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One of the less publicized areas in which President Trump has been trying to undermine journalism is his handling of the Voice of America, a government-controlled, international television and radio network funded by the U.S. federal tax budget.

Since being appointed in June to head the U.S. Agency on Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, Trump ally Michael Pack has been reaching deep into the ranks of VOA, trying to promote “friendly” reporting toward Trump and, at the same time, root out reporters and editors he regards as not sufficiently sympathetic to the Trump administration.

A die-hard conservative, Pack has no journalistic background. He has written, directed and produced more than a dozen documentary films, including two with former Trump aide Steve Bannon.

Michael Pack

Among the VOA journalists Pack investigated was Steve Herman, VOA’s White House bureau chief. Senior aides to Pack claimed, among other things, that Herman’s tweets of people relaying criticism of the president showed he was biased. Herman remains on the job despite the pressure to sideline him.

The most outrageous and brazen move, however, was Pack’s attempt, unveiled in late October, to repeal a federal rule meant to protect VOA and four other USAGM networks from editorial interference. In a statement, Pack said he was using his powers as chief executive to roll back the regulation, known as the “firewall” rule, because it was harmful to the agency’s and national interests.

VOA produces digital, TV, and radio content in 47 languages and distributes the content to affiliate stations around the globe. Its mission, as described in a story by National Public Radio, “is a form of soft diplomacy: to embody democratic principles through fair reporting and to replace a free press in countries where there is none.”

In his statement, Pack made no pretense of believing in the firewall principle, asserting that USAGM was tantamount to a cheerleader for U.S. policy. The networks’ primary goal, he said, should be “to serve United States interests through Government sponsored news abroad.”

“Because of this special mission,” his statement went on, “USAGM and its networks do not function as a traditional news or media agency and were never intended to do so. By design, their purpose and focus is foreign relations and the promotion of American objectives — not simply presenting news or engaging in journalistic expression.”

Several USAGM executives whom Pack had suspended punched back hard. They filed a federal lawsuit alleging Pack’s attempt to gut the firewall principle was unconstitutional. Joining the plaintiffs was Kelu Chao, VOA managing editor and the service’s top nonpolitical executive.

So far, their suit has been successful. Last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ordered USAGM and Pack to stop interfering in news coverage and editorial personnel matters. Pack and his aides’ actions, she said, amounted to a “chilling of First Amendment expression.”

VOA journalists were thrilled and relieved at the ruling. Acting VOA Director Elez Biberaj said in a statement that editorial independence and journalistic integrity were “the core elements that sustain VOA and make us America’s voice.”

“A steady 83% of VOA’s audience finds our journalism trustworthy,” he added. “There are few, if any, media organizations that can claim such trust. I am proud of our journalists who continue to uphold VOA’s traditions of providing our audience with accurate, objective and comprehensive reporting.”

**

The best news of all? Like Trump, Pack will soon be packing his things and leaving office.

Back in June, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for now President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign told Vox that Biden would be firing Pack if he won the Nov. 3 election.

“Michael Pack is decidedly unqualified,” Bates said, “and his actions risk hijacking invaluable, nonpartisan media institutions that stand up for fundamental American values like freedom and democracy in the world.”

Pack, of course, is just one of many swamp dwellers Trump put in place to try to twist the federal government into a pretzel that suited his purposes, and it will be good to see the winds of change sweeping Pack away.

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With tears in my eyes and sniffles in my nose, I watched President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris introduce their first group of proposed cabinet members today.

The tears welled up because, for the first time in four years, we saw a group of seasoned, honest professionals pledging to work tirelessly in the interests of the American public, not in the interests of a corrupt and insatiable egotist.

The tears came not only from joy but also from relief, as the mind’s eye could see the biggest ship of fools ever assembled — bearing people masquerading as national leaders — fading off the horizon.

I presume many of you did not get to watch this entire event, which lasted about 40 minutes. It was the most riveting TV I have seen in a long time, and I want you to hear some of the inspirational, reaffirming words that each nominee uttered.

The overall theme, as commentators described it afterward, was a transition from America First to America Is Back. Not an America with eyes fixed on its navel but an America that has been, and at long last again promises to be, a force for good and a model for the entire world.

