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I didn’t make it to the courthouse today, but from the two stories I read — The Star’s and that of KCUR — it appears that the prosecution is off to an excellent start in the David Jungerman trial.

Peggy Lowe of KCUR had the superior story, quoting gripping testimony from victim Thomas Pickert’s widow, Dr. Emily Riegel.

Lowe related a heart-breaking account of a casual, morning conversation, which turned out to be the family’s last interaction before her husband was shot and killed in his front yard.

To quote Lowe’s story…

Her grade-school age sons “were running around, being goofy,” Riegel recalled Tuesday, and she told them, “Love you, bye!”

Then she heard her husband say to the boys: “I didn’t hear anybody tell the world’s greatest mommy goodbye!”

Those were some of the last words Riegel heard Pickert utter before he was gunned down just minutes later on their front sidewalk after returning home from dropping the kids off at school.

That is powerful stuff for a jury to see and hear.

Emily Riegel testifying on Tuesday. (Pool photo by Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

Here are a couple of other key pieces of evidence the jury heard:

:: As I have written before, Kansas City police were able to produce video from a variety of sources that show Jungerman’s distinctive white van on the road between his home in Raytown and the Brookside area, where Pickert was killed with a rifle while talking on his cell phone in his front yard.

That is particularly damning because Jungerman told police the van had not left his property the morning of Oct. 25, 2017. A related, incriminating piece of evidence is that police found the van hidden off a dirt road in a wooded part of Jungerman’s property.

:: Motive was established. The jury heard about Pickert, a lawyer, having won a $5.75 million civil verdict against Pickert as a result of Jungerman having shot a trespasser, when, of course, he should have called the police and let them deal with the trespassers.

The trespasser, Jeffrey Harris, had to have a leg amputated as a result of Jungerman taking the law in his own hands.

:: Then there’s the digital audio recording that police found in Jungerman’s business in northeast Kansas City.

What a fool: Jungerman apparently used the recorder during a court case in which he was charged in southwest Missouri and forgot to turn it off after the hearing.

In the recording, Jungerman tells an employee of his, Leo Wynn: “People know that I murdered that son of a bitch. The police know, too, Leo.”

I don’t think that’s been played for the jury yet; I believe a prosecutor referred to it in his opening statement. When it is played, this jury will hear something that prosecutors rarely have access to in criminal cases — a defendant stating in his own voice, on a recording, “I murdered that son of a bitch.”

**

About all that the defense can do is try to pick holes in the prosecution’s case. I doubt if there will be an alibi defense, such as an assertion that Jungerman was home all morning. And his attorneys won’t dare put Jungerman on the stand. If they did, he probably would have to answer for earlier shooting incidents he was involved in, and he would be quizzed about his fixation with guns. He has bragged about having a stockpile of about 180.

Already, on Day One, Jungerman’s principal attorney, Dan Ross, was grasping at straws.

“What they (the prosecution) do have — and it’s the only thing they have — is motive,” he told the jury. “The rest of it is made up, folks.”

I have a friend who is a former public defender. Public defenders are usually stuck with guilty clients, and they have to be extremely resourceful — and sometimes lucky — to come up with exculpatory evidence. As a result, they usually focus on playing down hard evidence the prosecution often has at hand.

My friend says public defenders have a euphemism for a piece of hard evidence; they call it “a bad fact.”

In this case, David Jungerman and his attorneys are confronted with an avalanche of “bad facts.”

David Jungerman’s days of reckoning are underway.

On Monday, scores of potential jurors nearly filled a courtroom on the fifth floor of the downtown Jackson County Courthouse. Some of those potential jurors sat in the jury box, while most of the rest sat in the spectator benches behind the courtroom railing.

Facing the men and women in the spectator benches was an old, expressionless, 84-year-old man, who should have been — if he didn’t have the vengeful, delusional personality that he has — one of the potential jurors. But, no, that old man, David Jungerman, is the defendant in a first-degree murder case that shocked Kansas City.

He is alleged — and I have no doubt about it — to have shot a 39-year-old attorney, Thomas Pickert, a father of two children, because Pickert had demolished Jungerman in a civil trial in which Jungerman was accused of recklessly shooting a man who had been on his business property in northeast Kansas City.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $5.75 million, and from that point, Jungerman had it in for Tom Pickert.

