Why I Know Ron Richard Will Run For Missouri Governor In 2016

Joplin’s Ron Richard, I guarantee it, will run for Missouri governor in 2016, after the departure of Democrat Jay Nixon.

Right now he is doing time in the Missouri Senate, after being elected to a four-year term in 2010.  He previously served as the speaker of the Missouri House until term limits forced him to jump, and jump rather easily since he had exactly no opposition, into the upper chamber, where he now holds the number two leadership post for the Republicans.

Some of you may recall that more than three years ago, Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Richard, who started his now permanent political career on the Joplin City Council, had his long-term eyes on Missouri’s top prize:

Speaking to the Political Fix at Lincoln Days, Richard said that he has pondered a possible run for governor in 2016. That would be midway through a possible second term in the state Senate, and the scenario assumes that current Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, wins a second term in 2012, where he is likely to face Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican.

“I’d like to be on the short list and see what happens,” Richard said.

Even though Richard later denied being interested in running for governor in 2016, Messenger stood by his reporting, saying that Republican Lt. Governor Peter Kinder “was a little miffed when he read of Richard’s political plans,” which led to Richard backing away from what he said. Today, though, Peter Kinder’s political stock in the state has fallen considerably, mostly at the hands and, uh, other body parts, of an exotic dancer.

So, it appears Richard can run conscience-free in 2016 for the vacant governorship. But that’s not why I am certain he will run. It was the nice and cozy piece I saw in the Joplin Globe today that convinced me. It began this way:

State Sen. Ron Richard on Thursday said he has started drafting a new gun rights bill to replace a controversial measure that failed Wednesday when it fell one vote short of a veto override in the Missouri Senate.

Richard, R-Joplin, the Senate majority floor leader, was one of two Republican senators who voted against the override in the Legislature’s veto session. 

Obviously, even though Richard was stupidly in favor of the bill before he was wisely against it, no Republican candidate can be caught voting against a “gun rights” bill—even a machine-gun rights bill—and live to tell about it, so Richard is fast at work on repairing the damage:

His goal in the new legislation, Richard said, will be a bill that “protects the First and Second amendments, doesn’t hinder law enforcement in doing their jobs, and doesn’t end up challenged in court as soon as it’s enacted.”

The would-be governor also noted to the Globe that the National Rifle Association—yep!—has offered to help write the new version of the bill.

I rest my case.

Missouri Is Only One Vote Shy Of Insurrection Insanity

I’ve tried to avoid talking about it, but I can’t anymore.

Missouri, the state I’ve called home for more than twenty years now, the state that is in a tax-cutting, service-reducing race to the bottom against my old home state of Kansas, is an embarrassment to anyone with an IQ that exceeds air-conditioned room temperature.

And that embarrassment comes at the hands of extremist Republicans who, because there is a lot of apathy and even more electoral laziness in this state, overwhelmingly control the state legislature, even though, for now, we have a Democratic governor.

I speak of a successful vote—I said: successful vote—by the Missouri House to override Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of one of the most obviously unconstitutional and one of the stupidest bills in the history of governance by otherwise sane members of the Homo sapiens species.

As the Associated Press summarized the bill—which late Wednesday night failed by only one vote—one bleeping vote!—to get the needed two-thirds margin in the Missouri Senate to override—it is breathtaking in its affront to our federalist system of government and in its indifference to the Civil War in our past, not to mention a profound indifference to civilization:

The legislation declares any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri. It allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal agents who try to enforce those laws or against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner.

The AP continued:

Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, also raised concerns last week about the ramifications of a potential veto override. He said a court likely would strike down the nullification provision but could leave intact other sections of the bill that could potentially prevent local police from cooperating with federal authorities on crimes involving guns. He said the bill also could open Missouri police to potential lawsuits from criminals if they refer gun-related cases to federal authorities.

CNN opened a story on this nuttiness like this:

The Missouri state legislature is one step closer to accomplishing something that’s never been done: passing a law that will technically not only let residents own a machine gun, but also arrest federal agents if they try to take it away.

The Springfield News-Leader added this:

Democrats who spoke in opposition said the bill would “shred” the First Amendment, criminalizing the actions of journalists involved in the publication of the names of gun owners.