Now, listen to what these very impressive people had to say…

Tony Blinken, 58, nominee for Secretary of State

My late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps. At the end of the war, he made a break from the death march, into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep, rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the Iron Cross, he saw painted on its side a five-pointed, white star. He ran to the tank; the hatch opened; an African-American G.I. looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war: God bless America. That’s who we are; that’s what America represents to the world.

Alejandro Mayorkas, 61, nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission: To help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome…For 12 years, I had the privilege to stand in a federal courthouse and announce, “Alejandro Mayorkas, on behalf of the United States of America.” The words “on behalf of the United States of America” meant everything to me and to my parents, whom I think of today and every day. My father and mother brought me to this country (from Cuba) to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens, as was I. I’ve carried that pride throughout my nearly 20 years of government service and throughout my life.

My parents are not here to see this day. Mr. President Elect, Madam Vice President Elect, please know that I will work day and night in the service of our nation to ably lead the men and women of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and to bring honor to my parents and to the trust you have placed in me to carry your vision forward.

Avril Haines, 51, nominee for Director of National Intelligence

I know, Mr. President Elect and Madam Vice President Elect that you selected us not to serve you but to serve on behalf of the American people, to help advance our security, our prosperity, our values…Mr. President Elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as Director of National Intelligence.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, 68, nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations

In the years that I have worked in government, I’m always struck by how, only in America, would we be where we are: where life can be hard and cruel but there’s hope in the struggle; (where) there is promise in our dreams; where you learn to believe in yourself and that anything is possible…My parents had very little back in Louisiana, where I grew up. But they gave me and my siblings everything they had, and I know how proud they would be of this day.

Jake Sullivan, 44, nominee for Natoional Security Advisor

Mr. President Elect, I pledge to you and to the American people that I will work relentlessly in service of the mission you have given us — to keep our country and our people safe, to advance our national interests and to defend our values. I pledge to the exceptional national security team you see behind me and to the brilliant and diverse career professionals across our government that I will manage a humane and vigorous decision-making process that honors their work.

John Kerry, 76, climate envoy

Mr. President Elect, I will do all in my power to live up to your expectations and to this moment for our country and for the world…To end this (climate) crisis the whole world must come together. At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together. And failure is not an option…President Elect Joe Biden is determined to seize the future now and leave a healing planet to future generations. President Joe Biden will trust in God, and he will also trust in science to guide our work on earth to protect God’s creation….I look forward to getting to work.

**

With this group — assuming the U.S. Senate approves of their nominations — we can trust that the public interest will come before anyone’s personal agenda. Once again, well-intentioned, good people are about to be in charge of the nation’s destiny. It’s a great day to be an American.

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The Trump-created logjam finally broke today. Now we can move comfortably and confidently toward a Biden administration, starting Jan. 20.

After the Michigan State Board of Canvassers certified that state’s vote on a 3-0 vote — with one of two Republicans abstaining — GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, one of Trump’s front-line blockers — threw in the towel and allowed the formal transition to begin.

I’ve got to admit that although I was asserting last week that everything would be okay, Team Trump was causing me quite a bit of anxiety and discomfort. Descending to the worst case scenario, I tormented myself with thoughts of what might happen if every Republican who had anything to do with the certifications in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia got on board Trump’s runaway team and refused to acknowledge Biden’s victories in those states.

I entertained the possibility of a solid silo of Trump allies going along with his preposterous assertion that Grand Larceny had occurred and he was the victim.

But over the weekend, as I thought about it further and as Trump’s Trojan horse began showing signs of a limp, I came to the conclusion that good was going to win out over evil. It was this simple, I decided: There simply were not enough bad people — truly amoral or immoral — to pull that lame horse over the line.

It would have taken dozens, maybe scores, of spineless Republicans, including Supreme Court justices, to steal the election from Biden. Just a couple of chinks in the chain, I realized, could darken the lights on the three-ring circus that Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were trying to produce at Trump’s urging.

Granted, several bad people did surface. One was Norm Shinkle, one of two Republicans on the Michigan Board of Canvassers. Undoubtedly yielding to pressure from on high, Shinkle pushed to delay the certification.

