The cowboy code

In the gentler time in which your observer of the passing scene grew up, when most matinee movie heroes were clean-shaven, wore white hats and rode Palomino horses while villains were facially grubby, wore black hats and rode dark horses, when people were killed without huge doses of blood, guts, and brain matter being sprayed about, when nude scenes were those showing the hero’s horse without a saddle, three good guys set a tone for their young admirers to live by.

Oh, there were others on the screen and on the radio—and later on television (although this young viewer was always disappointed that Clayton Moore’s television Lone Ranger lacked the authoritative deep voice of  Brace Beemer’s radio Lone Ranger), but Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the Lone Ranger were the ones who not only exemplified by their actions what good people were supposed to be but who also had written codes of conduct that might seem quaint today but were—it seems through the tinted glasses of nostalgia—part of the upbringing of a few generations that seemed more—-well, courteous.


We know society in those days had its dark sides—-we don’t recall any black cowboy heroes on the movie screens of our childhood movie houses, for example, and the Lone Ranger was the only movie hero that had a minority sidekick—unless you count the Cisco Kid and Pancho.  But in our insulated world, our radio and movie heroes told us how we should behave.

In these days when language is loose and clothes are sometimes even looser, when too many movies and TV shows are a series of explosions around which is stitched a weak plot, when our politics have become crude and our policies have tended toward narrowness, perhaps a reminder of what our cowboy heroes expected of us is in order.

Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code said:

The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.  He must never go back on his word, or trust confided in him. He must always tell the truth.  He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas. He must help people in distress.  He must be a good worker.  He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.  He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.  The Cowboy is a patriot. 

Your correspondent was a proud member of the Roy Rogers Riders Club and as I recall, my membership card had ten rules:

Be neat and clean.  Be courteous and polite.  Always obey your parents. Protect the weak and help them. Be brave but never take chances.  Study hard and learn all you can.  Be kind to animals and take care of them. Eat all your food and never waste any.  Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.  Always respect our flag and our country.

Fran Striker, who created the Lone Ranger for Detroit Radio Station WXYZ in 1933, composed the Lone Ranger’s creed:

I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one; that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world; that God put the firewood there, but every man must gather and light it himself; in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right; that a man should make the most of what equipment he has; that “this government, of the people, by the people, and for the people,” shall live always; that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number; that sooner or later…somewhere…somehow…we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken; that all things change but the truth, and the truth alone lives on forever. I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man. 

Sometimes, as we watch campaigns and legislatures, it seems that our cowboy heroes aren’t the only things that have ridden off into the sunset.


(About the picture:  It was taken November 29, 1981 at the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  Left to Right:  Iron Eyes Cody, Clayton Moore, Roy, Gene, and Pat Buttram.  The picture was taken at a time when Jack Wrather, who owned the rights to The Lone Ranger, got a court order barring Moore from appearing as the Masked Man.  Moore wore the wrap-around sun glasses until Wrather relented in 1984.

Plainer Language

Every election cycle, the Secretary of State’s office offers a “plain language” explanation of ballot issues.  About a month out, newspapers publish each ballot issue in full with the short ballot title that is required.  Some of the ballot titles have been challenged in courts as incomplete, inaccurate, or unpleasing to the people who wrote the proposition and the ballot titles we will see in the polling places represent the results of the challenges that were made.  Today we offer a “plainer language” explanation of each issue.  And we are not, as is the case with the official ballot titles, restricted in the number of words we will use for each.

There are a few things to note about these propositions.  Except for Constitutional Amendment #1, an issue that is mandated by the Missouri Constitution to be voted on every ten years, and photo voter ID—all of the other issues are on the ballot because the legislature has not done anything about them.

Second, it’s a good idea to check to get all kinds of information about these issues including information about who is spending money to get them on the ballot and get you to approve them and other editorial comments that offer perspectives on what the proposals REALLY mean.

There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors on the ballot in November.

Constitutional Amendment #1

This continues for another ten years the 1/10-cent sales tax, half of which goes for soil and water conservation and the other half for state parks and historic sites.  About three-fourths of the funding for Missouri’s 87 state parks and historic sites comes from this tax, which was enacted in 1984 at a time when Missouri had one of the worst soil erosion records in the nation. Now, Missouri has one of the best.

