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In a world full of bad news, we have some good news locally: Tomorrow is Police Chief Rick Smith’s last day in office.

I can’t wait to see him in the rear view mirror — and then not see him ever again. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up with some cushy job like president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

His nearly five years as chief have been a certifiable disaster. Consider…

  • The department’s reputation has slipped badly on his watch.
  • He has unconditionally supported rogue and reckless officers.
  • He has ignored Kansas City’s east side and worsened the divide between the department and the Black community.
  • He has refused to cooperate with Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on internal affairs cases where officers deserved to be scrutinized for possible criminal violations of people’s rights.

Let’s look at a couple of the outrageous, specific things he has done.

Minutes after a now-convicted Kansas City police detective fatally shot Cameron Lamb in December 2019, Smith was captured on audio saying “Everyone is good, house is clear. Bad guy’s dead.”

It would have been fine if he’d stopped after the first sentence. But no, Smith, siding as usual with his officers assumed the person who was shot was necessarily in the wrong.

Last November, a Jackson County judge later disagreed, finding Det. Eric DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action when he fatally shot Lamb, who was Black, in his garage.

DeValkenaere, who is White, was sentenced to three years for manslaughter and three years for armed criminal action. The terms are to be served concurrently, so, unless he prevails on appeal, he will serve at least some prison time, maybe a couple of years.

Then, very recently, The Star reported that Smith was not acting out of genuine concern for human rights when he knelt at Mill Creek Park with Mayor Quinton Lucas and citizens who were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Star reporters talked with departmental commanders who were at a meeting with Smith last year, when he said, “I may be doing things or saying things, and that may not be my personal beliefs, but I’m gonna do what I need to do that’s best for the department.”

In other words, back the blue regardless of whether they are in the right…or, in the alternative, committing second-degree murder, which a jury found Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of in Floyd’s death.

**
Now, on to Nick Haines…I was stopped cold when I got an email from Kansas City PBS, Channel 19, on Sunday, saying that Haines, of “Kansas City Week in Review,” was going to have a “special edition” on Smith, airing at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

Here’s what the promo said:

“On a special edition of Week in Review, outgoing KC Police Chief Rick Smith swings by the Kansas City PBS studios. He hangs up his badge next week, but before he does, he tells all to Nick Haines.”

I was flabbergasted…”swings by” and “tells all.” What a crock of shit. What a flip way to deal with the retirement of possibly the worst chief Kansas City has ever had.

I immediately fired off an email to Haines, saying:

I hope you’re going to ask him — or, better yet, check for yourself — how much of a payout he’s walking away with. The previous chief, Darryl Forte, walked away in 2017 with a $500,000 windfall in accrued vacation, sick and comp time. Now we’ve got Smith, the most unpopular chief KC has ever had, walking away with, undoubtedly, a huge sum and a record reflecting outright racism. I hope we’ll be seeing a more somber side of you on April 22. I suggest holding the wide smiles.

I admit that “holding the wide smiles” was a bit of a cheap shot, but Haines has always reminded me of the famous, old-time actor Joe E. Brown, who was known for, to quote Wikipedia, his “enormous elastic-mouth smile.”

Joe E. Brown
Haines

To his credit, pro that he is, Haines responded more than diplomatically. Here’s what he said:

“Hi Jim — Thanks for reaching out. By the way, I love your blog. In fact, it’s one of only four news related content sites I check every day just to make sure I haven’t missed an update. I’m not kidding. You have an insightful, knowledgeable take on many important issues around town and I am grateful for what you do. As for the police chief, it’s always a balancing act. My job is not to judge him but to understand him. Thanks for the advice on not too “wide a grin.” With regards to his potential retirement windfall, is that really in his control or is he just the benefactor a bad system? Also on this week’s show is Mayor Quinton Lucas. I think it would be more appropriate to direct that question to him.”

…While I applaud Haines’ professionalism, I disagree with his assertion that it’s his job “to understand him.” And I said so. I replied, saying, “There’s no need to try to understand Smith after five years. What we’ve seen and what we’ve heard…says everything.”

And in response to Haines’ suggestion that a likely windfall was the result of “a bad system,” I said: “If it’s a bad system, how else do you plant the seeds for change other than by calling it out — each and every time?”

I concluded with this…

“I don’t envy your assignment here; the guy is the turd in the punch bowl. Most of south Kansas City (meaning south of the river) — and surely all of east Kansas City — will be watching with disgust from the moment he appears.”

**

I’m sure this report will help, to some small degree, pump up viewership of Haines’ show Friday evening. But I doubt I’ll be watching. I’m not the least bit interested in a “tell-all” from a horrible, almost despicable, police chief.

