Moving Against One Man, One Vote, Once

Republicans want to make it harder for citizen petitions to change the constitution:

Now Republican lawmakers are pushing back, especially on citizen changes to the state constitution, which they can’t reverse without voter consent.

Among legislation floated this session are resolutions that would require petitions to get a higher percentage of votes to pass a constitutional amendment.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, filed one such resolution. It would ask voters to raise the bar on themselves and require a two-thirds majority to pass future constitutional amendments.

“The percentage to pass right now is 50 percent plus one,” Sater said. “I think that is entirely too low. I think if it’s such a good idea, it needs to be an overwhelming vote in favor of it.”

As you might expect, gentle reader, I agree.

Whenever I go into the library, I’m approached by petition signature gatherers, and I don’t sign any of them whether I support the cause or not. The petition method of amending the state constitution is ripe for, well, not abuse, but certainly gaming for a favorable permanent outcome. Proponents of a measure gather signatures from supporters, people who think it’s a good idea, or people who think the people should have a vote on an issue one way or another, and then the measure gets put on a ballot for a low turnout election day, wherein its supporters all turn out and normal people skip because they don’t want to miss work to vote on Fire Protection District officials and a constitutional amendment. And the item passes, and it’s part of the constitution forever.

Not to mention the impact that the Secretary of State can have on these measures; I’ve written in the old days about what Democrat Robin Carnahan used to do to ballot initiatives (Robin Carnahan: Ghostwriter and Convenient Technicalities amongst others).

So I am not a fan of this process as it is. I understand the rationale for it, but groups and, dare I say it, special interests can too easily game this system. Raising the bar for constitutional amendments would certainly stifle some of the gaming and emphasize the importance of changing the constitution, for Pete’s sake.

Remember, gentle reader, if you matriculated from school which still had a Civics class, that to change the U.S. Constitution, you have to get two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states to approve the amendment. Ever heard of the Equal Rights Amendment? It passed Congress but fell a few states short of actually amending the constitution.

The United States Constitution sees this process as a bulwark against the passions of the populace (building a better republic, natch). It would behoove the state of Missouri to have both the ballot initiative process that protects the population from the passions of focused special interest groups who game it.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Clearly, My Children Cannot Trust Anything I Tell Them

When we have gone to Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri’s theme park, I have told my boys that it is named after the Yocum silver dollar.

However, this story about Marvel cave in the Springfield News-Leader tells it differently:

Silver Dollar City opened in 1960 and was named such for a promotional idea.

“While little was spent on advertising, publicist Don Richardson’s idea of giving silver dollars as change to park visitors led to tremendous word-of-mouth exposure,” according to Silver Dollar City. “When vacationers returning home would pay for their gas and other purchases with silver dollars, people would ask where they got the coins, and the vacationers would describe the park and their Silver Dollar City adventure.”

Wikipedia agrees.

However, I still prefer to think that Don Richardson had the Yocum silver dollar in mind when he came up with the promotion and that that bit of knowledge has been lost.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

What Does Facebook Know About Me That I Do Not?

Everyone’s worried about Facebook knowing too much about you. If that’s the case, why did it insist on showing me this ad for weeks?

A Spanish language advertisement for WIC? But Pepita and I were just friends!

Perhaps Facebook was feeding me this to see if the state spending money advertising social programs in a foreign language would trigger a rant as I can think of better uses of my tax money, but if the state weren’t burning it on the easy, arts and science degree jobs like this one, it would spend the money on a different set of advertising/communication/marketing/make work and not on, you know, infrastructure or something.

Wait, it almost did trigger a rant there. Never mind, I shall return to whatever else I was doing.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Backroads of the Ozarks by Wayne Sullins (1990)

Book coverThis book is a collection of Ozarks photographs, published about the time my beautiful wife was graduating from high school in the Ozarks while I was doing the same in the St. Louis exurbs and thinking about my new life in Wisconsin. Some decades later, I’m in the Ozarks, and I see things like this every day.

The photos in the book focus on wild flowers, landscapes, and old mills.

You know, I’m glib when I say I see things like this every day, but I don’t. Many days, I direct myself into Springfield and its urban and suburban environments for the business of living. I see things like this when I bother to take the back roads from my home to Republic, Clever, or Ozark and get to see the landscapes, the old barns, the livestock, and the other things that remind me of Americana and not just the narrow corridors of life.

