Friday, March 30, 2007


Reba Diane Britnell, 45, of Shoals, Ala., is accused of asking a man to buy her a pizza. OK so far. She allegedly offered sex in exchange for the pie. In some circumstances, that's a date.

But Britnell's offer to the man, cops say, involved sex with Britnell's teenage daughter. WAFF reports:
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing says, "Investigators have been investigating the case for several months. Thursday the case went to the grand jury. Requesting another person to engage in sexual intercourse with someone to pay for pizza is what the indictment says. That's what she's charged with and she's set for arraignment in April. Then she will be placed on the trial doc (sic). In a couple of months."

Britnell was released on $15,000 bond.
The charge is criminal solicitation second-degree rape. Britnell could face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Springfield's ice-storm debris should vanish from curbside over the next few weeks, as contractors do final collection, city officials said Thursday.

Factoids from the city:
•Public streets will get two more passes. "There are some isolated circumstances remaining where first pass has not been completed and those residents will have the opportunity to have another pass," said Louise Whall, the city's public information officer (and Duchess of Debris). "In a number of cases, DRC and City Public Works are working directly with affected homeowners to arrange debris removal under various types of special circumstances."

•Once DRC Emergency Services contractors move through a street to do the final collection, the street will be marked off the list and crews won't be back -- unless special equipment is needed to tackle unusual cases, such as removal of especially large logs, or dealing with oddball drainage culverts.

•Get vehicles off the street if they're blocking your debris pile.

•Don't get ripped off. DRC isn't charging and "no one should have to pay to have their debris removed until the final collection process is completed," Whall said.

•Hanging limbs? "If a potentially hazardous limb is not hanging over the public right of way," Whall said, "the city would not be involved and cannot address issues involving private property responsibility."
Check the city's web site for more info.


She wore a thigh-length black coat. Nothing underneath. The Michigan Daily reports:
Police have been unable to locate a woman who entered the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house (at the University of Michigan) without permission on Thursday and began to masturbate on a couch.

While fraternity members were eating in the dining room, a woman entered the house's living room, took off her clothes and started masturbating, said LSA junior Dan Nye, the president of the Washtenaw Avenue fraternity.

No one saw the woman enter the house or knew how she got in. Nye said she could have entered through the front door, which was left propped open while it was being repaired.

Fraternity members asked the woman to leave the house, but she refused and continued masturbating for about half an hour, Nye said.

When members asked the woman if she was all right, she casually replied that she was fine, he said. The woman was talking on her cell phone at one point, said LSA sophomore Adam Bayard, a member of the fraternity.

She walked out of the front door wearing only a thigh-length black coat after a fraternity member called the police, Nye said. When police arrived minutes later, the woman had already left.

According to a police report, the woman was between 20 and 30 years old, had short brown hair and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
The woman said she was a student at Eastern Michigan University.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Oliver Jufer is screwed, but he taught us one thing: Don't mess with the King of Thailand. The Swiss man is in court for sentencing after he admitted to graffiti that insulted the king. As the BBC reports:
Jufer, 57, was arrested last December after drunkenly spray-painting several portraits of the monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Earlier this month, Jufer pleaded guilty to five charges under Thailand's draconian lese majeste law.

He could face a maximum penalty of 75 years in jail.

His lawyer has said that the minimum sentence he faces is seven-and-a-half years.

Jufer, who has lived in Thailand for more than 10 years, was recorded on surveillance cameras defacing the portraits on the king's birthday.

The case has highlighted strict laws in Thailand which forbid any criticism of the monarchy.

King Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving current head of state, is a very popular figure in Thailand.
The late word: Jufer drew 10 years in prison for his petty crime. The actual sentence was 20 years, but the judge cut the sentence in half because Jufer confessed.


It'll come April 18, when the annual Day of Silence takes place in public schools across the country. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Day of Silence is:
an annual event held to commemorate and protest anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools. Students and teachers nationwide will observe the day in silence to echo the silence that LGBT and ally students face everyday. In it's (sic) 11th year, the Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country.
As one might expect, many conservative fundamentalists are upset. Always happy to make a fuss, they're advocating a public-school boycott on April 18, according to this news release from Not Our Kids, a self-proclaimed "pro-family" group:
"Teenagers deserve an opportunity to study English, history, math, and science -- without being subjected to pro-homosexual proselytizing sanctioned by school authorities. Students shouldn't be forced to self-censor or adopt beliefs contrary to those of their parents and places of worship," said Linda Harvey of Mission America, a coalition member. "Even the strongest of our junior high and high school children are not equipped to serve as frontline soldiers in this culture war."
Always with the war talk, the fundamentalists. Expect them to make a lot more noise on this issue in the next couple weeks. A list from Mission America has Central and Glendale high schools listed as participating in the Day of Silence.


To our west, thankfully, but it still sounds like big trouble. This National Weather Service map shows almost 40 tornadoes in the past three hours in Texas, Oklahoma, western Kansas and Nebraska. One tornado near Bird City, Kan., was described by reporters as being a half-mile wide.


The Berlin Zoo recently showed off Knut, a polar bear cub born last December. Cute? Betcha.

But so was Yan Yan, a 22-year-old giant panda; her name means "The Cute One." Cute no more, however. She's dead, Jim. Spiegel reports:
She was found on Monday afternoon after alarmed visitors reported her lying motionless in her outdoor enclosure where she liked to roll around in the sand and lazily munch on bamboo shoots.

A post mortem showed that she died of heart failure caused by acute constipation, zoo vet Andreas Ochs told the Associated Press. There had been no signs that Yan Yan had been in any pain so it had been impossible to detect that she was constipated, he added.

Pandas can live more than 30 years. Berlin zoo's other Panda, Bao Bao, is 29 and going strong. Yan Yan is being kept in a refrigerated room while officials decide what to do with her. Technically she still belongs to China, which loaned her to the zoo in 1995.
The bear's certainly cuter, but he'll outgrow it.


Mia Farrow and her son, Ronan, have probably decided that she will never work in Hollywood again. Nothing else explains a column this week in the Wall Street Journal (subscribers only, sorry).

In the column, Farrow and her son criticize the 2008 Olympics as a massive hypocrisy, with corporate sponsors ignoring China's terrible record on human rights. Fair enough. But then they compare Steven Spielberg with Leni Riefenstahl, a wickedly talented director and Nazi propagandist:
[D]isappointing is the decision of artists like director Steven Spielberg -- who quietly visited China this month as he prepares to help stage the Olympic ceremonies -- to sanitize Beijing's image.

Is Mr. Spielberg, who in 1994 founded the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust, aware that China is bankrolling Darfur's genocide?