Prosecutors allege that on the morning of Oct. 25, 2017, Jungerman sat in his van across the street from Pickert’s Brookside home and shot Pickert with a rifle minutes after Pickert had walked his two young sons to school and while he was standing in his front yard, talking on his cellphone.

Most of the people standing or sitting outside the courthouse yesterday afternoon were potential jurors, on break from jury selection in the murder trial of David Jungerman.

**

I was a bit surprised at Jungerman’s appearance as he sat in a chair at the defense table. I guess I shouldn’t have been because he was 80 when he was arrested in 2018 and now he’s four years older and has — by his own assertion — had a serious case of Covid-19.

This was the first time in years that I’d seen him out of handcuffs and dressed in anything other than an orange jumpsuit. He was wearing an open-collared, white shirt and dark slacks and had a hearing-assisted device on his right ear.

While his lead attorney, Dan Ross, questioned potential jurors, Jungerman sat impassively, looking either down or sometimes at the particular juror being questioned. At one point, Ross put his left hand on Jungerman’s shoulder while conversing with a potential juror.

The first and only time that I spoke with Jungerman was January 2018, when he was charged with a nonviolent felony in Nevada, MO. (The charge was later dropped.) That day he was animated, talkative and vigorous. Yesterday, he seemed less alert and less engaged. I think incarceration and four years’ time have taken a decided toll on him.

And yet, there we were — about 75 of us — gathered in a courtroom, with everyone focused on this feeble-looking old man who once bragged about owning nearly 200 guns, who shot three other trespassers and who once held several teenagers at gunpoint when he caught them on lake property he owns in Raytown.

**

This is a heart-breaking and maddening case. Tom Pickert should still be living in Brookside with his wife and children and should be practicing law and representing people who claim they were wronged by somebody or some entity. And Jungerman, even four years ago, should have been preparing for a happy death, instead of stalking a lawyer in Brookside and shooting him with a rifle from the driver’s seat of his van.

Well…a jury has been selected. The prosecution and defense will make their opening statements Tuesday morning, and testimony will get underway.

There’s only one rightful way for this to end. That’s with the jury foreman standing up in a week or two and declaring, “Guilty,” followed by every other member of the jury uttering the same word.

Note: I will not be able to cover the trial every day, but I will get down to the courthouse as much as possible. I trust The Star, KCUR and other news outlets will cover it daily.

Kansas City owes Thomas Pickert’s family — including his parents, his children and his widow — razor-focused attention on this case.

The year was 1984, the year before Patty and I married, and I was spending a lot of time at racetracks.

My favorite tracks, owing to my Kentucky heritage, were Churchill Downs in Louisville (of course) and Keeneland in Lexington.

On Oct. 11, 1984, a few friends and I went to Keeneland for the inaugural running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. For once on a trip to the track, the racing wasn’t the biggest draw for me; it was the presence of Queen Elizabeth, who was making her first trip to an American racetrack. The queen was 58 at the time and an avid horseback rider and Thoroughbred breeder.

Keeneland had created the race in her honor, and that day would mark the inaugural running.

Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland on Oct. 11, 1984

The race, the featured race of the day, was the fourth on the day’s program, which consisted of eight or nine races. It’s unusual for the featured race to be run so early in the day, but I suppose the reason was that the queen had other commitments later in the afternoon.

I remember that before the race, the jockeys lined up in the paddock area, which at Keeneland is a grassy area behind the grandstand, with large trees. The queen walked along the line, greeting each jockey with a smile and a few words. I and hundreds of others stood at the edge of the paddock area, watching the pageantry not more than 50 feet or so from the queen.

Greeting the jockeys in the paddock area

After completing the greeting, the queen was escorted under the grandstand and out to a track-side box in the home stretch.

My friends and I made our way up into the grandstand, and we caught glimpses of her in the box well below us.

I don’t remember much about the race — I think I would have remembered if I’d had the winner — so I had to consult Wikipedia. The winning horse was Sintra, owned by Cherry Valley Farm, and the purse was $106,625. (That meant the connections of the winning horse would have received about $60,000 to $70,000, which was very meager compared to the $300,000-plus the winning connections are getting for current renditions of the race.

