Notes from the front lines

(being an irregular compilation of miscellaneous things that cross the Missourinet news desk that don’t rise to the level of full bloghood.)

We wonder how many Missourians get automated calls from polling companies that ask people to use the touch pad on their phones to give answers to various questions—and they are so irritated by (a) the call and (b) the automated poll that indicates the interested party doesn’t really care about them enough to have a real person call. And we wonder how many people getting those calls are upset enough that they answer every question with a lie. We wonder if the polling firms that compile the results have a system that factors in the likelihood that people do just that.

We got a call the other day asking us about Amendment 7, the transportation sales tax.


We wrote a story the other day and all the time we were writing we asked ourselves, “Why are we writing this story?’ It was about a Laclede County man whose death was attributed to the West Nile Virus. He’s the first fatality from the mosquito-borne disease. Last year, two Missouri deaths were attributed to WNV and 29 illnesses.

West Nile deaths have been news stories for years and we have started to wonder why they are news.

We’re about to declare that it isn’t as far as the Missourinet is concerned, and won’t be unless we see the number of cases reach triple or quadruple numbers.


The next time your state Senator or Representative starts talking about the need for tax cuts for small businesses being essential to a growing economy, consider this:

The Small Business Administration is redefining “small business.” J. D. Harrison of the Washington Post reports the new definition could include a family clothing store or software publisher with income up to $38.5 million a year. He also reports companies can have as many as 1,500 workers and still be considered “small businesses.”

The definitions will apply at different levels to different kinds of businesses.


And finally–

We hope it’s more than just going through the movements: Springfield will be the host city of the North American Manure Expo tomorrow and Wednesday. These folks seem to have a certain drollness about them. Their website says: “We know your time is valuable. But so is every gallon and pound of manure being applied to your fields. You can’t afford to miss the 2014 North American Manure Expo, the only trade show on the continent to focus specifically on manure management and application issues. It would be a real waste to your wallet.”

Nothing on the webpage indicates if the conference will focus on getting the straight poop about what flows downhill. But there are plenty of Ozarky places in the Springfield area to demonstrate the validity of the long-held belief.



We are all descentants of Samuel Rhodes (AUDIO)

Many will celebrate today. Few will read the document this day celebrates and few will see it as a living document that carries responsibilities for this generation these 238 years later.

The American Revolution did not begin with the Declaration of Independence. Some colonies had formed their own governments by then. The Continentall Army and the British Army had been spilling each other’s blood for months. The Revolution was already well on when the Congress, on this day, adopted its statement of reasons for declaring independence from the British Crown.

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell is descended from one of those who fought to make the hopes of those who signed that document’s dream of a new country come true. Her ancestor moved to Missouri decades after the Declaration, after the Louisiana Purchase had extended the nation he fought to create by creating a nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

She is a key figure in the system of government her ancestor and his colleagues fought to give us. She has written of the special link she has with him and and the nation he, the signers of the Declaration, and those who bore the burden of battle to give us this day and this nation.



It is that time of year for fireworks and picnics and parades with children waving the American flag. It also is time to honor the birth of our nationon the Fourth of July, celebrating our nation’s declaration of independence in 1776 and the creation of a new government in which the people divided authority among three separate but equal branches – the executive, the legislative and the judicial. This holiday is special for me for two reasons.

First, as a member of the judiciary, I experience daily the wisdom of our forefathers in their creation of our government, in particular the creation of courts in our system of democracy.

Second, my great-great-great-great-grandfather – Samuel W. Rhodes, who later settled in Callaway County, Missouri – fought in the Revolutionary War while still a colonist in Virginia.

It is important to remember the ideals for which our forefathers fought-including the ideal of justice. In the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers complained, among their grievances against Britain’s King George, that he: obstructed the administration of justice, made judges dependent on his will alone, deprived the colonists of the benefits of trial by jury and transported the colonists “beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses.”

And so it perhaps is not surprising that, when establishing the new constitution for the fledgling nation several years later, our forefathers listed “establish Justice” second only behind “in Order to form a more perfect Union.”

To ensure the abuses of King George would not happen again, the new government established the constitution – not a king – as the ultimate authority and divided governmental power among three branches of government. The founders designed the judiciary as a forum where people peaceably can resolve their disputes and where impartial judges who are not beholden to a president or governor can decide the matters before them based on the law and the facts. In our courts, everyone has to follow the rules established in our constitution.

Thanks to our forefathers declaring their independence from England 238 years ago, we now have fair and impartial courts available to help allcitizens make sure there is equal justice for all. And thanks to the hundreds of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Missouri, including my ancestor, who fought to ensure that we have a superior system of justice in our country. I am honored to be a member of the judicial branch that my great-great-great-great-grandfather fought to establish.

So let us celebrate together this Fourth of July, as John Adams envisioned in a letter to his wife, Abigail, about the Declaration of Independence:

“It ought to be commemorated … with pomp and parade, … bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”





Nixon wins! Nixon wins! Nixon wins!

We extend heartiest congratulations to Governor Nixon for winning the national Golden Padlock Award. We’re looking forward to seeing it proudly displayed on his desk the next time we’re in his office. National recognition is not easily achieved in any field but our own Jay Nixon has brought it to the Missouri Governor’s office.
The fact that this is an award offered by a national journalists’ group is significant. The long history of antagonistic relationships between press and power has produced pats on the back for public figures from the news media. But this award will add an entirely new section to the Jay Nixon Gubernatorial Library and Museum when it’s built in Hillsboro.
The Investigative Reporters and Editors started last year giving the Golden Padlock trophy last year to the “most secretive government agency or individual in the United States.” Golden Padlock award committee chairman Robert Crib says, “Being named the most secretive government agencies amid competition this fierce requires an unwavering commitment to undermining the public’s right to know. The creativity and innovation behind their cloak and dagger efforts have distinguished them for this unique honor.”
In truth, Governor Nixon is only a co-winner. He shares the individual padlock with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. We believe, however, that the IRE has erred in having our Governor share the award and should have relegated Fallin to a runner-up position if it had considered a broader record of secrecy and lack of cooperation with those who believe the public is intelligent enough to deal with information about government.
IRE recognizes Nixon and Fallin for the extraordinary efforts both states have made to “protect” the public from knowing where the states get the drug used for executions, who compounds it, who administers it, and what the credentials are of those who provide these services. Five news organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the secrecy policy in Missouri.
We believe, as you know, that if the Nixon administration record of controlling information and denying access to people with expertise in various fields ranging from employment to healthcare had been considered, the scales would have been tipped in our Governor’s favor. But it’s okay to share the national spotlight.
Incidentally, the organization award wen to the United States Navy Freedom of Information office for its distinguished work in blocking access to records about a deadly shooting rampage at the Washington, D.C. Navy yard that killed a dozen people.
Jay Nixon, Mary Fallin, the U. S. Navy.
Missouri is not among the nation’s elite in so many categories. Aren’t we proud to be at the top of this one?
Or is this one of those categories where we’d rather be where are in so many others: 40-something?
You don’t need to answer that question.