Monday, April 30, 2007


Former backup bandleader on "The Tonight Show." Died April 28 in Portsmouth, Va. According to Variety:
Johnny Carson gave Newsom the name Mr. Excitement to make light of his low-key personality and drab brown and blue suits -- a sharp contrast to the flashy style of bandleader Doc Severinsen.

Not long after the Carson era ended in 1992, Newsom remarked that his image as an ordinary guy was "fairly accurate -- compared to Rambo."

Along with his work on "The Tonight Show," Newsom arranged and composed music for Skitch Henderson, Woody Herman, Kenny Rogers, John Denver and other performers.
He got his first horn when he was 8. Did four years with a U.S. Air Force jazz ensemble. Toured with Benny Goodman and played in "The Merv Griffin Show" orchestra. A good life, betcha.


Strannix made us do it. Our cyber colleague at Welcome to the Revolution is remodeling that site, including an upgrade to the comments section.

Blogger envy set in, so we've switched CHATTER over to Haloscan comments and ditched the Blogger variety (for those who complained about the hoops that Blogger made you jump through to post a comment -- you're welcome).

We've kept the old comments from a few of the most recent posts. The rest of the slate is blank. Have at it.


Daily newspapers are still shedding subscribers at an alarming rate, according to Editor & Publisher. The Newspaper Association of America says daily circulation dropped 2.1 percent in the past six months. Sunday circ declined 3.1 percent.

Locally, the News-Leader has lost significant average paid circulation, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation:

•In April 2003 the paper reported average paid circulation of 63,061 (daily) and 91,513 (Sunday).

•In May 2005 the numbers had dropped to 60,863 and 88,811.

•For the six months ending September 2006 the News-Leader reported daily paid circ of 58,238, and Sunday circ at 84,147.


A 28-year-old Springfield man has been charged with first-degree murder in a weekend shooting outside Traffic, a downtown nightclub.

Travis D. Mack was charged late Sunday, according to police. He's accused of shooting Kenneth Dixon Jr., 26.

Dixon was shot Friday night. Sources say he had just left Traffic, a bar with a history of problems, when he was gunned down. Cops said they found Dixon "lying on the sidewalk and unresponsive."

Two eyewitnesses helped finger Mack for the shooting, cops say. But as of Monday morning, Mack remained at large. Police are dangling a potential $1,000 Crime Stoppers reward for more information; call (417) 869-8477.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


The new, improved (and packed with more fiber) News-Leader has its good points. The expanded editorial and opinion section is appreciated. And now that the makeover is a week old, it seems likely that Don Wyatt's wispy columns have finally ended.

A solid week of Wyatt's typing ("Good morning. Welcome to your new News-Leader ... Good morning. Welcome to the second day of the new News-Leader ... Good morning. Welcome to the third day of the new News-Leader." Rinse, lather, repeat) culminated in a Sunday front-page cut-and-paste column from the editor. Meanwhile, someone was shot dead outside a downtown Springfield nightclub -- you know, real news.

Front page? Not in Wyatt's World.

The paper's Sunday coverage of a Friday night slaying outside Traffic, a downtown nightclub, is worse than pitiful. The five-paragraph report is a brief on 2A. No refer from 1A. No quotes. No color. It gets less space than a report on the arrest of an armed-robbery suspect.

Springfield averages around six homicides a year, compared to more than 200 annual robberies. Because homicide is such a relatively rare crime, it belongs on the front page.

We're not alone in that opinion. Our Saturday post about the shooting has drawn comments from others who wonder what happened to the paper's news judgment.

And another thing: While we're critiquing the local paper, we draw your attention to the briefs column on the Nation/World section front (11A). The first two briefs report on a newborn recovering from a tumor removal, and a woman surviving two days inside a partially submerged SUV. Nice little briefs. Too bad they're missing datelines, or any other indicator of the Where.

Welcome to your new News-Leader.


Pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Died early Sunday in a car wreck. The Associated Press reports:
The Cardinals postponed their home game Sunday night against the Chicago Cubs. It was the second time in less than five years that a St. Louis pitcher died during the season. Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room in 2002.

Police said the 29-year-old Hancock was alone in his 2007 Ford Explorer when he struck the rear of a tow truck at 12:35 a.m. The truck was in the left lane assisting another vehicle that was involved in a prior accident, officer Pete Mutter said.

Hancock was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the tow truck, whose name was not released by police, was in the truck at the time of the crash but was not injured. The medical examiner's office said Sunday morning that an autopsy had been scheduled.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the wreck happened on Highway 40, just east of Compton Avenue. Hancock lived in St. Louis in the off-season. Sniderman @ The 2 Dollar Bill gets the point.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


The victim: Kenneth Dixon Jr., 26, of Springfield. Police say his family is from St. Louis. The shooting took place at 11:59 p.m. Friday behind the nightclub at 220 W. Walnut. No other info from cops at this time.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Thursday's debate between eight Democrats running for president was a brisk affair, a 90-minute whirl of political preening and occasional thoughtfulness.

If you didn't watch the debate on MSNBC, read the transcript and come to your own decisions on winners and losers.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams kept the trains running on time and kept the focus off him and on the candidates. Nice job.

Our fave rave moments:

•Mike Gravel (Gruh-VELL), a former U.S. Senator from Alaska, embodied the curmudgeon's spirit by attacking the competition as scary:
"It's like going into the Senate, you know the first time you get there you're all excited -- 'My God, how did I ever get here?' And then, about six months later, you say, 'How the hell did the rest of them get here?' And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me! They frighten me!"
Moderator Brian Williams asked Gravel for specifics. Gravel said the "top tier" candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards. Joe Biden raised his hand to be included, and Gravel let him have it:
"Oh, Joe, I'll include you too. You have a certain arrogance."
•Hillary Clinton sounded most like a president. Barack Obama sounded most like a president of a local high school student council.

•John Edwards, aka Sen. McDreamy, was unexpectedly bland.

•Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, won the "have a beer with this guy" award.

•In running for president, Dennis Kucinich is seeking an impossible dream. Then again, he's married to this woman, Elizabeth. Sometimes impossible dreams do come true.

Other reaction: Dave Catanese has his rundown on the KY3 Political Notebook. And Missouri Politics views the debate this way.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


James R. Richards was director of the Feline Health Center of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He knew his cats. He even lived with one.

He died early, at age 58. The money quote from The New York Times explain everything:
Dr. Richards died of injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. According to Sgt. Kelly Daley of the New York State Police, he was thrown from his motorcycle after he tried without success to avoid hitting a cat that had run into the road.
We love cats, but we know the ugly truth: If they could operate motorcycles, they'd run us down like dogs.


One of Springfield's new City Council members, Dan Chiles, is a thinker, willing to give voice to the audacious. Proof: The Harvard grad and local businessman is circulating a 10-page thumbsucker on policy, "and that includes issues large and small." Emphasis on the large.

He calls it a "partial list" of policy ideas that "certainly do not include every important priority in our town. But it's a start."

His first idea is called a "50-year flyover," a one-day conference bringing together people "from many occupations and backgrounds" to brainstorm the future. Writes Chiles:
"We can't possible make good decisions about the future of our town until we can visualize what Springfield and the surrounding community will be like in fifty years."
There are calls for a new fuels conference; an expansion of CrimeSeen into deeper crime prevention; new transportation strategies; and a city garden program.

We're also psyched by Chiles' call for a new city flag, one that's "bright and beautiful." Finally, a chance to convince the city to adopt the Superman look.


The former aide to Lyndon Johnson, and lobbyist for the motion picture industry, died Thursday. According to The Associated Press, Valenti had a stroke in March. He was hospitalized for several weeks and died of complications.


Last year it was heroin laced with fentanyl, a combo that killed at least 175 people in Detroit, and 20 in one month in St. Louis.

Now there is worry that a different heroin-based taste sensation is causing another spike in deaths, this time in teens. The Associated Press reports:
At least 18 Dallas County teenagers have died from using cheese, a mixture of black tar heroin and powderized Tylenol PM tablets.

