Friday, December 31, 2010

On the Brink of a New Year

Dear readers, I wish to take a few moments to wish everyone a happy new year. 2010 was very challenging, with a lot of twists and turns. Lots of surprises--who knew that Haiti and Chili would suffer earthquakes,and an oil well would blow out among other things?

Now some things we could see coming, like the health care bill passing, and the November election results.

Some things we hoped for did not come to pass, like a strong economic recovery and decreasing unemployment, but we have hopes for 2011.

2011 could be just a transition year to the big election in 2012, or it could be transformative, becoming a year to remember.

Locally, it may be a very important year, as Kansas City prepares to elect the leadership down at City Hall, and vote on the continuation of the Earnings Tax. Other items include improving public education, and working on infrastructure. Over every thing looms the issue of continuing violent crime, with a homicide rate far too high for a city this size.

So hang on, because 2011 is probably going to be a very interesting, perhaps occasionally scary ride!

Photo: Neat night view of Kansas City from something called "Crazy Vector."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Addiction, continued

This is a complex disease. It is resistant to treatment. It is subject to relapse.

Dr. Phil McGraw on addition

More later. The South Kansas City Observer extends condolences to the family of Ken Gurley and to the South Patrol officer forced to shoot him dead the morning of December 29th

This post had its genesis in the sad shooting death of one Kenny Gurley yesterday morning. Mr. Gurley was shot by a Kansas City Missouri police officer when he did not comply with orders to drop a length of metal pipe, and lunged at the officer. Here's the newspaper article on the incident. I posted the above, but ran out of time to flesh out the thoughts behind these few words.

Mr. Gurley, 40, per the testimony of his grieving mother to the press, has struggled with meth addiction for several years. He was approaching about one year of sobriety from the meth during this time. (It's funny, a friend who is about to have her one year of sobriety from alcohol was telling me about how she'd noticed that a lot of people get a little funky around that one year mark...) Neighbors had noticed a man matching Mr. Gurley's description acting oddly during the early morning, running around in the 40 degree temps without a shirt, punching the air. One neighbor noticed Mr. Gurley and another man looking into the windows of houses in the neighborhood. When they battered down the door to the empty home on 111th Terrace, they called 911.

Now, if I lent you my scanner for an hour, you would notice that these prowler calls are pretty common, and the police take them seriously. If they respond to an address, and find an open door, they will "hold the air" and carefully investigate until they know that there is no one there who is a threat to them or others. So it is with this care that the officers approached the house on 111th Terrace when they noted the open door. It didn't take long before they came across Mr. Gurley and another man as they came out the front door. Mr. Gurley had a length of pipe in his hand. He was commanded to drop the pipe. He did not drop the pipe. Per the KCPD, he threatened the officer, and he was shot twice, fatally.

The reason why I started this post with the quote from Dr. Phil was to make a note of his difficult addiction. Like I said in response to comments in the initial post, the will has a lot to do with the compulsive behavior of addiction. Using is a choice, not using is a choice, stopping is a choice and starting back up is a choice. How the addict can be helped to make the choice to stop and stay stopped is something that is up for debate. Despite anything you may have heard, no treatment modality has a 100% effectiveness/no relapse rate.

You can hear it in the anguish of his mother(KSHB video here), wishing there had been another way, wishing he had gotten back in treatment, wishing he hadn't have used again. I am sure the police officer wished there had been another way, but he wanted to go home at the end of his shift. There was a threat to that, and he had to respond as he had been trained to that threat. His response will be evaluated. I hope the Monday morning quarterbacking will be kept to a minimum, the evaluation fair and balanced.

I was noting this crime, one of several shootings over the past few days in Kansas City, because of the sad aspect of Mr. Gurley's losing battle with addition. It was not meant to be a debate over the causes of addiction per se or the best way to treat them. It was with the sadness that Mr. Gurley made the decision to use meth on Wednesday morning. That decision caused his premature death. His mother is sad at the permanent loss of hope for her son. The officer is sad he had to take a life and may be anxious for what it means for his law enforcement career. I am sad because, well, no man is an island. Mr. Gurley's death, along with the death of Sujendra Amarasingham, and Ivan Miller in November, and 100 plus other homicide victims in our city, should make us all sad. Then it should make us all mad, and ready to take action.

