Archive for February, 2021

As you’ve probably noticed, I no longer write much about The Kansas City Star.

The main reason is there isn’t a lot to say. The paper’s website is mostly a wasteland — mainly sports and restaurant comings and goings — and the investigative work it undertakes often doesn’t relate to the Kansas City area.

(For example, the paper has been on a tear the last year or so regarding abusive operators of outstate boarding schools. While that’s important and certainly newsworthy, it has limited appeal to core readers; I never hear anyone talking about those stories.)

Today, though, while reading the “e” edition — the electronic version of the printed paper — I noticed that The Star recently suffered a major loss: The name of Colleen McCain Nelson, who since 2016 had been The Star’s vice president and editorial page paper, was missing from the masthead.

A Google search turned up that she resigned last month to become executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and to oversee McClatchy’s five other California papers, as well.

I am pretty sure The Star did not play the story of Nelson’s departure prominently. I’m an online subscriber, and I check the website several times a day and did not see the story there — although it’s possible I missed it.

Checking the search bar on the website, I found that reporter Kevin Hardy had a Jan. 7 story about her resignation. The story quoted Star president and editor Mike Fannin as saying…

We’re thrilled about Colleen’s well-earned promotion but sad to lose the best editorial page editor in the country. She has built a world-class team in Kansas City, reinvigorated our opinion journalism and set a very high bar for her successor.


Let me put this more explicitly: During her four years at The Star, Nelson was the most pivotal and important employee at the paper. The Star could carry on more easily without Fannin than without Nelson. At a time when many newspapers were thinning out their opinion pages, Nelson was rebuilding and fortifying The Star’s opinion pages.

I have been particularly impressed during the last year, when Nelson turned The Star toward endorsing local control of the police department and called for Chief Rick Smith to resign or be fired. She saw clearly how poor the police department relations are with the African American community and how ludicrous it is for the biggest police department in a Democratic county to be run by do-nothing political appointees of a Republican governor in a Republican state.

So what happens with the opinion pages now?

It’s a good question, and Fannin didn’t address it in the Jan. 7 story. He said nothing about choosing a successor for Nelson, which leads me to believe that her successor will be promoted from within. I seriously doubt that the hedge fund that owns McClatchy — Chatham Asset Management out of New Jersey — will give the green light to hiring an experienced, highly paid editorial page editor. Chatham will be looking to reduce payroll and to direct the savings into return on investment.

If a successor is chosen from within, the options are somewhat limited.

With Nelson gone, the editorial board now consists of Fannin, who writes no editorials; Derek Donovan, who mostly handles letters to the editor; Toriano Porter, who writes almost exclusively about racial issues; Michael Ryan, the token conservative board member; Dave Helling, a versatile journalist with a strong reporting background; and Melinda Henneberger, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist who is married to a Star mid-level editor named Bill Turque.

Clearly, Helling and Henneberger would be the top two internal candidates. However, both are nearing retirement age. Helling is about 65, and Henneberger is about 63. Would either want to take on that much responsibility at this stage of their careers? On the other hand, one of them could take the job with the intent of maintaining, in the short term, the well-oiled operation Nelson put together.

However this goes, though, I think The Star’s editorial-page operation has seen its best days and that we will see a gradual decline from here…And I say that hoping the decline is gradual rather than precipitous.

For Nelson, on the other hand, the view is up. She’s only 46 and should have many great years ahead of her. It would not surprise me if she wound up working for the opinion section of either The Washington Post or The New York Times.

The Star and Kansas City were lucky to have her the last four years. I met her only once and never got to know her, but I will miss her strong and inspired leadership at The Star.

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The king is dead. Long live the king — whoever the next king of conservative, talk radio may be.

Oh, yes, there will be one. And we Democrats will be hanging on the edge of our chairs to see who will succeed Rush Limbaugh, a Missouri native (Boot Heel, fittingly enough), who died today at age 70 from complications of lung cancer.

Now, I’m sorry for his family and friends, but I’m sure not going to miss his ridiculous, ditto-head ruminations.

Got to hand it to the guy, though, he went down full tilt, throwing haymakers even while succumbing to a larger force than his grating personality.