Constitutional Amendment #2

This amendment is so long that it takes more than an entire newspaper page filled with small type to print all of it. Missourians have a chance to re-impose limits on the amounts individuals can give to political campaigns.  Voters went for the idea by 74 percent in 1994.  The legislature threw out the limits in 2008, claiming better reporting would be sufficient. “Better reporting” is a joke, particularly with the rise of the non-profit political action committees that let donors hide their big-bucks contributions.  To boil it down, this proposal—offered at this time of great public distrust of and disgust with government—would re-institute limits, saying no donor could give more than $2,600 to any candidate in an election cycle and no more than $25,000 to any political party.  People who do not hesitate to throw large amounts of money at candidates (who often claim government cannot solve problems by throwing money at them) are strongly opposed to this proposal and even if they lose the expected court challenge—should the plan pass—will quickly find loopholes that the legislature has a non-existent record of closing.   This petition campaign was backed by St. Louis millionaire Fred Sauer who at times has thrown large money around for political purposes but thinks St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield is bent on—as Barbara Shelley wrote in Pitch last month—“destroying representative government in Missouri for his own interests.”  Sinquefield and the Humphreys family of Joplin have continued to write six and seven figure checks for favored causes and candidates, this not being one of them.

The legislature wanted absolutely nothing to do with this issue this year, hence the petition campaign that put the issue on the ballot.


Missouri’s tobacco tax of seventeen cents a pack is the nation’s lowest by far and Missourians—despite years and years of information that smoking is destructive of health—have refused to increase it. Missouri also is the only state that does not require small tobacco companies to make payments into the government tobacco tax settlement fund agreed to by the big companies eighteen years ago. Both of these proposals have agendas behind them, depending on the industry that is proposing them. One is a proposed constitutional amendment.  The other is a proposed law. Usually when there are competing ballot issues on the same topic, the one that gets the most votes prevails. This is different, however. It is generally held that the constitution is the supreme law and therefore its provisions are superior to statute. It is likely to take court review to sort out the situation if both pass. Both have features that have raised questions about motivation. Both were generated by special interests, not from any concerns by the general public.

An important ethical question for voters:  Is it proper for industry groups to, in effect, decide what taxes they will give the state permission to collect from them?  In effect, they’re taking power away from our elected representatives to set tax rates—assuming our elected representatives would have the courage to do anything but lower them. And they’re taking away from our elected representatives the authority to decide how state funds are to be spent. (Perhaps it could be said more accurately that our elected representatives have abdicated their responsibility to special interest groups.)

Constitutional Amendment #3 hikes the tax on Big Tobacco produces by sixty cents per pack of twenty smokes to 77-cents.  Little Tobacco’s taxes would go up by an additional 67 cents, up to a dollar-44 for its products. The income is earmarked for early childhood education. Don’t kid yourself.  This proposal is not about children. It’s about the tobacco industry. Earmarking the proceeds for early childhood education programs is intended to elicit public support but this is a temper tantrum by Big Tobacco. There’s a hook in this proposal that backers don’t talk about that we will talk about in a little bit. Amendment 3 is supported by big tobacco, which doesn’t like the fact that little tobacco doesn’t have to pay into the national tobacco settlement fund in Missouri.  So big tobacco’s proposal would increase state cigarette taxes on its products by sixty cents AND add an additional 67-cents a pack tax on small tobacco companies. R. J. Reynolds has pumped a lot of money into this proposition. The Raise Your Hand for Kids group that endorses this plan because its cause would reap a lot of money also likes it because it claims the cheap cigarettes entice young people to smoke. The convenience stores say this idea is less about education and more about slapping smaller competitors with a bigger tax. And convenience stores sell a lot of cigarettes made by those smaller competitors. They have their own self-serving proposal that we’ll talk about next.

While CA3 creates tens of millions of dollars earmarked for early childhood education, the mechanics of state budgeting does not guarantee that those programs will see a huge windfall.  Your observer has seen time after time that the legislature, which maintains authority to write the state budget, uses earmarked funds to replace substantial amounts of state general revenue funds going to programs and moves that general revenue funding to something else.  So passage of this proposal does not guarantee a lot of extra money for kids.  And that’s not all—

Here’s the hook—and it’s not education. Critics say wording buried in the proposition threatens to undermine the protections voters approved in 2006 for embryonic stem-cell research.  The wording says none of the money can be used for human cloning, embryonic stem cell research or abortions.  One legislator says anti-stem cell research advocates have hijacked this proposition.  Supporters deny the claims but admit the language was added because of “concerns” from the pro-life community.

