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 October 13, 2022)

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

Guest Editorial - Write off

(Published August 31, 2022)  

President Joe Biden announced last week that he was going to forgive ten grand in student loan debt for federal borrowers.

There hasn’t been a more cynical vote buying ploy since the days before secret ballots, when political bosses poured the booze and watched as the voters checked the boxes.
It’s a blatant move to pick up votes in the midterm election, as is extending the pause on repayment of student loans until the first of the year.

But, first things first. Let’s not throw shade at anyone who takes advantage of this program if it comes to fruition. When the government is passing out money, take the cash. In cases like this, a principled stand accomplishes nothing but a lighter bank account.

It remains unclear just how much this write off is going to help Democrat election prospects. Displeasure is being expressed on multiple fronts.

First are the people who never borrowed money to go to college. Many of them are making less money than the people whose loans they will help pay off with their taxes.

Then there are the large number who already paid back their loans. A common response has been that they feel like suckers for sacrificing and working hard to fulfill their obligation.

On the other side of the coin are the people who wanted the amount to be bigger. Many have been pushing for $50,000 per borrower. Others have demanded a total elimination of all loan amounts.
Oh, and don’t forget the individuals making more than $125k or couples earning over $250,000. Imagine how ticked off the guy making $126,000 is right now.

Even though a write off was a long- time Democrat promise, many have insisted it could only be done by legislation. Just 13 months ago, that nasty right-wing ideologue, Nancy Pelosi said, “People think that the president of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone. He can delay. But he does not have that power. That has to be an act of Congress.” Boy, was she wrong.
The way the Biden Administration is justifying the write-off is pretty sneaky. They are citing a provision in the 2003 HEROES Act which allows the president such authority in times of war or national emergency. The emergency cited is COVID-19.

It would appear the pandemic is emergency enough for endless spending, but not so dire as to keep the “Remain in Mexico” border restriction in place.
Democrats back student loan forgiveness because it speaks directly to their base. And there is a goodly number of people with staggering debt. But the president’s own remarks call a big part of the narrative into question.

He said that, “...an entire generation is now saddled with unsustainable debt.”

Moments later, he said that 45 percent of borrowers, 20 million people, will have their student debt fully cancelled. So, anywhere from a few bucks to $20,000 is going to completely wipe out nearly half the loans.

That’s in line with the range of the average credit card debt in the U.S. and the average used car loan. Are both those also “unsustainable debt”?

On top of everything, no one knows for sure what this is going to cost. The estimates come in at between $300 billion and $900 billion. That’s a huge spread.
Focusing on the lower number, just a week ago the Biden Adminstration was bragging that the “Inflation Reduction Act” would cut the deficit by $300 billion. Oh well, I guess a penny saved is a penny to spend.

In his remarks, the president justified the expenditure using that reliable old political standard, the half-truth. “Last year, we cut the deficit by more than $350 billion. This year, we’re on track to cut it by more than $1.7 trillion...” That may be true, but ignores the fact that the years he compares to had $6.6 trillion in emergency COVID relief spending. Cutting only $1.7 trillion off those record amounts doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

There are, of course, questions about what this means to the taxpayers. That radical right-wing news organization, CNBC, says the forgiveness will cost the average tax payer $2,500. Talk about spreading the pain. If this write off was anything but a Democratic vote buying plan, there were more sensible ways to proceed. The government has plenty of programs which help American’s who need financial help. Every one is means tested, but not this.

What isn’t at all is the continuing skyrocketing cost of higher education. According to Forbes, in 40 years the price has gone up 180%, adjusted for inflation. With an average annual cost of $49,000 for private and $21,000 for public universities, it’s hard to argue that a degree remains a guaranteed ticket to a more prosperous life. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Roundup time

(Published August 10, 2022)  

There’s a lot going on, so let’s round up a few interesting topics

• The defeat of the Kansas constitutional amendment on abortion puts lie to the notion that the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade would amount to a total nationwide ban.
That was the overwrought assessment in the media, but Kansas voters proved it false in a 20 point landslide. That’s more than just Dems voting no.

