspect’s hair is described as very short on the sides with a strip down the middle that was combed forward. Perhaps not a full Mohawk, but maybe a "high and tight" style of haircut, or some other unusual style.

Officers would like to remind citizens to be aware of their surroundings, keep their doors locked, even if they are at home; and to have good lighting around their house.
Got info? Call the cops at (417) 864-1810.


Last week's too-good-to-be-true story is exactly that. According to Reuters, originators of the dead-guy-in-rum-barrel tale:
The Budapest story headlined "Hungary workers get shock at bottom of rum barrel" issued on May 4 is withdrawn. Police said the incident, reported on a police magazine Web site, happened 10 years ago. Reuters has been unable to make any further checks to substantiate the story.

There will be no substitute story.
Fine. We'll have to settle for a story on a cop who flashes more than his badge.


The phone, TV and the News of the World: We've got the first two covered, and while the third can be accessed online, it's not as sweet as hitting the local newspaper's site and learning more about the insanity of our fellow Ozarkers.

By that standard, Wednesday's News-Leader is chockablock with nutty goodness:

•The DWI Task Force will be out at the Brown Derby Wine Center to launch a petition drive aimed at keeping anyone under 21 from darkening the doorsteps of local bars. Such a drag that we'll have to avoid all Brown Derby booze huts until this madness stops.

•Melissa Olson, a precocious teen who attends New Covenant Academy, wants abstinence forced on her public-school counterparts. Perhaps Olson would be happier living in Kansas. We hear they've got a helluva reputation for teaching science.

•What would a rainy, dreary day be without Paul Summers? The local conservative typist has a column in Wednesday's News-Leader. It is completely nonsensical and worth a laugh or two.

Descended like flies, you betcha.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


It is now official: Nostalgia is out of control.

Play-Doh is peddling a cologne that smells like Play-Doh. It's a stinky 50th anniversary gimmick, according to the New York Post:
"We're about bringing everyday memories to life in a bottle," says Christopher Gale, founder of Demeter Fragrance Library, where eau de Play-Doh joins 170 other scents, including Dirt (which smells like a plowed field), Snow, Tomato and Fresh-Pumped Gasoline ("oddly enough, a lot of women requested that").

"To be honest, you may not want to wear it as a cologne," Gale says of his firm's singular sense-sation, "but you might just want to take it out of your purse or glove compartment now and then and just smell it.
Cost? About $20 an ounce. Or you can buy some real Play-Doh and practice your sniff-and-squeeze technique.

Demeter Fragrance offers plenty of scents, but their library lacks one important fragrance:

You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like - victory.


Want to do business with the Department of Housing and Urban Development? Whatever you do, don't discuss politics. That's the message from HUD honcho Alphonso Jackson, who gave a speech in Dallas and made it clear that contractors must toe the party line to get work.

According to the Dallas Business Journal:
After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies, Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
It figures.


Nothing like a Tuesday -- and a balky Blogger -- to get the doldrums going. Thank God it's not just us; plenty of our fellow humans are having bad-err days.

President Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to lead the CIA is in trouble, thanks to pesky Republicans who are a bit troubled by Hayden's active-duty military status. Not to mention his OK of an illegal domestic surveillance program. Such a Trailblazer, that Hayden.

Speaking of the Bush Administration, it continues to inject politics into science, much to the distress of, um, scientists. An upcoming National STD Prevention Conference, sponsored by, among others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been "sanitized" to talk up abstinence. From the story in Slate:
The symposium that's been meddled with was originally titled, "Are Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?" Its convener, Bruce Trigg of the New Mexico Department of Public Health, proposed a skeptical look at abstinence education, which the Bush administration is funding to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. As moderator, Trigg promised to ground the critique in scientific evidence. His panelists were to be John Santelli of Columbia's School of Public Health and William Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a well-regarded sexual-health organization. Santelli recently wrote a position paper on abstinence-only education for the Society for Adolescent Medicine in which he argued that abstinence programs are medically unethical because they misrepresent and withhold basic health information.

Trigg's symposium proposal went through all the steps of peer review, including an expert panel, and was accepted. This week, however, a different title and lineup were announced on the conference's Web site. Now called "Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth," the program will no longer be moderated by Trigg, though he and Santelli will still present. Smith, by contrast, has been bumped from the program.

Taking his place are two staunch proponents of abstinence-only education, Eric Walsh and Patricia Sulak. Walsh is a family physician affiliated with Loma Linda University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution in California. His approach to public health is explicitly ideological. "Dr. Walsh seeks to serve the Lord through medical missions and the preaching of the Gospel in all the world," an online bio explains. Sulak, meanwhile, is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Texas and the founder of "Worth the Wait," an abstinence program noteworthy for its negative messages about condoms and stereotypical statements about girls and boys.
Who needs science when stern talk will do the trick?

In more-trivial pursuits, gamers grieve after Sony announced, on Monday, that the new PlayStation 3 will sell for 500 clams -- unless you want a bigger hard drive, in which case you'll pay $600.

One of those days. Who sucked out the feeling, indeed.

