The expendable right

It is hard to listen to the assurances that come at this time during campaigns that the right to vote is our most precious right as citizens.

It is hard to listen because Missourians apparently do not as a general practice believe that statement. And our legislature gives indications that it—although those who serve in it are there because of that right— cares little about strengthening that right.

Missourians have twice voted to reduce their right to vote.  And a recent survey published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows more than two-thirds of Missourians seem to think it’s a good idea to reduce their right even more.

The first time Missourians forfeited their right to vote was in 1992 when they adopted term limits for legislators, thus forbidding themselves from voting for their representatives and senators as often as they want to keep them representing them in Jefferson City.

A few years ago, voters threw away their right to vote when they voted to require voters in St. Louis and Kansas City to approve their city’s earning tax every five years.  In approving the second half of that issue, they forever took away their right to decide whether their city should ever have such a tax. By approving the proposal they forfeited their right to decide what is best for their own communities.

So now we have the voter photo-ID issue on the ballot.  And it appears that many voters have swallowed the bilge-water distributed by conspiracy theorists who claim that, “There is voter fraud but it’s just not prosecuted,” or that since people have to show ID cards to cash checks or rent motel rooms, or rent cars, they should have to do the same thing to vote.

Perhaps voters who do not distinguish between the PRIVILEGE of cashing a check or renting a motel room and the CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to vote deserve to lose the freedom they presently have. And for those who say there’s fraud but it’s not prosecuted—we have not heard a single one of them offer any specifics of unprosecuted voter fraud in their own districts. If fraud at the voting places is so pervasive and such a great danger to our democratic form of government, don’t you think these watchdogs we have elected would blow the whistle on prosecutors who are not doing their jobs? They won’t because they can’t.

But there is cheap political advantage to be gained by encouraging doubt in the very system that put them in power. And power, not broad public service, is the goal.  If the poll is right, voters are playing into their hands.

Talk is cheap.  Constitutional rights have been expensively won.  Sad to say, Missourians appear to be on the verge of wasting a right that has been paid for at great price.


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.

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.

Some campaign irreverence helps

A day after the first Hillary and Donnie Show, a friend passed along an article from The Onion dated June 2, 2004.  The headline read:

Poll: Many Americans Still Unsure Whom to Vote Against

The Onion, for the uninitiated, is a satirical newspaper that turns conventional reporting upside down or inside out.  And its irreverence focuses on the absurdity of living life too seriously—which we as citizens, and citizens as candidates, tend to do in campaigns.

The Onion told us in 2004 that a Gallup Poll showed six percent of Americans were not sure whether to vote against Bush or to vote against Kerry.

According to the poll, 46 percent of the registered voters surveyed would vote against Bush if the election were held tomorrow, while 45 percent said they were ready to vote against Kerry. Factoring in the 2 percent margin of error, the two candidates are essentially deadlocked in the race to determine which candidate American doesn’t support.

The article’s deadpan approach also turned the scenario this way:

“The two major parties face a tough struggle,” Harmon said. “As the election approaches, both must convince undecided voters that the opposing party’s candidate is worse than their own. As both parties take more moderate positions in an election year, it’s getting harder to convince citizens that there’s a reason to get out there and vote against anyone.

The traditional press would have told readers and listeners that the survey showed Bush and Kerry locked in a statistical dead heat with six percent undecided. Real serious, sober reporting.

We looked to see what The Onion had to say after Monday night’s debate. Here’s its take:

…A Gallup report released this morning revealed that hopeless resignation has received a substantial bump in the polls. “Our real-time polling data from last night’s presidential debate showed a clear trend, with hopeless resignation charting higher and higher as the evening progressed—it really seemed to resonate with viewers,” said Gallup spokesperson Sarah Langley, who noted that hopeless resignation’s current surge far surpassed the boost it experienced following the conventions, spiking to the highest level of the election cycle. “Last night was easily the biggest moment of the campaign season for hopeless resignation, and I think most Americans recognized that. Clearly, many voters who were on the fence were convinced by what they saw in the debate.” Langley added that if current trends continue, hopeless resignation is likely to reach a historic high in the polls by Election Day.

It’s funny because it’s true, isn’t it?  As the Wall Street Journal “Best of the Web” column puts it, “Life Imitates Onion.”