Locally, where all of our state legislators are rabidly right-wing and thus out of their minds, I suppose we can sort of praise Joplin senator Ron Richard—the Republican Majority Floor Leader in the Missouri Senate—who voted against overriding the governor’s veto on Wednesday night, except that Ron Richard, stupidly, voted for the bill originally. Here’s how the Joplin legislator, who wants to be governor of the state someday soon, explained his unexplainable position on this ghastly piece of legislation:

“The attorney general made some valid points about its constitutionality,” he said. “And after reflecting, reading it again, and talking to a lot of people including those in law enforcement, I’m not sure Missouri needs to be the only state in the union to impose this unconstitutional bill.”

He’s “not sure”? Oh, I guess that means if other states join us, Richard would have no problem with machine guns all over the place, and putting FBI agents and journalists in the hoosegow. But he wasn’t done explainin':

Richard said officials in law enforcement with whom he talked were uneasy with a law that would nullify federal gun laws in the state and would make it a crime for federal agents to enforce them in Missouri.

“They said, ‘You’re going to force us to arrest an FBI agent,’” he said. “That’s not going to work.”

You think? You don’t think state cops arresting federal cops for being federal cops is going to work? Brilliant, Senator Richard. What a brilliant insight. You should be Missouri’s governor with a brain like that. More:

The senator, who earlier was speaker in the House of Representatives, said he did not regret votes to pass the initial measure, which he said “makes a statement the feds need to stay out of state business.”

Yeah, that’ll show those meddlesome feds! Dammit, if you come near Missouri again, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll let citizens shoot you with their machine guns! And the senator, who earlier noted the bill was “unconstitutional,” nevertheless said “he did not regret” voting for it in the first place. Wow.

It’s insanity.  I feel like I’m living inside of Franz Kafka’s worst nightmare. This state is falling into a black hole of right-wing reactionary ridiculousness and every single one of my local representatives is contributing to it. And there isn’t a damn thing that can be done about it as long as Democrats, and other sane and civilized people, sit at home in large numbers on election day and let these people ruin our state.

By the way, a supporter of this insanity, Senator Brian Nieves, says “we’ll be back to visit it again”:

This fight ain’t over, it ain’t over, it ain’t over.

Kafkaesque, I tell you.

One vote, people. We’re only one vote away.

Billy, My Hero

Below I am posting a video of my congressman, the much-esteemed, well-liked, and fast-rising Ozark Billy Long (you’ll know what I mean if you watch it). It’s almost 30 minutes long. It is in the form of an interview by Oklahoma congressman Tom Cole, who, I guess, is auditioning for a job on PBS, after his congressional career comes to an end. You can watch it if you want, but only for your convenience have I picked out a few highlights that I can, uh, celebrate with you.

First up is Billy’s conception of the kind of person who ought to be in Washington representing the folks back home:

I think the Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, people that have run businesses and signed the front of a check, to come up here and serve in Congress instead of people who’ve just been in Congress all their lives.

Now, Ozark Billy has said this kind of thing before. In fact, he ran on it. To him, “citizen legislators” are not postal workers or carpenters or school teachers or domestic engineers, but “people that [sic] have run businesses.” Those folks, he believes, know best how to make things work, know how to make government more efficient, know how to run government like, well, like a business. Never mind that it is insane to think that government can or should be run like a business, unless you think that JP Morgan Chase should have its own Navy. Wait, does JP Morgan Chase have its own Navy? God knows it could afford to buy one.

In any case, Long was asked about what it was like to be a brand new congressman and have to deal with the Joplin tornado that ripped through our town two years ago. Here was his initial reply:

It was really a welcome-to-Congress moment, I guess you could say. It was May 22, 2011, and it was my daughter’s birthday and we have a friend who has a birthday the same day so we were over at their house celebrating two birthdays. And we got word—our district director down in Joplin area called and said, “We’d been hit by a tornado”—and we said, “Oh, okay.” We didn’t think that much of it, because we’re in tornado alley, just like you are in Oklahoma, we have tornadoes all the time.

Hmm. “We didn’t think much of it,” Billy said. He was just told by his own guy on the ground that a tornado had hit Joplin and, shucks, Ozark Billy didn’t think much of it. Heck, tornadoes hit around here all the time. It’s tornado alley, don’t you know. Of course a tornado is going to hit Joplin and of course our congressman isn’t supposed to “think much of it.” That is, until he thought it was headed toward his friend’s house and that birthday party:

And then on the news in Springfield, which is 70 miles to the east, it came on and said there’s a tornado right outside of Springfield…we ran home—there was no basement in the house we were in—and we really thought it was to head to Springfield…

Oh, now I see. When a tornado hits Joplin it’s not much to worry about. But when it is headed Billy’s way, it is. Gotcha. He goes on:

…and then when it evolved and we  found out how terrible it was, then we made the decision—I was supposed to come back up here in Washington the next day—but I cancelled all those plans and we got down to Joplin at daybreak the next day…

That’s where Billy’s role as local hero begins.