I found an old United Press story about the occasion, and it described the scene like this…

A crowd of 12,666 gave the queen a standing ovation Thursday at Keeneland track as she presented a trophy to Seth Hancock, co-owner of Sintra, the winning filly in the first running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

The queen acknowledged the applause with a smile and a wave, which caused another burst of applause.

She presented Hancock with a 1-foot-high, silver Georgian-style trophy she commissioned and paid for. Its price was not disclosed.

Immediately after the race, the queen left the track, and those of us in attendance turned our attention to betting on the remaining four or five races.

If you’ve ever been to the track, you know that as the day goes on, the atmosphere tends to get less and less ebullient as people — the vast majority, anyway — lose money. The number of furrowed brows and downcast faces increases dramatically, even on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

As I recall, I was one of those whose brow was furrowed by the sixth or seventh race.

By the last race, many of the 12,666 patrons had left, but we were still there, sitting in the grandstand with a perfect view of the stretch.

With relative quiet in the grandstand, the horses came out onto the track, their numbers on their saddle cloths, and walked past the grandstand before breaking into a slow, galloping warm-up.

Suddenly, the almost-somber atmosphere was broken by a wag standing on the concourse behind us. The guy began shouting, “The queen’s riding the five! The queen’s riding the five!”

Everyone within earshot began laughing. The pall was broken. Money losses were momentarily forgotten. Good humor had returned to the premises. The queen was gone, but we still felt the warmth of her earlier presence.

…Today, the queen is really gone, and tonight I’m still feeling her presence from that crisp, fall day in central Kentucky.

The national press is gushing and fawning over tennis star Serena Williams, who has announced she will retire after this year’s U.S. Open, which began this week in New York.

People on hand for her opening match tonight, which she won in straight sets, included former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Martina Navratilova (and her dog Lulu), Mike Tyson, Katie Couric, Matt Damon, Hugh Jackman, Spike Lee, Gayle King and Lindsey Vonn.

On StubHub, tickets for Monday night’s match accounted for more than 40 percent of sales for the first round of the tournament, and ticket prices were in the thousands of dollars for lower-level seats.

No doubt Williams is a fantastic tennis player and that she changed the nature of the women’s game, ratcheting up the power factor several times, but a lot of the people queuing up to pay big bucks to see her last hurrah have turned a blind eye to the breathtaking mean spiritedness and appalling displays of poor sportsmanship that she unleashed at times against umpires and line judges.

Let me give you a couple of examples from previous U.S. Opens.

In 2009, in a tightly contested match, a line judge called Williams for a foot fault — one foot going across the serving line before she made contact with the ball.

Irate, Williams turned to the line judge and said, “I swear to God I’ll fucking take the ball and shove it down your fucking throat.”

In case she hadn’t made herself clear, she added, “You don’t know me.”

The outburst resulted in a one-point penalty and a fine of $175,000, and she was placed on two years probation. She was also disqualified from the match because it was her second violation; earlier she had been issued a warning for slamming her racket to the ground.

Two years later, she unleashed a verbal assault on an umpire who called her for a “hindrance” after she hit a ball and loudly exclaimed “Come on!” while her opponent was attempting a return shot.

She told the umpire, “If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you’re out of control…You’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside…Really, don’t even look at me, don’t look my way.”

She lost that match, too.

As far as I can tell, there were no further incidents in her career that rose to that level of seriousness. But from that point on, I never did like her and would not root for her.

**

Today, Sports Illustrated has a big story about Williams and her U.S. Open career. The upshot of the story is in the headline, which says of her history in the Open, “It’s Complicated.”

The last paragraph accurately assesses her history at the U.S. Open:

“Serena Williams is an unprecedented athlete. She is also perhaps an unprecedentedly complicated athlete. In that sense, it’s fitting she concludes her glorious career—game, set, match—at a venue filled with so many personal ghosts and so much personal success.”

I agree that she is an unprecedented athlete who changed the women’s game. At the same time, I’m afraid those verbal explosions in 2009 and 2011 may well have showed us what she’s really like. Maybe she has changed. I don’t know, but I can’t bring myself to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Whenever I think about her, I think about those four words she uttered in 2009: “You don’t know me.”

I don’t want to know her any more than I already do.

Although you would never know it from the Kansas City media, the Kansas City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance authorizing a Nov. 8 election on a two-part, $175 million.