Relax folks. Laughing at ourselves a little bit will help as we plummet toward election day in November.


Notes from a Quiet Street—VI

—being another chapter of ruminations on things not worth full blogifying.


Good Lord!!! When is Chris Koster going to quit telling us the Farm Bureau has done the unthinkable and has endorsed a Democrat and when is Eric Greitens going to stop talking about being God’s gift to veterans and start talking about the rest of us?   Or do candidates no longer feel any obligation to tell us how they’re going to work with the legislature to rebuild our infrastructure, keep college kids from accumulating debts they’ll carry into middle age, take care of our mentally ill, and see that we are safe from one another?


That’s a key, you know.  The major national candidates seem to be running for dictator, not president. They’re all about what THEY are going to do, as if there is no congress that will be involved. Do we expect much more from our candidates for governor?


And how many of the candidates who are blaming today’s woes on “career politicians” will admit that they want to be “career politicians?”   We haven’t heard one of them say they only want to serve two years (or four) and then rejoin the masses.


Your obedient servant has been reading again.  The new book is Donald F. Kettl’s Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America’s Lost Commitment to Competence.   He believes it is possible.

Kettl is a former dean of the University of Maryland’s Public Policy School and is a fellow of the Brookings Institution, named for Missourian Robert S. Brookings.  It’s considered pretty even-handed. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, after analyzing a decade of Congressional records, found Conservatives quoted its findings about as often as Liberals.

It’s a pretty interesting read for government groupies.  We’ll be talking more about it later, no doubt. Feel free to read ahead of us.


This might be a good place to list from time to time how Missouri stacks up with other states in various programs.  Our first entries:  49th in support of public defenders, says the public defender office.  The Brookings Institution in August listed us the nation’s sixth best state for advanced manufacturing job growth and 9th for output growth in that category.  A new audit says Missouri has had the lowest public university tuition increases in the last eight years (for which Governor Nixon delivers a big pat on the back to himself—although supplemental and degree fees have gone up 112% to make up for that accomplishment).  But the state ranks 39th in state appropriations to higher education per student, 43rd in state funding per $1,000 personal income.  Governor Nixon says our unemployment benefits rank 43rd out of all fifty states. We had some other rankings in an earlier post:


Did you know that the University of Missouri football team has won a national award?   This graduate of the school did not.  It wasn’t in the latest alumni magazine.  No press release about it has come to our email.

It’s not like the recognition came from some obscure special-interest group. Nope. This one came from ESPN.  And we wouldn’t have known about it if fellow UMC graduate Ray Hartmann hadn’t written about it.

Thanks, Ray.


Went to a class reunion recently in Illinois and listened to classmates talk about the disastrous state of Illinois government that they say is largely controlled by Speaker of the House Michael Madigan of Chicago, who has been the Speaker for 32 of the last 34 years. If you’ve paid attention to the news, you know that Illinois government is far messier than Missouri government (at least we don’t put our governors in prison).  These folks think term limits is the only way to get rid of political bosses like Madigan.  We told them term limits is the last thing Illinois should do to itself—that it’s been the worst thing to happen to Missouri government since post-Civil War loyalty oaths.  Madigan is 74 but my friends in Illinois worry that he’s immortal.

Their county’s state representative is seeking his fourth term this year. His predecessor served six terms before being elected to the state senate. Giving up the right to re-elect your own state representative or senator to get rid of one representative from another district is, as we unfortunately have seen in Missouri, a foolish thing to do.


The highway signs on the way back told us to drive in the right lane unless we were passing.  But, doggone it, the passing lane is always so much smoother.

Could Missourians at least approve enough of a gas tax increase to fix the driving lanes?


We have tried—and have failed—to recall a single candidate for significant office in Missouri or elsewhere who blamed himself or herself for their loss.  It’s always somebody else’s fault—the media, unfair statements from an opponent (ignoring their own unfair statements about that opponent), a “rigged” election system even after the loser had to win a primary under the same system to become a general election loser.  We’ve never heard any losers admit, “The people didn’t buy my stuff.”

Donald Trump already is putting together his list of excuses.  He’s already saying the election will be “rigged” if he loses. And, of course, the blasted media for reporting what he says.  Interesting, isn’t it, that the system that let him brag about how many primaries he won and how many votes he got wasn’t “rigged” then?