He explains how he and his staff did heroic things, like leaning on the local fire chief to help get a travel ban lifted so “a prominent businessman in Joplin that was housing eight or ten families at his house” could get back home. That’s our Billy. Always thinking of the bidnessman because, well, you know, those are the ones those darn Founding Fathers thought ought to be in Washington. They are a special breed.

Besides the local heroics, if you watch the video interview you will also be treated to how “proud” Billy is of a resolution he created to not allow to happen in America what almost happened in Cyprus several weeks ago—the government was to levy a tax on the bank deposits of rich Russians, many of whom stash their ill-gotten gains there for strategic reasons.

Billy was “infuriated,” he said, upon learning of what the Cyprus government might do. A determined Billy said, “that will not happen here!” And you know what? It hasn’t! Thanks, Ozark Billy, for stopping Obama from taking our savings!

There are other efforts Billy the congressman chronicles for us, and then there is Billy telling falsehoods about budget balancing and the Keystone XL pipeline. And there is a touching plea for civility in Washington.

But in order to get those details, you’ll just have to sit through the 29-minute interview like I had to:

Fixing The National Debt, One Meal At A Time

Tuesday’s Joplin Globe editorial noted the effect sequestration, which has become reality at last, is having on “our area senior centers,” as they try to “meet the demands of a growing homebound meals program” :

Now, federal cuts that went into effect on Friday could result in an 8.5 percent reduction in funding for the Area Agency on Aging. Stan Heater, the executive director for our agency, said that could reduce the annual number of meals served by about 12,000.

The Globe didn’t publish this editorial, however, to criticize sequestration, President Obama, or, God forbid, the real cause of the sequestration mess, the Republican Party. Nope. The paper was merely urging folks to donate to the local senior centers to help offset the cuts.

Fine. If local folks want to do that, good for them. The Area Agency on Aging, a 501 (c)(3) organization, does good work. But the Joplin Globe at least should explain to folks who happen to read this editorial why it is that 12,000 fewer meals may not be served. Perhaps the paper should also tell us if it endorses the sequester, the result of austerity-drunk conservatives holding President Obama and the nation’s credit rating hostage in 2011.

In its endorsement of “severely conservative” Mitt Romney last year, the Joplin Globe also endorsed austerity-drunk conservatism. The paper explained to us that we should be very worried about the national debt and “unchecked government spending,” which it called “the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being.”

Perhaps it is. And perhaps it is so serious that it is worth reducing funding to organizations that serve meals to old folks. What’s missing a meal or two when we have all that debt to worry about?

In the mean time, we have this:

House Republicans are proposing this week to restore upward of $7 billion to operations and maintenance accounts for the four military services hit hard by the automatic cuts that went into effect Friday night.

I just wonder how many meals organizations like the Area Agency on Aging could serve to seniors with that $7 billion?

Yeah, I just wonder.

 

The President Remembers Joplin

The night of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, greeted the President as he made his way up to the podium. No telling how long Ozark Billy waited to get the seat he had, but I am sure it was worth it, since he is such a great admirer of the President.

He’s not? Oh, well. In any case, here’s a picture of their encounter:

obama greets billy long at sotu

Long tweeted (while Obama was on the podium receiving an ovation before he began his speech) the following:

billy long tweet from sotu

On May 22, 2011, a tornado ravaged Joplin and killed 161 people. A week later, President Obama, Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill and Billy Long visited our devastated city. The President said then:

This is not just your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.

There was. Still is.

At a memorial service President Obama said:

 I can promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way. We will be with you every step of the way.  We’re not going anywhere. The cameras may leave.  The spotlight may shift.  But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored and this community is back on its feet.  We’re not going anywhere.

The President came back to Joplin in May of 2012 to speak to graduates of Joplin High School. Some local conservatives thought he was doing so as a campaign event, even though there was no chance of picking up any votes in this Obama-despising part of the country. Indeed, the locals gave him a whopping 28.3% of the vote.

