“It’s A War Nonetheless”

Have you ever wondered who came up with the arrogant and offensive and inaccurate term “moral majority”? Or have you wondered who brought us the Heritage Foundation, that infamous right-wing group-think tank? Or, worse, who first thunk up the pro-business, anti-worker, culturally reactionary group we all know as ALEC?

coors crossThe culprit was Paul Weyrich. In 1979, the God-bedeviled theocrat co-founded, along with the god-awful telepreacher Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, a political action group that first married conservative Christianity to the Republican Party, a gift from hell that just keeps giving. Weyrich also talked Joseph Coors out of some beer money and helped start the Heritage Foundation, an organization that, from Ronald Reagan’s presidency to the present, has done much damage to the country.

But perhaps the most damage done by a group Weyrich co-founded has been done by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is, essentially, how corporations have been able to get Republican state legislators to toss corporation-written legislation into the hopper and eventually make it state law. Here’s how People for the American Way describes the organization:

ALEC’s agenda includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on polluters, infringing on workers’ rights, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters. 

As you can see, we can thank Paul Weyrich for a lot of what is wrong with 21st-century America. After his death in 2008, the Los Angeles Times noted that Weyrich’s role,

was not just political; it was acutely cultural, concerned with such matters as whether children are taught evolution or creationism in school, or whether homosexuality is portrayed as natural or profane.

“It may not be with bullets and . . . rockets and missiles, but it’s a war nonetheless,” he once said, describing the struggles that began to dominate public discourse in the late 1970s. “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.”

Bang, bang, in the name of Jesus! Here is a 40-second sample of Weyrich saying something that is quite relevant today:

 

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. And may he rest in peace for his honesty, if nothing else.

But Weyrich was onto something when he said to conservatives, “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” He was on to something because he knew his political and cultural conservatism wasn’t really part of a “majority,” moral or otherwise. He knew his efforts to shape the country into a quasi-theocratic state would fail if enough people went to the polls. Thus, the idea, then and now, is to keep as many people from voting as possible, specifically targeting those who are tempted to vote for devilish Democrats.

Which brings us to Missouri. Stacey Newman, a Democrat who represents the people of the 87th district (just west of St. Louis) in the Missouri House, posted the following a few days ago:

We were informed that Voter ID bills (HB30 and HJR1) will be heard in a special Elections hearing at 2pm Wednesday, January 21st.

As Rep. Newman points out,

This will be the 10th straight year that the Missouri GOP leadership has focused on making it harder for current longtime voters to vote, even though the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled voter ID proposals unconstitutional.

Ten years and counting. Remember what Weyrich said: “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.” That’s what it’s all about for these people. We best understand that, all of us who are on the other side of this war. These folks are serious. They won’t give up. Neither should we.

HB 30 is, by the way, co-sponsored by Joplin’s own Bill White. Now, I live here in Joplin and there is no problem, not the slightest hint of a problem, with the locals going to the polls and voting illegally. So, there must be some other reason why Bill White is in favor of voter ID laws, right? Could it be that he is worried about all the voters in other places in Missouri? Places like St. Louis and Kansas City, where a lot of the voters there don’t look like Bill, uh, White?

Paul Weyrich told us all we need to know about the motives of the ID-obsessed reactionaries here in Joplin, here in Missouri, and across the country: “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

As I said, may he rest in peace for his honesty.

________________________

State representative Newman ended her post with this call to activism (emphasis is hers):

What can you do?  We NEED people to testify, fill the hearing room in the Capitol, and express their outrage to the Speaker.  Contact Speaker Diehl – john.diehl@house.mo.gov and let him know what you think about voter suppression.

Voting rights is not a game.  We cannot afford to remain silent.

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Local Missouri Legislator Responds To Charge That He Apparently Condones The Use Of Violence Against The Government

Late last week I posted an email I sent to a local state representative named Charlie Davis. The issue was something Mr. Davis had said on a local right-wing radio station regarding a proposed amendment to our state constitution. Well, I heard from Mr. Davis on Monday.

For the purpose of tidiness, I will post my initial email to Rep. Davis, followed by his complete response, followed by my second email to him:

______________________________________

Representative Davis,

I heard you on KZRG this morning say the following about the proposed new amendment to the state constitution:

“It gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.”

Sir, I like to think of myself as one of those “common-sense folks” who lives here in Southwest Missouri. But I’ll be darned if I know what you meant by “overextension of government” in this context or exactly what kind of overextension of government would justify a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty. Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.