The deaths have been reported throughout the county. Most of the victims are male, and involve equal numbers of white and Hispanic youth. One girl who died was found with the phase "Cheese Please" scrawled on her body with a marker.
Two bucks a taste, according to the report. The tar-and-Tylenol mix is usually snorted, according to cops. Through February of this year, cops in the Dallas school district have busted 122 kids for holding cheese.


He did the mash. He did the "Monster Mash." It was a graveyard smash. WNBC reports:
Pickett, dubbed "The Guy Lombardo of Halloween" for his impossibly catchy No. 1 song, passed away Wednesday night at the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, said his longtime manager, Stuart Hersh. His daughter, Nancy, and his sister, Lynda, were at Pickett's bedside.

Pickett's multimillion selling single hit the charts three separate times: when it debuted in 1962, again in August 1970, and for a third time in May 1973. ...

While Pickett never again recreated the success of "Monster Mash," he continued performing through his final gig in November 2006. He remained in demand for Halloween performances, including a memorable 1973 show where his bus broke down outside Frankenstein, Mo.
First Boris Yeltsin, now Boris Pickett. Is Boris Badenov next?


Opponents of evolution keep kicking, even after the licking they took in Dover, Penn. Despite the fact that a federal judge ruled "intelligent design" is nothing more than reheated creationism, IDers still insist they be taken seriously by the scientific community.

This week, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia became the latest whiner to his cause. John Marshall complained about ID being kicked "off the playing field of science." The Columbia Tribune quotes Marshall:
"[Intelligent Design is] as much science as Darwinian evolution is science. And as a theory, I believe that intelligent design fits the evidence of biology better than Darwinian evolution."
About 100 people attended the forum. Unfortunately for Marshall, many were scientists trained in chemistry and biology. Frank Schmidt, a biochem professor, decided to dispense with pussyfooting. He asked Marshall why "intelligent design" should be considered science when it doesn't even offer a single testable prediction.

The Tribune reported that "Marshall would not directly answer the question."

He couldn't, of course. There is no science in "intelligent design." Instead of knowledge it relies on ignorance. If something in the natural world is too difficult to immediately understand, the ID answer is supernatural: "God did it."

No wonder Schmidt said Marshall's presentation "really hacks me off." It should hack off anyone who uses a brain to think.


Tiffany Weaver wanted it bad. So the 29-year-old Maryland woman used a fake ID and posed as a lawyer so she could meet with inmate Jason Moody, serving three dimes for manslaughter.

This week Weaver pleaded guilty to identity theft and use of false government identification. The Associated Press reports:
Weaver arrived at the (prison) with a Maryland State Bar Association Security Identification Pass with a photo and a business card with attorney Amanda Sprehn's name.

She asked for admittance to meet with Moody and showed the fraudulent badge. Corrections officials responsible for monitoring inmate meetings with attorneys witnessed the two having sex once they were alone. The corrections officers ended the meeting.
In case you wondered: Yes, there is a real Amanda Sprehn, and yes, she's an attorney. She was notified via letter that she was banned from the prison for having sex with an inmate. "A real laugh," Sprehn said of the letter. It arrived while she was on maternity leave.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Hands down, Raymond Adamcik, a 54-year-old physician from Brevard County, Fla., wins the award for Best Freak.

Cops say Adamcik, dressed in a Captain America costume for a festive pub crawl, groped a woman who wouldn't touch his burrito.

His large burrito. The one tucked in the crotch of his costume.

Yeesh. WFTV reports:
On Saturday night, when a costume party full of medical professionals stopped at On Tap Cafe, police said Adamcik had a burrito stuffed below the waistband of his costume and was asking women if they want to touch it. When one refused, he allegedly took out the burrito and groped her.

The woman called police and, when they arrived, the officers wrote in their report "there were so many cartoon characters in the bar at the time, all Captain Americas were asked to go outside for a possible identification."

The woman pointed out Adamcik and the burrito was found in his boot. He was taken to the police station. There, while in a holding cell, police said, he asked to use the bathroom and tried to flush a joint, also hidden in his blue tights, down the toilet.
Adamcik reportedly checked into rehab this week.


•Local authorities wasted no time in exploiting the Virginia Tech shootings. Karl William Forge, a 42-year-old instructor at the Ozarks Technical Community College's Richwood Valley campus, is charged with making a terroristic threat. According to the charge filed in Christian County, Forge walked into his classroom on April 18, held his briefcase to his chest and said he was a suicide bomber. Forge said it was a joke and apologized, but authorities were not mollified.

There is no evidence that Forge was serious. None. David Southard, a detective with the Ozark Police Department, filed a probable cause statement that acknowledged:
I requested permission from Forge to search his residence and briefcase to look for any items, which could be used in making an explosive device. We were granted permission by Forge to search his residence, and nothing was located to make us consider an explosive device was possible. ...

Forge informed me he was preparing his class at OTC-Richwood Valley Campus for a test which he felt the students were nervous for, so he decided to make a comic relief and to lighten the mood of the class. Forge informed, while holding his briefcase to his chest, he informed the class he was a suicide bomber. Forge informed he immediately felt bad about the joke, and did not remember what he said immediately afterwards, but informed he wanted to say something to the effect that the exam in his briefcase was a bomb. Forge informed at that time one of his students make the comment that his statement was inappropriate, especially because of the events which recently occurred at Virginia Technical College, and Forge informed he agreed with the student.
No joke: Forge faces up to seven years in prison.

•Steven Grant, a Colorado minister, says Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people because the Bible has been banned from public schools. Grant writes in an op-ed in the Greeley Tribune:
The shooter at Virginia Tech was a madman. However, he had also been raised on a solid diet of secular humanism which teaches no moral absolutes. "If it feels good, do it," is one of the many mantras he ingested. Consequently he did what felt good, and innocent people died as a result. Today, we cannot condemn his actions unless we judge what we fed him as a society. What we sow, we also reap. And we will continue to have a bloody harvest until we return to what we know worked to make America great as a nation in the generations before us; the culture, training, and absolute morality of the Christian faith and our Savior Jesus Christ.
•Cho hired a hooker -- pardon us, an escort -- last month. WSLS reports that Chastity Frye was interviewed by cops over the weekend. She said Cho was "creeping her out" and she claims she didn't have sex with him. From the story:
"I danced for a little while and I thought we were done because he got up and went to the restroom and began washing. And I said, 'well, do you want me to go? I'm going to go ahead and go'. And he's like, 'I paid for the full hour, you've only been here for 15 minutes,' and then he came back in the room. And I started dancing and that's when he you know, touched me and tried to get on me and that's when I pushed him away."
Mmm-hmm. Frye says cops voiced their usual probing questions:
"Well, they asked me what happened, and then they asked me if anything stuck out."
A hooker named Chastity says she didn't have sex with a paying client. The insanity lingers.

Monday, April 23, 2007


The state housing program in Missouri helps finance places for poor people to live. It also helps some developers make a lot of money, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

An excellent weekend story in the P-D exposes the fact that about 65 cents of every dollar in the "low-income housing tax credit" actually goes to people who buy and sell the credits.

People like Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, who with developer Mark Gardner runs Carlson Gardner Inc. According to the P-D, the firm "has received tax credits for more projects than any other developer the last three years." Last December, Carlson Gardner was awarded "$1.3 million in annual credits" for a project, according to the newspaper.

Another Springfieldian is quite unhappy with the Missouri Housing Development Commission, the organization that runs the tax-credit program. Sam Hamra wanted tax credits for his older-adult housing development in Lebanon, but he got only $325,000, according to the P-D.