The opposition organizers benefited greatly from the enormous attention given to the ending of Roe. Vote No spending, most of it from out of state, was also much higher than that from the pro-life side. This vote attracted a ton of attention nationwide.

While Kansas is seen as overwhelmingly conservative and close to being a one-party state, that’s not an entirely accurate picture. There are plenty of liberals, and Democrats who vote Republican in primaries because all the action takes place there. Many counties have no Democrat candidates for any local offices.

Democrats and the media have celebrated the defeat and see a reversal of Democrat prospects this fall. That conclusion may prove inaccurate.

• Nancy Pelosi ticked off the Chinese leaders by making a trip to Taiwan. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

Speaker Pelosi didn’t just spontaneously jump on a jet and head for Taipei. The visit was a message to Beijing that the U.S. still stands with our long-time ally to the south.

That message is needed, in the wake of continued foreign policy moves which make American look weak and indecisive. The Chinese government has been very vocal of late about possession of the island and has been loudly saber rattling.

The visit alone is not nearly enough. The Biden Administration needs to show backbone to a country which often acts like an outright enemy.

We are in an unofficial cold war. The difference between this one and the last is that we didn’t buy nearly everything from the USSR.

Today, China produces so much of what Americans purchase, from clothes to medicine, that we’re torn on how to handle their aggression. China isn’t. They’re making every effort to expand their influence around the globe. Right now, they appear to perceive the U.S. as lacking resolve.

It’s time to make sure first that we have it, and let them know we do.

• Alex Jones of InfoWars got hit with a $4.1 million judgement by a jury. That was part one. Punitive damages then came in at $49 million.

The defamation case was brought by parents of one of the kids murdered in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Jones claimed that the mass killing of 20 elementary students and six staff was “completely fake” and a “false flag” operation meant to promote gun control. For years, he said the parents and victims were “crisis actors.”

If all of that sounds bat excrement crazy, it’s because it is, and Jones admitted during the trial that the shooting was totally real.

The biggest headline grabber of the trial was when the plaintiff’s lawyer confronted Jones on the stand about possibly perjurous statements. He made that charge using the contents of Jones’ cell phone which was mistakenly turned over by defense lawyers.

Jones first heard about the screwup while testifying and called it a Perry Mason moment. Nah, Erle Stanley Gardner would never have written something that ridiculous.

• Some time back, I referred to Texas Governor Greg Abbott shipping a couple of buses full of undocumented migrants to Washington, D.C., as a good way to spotlight the problem, but not really accomplishing anything. That was wrong.

It turns out that Gov. Abbott wasn’t ready to stop at a couple of bus loads, and similarly-overwhelmed Arizona decided to follow suit.

Now the mayors of New York and Washington are ironically howling about a flood of the undocumented.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked that the National Guard be called up to help in that city.

New York’s Mayor Eric Adams claimed that buses full of immigrants were overwhelming that city and denounced the practice because it was so costly and crippling city services.
You could literally hear the eye-roll from dozens of small town mayors in beleaguered border states.

It turns out that no buses had been sent, but the influx of illegals was just part of the giant surge going on now.

Not one to miss a golden opportunity, Gov. Abbott added New York to the destination list for buses.

This sudden awareness is a dramatic turnaround for sanctuary cities which until now didn’t have to provide much sanctuary. The only thing more dramatic would be if the Biden Administration restarted construction on the much hated border wall.