Some critics think this amendment, if adopted, will wind up in the courts because, they argue, it violates the standard that amendments should be about a single issue.  They argue that inserting the pro-life language into it adds a second issue that makes the entire proposition unconstitutional.

Now let’s look at the second gas tax increase and the baggage it carries to the polling place.

Proposition A increases the tobacco tax to forty cents per pack in the next five years with proceeds going to transportation.  This one is backed by convenience store operators who historically have opposed tobacco taxes hikes—and fuel tax increases that would have provided more money for transportation. Despite that track record, the convenience stores association wants you to approve a tobacco tax increase for transportation.

And they don’t want anybody ever again to change the tax they are willing to accept with this proposal. Proceeds would go to transportation, i.e., highways along which convenience stores do a lot of business.  This proposition says convenience stores will allow a seventeen-cent increase. This is not a constitutional amendment, which is harder for the legislature to tinker with.  It is a proposed law which the legislature could repeal or change so that it could adjust the tax increase up or down.

There’s a severe penalty if the legislature ever wants to do that.  But it might not be that serious.

And that is the hook.  Or rather a poison pill.  The convenience stores propose to make this tax increase as permanent as it can be by saying the entire tobacco tax will be repealed if there is ever a proposal to increase or decrease the amount on any state or local ballot. In other words, the tax will drop to zero as soon as anything is certified for a vote, even in Left Puckyhuddle, Mo.,  and if the proposition fails, the tax stays at zero, not at the level this amendment could establish (section 6 of the proposal). The convenience stores are saying “Take it AND leave it.”

But if that is a hook, here is the counterpunch:  Because this is a proposed STATUTE, not an amendment, the legislature can remove the poison pill.  Remember when a petition regulating puppy mills was approved by voters in 2010 and almost immediately was changed by the legislature in 2011? The legislature felt the statute enacted by a petition led by the Humane Society of the United States was too costly and unfairly targeted legitimate dog-breeders.  Although the HSUS, criticized by legislators as being more interested in the politics of animal rights than in proper regulation of a legitimate industry, howled about it and threatened to run a new petition campaign, it never has.

Constitutional Amendment #4

Missouri’s real estate dealers do not want the state to impose a sales tax on their services.  Or any services—the person who fixes your sink drain, the person who connects or disconnects the cable to your house, the kid who changes your oil at the local sludge shop, the person who cuts or does your hair, etc. Realtors say they’ve watched some legislators and some influential donors to legislative campaigns—Rex Sinquefield in particular—who want to get rid of the state income tax and hike sales taxes to make up for the lost revenue, and they’re hoping this proposal will short-circuit that talk.  Critics such as the Missouri Municipal League say this amendment would “fix” a problem that does not exist and say the amendment would make it harder for cities to revise their local tax codes as society and the economy change. They also say they’re leery of the idea because of future court interpretations of it.

Constitutional Amendment #6

Photo voter-ID.  It asks voters to make it more difficult to vote.  It’s portrayed by supporters as a way to eliminate voter fraud at the polling place.  Critics say the measure is intended to disenfranchise thousands of voters, a large percentage of whom support the party that does not control the legislature. The New York Times has reported ( that some Republicans have admitted the proposition is intended to diminish support among Democratic voters. Republican sponsors of this measure have not been able to show any significant voter fraud at the polling place has happened in Missouri. They point to abuses in petition campaigns and to the recent absentee voting cases in St. Louis but this proposal does not address those matters, nor does it address fraudulent registration and only focuses on making it harder to vote at the polling place and as we have noted in previous entries, most particularly the one for May 18, THAT is not a problem in Missouri.

Some who read these summaries will disagree with our assessments of them, which is fine.  They can post their responses if they wish.  But we encourage voters to force themselves to a few hours of reading the fine print in their newspapers that publish the entire texts of these proposals and to check  We also encourage voters to consider the agendas of the interests behind them, and the practicality of the purposes for their enactment or continuance.

A different PC

Okay, that’s over.  Presidential Debates.  Our mind is kind of blurred this morning but we think one of the most important results of these debates has to be that somebody fondled some emails and somebody else denied anything was wrong, whatever it was.