Hamra, a wheel in Missouri politics, wrote to Gov. Matt Blunt and asked him to "correct this blatant inequity," the newspaper reported. No correction, Hamra warned Blunt, would be a very bad idea. As the Post-Dispatch reported:
Hamra pointed out that he had raised more than $400,000 for Blunt's recent campaigns. If his demand wasn't met, Hamra said, he might switch his support to Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat running for governor.
Hamra's been a reliable wallet for Democrats, though he likes to hedge his bets. Records show that in May 2004 he donated $2,000 to the John Kerry campaign, and Open Secrets reports Hamra gave $1,000 last year to the Missouri Democratic State Committee. But those same records show Hamra (through his company, Hamra Enterprises) gave an equal amount to the Missouri Republican State Committee in 2006. As we said, hedging his bets.

But Hamra's ham-handed threat to Blunt is nothing but ugly, and it illustrates what the P-D calls "fierce" competition for the tax credits. The newspaper's story illustrates several things -- the money grubbing that infects politics, the ease of backstabbing, the blatant use of threats. It also shows how much we need more local reporters covering politics.


While stationed in Iraq, Carl J. Ware Jr., an airman first class, died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Kyle J. Dalton, a senior airman, pulled the trigger. But first he tapped it.

According to the Virginian-Pilot:
The men were a part of the 886th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Iraq, charged with guarding foreign detainees.

Ware, 22, returned from his security detail and walked into his barracks shortly after noon on July 1. Dalton had his 9mm service pistol out and held it at waist level, he testified.

“I was tapping on the trigger,” Dalton told the judge. “It was something the guys had done before...playing with each other.”

Dalton tracked Ware with the gun as the victim crossed the eight-man barracks to his bed, he said. Dalton pulled the slide back and squeezed the trigger, expecting the gun to be empty.
It was not, of course. Ware died within minutes of the July 2006 shooting.

Prosecutors dropped a murder charge; in return, Dalton pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He faces a dozen years in prison, reduction in rank (to airman basic) and loss of pay and benefits.


Damn damn damn. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author died Monday in a car crash. The Associated Press reports:
Halberstam, a New Yorker, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.

The accident occurred around 10:30 a.m., and the driver of the car carrying Halberstam identified him as the victim, Foucrault said. A call to Menlo Park police wasn't immediately returned.

"Looking at the accident and examining him at the scene indicated it's most likely internal injuries," Foucrault said.

The driver of the car carrying Halberstam is a student at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and was taken to Stanford Medical Center. Two others were injured.

Halberstam spoke Saturday at a UC Berkeley-sponsored event on the craft of journalism and what it means to turn reporting into a work of history.
He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his reporting on the Vietnam War, when he was past his waist in the big muddy.


Former president of Russia dies on Monday, according to Kremlin spokesman Alexander Smirnov. Brother Richard gets the point.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


As a lapsed convert to Roman Catholicism, we're familiar with the concept of limbo, the place where unbaptized babies go when they die because their Original Sin has not been washed away. As a fan of beach parties we're also familiar with the other limbo, but this is neither the time nor place for that conversation.

Pope Benedict is basically telling the faithful that past thinking about limbo (the place, not the dance) is inoperative. A report from the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory panel, says we can hope that unbaptized babies won't have to wait on the theological outskirts of Heaven's city limits. Time reports:
Theologians said the move was highly significant, both for what it says about Benedict's willingness to buck a long-standing tenet of Catholic belief and for what it means theologically about the Church's views on heaven, hell and original sin — the sin that the faithful believe all children are born with. Although Catholics have long believed that children who die without being baptized are with original sin and thus excluded from heaven, the Church has no formal doctrine on the matter. Theologians, however, have long taught that such children enjoy an eternal state of perfect natural happiness, a state commonly called limbo, but without being in communion with God.
No limbo, but purgatory still exists. How low can you go?


Rich Little performed Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. It was on C-SPAN.

The verdict: lame, according to a roundup from Editor & Publisher. Little did bad impressions of several presidents and told corny jokes about erections and assholes. President Bush guffawed. You may not be surprised.

Rich Little was no Stephen Colbert. That was a given. But even his Richard Nixon impression was terrible, as brightly bad as Little's hair dye. The anti-Colbert route created a time warp, and Rich Little was suddenly back on TV, doing his Johnny Carson impression.

David Letterman videoed a routine in with a top 10 list of Bush flubs. It almost balanced out the Little debacle. But not quite.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


We've said it before, but it bears repeating: All news is relative. Don Imus knows this and must marvel at his marriage of bad taste and bad timing. Last week he was the media rage; this week any remark he made would have been a speck on the media radar.

Alas, another speck on Thursday was Alberto Gonzalez. The attorney general was spanked hard by a Senate committee investigating the dismissals of several U.S. attorneys. The Gonzalez hearing was mostly a no-show on the cable news networks, sidelined by fourth-day coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings and the latest angle -- media navel-gazing over the call to publish Cho Seung Hui's last rants.

While Gonzalez flailed, cable newsrooms ignored him, too anguished over the Cho matter to seriously cover both stories. A backlash from family members of some of Cho's victims brought somber statements from network executives, pledging that they would be sparing in their use of the killer's video.

Said ABC News mouthpiece Jeffrey Schneider:
"It has value as breaking news, but then becomes practically pornographic as it is just repeated ad nauseam."
Finally, someone admits it. Cable news is porn.


Claim to fame: Widow of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. She died Thursday evening in Arkansas.

According to this Associated Press report:
"We are so proud of our mother and the life she led," said Rob Walton, eldest son of Sam and Helen Walton and chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "She devoted much of her life to helping others, and to improving the quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.

"Today, my brother and sister, and the entire Walton and Robson families mourn my mother's death. But we also celebrate her extraordinary life."

Walton was born Dec. 3, 1919, in Claremore, Okla., a daughter of L.S. and Hazel Carr Robson. Walton's husband Sam, a native of Kingfisher, Okla., died in 1992 at the age of 74.
The matriarch dies. The big-box empire lives on.


Deana Jarrett, 54, apparently has a problem with alcohol. Last week she was involved in two car crashes in Redmond, Wash. She took a breath test. She registered .47 blood-alcohol content.

According to The Associated Press:
Jarrett was taken to Evergreen Hospital as a precaution following her arrest April 11, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday. No one was injured in the accidents.

Jarrett blew the .47 on a portable breath tester after she collided with two other vehicles in quick succession, the patrol said. A check of all 356,000 breath tests administered since 1998 in Washington turned up only 35 above .40 -- and none of those was higher than .45.
Like most states, the legal limit in Washington is .08 BAC.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Late Wednesday came news that Cho Seung-Hui sent NBC a package of materials, including a typewritten screed, video clips and digital photos. The package was sent from a post office between Cho's two shooting sprees -- after he killed a woman and an RA in a dorm, but before he killed 30 others in a classroom building.

So far, most of the video aired has Cho speaking quietly, his tone close to regret. But in one snippet Cho's tone is venomous, and he is wearing the clothes he died in. "You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option," he snarls. "The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

A couple of same-day thoughts:

•Fascinating. Macabre, but much more than that -- you can see the flat affect he displayed in December 2005, behavior that led to a temporary detention order on the shooter. Seeing his deranged mind helps explain the insanity of his last acts.

•We'd like to see it all, but NBC News is engaged in a display of public hand-wringing: what to air? what to keep secret? will publicizing this encourage others like Cho? It's all very nauseating. NBC News isn't supposed to be in the business of suppressing information from the public. You get an exclusive on a big-ass story, you run with it.

Full disclosure of what Cho sent to NBC News should be viewed through the Theodore Kaczynski prism. The New York Times and the Washington Post printed Kaczynski's 35,000-word "manifesto," and his brother recognized the disturbed writing style. The Unabomber was caught. By posting all of the Cho material, NBC would provide a unique opportunity for mass study of a mass murderer.

•Cho is the Charles Whitman of our time. Like Cho, Whitman killed two people, then paused before beginning a bloodier rampage. Like Cho, Whitman left a note, some of it written between killing sprees.

