The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.


(Updated January 18, 2023)

Guest Editorial - Sorry, that’s classified

(Published January 18, 2023)  

It’s a bad idea to brand something as egregiously criminal if there is even the slightest chance you will one day be caught doing the same.

Say you’ve gone to the city demanding fines and other punishment, because your neighbor’s dog got out of a fenced yard. Then, you used social media to label the escape unforgivable and your neighbor stupid and irresponsible and expressed incredulity how any person could ever allow such an horrendous thing.

Then, your dog gets out and scatters trash over three blocks.

That’s the regular-person version of the situation President Joe Biden found himself in this week. After excoriating Donald Trump for keeping classified documents resulting in an FBI raid on his residence, it was revealed that V.P. Biden had taken home a few top secret missives of his own.

They turned up just days before the midterms, where mishandled classified papers were a huge election issue.

Attorneys found the stash in a closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in D.C.

In the interest of complete transparency they immediately called the FBI to report a crime.

Ha! Not really. Instead, they called the National Archives and had them come get the documents. Then, miracle of miracles, there were no leaks for two months, until an “it’s all under control” public statement was made.

The day after that announcement, more documents were found in a second location.

They were in a guarded bank vault.

Ha! Again, just kidding. These were in a box in Mr. Biden’s garage next to his vintage Corvette. Then, more turned up in the house. And, then, even more in the house.

Democrats and the mainstream media first attempted the “But Trump was much worse” defense.

Unfortunately, they’d made such a ginormous deal over Mr. Trump’s situation the media was confronted with a bar so low they couldn’t slide under.

With an effort to save face, the coverage switched from downplaying and forgiving to something which could be described as “modestly chastising.”
Missing from the Biden round of document discovery is all the speculation about nefarious purposes.

When Mr. Trump was in the crosshairs, the speculation leaned toward treasonous motives, including selling the nuclear codes to China or Russia.
Hey, everybody knows those codes are never changed and the U.S. arsenal could be launched from a pay phone in Moscow.

This time, the speculation about cause leans toward sloppiness; and, at worst, embarrassing oversight.

Two big differences are apparent. Mr. Trump knew he had documents and was lawyered up against the National Archives to keep them.
Mr. Biden appears to have had no idea his were in an office closet, the garage, and elsewhere in his house.

Unauthorized possession of classified documents is against the law, yet only one of the two cases is unambiguously a crime. Mr. Trump, as president, had the ability to declassify his and floated that as a defense.

Mr. Biden’s backers can only speak about lack of intent to break the law. That was the standard out of thin air Hillary Clinton was held to in 2016.

What isn’t getting much play is why most Americans can’t get terribly worked up over either circumstance.

We all know that there are different levels of classified work, and literally tons of secret documents are generated every year.

If either man had a list of deep cover operatives in foreign lands floating loose, that’s a big deal. On the other hand, if it was a report that Benjamin Netanyahu might have been coming down with a cold in March of 2014, not so much.

In the middle of all this hubbub, we should take a moment to pity poor John Lausch.

You may be asking who the heck is John Lausch and why he is worthy of pity.

He’s the U.S. attorney who was minding his own business in his Chicago office when he got a real stinker of an assignment dumped in his lap. His immediate boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, gave him the type of task which chills the blood of the most stalwart political appointee. I’d like to think there was a conversation along the following lines.

Garland: Remember how President Joe Biden gave you this job?

Lausch: Yes, sir.

Garland: And remember how the president has been vilifying Donald Trump as irresponsible for having taken home classified documents? And how our entire party wants Trump jailed, prosecuted, then barred from ever seeking office again since this is the worst offense ever, ever, ever?

Lausch: I’m very aware of it, sir.

Garland: Well, the president did the same thing when he was V.P. I’d like you to investigate to see if a special prosecutor is needed.
Lausch: (Long pause) Umm, thank you, sir?

Luckily, Mr. Lausch was able to labor in secrecy, with, amazingly, no leaks, then pass the hot potato.

He recommended a special prosecutor and A.G. Garland assigned one just three days after the first disclosure.
Now the whole situation can quickly fade into the background until enough time has safely passed to announce no prosecution. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Not that easy

(Published January 11, 2023)  

Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House early Saturday morning after 15 grueling ballots.
He quipped, “That was easy, huh?”

The election was the longest process needed to elect a speaker since the Civil War.  So at least he didn’t exceed that. Much of the struggle can be boiled down political maneuvering...but a big portion points to a serious split in the GOP.