Wait, they did? Never mind. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Well meaning and dangerous

(Published July 27, 2022)  

Did you hear the one about the candidate for governor who campaigned on the importance of getting tough on crime and was attacked on stage?
Oh wait, sorry. That’s not the setup for a joke, it actually happened.
Much of what’s taking place on crime today nationally looks like the start of a joke, and a tired one at that.
In this case, video from a rally shows Lee Zeldon, Republican running for governor of New York, on stage in an outdoor setting.
Congressman Zeldon has made crime the focus of his race, so of course some guy wandered on stage and attacked him. According to police, the attacker said, “You’re done,” and tried to stab Zeldon in the neck. The candidate grabbed his arm and, within seconds, help arrived, and the attacker was subdued.
Zeldon went on to predict, “The attacker will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”
It’s hard to make a more correct prediction, because, indeed, the attacker was charged with a felony and set free on his own recognizance within hours.
Zeldon isn’t exactly psychic, he’s just aware that New York’s laws, like those of many other liberal locales, have become pretty casual about who gets released after arrest.
The cell doors have been replaced with revolving doors. Especially in New York City, where reports of heinous crimes often reveal the perpetrators have been charged and released multiple times for recent offenses.
The backward nature of who should be protected and who charged was under a spotlight earlier this month when a Bodega worker was charged with second degree murder for stabbing a man who attacked him in his store. Career criminals find leniency, but it looked like the DA was going to throw the book at the charged worker.
The entire incident was caught on video, and New Yorkers were outraged because it appeared to be an open-and-shut case of self defense. The “victim” was seen on security video attacking the much smaller and older worker who picked up the knife in defense.
The worker was held on $250,000 bond; but, after enormous public outcry, that was dropped to $50,000 and he was able to get out on bail. Public outrage continued, with even Mayor Eric Adams weighing in, and last week the DA dropped the charges entirely.
In fairness, it’s doubtful all the uproar was necessary, since DA Alvin Bragg is loath to actually jail anyone. Bragg was elected in a landslide back in 2021 while promising to reduce incarceration. He kept that promise, issuing orders to his prosecutors to ask for prison sentences only in “extraordinary circumstances”.
Bragg is part of a new breed of prosecutor elected in a time where distrust of police had reached high levels. These top law enforcement officials, backed by big money from left wing organizations, promised to ignore whole categories of crime. Most pushed to eliminate cash bail.
Instead, they envisioned kinder, gentler answers which would usher in a new era of empty prisons and safer streets. They’ve only been able to advance the first half of that promise. It turns out those lofty ideas were well- meaning, but dangerous. What sounded great at the liberal think-tank didn’t hold up in the real world.
Life has gotten a lot worse in the cities where this social experiment is being attempted. New York has seen a 52% increase in homicides, 91% increase in car thefts and a 100% increase in shootings.
It’s not entirely clear what the increase in lesser crimes has been, since no one is actually pursuing them. It turns out when nothing happens to people being arrested, police stop bothering to make the effort.
Now, the regular citizens are having a case of buyer’s remorse with their new liberal DAs. Even San Francisco, perhaps America’s most liberal city, went to the extreme of giving theirs the heave-ho.
Los Angeles is in the middle of the second attempt to recall theirs. Supporters of the effort say George Gascón has made, “criminals feel emboldened, residents unsafe, and victims abandoned.” In his first days in office, he forbid his prosecutors seeking the death penality or sentence enhancements, and from trying juveniles as adults. Chaos of course ensued.
The idea of super-lenient prosecution looks like it’s going to have a short shelf life. Part of that is because it has so little reliance on obvious common sense.
A final example: Two men arrested in California for possession of 150,000 fentanyl pills were released 18 hours later. The court’s algorithm showed they were at low risk for further crime or missing court dates.
Cops are looking for them after they skipped their court date. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Harmful words

(Published July 20, 2022)  