Good riddance.

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The death of a young person — whether by accident, illness, homicide or suicide — is about the most crushing experience a family can go through.

Patty and I bore witness to another family’s tragedy this week, when we attended the funeral ceremony for 21-year-old Sean Patrick North, a St. Louis University sophomore, who took his own life on April 5.

Sean was the grandson of longtime friends and neighbors of ours, Jim and Mary North. Jim called me with the news over the weekend. It was the second such tragedy the North family has endured, with one of Jim and Mary’s three sons having taken his own life 12 years ago.

Now, their son, Jim North Jr., and his wife Cara have lost one of their three sons.

I am writing about this not to emphasize one family’s terrible fortune, but to amplify the hope and broader perspective that a Catholic priest — the priest who presided at Monday’s funeral — was able to bring to Sean’s tragic death.

First, take a look at Sean’s photo. Here was a young man with good looks, brains, athletic skill, a loving family, a girlfriend and legions of other friends. As a testament to his popularity, the sanctuary at Church of the Nativity, 119th and Mission Road, Leawood, was filled with hundreds of people, including 300 or more young people who had encountered him somewhere in his life’s journey.

You look at this picture, and there is just one question: WHY?

Officiating at the funeral, at what in Catholic terminology is the Mass of Christian Burial, was the Rev. Jerry Arano-Ponce, who is pastor at a church in Bucyrus, KS. Father Jerry formerly was pastor at St. Agnes Church in Roeland Park. It was there, 12 years ago, that he presided at the funeral of our friends’ son.

I had never seen or heard of Father Jerry. He is a native of Mexico, I found out later, and English is his second language. He speaks with an accent and enunciates carefully.

Once he began the eulogy, however, it was clear that not only was he a master of his second language but that we who were on hand were in the presence of oratorical, theological and philosophical greatness.

Father Jerry started by tackling the suicide issue — which, of course, can be very uncomfortable — head on. He said:

As for Sean, I presume no one is unaware that he took his own life. I think we ought to say that out loud so that we can hear it publicly as we try to deal with it.

But let’s not remember Sean by that weak moment he had. Let’s remember him as he truly was: a caring son and brother, grandson, cousin and friend, a smart young man, a gifted swimmer, a fun friend who had a hilarious one-liner for every occasion, cracking everyone up with his sharp wit.

Then he took on the unfathomable question: WHY?

Making sense of Sean’s loss so soon after his untimely death is futile…The answer may never be known in this life. The wisdom that is needed to understand his death is beyond our ability. And if we did know WHY, it would not bring us any comfort.

He proceeded to talk about Sean — how he was “a young man of faith” and “a man for others” — and then he turned, metaphorically, to the throng of young people, many of whom had to be struggling more than the adults with the “WHY?”

Father Jerry Arano-Ponce

Father Jerry knew he had to try to start helping them cope, and he began with an anecdote. It went like this…

I want to share with you a story about Puccini. Puccini was the great Italian writer of such classic operas as Madame Butterfly and La boheme. It seems when Puccini was fairly young he contracted cancer and so he decided to spend his last days writing his final opera, Turandot.

When his friends and disciples would say to him, “You are ailing, take it easy and rest,” he would always respond: “I am going to do as much as I can on my great masterwork, and it is up to you, my friends, to finish it.

Well, Puccini died before the opera was completed. Now his friends had a choice: They could forever mourn their friend and return to life as usual, or they could build on his melody and complete what he started. They chose the latter.

In 1926, at the famous La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy, when Puccini’s opera was played for the first time — conducted by the famed conductor Arturo Toscanini — and it came to the part in the opera where the master had stopped, Toscanini stopped everything, turned around with his eyes welling up with tears and said to the large audience, “This is where the master ends.” And he wept.

But then, after a few moments, he lifted his head, smiled broadly and said, “And this is where his friends began.” And he finished the opera.

You see the point — and the point of the question I asked you: What are you going to do about Sean’s death? What are you going to do about his unfinished masterpiece?

**

Father Jerry could have ended it there, and it would have been memorable, but he transitioned to a powerful image that piggybacked onto the Puccini story…

Think about the ocean. Picture yourselves standing on a dock beside one of those great, old-time sailing vessels. It’s standing there, sails folded, waiting for the wind.

Suddenly a breeze comes up. When the captain senses the breeze as a forerunner of the necessary wind, he quickly orders the sails to be let down and, sure enough, the wind comes, catches the sails full force and carries the ship away from the dock where you are standing.

Inevitably, you or someone on that dock is bound to say, “Well, there she goes.” And from our point of view, it indeed does go.