Many of the holdouts had specific items they wanted addressed before giving their support.  Others were not going to vote for McCarthy no matter what and even though there was no viable alternative.
Six holdouts, including Matt Gaetz, Fla., and Lauren Boebert, Colo., ended up voting present instead of no.  That made the total needed to elect only 216 which finally secured the post for the California Republican.

The Democrats had no trouble keeping unified, which isn’t that hard when there was no serious chance they were going to accomplish anything. Well, maybe they did a little.  House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies outpolled Mr. McCarthy for the first 11 ballots, which was humiliating.

The newly sworn-in speaker cautioned Mr. Jefferies about how that could change, “I’ve got to warn you — two years ago, I got 100% of the vote from my conference.”  

At the very least, the Democrats were enjoying witnessing the pandemonium.  GOP Rep. Kat Cammack,  perhaps in jest, accused them of bringing, “popcorn and blankets and alcohol” to the spectacle.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, “If Dems took a shot every time McCarthy lost a Republican, we’d all be unconscious by now.”

It wasn’t all fun and games on the Republican side of the aisle.  Rep. Mike Rogers, Ala., had to be held back from attacking Mr. Goetz after the 14th vote.  The sight of Rep. Richard Hudson with his arm across the shoulders and hand over the mouth of Mr. Rogers quickly made the rounds.

To get the cooperation of the reluctant GOP members, Mr. McCarthy had to make one large concession.  After fiercely opposing changing the requirements for triggering a vote for a new speaker, he caved.  That would mean a return to only one vote needed on a “motion to vacate” instead of the current five.

The media painted the other demands holding up the works as unrealistic and extreme right positions.  Some don’t seem that unrealistic or extreme.

They wanted a seat for the Freedom Caucus on the House Rules Committee. That is where the decisions are made when, or even if, a bill gets to the floor and if it can be changed.
That doesn’t guarantee the conservative group will get their way, but gives them a seat at the table.

Also not unreasonable is the idea of cutting back on spending.  The holdouts demanded discretionary spending be held to 2022 levels and that debt ceiling increases be tied to budget cuts.
If you’re at all concerned about the U.S. debt being  $31 trillion and growing, that doesn’t seem exactly nuts.

Also not crazy was the demand to give 72 hours for legislators to review bills before they vote. That would end the “We have to pass it before we know what’s in it” norm of recent years.

The conservative holdouts wanted to do away with the giant “omnibus” bills which get steamrolled through every year under the threat of government shutdown.  Not that there’s anything hidden in those omnibus bills.

Less practical were the demands for  votes on issues which seem purely symbolic.  That includes a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and (sadly) border security.  
Most political of all, and probably most necessarily after the humiliation dished out, the holdouts extracted a pledge from Mr. McCarthy to keep a super PAC he’s tied to from operating in Republican primaries.

Politics ain’t for the faint of heart, and actions like those taken by the six holdouts can have consequences.  Take, for example, former Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp who was stripped of his Ag and Budget committee assignments for “inability to work with other members.” After that, he lost his next primary by 16 points. 

While all the bickering makes the House Republicans look weak and unorganized, which they likely are, it doesn’t change the fact that they can still accomplish one important job. With only minimal unity, they can come together to block the type of ultra, progressive legislation Democrats were able to pass in the last Congress.

As someone who believes a deadlocked Congress is generally preferable to one blithely passing every lame-brained bill which comes before them, that’ll do.

Guest Editorial - It’s how you say it

(Published January 4, 2023)  

The country got an early Christmas present in mid December in the form of a brilliant satirical piece by humorists at Stanford University.

The article titled, Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, slyly blasts woke language police. It is laugh-out-loud funny, start to finish.

Sorry: I’ve just been informed that the writing in question is in fact completely serious and an effort to, “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language....
Which makes it even funnier! Let’s dig in and see what they have to say.