In just the last couple of weeks, prominent media outlets have suddenly discovered that Joe Biden is an elderly man showing his age.
It was a really big secret before.
But now the media even put First Lady Jill Biden in their sights. They didn’t run cover for her, they didn’t even bury the story.
Who’d a thunk it?
It wasn’t a flash-and-gone type of attack either. The media ran with a story that Dr. Biden had greatly offended Latinos in a speech by calling them breakfast tacos.
That seemed like a mean and childish thing to do. The headlines really pushed that idea. “Jill Biden slammed for comparing Latinos to tacos in speech”, “Jill Biden apologizes for ‘tacos’ comments about Latinos”, “Jill Biden sorry for comparing Latinos to tacos”, and “Jill Biden ‘taco’ comment backlash”.
The whole story is that Dr. Biden was addressing a progressive Latino organization in San Antonio and praised one of their founders, saying he understood, “that the diversity of this community, as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio, is your strength.”
Break the sentence down: diversity of the community is it’s strength. The stuff in the middle is just simplistic examples of differences. It’s pointing out that, in different places the Latino community is famous for different things. Not that it’s all they do, or can do. Nobody called out the bodega part which seems more stereotypical.
The line even got a polite cheer from the crowd. Apparently, San Antonio in fact known for tasty breakfast tacos. Then others heard about it and got peeved. The internet makes it possible for one offended person or small group to be made to look like a national movement and did it yet again.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists fired out a response to the remarks that said in part, “We are not tacos. Our heritage as Latinos is shaped by various diasporas, cultures & food traditions. Do not reduce us to stereotypes.” (By the way: Diasporas, “the dispersion of any people from their original homeland.” I had to look it up.)
Dr. Biden’s press office then felt compelled to respond. “The first lady apologizes that her words conveyed anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community.”
With that, media on the right started having fun, many asking why “Latinx” wasn’t used in the apology.
You expect the right’s reaction, but why was it such a big story with the media at large?
It’s not like the line itself is a slur. You kinda have to stretch to make it name calling or insensitive. Dr. Biden was speaking broadly to show differences, not defining everyone. If you’re talking to a national farm group, you might mention Nebraska corn, Missouri soybeans, and Kansas wheat. Everyone knows other things are done in those states, and nobody gets mad.
Contrasting Memphis and KC in a speech by talking about barbecue doesn’t mean you don’t know there are artists, construction workers, or brain surgeons in those cities.
We live in a time when language less than all-inclusive is terrible. That results in the use of “birthing persons” and the elimination of “master bedroom”. You must avoid everything with the potential to hurt feelings.
What happened here was an example of reacting in outrage to get attention, and then having it dominate a news cycle.
Because nothing sells better today than outrage.
This type of coverage isn’t new; it just rarely happens to Democrats. Especially not to Democratic first Ladies.
It’s been accepted for the other side, though. Melania Trump was savaged in the press for everything from her well-meaning efforts, like the Be Best children’s program, to the endless speculation of how she probably hated her husband. Anything was fair game.
Dr. Biden’s coverage until now could generally be called adoring. For her to get batted around is shocking. Even the ultra-liberal ladies on The View chastised her. Maybe the chance to throw racial shade is just overwhelming?
If the press wants to attack speeches, they should look to the actual elected heads of the administration.
Like the president’s endless gaffes. (Of Valdimir Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”). Or the gibberish word salads delivered by the vice president. (“It is time for us to do what we have been doing, and that time is every day.”)
They are both constant sources of consternation and hilarity worthy of attention. - Frank Mercer

 

Guest Editorial - Mad meter

(Published July 13, 2022)  