Does Mr. Spielberg really want to go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games?"
The Jewish director of "Schindler's List" is just like a Nazi. Um-hmm.


The husband of singer Wynonna Judd has been arrested on child-sex charges. The Voice of America reports:
Judd has filed for divorce from her husband, Dan R. Roach, after his arrest on charges involving sex with a minor.

The action follows Roach's arrest last week in Abilene, Texas. He faces three charges of aggravated battery against a child younger than 13. Police expect him to be extradited to Nashville, Tennessee, where the incidents allegedly took place.

Posting in a statement on her web site, Wynonna Judd says she is "devastated" by the arrest.

The couple were married in November, 2003. Roach, her former bodyguard and road manager, has for the past month been receiving treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in a rehabilitation clinic in Texas.

Wynonna Judd, 42, has sold nearly 30 million albums as a solo artist. She also sang with her mother Naomi in the country duo The Judds, and is the half-sister of actress Ashley Judd.
Bail for the aptly named Roach is $750,000.


"Courageous and humble, a loving husband and son, a devoted brother and a fierce defender of liberty: Pat Tillman will always be remembered and honored in our country." -- President Bush, Fall 2004

Now that we know the truth about Pat Tillman's death, the words are especially hollow, almost cruel. His death wasn't heroic; his last words were his name -- I'm Pat Tillman! -- delivered in a scream in hopes that his fellow Rangers would stop shooting at him. Instead they shot him three times in the head, from a distance no longer than a football field, and then the Army lied hard to keep the truth from the public.

The early lies said Tillman and his patrol killed nine enemy soldiers, and Tillman was airlifted out and lived for 12 hours before succumbing to his wounds. It took more than a month for the Army to finally acknowledge the fact that Tillman died in a hail of friendly fire.

(For the full background, this ESPN report from 2006 is hard to top.)

His Silver Star still stands, though reading the citation makes the lies even worse:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, 9 July 1918 (amended by act of 25 July 1963), has awarded the SILVER STAR to
for gallantry in action on 22 April 2004 against an armed enemy while serving as a Rifle Team Leader in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Corporal Tillman put himself in the line of devastating enemy fire as he maneuvered his Fire Team to a covered position from which they could effectively employ their weapons on known enemy positions. While mortally wounded, his audacious leadership and courageous example under fire inspired his men to fight with great risk to their own personal safety, resulting in the enemy's withdrawal and his platoon's safe passage from the ambush kill zone. Corporal Tillman's personal courage, tactical expertise, and professional competence directly contributed to this platoon's overall success and survival. Through his distinctive accomplishments, Corporal Tillman reflected great credit upon himself, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army.
Audacious, indeed.

Monday, March 26, 2007


The wife of rock singer Scott Weiland -- he of Velvet Revolver and Stone Temple Pilots -- has been busted for torching his clothes. This follows a weekend brawl between the lovely couple at a fab hotel. According to this Associated Press report:
Mary Weiland, 31, was booked for investigation of felony arson vandalism after officers responded to a call Saturday night that a female was burning clothes. They found a trash can full of smoldering clothes, Sgt. Mathew Ferguson said.

Officers called Weiland, who said the wardrobe was worth $10,000, Ferguson said. The couple's children, ages 4 and 6, were placed in the custody of family friends.

The arrest culminated a rowdy weekend for Weiland and his wife.

Police were called to the nearby boutique Graciela Hotel on Pass Avenue earlier Saturday after the couple got into an argument that left two rooms vandalized, Ferguson said.

"Both rooms had damage and items scattered, broken plates and things. It was looking definitely like items were deliberately destroyed," Ferguson said. He said the amount of damage exceeded $400.
We long for the days when Weiland was simply strung out on heroin.


Even when stressed, humans do not eat their young. It's a literal distinction, sure, but it still separates us from invertebrates and the occasional hamster.

Figuratively, however, we're cannibals, smacking our lips and relishing the squirt of saliva that presages a fine meal of meat. Any claim of disgust is flimsy, and made between bites and swallows.

•Sunday night on "60 Minutes," Katie Couric interviewed John and Elizabeth Edwards. Couric didn't shy from asking questions that most Americans had inside their heads. This makes her evil in the minds of some Democrats, and now they rant about Couric being an agent for the GOP (never mind that the same Dems thought Couric was aces when she laced into George H.W. Bush during a 1992 interview -- the meat on Couric's bones is too toothsome to decline, and it masks the taste of hypocrisy).

•Anna Nicole Smith's remains make for great leftovers. On Monday a medical examiner in Florida announced that Smith died from gobbling too many legal drugs, including chloral hydrate. The autopsy report also revealed that Smith's body boasted several tattoos, including:
•A pair of red lips in the right lower abdominal quadrant.
•Two red cherries on the right mid pelvis.
•A Playboy Bunny on the left anterior mid pelvis.
•The words "Daniel" and "Papas" on the mid anterior pelvis.
•A "mixed tattoo" on the right lower left and ankle included "Christ's head, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Holy Bible, the naked torso of a woman, the smiling face of Marilyn Monroe, a cross (and) a heart and shooting flames."
Christ and Marilyn in the same tattoo. Tasty, this entree.

•Dessert is also a meat dish, made of flesh from the newspaper industry. According to this New York Times report, paragraph factories are dying, with February ad revenues below the typically dismal January report. Said one industry analyst:
“There is absolutely no question that the next 10 years are going to be really bad for the newspaper business. This is a time of wrenching change and chaos. All of our assumptions about newspapers are going to be changed. The format, the business model, the organization of newspapers have outlived their usefulness.”
Now gorged and suddenly anxious, we must purge to make room for the benzodiazepines. And the next meal of meat.

Friday, March 23, 2007


The scribe known as Branson Blue Hair has retired, for now, from Blogland. Such a drag. BBH writes:
It's been a pleasure to have written about Branson, Missouri over the past eight months, but it's time to focus on family and health. So long!
But not good riddance. BBH says a new blog may beckon in 2008. Cross your fingers, hope for the best.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Thomas and Nancy Andrews live in Long Island. They say they love their daughter. You decide.

Jessica was born in 2004, after Mom went through in-vitro fertilization at New York Medical Services for Reproductive Medicine. Dad's sperm was supposed to be used. Something went wrong -- a "colossal blunder," according to the couple's lawsuit. The New York Daily News reports:
Thomas Andrews is white and his wife is Dominican. But Jessica, who was born Oct. 19, 2004, has darker skin than either of them as well as "characteristics more typical of African or African-American descent," the lawsuit states.