There are categories. After each bullet point is the targeted word, then the replacement in parenthesis, followed by the reason for offense.
• basket case (nervous) Originally referred to one who has lost all four limbs and therefore needed to be carried around in a basket.
• blind study (masked study) Unintentionally perpetuates that disability is somehow abnormal or negative, furthering an ableist culture.
• crazy (surprising/wild) Ableist language that trivializes the experiences of people living with mental health conditions.
• handicap parking (accessible parking) Ableist language that trivializes the experiences of people living with disabilities.
Culturally Appropriative
• chief (the person’s name) Calling a non-Indigenous person “chief” trivializes both the hereditary and elected chiefs in Indigenous communities. Calling an Indigenous person “chief” is a slur.
• too many chiefs, not enough indians (a lack of clear direction, too many competing ideas) Trivializes the structure of Indigenous communities.
Gender Based
• “preferred” pronouns (pronouns) The word “preferred” suggests that non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.
• freshman (frosh, first-year student) Lumps a group of students using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups that don't include everyone.
• man hours (person hours, effort hours, labor time) This term reinforces male-dominated language.
Imprecise Language
• American (US Citizen) This term often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).
• intellectual (person given to learning and thinking ) Disparages different cognitive levels and abilities.
• straight (heterosexual) This term implies that anyone who is not heterosexual is bent or not “normal.”
• user (client) While often associated with one who uses (software, systems, services), it can also negatively be associated with those who suffer from substance abuse issues or those who exploit others for their own gain.
Institutionalized Racism
• blackballed (banned, denied) Assigns negative connotations to the color black, racializing the term.
• gangbusters (very successful) Unnecessarily invokes the notion of police action against “gangs” in a positive light, which may have racial undertones.
• convict (person who is/was incarcerated) Using person-first language helps to not define people by just one of their characteristics.
• beat(ing) a dead horse (refus(e/ing) to let something go) This expression normalizes violence against animals.
• rule of thumb (standard rule, general rule) Although no written record exists today, this phrase is attributed to an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.
• trigger warning (content note) The phrase can cause stress about what's to follow. Additionally, one can never know what may or may not trigger a particular person.
Additional Considerations
• hip-hip hurray, hip hip hooray (hooray) This term was used by German citizens during the Holocaust as a rallying cry when they would hunt down Jewish citizens living in segregated neighborhoods.
So, there is just a sample. May I suggest one more they should include:
• Spew nonsense (produce insightful societal-healing academic work) Implies that oversensitivity to words and phrases, including those whose origins are obscure, is a silly waste of time and makes language less precise and understandable.

Also, full disclosure, I made up one inclusion on the list. Did you catch it?

Intellectual does not appear in their ban, but shows how easy it is to believe the authors could be offended by almost any word. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Looking back at ‘22

(Published December 28, 2022)  

The year 2022 is rapidly coming to a close. Here’s a look back at some big events.

At the top of the list is horrible inflation. It has been so bad, you could be forgiven for thinking the 70s are back and donning platform shoes and a leisure suit.

Inflation isn’t something politicians can deflect away by pretending what you’re experiencing at the cash register isn’t really happening. You feel it in your wallet when a tank of gas costs over $100, or a head of lettuce is creeping up on $5.

President Joe Biden is now taking a bow because the inflation rate has decreased. But he shouldn’t bow too deeply. While 7.1% in November is better than the 7.7% from October, it’s still a long way from getting back to the about 2% rate we had all come to expect until recently.

Speaking of Mr. Biden, he thinks he’s doing a darn good job in the office. “No one’s ever done as much as president as this administration’s doing. Period.” And, from the Democratic perspective, it’s hard to deny.

All the political big-brain types expected a big Red Wave election. Instead Republicans had a pretty darn poor showing at the polls. Mr. Biden can point to the fact that his party lost the House by the narrowest of margins, while gaining governorships and other state offices.

All of this in spite of the fact that the president’s approval numbers are in the low forties.

Before Mr. Biden grabs all the credit, it would only be fair to admit that he had a lot of help from Republican primary voters, Donald Trump, and the mainstream media.
Republicans voters have a distressing tendency to vote for candidates they really like but are hard to push over the finish line in November. That was made worse by Mr. Trump doing his best to keep the narrative focused on him and the 2020 election. The media, of course, remains nearly indistinguishable from the Democratic party P.R. machine with their threat-to-democracy storyline.
Another big story of the year also helped the Dems in the midterms. That was when the Supreme Court ended the “federal right to abortion.”

Roe v. Wade became the battle cry of the left’s get-out-the-vote effort as the idea was pushed forward that the single most important right for all Americans had just been taken away.
This ignored the fact that the ruling really only put the issue back into the states. Which means some states have very rigid restrictions on abortions while others, like glow-in-the-dark-blue New York, allow the practice up until about age seven or so.