So I browsed this book with while watching football, as you might expect, and I sometimes wonder how much more I should actually linger over a book of art or photography than to look at the image, react to it if I feel so inspired, and move on. Sometimes, I just don’t know what I’m doing with these book things.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Book Report: Fishin’, Huntin’, Travelin’ and Ozark Memories by L.B. Cook (1997)

Book coverThis book could have included Figurin’ in the title if only because someone did a quick calculation on the front of it. Clearly, someone did not think this was an heirloom quality book.

Since I’ve been reading 600- or 700-page books of late, I thought I’d take a little detour into this seventy-something book of local interest. Published at the end of the 20th century, it’s a collection of work of a local conservation-oriented fellow who previously had published a couple of the bits in newsletters and whatnot. As the actual title indicates, it’s a collection of two or three page recollections of trips taken over the course of decades by the author. Some of the shorter bits, particularly of trips to southern Texas, have the feel of a newspaper column and are the stronger of the writings in it. Advice as to how to find places to hunt in other states by mailing postmasters and conservation agents in the areas you’re interested in hasn’t held up. And some of the pieces are more like minutes to hunting trips or meetings, with a lot of name-dropping, than narratives.

Still, I laughed a couple times when the name-dropping happened. The only name I recognized was Ned Reynolds, a long-time fixture at the local television station. The stories and narratives are not often fixed into time, and putting Ned Reynolds’ name into it doesn’t help. Some of the stories were things like “Henry Schoolcraft, Teddy Roosevelt, Ned Reynolds, and I went turkey hunting….” Well, obviously not really, but the most enjoyment I got out of the book was from thinking this.

Unfortunately, it’s not a strong book in the narrative department and is probably only of interest to Cook, his family, perhaps the families of those whose name he dropped, and people like me who will read any book of local interest if it’s short enough.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Not the Only Reason

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist identifies a reason for empty seats at an annual Mizzou basketball game in St. Louis:

The stat that was most eye-catching from the game? Total attendance: 14,456.

Both teams entered the game with some bad losses on their records. But Missouri? Man, its fan base is apathetic because its team is often pathetic.

Missing from his explanation: the continuing ire of alumni after the recent ‘strike’ by members of the (often pathetic) football team that led to the dismissal/resignation of a couple of high-ranking administration.

University of Missouri lost a lot of goodwill from its graduates in that fiasco, and its repercussions are going to echo for years to come.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

The Water Wars Begin

Nixon to Kansas: Don’t take Missouri River water:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said diverting Missouri River water to Kansas would be “ill-advised” and urged the state to reconsider studying its feasibility.

In a letter sent Thursday to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Nixon criticized a proposal to build a 360-mile aqueduct that would reroute as much as 4 million acre feet of Missouri River water to western Kansas to help support irrigated farming of corn and other crops. Water officials have expressed concerns that the current use of the Ogallala Aquifer to support agriculture is unsustainable.

You might think it’s nothing, but I’m sure the Missourians and the Kansans are raring to have it out again, and this is just a pretext.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Buffalo Schools Learn the Lesson from Republic Schools’ Example

Back in 2011, the Republic School District (the school district in which I live) removed some books from its library and triggered a national media firestorm that eventually led to the school district to reverse the removal.

The school district in Buffalo, Missouri, is not making that mistake:

A committee has elected not to remove a coming-of-age novel from the library at the middle school in Buffalo after the principal filed a formal complaint against the book.

The book in question apparently has a sex scene in it. You know, when I was in middle school, I was reading adult novels with sex scenes in them, but I had to go to the local library to get them. I don’t think M. Gene Henderson Middle School or North Jefferson Middle School stocked those kinds of books. Of course, in those days, adults did not write books for children and put sex scenes in them. Does this serve to depict reality or to normalize, that is, to create reality? I dunno. That’s a question for another time.

What this illustrates, though, is that national grievance concerns are impacting local-level and community-level governance as they seek to avoid controversy in determining standards and offerings that reflect their community, not the community of the loudest and best-funded nationwide.