The couple tested their daughter's DNA using a home kit and later with two more sophisticated methods. All three of the tests confirmed their suspicions - the tot has a different father.

"We underwent a difficult and complex medical procedure for the sole purpose of bearing a child of our own," the couple said in court papers. "We were never informed that this type of mishap could occur, and frankly, this type of mishap is almost unimaginable."

In legal documents, the couple said they were "emotionally devastated" when they found out Thomas Andrews, who had donated his sperm to be inseminated in his wife, was not the girl's biological father.

"We fear that our daughter will be the object of scorn and ridicule by other children, both in school and as she grows up," they said.
Or at least by her parents. It's not the worst thing the Andrewses said in their lawsuit. That would be this quote: "While we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her. It is simply impossible to ignore."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Smitty gets the point for Larry Bud Melman, who died Monday in Long Island. Damn. TV Week reports:
"It was the greatest thing that had happened in my life," he said of the character. But because the Melman moniker was considered NBC's intellectual property, Mr. DeForest appeared under his own name on "Late Show With David Letterman" after it debuted on CBS in 1993.

His last appearance on "The Late Show" was in 2002, to celebrate his 81st birthday.
Letterman issued a statement that said, in part: "Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself -- a genuine, modest and nice man."


Brian Lewis, the assistant editorial-page editor of the News-Leader, posts an especially interesting piece in the News-Leader's "Your Voices" blog. Under the headline, "Reader complaints: way too much diversity," Lewis grabs a letter from Don Snavely and said, "I thought I’d post it here (unedited) on the blog."

(Why the letter is unedited is anybody's guess, given that Lewis is an editor by title, but it's littered with typos and a wide, ugly streak of anger.)

Snavely's main gripe is that the paper "has flagrantly featured black faces on it's (sic) pages way out of proportion to their participation or newworthiness (sic) for a long, long time."

Snavely claimed he spoke with Lewis about the overabundance of black faces in the paper; Lewis "denied my allegation," Snavely wrote.

What is true is the News-Leader's commitment to diversity, as spelled out by corporate parent Gannett. The "All-American" review is designed "to improve, and assure, the inclusion of local minority voices and faces in the daily news coverage of Gannett newspapers." Reporters are strongly encouraged to seek diverse voices in stories. Photographers are likewise encouraged to get those diverse mugshots in the paper.

Snaveley probably wouldn't like, approve of or appreciate such a commitment; for some there is no hope. But he deserved a straight response. He wrote:
I persisted and asked Mr. Lewis why 80% of his articles were about 4% of his readers (blacks). I told him that black issues were of little news interest to me and my neighbors and the rest of the Ozark area. I asked him to please write about things of interest to us. Mr. Lewis hung up on me in mid sentence.
Lewis responds in the blog:
It’s long been our policy to call people and confirm authorship before publishing letters in the paper as described in this letter.

Mr. Snavely writes that I hung up on him in mid-sentence. That’s very unlike me and the way I treat readers.
Unlikely, but true? We wouldn't blame Lewis if he did.


Brother Robert gets the point for a 4:32 a.m. alert. Brother Richard also flags us, but at an hour when people are actually awake.

Ingram is best known for a monster hit song, "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)." The Associated Press reports:
Ingram died Monday at a Belleville, Illinois, hospital of heart failure, friend and journalist Bernie Hayes said Tuesday. He had suffered for years from diabetes, kidney disease and partial blindness, his wife, Jacqui Ingram, said.

Ingram performed with Ike Turner at clubs in East St. Louis, roomed with Jimi Hendrix in New York and was the opening act for Isaac Hayes. He recorded through the 1980s and performed in concert until the mid-1990s, when his health began declining.

"His instrument was his voice; his heart and head were his inspiration," said Hayes, a St. Louis journalist, disc jockey and author of "The Death of Black Radio."
Another great from Ingram's pen included "Respect Yourself," co-written with Sir Mack Rice.


He was:

•Father of Woody Harrelson, actor.
•Murderer of a federal judge.
•Suspected of being one of the train hobos hanging around the grassy knoll in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The San Antonio Express reports:
A heart attack apparently claimed the 69-year-old inmate in his sleep last Wednesday, said Dorothy Twellman, the coroner in Fremont County, Colo., where Harrelson was held at the federal prison known as "Supermax."

Not the most notorious inmate in a lockup that holds the likes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynksi, the hit man nonetheless inspired considerable hyperbole and was prosecuted four times in three murders.

Harrelson had reportedly claimed credit for a dozen contract killings by 1982, when he was convicted of firing the sniper's bullet that killed U.S. District Judge John H. Wood outside his townhome on Broadway.

"Anyone whose life he touched suffered from it," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Jahn, one of the federal prosecutors who convicted Harrelson in the local federal courthouse that by the time of trial already bore the name of the slain judge.
A bad man, now kept down.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Heads up: Elizabeth Edwards may be back in the news on Wednesday. WHO reports:
Democratic Presidential Candidate John Edwards was supposed to be in Indianola, Iowa, at 6pm Tuesday for a house party. But instead, WHO-TV has learned he's headed back home to be with his wife, who's battling breast cancer. Senator Edwards was scheduled to attend a wine and cheese fundraiser for up to 150 people. But he phoned the party's host around 4 p.m. to say he had to fly home immediately after his wife received some unexpected test results from the doctor. Elizabeth Edwards has been in remission after doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer in 2004. Her husband's presidential campaign said Mrs. Edwards had a routine test Monday and has to go back to the doctor Wednesday for a followup exam.
Could be nothing. Hope it's nothing.


The free-speech case heard this week by the U.S. Supreme Court is styled Morse v. Frederick, but it'll forever be known as the case that got at least four of the nine justices to utter the word "bong."

The skinny: Students leave school, with permission, to watch Olympic torch come through their town. One student unfurls 14-foot banner proclaiming "Bongs Hits 4 Jesus." Principal tears down sign, suspends student for 10 days. Student sues over loss of free speech.

As always, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times has the definitive account of the arguments. The attorney for the principal and school board was Ken Starr, and he made it all about drugs:
“Illegal drugs and the glorification of the drug culture are profoundly serious problems for our nation.”
Free speech for students doesn't include pro-drug speech, Starr insisted.

The chief justice, John Roberts, was Starr's deputy in the solicitor general’s office. Roberts was understandably sympathetic to his old boss, but went one step over the line and started making throat-clearing noises about stifling more than just pro-bong speech:
“Why is it that the classroom ought to be a forum for political debate simply because the students want to put that on their agenda?” Chief Justice Roberts asked Mr. Starr.