In reality, the ruling did nothing to calm activists on either side of the issue. Those who believe a fetus is a baby want abortion stopped, period; and, those who consider it a “women’s health issue” demand it be legal everywhere. So, battle lines remain drawn.

A battle darn few thought would last anywhere near this long is the one between Russia and Ukraine. Back in January and February when it was becoming obvious Vladimir Putin would invade, experts thought the conflict would be over in a matter of days.

Darn few expected the Ukrainians to stand their ground and even retake seized territory. That doesn’t mean the outcome is decided. Much of what the Ukrainians have been able to accomplish has been made possible with billions of dollars in aid from the west. There is no way of knowing how long that cash pipeline stays wide open.

The other absolute wild card is Mr. Putin. He retains the historical predisposition of his country’s leaders to accept massive casualty counts in service of his goals. Plus, having and threatening to use nuclear weapons keeps the entire world on edge.

For most of us, one of the world’s greatest mysteries is, “what the heck is crypto currency, and how exactly does if differ from Monopoly money?”
The correct answer may be that no one, not even the supposed experts, know for sure. That doesn’t mean that common people and big-time investors alike can’t get hurt trying to find out.

Take, for example, the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. The venture collapsed spectacularly over the course of 10 days, going from a worth of about $32 billion to nothing.

The founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, who didn’t dress like someone you entrust with the cash for a coffee run, was considered a financial genius. Now, he is accused of running one of the biggest frauds in history, and his cohorts are entering guilt pleas.

Part of what kept him under the radar was political donations of about $40 million which went almost entirely to Democrats.
A cynic would note that he wasn’t arrested until after the midterms. Instead, it was busted just before he was to testify to Congress. But none of us are that cynical. Right? - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Not really that paranoid

(Published December 14, 2022)  

To borrow a line: It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

For years, conservatives and Republicans on Twitter have complained that the platform suppressed their tweets and limited their ability to be seen by others on the platform.

That contention was dismissed as paranoid delusion. Twitter claimed the entire process was controlled by an apolitical algorithm and there was no way the overwhelmingly left wing people at Twitter were doing anything unfair. Like the Head of Trust and Safety (Censorship Czar) who once tweeted about actual Nazis being in the Trump White House.

Since Elon Musk bought out the service triggering the end of civilization, according to the hyperventilating left, it’s become obvious that it wasn’t delusion at all.

Over the last several days journalists have produced “the Twitter Files” using internal e-mails to show that it was human bias, not faulty machine logic, that was driving the process.

There was a bit of a hiccough when it was discovered that Twitter deputy general counsel James Baker was vetting which e-mails to turn over to the journalists. This is the same James Baker, who was FBI general counsel and played a key role in Russia-gate. Mr. Musk promptly bid him adieu.

In spite of that setback, the reports touched on big controversies, like the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop article being suppressed until after the 2020 election, and the steps taken to permanently suspend Donald Trump .

The e-mails show is that those in charge at Twitter twisted their rules into knots in order to justify taking the steps they wanted to take anyway.

When the Twitter Files broke, it ignited a media frenzy, as journalists denounced the apparent suppression of free speech organized by the company.

­­Oh wait, sorry, that’s what should have happened. What they actually denounced was the journalists involved in the expose. The main talking point was “selling out to do PR for the world’s richest man.”
As to the reveals from the Twitter e-mails, the media mostly yawned and pounced on the first opportunity to go after Mr. Trump, the standard move.

Not that Mr. Trump didn’t display his all too common ability to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. Instead of announcing something along the lines of, “I’m vindicated by this reporting,” he wrote on Truth Social, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

That allowed the entire media to swivel to “Trump calls for termination of Constitution,” and bludgeon Republicans on the Sunday shows. The problem with big, shocking reveals, like the Twitter Files, which put the left in a bad light, is that they are only big and shocking to the right.

What these e-mails revealed to the left is the powers at Twitter bending rules to service their agenda. Far from being seen as nefarious, the actions were seen as praiseworthy. It is exactly the type of action which was being demanded of Twitter at the time.

The Biden campaign had a fast track to get tweets they didn’t like taken down? Good, it was misinformation or lacked context anyway.

The Babylon Bee and Libs of TikTok were suspended without actual violations of policy. Not to worry, it was hate speech and dangerous.

Rules were twisted to permanently ban the sitting president of the United States? Excellent, but shame on Twitter for not doing it years earlier.