But the worst person involved in Trump’s grand charade, without question was Monica Palmer, a member of the canvassing board of Wayne County, who last week proposed certifying the statewide vote minus Wayne County, which includes Detroit and its tens of thousands of Black voters. For sheer audacity, Palmer the cake.

But let’s give credit to some of the good Republicans…those who refused to yield to Trump’s cajoling and arm twisting.

There was Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, an engineer before becoming a politician, who famously said, “Numbers don’t lie.”

And cheers, also, for Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, whom Trump summoned to the White House last Friday. After that meeting, which had to have been extremely uncomfortable for the two men, they came out with a statement saying they would not interfere with the certification.

And, finally, today we saw 30-year-old Aaron Van Langevelde, the other Republican on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, cast the vote that validated Biden’s Michigan win. Van Langevelde joined the two Democrats in a 3-0 vote, with Shinkle abstaining.

Before today, Van Langevelde, a lawyer, had not shown his hand. He declined interview requests from The New York Times and other news outlets. Today, though, he found his voice and showed his integrity when he when he said: “We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election, as shown by the returns that were given to us. We cannot and should not go beyond that. As John Adams once said, ‘We are a government of laws, not men.’ ”

It’s people like Raffesnperger, Chatfield, Shirkey and Van Langevelde who, in the waning days of the Trump administration’s sinkhole of lies and amorality, give us some hope for the present and future of our democracy.

We must all be grateful for those who wished the outcome would have been different but nevertheless held to their conviction that the Rule of Law came first.

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One of The Washington Post’s most prominent political columnists told a Kansas City audience today that, given the results of the Nov. 3 election, Democrats should not expect an overly ambitious and progressive Democratic agenda over the next few years.

David Von Drehle, a Kansas City area resident who writes a twice-weekly column for The Post, spoke via Zoom to about 45 people at a meeting of the 40 Years Ago Column Club.

Monday marked the second time in the last two years Von Drehle, who resides in Mission Hills, has spoken to the club, which draws its members from the ranks of people named in The Kansas City Star at least 40 years ago.

David von Drehle

Von Drehle said that while the Nov. 3 election results could be interpreted as “anti-Trump,” they should not be read as pro-Democratic Party.

In fact, he said, the election marked a good day for the Republican Party, given that it gained seats in the U.S. House, in state legislatures and in one gubernatorial race. (In January, 27 states will have Republican governors, to 23 for Democrats.)

Von Drehle said he thought a majority of voters were saying while they wanted a new President, “they don’t necessarily want everything we heard about in the Democratic primaries.”

Many Democrats who voted for Joe Biden, then, probably will not see as ambitious an agenda as they would like on issues like climate change, single-payer medical insurance and guarantees of jobs and minimum basic incomes.

Although Democrats have high hopes to gain control of the U.S. Senate with the two runoff races in Georgia, Von Drehle in inclined to believe Democrats will end up disappointed.

“Frankly,” he said, “I’ll be surprised if Democrats take win either one.”

Part of his reasoning on that is he believes a majority of voters prefer divided government to unified government, where one party controls the executive and legislative branches. As an example, he pointed to the 2018 “offset,” where Democrats took control of the House two years after Trump was elected President.

“People like to have opposition to a powerful person in the White House,” he said.

Besides the Georgia races, Von Drehle sees the prospect of more Democratic storm clouds on the horizon: History, he said, suggests Republicans will gain control of the House in 2022. He qualified that prediction, however, by saying it might not come to pass if Biden can do three things:

— Restore calm to the country

— Make significant strides toward unifying the nation

— Get the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

If Biden can succeed in those key areas, he said, “Democrats will have a real agenda to run on in two years.”

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My good friend Dan Margolies, a former KC Star business reporter who now is an editor and reporter at KCUR, has an extremely informative follow-up today on yesterday’s big story regarding The Star breaking its long-term lease of the iconic printing plant it built for $200 million in the mid-2000s.