Although this is the biggest Kansas City issue election since voters approved the $800 million G.O. bond issue in 2017, not one of the six major local news organizations — The Star, KCUR and the four TV stations — has reported it.

The lack of coverage is almost incomprehensible, but, on the other hand, it gives me a chance to give you readers the “scoop.”

Where the 2017 bond issue came with a gradual property-tax increase, this proposal is billed as a “no-tax-increase” initiative because, to quote the ordinance, “the authorization will be used over a five-year period to match the roll off of existing general obligation debt.”

The ordinance provides for two ballot questions, each of which will require four-seventh approval by voters, or about 57 percent of those casting ballots.

This proposal mushroomed quickly — within a week — but every Council member except Brandon Ellington voted to approve it Thursday.

Barring unanticipated revelations, I plan to vote “yes” on both questions.

The smaller of the two proposals — Question 2 on the ballot — calls for borrowing $50 million for affordable housing “through the rehabilitation, renovation and construction of houses and buildings, including blight removal, to provide affordable housing for very low- to moderate-income households.”

Affordable housing and its corollary, homelessness, is our biggest social problem, and it cries out to be addressed.

The larger of the two proposals — Question 1 — calls for borrowing $125 million for a variety of projects, including many in the “deferred maintenance” category. For example, the issue would include $44 million for repairs and improvements at Bartle Hall and Municipal Auditorium and $80 million for community center improvements, swimming pools and other amenities.

Some of you know that I am president of the City of Fountains Foundation, and it’s the proposed $80 million for Park Department projects makes my blood run faster.

Very possibly, several million dollars would go toward major fountain repairs. One fountain that has not operated for several years and needs considerable work is the Garment District Fountain at Eighth and Broadway. Another major fountain that is working but needs about $2 million in repairs is the Firefighters’ Fountain on 31st Street, just west of Broadway.

Garment District Fountain

Our organization, which works hand in hand with the Parks Department, is also discussing what to do about the Westside Fountain, S.W. Boulevard and Summit, which has not operated for about eight years. With the Parks Department, we have to decide whether to renovate it, build a new one at another Westside location or provide the Westside with another cultural asset, such as a major sculpture.

Firefighters’ Fountain

Our foundation’s top “new” project — as distinguished from “deferred” — is to relocate the William Volker Memorial in Theis Park. The memorial, which features Carl Milles’ St. Martin of Tours Sculpture, was in the body of the park from the time it was dedicated in 1958 until the mid-1990s, when it was moved to the southernmost extremity of the park to make way for the Brush Creek flood control and improvement program.

St. Martin of Tours Sculpture

The memorial, very inaccessible because of its remote location, has languished for the last 25 years and needs to be back in the body of the park to get the attention it deserves and to generate more activity in that 14-acre park.

We are hoping that if voters approve the $125-million bond issue, we will have enough public and private money to finance that estimated $2 million project.

**

As I said, I plan to vote “yes” on both questions, and I hope many of you will do likewise. I think both bond issues will give the city a boost and improve the quality of life here.

…Now, with any luck, The Star and the other local news organizations will snap out of their slumber and report on this significant development.

From all appearances — hiring new people and hiring a well-credentialed editorial page editor — The Star is making money, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how.

I’ve tracked The Star’s circulation figures for years, and they just keeping looking worse.

The Star’s circulation reports to the Alliance for Audited Media, a trade publication financed by the publications it serves, are a big muddle and have been for years.

I suspect the reports are intentionally confusing. Take a look…

For the six-month period ending March 31, The Star reported 14,512 paid, “digital replica” subscriptions, meaning subscriptions that give the subscriber the ability to see the print edition online.

At the same time, the paper reported 18,166 “non-replica” subscriptions, meaning, theoretically, that those subscribers could not see the print, or “e,” edition online.

But that is absurd because The Star does not sell “non-replica” subscriptions: everyone who buys a digital subscription gets the “replica,” or “e,” edition automatically.

Moreover, regardless of how the paper categorizes its subscription sales, the totals are ridiculously low for a metro area of about two million people. A very small percentage of area residents are getting any kind of KC Star product.