His last broadcast was Feb. 2, just 15 days before he died.

If it was me — if I was lucky enough to have several months notice, like Rush did — I’d be preparing for a happy death, not taking every last opportunity to skewer enemies, perceived or real.

But not Rush. Just to show you how much he was “in form” while not far from his deathbed, here are two excerpts from his last broadcast and, as a bonus, his last social media post.


The ruler of Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, is graciously and generously allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining. She took credit for the state’s COVID numbers dropping, due to the “targeted and temporary pause” that she ordered in November. The governor thanked all those who made “incredible sacrifices and did their part.” She said she knows the pandemic has hurt restaurant owners, workers, and their families. Governor Whitmer, the pandemic hurt those who got the coronavirus. What hurt restaurant owners, workers, and their families was the tyrannical response to the pandemic from Democrat governors like you.

Fifteen days before leaving this mortal coil, and what was on Rush’s mind? The “tyranny”of a governor trying to protect the 10 million residents of her state.


Then, there was this, in response to a caller named Darlene, from Colorado, who wanted to talk about former President Trump’s second impeachment….

They (Democrats) don’t have the votes to convict him. So he’s gonna be acquitted. But that’s not why they’re doing this. They’re not doing this to actually convict him. They’re doing this to continue the smear…

They’re looking at this as an opportunity to shape public opinion even more against Trump. They have an opportunity here to continue to impugn, to criticize, to make up whatever they want about the guy. They’ve got the mainstream media in their back pocket to amplify whatever they say. So this is just an ongoing effort…

Fifteen days before the Grim Reaper came knocking, and what was Rush preoccupied with? Why, the evil Democrats allegedly trying to “impugn” a former president with neither morals nor character.


And, finally, in his last social media post (also on Feb. 2) he lit into President Joe Biden, saying…

Biden canceled “a major foreign policy speech,” folks, over two inches of snow. I kid you not.

Fifteen days before “lights out,” and Rush was swinging so wildly that he went after Biden for delaying a speech that would be given two days later.


Now, I’m assuming Rush is in heaven, because God is not mean and God harbors no resentment. But I suspect that, for the first time in his life, Rush, tonight, is feeling humble.

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I don’t want to tell you what the temperature is today down here in Clearwater, or yesterday in Naples.

You have to trust me when I say we are not gloating about missing the coldest spell in Kansas City in many years. We feel a bit guilty. That we missed the frigid front was just dumb luck.

When we left a week ago Friday, it was normally cold, not ridiculously so. It took us three days to get to Naples, and the temperature didn’t hit 70 until we got well south of Gainesville, where we spent the second night. But when we got to Naples, our destination for the first week of our winter sojourn, it was close to 80. It stayed that way, during the daytime, much of the week.

Yesterday was moving day. We departed in the early afternoon, drove through some rain and got to Clearwater about 5 p.m.

Today it’s cloudy and muggy. Patty and our good Kansas City friend Julie, who with her husband Jim, owns a house in Clearwater, have gone to the beach. Jim, a retired contractor, is working on their house. And me? I’m writing this winter letter to my readers, friends and relatives back home.

Tomorrow, I play golf…I played twice in Naples with our Louisville friends, Bill and Denise. To show you the difference between Naples and Clearwater, it cost $120 to play 18 holes in Naples, and it will cost about $55 to play at the Clearwater Country Club, which isn’t really a country club in the true sense because it’s open to the public.

Anyway, I know that some nice hot-weather photos will help tide you over to the weekend, when it’s due to get bearable again back home. So away we go…

Here’s the house we stayed in while in Naples. It’s owned by a Louisville physician, who rents it out to friends for part of the year. Our friends Bill and Denise have rented it for three weeks each of the last several winters. It looks rather small from the front, it’s got a large addition on the back. Altogether, it has four bedrooms and four baths.

For the most part, Naples has become a retreat for people of phenomenal wealth. Every day we saw or heard numerous big, private jets flying overhead on their way out of Naples. Homes like this are the exception. Modest houses are being bought, scraped and replaced with enormous new ones all the time.