Unlike Cho, Whitman seemed to want to understand why he was becoming a killer. From Whitman's note:
I don't quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I don't really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can't recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.
From Cho there is only rage, and blame for everyone else:
I didn't have to do it. I could have left. I could have fled. But now I am no longer running ... You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
His suitemates say Cho rarely spoke. He knew enough to keep the madness inside.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The kids at Missouri Politics are thoroughly enjoying the chance to break news about Chris Koster, a Republican from Harrisonville who wants to be Missouri's next attorney general.

According to Missouri Politics, Koster has raised a cool half-million bucks for his expected statewide run in 2008. But MoPo also reports that Koster raised no bucks from anyone in his senatorial district. Much of his war chest comes from a $200k loan to himself, according to MoPo.

Gov. Matt Blunt, by the way, has $4.5 million cash on hand for his (kinda maybe sorta) bid for a second term. Still not enough to save him from a thrashing at the polls.


Know your weapons. Every newsroom in the United States should post the order; every reporter should be required to learn about firearms before covering any story involving a gun.

Monday's shooting spree at Virginia Tech exposed several unpleasant truths about the media, especially the 24-hour cable networks:
•When facts are in short supply, fill time with speculation.

•A one-source story is all right, even when it's all wrong.

•Guns are mysterious and scary.
Many bloggers, including Tony Messenger and Fat Jack, criticize reporters for jumping to conclusions without certain knowledge. We can buy that argument, but only to a point. First reports from spot-news situations are often wrong -- at Columbine, several eyewitnesses swore they saw more than two gunmen; at Oklahoma City, Middle Eastern men were the first suspects. Reporters should do all they can to verify facts before running with them, but history's first rough draft will never be perfect.

There is no excuse, however, for the national media's lack of knowledge about guns. For much of Monday, we heard reporters wonder aloud how one man with two guns could kill so many people. A camera-phone video captured the sound of more than two dozen gunshots; reporters from all three cable-news outfits expressed amazement at how quickly the shooter was able to squeeze off so many rounds in such a short period of time.

On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera said a "guy with automatic and semi-automatic weapons is a weapon of mass destruction." No one was claiming the shooter had an automatic weapon. On CNN, a reporter spoke of the gunman's "22-millimeter" handgun.

Newsrooms are shot through with a lack of gun knowledge. People killed with rifles are the victims of "shotgun slayings." It sounds good, you see.

Cheese and rice, as a friend's kid used to curse. Cheese and rice.

Because too many reporters know too little about guns, we believe they're more inclined to take simplistic approaches to stories involving guns. They're too easily lassoed into stories like this one about the country's "gun culture."

When 32 people are shot dead by a man who then turns the gun on himself, the story isn't about questioning the legal way the shooter got his weapons. The story isn't about blaming guns (or video games, or foul language, or societal decay).

The story is about men like this Holocaust survivor who helped save several students by giving up his own life.

The blame doesn't rest with the guns. It rests with this guy.


The notion of living a meat-free life holds some attraction to us. But then we think about bacon.

Bacon. Greatest foodstuff ever. Good with salad, pairs well with peanut butter, and quite tasty wrapped around another piece of meat. Can't say that about tofu.

So of course the researchers have to be killjoys. According to the BBC:
Eating large quantities of cured meats like bacon could damage lung function and increase the risk of lung disease.

A Columbia University team found people who ate cured meats at least 14 times a month were more likely to have COPD - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, kills around 30,000 people in the UK each year.

The report, in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, said nitrites in meat may be to blame.
Smoking while eating bacon is not a good idea.


Charles McCord, a former Ozarker, did not get the same to-the-curb kicking as Don Imus. The newsreader continues at WFAN. As The New York Times reports:
Karen Mateo, a spokeswoman for CBS Radio, which owns WFAN in New York, the flagship for both “Imus” and “Mike and the Mad Dog,” said yesterday that “Mr. McCord’s status with the station is unchanged.” In other words, Mr. McCord was scheduled to be back again this morning, as Mr. Francesa and Mr. Russo continue to pinch-hit for at least the next two weeks.

For more than three decades, Mr. McCord read the news alongside Mr. Imus, often at the top of the hour, and engaged in a running back-and-forth with him throughout his broadcast. The two men often spoke on the air of having spent hours on the phone the previous evening, talking about whatever might be going on in the news or their personal lives, at least partly as grist for the show. Mr. McCord also wrote a fair amount of comedy for the show, including satiric monologues performed by others imitating the voices of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Jack Nicholson.
Shirley without Laverne, Louise without Thelma.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Just so you'll know:

Bryan Ferry, leader of Roxy Music, is not a Nazi lover. Reuters reports that Jewish leaders in Britain were upset after Ferry told a German newspaper that Nazi iconography was stunning:
"I'm talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags -- just fantastic. Really beautiful."
Ferry has now issued a statement saying he apologizes "unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective ... I, like every right-minded individual, find the Nazi regime, and all it stood for, evil and abhorrent."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gets a two-day reprieve from testifying before a Senate committee. He was scheduled to talk on Tuesday, but that's now slipped to Thursday in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting spree. No matter; Gonzales has already confirmed that he will continue to deceive the public by claiming that he has "nothing to hide" and that "nothing improper" happened in the firings of several U.S. attorneys.

Chimps are more evolved than humans. Geneticists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have compared DNA sequences on genes shared by humans, chimps and rhesus macaques. New Scientist reports that researchers found "233 chimp genes, compared with only 154 human ones, have been changed by selection since chimps and humans split from their common ancestor about 6 million years ago."

The Pulitzers have been awarded for another year. No local media won. The list of winners includes the staff of the Oregonian, for breaking news; The Wall Street Journal, for public service; and no one from the Washington Post. In other Pulitzer news, Ornette Coleman wins the prize for music, crushing our dreams for another year.


News and information are everywhere. The old wire monopoly is no more. And the public still doesn't know much.

A new Pew Research Center report is worth digesting. Here's the lede:
On average, today's citizens are about as able to name their leaders, and are about as aware of major news events, as was the public nearly 20 years ago. The new survey includes nine questions that are either identical or roughly comparable to questions asked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2007, somewhat fewer were able to name their governor, the vice president, and the president of Russia, but more respondents than in the earlier era gave correct answers to questions pertaining to national politics.
One in three people can't name the governor of their state -- this, despite dramatic increases in education for people in the U.S.

We know our celebrities, of course:
More than nine-in-ten Americans (93%) could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger as the California governor or a former action-movie star -- both responses were counted as correct in the scoring. An equally large proportion of the public identified Hillary Clinton as a U.S. senator, a former first lady, a Democratic leader, or a candidate for president. Clear majorities can also correctly identify Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (65%) and Sen. Barack Obama (61%). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is recognized by about half of the public (49%).
Vladimir Putin? Known by name to fewer than four in 10 Americans. Lewis "Scooter" Libby? Only three in 10 people could identify him.

Where do people get their news?
Nearly four-in-ten people (37%) regularly use at least one type of internet news source, either the news pages of major search engines such as Google or Yahoo (25%), the websites of the television news organizations (22%), or the websites of major national newspapers such as the New York Times or USA Today (12%). Additionally, about one-in-ten (11%) read online blogs where people discuss events in the news.
A majority of respondents get their news the old-school way -- from watching a local TV newscast or reading a local newspaper. Congrats to you for being part of the one-in-10 clique.


Americans, by and large, do not use bidets, and in this instance, that's probably a good thing. According to this AP report:
Japan's leading toilet maker Toto Ltd. is offering free repairs for 180,000 bidet toilets after wiring problems caused several to catch fire, the company said Monday.

The electric bidet accessory of Toto's Z series caught fire in three separate incidents between March 2006 and March 2007, according to company spokeswoman Emi Tanaka. The bidet sent up smoke in 26 other incidents, the company said.

"Fortunately, nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out and there were no injuries," Tanaka said. "The fire would have been just under your buttocks."