That is all, just a sadness at the waste of life, and a wondering if we can develop several good therapies for helping someone make the decision to stop using mind altering substances and take on life straight and sober, life the good the bad and the ugly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


This is a complex disease. It is resistant to treatment. It is subject to relapse.

Dr. Phil McGraw on addition

More later. The South Kansas City Observer extends condolences to the family of Ken Gurley and to the South Patrol officer forced to shoot him dead the morning of December 29th.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Place and State that I NEVER Want to Find Myself In

Embedded in Roger Cohen's entertaining and often funny rant about Europe's inability to deal with the snowy weather that has come their way were these bon mots:
What we are witnessing on either side of the Channel is the double whammy of a debt-ridden public sector making cuts wherever it can and a bonus-addicted private sector making cuts wherever it’s profitable — with the resultant disaster foisted on a general public now so cowed and coddled and fearful and risk-averse in the age of terror and technology that an inch or two of snow sends everyone into a blind panic.
And then there was this, at the end of the piece that frequently made me LOL.
It’s the age of pass-the-buck, blame-anybody-but-yourself technology-induced, pasty-faced, initiative-starved helplessness in a Europe that’s forgotten what a shovel looks like.
I must admit, that made me stop laughing.

Now that is just a place I do not want to go, a place in which I do not want to live, and a mindset that I want nothing to do with. I want to live in a country where there are always people ready to take initiative and pick up the shovel.

I think I live in that kind of country. I think. I pray.

Back to the Grind

Well, you know it had to come to an end. The holiday period. Oh, we still have New Year's but that's different. Not everything will be closed on New Year's Day. Christmas is the day we come closest to shutting everything down.

So what awaits us?

Let's see there's (deep breath) the mayor and city council elections, the earnings tax debate, doing something about 103 homicides this year and counting...(breath)...the economy, lack of jobs, potential inflation, taxes, stimulus packages, global climate change, global economy, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq.

There are people telling us that the nation is being taken over by a oligarchy of corporate interests, by an oligarchy of the ruling classes, by the entitlement mentality, by the morally bankrupt, and that the nation is falling away, falling to third world status, falling like Rome, falling toward anarchy. There is outcry against any idea that America is exceptional in any way from one side; the other side says not so fast, we have survived tough things before.

The Progressive lefties thinks THEY are the only way to salvation.

The Libertarian wing thinks THEY are the only way to salvation.

The Conservative righties thinks THEY are the only way to salvation.

One group says all should be judged on merit, to rise or fall as their abilities dictate, lead, follow or get out of the way--the fallen should just get out of the way and rely on the kindness of strangers. Another group feels that all have a right to certain services and should not be allowed to fall by the wayside. Health care is the crucible issue here--is it a right, obtained with the help of the government, or something that is offered within the free market system in line with the ability to pay?

So, we've got a lot on our plate this coming year. Whew!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Well, How About That?

Mascot Scout rides again (Kansas City Star photo)

Our Kansas City Chiefs, winners of a measly four games last year, have won ten (yup, 1-0) games this year, and have won the AFC West Championship! This is a remarkable turnaround. The ten games is more than the team has won in the past three years.

This is a real tribute to the work put in by the players and coaches--the desire and dedication to improve in all areas of the game. Last year, for example, Head Coach Todd Haley tried also to run the offense. He conceded that it did not work, and the Chiefs obtained the services of Charley Weiss, a fine offensive coach. The Chiefs realized the defense needed both better coaching and players and hired a great defensive coach and drafted some excellent players.

The biggest improvement, not just over last year, but over the course of this year, is the quarterback, Matt Cassel. He has improved so much that it is almost incomprehensible. Given better coaching (they worked endlessly with him on mechanics, to drop back and release the ball quicker on passes) and better surrounding players, Cassel has just bloomed, making good reads and judgments, avoiding turnovers and becoming a leader of the whole team.

Second is the work of the defense. They have occasionally had a klunker of a game, but generally they have been more than adequate. Sometimes bending but not breaking, and sometimes not even bending, they have rose to the occasion many times during the season.