The question was particularly interesting because Mr. Starr had just sought to reassure the court that his argument was not limitless. The court’s leading precedent on student speech, a 1969 decision called Tinker v. Des Moines School District, “articulates a baseline of political speech” that students have a presumptive right to engage in, Mr. Starr said.
Riding to the rescue of the free speechers was Sam Alito. After hearing the government argue that a school “does not have to tolerate a message that is inconsistent” with its mission of education, Alito replied:
“I find that a very, very disturbing argument, because schools have defined their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students under the banner of getting rid of speech that’s inconsistent with educational missions.”
Agreement with Alito? Jesus, feels like a bong hit.


Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt this week cut funds to Planned Parenthood -- money that had been used for cancer screenings. According to KYTV's David Catanese, the governor said:
"Patients should not have to go to an abortion clinic to access life saving tests. Today I put an end to taxpayer dollars going to Planned Parenthood in Springfield and Joplin through the Show Me Healthy Women Program. This ensures women may access important preventative care without contributing to abortion providers’ goal of facilitating the destruction of innocent life."
Since when is Springfield's Planned Parenthood an abortion clinic? Blunt knows it's not, but the lie tastes too good in his mouth and besides, it's red meat for his base.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The White House is ditching Alberto Gonzalez, according to But quietly, because only last week President Bush's people were saying they hoped Gonzalez would stay, though Bushologists know a vote of confidence from The Man is the kiss of death; ask Michael "Brownie" Brown or Donald "Fantastic Job" Rumsfeld.

Our bet to replace him: Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. His distinction? Bill Clinton ousted every U.S. Attorney when he took office -- save for Chertoff. He's got coin with Democrats in Congress and Bush can't afford any confirmation fight. Only Gonzalez stands in the way of making it happen.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Everyone's a little nuts. And by "little" we mean garden-variety madness, the kind practiced by the likes of Angelina Jolie, now nurturing another adopted orphan. Jolie's gone mommy nuts -- God knows what Brad Pitt is thinking sometimes -- but at least she's got the smack to give the kids a decent upbringing and her heart seems in the right place. A no-harm nuttiness, if you will.

This we understand; this can be digested. But the insanity regulators seem busted these days -- a little has become a lot, and we don't seem to mind at all. Like adrenaline and other substances, madness is addictive, and it takes stronger doses to let us hang out on clouds.

So we shrug when David R. Garvin goes beyond a little nuts and guns down a restaurant worker and two auxiliary police officers in New York. Those who knew the schooled journalist and frustrated screenwriter could see the snap coming; Amanda Cooley Davis, an actress who worked with Garvin, told a reporter that "of all the people I’ve known in my life, for anybody to go postal, this is the least surprising." Did anyone do anything to stop the madness? How could they, when "go postal" is a common idiom?

We laugh instead of weep when Rep. Rahm Emanuel tells new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert and stay off “The Colbert Report," the satirical show. Reason? The comedian might poke fun at the politicians, and voters might not get the joke. Now that Democrats control Congress, Emanuel is dictating from fear, not confidence. Insanity.

We barely get roused when language and common sense get divided. Everyone in government agrees that Valerie Plame's identity was classified information, but once it's released and her CIA career is ended, the debate becomes whether classified really means classified, whether "covert officer" means something less than "undercover spy." People who defend Plame are "traitors." People who approve of the leaking of her name are "patriots."

We don't care anymore. We're Americans; we've got more junk that anyone else on the planet. We're so big in our heads, we don't even pay much notice when federal agents run rampant over our privacy and hoover up phone records without warrants. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. Nothing to care about.

In his new book, Tom DeLay says Republicans lost control of Congress because "they did not communicate their message and their victories with enough strength to overcome short-term, media-fed issues that arose right before the election." All those other things that ruined the GOP in 2006 -- Iraq, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley? Simply media-fed issues, with no basis in reality. Any other way of thinking would be logical, rational, sane -- in other words, complete madness.


Don Wyatt, executive editor of the News-Leader, promises big changes to the paper. In a Sunday column, Wyatt types and hypes about the future of the paper:
Just as the newspaper you hold today is nothing like the first edition of the Leader, tomorrow's News-Leader and the organization that creates it will be nothing like what you know today. ...

Bigger and bolder steps lie ahead in both digital and print as the newspaper industry transforms itself.

These will include significant changes to the daily newspaper, new weekly publications for nearby neighbors, more Web sites with greater interactivity and the most dramatic shift in how news is gathered, edited and distributed since the Leader was first published by a Confederate soldier many, many years ago.
But Wyatt doesn't deliver any payoff; his column is a big tease, that's all. He doesn't mention:

•The paper's new Christian County publication, designed to boost readership (and ad revenues). It's sorely needed; according to the paper's Audit Bureau of Circulations reader profile, the News-Leader's weekday editions reach about one in three people in Greene and Christian counties.

(Joe Hadsall has some interesting thoughts on the Christian County angle.)

•The April 1 morphing of print reporters into borg-like information gatherers, armed with video cameras and laptops so they can create vid content for the web.

•The death of the traditional features desk and the creation of a "custom content" department.

•The birth of several more blogs, so mainstream media can look (and act) more like new media.

It's all a numbers game, of course. Daily newspapers have suffered circulation slips as the Internet unleashed the wires and abolished traditional news deadlines; those papers now rely on Internet readership to show how they're actually gaining readers. And their sites are built to maximize the appearance of mammoth readership, forcing surfers to click separate links for each individual letter to the editor, for example.

None of these things has anything to do with the newspaper's role as a watchdog, or as creator of the news agenda for southwest Missouri. Do these things still matter in the largest newsroom in the Ozarks?

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Absolutely true. But change isn't always for the better.

Your thoughts on the coming "new" News-Leader?

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Southwest Missouri got its claim to fame in the Valerie Plame hearing on Friday. It was not a pretty sight.

Midge Potts of Springfield, the former GOP candidate for Congress, appeared at the hearing -- in the background, dressed in a Jackie Kennedy outfit, circa November 1963. Potts was in the back of the room as a protester for Code Pink. You couldn't miss Potts. Neither could anyone else who watched.

When Plame criticized the leaking of her name, Potts' hands did a tsk-tsk of disapproval. When Plame nodded "no," so did Potts. And on and on, until we had to wonder if the Code Pink protesters were actually Republican operatives, planted to make Plame look bad.

Reaction on the left wing was mixed, with some Dems giving Potts the rah-rah, while others criticized the spectacle. Count us in the latter category. Because what Plame had to say was important, and instead of letting the former CIA operative's words do the talking, Potts insisted on selfishly mugging for the camera. Some messenger.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Further flogging from our recent post about Springfield's attempt to land the premiere of "The Simpsons Movie," scheduled to open in July:

•Fox was caught by surprise when the story about the contest broke last week. Sources say contest rules are still being ironed out, so it's unclear what we need to do to win the damned thing.