Obama told the graduates,

Now, just as you’ve learned the goodness of people, you’ve also learned the power of community.  And you’ve heard from some of the other speakers how powerful that is.  And as you take on the roles of co-worker and business owner — neighbor, citizen — you’ll encounter all kinds of divisions between groups, divisions of race and religion and ideology.  You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable. You’ll meet people who prefer to play up their differences instead of focusing on what they have in common, where they can cooperate. But you’re from Joplin.  So you will always know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most. 

On Tuesday, before the State of the Union Address, President Obama saw Billy Long and remembered Joplin. Good for him. Good for Joplin. And good for Billy Long for telling us about it.

Here is a short clip I put on YouTube of the President greeting Ozark Billy:

 

Second Amendment Jihad Comes To Jasper County Missouri

In what may be a futile exercise, Democrats today introduced legislation to bring at least partial sanity to our gun laws.

But because of the gun manufacturers’ outsized influence on our politics, only the mildest of reforms are expected to have even a chance of becoming law. Gun manufacturers are, of course, the reason the National Rifle Association now exists, an organization that has abandoned common sense in favor of a religious zeal normally reserved for jihadists across the sea.

If you doubt that “jihad” label as applied to the NRA and its mission, then you missed what an NRA board member, Ted Nugent, said recently:

I’m part of a very great experiment in self-government where we the people determine our own pursuit of happiness and our own individual freedom and liberty not to be confused with the Barack Obama gang who believes in we the sheeple and actually is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George that we escaped from in 1776. And if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies. 

That reference to Concord’s north bridge and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War is nothing if it isn’t a zealot’s call for a holy war. Nugent—a tough-talking gun-toter who wasn’t so tough when it came time to serve in Vietnam and face gun-toting communists—also said:

…here is what is wrong with America today. We have a president, and everybody better write this down, and memorize this. The president of the United States goes to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and pretends to honor 58,000 American heroes who died fighting communism and then he hires, appoints and associates with communists. He pretends to pay honor to men who died fighting communism, and then he hangs out with, hires and appoints communists. He is an evil dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom. And we need to fix this as soon as possible.

How NRA board member Nugent intends to “fix” the fact that President Obama has four more years of governance isn’t exactly clear, but he does have “some buddies” — mujahideen?—with guns, so draw your own conclusion.

And speaking of jihad, here’s how jihad-friendly Breitbart.com reported on a peculiar speech by the NRA’s chief fanatic, Wayne LaPierre, speaking before something called the Weatherby Foundation International Hunting and Conversation Dinner on January 22:

lapierre

The Breitbart article explains (italics in the original):

Of these rights–the right to keep and bear arms and the right to self-defense–LaPierre said: “No government gave [them] to us and no government can take them away.”

LaPierre made it clear that Obama doesn’t like to hear this because it shows that the 2nd Amendment is not in flux but is fixed, and the rights it protects are beyond the reach of government.

It might surprise some folks that God—who for his mass-killing normally prefers fire and brimstone over, say, semi-automatic assault rifles—actually endorses a view of the Second Amendment that would allow human mass-murderers to get their hands on killing machines and high-capacity magazines that most Americans believe ought to be banned.

And it might surprise a lot of local readers that the view that God is a supporter of people-killing guns is shared by at least one local cop, Sheriff Randee Kaiser:

I can assure you that as sheriff of Jasper County, I will be an advocate for the sacred rights of citizens of this county.

Sacred“? Hmm. Definition: “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity.” Gotcha, Sheriff.

Joplin mostly sits in Jasper County, where Sheriff Kaiser, moonlighting as a theologian, essentially pronounces that the Almighty has ordained,

Thou shalt bear arms!

Kaiser has his reasons for opposing those who would attempt to bring common sense to our gun laws:

Passing new gun laws only affects those who follow them. As we have seen from recent violent incidents involving guns, the people who engage in these horrific acts have not been identified as law-abiding citizens.

Let me see. We shouldn’t pass new gun laws because only the law-abiding will follow them, which suggests that all laws are really unnecessary. I wonder if the good sheriff thinks that way about, say, murder laws?

I have an idea: Let’s get rid of our laws against homicide! After all, as the Jesuitical Jasper County lawman said,

Passing new [insert here your law of choice] laws only affects those who follow them.

Yes! Holy anarchy!