Sincerely,

R. Duane Graham
Joplin, MO

_________________________________________

Mr. Graham,

I appreciate your email and also for you listening to ZKRG Radio [sic].  I will try to answer your email in as short of a response as possible.  I believe in accountability when it comes to ownership of guns.  Unfortunately it seems like we have been attempting to get law abiding citizens to be accountable and not the criminals.  We pass legislation in this country constantly that attempts to ban more and more items or actions, yet it is only the law abiding citizens that are effected.  Criminals do not follow or comply with the law.  We have had a ban on murder and rape since this country was formed yet criminals continue to commit these horrible crimes.  We have banned the sale of alcohol to minors, yet I can take you to places in our neighborhoods that these teenagers drink and party it up.  We have banned drugs of so many sorts yet we have a severe drug problem in our country.  Simply banning things is not the solution, changing hearts is.  We have to educate our children about the adverse effects of drugs and ensure they are informed and have the opportunity to make the right choices.  We have banned God and morality from our schools, not so much in our area, and kids don’t know right from wrong.  They are taught there are no moral absolutes.  Laws are not the solution, changing hearts is.

We have seen a huge push over the years to ban as many “styles” of weapons, ammo and accessories as possible.  Even here in Missouri, Representative Ellinger filed a bill requiring law abiding citizens to turn in their guns and magazines within 90 days or be charged with a felony.  Who would have turned in their guns?  Law abiding citizens? Criminals?  We know the criminals would not have.  One study indicates that ‘legal’ guns are used 2.5 million times per year to properly and lawfully protect citizens. There’s also a possibility of the gun itself being legal, licensed to someone, but the criminal carrying it had stolen it. Approx. 95% of “gun crimes” are performed with a gun that has been obtained illegally.. Therefore, gun crimes won’t really decrease by not allowing law abiding citizens to carry guns.  You mentioned in your email “a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty… Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.” I am a bit confused, I don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone.  We have a legal right to keep and bear arms, ammunition and accessories because I feel it is our Constitutional right, I never said  we should use them against a specific individual.  Peace through strength.  We have alarm systems in our homes and businesses to deter crime, that is why we put stickers in the windows and in the yard.  I do not like RAP music because of the degrading messages in just about every song but I do believe in the Constitutional right to free speech.  I simply educate my children in the content and they choose to not listen to it.  Education, that’s the key.  Educate our citizens about their responsibilities with the liberties and freedoms our Constitution protects.  Just because something is not against the law doesn’t make it ok to do it or right.

I hope this answers your question.

Regards,

 cid:image001.jpg@01CEA64A.B286C310

Charlie Davis
Missouri House of Representatives
District 162
Room 201BA
Phone: (573) 751-7082
cid:image002.jpg@01CEA64A.B286C310

_________________________________________

Mr. Davis,

Thank you for the timely and courteous reply. 

I will not attempt in this email to address some of the dubious claims you made (like, for instance, “We have banned God and morality from our schools…”). Rather, I want to follow up on the original reason I emailed you.

Your response ended with, “I hope this answers your question,” and I want to tell you that it certainly does not answer my question. In fact, with all due respect, your response seems to, purposely or otherwise, miss the point I was making by asking you the question in the first place.

You say you are “a bit confused” and that you “don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone” and that you “never said we should use [arms] against a specific individual.” Okay, let me attempt to make the issue clearer. No, you didn’t say we need to kill anyone. No, you didn’t say we should use weapons against any specific individual. Of course you didn’t put it that way. But what you did say is that we need to expand our right to keep and bear arms in this state, including the right to keep and bear ammunition, because we need arms and ammunition to protect ourselves “from an individual or from an overextension of government.”

Now, presumably, if we are to use guns to protect ourselves from either individuals or from government (in context you were talking about the federal government), that suggests we may possibly have to do so by actually firing the weapons at real people, either individuals acting on their own or acting as representatives of government. We can’t always count on the mere brandishing of arms to do the trick.

I certainly understand what it means to use guns for protection against, say, someone who breaks into your home. I get that. Bang, bang! They’re dead. What I do not understand is what it means to use guns for protection against “an overextension of government.” That sounds a lot like what happened in this country’s Civil War or, more recently, what those Bundy-friendly folks in Nevada did when they chased away federal officials with guns. If that is what you mean, feel free to say so. If you think it is okay for citizens to ultimately settle disputes against the federal government by resorting to arms, admit as much.