Power to the people. Unless the people use that power against the interests of their betters elsewhere.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Further Eroding the Concept of Family

In Eureka, two women roommates think that their combined households containing an adult child and two minor children constitutes a family. (Also here and here.)

Note that none of the sources claim they’re a lesbian couple, which would change the timbre of the case. The articles claim that they’re two people who moved in together to share household costs, and they’ve run afoul of a local ordinance that says homes can only be shared by families. It’s designed to keep owners from turning single family homes into multiple unit dwellings and to keep the number of roommates down from frat house levels.

The two women ran afoul of the one family per home regulation, and instead of seeking a variance in the one-family rule , they’re seeking to expand the definition of family to include unrelated and nonsexual unions of adults. You know, like a club or new dyad (why stop with two, though?).

It’s almost enough to make a fiscal conservative think that the social cons are onto something when they say that the whole concept of family is under sustained, although unrelated, assault.

If these two women and their children constitute a family in the eyes of the law, what does not? Also, into what other elements of the law would this ruling set a precedent? A roommate can get custody of a child when the roommates’ shared domicile dissolves? What about in the death of a roommate, can the roommate get custody over the kid’s grandparents? Will insurers have to start covering your roommates? These are not unrelated questions.

In our grandparents’ time, this sort of argument would be unheard of. In our parents’ time, it would have been laughable. In our time, it’s just plausible enough that it could go either way.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Will They Learn? No.

One of these things is not like the others. Yet.

CEO of Mamtek charged with theft, fraud in Moberly, Mo., case

The CEO of a failed artificial sweetener company was charged Tuesday with theft and securities fraud in Missouri for using bond revenues to avoid foreclosure on his Beverly Hills, Calif., home and for failing to tell the truth about the company’s troubled operations.

The charges announced by Attorney General Chris Koster cap a yearlong investigation into Bruce Cole, who was chairman and CEO of Mamtek U.S.

The company received $39 million in bonds from Moberly, Mo., and authorization for up to $17 million of state incentives to build an artificial sweetener factory in the city which Gov. Jay Nixon said would eventually employ more than 600 people. But construction was halted on the partially complete facility after Mamtek missed a bond payment in August 2011.

Ballpark Village project approved, November groundbreaking planned

The board approved its share of $17 million in state and local tax incentives for the project’s first phase, confirmed John Fougere, director of communications at the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Missouri is expected to contribute about 25 percent of the bonds.

The Cardinals plan to have the first phase of the project complete by opening day 2014. The construction of the first phase of the project is anticipated to create more than 750 construction jobs and more than 430 permanent jobs, Cardinals officials said.

On July 6, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave its blessing for the development plan and subsidies for the Ballpark Village project, the $100 million first phase of which is set to begin construction this fall.

The Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Authority (MoDESA) voted unanimously on July 5 to approve the $17 million in MoDESA bonds for the project.

Koster sues developers over Cupples 9 cleanup

Missouri’s top lawyer sued a pair of St. Louis developers Friday, saying they squandered $2.4 million worth of state tax credits in the incomplete cleanup of a long-empty downtown building.

Attorney General Chris Koster filed the suit in St. Louis Circuit Court against Kevin McGowan and Nat Walsh over their failed redevelopment of the Cupples 9 building on Spruce St. west of Busch Stadium. He claims that their environmental consultant, in a report in 2010 at the end of the cleanup, stated that all lead paint had been removed. Later tests showed that it had not.

So, will governments learn not to ladle out money on developments? Of course not. The other government leaders were stoopid, and the current government leaders have a far keener eye and better readers of chicken guts.

But I find it encouraging that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a piece on another crony capitalist tool, the improvement district: Pennies add up as special taxing districts proliferate.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Don’t Blame Me; I Voted For Steelman

McCaskill got the opponent she wanted, and Todd Akin is showing why she wanted him.

This is a political blunder of the highest order. Regardless of how he prefaces it that it’s based on his knowledge (not revealed truth or expertise), regardless of whether his main point that abortion punishes the fetus for the crimes of a father, look at how bad it sounds on its face and then imagine how bad it will sound in McCaskill’s ads.

Todd Akin has been in Washington a long time, and it shows.