One of the things your faithful observer observes is newspapers as he travels about.  A fellow named Craig Hastings, who writes for the Tuscola Journal, a paper in a small town a few miles south of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, has characterized the presidential debates as “three television special events that will break advertising revenue records for most all of the networks that aired the 90 minutes of not much.”

He touched on the PC issue—not political correctness, but political COURTESY, referring to both participants in a column after the first confrontation.

Neither have earned Mr. or Mrs. before their names when we speak of them.  Most of us, and it’s what I hear daily, will simply refer to Donald Trump as “Trump” and Hillary Clinton as “Hillary.”  The majority, which is inclusive of me, has forgotten our manners when speaking of the elitist holding the highest of government offices in the land.  Like them, love them, or don’t care of them shouldn’t matter when we speak of them in conversation. It’s bad manners and inept of us to deny these people, whoever they are, our respect. After all, they have chosen to seek an office that enables them to pursue goals that might make the lives of all of the rest of us in America a little better.

And he probably captured the mood of a lot of voters when he hoped for the last two debates—

Not a word about Trump’s taxes, don’t care.  Not a word about Hillary’s deleted emails, don’t care anymore.  Extramarital affairs of Donald’s or Bill’s, don’t care…How much you’re worth Mr. Trump, don’t care. How much you think Mr. Trump is worth, Mrs. Clinton, don’t care.  How many awful things Mr. Trump has said about women in the past 50 years, don’t care.  How many deplorable people Mrs. Clinton believes are voting for Mr. Trump, don’t care.

It appears the participants didn’t care what he didn’t care about although he was undoubtedly far from alone in his feelings. He had some simple advice for the two of them:

Grow up and act like potential leaders.  How about discussing the “what matters?” For instance: how do people find jobs that are not available?  How will ISIS be contained somewhere in a sandy desert so they might dry up, die, and blow away?  Will America start to harvest our own natural resources, reopen the countless closed coal mines, and produce the power for this nation or not and why?  Will the police of the individual states remain governed by each states’ standard or will the Federal government step in and dictate how all police will conduct business as one giant “catch all?”

Craig Hastings wanted “answers and opinions on concerns that really matter and please, no more Soap Opera b. s.”

All three presidential debates are now done and we aren’t sure in our lofty perch if we have witnessed 270 minutes of “not much” or 270 minutes of “Soap Opera b. s.,” but we have witnessed 270 minutes of something.  Whatever it was, we’re glad they won’t be back in the sandbox for still another 90 minutes.  It has been amazing television (and radio), but enough in this case has been more than enough.

The day, however, that people such as Craig Hastings lose hope that it is possible our presidential candidates “can act like potential leaders”—despite the daily or hourly evidence to the contrary that inundates us this year—is the day we are truly lost.

Maybe next time, Craig.  There’s always next time.

Craig undoubtedly knows the importance of being hopeful for “next time.” Tuscola is Chicago Cubs country.

Save the cursives   

Our computer has just helped make the case for what appears below.  This entry originally was written in a cursive type face.  But when the words were transferred to Word Press for posting, the computer threw a bucket of 21st-Century cold water on the Twentieth Century author and issued a Borg-like warning that all resistance is futile (Star Trek fans will understand).  Feel free to transcribe it in longhand to appreciate the original intent.

How sad that we have reached a point where a machine keeps you from reading what you have written as it was written.  However—-

Some school districts no longer teach cursive handwriting, what some call longhand. The means of creating the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, letters home from the battlefront, and thousands of our greatest and/or most popular books has been dismissed by the Common Core Standards. Missouri is one of 42 states to adopt Common Core although it was done only with a certain amount of legislative thrashing around that led to formation of a committee to recommend our own standards which turned out to be pretty much Common Core.

Killing cursive was the idea of the National Governors Association (have you tried to read the signatures of our governors or other high officials; they’re hardly good examples of cursive?) and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  States can, if they wish, put the teaching of cursive back into their schools.

But don’t make Common Core any more of a whipping boy than necessary.  Cursive fell out of favor with the enactment of No Child Left Behind, which did not include it on tests that led to rating of schools under NCLB. And if it’s not something that’s being assessed so schools can be rated on their quality of teaching, why teach it?

Life experiences have taught most of us that a lot of life is made up of things that were learned but not assessed in school.  We’ve talked to some teachers who worry that their schools are so obsessed with assessments that teaching and learning are diminished.