Tony Messenger, editorial page editor of the News-Leader, is equally hyped about landing the premiere, and he's all about steering clear of "official" efforts:
My guess is that city and CVB officials will use their considerable powers to put together a very high quality video presentation selling our city. I don't think that's the way to do it. It's not in the spirit of the Simpsons. I suggest some bright college students or perhaps computer literate high school dropouts put together a more YouTube like presentation that does more poking fun at our city (with love, of course) than it does praising our city's positive aspects.
Amen and amen, Two Fingers. Though we are a little concerned about one of Messenger's suggestions linking locals to cartoon characters:
A dead body in Lake Springfield? Homer would love that. John Twitty as Mr. Burns? (Sorry, John). John Q. Hammons (and his statue) as Jebediah Springfield? Classic. And, my personal favorite, Vincent David Jericho as Ned Flanders.
An insult to Ned Flanders, and far too vital a character to be aligned with a pathological complainer. The radio personality is more like Louis "Mr. Teeny" Toot, trained monkey to Krusty the Clown. He's an immigrant, after all.

Or better still, VD(j) is Birch Barlow, a right-wing radio host and author of the book "Only Turkeys Have Left Wings." He's pudgy, pompous and unimportant. Sounds like a perfect fit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Greene County Democrats hyped this year's Jackson Day keynote speaker as a "nationally known" political figure, and the buzzing started. Would it be Sen. McDreamy, John Edwards? Barack Obama? Joe Biden? Or, progressing down the ladder of fame, Dennis Kucinich?

Bzzz! This year's keynote speaker at the 84th Annual Jackson Day celebration is Rep. Ike Skelton.

Granted, the Democratic majority in Congress makes Skelton the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and now he's got some juice. But "nationally known"? That's stretching it a bit.

The dinner is Saturday, March 31. Tickets are $50 a pop.


A follow to Friday's news that Bradley Delp, lead singer of Boston, was dead. The Associated Press reports that Delp's family is calling the death a suicide:
In a statement relayed Wednesday through police, the family said gave no other details of the 55-year-old Delp's death at his Atkinson home on Friday. Police have said his fiancee, Pamela Sullivan, found him there.

"He was a man who gave all he had to give to everyone around him, whether family, friends, fans or strangers," the statement said. "He gave as long as he could, as best he could, and he was very tired. We take comfort in knowing that he is now, at last, at peace."
The latest wire report says Delp died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and left two notes taped to a door.


Springfield police on Wednesday canceled one missing person's report and opened another.

Missing: Amber Carter, 36. Last seen March 5 at 701 S. Rockaway Lane, just south of Cherry Street and east of Oak Grove Avenue. Carter's boyfriend reported her missing on March 10. Carter is white, 5'5", 170 lbs., with brown shoulder length hair and hazel eyes. She drives a purple 1997 Dodge Intrepid; it has a spoiler and a yellow "golf association" sticker in the back window. Got info? Call (417) 864-1810; reference report #07-11708.

Discovered: Rhonda M Heyl, 45. Last seen March 1, reported missing March 2, turned up alive and well on March 14. A sheriff's deputy located her in the county and arrested her on "unrelated charges." Springfield police say Heyl "had left the area on her own, but then recently returned, for unknown reasons."


The exodus continues at the News-Leader, Springfield's daily newspaper.

Randy Turner @ The Turner Report has the scoop on two more departures from the paragraph factory, including City Hall reporter Jane Huh and political writer Tracy Swartz. The latter was especially unbeloved by many readers and dismissed as a lightweight.

Turner says N-L editors wanted to send Huh to Jefferson City to cover the General Assembly in place of Swartz -- or, as Turner calls her, "a vacuum with a byline." Yow!

Writes Turner:
The same sources say more resignations are in the offing as reporters are fed up with ill-advised Gannett corporate mandates that are geared toward the bottom line and not with publishing a professional newspaper.
Non-daily publications may contribute more to the bottom line, but the daily newspaper is the franchise. Punt that and everything is lost.


Ron Boyer, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, retired this week after 37 years. The abrupt announcement, made Tuesday, said Boyer was retiring, effective March 12.

Interesting local news, to say the least. Boyer penned a recent column in the News-Leader that probably didn't sit well with at least one county official.

Expect a story in Thursday's News-Leader.

Update @ 3 p.m.: No need to wait until Thursday's print edition. The yummy good N-L account can be found here. Oddest passage is courtesy of Kevin Gipson, head of the health department:
The department did not publicly announce the retirement of its long-time employee, nor has it sent a press release to area media.

"I don't think he would have wanted that," Gipson said. "We just decided not to do that."
Retirements and how they're announced (or not announced) are never "just decided."


You'll want to add this one to your bookmarks or blogroll: Life in the Garden is well-written, thoughtful and offers a tip in every post. The latest one: Perfect your yodel.

Given the subject matter, it's right up our alley. Hope you enjoy it.


Officials at KPPX-TV in Arizona say pornography shown during a Tom Brokaw health-care special was "human sabotage." According to the East Valley Tribune:
Chandler parent Brenda Schodt said she was shocked when a series of graphic sex acts suddenly appeared on her television screen.

"Maybe five or 10 minutes into the show there was no volume," Schodt said. "I thought it was the TV, but when I looked up, there were these images."

Cox spokeswoman Andrea Katsenes said Tuesday that the unexpected clips were not caused by Cox, and that the problem was a "source issue" with the broadcaster.

ION Television, which operates KPPX, called the problem "an act of human sabotage" at its station. ...

KPPX’s chief engineer, Ken Sell, said he raced to the studio Sunday night to figure out what went wrong.

He told the Tribune he was going over the “air check tape” that records what KPPX has aired, but said he found no evidence that pornography was shown.

When contacted Tuesday, Sell declined to comment further.
Only on Cox cable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


This, that, the other thing:

•Anna Nicole Smith had a son in 2001, according to the Phoenix New Times, and the father of that child seems to have the proof. Johnny Soto, a member of the Tohono O'odham tribe, says he and Smith had a month-long affair while she vacationed at Paradise Valley's Sanctuary Resort and Spa (he worked there). The child's name is Marshall. Smith is listed as his mother on a birth certificate.