The Star’s story yesterday about its decision to relocate both its editorial and printing operations was full of holes. While the story laid out the basics — that the paper would vacate the building at 1601 McGee by the end of 2021 — it offered nothing about whether The Star was breaking its leaseback arrangement with a hospitality business that owns the building. Worse, it did not address what might come of building it has been so closely identified with the last 15 years.

Now, you could argue that what happens going forward is really none of The Star’s concern, but still, you’d think the paper would recognize that was a huge issue and at least nominally address it.

But, no, The Star kept its report — another grim admission of the paper’s downward spiral — as short as possible, while not featuring it on its kansascity.com website and not even bothering to run the story in today’s print edition. (On the other hand, it did see fit to report that the men’s store Pinstripes was closing on the Plaza after many decades, first as Mister Guy, then as Pinstripes.)

But back to Dan’s story, which you can see free of charge and go back to as many times as you want.

Dan Margolies

Dan went straight to the top source, Rosie Privitera Biondo, a principal of Ambassador Hospitality, which bought the print pavilion from The Star three years ago for slightly more than $30 million — about $170 million less than the cost to build it.

To give you some perspective on the Privitera family, Rosie’s parents, Carl “Red” Privitera and wife Josephine, founded Mark One Electric in 1974 and grew the business into a powerhouse.

Several years ago, the family expanded into Ambassador Hospitality, and the print pavilion was its first and only, to my knowledge, major investment.

After relinquishing the building, The Star leased it back from Ambassador for a term of 15 years, with initial payments set at $2.8 million a year.

Rosie would not tell Dan if The Star would pay a penalty for ending the lease early, but I have to think it will pay a significant penalty. She went on to say Ambassador would discontinue any and all print operations at the building and would sell off the presses. From there, she said, the company was considering several possible new uses, including as a logistics center, a call fulfillment center or even a brewery.

Then she dropped the bombshell: If plans for a downtown baseball stadium should move forward, Ambassador might be willing to sell the building to make way for the stadium. “It could be the possible new Royals stadium — tear down the building, buy our property, build across the highway,” Rosie said.

Can’t you just envision it? What better place for the stadium, a block east of Grand Boulevard, with T-Mobile Center on the north side of I-670, the stadium on the south.

…I love the green glass building — it’s one of the best downtown has to offer — but I would surely vote to substitute it for a downtown baseball stadium. Such a development would complete the transition of downtown from wasteland (pre-Sprint/T-Mobile Center) to energetic, thriving city hub.

Indicative of the Privitera family’s vision back in 2017, Rosie said Ambassador had been eager to buy the building because “we saw the synergies of future possibilities.”

That prompted Dan to write…

The prospect of a baseball stadium downtown has long tantalized downtown boosters, and with the Royals’ change of ownership last year, the idea seems to have picked up momentum. Kansas City is one of the few major league cities without a downtown baseball stadium. Businessman John Sherman, who leads the new Royals ownership group, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Royals certainly lost money this year, with no fans attending shortened-season games, and I would doubt that Sherman and his co-owners would be ready to take on such an expensive proposition anytime soon.

But the good news that emanates from The Star’s bad news is that we might be a step closer to a downtown stadium. Even if The Star’s offices end up in rented office space (for some reason I’m envisioning the second floor of a building in “downtown” Brookside), its decision to build a shimmering print pavilion in the mid 2000s might turn out, ironically, to have been the cornerstone for the capstone of our new, mighty downtown.

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Never has the latter-day impotence of The Kansas City Star been more on display than in the case of Rick Roeber, a Lee’s Summit Republican who was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives on Nov. 3 despite horrific charges of physical and/or sexual abuse against three of his four children.

Roeber ran in the 34th District, which includes parts of Lee’s Summit and areas south and east of there. Roeber defeated Democrat Chris Hager by two percentage points and is poised to take the 34th District seat in January.

The shocking element of The Star’s election coverage is that, in its news columns, The Star did not write a single story about the allegations.

In fairness, The Star ran four pre-election editorials, which laid out the story and condemned Roeber. All the editorials were hard hitting. One quoted Roeber’s son Samson as saying: “He beat the shit out of us all the time. Also, (he would) hold us by our necks and hold us against the wall.”