The company will repair 180,000 toilet units manufactured between May 1996 and December 2001 for free, she said. A manufacturing defect is thought to have led to the faulty wiring.
Check it: Toto's bidets feature "a pulsating massage spray, a power dryer, built-in-the-bowl deodorizing filter, the 'Tornado Wash' flush and a lid that opens and closes automatically." Too bad about the fire just under your buttocks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

DON HO, 76

Entertainer known as "King of Waikiki." Sang "Tiny Bubbles." Died Saturday. The Honolulu Advertiser reports:
He gained prominence while singing at the now-defunct Duke Kahanamoku's in Waikiki from 1964 to 1970. The lounge was a hot spot for local and visiting entertainers, who would stop in to watch Ho perform or join him on stage.

His fame spread to the Mainland after he appeared at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles in 1966.

His sold-out shows led to appearances at the Sands in Las Vegas, Harrah's at Lake Tahoe and at hot spots in New York and Chicago. He also made guest appearances with Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop and Art Linkletter.
According to The Associated Press, he was born Donald Tai Loy Ho.


George Wesley Helms was a police officer in Hutto, Texas. Now he's just an accused perv. The 35-year-old cop is charged with sexual performance of a child, according to the Austin American Statesman. Helms was working as a resource officer at Hutto High School when he reportedly took several pics of a 16-year-old student. The next day she shows up at his office:
This time, according to court documents, Helms put a chair in front of his office door and asked the girl to remove her shirt, bra and pants.

He then photographed her topless and gave her $50 "to induce her to stay a little longer," the affidavit states.
The story does not say whether coats were pulled off and thrown in a corner.

Chang Po-yu, a veterinarian, was just doing his job this week at the Shaoshan Zoo in Taiwan. His job, in this case, was retrieving a tranquilizer dart from a 440-pound Nile crocodile. Unfortunately, Chang didn't notice that the croc wasn't zonked; Chang stuck his arm through a rail. The croc was not amused. There is good news: Doctors were able to reattach Chang's arm. Click here for the picture. It's gruesome, horrible, unbelievable -- in other words, man, click that link.

By popular demand: A reader wanted to see photos of Phil Spector, the music producer accused of shooting a woman in the face. Here's a snap of Spector when he was a genius, and almost sane. This is when he decided to sport an old-school 'fro. And this is his current Fifth Beatle 'do. Go and style no more.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Don Imus' professional death means we can all move along. Nothing else to see here, save for the squashed remains of an aging announcer who was trampled because he said something crass.

But like any member of a crowd whipped into mass hysteria, we're nursing a post-mob hangover. Destruction can be satisfying, even fun, but once it's over there's always a mess to clean up. Some wow finish.

(For past CHATTER posts on the Imus mess, click here and here.)

Anyone even glancingly familiar with radio knew Imus was notorious for being rude. So why was he fired for acting like he's always acted?

According to The Associated Press:
Imus had a long history of inflammatory remarks. But something struck a raw nerve when he targeted the Rutgers team -- which includes a class valedictorian, a future lawyer and a musical prodigy -- after they lost in the NCAA championship game.
Ah, "something" did him in. Glad to see we've identified the specific problem.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the firing "a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation."

Added the Rev. Al Sharpton: "He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism."

With sweeping statements like these, there can be no shock (or awe) when the call for more heads swings into full cry. As Reuters reports:
Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee said on Friday that if broadcaster Don Imus could lose his job for making racist remarks then other media members should lose their jobs too. ...

Huckabee drew comparisons with other controversial television figures like Rosie O'Donnell of "The View" and Bill Maher of HBO.

"I think if Imus is going to get fired, then there's a number of other people who need to go out the door," Huckabee told Radio Iowa. "Rosie's probably's got to go. Bill Maher has to go. Gosh, half of television and talk radio has to go."
Liberals want the focus now to shift to Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and other right-wing talkers. Conservative yakkers are already warning that they are the next targets. Limbaugh, long a favorite bullseye for the left, has called Sen. Barack Obama a "halfrican-American," a nonsense phrase he's also assigned to Halle Berry, the actress.

Speaking of Berry, we can't wait for next year, when she stars in "Nappily Ever After," a movie she's also producing.

"Oh, it's a crazy world," the character Ilsa Lund said in another movie from another era. "Anything can happen." Take her advice, and kiss as if it's your last time.


The police chief of Pewaukee, Wis., is being sued in federal court by one of his police officers. The officer claims Chief Gary Bach threatened to fire him because the officer told the chief to stop with the sexist and racist remarks.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Officer Robert Kraemer contends that Bach in retaliation wrongfully took away Kraemer's position as community service officer and put him on patrol duties.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, Kraemer says his First Amendment rights to free speech were violated and is seeking at least $300,000 in damages. ...

Bach was not at work today and was not immediately available for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Kraemer in October 2006 learned that a number of police department employees were "unhappy with Bach's use of derogatory name calling of females and minority groups."

Following the discipline of a female officer that month, Kraemer warned Bach to stop calling female officers names, the suit says. Kraemer said he also heard the chief use a vulgar term when Bach referred to the city's female administrator, according to the suit.

The suit says Kraemer also told Bach that Bach needed to stop calling females "fat naked sumo wrestlers,... to stop referring to certain minority groups as the 'N' word, to stop sending pornographic e-mails to female members of the PPD, and to stop harassing certain female employees."
Here's a photo of the Pewaukee Police Department.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Smitty grabs the point for the writer. And what a writer, creator of "Slaughterhouse-Five" and 13 other novels.

Vonnegut suffered brain injuries in a fall several weeks ago. The New York Times has the obit for history. A few grafs:
Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of vernacular writing, science fiction, jokes and philosophy, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago “filled with bittersweet lies,” a narrator says).
Vonnegut. Damn.


When last we wrote about Don Imus' troubles, his show had simply been suspended for two weeks. Now Imus faces bigger woes; according to The New York Times, sponsors are dropping like flies from the Imus show. Among them:
Miralus Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company that makes a headache medication called HeadOn, said yesterday that they had asked MSNBC to remove their advertising from the television simulcast of Mr. Imus’s radio program and run their commercials elsewhere.
Whoa. When the maker of the world's most obnoxious commercials ditches your show, you know you're toast.

But what's it all mean, Stimpy? Art Morris has an interesting take on the Imus flap at his Missouri Radio forums:
I think Imus stumbled onto a new trend in this country, "The Anti-Rap Backlash."

I read a story a few days ago that said that sales of rap music had dropped something like 25% in the past year or so. Record company execs weren't quite sure what was going on. I think I understand now. Voices were already being heard, especially in the black community, condeming the 'rap lifestyle.' Apparently, the public, finally, is turning against the hate speech that so characterizes much of rap music, and the culture around it.

At the very least, Imus is guilty of not keeping up. He was trying to be hip and cool, and missed the fact that the some people are turning against that kind of speech. Ooops, stuck in the 90's.

If this situation puts another nail in the coffin of the 'rap lifestyle,' that's OK with me. Except for one small thing ... freedom of speech.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


•The Tennessee home that once belonged to Johnny Cash has burned to the ground. The BBC reports that the lakeside home -- where Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, lived from 1968 until their deaths in 2003 -- burned Tuesday "while renovations were being carried out for its new owner, Bee Gee Barry Gibb." Music-video fans will remember the home's interior, used for Cash's 2002 hit, "Hurt." It may be a Nine Inch Nails original, but that Cash vid gets to us every time.

•Thank God It's Over, For Now: Larry Birkhead is the father of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. Howard K. Stern, Smith's attorney, now fades into obscurity (a girl can hope, can't she?). Dannielynn is the heir to Smith's earthly possessions -- that is, unless her 6-year-old son (and his father) can lay a credible claim.

•Wall of Witnesses: At his upcoming murder trial, music producer Phil Spector will watch several women testify that he brandished guns around them. Tuesday, a judge ruled that Spector's ex-girlfriend can testify the producer held a gun to her forehead and threatened to shoot her if she left his mansion. The judge had already OK'd testimony from four other women who said Spector was all about waving guns around and acting like a potentially homicidal maniac. Spector, 67, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson, shot in the head in the foyer of Spector's L.A. home in 2003.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Don Imus, the syndicated radio host, finds himself on the thinnest of ice these days. Last week Imus and his producer, Bernard McGuirk, were riffing on the NCAA women's basketball tournament; the conversation deteriorated into name-calling, with Imus tagging the mostly black Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos" and McGuirk using the slur "jigaboos" to describe the women.