Soon, the mighty ship, laden with its crew and goods, is on the horizon, where the water and sky meet, and it looks like a speck before it disappears. It’s still mighty and grand, still filled with life and goods, but it’s left us.

We’re standing on the dock, quite alone. But, on the other side of the ocean, people are standing in anticipation, and as that speck on the horizon becomes larger and larger they begin to cry something different. They are crying, with joy and not abandonment, “Here she comes!” And at the landing, there is welcome, joy, embracing and celebration.

We miss Sean. He is quickly receding from our sight, and this funeral and his burial at the cemetery are our farewells, our version of, “There he goes.”

But goes where? From our sight, from our embrace, from our care and love and friendship. How we miss that. How we will miss him!

But he is not diminished, not made poorer. We must remember in faith that, “Here he comes!” is the cry on the eternal shore where Jesus, who understands the human heart, even when it goes wrong, is waiting.

And there is Sean, now forever larger than life, filled with life, intoxicated with life and laughter and in the arms of the One who makes all things new again, the One who says: “Welcome, Sean, welcome home!

**

As I typed those words, tears welled up. I hope it’s the same for some of you.

Happy Easter, everyone. It’s the Resurrection.

Note: If you would like to see all of the funeral or Father Jerry’s eulogy, you can do so here. Look for the words “Funeral Mass Livestream” near the bottom of the page. Father Jerry’s eulogy begins at the 22:30 mark.

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You remember, of course, when the felony, invasion-of-privacy criminal case against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens fell apart?

The reasons, if you need a reminder, were 1) a reported photo of his tied-up, naked lover never turned up, and 2) an overzealous prosecutor, Kim Gardner of St. Louis, messed up the investigation

Well, now it appears very possible that another photo will end up putting the proverbial nail in Greitens’ coffin.

In an excellent story in today’s Missouri Independent, Rudi Keller reported that Greitens’ former wife, Sheena Greitens, said in a court filing last week that she has photos and other evidence to back up her earlier assertion that Greitens physically abused her and at least one of their two sons “as his political career unraveled.”

The domestic-abuse allegation has ramped up quickly since Sheena Greitens raised it in a March 21 affidavit in a child-custody case that she wants moved from Missouri to Texas, where she now lives and works.

In last month’s affidavit, Mrs. Greitens said that in November 2019 one of their sons came home from a visit his father with a swollen face, bleeding gums and loose tooth, and said his father had hit him.

Sheena Greitens

Never one to hold his fire and be tactical, Greitens responded with a statement alleging his ex-wife had a history of “emotionally abusive behavior” and asserting he was a “great Dad.”

Naturally, that didn’t sit well with Mrs. Greitens, who last week fired back with a new filing in which she said, “I will provide…photographic evidence of my child’s 2019 injuries, to the court at an appropriate time.”

**

Now, it makes perfect sense that Mrs. Greitens would have taken photos of her son if he returned home injured after a visit with his father. The couple was separated at the time, and the former governor seemingly would not have had the opportunity to destroy those photos, as he may have done with the incriminating nude-former-lover photo, or photos.

**

Greitens is one of the most despicable people to ever hold public office. He’s an established liar and self-serving politician, and now, it turns out, he might have been a child beater.

Eric Greitens

The initial abuse claim blew up the hotly contested, U.S. Senate Republican primary. Until then, Greitens was leading in the polls, but now his leading rivals, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, appear to have caught up to him.

The next development in the child-custody case should be very interesting. But if you hear of Sheena Greitens bringing forward a photo of a swollen-faced, bleeding-gum youth, just don’t expect to see it on the home page of your favorite news site. It won’t happen. It will be tightly held in the court file. Anyone who released it would be risking contempt-of-court charges and jail time.

But it would finish Greitens’ political career once and for all. In addition, Sheena Greitens and her sons might finally be able to find some peace of mind in the Lone Star State…Yes, it’s a shitty state, but the three of them would be a lot better off — a lot safer — than they are here, where a seething, maniacal former governor continues to run amok.

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I’ve been thinking lately about ticket prices to entertainment and sporting events.

For a lot of events, prices have skyrocketed. For example, this week two friends offered us two orchestra seats to Jesus Christ Superstar at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The face value was a not-unreasonable $88.50 each. But our friends are “Broadway in Kansas City” season ticket holders, and they got a discount for individual events.

I wanted to join Brooks and Patty at the show, and when I called to find out what a single orchestra seat would be, the answer was $135.