Why is this system of writing that most of us practice with varying degrees of legibility so suddenly so, so—Twentieth Century?  Well, say critics, cursive just takes too darn much time.  And as students move through their education and into the workplace, cursive handwriting isn’t as useful a skill as using a keyboard.

Why, heck, it’s not going to be very long at this rate before a replacement for Common Core rates schools on how well their students use their thumbs.  The rest of the hand is reserved for Olympic sports or musical instruments.

Some people believe cursive writing hones motor skills in children.  Some think it encourages gracefulness in an otherwise decreasingly graceful world.  We saw a story that ran on ABC News quoting an associate professor at the University of Staganger Reading Centre (it’s in Norway) who doesn’t dismiss typewriting but who says, “Handwriting seems, based on empirical evidence from neuroscience, to play a larger role in the visual recognition and learning of letters.”  Translated, said ABC, “Those who learn to write by hand learn better.”

Some researchers suggest that the fastest handwriting involves the use of a mix of cursive and printed letters.  One researcher thinks people writing by hand can gain speed that way without losing legibility.

Cursive writing has all but disappeared in the legislative chambers of the Missouri Capitol.  It is so rare as to invite comment when a lawmaker submits a handwritten amendment to be considered in debate.  Hours of time are wasted each year while the chambers “stand at ease” so someone with a suddenly brilliant idea can consult with a staff member sitting at a computer who knows how to put together a string of words on a keyboard.   Some observers link a perceived decline in the intellectual capacity of our lawmakers to the decline in the use of pen and paper and handwritten amendments.  We are taking an official neutral position for now.

There are plenty of articles on the pros and cons of cursive writing.  But we’ve come up with our own ideas of why teaching cursive writing remains important.  It’s simple.

If you can’t write it, you can’t read it.  And not everything written is on a web page somewhere.  Sometimes you have to be able to read the original document.  Maybe it’s grandfather’s letter from Vietnam to his girl at home.  Maybe it’s the middle pages of the old family Bible where your family records have been kept for generations. Maybe it’s the original survey of your property. It could be anything and it could be highly meaningful.

There is something about seeing the original final version of the Declaration of Independence and the final engrossed copy of the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington.  Something about those handwritten words says something about the human striving that went into the creation of those documents.  Your observer has yet to see a thumb-written message that indicates any striving, and precious little thought, has gone into the expression of something.  Your observer has not yet seen anything noble written by thumbs.

Yes, these meanderings are written on a keyboard.  But at least, all ten fingers are used.

Not all handwritten things are easily read.  Many years ago, a friend sent a prominent Missouri lawyer a letter that told him, “Send me something I can read.”   Your faithful scribe has been working for a couple of weeks transcribing an 1846 lawsuit challenging the ownership of the land on which Jefferson City stands.   Some of the writing displays the elegance of a learned hand of the 18th and 19th century.  But there have been times when it has taken fifteen minutes to figure out one word.  And in typing the transcript of the documents, there are several blanks where the scrawl is so bad that we just ran up a white flag.

We fear the day that a new foreign language will be added to the list of college courses:  Cursive 101.  Advanced Cursive.  Honors Cursive.  Practical Cursive.  Maybe colleges of education will offer a course such as Teaching Cursive 256.  It would be an elective.

Wonder what the final exam would be like.

They call it junk for a reason 

We’ve been talking to some friends about the onslaught of direct-mail crap that passes itself off as campaign literature. Our mail person has the unfortunate duty to put this stuff in our mailbox.   It’s the time of year when the United States Postal Service should provide each delivery person with the kind of latex gloves that proctologists wear.   And it’s the time of year when citizens might consider wearing similar gloves when they reach in their mailbox.

Here’s a policy we’re considering. You are free to consider adopting a similar policy at your house.  It’s simple:

We won’t vote for any candidate whose campaign or whose anonymous supporters crowd our mail box with junk mail that only attacks an opponent, twists the opponent’s record, misleads the voter, and in the process fails to tell us what the candidate supposedly benefitting from these mailings stands for—in clear, specific language.   We likewise won’t vote for any candidate who seems to be clearly advocating what their biggest donor wants them to advocate.

Radio and television campaign commercials fall into the same category.

It could be we won’t vote for any candidates this year.  We might vote only on a few issues—and issue mailings are included in our junk mail policy.

So if you want to guarantee that your candidate will not get two votes from this household, load up our mail box with junk.

Why take this position?