Look at me, I can write a melody
But I can’t expect a soul to care

Monday, May 08, 2006


In Oregon there lives a young man named Jared Guinther, 18 and ready to graduate from high school. Ready to join the U.S. Army and fight in Iraq.

Guinther, however, is autistic. He's been diagnosed since he was 3, has been in special-ed since starting preschool.

His parents didn't worry when their disabled son said he wanted to join the military; they knew there was no way the Army would take Jared.

You see where this one is going. The Oregonian has quite the story on desperate recruiters and their underhanded ways:
Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

Jared's story illustrates a growing national problem as the military faces increasing pressure to hit recruiting targets during an unpopular war.

Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to approach record highs set in 2003 and 2004. The active Army and the Reserve missed recruiting targets last year, and reports of recruiting abuses continue from across the country.
Brenda Guinther -- Jared's mother -- told the newspaper a couple of disquieting anecdotes about the recruiters:
Brenda said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too -- for dyslexia.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, there's a big difference between autism and your problem,' " Brenda said. ...

Jared scored 43 out of 99 on the Army's basic entrance exam -- 31 is the lowest grade the Army allows for enlistment, military officials said.

After learning that Jared had cleared this first hurdle toward enlistment, Brenda said, she called and asked for Ansley's supervisor and got Sgt. Alejandro Velasco.

She said she begged Velasco to review Jared's medical and school records. Brenda said Velasco declined, asserting that he didn't need any paperwork. Under military rules, recruiters are required to gather all available information about a recruit and fill out a medical screening form.

"He was real cocky and he says, 'Well, Jared's an 18-year-old man. He doesn't need his mommy to make his decisions for him.' "
What happened when the mainstream media started asking some questions?
On Tuesday, a reporter visited the U.S. Army Recruiting Station at the Eastport Plaza Shopping Center, where Velasco said he had not been told about Jared's autism.

"Cpl. Ansley is Guinther's recruiter," he said. "I was unaware of any type of autism or anything like that."

Velasco initially denied knowing Jared but later said he'd spent a lot of time mentoring him because Jared was going to become a cavalry scout. The job entails "engaging the enemy with anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles," according to an Army recruiting Web site.

After he had spoken for a few moments, Velasco suddenly grabbed the reporter's tape recorder and tried to tear out the tape, stopping only after the reporter threatened to call the police.

With the Guinthers' permission, The Oregonian faxed Jared's medical records to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion commander, Lt. Col. David Carlton in Portland, who on Wednesday ordered the investigation.
After trying to rip up the reporter's tape, Ansley visited the Guinthers and basically begged them to stop the Oregonian's story, saying he'd lose his recruiting gig -- maybe even drummed out of the service. That would be a shame. Better that he be ordered to join the cavalry scouts in Iraq.


The Fab Four sued the computer company, claiming iTunes made Apple a music company -- a definite no-no for the band that created Apple Records.

Monday, a judge ruled no harm, no foul. The BBC reports:
Mr Justice Edward Mann ruled that the computer company used the Apple logo in association with its store, not the music, and so was not in breach.

The ruling means iPods and iTunes will still be able to carry the Apple name and logo.

The Beatles' label, which wanted London's High Court to award damages and stop its rival using the Apple logo in its music operations, will appeal.

Mr Justice Mann ruled iTunes was "a form of electronic shop" and not involved in creating music.

"I conclude that the use of the apple logo ... does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work," he wrote in his judgment.
Still missing from iTunes: Any music by The Beatles.


An autopsy is scheduled Monday on the body of a man discovered in his vehicle by passers-by.

The 53-year-old man, whose name isn't being released until his family is notified, was in the car near College and Hayden around 6:20 p.m. Sunday.

Two passers-by saw the man inside the car and noticed he wasn't breathing. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are calling the death "suspicious" until an autopsy is performed and a cause of death is discovered.


The nation's largest newspapers, they aren't so large anymore. According to Editor & Publisher:
For the six-month period ending March 2006 compared to the same period a year ago, circulation at newspapers in major cities across the country continued to drop. Most notable so far: the San Francisco Chronicle, which experienced a dramatic 15% decline in daily copies, to 398,246.

Daily circulation at the Los Angeles Times dropped about 5.4% to 851,832. Sunday proved better for the paper, down 1.8%. The San Jose Mercury News, which McClatchy intends to buy, also showed decreases in daily circ, down 7.6% to 242,865.

The Washington Post reported that daily circulation slipped 3.6% to 724,242.

On the national front, USA Today reported slight gains -- despite a price increase last fall - up .09% to 2,272,815. Daily circulation at The New York Times was up 0.5% to 1,142,464. The Wall Street Journal was down 1% to 2,049,768 for Monday through Friday.

As expected, daily circulation at The Boston Globe dropped 8.5% to 397,288. The paper experienced declines after releasing subscriber information in February.

In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel also dropped 8.2% to 229,368 daily copies. The Miami Herald was down 5.8% to 294,172.
Newspaper execs will say their websites are drawing millions, billions of readers. But it isn't the same, and they know it.