But if that is not what you mean, if you really don’t think disputants have the constitutional right to shoot it out with the feds, please clarify what you said on KZRG. Please explain what it might mean to say that someone can use their right to bear arms against “an overextension of government” without actually having the right to fire on a government employee who is representing the interests of the government, of “we the people.” And please explain who gets to decide what “overextension” means.

Or you could simply say that you made a mistake. You could admit that you misspoke. You could tell Missourians that you did not mean to imply that they would—if voters approve the change to our state’s constitution that you champion—have the right to challenge the authority of the federal government by aiming at and, if necessary, shooting at one of its agents. That is up to you. But hiding what you mean behind a maxim like “Peace through strength” simply won’t do.

Sincerely,

R. Duane Graham
Joplin, MO

You, Too, Can Phone Wobbly Republicans And Tell Them To Say No To Beggars Wages In Missouri

“So-called “Right to Work” laws are an attempt by CEOs and multinational corporations to eliminate unions and stack the deck even more in their favor. It’s a power grab by the same people who ship our jobs overseas and offshore their profits—and it would hurt all working people in Missouri.”

Missouri AFL-CIO

First it was Grover Norquist sticking his icky head in Missouri politics. Now comes FreedomWorks, the reactionary Tea Party group first funded by a Koch Bro, brazenly attempting to alter lives here in the Show-Me State. Extremists Going 'All In' to Make Missouri the Most Anti-Worker State in the U.S. We Can Change That

In Missouri FreedomWorks is targeting those it considers to be wobbly Republican House members, those few right-wingers in our Republican-dominated state house who may not yet be ready to decimate labor unions by voting for Right-to-Beg legislation.

“Right-to-Work protects Missouri workers from oppressive union tactics and cuts off funding to Big Government politicians,” says a post on FreedomWorks’ website. “It’s simple. No one should be forced to pay dues to a union.” No, it’s simple: People who lie should be ashamed of themselves.

Right-to-Beg laws actually don’t do anything except undermine the one thing that serves to protect workers, which is a union-negotiated and union-enforced contract. By allowing workers to get union benefits without paying for union representation, such laws threaten the very existence of the union and—the real point of such laws—do away with the voice of the worker in the workplace. That is why the efforts to pass such laws here in Missouri and elsewhere are supported by business interests, who enjoy the fact that they can pay their employees thousands of dollars a year less in Right-to-Beg states.

freedomworksWhen FreedomWorks or any other right-winging group or individual says that “No one should be forced to pay dues to a union,” they are purposely ignoring the fact that employees covered by a union contract aren’t forced, cannot in fact be forced, to join the union and pay union dues. What they can be required to pay is their share of the union’s cost of representing employees in that bargaining unit, including those employees who don’t want to join the union. Federal law mandates that unions represent all bargaining unit employees whether they pay union dues or not, and it is simply common sense that says if you get something from the union you should have to pay for it. If you don’t want to be represented by a union then you don’t have to go to work at a place where workers are represented by a union. But if you do take such work, then you should have to pay your fair share of the costs of providing you with and policing an employment contract.

In any case, the Republican targets of the FreedomWorks campaign in the Missouri House are listed below. If you want, you can counter the right-wing attempt to destroy unions and lower wages in Missouri by phoning them and urging them to oppose HB 1770:

Rep. Wanda Brown…Office Phone: (573) 751-3971

Rep. Sue Entlicher…Office Phone: (573) 751-1347

Rep. Chuck Gatchenberger…Office Phone: (573) 751-3572

Rep. Ron Hicks…Office Phone: (573) 751-1470

Rep. Bart Korman…Office Phone: (573) 751-2689

Rep. Jim Neely…Office Phone: (573) 751-0246

Rep. Donna Pfautsch…Office Phone: (573) 751-9766

Rep. Bryan Spencer…Office Phone (573) 751-1460

Rep. Kathy Swan…Office Phone (573) 751-1443

How Long Will The Excluded Wait?

Robert Reich begins his latest column this way:

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

Revolution? Ruckus? Well, why aren’t people making more election-changing noise? Reich gave three reasons, which I will list without most of his supporting material:

1) “…the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has…No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.”

2) “In prior decades students were a major force for social change. But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt…record numbers are still living at home.”

3) “Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible…It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.”