It’s time to give real thought to whether Americans really bear as much anger toward each other as the experts claim.
There is no doubt great chasms exist among us about points of politics and culture. We have them thrown in our faces every day.
Outrage politics are the rule of the day, and the generally accepted idea is we’re all fighting mad, every minute of every day. Spend all your time devouring media and that seems true. Out in real life, not so much.
As someone with considerable interest in political machinations of all varieties, it’s easy to see that people are overloaded with demonization, dire warnings, and over-simplifications.
Anyone who allows themselves to be exposed only to media and opinions which reflect their own view is restricted to a never-ending deluge that the other side is nothing but a bunch of hateful, single-minded ideologues. Which, of course, means we’re always at a fever pitch when thinking about the other side.
There’s reason to pump up those differences to the crisis point. Political parties seek the different goals. It’s part of their DNA. Even when issues have bi-partisan support, the paths aren’t parallels. Consensus can only be reached by carving off enough deal breakers that narrow agreement can be reached.
Even the most agreed-upon plans between the two parties will have outliers blasting inevitable disastrous results.
Disagreement brings more attention than passive agreement, so there the focus is centered. The same is true on cultural issues. We are obviously in the middle of a culture war, battling about abortion, transgender ideology, wokeism, even capitalism.
Many topics in the culture war bring out huge amounts of passion on both sides of the issue. Every single one of these differences is important to those who feel strongly about them.
Which means there is never a shortage of heat and anger on topics, but the question remains about how extreme that anger is in the general population.
The country isn’t in danger from having strong disagreements. We only truly have a problem when we lose the ability to live side by side.
The polling says dire things. It doesn’t address how many people didn’t much care until somebody asked.
If a pollster asks about a hot-button issue, most people will give an opinion. They may even say they feel strongly. Feeling strongly doesn’t mean “consumed by” or “ready to fight.”
We all know somebody who is always up for a good argument, but most of us probably don’t know anybody who is ready to start a physical battle with the same motivation.
That’s why I would contend we’re a long way from the open warfare of blue vs. red, the coming civil war, so many experts keep warning about.
For the most part, we are a polite society, and we care about our fellow Americans. People have their opinions and allow others theirs.
Online media has gone a long way toward creating the impression our willingness to share a society is disappearing or already gone.
That is a matter of reach. In the old days, people didn’t interact with that many others, just family, work, church, friends, and maybe a service organization. Those groups were small-scale, and so the disagreements were also kept local.
Today, a disagreement online has the potential to go international, mostly because there are cadres online looking for a chance to share their grievances.
The majority of what passes for activism today is just people ranting behind the safety of their screen. There really are extremists out there, but most of what is passed off as armies ready to battle is nothing but the unpleasant chatter of the internet.
The main-stream media shares the blame here. At some point, instead of reporting issues via actual coverage, it became acceptable to cite anonymous people online. “Twitter exploded” became a common phrase in stories.
Where you once got quotes from established experts, today many stories feature a series of tweets from random people, “schooling” someone else.
It’s possible we’re about to go upside each other’s heads nationwide, but if we slow down and look, that doesn’t seem all that much closer than most other times in our history.
Think of it this way. If you were to come upon people injured in a vehicle accident, would your first response be to help? Or would it be to check their bumper stickers to see if they are worthy of our aid?
Most people would jump in to help. Those who wouldn’t need to spend less time thinking about what’s wrong with the other side, and more time thinking about what is wrong with themselves. - Frank Mercer

 

Guest Editorial - Suddenly ready to look

(Published April 13, 2022)  

There are still a few people left who don’t think the mainstream media is heavily slanted toward the progressive/Democratic agenda.
They’re either hyper-partisan or deluded, but they do exist.

Another screaming example of this boosterism is grudgingly coming to light. Quietly, slowly, minimally.

In recent days, such stalwarts of journalism, like The Washington Post and The New York Times, have discovered that Hunter Biden was likely trading off of his father’s name to pick up loads of cash from foreign players. This isn’t news. The information has been out there since before the 2020 election.

Like the Trump/Russia collusion Steele Dossier turning out to be a Clinton campaign and DNC generated political dirty trick, the information was there from the start. It’s just that none of the “reputable” journalism outlets cared to dig. It didn’t fit the narrative they preferred. The “reputable” bunch did more than just ignore the potentially devastating Hunter Biden story. They worked to bury and discredit it.
The Trump campaign floated compromising info and images from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden as a potential October surprise. Only The New York Post found it worth covering and did a story. The rest of the legacy media moved quickly to discredit the Post’s reporting.

A letter signed by 50 former intelligence agents said the laptop was Russian disinformation, and the media pushed that story, instead. Facebook and Twitter actually suppressed the Post’s laptop story with Twitter locking their account entirely.

All of this followed on the heels of four years of accepting “bombshell” after “bombshell” of anti-Trump tales all sourced anonymously, with the flimsiest of facts.