I passed and ended up going to the Kauffman Center about 40 minutes before the 7:30 p.m. show Wednesday and was able to get a ticket free from three KCK women who had an extra because the fourth person in their group had taken ill. Once in the theater, I finagled my way down to the orchestra level, next to Brooks and Patty, by simply telling the ushers my situation and being patient. (Because I couldn’t be seated until after the first song, I even got to see the dancers gather and warm up outside the door where I was waiting.)

Online photo from Broadway in Kansas City “Jesus Christ Superstar” production

**

What really got me thinking about ticket prices was when I was checking into a club-level ticket for last year’s regular-season KC Chiefs’ finale. To my surprise, I discovered that club-level seats were going for several hundred dollars each. I ended up passing and did not attend the game.

As for Royals’ tickets, last year I paid $75 a seat for four lower-level seats at Kauffman Stadium for a late-season game. I had not attended a game the previous year, and that $75 price tag jolted me. This year, it appears, Royals’ ticket prices might be a little lower. Owner John Sherman, who paid $1 billion for the team a few years ago, needs to put more butts in the seats.

Now, consider tickets for the Men’s NCAA finals Monday night at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, when KU will meet North Carolina.

When I checked earlier tonight, you could buy tickets for $110 at the very top of the Superdome…which I doubt I could climb up to and where even binoculars wouldn’t help much.

And if you want to be up close and alongside the court, it would cost you anywhere from $1,750 to $4,000.

The Women’s Finals, which I’ve been to several times, used to be a great deal: you could buy tickets for about $50 to $60, as I recall. When I went by myself several years ago, in Denver and Cleveland, I nabbed tickets on the curb for considerably less.

This year, few tickets remain for tomorrow’ night’s championship game between UConn and South Carolina. The only options I saw were $387.50 or $430 for lower-level tickets angled behind one of the baskets.

But if you can resist going to the championship game and want to see some good teams well into the tournament, the best deal is the regionals, which were played last weekend. I went to the semifinals in Wichita, and for $35 ($25 for the ticket and $10 in fees) I got to see two great games: Louisville-Tennessee and South Dakota-Michigan.

I believe the main reason Final Four tickets are so much more expensive than the regionals is that the NCAA has jurisdiction over the Final Four, where the individual venues set prices and sell tickets for the regionals.

**

Finally, let’s look at my favorite sporting event, the Kentucky Derby.

I’ve been to many Derbies, often buying tickets outside the track on Derby Day. One of my best curb-buying performances came several years ago, when we needed five tickets — for me, Brooks, Patty, Charlie and a friend of Charlie’s.

I went out to the track early and was able to buy five tickets — various seats in the same general area from three different people — for a total of $1,350. If I would have bargained smarter, I probably could have cut $200 from that, but I was eager to finish up and paid too much for the fifth ticket.

More recently, Patty and I bought a couple of tickets on the first turn, in Section 110 (see chart below), for about $100 each.

On the lower level, when you are sitting past the finish line, you only see the horses come by you once — when they’re entering the first turn. The rest of the race you watch on a huge screen in the infield. Similar tickets to those I bought for about $100 several years ago are going this year for $946 on the resale market, over which Ticketmaster has complete control.

If you want to sit in Section 117, just before the finish line (you still can’t see much because of the pancake perspective), a ticket will cost you $1,850.

Last year, I dickered online with a guy before the Derby, offering him several hundred dollars each for two seats in one of those lower-level sections near the finish line. Ultimately, we couldn’t agree, and we ended up going to the home of a Louisville couple, watching on TV and betting online.

This year, we’re not even going to Louisville for Derby Week. The lodging prices are way too high — several hundred dollars a night for mandatory, three-night packages — and I have no intention of paying a couple of grand for two bad seats on the first turn.

…Sadly, I think there are no more live-and-in-person Kentucky Derbies in my future. Gratefully, I attended many over the years — well over 20, I think — and have good memories.

As for the bigger picture, when I look into the sporting- and entertainment-event crystal ball, I see more women’s regional tournaments and a lot of finagling on last-minute deals to arts events. The first dates circled on my calendar are May 13, 14 and 15, when Oklahoma! will be playing at Starlight.

If you see a guy outside holding this sign, you will be looking at me.

I used that sign successfully for at least two Derbies, and people would always ask me, “Who goes if you only get one ticket?”

My gentlemanly answer was always, “Patty.”

But it never came to that: I always got two, maybe not right together but close enough that we ended up sitting together.

Rule of thumb from a veteran ticket hawk: It’s always a lot easier and cheaper to get two singles than two together.

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I didn’t watch the Academy Awards show — seldom do — but, of course, I heard about the smackdown.