A lot of people have jumped on the terms “legitimate rape,” as though this is the most stupid or the most evil concept ever; however, it is not. Some claims of rape are not legitimate, such as the famous Duke La Crosse case. I’m no expert on these things, but I can imagine circumstances and have read claims of instances where a drunken hook-up or some other factor makes a woman reconsider a tryst and later claim it was rape. If that’s the case, it’s an actual rape. Ergo, there is legitimate rape, and there are illegitimate claims of rape. I can see what Akin might have been meaning to differentiate amid his scientific ignorance.

The condemnation is flowing from the social media (see the vigorous venom and condemnation for this blunder on PJMedia, Hot Air Headlines, and Mediaite). Soon, the nationwide money will flow copiously into McCaskill’s coffers, and some Republicans–me included–will wonder whether it’s better to write in Sarah Steelman than to vote for a man who’s already been in Washington long enough that he sometimes forgets where he “lives” in Missouri.

Claire McCaskill Wants To Run Against Todd Akin

Claire McCaskill has been running ads that single out Todd Akin by name:

television ad shows U.S. Rep. Todd Akin sitting in front of an American flag, talking with constituents and generally looking serious, as a narrator declares him “Missouri’s true conservative.”

Akin is “the most conservative congressman in Missouri,” says the recent spot. He’s “a crusader against bigger government” and has a “pro-family agenda.”

The commercial sounds as if it came from the Akin campaign. But it didn’t. And it isn’t from any of his conservative supporters, either.

In fact, it was paid for by Sen. Claire McCaskill — the incumbent Democrat and the ultimate opponent of whoever wins the Republican primary.

Apparently, that’s giving Akin some traction in the polls:

A new poll shows U.S. Rep. Todd Akin surging in the final days of Missouri’s three-way U.S. Senate Republican primary.

North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling shows businessman John Brunner still in the lead with 35 percent, Akin at 30 percent, and former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman at 25 percent. About ten percent said they were either undecided or would choose someone else.

This last story also points out results from a different poll:

The Post-Dispatch poll suggested that Akin would offer the least threat to Democrat Claire McCaskill in a one-on-one contest.

Why would McCaskill mention Akin by name? Why would she prefer to run against him?

Akin is not an outsider to Washington. As a long-term Congressman, he cannot attack her for being an insider siding with Obama and voting for unpopular party agenda items as he’s done the same thing. Also, Akin is such a creature of Washington that he’s had problems keeping his residence in Missouri straight.

I know McCaskill’s ads are having an actual effect instead of just a effect on the polls. I’ve spoken with a voter who’s thinking seriously about Akin based on McCaskill’s ads.

I looked through the raw polling data (PDF), and I didn’t see a breakdown of regions for the respondents. I wonder if the poll skews urban (read: St. Louis and Kansas City) and whether that particular fact significantly impacts the numbers. Brunner is a St. Louis-based businessman and Akin is a St. Louis area legislator. If they’re calling only the 314 area code, that might impact the numbers. I dunno.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

John Brunner Discovers Sarah Steelman, Todd Akin Were Legislators

John Brunner has funded a pair of Web sites, Sarah Steelman Facts and Todd Akin Facts that illustrate that both served in legislators and voted. Thus, the fact that they voted on some things that conservative bloggers don’t like is evidence that they’re RINOs or something.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brunner has no voting record to attack. Unfortunately, he does have a record as a businessman, so he’s made some decisions that were good business decisions that might conflict with conservative principles.

Jeez, Louise, kids. The Claire McCaskill ads that say, “Even members of his/her own party say….” start here. So how about you focus more on what you believe and what you’ll do rather than cast aspersions on your fellow party members?

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Jay Nixon Vetoes Bad Legislation Missouri Republicans Passed

Last week, Jay Nixon vetoed a law introduced and passed by the Missouri legislature.

The Missouri legislature, dominated by Republicans, passed an inexorable, inexplicable bill that would have transmogrified a business relationship to favor one powerful party in the relationship:

Distributors, including St. Louis-based Major Brands, had pushed for the change in Missouri law that would once again make their relationships fall under franchise protections – limiting producers from dumping distributors for competitors.

The bill would have tied distributors to alcohol producers in much the same way that national conglomerates such as McDonald’s are tied to their local franchise restaurant owners under Missouri law.