The compelling New Times account paints Smith as a dumb racist, a woman who wanted Soto because the taboo made it "almost like sleeping with a black man." From the story:
"I remember, one time she met us close to Christmas and gave us presents while [Howard K.] Stern played slots in the Casino," Soto recalls. "She gave Marshall an Indian play doll, with a teepee and a horse. That was okay. But then she gave me an old Cher CD. Remember that one from the '70s, Half-Breed? She said it was one of her favorite songs, and could I play it for Marshall. I kept thinking, 'How dumb is this woman?' She also tried to get me to f--- her again, in the Casino restroom while Marshall played with his toy. By this time she was so fat, she could barely fit in the stall. Ultimately, I couldn't go through with it. She kept saying she wanted me to use my 'bow and arrow' on her 'ax wound.' I told her that was no ax wound, it was the Grand Canyon! She got so pissed, she almost left in a huff, but then came back when she realized she hadn't hugged Marshall goodbye."
A bottomless barrel, the Smith saga.

•Don't forget to check out this Washington Post story about erectile dysfunction, written by Ben Harder. Reminds us of a photo cutline published in the News-Leader -- one that identified a member of a Christian singles group as "Peter Beater." Yes, he was joking. No, it wasn't funny.

•Court TV is changing its name and doing a rebranding to "target a psychographic the network is calling 'Real Engagers,' viewers who like watching shows about "real people," especially action stories." This, according to Broadcasting & Cable, which makes no mention of what might happen to Beth Karas.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Brash, with personality to spare. The official announcement of her death is expected Tuesday. According to The Associated Press:
Hutton was at the top of the heap when she walked out of her Paramount contract in 1952, reportedly in a dispute over her demand that her then-husband direct her films. She made only one movie after that but had a TV series for a year and worked occasionally on the stage and in nightclubs.

Unlike other actresses who have been called "blonde bombshells," Hutton had a screen personality that had more to do with energy and humor than sex.

Time magazine wrote in 1950: "Betty Hutton, who is not remarkably pretty, by movie standards, nor a remarkably good singer or dancer, has a vividly unique personality in a town that tends to reduce beauty and talent to mass-produced patterns. Watching her in action has some of the fascination of waiting for a wildly sputtering fuse to touch off an alarmingly large firecracker."
She was born Betty June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Mich., on Feb. 26, 1921. Not a beauty and hey, that's all right.


In early 1992, Mario Cuomo -- then the governor of New York, and at the prime of his political and oratorical skills -- had a plane ready to take him to New Hampshire, where he would enter the Democratic presidential primary and, presumably, take the country by storm.

The plane, filled with campaign workers, stayed in New York. Cuomo never ran for president, and his indecision tarred him as the Hamlet of Albany.

On Monday, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) made an announcement in Omaha. With national reporters in the front row, and his political mentor in the audience, Hagel said ... not much of anything.

He said he and his family would decide, sometime this year, whether he would run for president:
“In making this announcement, I believe there will still be political options open to me at a later date,” Hagel said, adding that the “political currents in America are more unpredictable today than at any time in modern history.”

“We are experiencing a political reorientation, a redefining — and moving toward a new political center of gravity,” Hagel said. “This movement is bigger than both parties. The need to solve problems and meet challenges is overtaking the ideological debates of the last three decades — as it should.”
Words like that make Hagel sound as if he is considering an independent bid for the White House. But he seems too much a pragmatist to pine for something so impossible; before his non-announcement announcement, Hagel talked shop in a conference call with political supporters and said he still enjoyed serving in the Senate.

Our gut tells us Hagel was tamping down early -- make that too-early -- expectations. He could wait six months, allow other GOP candidates to flame out, then come in as the real conservative in the race, right with his party on the issues. Sure, Dick Cheney talks smack about him, but why should Hagel care? Cheney's past his sell-by date, and voters are with Hagel on his stand against the war in Iraq. Maybe an announcement about nothing was the wise move, after all.


A few songs we're listening to on this impossibly warm Monday in southwest Missouri, as we navel-gaze:

•"Sinitaivas" by Olavi Virta and The Harmony Sisters. We heard this irresistible song in the movie, "Lovers of the Arctic Circle", a favorite.

•Longwave's "Tidal Wave." Not a great band, but a pretty good hook.

•"Superstar" by Sonic Youth.

•Sugarcult's cover of the Modern English tune, "I Melt With You."

•"Don't You Want Me" from Human League, 'cause you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.

•"Running Scared" by Roy Orbison. A pop opera in 2:13.

•Blink-182's "Adam's Song."

•"Dashboard" from Modest Mouse.

•"I'm Shipping Up to Boston" from the Dropkick Murphys. And speaking of Boston:

•"Hitch A Ride." RIP, Bradley Delp.


John Dove was killed Saturday night in Houston. The 27-year-old man made several mistakes in the minutes before his death:

•He was in a home, not his own, and with a 13-year-old girl he'd met online.
•Once caught, he argued with the girl's parents before fleeing the residence with the teen.
•And then he came back.

Television station KHOU reports:
The mother reportedly went into the home to call 911. As she was on the phone with the emergency operator, she received a phone call from Dove saying he was coming back to the residence to talk to her.

As Dove approached the residence, he became involved in a heated argument with the mother on his cell phone.

The father returned to the residence with a loaded shotgun and saw Dove approaching his wife. He told police Dove made a gesture he took as threatening and became combative.

After a struggle, the father allegedly shot and killed the man, Houston police said.
The father hasn't been charged, so far. The girl stayed away until Sunday morning. She thought she'd be in trouble at home.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor now running for president on the GOP side, has been the default darling of the social conservatives now running the Republican Party. All that is about to change.

Romney this weekend told a Florida television station that the government (read: Congress) was wrong to interfere in the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.

The case is dear to social conservatives, especially the 100-percenters on the Life team, the squad that wants to ban all abortions, eliminate all stem-cell research and prohibit birth control. They're the loudest voice in the GOP, and every Republican running for president must suck up to them.

The Lifers forced the GOP-controlled Congress in 2005 to pass legislation demanding more judicial review of the Schiavo case. Rep. Roy Blunt famously said: "It‘s clear from watching the tapes of Terri Schiavo that she interacts with people. She‘s aware of her surroundings. She attempts to communicate."

An autopsy showed Schiavo had "massive cerebral atrophy." She was blind, too. No communication attempts here, save for the one Blunt and his ilk made to the mercurial social cons: Thy will be done.

Romney told the base something entirely different this weekend. According to a St. Pete Times report, Romney said this about the Schiavo case:
"I think it's probably best to leave these kinds of matters in the hands of the courts ... I generally think that it's not a good idea for courts to legislate. Nor is it great idea for legislatures to adjudicate in a specific circumstance."
That's stepping into a pile of Mitt, for certain, and the stink will probably never come out. Social conservatives had counted on Romney to be their next Reagan, and they were already wary of him for his flip-flops on abortion, campaign-finance reform, immigration and equality for gays. His answer to the Schiavo question makes him powdered toast to a base already disenchanted with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Who's next for the grinder?