Just tonight, though, Patty and Brooks were talking about the other seminal moment in the ceremony — when a wheelchair-bound, trembling and slightly confused Liza Minnelli presented the award for best picture, with some caring help from Lady Gaga.

I was very sorry to hear about that, mainly because my most vivid memory of Minnelli — daughter of Judy Garland, who starred in the immortal 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” — is of her singing the enchanting and whimsical song “I Like the Likes of You.”

Liza and mother

In that song, which Minnelli recorded in 1965, when she was 19, she sounds forever young, playful and powerful. In addition, she was beautiful, with the dark, glowing eyes she got from her mother, high cheekbones and flawless skin.

Another reason Minnelli’s debilitated condition made me wince was that we are the same age, 76. I was born March 4, 1946; she on March 12, 1946.

But for good luck and relatively healthy living, I could also be confused and in a wheelchair. It wasn’t all bad luck for Minnelli: she abused drugs and alcohol and was married and divorced four times. The only drug I used was marijuana — and not very much of that — and thank God I quit drinking in 1981, when I was 34. In addition, following the lead of many an Irishman, I didn’t marry until I was 38.

The reason I stumbled onto “I Like the Likes of You” was that I was kind of an outsider in high school and my first couple of years of college. I had friends, but I spent many Friday nights at home watching “The Friday Night Fight of the Week,” on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, while most of my peers were out at parties, the bowling alley or sporting events.

As part of my “rebellion,” I gave up rock-n-roll radio for a while (which I regret to this day, although I caught up later) and listened to a lot of jazz and pop music. Among the pop music artists I liked were Vikki Carr (“The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”); guitarist Laurindo Almeida (“Goin’ Out of My Head”); and Petula Clark (“Kiss Me Goodbye”).

While listening to music in that vein, I heard “I Like the Likes of You” and immediately fell in love with it. The song, written by Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg, has been recorded by more than 25 individuals or orchestras between the time it was first recorded by Victor Young and His Orchestra in 1934 and Amanda Thorpe in 2014.

Minnelli’s version is the only version I’ve ever heard or wanted to hear. With her, it comes off as flirtatious and seductive, as if she’s peering around a corner, winking and beckoning a boy with her index finger. When I heard/hear it, that boy she was beckoning was/is me.

It features inventive lyrics, like…

I like your eyes of blue,
I think they’re blue, don’t you?
I mean I like your eyes of blue!

Oh dear, if I could only say what I mean,
I mean if I could mean what I say,
That is, I mean to say that I mean to say that;

I like the likes of you,
Your looks are pure deluxe
Looks like I like the likes of you!

**

For some reason, I never bought a Minnelli album, but I never forgot that song. And now, of course, I can hear it on YouTube whenever.

When Brooks was talking about Minnelli’s appearance — and how disturbing it was — I immediately went to the computer and pulled up the song. Brooks had never heard it. Patty had, and after I played it, she continued humming it.

…And now, after all this buildup, I’m going to play it for you. I hope you agree it’s pure de-luxe.

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I’ve been watching and listening sporadically to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and, like most Democrats, I’ve been appalled at the tactics several Republican senators have taken, attempting to paint her as soft on child-porn offenders.

The critics have held up prepared posters listing cases where Judge Jackson sentenced offenders to less time than sentencing guidelines called for — which apparently happens in a majority of all child-porn cases and probably all criminal cases — and they’ve harped on the issue ad nauseam.

It appears to me one Republican goal is to pull away either Sen. Joe Manchin or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from the Democratic wall of support, while trusting that all 50 Republican senators will oppose her when the nomination comes up for a vote.

I don’t think the Republican tactic is going to work. In fact, I’m predicting that at least two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — will vote for her, just as they did when the Senate approved Judge Jackson last year for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit.

In any event, it was gratifying and inspiring to hear Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) this afternoon give a stirring speech that elevated Judge Jackson and made her detractors look like worms.

Booker’s speech went on for almost 20 minutes. Toward the end Judge Jackson was dabbing a tissue at her eyes.

Booker began by quoting from a National Review article about the hearings. The National Review is a very conservative publication that has been criticizing Judge Jackson with gusto. But the article that Booker focused on, written by Andrew C. McCarthy, called out Hawley for trying to appeal to people’s prejudices and emotions rather than sticking to her judicial philosophy, which McCarthy believes is her greatest vulnerability.

McCarthy dismissed Hawley’s allegation that Judge Jackson is soft on child-porn offenders, saying the argument “appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.”