Print circulation is hardly worth talking about any more. As of March 31, paid Sunday print circulation was down to 45,349, 16 percent of what it was in the year 2010 — just 12 years ago — when paid Sunday circulation stood at 283,000.

I think the only reason The Star’s owner (McClatchy) continues to publish a print edition is that some people in the 70- to 90-age range are willing to pay whatever it takes to get that flimsy, light-as-air paper thrown in their yards. Some of those people don’t know how to use a computer, but a larger portion consists of those who insist — and I hear this all the time — “I just like to feel the paper in my hands.”

So far, The Star has been very willing to accommodate those suckers. And why not? Some people are paying $1,000 a year or more for a print subscription.

**

For a comparison, I checked circulation figures for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is still owned by a newspaper company — Lee Enterprises — rather than a hedge fund, which is the situation with The Star (Chatham Asset Management, out of New Jersey).

For March 31, 2022, the P-D reported 37,610 “digital replica” subscriptions and only 3,587 “non-replica” subscriptions.

Although I’m still at a loss to know exactly what a “non-replica” subscription entails, it sounds to me like the Post-Dispatch is being much more forthcoming. By my reading, The Star had 14,512 paid digital subscriptions as of March 31 and the Post-Dispatch had 37,610.

At The Star, sorry to say, circulation has become a shell game, with the goal being to hide the real numbers. They’ve been doing it for years, and I don’t expect it to change.

I’ve told people again and again, Do not take the print edition. It’s a complete rip-off. If you pine to have print in your hands every day, take a print subscription to the Sunday New York Times. There’s enough in the Sunday edition that you can pick it up every day for a week and find something new and interesting with each pass.

A little over two years ago I dubbed Kylr Yust and David Jungerman as “co-Public Enemies No. 1.”

A Cass County jury and judge took care of Yust in June 2021, recommending and sentencing the tattooed hooligan to 45 years in prison for the killings of Jessica Runions and Kara Kopetsky.

Up next, nearly five years after KC lawyer Thomas Pickert was gunned down in the front yard of his Brookside home, is Jungerman.

Jungerman’s long-delayed trial in Jackson County Circuit Court is scheduled to begin Sept. 12. Presiding will be Judge John Torrence, who has nudged this case along carefully and perseveringly. I doubt that Torrence will tolerate any more delays.

The odds are good that Jungerman will be convicted, but I do have some concerns. One is that one of the two lead prosecutors, Dan Nelson, left the Prosecutor’s Office in February to take a job with a private law firm. I expect the lead prosecutor to be Lauren Whiston, a top assistant to Jean Peters Baker. From what I’ve seen, Whiston is very good, but she’s carrying a big load and will be under tremendous pressure.

Another concern is that I don’t have much confidence in the homicide detectives at KCPD. The division has a low murder-solution rate, and, overall, the department has been poorly managed under the last two chiefs — Rick Smith and Darryl Forte.

On the other hand, it would take a major screw-up by either the police or the Prosecutor’s Office for Jungerman to escape conviction. He stupidly admitted to the killing on tape, having failed to turn off the recording device after taping a court proceeding, and he was the only person in the world to have a strong motive to kill Pickert: In 2017, Pickert won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman while representing a trespasser whom Jungerman shot in 2012.

Jungerman

Jungerman is a millionaire many times over, but the prospect of handing over $5.75 million was too much for him to stomach. So, on the mornng of Oct. 25, 2017, he apparently sat in his van across the street from Pickert’s house and shot Pickert with a rifle after Pickert had walked his two young sons to school and was standing in his front yard, talking on his cellphone.

Jungerman, 84, has been in the Jackson County jail since March 2018. He’s got some health problems, and he said in a court filing that he nearly died of Covid-19 a year or two ago.

I’m glad he survived because, even though this trial is going to be very difficult for his widow, Dr. Emily Riegel, their two sons and other family members, this case needs to go to trial, and justice cries out for Jungerman to be convicted.

**

I met Jungerman one time. It was at a court hearing in January 2018 in Nevada, MO, two months before he was arrested in Kansas City. At the time, he was facing an attempted break-in charge in Vernon County.

Just by sheer coincidence he got on the elevator I was on as we headed up to a second-floor courtroom. I introduced myself in the elevator, and we talked for a few minutes before the hearing began, and we talked again after the hearing.