Allahu Akbar!

Obama Doesn’t Have A White Problem, Whites Have An Obama Problem

Weeks ago, while a group of us were out registering voters on behalf of Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama, I knocked on a door in a low-income housing complex here in Joplin.

A young woman greeted me. There was the noise of a little one in the background, and I heard the voice of a young man, presumably the woman’s husband or boyfriend. I told her why I was there and she said she wasn’t interested. I turned away and walked down the stairs and on to the next apartment.

Through their open patio door someone heard the man say:

You should have told ‘em we ain’t votin’ for no damn nigger.

That wasn’t the first time I ran into such bigotry while doing the little work I did on the 2008 and the current campaign.

I pass on that story not because I think it is typical of the opposition to Barack Obama this campaign season or last. I pass it on because it is part of that opposition, part of the equation of the 2008 election, part of the reason the 2010 midterm election brought too many bigoted extremists into power.

And it is part of why President Obama is having a hard time convincing a majority of voters that he is a better choice this time than a man who has constantly lied during this campaign, who has misrepresented both himself and Mr. Obama, who has abandoned all pretense of honesty.

And the bigotry we found that evening in Joplin is a large part of why there still is a large number of Americans, mostly Republicans, who don’t believe Obama is either Christian or American, who don’t believe he sees or loves America the way they think—they imagine—they do.

How big a part does such bigotry, such racism play? Beats me. I just don’t know. But it’s a part. It needs to be accounted for. It needs to be addressed. As does more mild forms of race-based opposition to the President.

An AP poll released on Monday showed a depressing result:

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

And Hispanics don’t escape the withering eye of whites either:

In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test.

All of that has real electoral consequences:

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.

In an election as close as this one, 2 percentage points may as well be 20.

Before I go on, I want to note another finding by the AP study, a finding that should disturb those of us who believe we are on the side of the angels:

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

So we Democrats have some work to do. No, given we are Democrats, we have a lot of work to do.

As I write this, the latest Obama-Romney pre-election polling confirms the disturbing racial polarization extant in America. While it’s not surprising that a Democrat will, once again, not receive the support of a majority of white voters—none has since Lyndon Johnson in 1964—it is, at least to me, a little surprising that, after Mr. Obama’s rather robust showing among white voters in 2008 (43%, two points more than John Kerry in 2004), a Washington Post/ABC poll now indicates that only 38% of whites support Obama, while 59% support Romney.

One has to ask why Obama has, according to the latest polling, kept or increased his numbers among blacks (95% in 2008) and Latinos (66% in 2008), who have been hurt more than whites by the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, but lost a lot a ground among whites. Is it mere identity? Or is it that Romney, mostly through his surrogates, has subtly (and not so subtly) exploited white angst and turned off non-white voters? Come on. You know the answer to that.

But one seriously has to ask why it is that Obama performs so poorly among working class whites. Obama lost them by 18 points last time, and in 2010, House Democrats collectively lost working class whites by 30 points to the House Republicans, according to NPR. That reportedly was the largest margin since, uh, 1854, the year the Republican Party came into being. What is it among this group of folks that turns them off from Democrats, even white ones?

And Obama isn’t doing well particularly among white men, as this headline a few days ago from CBS demonstrates:

In 2008, white men represented about 36% of the electorate, according to exit polling, and John McCain got a whopping 57% of their vote, Obama only 41%. But Obama’s 41% was the best showing by a Democrat since 1976. Today, polling shows that Romney is leading by an unbelievable 65-32 margin. What accounts for that?

As I have said for more than three years now, what accounts for some of that, and what accounts for some of the lack of white support for Obama generally, is white angst, the feeling that the culture, dominated from the beginning by white faces, is slipping away.

Oh, don’t take my word for it. Or don’t take the word of a xenophobic Republican like Pat Buchanan, who has written extensively on the subject. Try the much respected Michael Barone, a conservative who worked for years at US News and World Report and who now, among other things, appears on Fox as a commentator and holds a job as senior political analyst for the right-wing rag Washington Examiner.

Barone wrote on National Review Online on Monday:

Why are whites more partisan than just about ever before? Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate. Self-conscious minorities tend to vote more cohesively. Or because they’re the objects of racial discrimination in, among other things, university admissions, as documented by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor in their recent book, Mismatch. Republicans are often told that their party is headed toward minority status because of the rising numbers of heavily Democratic non-whites.