(Never mind that "ho," like "pimp," have been bastardized into meaninglessness. That's a topic for another post.)

Imus apologized last week, and again on Monday, and then he went on a radio show hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights leader and occasional presidential candidate. The Sharpton show did not go well for Imus. Newsday reports that Sharpton kept Imus off-balance for much of the interview, and an exchange from the show illustrates the contentiousness:
Sharpton: "It can't just be glossed over, if you walk away from this unscathed, the next guy can."

Imus: "Unscathed! Don't you think I'm humiliated? Don't you think I'm embarrassed? Don't you think I understand?"
Sharpton thinks no such thing, and continues to call for Imus to be fired. So does the Rev. Jesse Jackson; he led a Monday picket outside the Chicago offices of NBC (Imus' morning show is simulcast on MSNBC).

Also joining in the call to oust Imus are the usual suspects. Over at Democratic Underground, this thread typifies the outrage among many liberals. One DUer fumed:
We don't need voices like HIS on the airwaves.
He's offensive, he's horrible, so let's kick him to the curb. It has become the bipartisan, catch-all solution to myriad problems, both real and imagined. Don't like Michael Richards' rant during a comedy routine? Throw him down the well. Don't like the Dixie Chicks criticizing the president? Demand their heads on a wall. It's a short-term balm that does little, if anything, to halt intolerance.

If Imus offends you, don't listen. Same goes for every other radio talker. File a complaint with the FCC, if you feel the need. But demanding Imus' head on a pike? Please. His whole radio schtick is built on outrageous remarks. Anyone who claims to be surprised at Imus' remarks is lying, or has never listened to his show.

Late Monday, NBC announced that it was suspending the simulcast of Imus' show for two weeks, after which time he will undoubtedly mutter something about being chastised and we'll all go on to the next uproar. Political correctness wins again. We all lose.


Judy Lea Fairbanks, of Bellevue, Neb., went to a casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, over the weekend. She decided to take her husband along for the ride. He's disabled. Problem.

The Daily Nonpareil reports:
Fairbanks, 52, was charged with wanton neglect of a dependent person for leaving her husband unattended at the Horseshoe Casino, located at 2701 23rd Ave. in Council Bluffs, shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday.

According to a Council Bluffs Police report, Fairbanks taped a sign to the window of the vehicle that said, "I have a disability. Do not be alarmed. I am resting. Please do not call security."

Fairbanks' husband cannot speak or care for himself,
according to the report.

Officials estimate he had been left in the vehicle on the third floor of the parking garage for approximately one hour before he was discovered sleeping in the front passenger seat by authorities.

The temperature was approximately 28 degrees at the time Fairbanks' husband was found, according to the National Weather Service.
Police say they investigated a similar complaint involving the same couple last month. Bet it doesn't work out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


He created a little comic strip called B.C. He died Saturday. The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reports:
Hart's B.C. comic strip was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide with an audience of 100 million. He lent his characters to promote many local agencies and activities, including the Broome Dusters hockey team, BC Transit, Broome County Parks and the professional golf tournament which became the B.C. Open.

B.C. participated in the nation's space program. In 1972, Hart received a public service award from NASA for outstanding contributions.

Later in his career, some of Hart's cartoons addressed religious themes -- a reflection of his own deepening Christian faith -- which dismayed some readers and delighted others.
Hart also was co-creator of Wizard of Id.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Strannix @ Welcome to the Revolution earns the point. Clark was director of A Christmas Story, Porky's and Rhinestone.

Mmm. Porky's.

Clark and his 22-year-old son died Wednesday after their sedan was hit by a GMC Yukon. According to TMZ:
Hector Velazquez Nava, 24, was charged with two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated; one for each of the victims, and he's being held in a Los Angeles County jail in lieu of $200,000 bail. If convicted, Nava faces up to twelve years in prison.
Strannix tips a half-point to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo for the find.


From the Bering Sea came forth a shortraker rockfish at least 90 years old. She was pregnant. According to National Geographic:
Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used growth rings in the fish's ear bone, or otolith, to make their age estimate.

NOAA scientists also found that the fish's advanced years had yet to take a toll on its reproductive abilities.

"The belly was large," NOAA researcher Paul Spencer told the Associated Press. "The ovaries were full of developing embryos."

A Seattle, Washington-based ship caught the 44-inch-long (112-centimenter-long), 60-pound (27-kilogram) fish while trawling for pollock at about 2,100 feet (640 meters) below the surface. The massive mama was among ten shortrakers pulled from the depths along with roughly 75 tons of the smaller commercially fished species.
Not quite a record -- the largest measured rockfish was 47 inches long, and the oldest was 157 years. Click the link and check out this fish.


Monica Goodling, the U.S. Department of Justice official who recently said she'd take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify under oath to Congress, handed in her resignation on Friday.

CNN reports that Goodling resigned as counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.

In her goodbye letter, Goodling wrote:
"I am hereby submit my resignation to the Office of the Attorney General, effective April 7, 2007. It has been an honor to have served at the Department of Justice for the past five years. May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America."
The Friday news dump -- a time-honored tradition of releasing bad news just as the weekend starts and people stop paying attention.


WTF, and we don't mean Welcome To Friday. A Canadian family bought furniture and had it delivered to their home in Brampton. All hell broke loose.

Why? The Toronto Star reports:
When the new chocolate-coloured sofa set was delivered to her Brampton home, Doris Moore was stunned to see packing labels describing the shade as "Nigger-brown."

She and husband Douglas purchased a sofa, loveseat and chair in dark brown leather last week from Vanaik Furniture and Mattress store on Dundas St. E.

Moore, 30, who describes herself as an African-American born and raised in New York, said it was her 7-year-old daughter who pointed out the label just after delivery men from the Mississauga furniture store left.

"She's very curious and she started reading the labels," Moore explained. "She said, `Mommy, what is nig ... ger brown?' I went over and just couldn't believe my eyes."

She said yesterday each piece had a similar label affixed to the woven protective covering wrapped around the furniture. ...

When interviewed yesterday by the Star, Romesh Kumar, Vanaik's assistant manager, passed the buck to his supplier, Cosmos Furniture in Scarborough.
Believe it or not, it's a listed pigment in some Chinese manufacturing.


Evidence of the decline:

•In a fascinating letter to the editor in Friday's News-Leader, Dick Clark of Springfield fumes:
When you editorialize that the school should have complied with Soulforce's request, you are taking sides.
Hey, Dick: it's an editorial.

•Talibdin El-Amin, a Democratic state rep from St. Louis, wants to make it harder to buy baking soda. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, El-Amin has introduced a bill putting baking soda behind the counter because it's used to make crack cocaine.

•A new Newsweek poll shows almost half of Americans (48 percent) reject "the scientific theory of evolution." Three in four evangelical Protestants say "God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years."

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Benjamin Houghton, 47, is an Air Force veteran. He had a potentially cancerous testicle -- the left one, a very important specific in the story.

Houghton had surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center last June.

Doctors removed his right testicle.

Houghton and his wife, Monica, are suing. According to this Los Angeles Times report:
"At first I thought it was a joke," said Houghton, who recalls being told of the mistake immediately afterward, while he was in recovery. "Then I was shocked. I told them, 'What do I do now?' "

Dr. Dean Norman, chief of staff for the Greater Los Angeles VA system, has formally apologized to Houghton and his wife.

"We are making every attempt that we can to care for Mr. Houghton, but it's in litigation, and that's all we can tell you," he said. Norman added that the hospital has made changes in its practices as a result of the case.
Perhaps now is the time to explore testicular transplants, with Dr. Dean Norman donating one of his own to Houghton. An eye for an eye, and all that.