Witness the example of NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing tech journalist Casey Newton about Mr. Musk and Twitter. They discussed the Twitter Files for just a few seconds, included a warning that Republicans would use them to start hearings in the House next year. “So all these things are just sort of, you know, Elon being a good conservative and riling up that base. And he has spent a lot of time since he took over Twitter doing just that,” Newton said.

Gross pointed out that 64,000 banned accounts had been reinstated, “...why would he want to bring back people who were responsible for hate speech?,” she asked. “Hate speech is dangerous. It can really physically harm people.” The rest of the interview focused on how badly Mr. Musk was messing up Twitter.

Here’s a position not widely shared: what Mr. Musk is doing, and what the former Twitter execs wouldn’t have been, if they were up front about it and playing by the same rules.
Both are examples of acting as a publisher, and as such they should be held accountable under libel laws for content. Thousands of publishers operate under those laws every day.
Accept that restriction, or open the platform back up as an actual place for free speech for all political stripes. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Problem Children

(Published October 12, 2022)  

There is no more time honored tradition than that of thinking the following generations really have it too darned easy.

You can bet old fogies thought the invention of the wheel meant kids were going straight to heck. “It used to take 20 trips to haul that firewood. Now they pile it up on those new-fangled carts. No wonder they have so much time to get into trouble.”

Most of human history has been a struggle to make sure there was enough food for the family. “Life is short and then you die” had a much harsher tone when you could reasonably only expect to make it to 40 or so.

It is true that the last couple of generations have seen times which have been significantly easier in many ways. Still, I for one, can think of large numbers of those “improvements” I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with when growing up. Not every change in society or improvement in technology is 100 percent rosy.

Right now, we are seeing the first generation of Americans who are being told by popular culture that they can’t do better than their parents.

The idea that the American Dream is dead is accepted by growing numbers of young people. That’s a darn shame because it ignores an important portion of the ideal. The dream was never that you would be handed everything you wanted, but that through hard work you could earn it.

Rags to riches used to be a pretty common theme. Now it’s preached that there’s no reason to try, because you can’t make it. Listen to that and you certainly won’t.
Along those lines, it’s sad to see the notion that victimhood is the ultimate virtue gain so much traction. We end up with a weird intersectionality competition to see who can wear the crown for the title of “most oppressed”. And so many want to at least be a competitor.

Unfortunately, when people believe the deck is stacked against them, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every setback is an immovable barricade, not just an obstacle to be overcome.
Today’s technology would have been nearly unimaginable back in the 50s and 60s. It’s absolutely fabulous, and, boy, aren’t all we old codgers glad we didn’t have it growing up. The reality is that, for all the great things the supercomputer carried around in our pockets provides, it also presents traps for young people.

First and foremost, is when the device stops being a tool and starts being an overlord.

Few young people today can escape the tyranny of their phone. They need it to stay connected to their friends, for information, and for entertainment.

There’s a dark side to that. One, you’re never really disconnected. You can’t go five minutes without looking at it. It’s an insult to not respond to friends immediately.

Meanwhile, with so much available on your screen, the need for getting out and interacting with other people just isn’t as great. Even when they do, it’s not unusual to see groups all sitting together, yet completely engrossed in their phones.

Studies have shown that loneliness is listed as a top challenge for those in their 20s. Online interactions are vast; real life experiences are lacking; so, more connected, but more isolated.
Some old folks can be just as dependent on the phone, but since we grew up without that’s less likely.

Social media is another thing to be glad you didn’t have growing up. Never have bullies had so many opportunities to find such abundant prey. Where once you could take a break from the bad parts of life by going home for the day, now young people take their bully home in their pocket.

Constantly being immersed in how great other people’s lives appear has also been shown to lead to depression.

And, talk about peer pressure. Your buddies may once have influenced you to get into some wickedness. Now, entire platforms are pressuring young people to do the current big thing. Multiple participants in TikTok challenges have found themselves facing criminal charges.

Heaven help the unwary poster who puts up something pounced on by cancel culture. For those of us who grew up in a time in which the height of liberal thinking included protecting speech we disagreed with, today is stark.

Now, young people are taught that speech is violence, that inaction is bigotry, and facts are phobic. It makes the Red Scare of the 50s look like a picnic in the park. Now, young people are getting to share things Boomers didn’t want to see recreated from the past...high inflation and the threat of nuclear war.

A real truth about life that most old people have discovered and that most young people will, is that every generation has its blessings and challenges. It’s what you do with them that makes the difference in your life. - Frank Mercer

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