To give you an idea of what’s been going on, this house stands next to the one in the previous picture. Both are on 11th Avenue South, several blocks from the beach, in an older area of Naples.

Many streets are lined with large palm trees, the seminal sign you have found your way to the Sunshine State.

The beach

This is the Naples pier. At one time, Naples was accessible only by water. (The big breakthrough was completion of a railroad line in December 1926.) In the 1880s, a 600-foot-long pier was built as a lifeline to the outside world. It was washed away by a hurricane in 1912, rebuilt and then burned by a carelessly dropped cigarette in 1922. It was repaired and lengthened to 1,000 feet in 1924 but was wrecked again by storms in 1926 and in 1960. After Hurricane Donna in 1960, two local philanthropists donated the money to rebuild the pier, and it reopened in 1961. It has a concession stand at the halfway point, and visitors can fish free of charge…No license needed.

A father and daughter (presumably) frolicked in the water just before sunset.

One day, we made it to the Everglades. While we didn’t go to Everglades National Park, we went to the nearby Big Cypress Nature Preserve, which basically is 729,000 acres of swamp.

A park ranger told us, “If you want to see what it’s like to be out in the swamp, this is it.”

Then there are these guys. This alligator was about 10 feet long…At least it looked that way to me. When I sent this photo to daughter Brooks she was concerned that I had edged close to the gator to get the photo. Not to worry…I shot it from the boardwalk above the waterway.

Before we left the swamp (thank God for the boardwalk), the park ranger took our photo. From left, me, Patty, Bill and Denise.

And that brings us to today, and our new place — an Airbnb on Union Street in Clearwater. It’s got two bedrooms and one bath. Everything works, and there are four bikes in the garage. Another bonus: It’s a block from a convenience store named Munchies. We’ve already been there three times. Tally-ho!

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From experience, I know a lot of people are already  frustrated about the scant information that has come out about Britt Reid and the curious and shocking wreck he was involved in that critically injured a 5-year-old girl.

The police have said the investigation is going to take weeks. Well, don’t be surprised if it takes months.

I’ll bet a lot of people are thinking that Reid will be getting preferential treatment and that police will drag out the investigation in an attempt to let the case get stale in the minds of the public.

If I hadn’t followed another horrific case three years ago, I would think the same thing. But mainly because of that earlier case, I believe the police investigation into the Reid case genuinely will take a long time. There are many factors involved, including toxicology tests, exactly how the crash occurred and witness accounts. While the public is eager to know things like Reid’s blood alcohol content and if he was on the phone when the wreck happened, the police will be painstakingly assembling all the facts and preparing a case file. Once that is done, they will present it to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Don’t expect information to be leaked in dribs and drabs. If the police department let information come out piecemeal, it would probably damage the case. What we should all want here is for the police to do a thorough job and submit a complete and coherent file to Jean Peters Baker. And I can assure you of this: If Baker gets a complete and coherent file, she will play this case absolutely straight. Neither Britt Reid nor Andy Reid will be getting a break from this fearless prosecutor.

The key to this case will be the police investigation. If it’s done right, I believe justice will be served. If the police screw it up, justice won’t be served.

Now, let me take you back to the case that serves as a guideline for how long it takes to conduct a thorough investigation of a case involving alcohol, drugs and serious injury or death.

Many of you will remember the case of the guy who, on Sept. 23, 2017, hurtled down the 23rd Street ramp from I-435 at a speed of 90 miles an hour.

The man, who was driving a 2015 Dodge Ram pickup, had been frustrated by the relatively slow pace of traffic on northbound I-435 after a Chiefs’ game. Finally unburdened of traffic in front, he roared down that ramp and slammed into an SUV traveling on 23rd Street. The SUV then plowed into two other vehicles, before the Dodge Ram pickup ended up against a rock wall all the way across the intersection. After the crash, the driver walked around his truck, kicking at it and never looking back at the havoc he had wreaked or bothering to check on the occupants of the other vehicles.

I started writing about that case not long after the crash occurred. I could not understand why the man’s identity didn’t become public and why it was taking the police so long to conduct the investigation. But, as with Britt Reid, drinking and/or drugs were involved, and it’s just a fact of life that the results of toxicology tests don’t come quickly.