We haven’t heard who might be on Hillary Clinton’s list if she loses.  The press, of course, would probably be there. We suppose the vast right-wing conspiracy would be on it, too.

I’ve got news for these folks.  We in the news media don’t mind getting blamed.  In fact, the last thing most real reporters want is to hear a candidate crediting them for an election victory.


The Russian Olympic doping scandal and the banning of most Russian athletes and the NCAA’s investigation of the University of Missouri basketball program appear to have something in common.

Today’s athletes and coaches get punished for the sins of their predecessors.  That strikes us unfair.

We’re not sure how this could be done legally, but wouldn’t it be better for the NCAA to develop a way to fine an offending coach an amount (plus a penalty) equal to the amount of the scholarships the offending players received during the coach’s tenure and maybe require the offending players to refund to the University the amount they received for their scholarships?.  Or something like that.  Making the players refund their scholarship money might be a little draconian, though.  We’re not sure if they should know better when they’re 17 or 18.

And maybe an athletic director should get slapped around a little bit, too.

Whaddya wanna bet—

—that when the legislature returns to the Capitol this week to consider extending Governor Nixon’s world record as the most veto-overridden governor in Missouri history that those who want to make it harder for Missourians to vote will trot out the absentee voting mess in St. Louis as an example of the voter fraud that the bill will stop?

It will be a bogus argument for a bogus bill.

If you haven’t been pay attention to this issue (and who can think of anything else when we have Hillary and Donnie going about the land?) here’s a quick tutorial.

It seems that in St. Louis, some people played games with the absentee ballots in the August primary and now a judge has ordered a do-over election to decide who will be the Democratic nominee in the 78th House district, and thus the winner of that seat because there’s no Republican opposition.  Incumbent Penny Hubbard had more votes than challenger Bruce Franks, Jr.  But a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation found two people who said people claiming to be Hubbard campaign workers filled out ballots for them. There were at least sixty times when a single voter submitted two applications for an absentee ballot although they said they had not applied twice. The newspaper says more than a dozen people whose absentee applications claimed they were incapacitated sold reporters they never made such a claim and don’t know who did.  And two former election board employees said Hubbard’s husband “routinely delivered stacks of election ballots” to the board.

People who went to the polls on August 2 elected Franks 1997-1787.   But when the absentee votes were counted, Hubbard had 416 and he had 114, enough for her to defeat Franks by ninety votes in the overall total.

House Bill 1631, the voter photo ID bill, would require people to have a photo-identification card when they go to the polling place to cast a ballot.  If they don’t they have to get in another line and somebody will take their picture.  Under present law, all any of us have to do is show the poll clerks the card issued by our county clerk, or in the case of the big cities by the election board, and we can cast our ballot.

This law would not go into effect unless voters in November decide they want to make it harder to cast their own ballots in future elections. Missouri voters have twice in our experience given away their own right to vote so it would not be surprising if they decided in November to weaken their right again.

Part of the fallout from all of this St. Louis stuff has become part of the Blunt-Kander race for the U. S. Senate.  Blunt is a former Secretary of State and Kander is the incumbent Secretary of State.  Partisans on both sides are sniping at the other about this issue when they should be arguing about the national issues that Senators deal with or are not dealing with.  But that’s part of the political circus.  If you focus enough attention on the sideshow, you might be able to distract public attention away from the donkey and elephant show that has left the center ring a shambles.

But the St. Louis mess is just too easy for the ID advocates to jump on as they try to justify in the veto session overriding Nixon’s veto of the photo ID bill—even though the St. Louis mess has nothing whatsoever to do with casting ballots at the polls.

Rounding up absentee voters, especially in nursing homes and in neighborhoods where many elderly people live, is a time-honored part of elections everywhere. And some of the practices that the newspaper has highlighted might be worth exploring by the legislative elections committees. Perhaps requiring election authority-issued photo IDs of those who solicit absentee ballots is worth considering as a start.

But trying to tie the voter photo-ID bill to the 78th House district problems would be nothing more than, well, bogus.

But that’s not the first time that word has been applied to voter photo-ID legislation in Missouri.