That last reason for a reluctance to raise a ruckus can be documented by the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, which found:

confidence in washington

As you can see, Republicans have done a good job of poisoning the well of governance, with their obstructionist tactics and willingness to sabotage the economic recovery and their refusal to do anything to address the income and wealth gap in America. But such tactics, although successful in bringing Democrats down, have damaged the Republican Party’s image profoundly. The poll found that only 36% of Republicans have significant confidence in their own party. Think about that.

But think, too, about the fact that a large part of the reason that even Republicans don’t have much confidence in their own party or their party’s leadership is that extremist teapartiers think the GOP hasn’t gone far enough in its obstructionism. Many of those folks think that John Boehner has sold them out. For God’s sake, many think that Mitch McConnell is too liberal.

As crazy as that sounds, things are actually worse. Consider the right’s reaction to Pope Francis. When the boss man of a gazillion Catholics dared to criticize increasing income and wealth inequality, when he called out “trickle-down theories” for their failure to deliver “greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” his words were branded as “pure Marxism” by Rush Limbaugh. Other right-wingers called him a socialist and FoxNews.com annointed him “the Catholic Church’s Obama.” Just a few days ago a News Editor for FoxNews.com, himself a Catholic, said that,

Pope Francis has declared war on those who aspire to provide a better life for themselves and their families, expressing the misguided snobbery of a man for whom money has never been an issue.

Such feelings run deep on the right. That FoxNews.com editor went on to say that, “the only charity the pope supports is forced redistribution.” Ahh. That’s the real offense the Pope committed. He thinks, and he thinks Jesus thinks, governments ought to be involved in seeing to it that there is a more equitable distribution of wealth. He can see with his presumably holy eyes that if the world’s poor and underserved are to utterly depend on the generosity of the rich to keep them afloat, they are a most miserable lot indeed. The Pope says trickle-down economics,

expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

All of which leads me back to Robert Reich’s column. How long will the excluded wait? Reich listed three reasons why more people don’t make a bigger fuss about the breathtaking economic inequities we see here in America and the fact that “big money is corrupting our democracy.” But he should have included a fourth reason: the big money corruption itself. Rich people, particularly rich conservative people, are buying this republic and the politicians who manage it, as well as influencing low-information voters who fall for the slick and misleading advertising that big money buys.

If you have the stomach for it, I invite you to read one the most depressing articles I have read in a long time. The Mother Jones piece, titled “Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left,” chronicles how a wealthy Michigan family, whose billions were acquired through the pyramid-like distributing company Amway, was able to purchase the votes necessary to pass union-crippling right-to-work legislation in a state that was once union friendly.

I will confess that after reading the article, my usual political optimism was shaken. I fear for our future if something isn’t done to restrain the flow of money into our politics. The 87-year-old Richard DeVos, who cofounded Amway, and his eldest son Dick DeVos should not be able to do what they did in Michigan. And what they did has effects beyond the obvious race to the bottom in terms of workers’ wages and working conditions:

Passing right-to-work in Michigan was more than a policy victory. It was a major score for Republicans who have long sought to weaken the Democratic Party by attacking its sources of funding and organizing muscle…So DeVos and his allies hit labor—and the Democratic Party—where it hurt: their bank accounts. By attacking their opponents’ revenue stream, they could help put Michigan into play for the GOP heading into the 2016 presidential race—as it was more than three decades earlier, when the state’s Reagan Democrats were key to winning the White House.

It’s pretty simple. Republicans believe that if they can weaken, if not destroy, labor unions, they can control the country’s politics:

the Michigan fight has given hope—and a road map—to conservatives across the country working to cripple organized labor and defund the left. Whereas party activists had for years viewed right-to-work as a pipe dream, a determined and very wealthy family, putting in place all the elements of a classic political campaign, was able to move the needle in a matter of months. “Michigan is Stalingrad, man,” one prominent conservative activist told me. “It’s where the battle will be won or lost.”

That Michigan fight is going on here in Missouri. The very first hearing this year in the Missouri House, which is dominated by right-wing Republicans, was used to promote anti-union legislation, in this case falsely titled the “Freedom To Work Act.” The only “freedom” written into this bill is freedom for workers who benefit from union representation on the job to opt out of having to pay any fee to the union for its collective bargaining services. In other words, this bill, and other so-called right-to-work legislation, establishes that there is, after all, such a thing as a free lunch.eric burlison

The idea, obviously, is to starve unions of needed resources, even though the Missouri bill’s sponsor, a Springfield Republican, claimed that the legislation “would make unions stronger.” Let me state the obvious here: If a right-winger tells you that a bill he is sponsoring will make unions stronger, he is lying through his gold teeth.