There it is, all you lurking conservatives who don’t want to admit it. Michael Barone, one of your own, defined the angst among white people and gave us a reason why that angst translates into votes for Romney, for perhaps the last great white hope.

All of which brings me back to that bigot in Joplin who called Barack Obama a racist name, knowing that we could hear him. Is he one of those white people who is experiencing the white angst I have written so much about these past three years? No, I don’t think so. He’s just a run-of-the-mill racist, a punk kid with a mind full of intolerance, a head full of hate. He would be an Obama-hater under any circumstances, even without the threat of losing cultural control.

But he is part of the problem, part of why there is such racial division in America. Unfortunately, the larger part of the problem, to a degree  not easily measurable, are those white folks who would never allow a stranger hear them call the President a nigger, or entertain in public the idea that their opposition is based on what Barack Obama represents.

But in the privacy of the voting booth, these white folks would cast a vote against him out of an unspoken, often unacknowledged, racial anxiety, but call it something else, something less offensive, something less revealing.

Whether President Obama wins another term, or whether Mitt Romney’s cynical strategy of secrecy, duplicity, mendacity, and subtle appeals to white anxiety is successful, the country will soon change. Demographics will see to that. America is browning, my friends.

And then Michael Barone’s excuse for white partisanship, “Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate,” will be a reality.

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

The Politics Of Hooterville

This may come as a surprise to folks who don’t live in Jasper and Newton counties in Southwest Missouri, but next week’s local primary election winners will not have to worry about the general election, since there won’t be any Democrats running against them. None.

Oh, there will be one disputed race in November, but it will feature a battle between a Republican and a Libertarian, and nobody but next-of-kin knows who the Libertarian is.

The folks around here who make such one-sided politics possible are exactly the kind of people who national Republicans aim to please. Romney’s entire campaign is designed around winning their hearts and minds, even though they wouldn’t vote for a Democrat under any circumstances, at least a Democrat worthy of the name.

And consider what happened on the final meaningful day of legislative activity this summer in the House of Representatives. Republicans used it to convince their base—like those who live here in Hooterville—that the most important issue facing the country is whether English should be our official language.

Yes, friends, that is more important than the $100 billion farm bill—Drought? What drought?—and the defaulting Postal Service—who cares about the core of a $900 billion industry and 9 million jobs when there’s folks out there speaking Spanish!

It has been almost 600 days since Speaker John Boehner said this:

Helping Americans get back to work is our number one priority, and we’re going to do everything we can to help create jobs and to boost our economy.

Since then there have been repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and countless attempts to appease anti-choice and other reactionary forces in the country and, oh yeah, I almost forgot. Republicans have addressed one concern of the Postal Service:

60 House Bills to Name Post Offices, Zero To Fix Mail Service

In tfhe 18 months the 112th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices.  Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law. During those 18 months, the House has produced 151 laws, 17 percent of which have been to rename post offices, according to Congressional Democrats.

Oh, well, the most important thing for Republicans is not to govern the country but to keep their base happy and to wonder why the rest of us don’t like them—or Mittens:

The New Face Of Joplin

When our first African-American president visits Joplin again in May, our city’s first African-American mayor will be there to greet him.

Congratulations to Melodee Colbert-Kean, who was elected by the city council Monday night to the largely ceremonial post. She reportedly is only the fourth woman so elected in Joplin and she will serve as the face of the city during events like the visit of President Obama on May 21.

Although we have a council-manager form of government, in which the city manager essentially supervises day-to-day operations, it is nevertheless, as Joe Biden might say, a big bleeping deal that Colbert-Kean is our new mayor.

It says something good about her and about our city, the population of which is only 3.3% African-American.

Free Sample Of Southwest Missouri Culture

For those of you who don’t live around these parts (southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas) I am happy to provide a sample of at least part of the cultural ambiance you are missing.

The following story (which I present in its entirety) came from page 6A of Saturday’s Joplin Globe:

Man to be tried in case involving shots fired into car

A Jasper County man waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday on a charge that he fired several shots from a rifle in the direction of a woman he knows and into the vehicle beside her.

After waiving the hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court, Jeremy W. Bryant, 33, of rural Joplin, was ordered bound over for trial by Associate Judge Richard Copeland on a count of discharging a firearm into a vehicle. The judge set April 9 for the defendant’s initial appearance in a trial division of the court.