Friday, March 09, 2007


He was the lead singer of Boston. He died Friday at his home in Atkinson, N.H. WMUR reports:
Police are calling Delp's death "untimely," but they said there was no indication of foul play. Investigators said he was apparently alone at the time of his death.

Delp, 55, was preparing for a summer tour with Boston and was also planning to get married this summer.
If Boston hadn't done "More Than A Feeling," Kurt Cobain would never have had a riff for "Smells Like Teen Spirit."


Springfield, Mo., has been invited to compete for the premiere screening of "The Simpsons Movie" in July.

Louise Whall, public information officer for the City of Springfield, confirmed Friday that our city has been asked to duke it out for the big-screen premiere.

According to this Associated Press report:
Fox publicist Gwyne Ortiz said Fox has asked 16 Springfields from Oregon to Massachusetts to participate.

Fox will pick the winner after reviewing short film entries showcasing the community's positive aspects and links to the Simpsons, who live in their own fictional Springfield.
City officials here are still pondering how to compete for the premiere. Got a good idea? Tell us. We know City Hall watches this space.


Tractorgurl gets the point. Inman played Mr. Humphries in the BBC show, "Are You Being Served?" Reuters reports:
Inman, who later became a pantomime regular, was one of the sitcom’s most memorable cast members and his catchphrase “I’m free” became part of popular culture.

In 1976, he was voted “Funniest Man on Television” by readers of TV Times magazine and was also named BBC TV’s “Personality of the Year.”
The blogging fiend Desdinova offers added trivia: Gary Marshall filmed a pilot for an American version with former Laugh-In star Alan Sues as Humphies. Several other famous TV stars were in Marshall's version. ABC turned it down. We Americans. So cheeky.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


The suspected abuse is apparent fact. This story is Friday's talker. According to an Associated Press report:
A blistering Justice Department report accuses the FBI of underreporting its use of the Patriot Act to force businesses to turn over customer information in terrorism cases, according to officials familiar with its findings.

The report, to be released Friday, also says the FBI failed to send follow-up subpoenas to telecommunications firms that were told to expect them, according to several government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report by the Justice Department's inspector general had not yet been released.

Overall, the FBI underreported the number of national security letters it issued by about 20 percent between 2003 and 2005, the officials said. In 2005 alone, the FBI delivered a total of 9,254 letters relating to 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents.
The Patriot Act allows the FBI to issue such national security letters. Judicial oversight is nil; the FBI doesn't need a judge's permission, and it can demand customers records from many businesses, including Internet service providers and phone companies.

The FBI says the underreporting was unintentional. No foul, however, does not mean no harm.


A new study out Friday says risks from eating mercury-contaminated fish are realm and "children and women of childbearing age should take particular care." The Telegraph reports:
Species high in the food chain, such as swordfish, king mackerel, albacore tuna, shark and tilefish, contain higher concentrations of mercury. ...

Exposure to methylmercury now constitutes a public health problem in most regions of the world and concentrations are now being found in a number of fish-eating wildlife species in remote areas, according to the Madison Declaration on Mercury Pollution published today in a special issue of Ambio, the journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Levels from developing countries over the past three decades have offset a fall from developed nations, meriting a worldwide alert about the dangers, say scientists.
Consider yourself alerted.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


There are 4,146 songs in our iTunes library. Enough music to last nearly 12 days -- in other words, not quite as long as a power outage from an ice storm, but close. Most of it is pop music because, as friend and former colleague Jenny Franklin used to say, it's sweet, sweet ear candy.

Mmm. Ears.

On Wednesday the National Association of Record Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced a retail campaign designed to get you to buy more CDs. The rollout was couched in more polite terms -- NARM president Jim Donio said the announcement is "to highlight music that has enduring popularity among fans. This is to celebrate the album" -- but it's also a push against single-song downloads.

The new campaign is the Definitive 200, a list of "albums every music lover should own." Retailers compiled the list, so you know it's sales-friendly.

The top five "definitive" albums:
1) "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles (1967)

2) "Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd (1973)

3) "Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982)

4) "IV," Led Zeppelin (1971)

5) "The Joshua Tree," U2 (1987)
Like any list, there's plenty of one human's meat, another person's poison. The Definitive 200 is all about the familiar; influences or early works are generally ignored. Big Star, the definitive power-pop band, isn't on the list. A Big Star-inspired band -- REM -- is there with "Automatic for the People" (No. 73), and even Michael Stipe would probably admit it's not his band's best effort.

Nirvana's "Nevermind" comes in at No. 10. Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" is No. 15. The Beatles' "White Album" comes in at No. 39, two slots behind the soundtrack from "Grease," a movie that never led to the intentional death of anyone.

Check out the list and tell us what's missing, what's puzzling, what you'd jettison. Besides Matchbox Twenty.


Springfield residents have until March 28 to curbside all tree debris from the ice storm. That's the word from city officials, who also say emergency crews have "essentially completed" their first pass though the city.

According to Louise Whall, city public information director and Duchess of Debris:
All vegetative debris from the January ice storm must be moved to the public street by that date for the final collection across the city. All City residents on public streets will receive a bright yellow postcard in the mail in about a week to further remind them of the final date. Residents of private streets also will receive a reminder that they need to move debris to a public right of way for free pick-up. ...

By the end of Monday, March 5, DRC has collected 928,205 cubic yards of debris, representing 20,345 loads within the City of Springfield. Shawnee Mission Tree Service, the debris-removal contractor for the Springfield-Greene County Park Department, has collected another 67,648 cubic yards of storm debris from parks.
Zip over to the city's web page for more info.


Last week's Conservative Political Action Conference is mostly remembered for Ann Coulter going off the deep end. Lost in the outrage is the story of Matt Sanchez, a Marine Corps reservist who says he was called a "baby killer" while attending school at Columbia University.

For standing up to such criticism, Sanchez was awarded the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award at last week's CPAC. Bloggers like Michelle Malkin fawned over Sanchez. Here he is with Sean Hannity. And with Ann Coulter.

Sanchez used to have an alias -- Rod Majors. He did gay porn. Here's a link that will lead you to some pics of Sanchez/Majors that are not safe for work, kids, prudes or the weak of heart.

On his blog, Sanchez says he'll have a response sometime on Wednesday. This ought to be good.


Captain America is dead. That other super hero known as The Snarling Marmot captures the point.

From an Associated Press report:
A sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse, according to the New York Daily News.