The same editorial reported that Anastasia Roeber, Roeber’s adopted daughter, alleged that Roeber made improper sexual advances toward her in 1990, when she was 9 years old. “He made me place my hand on his genitals,” she said.

Roeber has denied all the allegations.

To me, as a journalist and former KC Star reporter and editor, the most baffling part of this story is that it never made the news pages (as opposed to the editorial page, which is near the back of the paper).

The news-side neglect shows, in my view, how far The Star has fallen.

Back when the paper had a strong news operation — as recently as the mid- to late-2000s — the Roeber story almost certainly would have run on Page 1. Not only that, it would have provoked revulsion among readers, and Roeber’s campaign would have been doomed.

But that was then and this is the new normal…which highlights three basic facts:

:: The Star’s print product has become increasingly anemic as subscriptions have plummeted and deadlines have been pushed up so far that the daily paper has relatively little of “yesterday’s news.”

:: The Star’s civic and political clout has withered as the print product has lost tens of thousands of weekday subscribers and hundreds of thousands of Sunday subscribers over the last five decades.

:: The ebbing of print and the failed shift to digital has robbed the paper of much of its relevance. Where the paper used to keep politicians and civic leaders wary and on their toes, those officials now see the paper as more of a pest than a career maker or breaker.

(Ironically, this post is publishing the day after The Star announced it will be leaving its glass building downtown and moving to smaller quarters next year. The paper won’t even be using the print plant any longer; the paper will be printed in Des Moines.) 

**

The Roeber case also illuminates another important change that has taken place: Where most editorials used to spring from news reports, the editorial writers now routinely play the role of reporters, covering news stories, while also wearing their opinion hats.

We former Star staff members used to talk reverentially about “the wall” not only between advertising and news but also, to a lesser extent, between news and opinion.

The line between news and opinion has blurred completely. And while that rubs former reporters and editors the wrong way, the change has a saving element: Some stories like Roeber’s are at least getting reported somewhere in the paper.

The Star’s tilt away from strong news and toward strong opinion is a bit unusual. Several years ago, as revenue shriveled, The Star made a conscious decision to beef up its editorial staff and let the news side atrophy. The paper now has five editorial board members, led by Colleen McCain Nelson, vice president and editorial page editor. Nelson is also national opinion editor for the entire McClatchy chain. (She’s a very strong editor, but I don’t see how she can competently oversee the editorial-page operations at 29 dailies. That’s one example of how far McClatchy attempts to stretch its paltry resources.)

Many other metropolitan dailies have gone in a different direction, reducing the news and opinion ranks more evenly. A leading example of that is Gannett chain, which, at some of its papers, has shrunk opinion pages and kept proportionately more reporters. That approach has played out particularly well at my hometown paper, The Courier Journal in Louisville, KY, which has given readers a steady diet of ground-breaking scoops on the long-running Breonna Taylor story. (This is not to say Gannett is “good,” by any means; it’s just stretching its paltry resources differently, maybe more wisely.)

**

Although I am glad to see The Star maintain a strong editorial-page operation, it is appalling that the news side would completely ignore a story like that of Rick Roeber. And the result is shocking: Come January, a man who appears to have been a flagrant child abuser will be one of 163 people representing Missourians in the House of Representatives.

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I’ve long wanted to be in Times Square for the dropping of the ball celebration, but I’m too old and my urinary tract is far too weak.

But today, when The New York Times declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential race, I felt the joyful delirium reflected in the faces of those hundreds of thousands of young people who gather every year in Times Square.

This is fantastic. The relief is almost inexpressible. We’re on the cusp of saying so long to the biggest turd in the world’s biggest punch bowl.

As a friend of mine who called a few minutes ago said, “It’s not going to be a fun day at the golf club in New Jersey.”

On Wednesday, as many of you know, I wrote that the election appeared to be “the mother of all train wrecks.”

Like many of you, I was so blue. It appeared certain that the Senate would remain in Republican control, and it looked like Donald Trump (not going to capitalize the guy’s name ever again) could well be headed toward re-election.

I was also afraid that with the race being so tight, it was likely a Supreme Court majority would step in and thwart the people’s will, even if Biden was declared the winner.