The suppression and “debunking” worked. Polls right after the election showed that 16% of Biden voters would not have cast their ballot for him if they had known about the laptop story. That number seems unrealistically high, but even a significant fraction could have actually resulted in a change in the election outcome.

Now, way too late for it to make any difference, the entire laptop and Hunter Biden’s dubious business practices are being reported, if only as an effort to scrape some of the egg off the faces of the big news players.

They are reporting, as quietly as possible, that the younger Mr. Biden was indeed being paid a million bucks per year to sit on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
They quietly note that he also made a $5 million deal with a Chinese energy company, CEFC, which has ties to the People’s Liberation Army.
They report that Hunter Biden is being investigated as part of a federal tax probe.

While it seems clear that Hunter Biden was profiting off access to his father’s name, Joe Biden has always denied he had any knowledge or got any benefit from his son’s dealings.
The emails bring that into question with one Burisma official emailing to give thanks for the opportunity to meet the V.P.

Another email about the deal with CEFC reserves 10% for the “big guy,” which seems to reference Joe Biden.

Others show he met with a Hunter Biden business partner in the VP’s official residence, flew another on Air Force 2, and had his taxes done by one of the partners.
On a strictly financial note, reports say the two Bidens shared a bank account and paid each other’s bills. No matter how narrowly you define “benefit,” that seems like one.
Now questions arise about how the president was able to earn $8 million, said to be from book sales, on a tome which sold only 300,000 copies.

You can ponder if the lack of excitement about covering all of this would have been the same if the charges had been leveled against Mr. Trump and his offspring. Actually, you can just look back at all the feverish reporting that continues to this day of all things Trump-related.

It’s unreasonable to expect things to develop otherwise. They were on the same team with the Clinton family’s charitable organization raking in $2 billion from rich folks domestic and foreign when Hillary Clinton looked to be the next president. A distinct “pay to play” vibe and the involvement of Jeffery Epstein resulted in the whole thing being given the “ho hum” treatment.

It makes you wonder why the media is suddenly ready to tread on ground which could be extremely damaging to President Biden. It could be because the mid-terms look like a sure bust for Democrats, and it’s over two years away from the presidential contest.

Getting the bad stuff in the open and hoping voters forget by 2024 may not be the worst strategy for everyone involved. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - It is tough out there

(Published January 5, 2022)  

Every so often, an internet writeup gets passed about how much tougher it was growing up in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s than it is today. They’re generally nostalgic, funny, and a putdown of todays teens. It is true that life was harder then, but in fact each succeeding generation has had it easier than the last.

No way the Baby Boom generation would have willingly traded places with the childhoods of our parents. They started life in the Great Depression and then had to fight World War II. Of course their parents had World War I and a life expectancy of about 55. It goes on and on progressively worse, back through time. So yeah, now is a pretty good time to be growing up, and many things are the easiest they have ever been.

But before we write off the teenagers of today as coddled snowflakes with zero stress, it would be good to note that they face challenges unforseen by earlier generations. They may not rank with smallpox or Hitler, but all adults who didn’t have to deal with these things as a teen should be thankful.

Back in the day, Boomers had the ability to do dumb stuff in front of a limited audience. If you did something stupid, you paid a price, but it was generally a local event with a short shelf life. Given some time, stupid comments or actions would be religated to the forgotten past.

Today, doing dumb stuff, the default activity of many teens throughout time, can be enormously costly. The internet never forgets. Never, ever, ever. It can destroy your teen years and your adult life.
A kid so careless as to post a video of themselves quoting lyrics from a popular rap song can, years later, find themselves losing a scholarship or a job and be shamed by millions.
“Acceptable behavior” changes rapidly, so today’s teen almost needs to be able to see the future to know what is safe to engage in now.
A teen’s world has expanded, not always for the better. For Boomers, most of our influences were local, both good and bad. Kids may have wanted to be cool like James Dean or beautiful like Farrah Fawcett, but mostly we wanted to emulate or rebel against those we lived amongst.