Simple.  Junk mail treats recipients as junk.   You know what junk is, don’t you.  It’s that stuff that has no real use or value but you keep it around because you might have a use for it someday.  When that day comes, you use it and then throw it back in the pile just in case you need to use it again.  It might not fit the job exactly but it will do well enough for the purpose.

We don’t like to be considered something of no real value that is kept because it might be useful some time or other.  We don’t like to find something in our mailbox that thinks so little of us, that it demeans us by being addressed to “occupant,” although technology now enables the senders to put our names on it. And it’s even worse when it is sent by some thing that hides behind a vague but noble-sounding name that conceals the identity of the real people who think we, the occupants, are junk—something they can use for their own purposes whenever they want to use us and then throw back on the pile just in case they want to use us again.

Junk sends junk.   Junk does junk.

We’re not junk in this house.   Treat us as junk at your own peril.

Term Limits—I

The Governor of Illinois, who does not appear to be in charge of a state government whose problems make any of our problems in Missouri seem relatively minor, is leading the charge to get a term limits proposal on the ballot there in 2018.  He’s even set up one of those tax-exempt political action committees that doesn’t have to tell the public he is trying to manipulate who is financing his efforts.

But he is counting on Illinois making the same mistake Missouri made more than two decades ago by enacting term limits.

Governor Bruce Rauner even appears in the television commercials urging the public to throw out “career politicians” who “go to Springfield and don’t leave,” as some of the supposedly common folks in his commercials say.

Your observer has been asked from time to time to talk to groups and reflect on his career covering Missouri politics for more than four decades.  The speech usually focuses on the mistake Missourians made in the 1990s when they threw away their right to vote for their state senators and representatives because of corruption in government.

There are a lot of reasons term limits for legislators is lousy public policy and have become obviously lousy public policy in our state.  We’ve put the label on this entry that we have because we might come back to this topic at other times.  But let’s begin with these reasons term limits is a bad idea.

  1. It takes away a citizen’s right to vote.
  2. It aims at the wrong target.
  3. Voters might support it but they don’t mean it

And our neighbors in Illinois are about to fall for the concept the same way Missourians did.

Point one:  Passing term limits because one legislative leader has misbehaved or is perceived as misbehaving (although never criminally charged, as is the case in Illinois) means citizens are giving up their right to vote for THEIR representatives or THEIR senators.  Citizens in part of Jefferson City were deprived of his right to vote (for example) for Bill Deeken for a fifth term in the House a few years ago—although he might have been overwhelmingly popular for the work he did on their behalf because term limits say even the most effective representative cannot continue to serve his or her constituents for more than eight years.  Sorry folks.  Your right to vote for a candidate of your choice is a right only four times.   Likewise, voters in a central Missouri senate district were deprived of their right to let Carl Vogel serve them for a third term because their right to vote was limited to twice for Carl.

Point two:  Related to point one but in a different way. The problem in Illinois now and the problem in Missouri then had to do with POWER, not SERVICE. But term limits advocates here then and in Illinois now are focusing on the wrong target.  Illinois has a problem with House and Senate leaders who have been in POWER for decades and are so powerful that some believe they have more authority over government operations than the governor does, which is the real reason Rauner is so out front in the term limits campaign there.  Plus he’s up for his second term in ’18 and some polls show he’s less popular than he would like to be.

Point three:  Illinois voters are being asked to approve, in 2018, the same kinds of limits Missouri has, meaning the clock won’t start running until 2020 and lawmakers elected that year will not be allowed to run for their seats in 2028.  That means the long-time figures voters want to oust can be re-elected to serve another decade after voters approve limits.

And Missouri’s record shows voters WILL re-elect them.

Missourians approved term limits in 1992. Those elected in 1994 could not serve more than eight years in the House and eight in the Senate.   For house members, it meant that those elected in 1994 could be re-elected in ’96, ’98, and 2000.   For those in the Senate, those elected in 1994 could be re-elected in 1998 and then they would be done after two terms or four years.

The 2001 State Manual shows twelve of the thirty-four senators were serving terms three through eight because voters who agreed two terms is enough, when given a chance to elect them to two MORE terms after term limits kicked in, did so.  John Schneider was serving his eighth term because he had already served six before the term limits law went into effect that limited him to two more—and voters who had said eight years is enough promptly elected him to a total of 32.