It’s equally obvious that if unions are starved of funds and can’t afford to defend the interests of working people, both on the job and during the election cycle, then rich Republicans will have their way. That is why rich Republicans pour so much money into these efforts, with 24 states now having such laws as the one being crafted here in Missouri. And if more states follow the trend and engage in a race to the bottom, the situation Robert Reich described—sinking middle incomes, growing poverty, and rich people realizing most of the economic gains—will get worse.

And if it gets bad enough, the ruckus, or the revolution, will come.

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.

The Joplin Globe: A New Low, Indeed

Perhaps because its bread is mostly buttered by conservative readers and advertisers, or perhaps because all of our local legislators are Republicans and it wouldn’t do to make them mad, but there really is no excuse for what the Joplin Globe did—really, what it didn’t do—in today’s otherwise excellent editorial.

The piece rightly criticized the move in the Missouri legislature to force anyone wishing to vote in our state to present,

either a valid Missouri driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a passport, a military ID card or an unexpired state or federal photo ID card.

The Globe pointed out that,

The legislation would end the use of other forms of ID, including student ID cards, utility statements and expired Missouri driver’s licenses. A county-issued voter registration card wouldn’t even be good enough. If the bill is passed, Missouri would rank with Indiana for the strictest voter ID law in the country.

The paper mentioned the cost to the state of issuing the ID cards and also made the incontrovertible point that all of the fuss is over nothing. Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander, according to the Globe, said in a report that,

no cases of voter impersonation fraud have been reported since the state’s current voter identification requirements were put into place in 2002.

That bears repeating: there is no fraud to fight with this new voter ID law. Nothing. Not one single case has come up in more than ten years. That is why the Globe asks,

Why are Missouri legislators so eager to invent problems that aren’t there?

Now, that is a very good question. The problem is that the Joplin Globe is in a position to answer it—and it didn’t. It failed Journalism 101.

First, the paper used the term “Missouri legislators” to describe the perpetrators of this scheme. While technically correct, the term manages to hide the truth: it is only Missouri Republican legislators who are inventing problems that aren’t there. Why didn’t  the Joplin Globe tell its readers that?

Second, the paper knows full well what is behind the scheme: disenfranchising Democratic voters. Couldn’t the paper have found a Democratic legislator to make that obvious claim and report that in its editorial? Sure it could have. I found a Democrat willing to call this for what it is on my first Google attempt:

“Jim Crow is alive in this room today,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia who served in the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 2009. “This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly.”

Would it have been too much to ask that the editorial—which after all is expressing an opinion—present to readers at least what Democrats believe—and what the editorial writer actually knows—is behind the voter ID bill? But we must remember, again, who butters the Globe’s bread and the ultimate objective of bottom-line journalism: don’t piss off your subscribers or the people they put in political office.globe logo

Third, the paper has a very cozy relationship with area Republican legislators and we are often treated to favorable coverage in the paper of their mostly reactionary legislative exploits. Thus, since the offensive voter ID legislation has already passed the Missouri House, a reader of today’s editorial might wonder: How did our local representatives, like Bill Lant and Bill White and Charlie Davis and Tom Flanigan and Bill Reiboldt, vote? The paper doesn’t mention them.

Further, the bill is now before the Missouri Senate and a reader might want to know what our local senator, Ron Richard—the majority floor leader and recipient of many puffy pieces in the local paper—thinks about it. But the reader is left to wonder.

The Globe offered us nothing in the way of discovering what our local representatives think about this bill, this bill the Globe calls in the headline of its editorial,

A new low

A new low? That’s pretty strong language. Yet the paper doesn’t bother to call out Republicans in general for what they are doing nor does it bother to name names locally.* Again, think about the butter and the bread.

I guess I should be satisfied that at least the Joplin Globe is on the right side of the issue, but it would help much more if the paper used its clout to call out our local legislators for their disgusting attempt to disenfranchise large numbers of Missouri citizens, uh, Missouri Democrats.

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*For the record, all of our local House members (except an absent Bill White) voted for the bill the paper called “A new low.”

I also called state Sen. Ron Richard’s office in Jefferson City and asked what his position on the pending legislation was. The nice lady who answered the phone told me that he had supported voter ID bills in the past but she couldn’t say for sure what his position was on this present legislation. She took my number and said she’d get back to me.