As near as anyone can figure it, Thursday is the 13th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain, leader of Nirvana. Cobain was found dead on April 8, but officials believe he shot himself on April 5, 1994. No more sweet little Pisces man.

This weekend, several local bands will gather for "In Bloom: A Tribute to Kurt Cobain" at The Outland and the Outland Ballroom. Pillbox is getting back together for the gig -- reason enough to show up. Until then, time to listen to "Floyd The Barber" and "Negative Creep."


The blogger known as Doc Larry gets the point for this one. Moore was in charge of programming for ABC from 1958 to 1962. He was president of the network from 1963-1968. He died over the weekend from congestive heart failure. According to this Associated Press report:
During his tenure at ABC, the network began targeting programming toward younger viewers, who are most sought after by advertisers. ABC and Moore believed that demographic would be their ticket to the top.

"Probably his greatest legacy is that he changed the whole basis on which television time is sold, and thus, how television is programmed," TV historian Tim Brooks told the Los Angeles Times. "ABC basically introduced us to the concept of demographics. And ever since, we in the TV industry have been appealing to 18- to 49-year-old viewers."

Moore was also instrumental in developing the ABC Sports division, which won several Emmys for "ABC's Wide World of Sports" and Olympics coverage.

He hired sports producer Roone Arledge, who would become a legend, and helped create "Monday Night Football."
The guy could spot talent.

Speaking of talent, and Doc Larry, check out his tribute to John Stone. It's a keeper.


Wednesday's post about a university professor with a history of pedophilia now has a second-day angle. News-Leader reporter Steve Koehler's follow-up story about Michael Hendrix, an associate professor at Missouri State University who served time in prison for raping a 9-year-old child in Ohio, includes a couple of surprises:

•MSU administrators, past and present, are now putting daylight between themselves and Hendrix. One told the News-Leader that had he known about Hendrix's past, he might not have hired him.

•The MSU student who brought the story to a head, Ryan Cooper, said he was not working on a story for the Community Free Press. Instead, Cooper said he was doing an assignment for his advanced journalism class. That's why he was stopping parents in the pickup line at Greenwood Laboratory School, asking them how they felt about their children being on the same campus as a sex offender.

•Cooper also insisted that he never intended for Hendrix's past to become public knowledge:
After reviewing sex offender sites and searching for sex offenders at the state's 12 four-year universities, Cooper said he found Hendrix on a list and decided to talk to parents about the issue of having a sex offender on campus.

He said he did not mention Hendrix's name and only talked to two parents, one of whom knew Hendrix's past.

"This story wasn't about him. It was about campus procedures," he said.
•Cooper's journalism instructor, Mary Jane Pardue, wouldn't tell Koehler squat about Cooper or the alleged assignment:
To do so, Pardue said, would violate the student's right to privacy, even though Cooper provided the name of his instructor and the name of the class to a reporter.

Pardue refused to comment on any aspect of the assignment or what was being taught in her class in general terms, such as if a student is taught how to conduct or prepare for interviews, how to approach subjects for interviews or how to arrange for visiting a site where there are safety measures in place.

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about assignments," she said.
Pardue's refusal to discuss assignments from her class is troubling. As a journalism instructor she's supposed to be a fierce advocate for freedom of the press, yet when questioned by a member of the press, she clams up and invokes a student's right to privacy. Cooper's privacy rights have nothing to do with Pardue's class assignment.

Not mentioned in the story is Cooper's history of stirring it up. He sued the university in 2003, claiming his conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom, was being discriminated against because of its "political and religious viewpoints."

Cooper is executive director of Missouri State Conservatives. In his Facebook profile he lists his political views as "very conservative," though he has insisted that he's more of a Libertarian than a Republican.

Did Cooper's political beliefs belong in the story? Dunno. His class assignment, if that's what it was, doesn't have a clear political motive. But his history of creating controversy is well-known and might have provided better context on why he did what he did.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Time: 6:30 p.m.

Date: Thursday, April 5, 2007

Place: Patton Alley Pub, downtown Springfield

As The Snarling Marmot says, let's lift a glass and offer a toast to John Stone, one of the originals.


The creator of Curbstone Critic died Tuesday afternoon. He was a photographer, a pilot, an educator, an oddball, an iconoclast.

Tony Messenger has the update from this story about Stone's death.

Last year we wrote a magazine piece about local bloggers; here's the lede:
FORTIFIED BY a pull on his cigarette and a swallow of his beer, John Stone surveys his companions for the evening -- a dozen men and women, most of them in the full vigor of their 30s and thus a generation younger than Stone, a retired biologist and geneticist. He is 62 and sometimes grumbles about being the "grandpa of the group." But only sometimes; he has come to look forward to the first and third Tuesdays of each month and this gathering of unlikely futurists at the Patton Alley Pub in downtown Springfield.

Stone is the author of the Curbstone Critic and a member in good standing of the Springfield Bloggers; a steady face at the group's meetings, he also documents the sitdowns through the lens of his Canon EOS-30 ...
We'll miss the sumbitch, though it sounds like he died doing what he enjoyed. And dammit, now he knows what happens next. Stoner, if you get the chance, give us the lowdown.

Updated @ 1:30 p.m.
From other bloggers:

Snarling Marmot describes Stone as "just too damn smart for his own good." Amen, sister.

•Andy at Rhetorica (and leader of the local bloggers meetings) is "deeply saddened by the death of a man I counted among my friends."

•Larry at Simple Thoughts notes: "I believe he would love the fact that we are all talking about him."

•The bad-ass known as Strannix @ Welcome to the Revolution offers this: "He was a frequent visitor here at WttR, and one of the first to add me to his blogroll. So, though I never even met the man, it is not too much to say that he was an early godfather to this blog, and he will be missed."

•Over at Life in the Garden, there is this: "We didn’t always agree with his viewpoint, but it made for interesting reading."

Zach, who is still here, says "I don’t know where ol’ Stone is right now but I hope he is happy." And drinking a beer.


We've slagged the daily newspaper in this space. But despite all the hot air about the Information Center, not all sucks at the News-Leader.

Veteran reporter Steve Koehler delivers a great story in Wednesday's News-Leader about Michael Hendrix, an associate professor at Missouri State University. A long time ago, Hendrix molested a boy and went to prison. His employer knew his history and treated Hendrix appropriately -- neither the heavy hand nor the blow-off.

But last Friday, a person claiming to be a reporter for the Community Free Press pigeonholed parents outside Greenwood Laboratory School and asked their opinions of the "sex offender on campus."

Koehler's interview with Hendrix is a great read, and it's compelling journalism. Way to go, SRK.

(The online version of Koehler's story includes reader comments, and one person unfortunately chose to parrot a falsehood about child molesters -- that they're very likely to commit new crimes. That's simply not true, according to the Department of Justice.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


•Hello: Ron Howard's couch is for sale on eBay. To quote the seller: "Just think of all the famous butts that graced this fine piece of Americana!" The sectional came from Howard's offices at Imagine.

•Local swingers are dressing up (or down) for the upcoming wedding of Jim and Terria double_d. Special "after party rooms" have been set up at the Lamplighter Inn North; an invite to the festivities, passed along by an exceptional source, urges us to "make sure to tell them you're with The 'Party' Club to get the special room rate of $54.99." Apparently some people in Springfield are upset that this sort of event is happening here.

•Keith Richards, you rascal. The 63-year-old musician and enjoyer of recreational drugs told NME: "The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared ... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."


This one's for Smitty. reports:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) has initiated an underwater express program to "demonstrate stable and controllable high‑speed underwater transport through supercavitation. The intent is to determine the feasibility for supercavitation technology to enable a new class of high‑speed underwater craft for future littoral missions that could involve the transport of high‑value cargo and/or small units of personnel. The program will investigate and resolve critical technological issues associated with the physics of supercavitation and will culminate in a credible demonstration a significant scale to prove that a supercavitating underwater craft is controllable at speeds up to 100 knots."