In the House, 57 of the 163 members were serving their fifth term or more. If voters really believe eight years is enough, shouldn’t the voters have shown they really believe it by voting these 57 Representatives and twelve Senators out of office sometime along the way?

They didn’t in Missouri and there is no reason to believe Illinois voters will be any different. Voters were not honest with themselves here.  There’s no reason to think they’ll be honest with themselves in Illinois if they adopt term limits.

If term limits are to effectively balance the powers of the three branches of government, their focus should be on limiting the time a legislator can be in a position of power, not on the ability of voters to choose the people they want to be their voices in the capitol.

Let’s put it this way (and we know we should not ask a question if we do not wish to hear the answer, but think about this ):  What is the greater danger:  One lawmaker who controls drafting of the state budget for twenty years or one lawmaker that you know from your district who represents your interest for twenty years?  Who has the capability of doing the most damage?  Who is least accessible to your interests versus who do you and your fellow citizens have the most direct ability to influence with your votes?

That is the greatest flaw in term limits.  It diminishes voter influence rather than enhancing it. And it doesn’t address the real problem.

Instead of restricting the POWER of the Speaker of the House or the President pro Tem of the Senate, term limits restricts the powers of the voters.

Instead of moving to equalize campaign opportunities for incumbents and opponents by improving campaign finance and legislative ethics standards and instead limiting the time an individual can wield power, backers of term limits aim for the wrong target and convince voters to shoot themselves in the foot.

We did it in Missouri and we have been living with a worsening limp for more than twenty years.

And our neighbors to the east, Illinois, might be drawing the same bullseye on their boots.

Notes from a quiet street—VII /2016

—random observations not worth the effort to type hundreds and hundreds of words.  Several dozen, though.

We have made a slight correction in our earlier entry (September 27) about this being a historic election to reflect that both candidates for governor are divorced, rather than just one as we originally noted, making this election even more noteworthy as the first that matches two divorced candidates for the office (although one has remarried)

The Tax Foundation says Missouri has the nation’s 15th most favorable business tax climate. The only one of our surrounding states with a better ranking is Tennessee.  Kansas ranks 22, Illinois 23, Nebraska 25, Oklahoma 31, Kentucky 34, Arkansas 38, Iowa 40.

We’ve been listening to candidates critical of Missouri’s slow economic growth (Business Insider said earlier this year we had the tenth worst economy in the country and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said we were the 14th worst state for economic growth.) and promise that they would generate more jobs if we could just cut taxes on business even more.

Hmmmm.  How could our economy be doing so poorly after legislative policy-makers have made this state so business-tax friendly?

They might maintain, as some have maintained, that the silver bullet is Right-to-Work. The Business Insider rankings list non-RTW states with the first and third best economies (DC is in between).  Eight of the top 15 states are non-RTW (including DC), and 15 of the top 24 are non-RTW states.  And it says nine of the bottom eleven states ARE Right-to-work.

Rankings, of course, are what you make of them.


A lot of critical words have been written about Donald Trump and his apparent avoidance of taxes and his proclamation that failing to pay taxes makes him smart.  Is it not fair to recognize he was only taking advantages of tax law provisions that allowed him to escape taxes.  He is hardly the first businessman or woman to have accountants smart enough to do that.  It is politically profitable to jump all over Trump and what many perceive as his arrogance on the subject.  Unfortunately it does not appear to be politically profitable for those in Washington and in our state capitols to change them. Hillary Clinton says she will do it, though.

We will wait for the second debate to see if Trump will close his own loopholes to show his solidity with the common people or if Mrs. Clinton will explain how she’ll do it without the blessing of Congress.

As long as we’re watching the Official Political Bizarre Meter needle move into uncharted territory, we note the legislative session is now just three months away.  We have seen some pretty bizarre circumstances in four decades-plus of watching our lawmakers but having one House member serving with another member who, she says, raped her would move the needle pretty close to the peg.


If voters approve the campaign contribution limit proposal on the ballot in November, there is likely to be a legal challenge.  Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the approval by voters should send a message to a legislature that has made special efforts to avoid the issue.  We will learn how deaf the General Assembly can be to such a message if it passes and the court challenge is successful.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that a company that sells frozen meals to airlines is not entitled to a refund of sales taxes it paid under protest.   The ruling certainly raised our eyebrows.

We had no idea until now that those pretzels had been frozen.