How things have changed over four days. If Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock can somehow win runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats would control the Senate by virtue of Vice President Elect Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote.

In the presidential race, Biden steadily gained ground and passed Trump in the key states of Pennsylvania and Georgia, a state that had not gone for a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992.

In addition, Biden’s margins in Nevada and Arizona look like they are going to hold up…What all this means is that we’ve got a Supreme-Court-veto-proof majority in the electoral college.

Another thing that will take the Supreme Court out of play is the simple fact that once a presidential race has been declared — like it was after the Florida debacle in 2000 — the weight of the declaration of a winner and the recording of the electoral count are such that there is no going back. No court will try to “flip the result,” to borrow a phrase from idiotic Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh.

Moreover, Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett have their nice, comfortable seats on the Supreme Court; they’re not moving out of their offices just because Trump is. Why should they wring their hands or shed tears? They’re set for life.

And regardless of what indignities and abuses those three — along with justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas — subject the nation to in the years ahead, at least they won’t be trying to pump air into Donald Trump’s suddenly lifeless carcass.

Hallelujah, everyone. Celebrate like it’s New Year’s Eve…and then let’s get on with beating this damn pandemic.

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Inconceivable. Obliterative. Mind-numbing.

Those are the primary adjectives that come to mind this afternoon as I survey the wreckage — national, state and local — of yesterday’s election.

I don’t intend to dip into despair, however. It’s still great to be an American and enjoy the personal freedoms we have…at least for now. In addition, the quality of our individual lives should continue to be good…at least for now.

In short, I’m not moving anywhere, not now, not ever. Bury me (naturally) in Prairie Village.

But, man, yesterday produced as big a bombshell as 2016, don’t you think?

Two overarching reflections

:: The fact that the presidential race is so tight is very bad news for Democrats. Even if Joe Biden should prevail on the basis of post-Election Day counting, I fully expect a Supreme Court majority to rationalize its way to throwing out enough ballots to flip the result (yes, Bret Kavanaugh, flip the result). If RBG had held on, I think Chief Justice John Roberts would have voted on the side of democracy to uphold a close Biden victory. As it is, Trump’s Gang of Three, plus the other two Republican-appointed justices, will surely have their way.

:: Polling — soliciting the pre-election preferences of voters — is shot. Some of it may have to do with voters not leveling with pollsters, but I think it mainly has to do with cellphones having displaced landlines. The pollsters just aren’t getting adequate samplings, and I have no idea how that can be fixed. I’m not blaming pollsters; I just think it’s a lost art. On the positive side, it has made elections more predictable and, depending on your affiliation, more exciting. (I’m sure Republicans around the country are jubilant today, and you’ve got to hand it to to them, they really turned out yesterday.)

The Senate, which, it appears, Republicans will continue to control…

  • I thought, from polling, Susan Collins was toast. Instead, she is eating Sara Gideon’s lunch.
  • I thought, in my home state of Kentucky, Democrat Amy McGrath might give Mitch McConnell a scare. Instead, he delivered a frightening beat-down, running up a 20-point margin.
  • I thought Jaime Harrison might unseat Lindsey Graham. Instead, Lindsey is sitting in the catbird seat, still wearing that shit-eating grin.
  • I thought, in the next-door battle of the doctors, Barbara Bollier might wrap Roger Marshall in surgical tape. Instead, she ended up in the E.R.

Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao on Tuesday in Louisville, KY

State (Missouri) and local (Jackson County)…

:: Every Republican running statewide creamed his Democratic opponent, including Mike (wear-a-mask-if you-wanna) Parson, who trounced Nicole Galloway. The only good news here is that term limits will knock him out in 2024 because he served more than two years of Eric Greitens’ term before being sworn in June 1, 2018.

:: Passage of Amendment 3, which overturned the Clean Missouri amendment voters approved in 2018, is a crying shame. I figured this was going to be close because the ballot language was deceptive and unclear. Amazingly, two of the three Missouri Court of Appeals judges who wrote the ballot language — Lisa White Hardwick and Karen King Mitchell — were appointed by Democratic governors. They should be voted out of office next time they are up for retention, which, unfortunately, is only every 12 years. Because of Tuesday’s outcome, Republicans will continue to have an iron grip on redistricting, which will extend, seemingly in perpetuity, their control of the Missouri House and Senate.