From there, here are excerpts of Booker’s speech…

You have sat with grit and grace and have shown us just extraordinary demeanor…This (harping on child pornography issue) is a new low. What’s especially surprising about this is it didn’t happen last year (when the Senate approved her for the D.C. Circuit). You were put on a court that I’m told is considered the second most important court in our land. And you were passed with bipartisan support. Nobody brought it up then. Did they not do their homework? Were they lax? Did they make a mistake? I wonder if they regret that…But they didn’t bring that out. No. Why? Because it was an allegation that was meritless to the point of demagoguery.

You are a mainstream judge. Your sentencing — I’ve looked at the data -– falls in the mainstream on everything from child sexual assault to all the other issues that people are trying to bring up…There is an absurdity to this that is almost comical if it wasn’t so dangerous.

Are you soft on crime? God bless America…You were endorsed by the largest organization of rank and file police officers (the Fraternal Order of Police). You were endorsed by the bosses, the largest organization of chiefs of police (the International Association of Chiefs of Police.)

You and your family speak to service, service service. And I’m telling you right now I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy. I told you this at the beginning…I just look at you and I start getting full of emotion.

You did not get here because of some left-wing agenda. You didn’t get here because of some dark-money groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who has gotten anywhere has done — by being…like Ginger Rogers said, “I did everything Fred Astaire did but did it backwards in heels.”

And so I’m sittin’ here saying nobody’s stealing my joy…I’m not going to let my joy be stolen.

You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American. Today you’re my star. You are my harbinger of hope. This country is getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice. And I’m going to tell you right now the greatest country in the world –- the United States of America — will be better because of you.

Thank you.

With that, Committee Chairman Dick Durbin declared a break.   

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Do you remember the Democratic Iowa caucuses of 2020? Probably not; I didn’t have a clear memory of it, either, until I went back and checked.

It was borderline debacle, with several days of delays in reporting the results, which ultimately ended with Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden winning close to the same number of pledged delegates.

The delays prompted Maggie Astor of The New York Times to write on Thursday, Feb. 6, three days after the caucuses, “We could know the winner of New Hampshire before we know the winner of Iowa.” (New Hampshire’s primary was the following Tuesday.)

Now, it appears the Democratic National Committee has come to its senses and will dump the tradition of Iowa being the first state to weigh in on the primary election.

The Washington Post reported today that the DNC had circulated plans for a 2024 nominating calendar in which as many as five states would hold their contests before March.

If the plan put forward by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee comes to pass, all states would have to reapply for their places in the nominating order, with preference being awarded to states with diverse electorates, competitiveness in the general election and primary elections, not caucuses.

Iowa doesn’t qualify on any of the three criteria. Besides having caucuses, it is 90 percent White and long ago lost its label as a “swing state.”

Some of the states poised to deny Iowa its “first-in-the-nation” status are Michigan (78 percent White), Nevada (66 percent White) and New Jersey (68 percent White).

South Carolina, which turned the 2020 primary election decidedly toward Biden, is likely to maintain an early spot in the process. It is 67 percent White and 27 percent Black.

The proposed new plan makes perfect sense and could give the party a big boost.

**

I remember watching the 2020 Iowa caucuses on TV and how utterly boring it was, seeing people checking in at front desks at various venues, then wandering to different clusters in big meeting rooms or gymnasiums.

2020 Iowa caucuses

It reminded me of going to a Missouri caucus, probably in 1972, three years after I arrived in KC from Louisville. It was in the school cafeteria at St. Francis Xavier Church, 52nd and Troost. Like picking sides for playground basketball, we went to groups associated with our preferred candidates. Heads were counted, and then, if groups were not large enough to meet certain criteria, their members split up and headed to other groups.

It was boring and time consuming, all orchestrated by longtime party hacks.

Missouri officially stuck with the caucus system until 2000, when it joined several other states holding “Super Tuesday” primaries.

Super Tuesday is probably a good place for Iowa, too. There it would find its rightful place as an afterthought in the “Democratic” process.

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Repercussions from The Kansas City Star’s and owner McClatchy’s ongoing diminishment continue to unfold.

On Tuesday, The Star reported that it would, at last, have a new physical home: it will be leasing space in a Crown Center building at 2405 Grand Blvd.

That means the paper will be giving up its spacious “suite” on the Plaza.

If you’ll recall, I sniffed out the “Plaza Suite” story in January after The Star sent subscribers an email about carrier shortages. The paper listed its address as “4741 Central Street, Ste. 541, Kansas City, MO 64112.”

The suite turned out to be this mail box in the UPS store on Central.