Today, teens are influenced by people actually called influencers. These folks set trends and push actions way beyond the geographic reach possible just a few years ago. Whether it’s ridiculously lavish lifestyles or outrageous anti-social behavior, they can have an outsized influence, often with horrible results.

Just before Christmas break, school districts were dealing with knuckleheads pushing the TikTok challenge, “National Shoot Up Your School Day.” Coming on the heels of similar challenges to slap a teacher or vandalize the school bathroom many, districts shut down that day.

Being rebellious is part of growing up, but wearing slacks instead of a dress got 1960s girls sent home for the day. If you knock a teacher upside the head you get a tour of the juvenile court system.
One of greatest advancements of modern life, the smartphone, has also done more than any other modern implement to mess up what we old fogeys would consider normal.

Kids don’t have to find a pay phone or head to the library to look up a fact like we did, but those few ounces of plastic and circuitry amount to a tyrant in a teen’s pocket. That is, if it ever stays in the pocket.
Teens can essentially never disconnect. Before the magic of cell phones, when you went home for the day, you left your friends and your enemies behind until the next day.

Talking to another teen meant using the shared family phone, which in most houses was right there where everybody else could listen.

Now, unless parents are confiscating the phone at night, teens can never really escape being connected. Which means the fun, the drama, and the squabbles never stop.

Mom and dad may be getting a good night’s sleep, but if your kid has a friend agonizing over a breakup at 3 a.m., the entire friend group is awake seeing them through it.

Boomers went home to family time, study time, and rest. Today, it takes an iron will to block out the distraction. Those who do can feel like they pay a price. Responses to everything today are expected to be instantaneous. Ignoring your friends for a few hours creates its own drama.

Much of what makes it harder to be a teen today turns out to be too much of a good thing. That includes endless options for entertainment which can wipe out the need for other human interaction.
While, it may be true that it was tougher to be a kid 50 years ago, I doubt many would chose to swap our childhood for today’s. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Man, that’s rough

(Published December 15, 2021)  

Mark Twain said it best, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

We were treated to an example of that last week with the headline, “The media treats Biden as badly as — or worse than — Trump. Here’s proof.” You can be forgiven if your immediate reaction was, “That Babylon Bee sure does turn out hilarious satire.”

But, no, the column, written by Dana Milbank, appeared in the Washington Post (Democracy Dies in Darkness, you know).

In a nutshell, Mr. Milbank was deducing that his colleagues in the press are being entirely too rough on President Joe Biden.
Suspicions aren’t facts, so Mr. Milbank hired a company to use artificial intelligence to churn out the data.

They asked the computer to review over 200,000 articles from 65 various websites and search for specific adjectives and their place in the story. They called it a “sentiment analysis.”

The AI, (try imagining HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey just for fun), did a comparison of the first 11 months of the years 2020 and 2021 to see how the press treated Presidents Trump and Biden.
Son-of-a-gun, it was shocking. As Mr. Milbank wrote, “My colleagues in the media are serving as accessories to the murder of democracy.”
Those big meanies!

The study concluded that Mr. Biden enjoyed a very brief three month period of slightly positive coverage. After that the lashing he received in the press was just as bad as that given to the horrible, orange, nazi-loving, autocratic, white supremacist monster who previously occupied the Oval Office.

Mr. Milbank summed it up like this: “In 2020, Trump presided over a worst-in-world pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths; held a superspreader event at the White House and got covid-19 himself; praised QAnon adherents; embraced violent white supremacists; waged a racist campaign against Black Lives Matter demonstrators; attempted to discredit mail-in voting; and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to the violence of Jan. 6 and causing tens of millions to accept the ‘big lie,’ the worst of more than 30,000 he told in office.”
As for Mr. Biden, he admitted there had been a wee problem with inflation, the Delta variant, and pesky old Afghanistan. But, hey, everything else was super awesome, so what’s with coverage any less than enthusiastic?