I don’t remember whether it was before or after the hearing, but at some point, while we were in the courthouse, I looked straight at him and said, “Did you kill him?”

He hesitated slightly and replied: “My attorney has told me not to answer any questions, so I’m not going to say I did, and I’m not going to say I didn’t.”

If he was smart, he would have stopped after the word “questions,” but he’s not smart; he just thinks he is.

What he is is an extremely reckless and violent individual who apparently has no real concern for anything other than his wealth, which consists partly of the value of land he owns in southwest Missouri.

Next month, with any luck, the long-running saga of David Jungerman will wind down, with a jury finding him guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of a lawyer who did a good job for a client and paid for it with his life.

It’s just four days until the primaries in both Kansas and Missouri, and the most interesting action is on the Kansas side.

The abortion amendment has rightfully received a ton of attention, and then there’s the race for chairman of the Johnson County Commission.

With longtime chairman Ed Eilert, a legend in Johnson County politics, stepping down, four candidates are running to replace him. Two are current commissioners — Charlotte O’Hara, a conservative, and Shirley Allenbrand, who appears to be a moderate. She has gained Eilert’s endorsement, which should help considerably.

Allenbrand

The other candidates are Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly, who, according to The Star, is best known for combating climate change, and certified public accountant Ken Selzer, who, like O’Hara, questions the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

It’s a nonpartisan race, officially, and the top two finishers in the primary will face off in the November general election

Kelly

I have never made recommendations in Kansas races, but the picture seems pretty clear here: Kelly and Allenbrand are the logical choices.

If both of them lose in the primary, I’m going to be very disappointed. And if one of them doesn’t win out in November, I’ll be doubly disappointed.

So, Johnson County readers and residents, Vote Allenbrand or Kelly!

**

On the Missouri side, the Jackson County legislative races seem to be the most important thing on the ballot, for what that’s worth. I’m familiar with a few legislators — such as Scott Burnett and Ron Finley — but otherwise I don’t know much about that political body, even though I covered the courthouse from 1971 to 1978 and like to think I have my ear to the ground.

One reason we don’t hear much about the Legislature is The Star hasn’t covered the courthouse with any regularity in years. Another factor is County Executive Frank White — a shoo-in for re-election — is a terrible leader. The best thing I can say for him is he apparently has learned to keep his personal financial problems out of the news.

But there is one legislative candidate I am high on and even contributed to. That’s Megan Marshall, a Democrat, who is challenging incumbent Tony Miller for the 3rd District at-large seat. It takes a lot of courage and self-confidence to take on an incumbent in a countywide race, but I think Marshall is going to do it.

I met her last year at a South Kansas City Alliance meeting. I was sitting next to her in the audience, and we struck up a conversation. Turns out she is a member of the Lee’s Summit School Board (elected in 2020) and served served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Her website says she was an adviser to senior commanders and provided technical and tactical logistics expertise in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Megan Marshall

On the personal front, she has two children; participates in marathons and obstacle-course competition; and is vice president of Lee’s Summit Cares, a non-profit organization that works to build healthy and safe communities for children and families.

Marshall has the support of a key Democratic political organization, Freedom Inc., which operates primarily on Kansas City’s east side and will produce thousands of votes for Marshall and the other candidates it has endorsed.

I don’t know much about Tony Miller, except that he’s a Democrat who barely beat a woman named Roberta Gough in the 2018 primary election, enabling him to advance to the Legislature without opposition in that year’s general election.

I feel confident in recommending Megan Marshall in Tuesday’s primary.

**

One of the most interesting things about elections to me is the use of yard signs. A proliferation of yard signs often is an indication of a vibrant, well-funded campaign — well, at least well funded.

I’ve got a Megan Marshall sign in my yard, and I convinced a neighbor to put one up.

Around the corner from me, on Ward Parkway, a homeowner who must be a newcomer to yard signs, has a large Marshall sign, but instead of it being placed perpendicular to the traffic flow, it’s parallel to it. That doesn’t do much good. Check it out…

I doubt that Marshall’s campaign volunteers erected that because even volunteers just getting into politics know that visibility and name identity for your candidate is critical.

Another thing that confounds me is when I see Missouri-side yard signs for Kansas candidates and vice versa.