Oh, she also told me that lots and lots of voter fraud is going on, including buses full of folks hauled into the polls to vote illegally. I asked her to send me the evidence for this startling claim. I’ll let you know what I get, if anything.

Possum Trot, Missouri

Just to give folks not from around here an idea of how conservative the area of Southwest Missouri is, I want to note an article in Friday’s Joplin Globe about the race for the 158th District Missouri House seat, a seat that would represent the good folks of Barry, Lawrence, and Stone counties, just east and southeast of Joplin.

Respectively, the biggest towns in each county are Monett (pop. 8,873), Aurora (pop. 7,014), and Kimberling City (pop. 2,253). The lucky guy or gal who will represent this august area will also represent places like Coney Island (pop. 94) and, I kid you not, Possum Trot, which Wikipedia defines as “a former town” and, sadly, relates:

Only the remains of a church and a house are left.

What dreams died in Possum Trot, we will never know.

In any case, my point here is to show just how little choice folks around here—almost all of them white—not only have, but how little they actually want, in terms of politics. It goes from awful to God-awful, since very few Democrats even bother to put up an electoral fight.

In the 158th District, the Globe reports a battle between a Republican and a Constitution Party candidate. Here is a sample of their respective positions:

REPUBLICAN: “During a time when the federal government is in such a state of dysfunction, as it is now, the role of the state Legislature becomes ever more important. The most important job of a state legislator in the current environment is to protect the state and its people from the ways of a reckless federal government.

“We have to get government out of the way, not just at the federal level but at the state level as well, so that businesses can grow. It is as simple as that.”

CONSTITUTION PARTY: …she would “promote constitutional legislation that will move us in the direction of state sovereignty. I will examine bills that seem to solve problems but in the end restrict our liberties and cast my vote accordingly, even if it goes against what seems to be popular at the time. Reform our welfare program to include lifetime collection limits and a cap on per-child benefits.

“Lowering tax rates for all is the key … (along with) inching our way towards state sovereignty and saying ‘no thank you’ to federal government funds that have strings attached in the form of regulations.”

There you have it. Your choice in these counties is between a Romney-like candidate who wants to turn the government over to business interests, or a Ryan-like candidate who wants to put lifetime limits on welfare, including capping benefits for kids.

And that’s the way most folks around here like it, even if all there is left in Possum Trot is a rundown church and house.

Remarks and Asides, Missouri Edition

An update on Missouri politics, mostly courtesy of FiredUp! Missouri:

Republicans in the Missouri House are about to put a crezzyman in charge.  From Sean at Fired Up!:

Missouri’s House Republicans tonight selected Tim Jones to be their Speaker Elect.  

Jones is an unapologetic birther who sued Barack Obama in federal court with Orly Taitz, Cynthia Davis and a few dozen other lunatics from around the country in 2009, alleging that Obama is an illegal immigrant from Kenya who has also committed all sorts of other crimes.  Jones also believes the Missouri Hospital Association is a “Marxist” organization that wants to “screw Missouri voters.” He is a hot head who had to be physically restrained by his own colleagues on the House Floor in 2010. He believes global warming is “voodoo science.” He believes that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are unconstitutional. He also has a demonstrated record of referring to fellow Republican legislators as “terrorists” when they don’t do what he likes. 

I’m so proud to be a Missourian.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming to Missouri for a Republican fundraiser in St. Louis County.  Area buffets are on high alert.  If we’re lucky, the food-loving governor will mistake Speaker-to-be Tim Jones for an hors d’oeuvre and eat him.

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A proposed Missouri ballot measure that would cap at 36% (as opposed to 1,500%) the interest and other charges for “payday,” car title and installment loans, is being challenged in court. The lawsuit challenges the ballot summary approved by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office and the cost estimate made by Tom Schweich, state Auditor.  

The Kansas City Star explains the reason for the ballot measure:

…the legislature has refused for several years to take on substantive reform of the loose laws that make Missouri’s payday lending industry the most plentiful and permissive in the nation.

Oh, yeah.  The current speaker of the House, Steve Tilley, just picked up $8,200 from a payday loan company, the same one suing over the proposed ballot measure.

Welcome to Missouri politics.

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Charles Koch, half of the famous right-wing bankrolling Koch brothers, recently honored Joplin’s own Humphreys family as one “of our great partners” and for giving “more than a million over the last 12 months.” 

At that same twice-yearly event, which has normally been kept a secret, Koch allegedly referred to President Obama as Saddam Hussein (Koch credibly disputes it), but definitely said the next election would be “the mother of all wars.”  