Such a 100-knot (115 miles-per-hour) undersea craft would be more than twice as the world's fastest submarine, the Soviet-built Project 661 (NATO code-name Papa). That submarine, completed in 1969, was armed with ten Amethyst anti-ship missiles (NATO designation SS-N-7) plus torpedoes. Twin reactors and twin shafts drove the Papa at 44.7 knots on trials--the fastest ever traveled by a manned underwater vehicle. She subsequently went slightly faster in service.

The current DARPA underwater express program is based on the concept of supercavitation. This involves surrounding an object with a bubble of gas that allows it to travel at high speed by reducing contact with the surrounding water and hence reducing drag. The Soviet-developed VA-111 Shkvall (squall) torpedo is the best known use of this technology; that rocket-propelled torpedo has an underwater speed of about 200 knots.

In the United States the primary DARPA contracts for the "100-knot submarine" have been awarded to General Dynamics/Electric Boat, Northrop Grumman, New Systems Tech, and the University of Pennsylvania 's Applied Physics Laboratory.
Yeah, but it still won't have those cool front windows like the Seaview.

Monday, April 02, 2007


This is why we love Arkansas and its natural resource of dumb crooks with three names.

This is why we are grateful that Kurt Cobain, though our hero, is dead.

This is why Tara Reid should stay inside.

This is why cartoons shouldn't get big-screen treatment. John Goodman as Pops Racer, father of Speed? As directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski? Yeesh.


We all know what a predator is supposed to be, yes? We know he's evil and unstoppable, like the monster in that Arnold movie. We know that Life As We Know It is not safe when predators are around, especially when children populate the neighborhood, because predators love to prey on children. "Dateline" tells us so.

And that's the danger. The current culture has bastardized the P-word into banality. What used to be defined as "any organism that exists by preying upon other organisms" now means "any bastard that we can string up, especially if it keeps the children safe."

This week, cops in Florida busted 28 men for soliciting sex with minors. According to The New York Times:
Three of the 28 people who were arrested told authorities they worked for the Walt Disney Company, which owns and operates several theme parks in the Orlando area including Walt Disney World. Among the other arrested suspects were a volunteer for the Orlando Boys and Girls Club and a student at the University of Florida.
It all sounds tidy -- predators arrested, kids kept safe. But consider:

•The "kids" were undercover cops conducting a sting. They claimed to be girls, ages 13 or 14.
•The sting happened because it was "fairly simple" to set up -- not because police had noticed an uptick in sex cases involving children.
•The youngest of the suspects is 17. Another is 19. Two are 21.

There is also the media-whorishness of it all. The sheriff's office invited "reporters and photographers from several news agencies" to witness the sting, according to The Times. Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Fla., delivered his best fearmongering. "We will not allow these criminals’ behavior to escalate to kidnapping or murder," Grady said in a statement.

Easy arrests that make national news. How can Judd go wrong?

By continuing to hype an "epidemic" that needlessly frightens parents:
The sheriff’s office said that, according to national statistics, 1 in 7 children say that they have received an online solicitation; 1 in 11 has received an aggressive online sexual solicitation; and 1 in 3 has been exposed to unwanted sexual images on line.
Really? Let's dig a little deeper. This Skeptical Inquirer article cites the same statistics and notes:
A “sexual solicitation” is defined as a “request to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not, made by an adult.” Using this definition, one teen asking another teen if her or she is a virgin—or got lucky with a recent date—could be considered “sexual solicitation.” Not a single one of the reported solicitations led to any actual sexual contact or assault. Furthermore, almost half of the “sexual solicitations” came not from “predators” or adults but from other teens—in many cases the equivalent of teen flirting. When the study examined the type of Internet “solicitation” parents are most concerned about (e.g., someone who asked to meet the teen somewhere, called the teen on the telephone, or sent gifts), the number drops from “one in five” to just 3 percent.
A three-percent problem with big hype, akin to the overblown methamphetamine "epidemic".

The problem of predator hype isn't confined to Florida. Like most states, Missouri keeps a list of what we'd all like to think of as evil sex predators. According to state statute, the bad guys include anyone who's been convicted of:
The acts of rape, forcible rape, statutory rape in the first degree, statutory rape in the second degree, sexual assault, sodomy, forcible sodomy, statutory sodomy in the first degree, statutory sodomy in the second degree, child molestation in the first degree, child molestation in the second degree, deviate sexual assault, sexual misconduct and sexual abuse, or attempts to commit any of the aforesaid.
In Missouri, second-degree statutory rape means someone who's 21 or older having sex with someone who is "less than 17 years of age." A similar law defines second-degree statutory sodomy as someone 21 or older having "deviate sexual intercourse" with someone who's less than 17.

Just so you'll know, "deviate sexual intercourse" in Missouri is defined as:
[A]ny act involving the genitals of one person and the hand, mouth, tongue, or anus of another person.
Put bluntly, a 21-year-old guy getting a handjob from a girl who's almost 17 is guilty of statutory sodomy in the second degree, and if he's found guilty, he could face up to seven years in prison -- and be on Missouri's sex offenders list for at least 10 years after serving his sentence. He will also have to provide access to his home computer to a parole officer, so everyone can feel safe.

Is this your definition of a predator?

Sunday, April 01, 2007


So her husband shot the rapist dead.

But Tracy Denise Roberson wasn't being raped. Police say she used the excuse after her husband, Darrell Roberson, came home from a card game and found Tracy and a man in the bed of a pickup truck parked in the driveway.

This past week a grand jury in Texas indicted Tracy Roberson for manslaughter. Her husband was not charged in the death of Devin LaSalle.

According to The Associated Press:
"If I found somebody with my wife or with my kids in my house, there's no telling what I might do," said Juan Muniz, 33, who was having lunch Friday with one of his two small children at a restaurant in the middle-class suburban Dallas neighborhood where the Robersons lived. "I probably would have done the same thing."

Tracy Roberson, 35, could get two to 20 years in prison in the slaying of LaSalle, a 32-year-old UPS employee. ...

The December night before the shooting, Tracy Roberson sent LaSalle a text message that read in part, "Hi friend, come see me please! I need to feel your warm embrace!" according to court papers. LaSalle apparently agreed.

Darrell Roberson, a 38-year-old employee of a real estate firm, discovered the two, his wife clad in a robe and underwear.

When Tracy Roberson cried that she was being raped, LaSalle tried to drive away and her husband drew the gun he happened to be carrying and fired several shots at the truck, authorities said.
Tracy Roberson is also charged with making a false report to cops.


The executive editor of the News-Leader continues his tell us what you think campaign with an April Fools' Day column that's heavy on inadvertent humor.

A planned redesign at the daily has Wyatt pounding on the importance of local coverage in the local paper and evoking a bad cigarette commercial:
There are three newspapers piled neatly in my living room at home. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the News-Leader. Only one satisfies my local news needs.
Doesn't take much to satisfy the man, does it? Then again, it's hard to expect a lot from anyone who needed market research to learn that local readers want more local news in their local newspaper:
Over and over in market research, you say you want more local news — from your community and neighborhood, about local good things happening, on local growth and development, on local crime and court news, on the quality of our local environment, from local classrooms, on local food and dining, about local places to go and things to do, and local high school sports.
Wyatt's solution? Eliminate the current Ozarks section and make the A-section a local/state blend. To those who think the paper doesn't publish enough news from across the country or around the world, Wyatt proposes a second section with national and international news, business, weather -- and TV listings.

For someone who types about wanting to keep readers informed -- because, after all, the newspaper gods are doing this redesign for you -- Wyatt continues to be a tease:
In my next column, we'll look at our plans for expanded commentary and opinion coverage. After that, we'll explore how our newsgathering is changing to meet new technology and local news needs. Finally, we'll look closer at plans for features sections and coverage of new topics as we revamp those sections through the summer.
Eyeball the N-L prototypes here and prepare to be underwhelmed. Wyatt calls the changes "more evolutionary than revolutionary." Perhaps he meant "devolutionary."