A probable-cause affidavit states that Bryant was arrested Feb. 28, 2011, at 1705 S. Central City Road after a disturbance involving gunshots. A sheriff’s deputy who responded to a report of the gunfire located Dana Shafer, who told him she was inside her home when she heard gunfire and went outside to see what was happening.

Shafer told the deputy that she walked to her gate and saw Bryant, her ex-boyfriend’s cousin, standing at the end of her driveway with a rifle in his hands. Shafer said that as she went out the gate to her vehicle, Bryant told her: “You come any closer and I will shoot you,” according to the affidavit.

She said she told him: “Go ahead.”

He allegedly fired seven to eight shots in rapid succession in her direction, with more than one bullet striking the station wagon and breaking out some windows.

When Bryant had finished shooting and Shafer told him that she was going to call 911 and he would be going to jail, Bryant reportedly responded: “I don’t think so,” and walked back to his home at 5473 W. Redneck Lane.

Big O To Visit J-Town, Again

Here’s the good news, as the Joplin Globe reported it today, along with the comments so far:

A local purveyor of right-wing hate, KZRG radio, announced this morning that some people are excited to see the President honor the seniors and others wish he would stay away.

That is Joplin, alright. And a lot of it is thanks to KZRG’s poisonous broadcast day:

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Jason Lewis, and Bill Cunningham, among others.

Tribalhoods

Talk about tribes.

There are almost 176,000 folks who live in what is known as the Joplin Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses two counties, Jasper and Newton.  Some of those folks joined together on Wednesday as part of a tribal instinct to protect their neighborhoods from other, stranger, poorer, tribes.

Here’s how the Joplin Globe reported the story today, under the headline “Residents blast four posed housing projects“:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Extensive and sometimes heated opposition was voiced Wednesday night by residents to four particular proposals to build low-income or affordable housing and apartments with tax credits in Joplin and Carl Junction.

The occasion was a public hearing by the Missouri Housing Development Commission to discuss with residents those development proposals. As everyone in the country knows, the tornado in May destroyed thousands of Joplin homes, many of them in low-income areas of the city, and to put it simply, those folks need a place to live.

FEMA has provided to the Joplin area, so far, around $181 million in help, some of it in the form of assistance to temporarily house those displaced by the storm and who are without other resources.

The Globe noted in an article last week that FEMA has established mobile home parks north of Joplin to accommodate nearly 400 households without homes, and another 141 households are living in FEMA homes in commercial mobile home parks. The rest of the nearly 600 households that were eligible for FEMA temporary housing are located in rentals throughout the area.

So, clearly there is a need for what is often called “affordable” or “low-income” housing. The problem is that in some cases the proposals to develop that housing are near upper-income neighborhoods and, mostly fearing a devaluation of their properties, the residents in those tribalhoods don’t take kindly to having the developments near them.

The Globe article today supplied comments from some of those residents. Here is a sample, which seemed to represent the consensus:

Mike Robinson…said he lived in an established neighborhood for 30 years before the tornado destroyed his house and his neighborhood. He and most of his neighbors are rebuilding larger and more expensive homes. He said that before he began rebuilding, he consulted with a Joplin City Council member who represents his zone and was assured that no rezoning would done to allow multi-family dwellings, yet now Gardner Development Inc. is proposing to build affordable houses there, and he and his neighbors knew nothing of the proposal until a day before the hearing.

“I feel duped and stupid for keeping my tax dollars in Joplin,” if the city and the state would allow lesser value houses around him to devalue the investment he has made and would subsidize homes for other people with the tax dollars he pays, he said.

“Who’s going to give me a tax break next year (when he gets the tax bill for his house)?” Robinson asked. “I also am embarrassed to be made to sound like an elitist because I do care about people who lost their homes, but that was not the type of house that was in my neighborhood.”

One can certainly understand why there might be some embarrassment associated with sounding like a housing “elitist,” particularly when one does sound rather snobbish with such comments.  But those homeowners who feel like Mr. Robinson feels do have a point: By and large, many homeowners look at their homes like “investments” and not just as homes where they live and play and enjoy the benefits of civilization.

Personally, I’ve never understood that kind of thinking, but I realize I am in a minority.  What I look for in a neighborhood are good neighbors, not ones who have big houses that might enhance the value of my own. I’m just funny that way, I suppose, and I realize that this issue crosses ideological lines. There are liberals who want to protect their “investments,” too.