The metro is starting to get excited about the team again--I am seeing more Chiefs garb on folks--not new stuff but the stuff they had back in the 1990s and early 2000s when the team was good before. Now, folks just have to get back into the habit of going to the games--the stadium, while obviously loud and rowdy today, was not full. It has to be full for our home playoff game! (I can't believe I just wrote those words.)

Congratulations to the Chiefs players and staff for a job well done!

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Alert, and More Music!

Good Christmas Eve folks!

A traffic note--for southlanders especially! A city plow dropped hydraulic fluid all over Blue Ridge Boulevard from about Blue River Road to about the State Line. Thus this area will be slicker than snot for a few days. Pumper 45 and HazMat 71 are spreading oil dry and a street crew is on the way as of this writing, but I would be careful around that area for the next couple days!

In the meantime, have some more music.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Some Christmas Music

Well, Christmas is almost here--here in the Midwest it is just after midnight on December 24th.

Here's a bit of Christmas music for you all this Christmas Eve.

Now, just relax and enjoy the season!

Monday, December 20, 2010


First, can't we catch a break with the Christmas weather? The current forecasts call for a mixed mess on Thursday or Friday. Gary Lezak is the official weather caster of the South Kansas City Observer, and he is still uncertain about the forecast for exactly the timing and type of precipitation. It looks like it will start sometime Thursday after 1200, and will continue for at least part of Christmas Eve. The worst thing is that there could be ice, which makes everyone very nervous--including me. Last year, there was thunder on Christmas Eve eve, and you needed sled dogs on Christmas Eve. This year? Could it be ice? Frankly, I would take the foot of snow rather than ice.

Second, what is with everyone's driving? During the past week, I have seen some of the worst driving ever. One person, unaccountably, came to a complete stop on an entrance to I-435. Thankfully, both myself and the person directly behind this fool were paying attention and were able to avoid rear ending this idiot and each other. Same ramp, different day--we are all having to swerve around a slow moving minivan. When people drive like ass hats I like to see what they look like, so I know who to avoid in the future. This was a White woman reading something spread out on her steering wheel! I so wished I could have yanked her out of the car and given her a spanking! Finally, earlier in the month was the man turning into QuikTrip while talking on the phone--he almost lost control of his SUV and hit me. Someone else that needs a little corporal punishment.

Well, that's all I got right now. If you are watching ESPN right now, Minnesota is getting yet more snow. Looks cold. Steve Young has snow on his hat. Please drive carefully out there, and stay warm!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Port Authority Issues: Voters Go "Meh."

Back in November, The Pitch had a piece about the relationship between players in the contract to do excavation work at the former Richards-Gebaur air base in south Kansas City. The former air base, under the control of the Kansas City Port Authority (to this former New Yorker, a funny name for an agency in a city not near an ocean, but I guess the Missouri River is water enough), is being developed as a truck and train hub and had to have some dirt moved. The Kansas City Star in a front page piece December 12 picked up the scent.

The potential scandal splashes on a mayoral candidate, Mike Burke, as well as the incumbent, Mark Funkhouser. In a nut shell, there is an appearance of conflict of interest involving one of the Port Authority board members and a contract to move dirt at the old air base. Burke has a lawyerly relationship in the situation.

There has been some chatter on Tony's Kansas City and other parts of the blogosphere. (To see all of Tony's work, just stick "Port Authority" in his blog search tool.) However, the TV stations, usually eager for scandal have not done anything with the story except to cover the mayor's reaction, and the basic response of the citizenry has been, well, "Meh."

The mayor and the Port Authority board haven't gotten along in years anyway. So the mayor's bloviating on the topic late in the week was basically ignored. As was the story on bidding that took place in 2008 was ignored by the majority of the citizens of Kansas City. It does have a faint whiff of insider bidding, but it seems nothing has come of the new publicity in the way of investigations. That is new investigations--there was an investigative response to the questions raised by Ms. Rayford back in 2008--documented here. Via one of his wondrous tipsters, Tony got hold of the document indicating how an investigation had been done at that time and the all clear given. It was not an "official" investigation however, more like an audit of the situation. Still, you would think they would want to know if there is enough in the allegations to either 'fess up or cover up.