A lot more work is going to get down around the house by Missouri baseball fans this October because both of our teams failed to make the playoffs. But the darkness of the baseball parks in St. Louis and Kansas City serves to remind us that baseball is a human endeavor.  Players age. Muscles pull.  Bones break.  Tendons tear.

Major League Baseball is divided into seasons to remind us that disappointment is temporary and hope is eternal.


Speaking of Chicago where “hope” is pronounced “Cubs”:   We had a reason to look up the 1966 White Sox records the other day.  The leading pitcher that year is still part of the game although not in person. Tommy John is 73 now.  He won 124 games before the surgery; 164 after it in a 26-year career. Wonder if some statistician has added up the Won-Loss records after all the TJ surgeries done through the years.


We were listening to the radio the other night and heard an announcer promoting an upcoming European cruise on the Dunooby River.

A couple of seconds later when it sank in, your observant listener about drove off the road.

Dunooby, spelled D-a-n-u-b-e.


But let us not be too critical of the young announcer.  Remember that we live in a state that has towns like Versails and New MADrud.

Kander and Greitens and the right to kneel

This will make some of you uneasy.  It will make some of you angry.

In this campaign year where two of our major candidates are making as much hay as they can by emphasizing their military service, it is worth remembering—-

Jason Kander and Eric Greitens served for the right of Colin Kaepernick and others to kneel during the National Anthem.

They served for the right of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to have the right to run for President of the United States and say things, true or lies, about each other.

They served for the right of some, on college campuses and elsewhere, to shout racial or cultural epithets at others.

They served for the right of some to picket at the funerals of their military colleagues.

They served for the rights of others to brand the Kaepernicks of this country as idiots and traitors.

They served for the rights of others to brand Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as liars and traitors.

They served for the rights of others to protest a culture that allows racial and cultural epithets to be applied to them.

They served for the right to be wrong from whichever side of right and wrong you choose to take. They served for this observer’s right to observe and for your right to react to those observations.

They served for the rights of all of us to see our country and our society with different eyes influenced by different backgrounds and experiences.  They served against philosophies that dictate only one idea of patriotism, nationalism, and religion can be allowed, often with fatal consequences to those to differ.

They served so that each of us can stand for the national anthem, if we wish to do so, in a country that allows us to decide what the song and the flag stand for or should stand for—-and thinking such thoughts is not an unhealthy exercise in a nation that is unafraid to admit it has flaws.  We are unafraid, aren’t we?  Or have we forfeited the freedom to be unafraid?

A few days ago, the first enlisted black Marine to both be selected for the Naval Academy Preparatory School and graduate from the Naval Academy, wrote of this issue.  He served twenty-two years in the Navy and the Marines before going into television.  The Montel Williams Show last seventeen years.

Williams thinks some of Kaepernick’s behavior has been “childish and counterproductive” and ignores “the OVERWHELMING majorities of police officers who serve with honor and distinction.” But he also thinks “the threats and cruelty directed against many of these athletes should scare every freedom-loving American.”

“So too should those who propose to coerce or force these athletes to stand.  In this country, may I remind you, we allow individuals to define patriotism for themselves.  Unless you want scripted patriotism—North Korea, anyone?”

Reactions to incidents such as those inspired by Kaepernick tend to quickly ignore one of this country’s traditionally greatest strengths, as mentioned by Williams: We allow individuals to define patriotism for themselves.  AND, we allow others to think what they will about the way each of us defines patriotism.

New Yorker magazine writer Jeffrey Toobin thinks Kaepernick’s right to not stand for the anthem is rooted in a 1943 Freedom of Religion case that challenged the right of a school district to expel children from a Jehovah’s Witness family for refusing to salute the flag and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance which was then required by West Virginia Law. U. S. Supreme Court Robert Jackson’s opinion, writes Toobin, “demands that those in power allow others to think for themselves.”

“To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.  We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes.  When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great.  But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much.  That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”  

And he reminds us that freedom of expression means a government—or a league—cannot tell citizens or players what they may say or think or express.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

You are free to consider this entry disloyal and disrespectful of the things Greitens and Kander served to protect.  I am grateful that they served to protect my right to compose it.  You and I are free to go to a polling place in a few weeks and decide whether we want to vote for either of these men who served with millions of colleagues in uniform who surely were not uniform in their reasons for service so that we might differ with each other, with Colin Kaepernick, or even with them.

Let us not wrap ourselves in the flag so tightly that we cannot breathe the air of freedom.