But as for me, I’m more interested in neighbors taking care of their property, whatever value it has.  I’m more interested in neighbors not letting their dogs crap all over the sidewalks where I walk.  I’m more interested in neighbors not leaving mattresses on their front lawn (like one of my neighbors is doing right at this moment).  And I wish to God people would raise their kids better, as one of the neighborhood youngsters threw a rock at the front of my house a few days ago and got away unidentified.

That’s what I wish.

So, for me there isn’t much of an issue with property value, as I look at the value of my home differently from a lot of people.  It’s not a financial investment for me (it wouldn’t be much of one in any case), but an investment in civilization.  If you live in a $40,000 house* and you take care of your place, clean up after your pooch, and leave your mattress in your bedroom where it belongs, then I would welcome you as my neighbor, as my fellow-tribesman.

Oh, yeah. If I catch your snotty-nosed kid hurling a rock my way, the cops—who help keep not just property values but civilization values high—will pay you a visit.**

___________________________

* According to Trulia, the median sales price for a home in Joplin currently stands at $48,542, down almost 10% from last year. The average listing price for homes in Joplin as of last week is $159,772.  There are about 1300 homes for sale.

** Also according to Trulia, the property crime rate in Joplin (“% of population affected”) is more than twice the state rate. Here is the graph:

Also from Trulia is this table of household income distribution. As you can see, 49% of households—households!—around here live on less than $30,000:

 

A Remarkable Day

“The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored. We’re not going anywhere. That is not just my promise; that’s America’s promise.”

Barack Obama, Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011

There are lots of great pictures of Barack Obama’s inspirational visit to Joplin on Sunday, but I just want to post one that I think captures much about Mr. Obama and the residents hit hardest by the tornado. Former or current Joplinites know what I mean:

Okay. Maybe two photos:

 [Top: AP; Bottom: White House]

Forbes: Congressman Billy Long is “Caught In An Ideological Buzz-Saw”

Clay Bowler of Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom pointed me to a story on Forbes about the “perverse GOP ideology” related to the controversy brewing in Congress over emergency aid to Joplin.

Not only does the writer, Rick Ungar, point out Eric Cantor’s “rather heartless engagement with this heartbreaking situation,” he mentions our own congressman:

…it turns out that Joplin is represented in Congress by a Tea Party backed Republican named Billy Long – one of the angry freshmen elected to Congress on a platform of being ‘fed up’ with career politicians and who ran on the motto that he was “Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

So, what is a Tea Party Congressman – dedicated to smaller government and individual responsibility – to do when the very people who are hurt and in serious need of federal assistance are the same people who sent him to Congress in support of his uber-conservative beliefs?

In Long’s case, the answer -so far- has been to do nothing as he weighs his ideological commitment against the dramatic needs of his constituents and the political damage that might follow whatever decision he makes.

Ungar ends his rather long piece with this:

Check in next November on the status of Billy Long’s Congressional career.

I have a feeling that this Tea Partier from a Tea Party district will be looking for new work as his inability to side with the folks who count on him – simply because he was caught in an ideological buzz-saw – will be more than enough to make him a one-term Congressman.

Where have you heard that before?

Where Has All The Wickedness Gone?

“We fear that Joplin is a naughty place; so many naughty people live there.”

Carthage Daily Patriot, 1880

Monday’s Joplin Globe featured a story on local author Larry Wood, whose latest book about Joplin is called, Wicked City.  The title came from a Springfield Times article in 1878 about our fair city.

Man, things were different back then, no? The most wicked acts in Joplin these days may be Anson Burlingame’s editorials.

In any case, being a mining town, naturally things got a little rough around here and naturally there was a need for “117 whiskey shops.” But I liked best this vision of Joplin found in a paragraph from Debby Woodin’s story in the Globe:

The Joplin Daily Herald opined in May 1880, according to Wood’s book: “We venture to assert that there is no city in the United States that allows lewd women as much latitude to pursue their sinful avocations as does Joplin.”

Now I think I see why local conservatives long for the good ol’ days.

Sadly, Larry Wood’s book doesn’t contain the answer to the intriguing question of where Joplin’s north-south route on the west side of the city—Maiden Lane—got its name. Wood thinks it was due to a horse racing park just north of 20th Street and the lane, and not a reference to women. Darn.

Wicked City is not yet available on Amazon, but five other books by Wood are available here.

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