It wasn’t until Dec. 1 that I even found out the driver’s name and city of residence — Terry A. Gray of Independence — and that was not because he had been charged but because he was named as defendant in two civil suits seeking damages as a result of the crash.

It was about the same time — more than two months after the crash — that the police department turned the case file over to Baker. Charges were finally filed on Jan. 4, 2018, almost three and a half months after the crash.

Gray was charged with two counts of causing death while driving under the influence and two counts of DWI resulting in serious personal injury. Bond was set at $75,000, but he was able to come up with $7,500, which enabled him to make bond through a bond company.

Then the damnedest thing happened: In early March, two months after being charged, Gray died. He was 51 years old, and it turned out he had cancer — which might have been a factor in his “fuck-the-world” attitude on Sept. 23.

In a March 7, 2018, post about Gray’s death, I wrote: “Sometimes cases don’t end conventionally or neatly. This is such a one.”


So, I would urge everyone to be patient regarding the Britt Reid case. The temptation will be to think the fix is in and the case is going to disappear into thin air. It won’t. The facts will come out. Britt Reid has had d.u.i.’s before, and he’s obviously got a drinking and prescription drug problem. KCPD and Jean Peters Baker know full well that the public is watching this case and that it’s going to be remembered as long as this Super Bowl is remembered.

Britt Reid is in serious trouble, and I believe KCPD and Jean Peters Baker will do the right thing. It’s just going to take time to hold Reid to account. I don’t think his father’s lofty status is going to help him this time, especially if little Ariel should die.

We’re all hoping that doesn’t happen. Near the top of every Kansas Citian’s wish list now is that Ariel will regain consciousness and, in time, make a full recovery.

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When I started writing this, the U.S. House of Representatives was voting on a resolution to strip Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments.

Never has an elected official been more deserving of such a significant punishment for what she has said and what she has suggested should befall members of the opposing party.

We’ve all witnessed her nuttiness — like endorsing the murder of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and asserting that “none of the school shootings were real.”

Now it’s time to pay the piper.

The star of today’s debate in the House was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He held up a poster-board image of Greene wearing aviator-style sunglasses and holding an assault rifle pointed in the direction of Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The caption on the image, which Greene posted on Facebook during her election campaign last fall, is “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”  (The “squad” consists of the most progressive members of the Democratic majority.)

Not only did Hoyer display the poster board, he carried it from the Democratic side of the House chamber to the Republican side and held it aloft for them to see up close.

It was an extremely powerful minute, and it rendered the Republican allegations of a Democratic “power grab” anemic.

A few hours earlier, Greene took to the House floor and made an inauthentic and unrepentent attempt to mop up her mess.

Among other things, she said: “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret.”

Allowed to believe things?

When someone uses the passive voice when trying to rationalize speech or action, it is never genuine.

But she couldn’t bring herself to apologize — an act which might have spared her the thrashing she was getting.

And like many conservative foot soldiers do these days, she blamed “the media.”

“Big media companies can take teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said, that you have said, any of us, and can portray us as someone that we’re not, and that is wrong.”

Someone she’s not?

Hell, the things she has said are at the core of her being; they reflect utter hatred and a lack of concern for any fellow human beings.

As you know, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had to draw the line at Greene, saying she was a “cancer” on the Republican Party and was guilty of spreading “loony lies.”

At the same time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California didn’t have the courage to denounce Greene and recommend his colleagues strip Greene of her committee memberships. Which prompted this assessment from Michelle Cottelle, a New York Times editorial board member…

Like Mr. McConnell, Mr. McCarthy is a political creature. He has few, if any, discernible values beyond his own ambitions. Unlike Mr. McConnell, Mr. McCarthy is weak and worries too much about being liked. He has neither the vision nor the stomach to play the long game.


And now, as I finish this post, the vote is in: 230-199. Two hundred nineteen Democrats were joined by 11 Republicans in voting to remove Greene from the committees she was on.

Now she’ll have much more time to post her rot on Facebook.

And Kevin McCarthy? This could be the death knell for his star turn as political leader.

Like many of you, I watch with disbelief and some delight as the Republican house continues to crumble.

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