Who knows? Someone might get a bee in their bonnet about this at the FBI or something. The voters are apathetic. As of now, "it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (Shakespeare, Macbeth.) I do not think it will have much influence on the mayor's race, except maybe to illuminate yet again that Mark Funkhouser has not been a very good mayor of this city in so many ways.

Hot Winds Subsiding

The 111th Congress is wrapping up its lame duck session with a rare Saturday session today. They are currently considering the language of the START treaty proposal. It appears that the Dems will be able to fend off the language changes that the Repubs want.

Since we last visited the Hot Winds, the bill that maintains the Bush tax rates, and extends unemployment benefits did make it past both houses and was signed by President Obama. Staying in the money arena, a $1.2 trillion (holy crap, did I just write trillion?) "omnibus budget bill" was blocked by Republicans and will not be decided by this Congress. They will have to pass some sort of extension/emergency funding of the government's activities through the first bit of next year, and this will be the first real issue to face the 112th Congress with its new configuration of majorities and minorities.

The "DREAM Act" which would create a path to citizenship via education and/or military service for those brought into the United States illegally as children did not pass and will not become law.
"Don't Ask Don't Tell", the policy that homosexual people can not serve openly in the military will be dumped as a result of the votes taken yesterday and today by the house and senate.

I think after they pass that emergency appropriations bill, they get to go home.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitten Update

Remember my little foundling kitten? Well, she's got a name, and she's been growing like a weed. This picture was taken a month ago, and since then she has grown even more in height and weight. Here, she's posing with her uncle BoyCat, her playmate and occasional chew toy.

Voting Against Your Interests?

Just a few thoughts on "voting against your interests"--a phrase that is frequently applied by left leaning columnists and bloggers to those in the lower and middle lower classes that vote Republican. These days it is most frequently attached to those who support the "Tea Party" candidates and activities.

The implication is that the vote for the Republican is a vote that will hurt the person of a lower class--that Republican proposals and ideas favor only the rich. That Republicans will cut benefits that help those of the lower economic strata, that Republican economic theory and practice only helps those of higher incomes without benefit to anyone else.

It reeks of class conflict, this phrase. In addition, it makes voters sound selfish--like what's in this for me?

It has been said that if voters can cast votes that result in money coming to themselves that that is the "end of the republic." Voters that vote Democratic are often seen by hard core conservative Republicans as voting for continued entitlements and hand outs. This idea, mixed with latent racism, is especially applied to Black voters.

Painting with such a broad brush has a lot of hazards, one of which is indeed igniting a class war. However, the mere fact that people can apply such ideas to voters means that the idea of voters voting only in their self interest and not for the good of the country as a whole is a valid concept. This then begs the question...

When you go into the voting booth to flip the levers, put the X in the box, tap the screen, punch the card or fill in the oval, are you thinking primarily of how your vote will benefit your own self interests or those of our entire country?

More Charges Dropped

A quick and happy note: More charges against Glenn Stevens have been dropped. Allen County Kansas has dropped the charges against the Raymore man. That leaves just one county in Missouri, and they still want to look at the events in the Wal-Mart in Maryville. Hopefully it won't be long for that case to come to a conclusion.

No apologies as yet. No monetary recompense. Yet.

Author's note: In reviewing the report linked in Mr. Hart's post, it appears that the Maryville charge has been dropped for now and that an incoming county prosecutor has retained the right to review the case and renew charges according to his judgement. So no charges right this minute against Mr. Stevens, but small town/county law in one area, perhaps feeling pressure from Wal-Mart, is continuing an interest in prosecuting the case next year. (Boo hiss on them.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Four out of Five

You might remember this story about how five juvenile miscreants managed to escape from lock up during a ruckus back in November. Two were turned in/turned themselves in fairly quickly. The remaining two have been captured within the past couple weeks, leaving just one out loose. This is good news that most of them have been captured, but bad news that one has been wily enough and connected enough to avoid capture. No description has ever been released on this last loose bad boy. I hope that when we do capture him, it is not because he became a suspect in a violent crime. I would consider the authorities at least partially responsible then, as they gave no tools to the public to assist with his capture.