Down the street, where my street joins State Line Road, one of my Missouri-side neighbors has a large Ken Seltzer sign facing State Line Road.

That sign irritated me a bit before I knew anything about Selzer, and now that I know Selzer is an election denier, I’m appalled at not only him but also my neighbor…We only see each other in passing, and I can guarantee you that’s the way it will stay.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and be sure to vote Tuesday. Remember, even the dull races are important!

**

Correction: In writing my original version of this post, I misunderstood Mike Kelly’s position on climate change. I apologize for the error.

I’m still playing catch-up on the news after three weeks out of the country, but the biggest political story in Missouri is the race to succeed retiring U.S. senator Roy Blunt.

I don’t know what you think, but to me this is about as frustrating and muddled a political situation as you can imagine.

And I’m talking about from all angles — Republican, Democratic and independent.

All the Republican candidates, including Attorney General Eric Schmitt, former Gov. Eric Greitens and U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler, are awful and should not be serving U.S. residents in any capacity, as far as I’m concerned.

And yet one of them — probably Schmitt — will almost surely succeed Blunt, who at least has some character and very likely loathes, privately, Donald Trump…(I would have a lot higher opinion of him if he’d have just said so at some point…like on Jan. 7, 2021.)

But that’s enough about the Republicans — they make me want to go back to Amsterdam — so let’s turn to the Democratic side.

Lucas Kunce

One of the two leading candidates is 39-year-old Lucas Kunce, a lawyer and self-described populist. He seems very smart and well-intended, but he has zero political experience (why don’t these people with stars in their eyes start out at the city council level?), and even though he’s been running for 16 months, he has not been able to establish much of a profile or name identity.

His main opponent is Trudy Busch Valentine, 65, who, although she announced her candidacy a full year after Kunce, is now leading the race.

Busch Valentine is the kind of candidate who makes you grind your teeth. She is an heiress to the Busch/Budweiser fortune, which, unfortunately, made her a formidable candidate the day she announced her candidacy. In addition, she also has zero political experience and, moreover, has no interest in, or ability to, campaign at the grass-roots level.

She is woefully ignorant of the issues and has had made some gaffes, including on LGBT matters, which, admittedly, could confound the most seasoned and deft of politicians.

Busch Valentine’s plan is to flood TV and mail boxes with ads that present her as a sincere and caring person who has Missourians’ best interests (whatever those might be) at heart.

Indicative of the political wind carrying her along, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver endorsed her two months after she entered the race. Cleaver usually doesn’t take sides in Democratic primaries at any level, and the fact that he quickly came out for Busch Valentine tells me that’s where the smart money is.

The betting money is probably right: A recent poll from Emerson College (in Boston) and The Hill (a political website out of Washington) showed Busch Valentine supported by 39 percent of respondents, Kunce by 35 percent, with 22 percent of respondents saying they were undecided.

**

In addition to the clutter on the Republican and Democratic sides, there’s a real joker in the deck.

John Wood, who recently stepped down as senior legislative counsel to the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, is planning to become an independent candidate on the November ballot, assuming enough voters sign petitions to put him on the ballot.

John Wood — could there be a duller name? — was recruited and is being pushed by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, grandson of the founder of Ralston Purina. Danforth has personally contributed $5 million to a political action committee supporting Wood, and he has said he will try to raise an additional $20 million.

John Wood

To me, this is utter folly. Wood appears to be a dishrag of a candidate, and I have no idea who would vote for him or why.

Consider…

  • Republicans won’t vote for him because they’ve got plenty of great (in their warped view) Trump-ass-licking candidates to choose from.
  • Democrats won’t vote for him because while he’s the antithesis of the Trump-ass-licking crowd, he’s so conservative that he supports the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • Finally, there aren’t enough independents in Missouri to fill Party Cove at Lake of the Ozarks.

**

So, here we are, less than a week before the primary, with this muddled, ridiculous situation. I guess I’ll vote for Kunce, but I really won’t care if he loses. If he does, we’ll be subjected to a barrage of Trudy Busch Valentine ads in the fall, and then she will lose to the Republican nominee.

There it is…No drama…Just business as usual in a state that about a million or so Democrats are stuck in.

Patty and I returned Friday night from an exhausting but exhilirating three-week trip to Europe.

Two of the first people I spoke with after returning asked me the same question: What was the highlight?