:: I was surprised that 59 percent of Jackson County voters voted to continue displaying the Andrew Jackson statues outside the Kansas City and Independence courthouses. I thought a majority might vote to toss Jackson. But, as I’ve said before, I am proud to be a Jackson Countian, and it’s okay with me if he continues to sit tall in the saddles.

:: Jackson County Question 1 asked voters to assess a tax of up to $1 a month (you can bet it won’t be “up to;” it will be the full buck) to help fund the 911 call system. Currently, the system is funded by a 7-percent fee just on landlines. I recommended a “no” vote on this because I have zero confidence in Jackson County government. On the other hand, I fully recognize the unfairness of letting cellphone users off scot-free…We can end this post-Election Day rumination on a somewhat hopeful note, then: By a margin of 52 percent to 50 percent, Jackson County voters opted for fairness, meaning we cellphone users will be putting $12 a year into the muddy trough that supports a worthless County Legislature and an in-over-his-head county executive.

Now, back to watching the calendar. 2024 is hurtling toward us, and if Texas should go blue, it’s a whole new game.

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We were back in my old Kentucky home last week, visiting friends and relatives and trying to keep our minds off the election.

It worked! Election Day is upon us. But we’ve still got some time to kill, waiting for tomorrow’s voting and then all the ballots to be counted.

So, let’s get back to Kentucky.

Going to Louisville always gets me thinking about the friends and relatives I have — and had — there. I was lucky to have had six sets of uncles and aunts, four on my father’s side and two on my mother’s. All those aunts and uncles are now dead, except one, Nanette (Fitzpatrick) Eckert, who is 90 and living in Needham, MA, outside Boston. Fortunately, I still have several cousins in Louisville and the surrounding area, and I always visit at least some of them when I go back.

Probably the most colorful of my aunts and uncles was Uncle Joe Fitzpatrick, who was an art professor and professional artist and, like most of the Fitzpatricks, someone who knew his way around the King’s English.

Uncle Joe was a bit eccentric, as artists tend to be. For example, one night many years ago, he called my father (his brother), Robert Fitzpatrick, telling him he intended to buy an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. He asked my Dad if he wanted in on the deal.

He told Dad that if he wanted in, he’d have to come up with the money the next day.

Well, my father, an accounting professor who had previously worked as a CPA, was hardly the impulsive sort financially, and he passed on that opportunity.

Uncle Joe proceeded, with one or more partners, to buy that island. He and my Aunt Ruth and their three children — none of whom now lives in Kentucky — spent several weeks a year there. They had a small motorboat that would carry them back and forth from the island to the mainland.

When Uncle Joe and Aunt Ruth got older, they sold the island and bought a former bank building on the mainland and lived on the second floor.

Toward the end of their lives they hatched a plan to live four months a year in Louisville, four in Nova Scotia and four in Barcelona — where one of their daughters lives.

It was a wild, wacky plan, which, not surprisingly, never came to fruition. Uncle Joe ended up in a Louisville independent living facility, where he died at age 89 in 2015. Aunt Ruth ended up in a nursing home, where she died two years later.

Like I said, Uncle Joe wrote for fun. The funniest and most creative thing he wrote, as far as I know, was “A Visitors Guide to Kentucky Multiple Usage Speech.”

Did you know some people in Kentucky talk a little differently, with a bit of a dra-a-a-w-l?

Below are 10 words or sounds from Uncle Joe’s guide to understanding some Kentuckians. In the first column is a word or sound that might come out of a Kentuckian’s mouth; in the second is the conventional meaning; and in the third is what the speaker intended to communicate.

**

Poplar…..Large tree……………Well regarded

Dade…….County in Florida…..Lifeless

R………….Our……………………..Time of day

Awl……….Everyone…………….Lubricant

Tar……….Used on roads……..Pneumatic liner for wheels

Pitcher….Liquid container……2D image usually hung on walls

Rat……….Large rodent………..Right, as in ra’t now

Far………..Distant………………..Fire

War……….Lethal conflict……..Plural past tense of “was”

Holler…….Shout………………….Deep dip in terrain

**

And here’s a picture of that professor, artist and wit, whom I dearly miss — Joe Fitzpatrick

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Whatever minor offense Marina Bischoff may have committed on May 27 hardly compares to what the Kansas City Police Department did to her the next day.