In Tuesday’s story, reporter Kevin Hardy said The Star anticipated moving into its new space in June or July. He said terms of the lease were not disclosed, and he quoted Star president, editor and suite supervisor Mike Fannin as saying…

“We’re pleased to establish new headquarters in a terrific, central location in the city. Our journalists will continue to work from — and cover — communities across the metro area, as they have done so well throughout two long years of the pandemic. We look forward to working together again in-person, and this will be a great new place to call home.”

2405 Grand Blvd.

I hope The Star finds some level of stability at Crown Center, partly because in its wake the paper is leaving behind two properties that seem lifeless.

First, McClatchy, which bought the newspaper back in 2006, sold the longtime headquarters at 1729 Grand Blvd. to businessman Vince Bryant, who said he planned to redevelop the building into retail, residential and commercial space. Before Covid, significant activity was taking place at the site, but it seems to have ground to a halt. I’m dubious about Bryant’s plan coming to fruition. He’ll have to show me a lot more than what I see to make me a believer.

The second step in The Star’s real-estate meanderings goes back to about 2003, when Knight Ridder, which owned the paper at the time, gave the go-ahead to construction of a $199 million printing plant. The stunning green-glass building, which soars above I-670, opened in 2006, the year McClatchy bought The Star and the other Knight Ridder papers as that firm was folding up its tent.

McClatchy took on more than $1 billion in debt to buy the K-R papers, and the print plant was part of that debt.

A few years ago, before it filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently bought by a hedge fund, McClatchy decided to sell the print plant with the idea of leasing it back from the new owner. Up stepped a company called Ambassador Hospitality, which is an arm of Mark One Electric, owned and operated by the Privitera family.

Ambassador/Mark One did, indeed, lease the plant back to The Star, but only for a couple of years because The Star decided to abandon the plant and start printing what was left of the paper at the Des Moines Register and truck the papers back to KC in the early-morning hours. The result, to break it down to its essence, is why when the Royals play on a Thursday night, print subscribers don’t get the game story until Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Mark One sold or trashed the not-very-old printing presses and began looking for a way to unload the building. Last year, when talk of a downtown baseball stadium bubbled back to the surface, the Priviteras eagerly threw out the prospect of selling the building to make way for the stadium, if it came about.

The downtown-stadium flirtation, fueled largely by sports talk radio, quickly went cold — who’s going to pay for it? — and the Priviteras’ big building is looking less green and more white elephant by the day.

**

The Star hasn’t said how much square footage it is renting. My guess is it will be significantly larger than its Plaza Suite and significantly smaller than its previous two homes.

However much space it turns out to be, I doubt that The Star will have its name on the outside of the building. For all intents and purposes, The Star’s future presence will mostly be in cyberspace.

Correction, per Wiley Coyote comment: The Star hasn’t published a Saturday print product in a few years.

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I’ve got to get back, figuratively speaking, to our Florida trip…the last part of it, anyway.

We had planned to drive back in two days, two long days. But a couple of days before our scheduled departure from Clearwater, Patty mentioned the possibility of taking three days. I jumped on that for a couple of reasons: First, I was itching to get moving, and, second, my night vision is not what it used to be and I don’t like driving at night.

It also occurred to me we could stop at Montgomery, Alabama — about an 8-hour drive from Clearwater — and go to The Legacy Museum.

The full title explains…The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. It’s the powerful and soul-crushing story of enslavement in America.

Nearby is the outdoor National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a six-acre site that depicts — through sculpture, art and design — the terror of lynching. The centerpiece of the memorial is a winding display of 800 suspended, metal “caskets,” symbolizing the approximately 4,000 lynchings that took place in the United States. The caskets bear the names of victims and the counties and states where their deaths took place.

**

On Thursday, March 3, we drove to Montgomery. We spent the night at an Airbnb not far from downtown. Here’s a photo I took of a spectacular fountain a couple of blocks from the State Capitol, which is visible in the deep background.

The next morning, Friday, we headed for the Legacy Museum. You can’t take photos inside, but the photo below shows what the front looks like. The museum and outdoor memorial opened in April 2018. Both were founded and developed by a nonprofit called the Equal Justice Initiative. The cost was about $20 million, which consisted of private and foundation money. Former Vice-President Al Gore spoke at the opening ceremony.

Among other things, the museum features first-person accounts of slavery and auctioning through narration and voice overs. Like a good newspaper story, the museum captures visitors’ attention at the very outset. Sounds of crashing waves play as huge, animated videos reflect the plight of 12 million people captured from Africa and put on ships, never to see their homeland again. Two million of those people died on the ships or in the sea.

We spent at least two hours at the museum and could have spent a couple more. But we had to get moving, so it was on to the memorial. There I took these two photos, one of a sculpture, the other of a plaque that illustrates how harmless an action it took for some white people to decide to snuff out the life of a Black.