Well, we knew that, didn’t we?

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Speaking of the Humphreys family, Peter Kinder, our family-values Republican Lt. Governor with a Penthouse Pet stripper problem, still hasn’t resolved how or if he is going to pay David Humphreys back $125,000, which the right-wing donor has reportedly asked be returned.

My guess is that Humphreys will get his dough in the form of G-string-ready one-dollar bills.  Make it rain, Pete, make it rain.

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Via ThinkProgress, we find that Missouri workers lost 63 cents per hour over the last decade (dominated by Bush II and Republicans in Washington and in Jefferson City) in inflation-adjusted median wages.  During the 90s (when Democrats were in the White’s House), the median wage went up a whopping $2.37.  During the 80s (Reagan and Bush I) the median wage declined by 44 cents.

You figure it out.

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Finally, the Springfield News-Leader reported some stunning wisdom from the lips of Colonel Ozark Billy Long, on the eve of President Obama’s jobs speech::

Long said that he would support “any kind of a tax break,” including an extension of the payroll tax cut. He was unsure about extending unemployment benefits beyond the current 99 weeks.

“It seems like there are jobs available if people want to get out and look,” he said. “If we shorten that string, then they’ll be out there quicker looking for jobs.”

Why didn’t I think of that! Why didn’t Obama think of that! There are plenty of jobs out there if the lazy folks would only get out and look!  Billy Long has solved the job crisis!

Sneaky Christians

From a Mother Jones story I learned that creationists have been busy in places other than Missouri:

In the first three months of 2011, nine creationism-related bills have been introduced in seven states—that’s more than in any year in recent memory…

The offenders, other than my own state, are Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma (who could have guessed?), and New Mexico.

A local co-sponsor of the bill in the Missouri House is Charlie Davis from Webb City.  That God-fearin’ lawmaker should be proud.  Mr. Davis boasts that he serves as deacon and treasurer of his Baptist church and that his three children are home-schooled, so his interest in what Missouri school children are taught in Missouri schools is purely academic it appears.

Now, the title of HB 195 sounds harmless enough:

Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding
Evolution

Or, even better is this, found in the text version of the bill:

AN ACT

To amend chapter 170, RSMo, by adding thereto one new section relating to teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution.

That would be great, wouldn’t it? To give teachers the ability to teach evolution?  I’m for that.

Except here is the official summary, which serves as an example of how these sneaky Christians intend on subverting the Constitution:

This bill requires the State Board of Education, other public
elementary and secondary school governing authorities, and school administrative entities to create school environments that encourage students to explore scientific questions and to assist teachers in finding effective ways to present controversial scientific material.  These entities must not prohibit teachers from helping students understand the scientific strengths and weaknesses of theories of biological or chemical evolution, and the provisions of the bill must not be construed as promoting any doctrine or discriminating for or against any beliefs.

Now, you may have noticed the phrase, “strengths and weaknesses of theories of biological or chemical evolution.”  The meaning of that phrase leaves enough room to float Noah’s Ark right into the classroom and dock it there.  

And the clause, “the provisions of the bill must not be construed as promoting any doctrine or discriminating for or against any beliefs,” would surely be used to attack those ungodly scientists and their “belief” in naturalism.

From the actual text of the bill, we find this:

This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence.

Again, many Christians consider the scientific attachment to methodological naturalism as a sort of religious doctrine, a kind of fanatical faith in the measurable, quantifiable universe.  So, it wouldn’t be long before some zealous Christian teacher brought in Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, and began teaching in earnest Intelligent Design, either in the name of challenging the assumptions of most scientists or as a way of introducing “logical inferences” of a different kind.

Fortunately, this nonsense is not likely to go anywhere again this year (a similar bill was introduced last year), since it hasn’t even been scheduled for a hearing. But it does show that the religious zealots aren’t going away anytime soon, as more and more of them seek seats in legislatures all over the country.

Someday, it could get serious. In the mean time, y’all are free to visit here:

Right To Freeload Legislation Uncertain In Missouri

I watched a simultaneously hopeful and disturbing clip of Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley this morning on the issue of the Right to Freeload* legislation that just passed through a Senate committee.  The clip was posted by Missouri News Horizon and you’ll see why I found it both hopeful and disturbing in a minute.