It ends a long run for the stars-and-stripes-wearing character, created in 1941 to incarnate patriotic feeling during World War II. Over the years, an estimated 210 million copies of "Captain America" comic books, published by New York-based Marvel Entertainment Inc., have been sold in a total of 75 countries.
RIP, Steve Rogers.


Her smiling face doesn't seem threatening. But police say Julia Lynch, 30, of New Hampshire tried to get two ex-boyfriends committed to a psychiatric hospital. Neither man needed the locked ward.

According to a Union Leader story:
Lynch has been charged with false swearing and tampering with private records by Dover police in connection with an April incident in which she allegedly tried to get an ex-boyfriend committed.

Last November, Lynch, of Rollinsford, was charged by Portsmouth police with a misdemeanor false swearing complaint after it was discovered that she tried to get a different ex-boyfriend involuntarily admitted to a hospital for psychological testing.

Police said they believe Lynch used her position at Portsmouth Hospital to get a justice of the peace to sign paperwork that would allow the man to be committed.
Because any man would be crazy to break off a relationship with this sweet face, right?


Other Brother Robert gets the point and a bottle of Thunderbird for alerting us to the death of this icon. From The New York Times:
Somber, secretive and seemingly humorless, with little more than a high school education, Mr. Gallo — working closely with his brother, Julio — created a wine empire that became one of the world’s largest.

While Julio, who died in an auto accident in 1993, preferred the winemaking, Ernest had a head for business. His entrepreneurial skills, instinctive command of marketing and distribution, and his compulsive need to be the best at what he did, created the large company that he controlled at the time of his death.

And the company, entirely family controlled, was indeed large. Industry analysts estimate that Gallo produces some 80 million cases of wine a year, which is about 220,000 cases or 2.64 million bottles every day. The company reportedly owns 10,000 acres of vineyards in California and buys grapes from hundreds of independent growers.
At his death, Gallo was worth an estimated $1.2 billion.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


You will not find a better lede than this one. Reuters reports:
An Iraqi national wearing wires and concealing a magnet inside his rectum triggered a security scare at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday but officials said he posed no apparent threat.
The magnet inside Fadhel al-Maliki, 35, set off an alarm; a bomb squad had to examine the "suspicious item" found during a cavity search.

Maliki lives in Atlantic City; he was headed from L.A. to Philadelphia. He missed the flight -- a magnet in the rectum can do that -- but his luggage made the trip.


Robert Perez was 48 when he was executed Tuesday evening for a 1994 double-murder in San Antonio. It was the seventh time this year that Texas has executed a killer. Wednesday will bring another state-ordered lethal injection.

But back to Perez. He led a prison gang and, authorities said, ordered more than a dozen killings in San Antonio during the 1990s. Especially heinous was the 1997 slayings of five people -- the West French Place killings. Perez didn't pull a trigger, but he was general of the Mexican Mafia, according to prosecutors.

A bad man, sure. But he had his charms. The Associated Press reports:
Jeff Mulliner, who was an assistant Bexar County district attorney who also helped prosecute Perez, said Perez was "someone who did bad things and has a whole dimensional shading to his character." But Mulliner, now in private practice, also found Perez to have "an abundance of charisma, a keen intellect, a sharp wit and a sense of humor."

"I kind of appreciated all those things about him," Mulliner said. "Other than French Place, which is a footnote, I believe part of the honor of Robert Perez is he was not dangerous to an elderly lady trying to cross the street or to a young man on the bus to work. I think the only people in danger from Robert Perez were people he was associated with that didn't follow the rules."
Among his last words: "I got my boots on like the cowboys."

Monday, March 05, 2007


The year was 1986, and Thomas F. Eagleton was in Springfield, stumping for Democrats running for office and recalling his life in politics. He would be leaving the U.S. Senate in a few months, so his mood was reflective.

A reporter, too young to have tact, asked Eagleton about his political legacy, and how it would be written for history in The New York Times. Eagleton nodded.

"You know the answer," he said. "First paragraph will read, 'Thomas F. Eagleton, former U.S. Senator who briefly ran for vice president before ...'" He didn't need to continue.

Monday's New York Times published this lede:
Thomas F. Eagleton, a former United States senator whose legislative accomplishments were overshadowed by his removal as the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1972 after revelations of mental illness and electroshock therapy, died yesterday in Richmond Heights, Mo. He was 77 and lived outside St. Louis in Clayton, Mo.
George McGovern, the doomed presidential candidate in 1972, said last year that he was wrong to remove Eagleton from the ticket. “If had it to do over again, I’d have kept him,” McGovern said. “I didn’t know anything about mental illness. Nobody did.”

Tom Eagleton did. He deserved better.

Ever-resourceful Sniderman gets the point, besting AK by 20 minutes, with Jim and Matt coming in late.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Missouri politics has the Steelman family, and Dorman Steelman was its patriarch. Educated in a one-room schoolhouse on the banks of the Current River, he went on to become a state lawmaker, a circuit-court judge and a mentor to guys like Sen. Kit Bond. The Rolla Daily News has the obit:
He served as Minority Floor Leader in the House from 1960-1964. Later, he became state chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, a post he held from 1966-1968.

In 1976, Mr. Steelman was appointed by Gov. Christopher S. “Kit” Bond to be circuit judge of the 42nd Judicial Circuit. He was reelected to that post three times and served until 1994.
His daughter-in-law is Sarah Steelman, Missouri's treasurer and a good bet to be the next GOP candidate for governor.

The point goes to Smitty, who would rather not have earned it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Amy the Mac, aka The Snarling Marmot, has been having issues with Network Solutions. This, too, shall pass.

But in the meantime, if you're like us, you've been missing your dose of Marmot (goes great with tequila, by the way). Fear not: She has a backup generator of a blog and it's up and running. Click over to the Marmot Den to find her.


Brent D. Ward is 61. He's married, with seven kids.

He thinks pornography is one of the country's biggest evils. That explains why he's the leader of a Bush Administration task force within the Department of Justice. The group's sole purpose: Enforce federal obscenity laws.

In Ward's mind, "enforcing" the law means crushing all sexually explicit businesses in the United States. He acknowledges the futility of his actions:
"We're not going to prosecute it away, but it's important, I think, that Americans see their government trying to do something about it."
A profile in the Salt Lake Tribune reveals Ward's ultra-prude personality:
While practicing law and serving on the board of Utah Citizens for Positive Community Values, Ward fought for a state law aimed at strip clubs that would have required dancers, as well as art class models and others, to wear at least a bikini. The Legislature never passed it.
Many normal adults use porn for arousal. Ward and the prude patrol use power to get off.