Foolishly, I didn’t take a photo of the “caskets,” but here’s one I found on the internet.

We left Montgomery Friday afternoon, and about 8 that night we got to Memphis. What a town! We stayed at a downtown hotel and after dinner headed to Beale Street. This is what it looks like, I believe, on most weekend nights.

Two blocks of the street are blocked off on weekends. Bars, restaurants and retail stores line up one after another. We had heard about B.B. King’s Blues Club, and that’s where we ended up stopping. The cover charge was $10 each, but the show, by the B.B. King Blues Band, was well worth it. (I stood on a wooden chair to get this shot.)

On Saturday morning, after going to a coffee shop for breakfast, we stumbled upon the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Not thinking about the motel and not expecting it, we were a bit shocked to happen upon it.

But there it was, looking just about like it did on that fateful day, April 4, 1968. The motel is now part of The National Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 2014.

The room outside which King was standing — 306 — is memorialized with a large wreath, which hangs from the balcony where King was standing when Ray shot him from a nearby boarding house. Parked in front of first-floor rooms are replicas of a 1968 Cadillac and a 1959 Dodge, which were parked outside the motel the evening of the assassination.

**

I’m sorry I don’t have a happier ending to this post, but I’m sure you can see why I was compelled to do it.

Much of history is hell, and we’re living today through a war that will add another hellish chapter to the checkered history of the world.

Anyway, good to be home.

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We’ve been home since Saturday night, and, while it was nice to be in the Florida sun, it’s great to be back in Missouri.

Great to be back in Kansas City, too, even though the hometown paper keeps sagging, sagging, sagging.

One predictable facet of The Star, however, is Chief Star Meteorologist Robert Cronkleton’s almost continuous updates on the weather. This morning he was reporting “numerous accidents.” This afternoon he was warning of “a prolonged (snow) event, stretching over 24 to perhaps even 30 hours.”

…I was joking when I called Cronkleton the paper’s chief meteorologist. Actually, he’s one of only two or maybe three general assignment reporters they have. His byline appears on a majority of all breaking-news stories.

Checking his bylines in the “search” box for Tuesday, Wednesday and today, I found five weather stories, three crime stories and one story about the Big 12 basketball tournament. Nine stories in three days is a pretty good churn. I wonder if he also had time to get down to Grand Boulevard and shoot some hoops in the makeshift buckets set up on the street…weather permitting, of course.

Cronkleton, who’s been at the paper about 30 years, is a good hand. He’s not in the upper echelon of reporters, and he’s not an outstanding writer, but he’s reliable, accurate and persevering.

Cronkleton

I know him pretty well. We worked together for several years when I ran the KCK bureau, from 1995 to 2004. He’s managed to hold on to his job through many rounds of layoffs (the first of which occurred in 2008), partly because he’s been willing to work the very-early-morning shift. When most everyone else is in bed, he’s checking the overnight police, fire and weather activity and pecking away on his computer — at home, of course, because The Star no longer has a physical office, as far as I know, anyway.

At this point, I’m sure “Cronk,” as he’s known by many, is just trying to keep his powder dry until he can retire. So today, hats off to a new-era, old-time reporter…Keep churning out the bylines, buddy!

**

Here’s something else on my mind…Do you remember, not that long ago, when there was an abundance of office-supply stores in central KCMO? During the period that Office Depot and Office Max were competing (before Office Depot bought the competitor out) an Office Max was built at the site of the former Club Royal (which just about everybody mistakenly pronounced Royale, as if it had an “e” on the end). Another office supply store was on Grand at about 20th Street. Then the Office Depot on Main and another one near 103rd and State Line Road opened. You didn’t have to go far to get your papers, pencils, erasers and computer supplies.

But then the “great closing” began. I think the store at 20th and Main was the first to go, followed by the “Club Royal” Office Max. A few years ago, the Office Depot in south KC closed, and the building was converted to a Tesla dealership.

The Office Depot in Midtown has been a pretty sorry place — they don’t even carry traditional 3-tab file folders — but at least it stayed open. Today, though, I got a big surprise when I dropped by and found it shut. The glass doors were locked, and accordion-style, metal gates were pulled together behind the glass. There was no sign on the door indicating it was out of business, but closed it was, and my guess it wasn’t because of the “snowstorm.”

If it’s closed, the nearest office supply stores for central city residents are in Merriam, Overland Park and Independence.

If it’s closed, that would be rotten. On the bright side, though, wouldn’t it be something if I beat The Star’s ubiquitous retail reporter Joyce Smith to the story?

Why, I bet “Cronk” would be proud of his former boss.

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