Missouri Senate President Pro tem Rob Mayer is trying to figure out a way to not only get freeloading legislation passed through his chamber, but get it passed by a veto-proof margin.  Democratic Governor Nixon will, of course, nix any such freeloading law, and since no Senate Democrats will support it either, that means Mayer will likely need all Senate Republicans to support it in order to overcome Nixon’s veto.  That will be tough to do, hopefully.

But what I want to focus on is the pro-business agenda the Missouri legislature is currently pursuing.  Obviously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to attract businesses to this state or any state.  We need jobs.  The problem arises when the pro-business agenda trumps all other considerations.  In other words, The Missouri Chamber of Commerce should not be running the state legislature.  But that’s how it seems.

The Missouri Chamber has outlined its priorities for this session in its Fix the Six agenda, which includes weakening our state’s minimum wage law, limiting the rights of injured workers, and making it easier to fire employees.  This anti-worker agenda is, of course, advanced under the rubric of “promoting jobs” in Missouri.  Fair enough. The Chamber of Commerce has a right to promote its agenda on behalf of businesses, just like labor unions have a right to promote theirs on behalf of workers in the state.

But in Missouri, now dominated by Republicans, the only agenda that matters is the business agenda. In the clip I saw this morning, House Speaker Steve Tilley classified the Right to Freeload legislation as “not a priority.”  That’s good, at least for Missouri workers.  That is the hopeful part of the interview.

However, it appears that the Chamber of Commerce wishes it would have named its pro-business agenda, “Fix the Seven,” since it now sees an opportunity to push through the Right to Freeload in Missouri, what with all the concerted attacks on unions by various Republican governors and legislatures around the country.

Either “Fix the Seven” didn’t resonate well with Chamber marketers or they just didn’t think they had a snowball’s chance to get freeloading through this session.  Whatever it was, the Chamber didn’t originally include the Right to Freeload on its agenda and Speaker Tilley made that point in the short interview:

Tilley: My concerns is [sic] that when you have the business groups come together and said,”Here’s our top six things,” it wasn’t in the top six things and so my thought process is try to address what they think are the top priorities and then when once we’re done with those things, then we can take a look at it.

Question: The state chamber came out, though, late last week, and said they do back right to work…

Tilley: All I know is when they submitted—I agree—and I’m not saying that there’s not a lot of people in the House that wouldn’t support it.  I’m just saying that right now we’re going to focus on the things that the business coalition sent us at the beginning of the year that we can find some compromise.  And I think in the “Fix the Six,” I think what you’ll see is, you know, you’ll see bipartisan support for quite a few of those, maybe not all of them, but quite a few.

Okay.  What we have here is Tilley acknowledging that he wants to concentrate on what is already on the Chamber’s wish list, without adding something new to it.  But look at that language he used:

“…try to address what they think are the top priorities…”

“…we’re going to focus on the things that the business coalition sent us at the beginning of the year…”

That is the disturbing part.  What is it that gives the Missouri Chamber of Commerce such sway over legislation in Missouri?  Why should it have such sway?

What if a Democratic Speaker said this:

“…we’re going to focus on the things that the labor unions sent us at the beginning of the year…and when we’re done with those things then we will take a look at their other desires…”

No, a balanced approach, recognizing both the needs of business and the wellbeing of workers, is the proper way to conduct the people’s affairs in this state or any state.  But here in Missouri it’s all one-sided, and, truthfully, it has been for years.

Fortunately, polls are showing that the people around the country are siding with workers and their unions.

In a CBS/New York Times poll, 60% oppose killing collective bargaining rights and 56% are opposed to cutting pay and benefits to reduce state budget deficits.

By a 42-31 margin, the public supports public sector unions against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in a Pew Research Poll.  Those who identified as Independents supported the unions by a narrower 39-34 margin.

I did find even better news in the Pew poll.  If you look at the results below, those folks with modest incomes overwhelmingly support the unions because they apparently understand that unions represent the best hope they have of moving up the income ladder. 

Also, younger folks are overwhelmingly supporting the union by a difference of 33%.  That is a good sign. Perhaps we haven’t yet seen the end of the era of unionism, but only if unions can win the propaganda battle as workers age.  Republicans and pro-business zealots are very, very good at this kind of propaganda. Here are the Pew poll results:

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* For those who don’t know, Right to Freeload, or as it is widely known, Right to Work, is a state statute that allows workers to obtain benefits obtained through union advocacy without having to pay union dues.  I suggest you never go out to eat with a Right to Freeload supporter because he will always—always—expect you to pick up the check.

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