The day before she disappeared, Bischoff, a 39-year-old social worker at Children’s Mercy Hospital, was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired and leaving the scene of a crash after she drove into someone’s yard in Kansas City, North. She left the car but then came back to it when she saw police approaching.

She wasn’t carrying a cellphone, car keys or a wallet. (The keys and phone were found several days later in some woods.)

Marina Bischoff

Police took her to the Shoal Creek station on N.E. Pleasant Valley Road, west of Interstate 435. They kept her overnight but early the next morning began processing her for release on a signature bond.

She made several calls from the station. About 7 a.m., the cops turned her loose — without a car, without a phone, without a wallet, without a ride.

Now, maybe she assured them somebody was going to pick her up somewhere near the station, but, whatever the case, no one at the police station cared enough or had enough sense to insist that she stay put until someone showed up to get her.

So, she walked off.

**

Her brother, who lives in Texas, said she never drank but suffered from depression and that before the May 27 incident she had seemed to become consumed with fears about Coronavirus testing and PPE shortages at Children’s Mercy.

And yet, Victor Bischoff said, the actions that led to her arrest seemed “completely uncharacteristic” of her. “It feels to me like something was really wrong and I don’t know what happened to get her to that state,” he told The Star.

When Marina Bischoff left the station, a police department news release said, she did not seem impaired and was “deemed…competent to be released.”

She was wearing a black shirt and blue jeans.

**

She was last seen — police didn’t say by whom — about an hour and a half later on Pleasant Valley Road between Searcy Creek Parkway and North Crystal Avenue. (North Crystal Avenue is on the east side of Interstate 435; the police station and Searcy Creek Parkway are on the west side.)

Police said it appeared she was waiting for a ride.

In July, human remains were found in nearby Shoal Creek. On Friday, a police spokesman said the remains were those of Bischoff.

(I don’t know exactly were she was last seen or at what part of Shoal Creek her remains were found, but it appears everything occurred within about a mile of the police station.)

Contacted by The Star, Victor Bischoff said he felt officers had lacked compassion and common sense when they allowed his sister to leave the police station. “It’s just a pure disaster,” Bischoff said. “No compassion, no thought, no care.”

**

This case reflects more than a lack of common sense; it’s unfathomable. How could officers (several had to have been involved in the decision) have just let her walk away with nothing but the shirt on her back and the jeans on her legs?

Wouldn’t it be logical for any and all officers to conclude — instantly, without discussion — “You’re not leaving here until somebody shows up to get you.”

As we’ve heard many people say many times in recent months, with all the protests after the George Floyd murder, “The police are supposed to protect and serve.” They’re not supposed to kill people involved in minor dust-ups, and, by the same token, they’re not supposed to turn loose someone who is obviously disturbed and temporarily disconnected.

As I’ve said before, I used to think Kansas City had a good police department. It has sunk so far it is almost unbelievable.

This is just one more example of how KCPD has completely lost direction and why the current chief, Rick Smith, who has no relationship whatsoever with the Black community and who didn’t adequately control his officers during the protests on the Plaza, is unfit to lead.

And beyond that, it’s another example of how bad things have become with a bunch of Republicans, appointed by Republican governors, overseeing the police department. (The only member of the five-member Board of Police Commissioners who is not appointed by the governor is the mayor.)

Every day, it is increasingly clear how far the police department has descended under state control. Departmental leadership seems to have no idea what to do to combat the sky-high homicide rate, and the police union is untouchable and wields so much political clout that Mayor Quinton Lucas cowers in a corner for fear they won’t endorse him for re-election in three years.

If union leaders cared about the department, instead of just themselves, they would push for local control because, at this point, the department appears to be close to incompetent.

The death of Marina Bischoff, a woman who had a good life, a good job and was loved by many people — is on the hands of KCPD. Police didn’t shoot her; they just killed her with dereliction.

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