Glenn Stevens: Charges in Versailles Dismissed

I am so happy to report that the Versailles PD and the Morgan County prosecutor have decided to dismiss the charges against Raymore resident (and former South KC resident) Glenn Stevens. Apparently, the new prosecutor decided to look at the video from Wal-Mart with Mr. Stevens, his family and his lawyer present. It was determined that the person in the video was not Mr. Stevens. As Dana Wright of KCTV5 put it on Darla Jaye's program last night: the eyes were wrong, the ears were wrong, it appeared to be a younger man, and he was taller than Mr. Stevens as indicated by how the shopping cart came up to his body. The prosecutor asked for permission to do a lie detector test. Mr. Stevens consented and passed with flying colors. After that all charges were dismissed.

He still has charges pending in two rural counties--one in Missouri and one in Kansas. They were both based on the charges in Versailles. Hopefully, they will disappear rapidly. I cannot imagine what a relief this is to the Stevens family not to have this hanging over their heads.
Now, they are owed an apology, and, if at all possible, the money back that had to put up for bail--$30,000 for the Versailles charges. Eventually, this will include the $15,000 for the other two counties' charges. That's a lot of money! I would hate to find myself having to go into debt or have an extra mortgage due to this happening to me and it should not happen to Mr. Stevens. We will keep you updated.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Is Going On In Washington?

This lame duck session of the congress has been the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life time. You'd think that with both the house and senate under the control of one party that it would be easy to get things done. This post won't make much sense, because the actions of the last weeks of the 111st Congress have not made much sense. They haven't been very easy to follow either.

First, we have a deal on taxes. The tax rates of the past 10 years preserved for two more years. Another year or so of funding for benefits for the unemployed. A renewal of the inheritance tax, but at a lower rate. A 2% reduction in the amount withheld by FICA from people's paychecks. Not a perfect thing--a legislative sausage with a little of this and a little of that.

The house just plain refused to vote on it. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) yapped for over eight hours in the senate against it (It's hard for this writer to remember that Bernie is a Senator now!), and now it appears to be tabled.

Other crap got hung on it--ethanol subsidies and alt energy stuff.

President Obama had a press briefing which he left early, leaving former President Bill Clinton to preside for 20 minutes.

Meantime, the Republicans in the senate managed to stall changing the policy of the military regarding homosexuals serving openly. Republicans also led the way in voting down aid to ill 9/11 rescue and recovery workers made sick by the environment at Ground Zero.

Many democrats are mad at President Obama for even thinking of continuing the Bush tax rates for those with yearly incomes over $250,000. They've been fulminating in the chambers and to the press.

Meantime, the Dream Act, with regard to immigrants and education, is sitting on the table in the Senate. And whither the START arms treaty thing?

To borrow a phrase from blogger bud Ann T.--a LOT of Hot Wind.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 1941

I was thinking about this day--one of the first of the dates of strong memory for many. Hawaii is four hours behind the central time zone--five hours behind the eastern time zone. How long did word of the attack take to come to the general population? Today, we would know instantly, in the blink of an eye. How would word have gotten out? My guess would be via the military as they would have had the ability to carry the news over the ocean to the United States.

Odds are then that few would have been shocked by this Monday, December 8 edition of the New York Times. Shock would have grown as details emerged of the sinking of the ships, loss of life and heroism of the attacked. It would have then congealed into anger and resolve--resolve to restore order and seek justice.

I wish sometimes we could bottle this unity and resolve against a common enemy and compassion for the victims and sprinkle it around as needed when we are facing a less obvious and violent foe. Now, with our changing economy and needy people, segments of our population feeling left out, we seem to need a unity of purpose and community that we find hard to produce. Our discourse too often degenerates into name calling, selfish action and demonizing as we seek possible solutions and actions.

Would it be possible for us to come together once again to take action as one against the economic situations that threaten to destroy some, take apart our unity and create divisions in our country where before there were none?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wow--Wayside Waifs Open House Wildly Successful!

Merry Christmas from Wayside Waifs!