It’s impossible to say. If you’ve been, you know Europe is a highlight reel, where you go from one spectacular place to another.

Our trip began with a week-long cruise up the Rhone River from Avignon to Lyon in southern France. From there, we took the fast train to Paris, where we spent five days. Then it was on to Bruges, Belgium, for three days and finally Amsterdam for the last three days of touring.

I always say real life has a way of interjecting itself into vacations, and this was no exception. A few days into the cruise, one of our traveling companions came down with Covid. A couple of days later, her husband got it, and the day we traveled to Paris I got it. Only Patty, who had it several months ago, was spared. Fortunately, none of us had a particularly bad case. I spent one day in bed in our Airbnb but was back on the streets the next day.

…I’ve got quite a few photos to show you, so let’s get right to them, and I’ll continue the travelogue as we proceed.

Here’s our group — me, Patty, Julie and Jim — on the Viking Buri, a river boat that holds about 190 passengers.
It doesn’t get dark until about 10 p.m. in Europe during the summer. I took this photo from the upper deck of our boat.
The cruise began at Avignon, northwest of Marseille.
If I hadn’t said we were in France, you might have guessed from this photo, which I took in Vienne.
Lyon is the third largest city in France, after Paris and Marseille. Its prominent landmark is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, on the hill at left. The basilica is sometimes called “the upside down elephant.”
Covid knocked me out of action on Monday, July 11, but Tuesday the 12th I was back on my feet, walking near one of the world’s great landmarks.
Paris is famous for, among other things, its cafes and continuous fashion show on the streets. Suffice it to say, jeans and athletic shoes are not in vogue…Paris, while not to be missed, is also maddening because of the hordes of residents and visitors. Patty summed it up perfectly when she said, “Paris is mayhem.”
Topping Montmartre, a large hill in Paris 18th “arrondissement,” is the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur. Somehow, I made it up Montmartre’s many steps. Having “conquered” the hill, we took the funicular back down.
Looming above the city of Bruges, Belgium, is its Belfrey, which formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives and also served as an observation post for spotting fires and other dangers. We went to Bruges primarily because Patty is of Belgian descent.
We had made arrangements to see several of Patty’s relatives, but after telling them about our cases of Covid, we were able to meet only two of her cousins, Ivan and Rita Bossuyt, who joined us for dinner in Bruges on two successive nights.
Then we were in Amsterdam, my favorite European city. It is much easier to navigate than Paris, and many of its streets, like this one, have a singular charm.
At a “brasserie,” a lady enjoyed a smoke and her newspapers.
The most spectacular and distinguishing element of Amsterdam is its ring of canals, which provide an important transportation link as well as boat tours for tourists. Amsterdam, which was founded in 1250, got its name from the dam that was constructed in the city’s center. “Aeme Stelle Redamme” is Medieval Dutch for “Dam in a Watery Area.” People own the houseboats that line some of the canals, and the owners also pay rent to the city for the space.
This is the confluence of the Amstel River and the Prinsengracht canal (flowing into the river under the bridge in the background).
Owing to their age, some of Amsterdam’s buildings lean.
The Rijkesmuseum, above, and the nearby Van Gogh Museum are two of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions, along with the Anne Frank House…We went to both museums but unfortunately had to pass on the Anne Frank House — which I’ve been to before — partly because 80 percent of the tickets are sold online two months in advance. Tickets cannot be purchased at the museum itself, so if you ever go to Amsterdam and want to tour the house — a must — be sure to research the ticket situation.
This is Rijkesmuseum’s airy and welcoming entrance hall. On April 13, 2013, the main building was reopened after a 10-year renovation that cost 375 million euros. Rijkesmuseum has about 8,000 art and historical objects on display, including Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” which is famous for three things: its colossal size (12 by 14 1/2 feet), the artist’s dramatic use of light and shadow, and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military-group portrait.
The final photo is of these two women who waited on us at the Eetcafe Blaubrug, where we had one of our last meals. I didn’t get their names, but in addition to being great servers, they suggested we take the ferry to “Amsterdam Noord.” North Amsterdam is a trendy area that features, among other things, the Street Art Museum, which opened in 2012. Nowhere else in the world is graffiti elevated to such a level. Viva Amsterdam!