Before you get all grumpy and say that the AI was whackadoodle, have a little sympathy. It’s not easy being a computer, even a super sophisticated one, because they have to operate within the limits of their programing. It’s a human that gives the AI those instructions. That’s where we get into the meat of Mr. Twain’s quote.
Say a study of illness in two communities showed Town A has 50 people with cholera. Town B has 100 people with pink eye. If you only concluded twice as many people are sick in Town B as in Town A, it would be stupid, but still true on the surface.

Does any rational person believe the media was easier on Donald Trump in 2020 than they were on Joe Biden this year? Come on man!
If you had to narrow down how the press defined Mr. Trump, the best shorthand description I’ve seen would be “Orange Hitler”.
It comes down to differentiating negativity. If a guy says his wife’s cooking is “not the greatest” and another says his wife’s is “rejected by starving dogs”, both are giving negative comments. A human can easily see one review is much worse.

Mr. Milbank may not see any criticism of Donald Trump as overly negative or even enough. He may also conclude even the mildest criticism of Mr. Biden is unwarranted. He wonders in the article, why “Biden would be treated more harshly than a president who actively subverted democracy.”
That conclusion is delusional, no matter how many robots you have digging to support your position.

For Mr. Milbank, the problem is that journalists are too scared to promote what he thinks is right. “Too many journalists are caught in a mindless neutrality between democracy and its saboteurs, between fact and fiction. It’s time to take a stand.”

That is just plain wrong. The press is already largely activist, more is not needed. Plus, blind neutrality is not required nor practiced in journalism. It would result in stories giving equal standing to both a convicted murderer and his prosecutor. Or even to Vladimir Putin and Mr. Biden. What journalism should strive for is fairness. Present the facts as they exist and let the public decide.
As for Mr. Milbank’s “science,” it brings to mind the punch line to an old joke: “Are you going to believe what I tell your or your lying eyes.” - Frank Mercer

Editorial - No news is good news?

(Published November 17, 2021)  

There’s an old saying that “no news is good news” but that’s not true. Especially when you know things are happening but they are being kept quiet, for whatever reason.

For instance, we hear people talking about various things that happen in the Climax Springs area – arrests and so on but when they ask us about it, we know nothing. The reason is no press releases and that turns into major time being spent trying to find out something. And we don’t mean several minutes.

We are currently researching something for a possible future story but it will literally be days before we know if it is anything special, though we believe it is, and we will have to pay money to get the documents just to find this out. A press release would have been faster.

But press releases these days are few and far between – and not just from Camden County. Miller and Morgan can be added to that.

Though all three sheriff’s departments have a website with a section for press releases they are rarely used. The Morgan County page only has the weekly roundup. Miller County will occasionally put a drug arrest on their website.

In Camden County, the last release was the annual Shop with a Cop, which is a good cause and we hope they get a lot of donations to help the children but what about drug arrests? We know they exist but nothing is said about it.

There was a release recently on the officer that was injured apprehending someone and we ran that last week but that’s the first one in a long time and that didn’t appear on their website press release page but on their Facebook page.

That seems to be the avenue for all press releases these days so we regularly check all the entities pages since their websites aren’t used for the releases anymore. They could email it to us, since we are a legitimate newspaper and have been serving the lake area now for 30 years, but that also rarely happens.

Taxpayers in each of the three counties need to be kept informed that the sheriff’s departments are working hard and doing the best job they can to make the lake area safer – which we believe they are -  but a release on some arrest or something would be nice for taxpayers to read about.

The same goes for the county commissioners. What are they doing? Can they tell us? Fat chance of that happening.

Camden County does put some of the minutes of their meetings on the county website – some of them – but they are not put on in a timely manner. As this is being written, the last minutes on the county web page are November 3.

We understand that people get busy and time flies and sometimes they don’t think about it but it would be nice to know what is happening in the three counties and press releases can help inform taxpayers that their elected officials are doing something.

Certain offices are up for election next year and you can bet there will be press releases then, but sending them out on a regular basis would be nice. – Dale Johnson

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