When I came to the drive way up to Wayside Waifs today to visit the holiday open house, there were cars parked almost all the way down to Martha Truman Road! Wow, what a fabulous turn out! And according to Wayside's FB page, 104 animals found new homes today.

Every where you looked in the shelter, volunteers and staff were helping adopters with the paperwork to adopt pets. It was awesome! The photo above actually was taken after the crowd had thinned some--as you can see everyone is still busy!

This is the sight I saw when I went in to check out the dogs. Empty kennels! I have never seen these front kennels empty during the two or three years I have been visiting Wayside Waifs regularly. There were plenty of empty spaces in the cat section too, although the majority of adopted animals were dogs.

Wayside Waifs is at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south Kansas City. There are always great animals that can be adopted there--some are in foster care or receiving medical care--the place is never really "empty." On the web at for more information, phone number and directions.

From the D'oh! Files...

From the D'oh! Files...

and then there's this, from the stupid crime division of the D'oh! Files...

People, people, people!

Friday, December 3, 2010

No To Troy Schulte For City Manager

Troy Schulte took over the City Manager's job in late November of 2009. He still wears the interim label--he has not been made the City Manager permanently. So one of the first things that the newly elected mayor will need to decide when he/she takes office after the March 2011 election is whether or not Mr. Schulte should be the CM on a permanent basis.

I say no to Troy Schulte.

His role in the MAST debacle can not be overlooked. It was Troy Schulte who was providing the numbers and information for the City Council committee that first examined the idea back in January 2009.

Oh, I mean the lack of numbers, because one of the outstanding features of this horrible decision was the lack of information regarding its actual benefits and costs. I have hammered on that since the very first meeting back in August 2009.

Now, we have reports of more overtime costs than expected. And of course, the pension issue is still around, still hanging over the city like the Sword of Damocles. Schulte admitted he made certain promises about the pension back in October, remember?

Troy Schulte is not the right combination of manager and strength. A City Manager manages the city. It is not a political office. Schulte has been used by political players to get what they want. That is a disqualification for the position. He needs to go.

File photo from The Kansas City Star, taken not long after he assumed CM position.

Glenn Stevens

Glenn and Irene Stevens. Photo from the Kansas City Star.

There's a serious miscarriage of justice going on and it's going on right here in the Kansas City metro. It came to big light after KCTV5 aired their special report on the arrests of Raymore resident Glenn Stevens in late November. They'd been contacted by the Stevens family in the summertime and worked on the investigation for several months.

The story was also picked up by the Kansas City Star. Today, Mr. Stevens, his wife Irene, their lawyer and Channel 5's Dana Wright were guests of the Shanin and Parks Show on KMBZ. Blogger Groucho of Capt. Spaulding's World has also been following this case.

In a nutshell, Mr. Stevens has been accused of stealing from retail giant Wal-Mart. He has been charged with thefts at three Wal-Marts. They have actually been looking at him as a suspect in a string of thefts from 20 Wal-Marts! He has never been arraigned for these three known charges, but he has been taken to jail. For the Nodaway county case, he was jailed with a cash only bond of $30,000, a bond more appropriate to a violent crime involving a weapon! He spent July 4th in jail due to these charges and this ridiculous bail.

Mr. Stevens has proof that he was elsewhere during the alleged theft from the Wal-Mart in the Nodaway county town of Versailles. They won't even look at it. During Dana Wright's report, the police officer makes the outrageous statement that Mr. Stevens will have to work to show his innocence of the charges--an exact reverse of how the system is supposed to work!

As a sign of support to this innocent man, The Observer has his picture up on the side bar. Clicking on the photo will lead you to Glenn Stevens is Innocent--a blog maintained by one of his children. Leroy Stevens is putting everything about the cases he can up on the blog so it will be a vital way to stay in touch with this awful case.

Also you should read Groucho's posts on the matter as well, here, here and here. I know it's tough, but consider boycotting Wal-Mart--at least until they admit they are wrong and remove themselves as complainant in these bogus charges.

This man is just two years older than the Observer's mother and was born the same year as the Observer's late father--I am trying to imagine my mother going to jail for something she didn't do and would never consider doing. It's just outrageous.