It’s unclear to this poor little Tea Party Republican what’s so special about the distributors of liquor as opposed to the middle men who resell other retail goods from producers to consumers. What is clear is that the powerful, monied interests who own the distributorships wanted to use their influence in Jefferson City to get the Missouri Legislature to alter the rules to make it so that producers could not do business with other distributors who offered better terms to the producers.

A free market like that would lead to more efficient delivery methods and lower prices to consumers through competition, but less money in the pockets of the established distributors. Of course, they cannot abide by that.

It’s less clear why Republicans in the legislature wanted to indenture wineries, distilleries, and small brewers to those established distributorships.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Location Apparently Not A Competitive Advantage

Rent-seeking local auto and marine dealers have found friends in the Republican-dominated Missouri state legislature:

Gov. Jay Nixon says voters should have the final say on a bill placing local sales taxes on all motor vehicles purchased out of state.

In a statement released this morning, Nixon said the bill passed by the Legislature in the wee hours of this morning would “improperly impose a tax increase.

“My administration remains committed to working with the Legislature and others to resolve these issues, but the people of Missouri must have the opportunity to make their voices heard,” the governor said.

At issue is a bill that was rushed through yesterday in response to a ruling handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court in January.

Auto dealers say the court ruling puts them at a competitive disadvantage and is already driving sales to neighboring states.

While this might be a problem in border areas, not every citizen has the ability nor the wherewithal to buy a vehicle or boat in Maryland, no matter how convenient the Internet might make it. The economics term is place utility. That is, the place of the product matters. Local car dealerships have a competitive advantage over out-of-state dealers already because local car dealers are local.

The logic of a Republican legislator is truly dizzying:

Sen. Mike Kehoe, a former car dealer from Jefferson City, said today that the issue needs to be resolved quickly.

At the same time, Kehoe said the Legislature is considering offering some middle ground on the issue. At least one pending bill has been amended to give cities and counties the option to ask local voters if they want to continue the sales tax on out-of-state purchases.

“Maybe it could be a two-step process,” with the Legislature imposing the tax and voters deciding whether to keep it, Kehoe said.

Some counties already have a use tax in place; however, this Republican, theoretically representing a smaller government party, would prefer that the higher level of government impose its new tax upon the population and give county governments the ability to opt-out of the extra revenue whose taxation decision was taken out of their hands and their accountability.

Perhaps the proper way, and the way in more accordance with small government tradition, would be the other way around. You know, like it is currently.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Todd Akin Has Washington Experience and Washington Weakness

Another story tries to connect dots between Todd Akin’s votes and his campaign contributions:

People for whom U.S. Rep. Todd Akin helped secure $31 million in earmarks have paid him back handsomely: The Missouri Republican has raked in nearly $80,000 in campaign cash from people tied to those firms.

“The fact that Rep. Akin got campaign contributions from people working at companies that he got earmarks for serves as a vivid reminder of why we have the earmark moratorium and how it’s important,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the independent advocacy group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“In three short years, these companies got $31 million worth of earmarks while handing over $78,000 in campaign contributions. Not a bad return on investment,” Ellis said.

We at Missouri Insight recognize that statistical correllation does not equal causation. The fact that some people sent money to a Republican candidate does not necessarily mean that they were seeking influence, nor does the fact that the representative votes in that direction indicate that he’s doing it because of the campaign contributions.

However, we at Missouri Insight also believe that once a politician goes to Washington, he (or she) becomes of Washington. Particularly when the politician in question has trouble with his voting address and remembering where he lives. So we support Sarah Steelman for the Senate.

But we continue to like to shout “Crimson!” when we see a red herring about candidates whom we do not prefer.

In a McCaskill-Akin race, both candidates will have the smell of Washington about them, making Akin vulnerable to these sorts of stories and insinuations.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Puts Words in Ed Martin’s Mouth

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board puts words into Ed Martin’s mouth:

“See brown people. Round up brown people. Ed Martin. Tough on crime.” That’s quite a slogan.

Next, of course, we’ll see those words scroll across the screen in one of Chris Koster’s ads or one of the other entities out there putting out anti-Martin ads in advance of the election.

Paper prints crap, advertisements use crap as evidence that a legitimate news source agrees with advertiser, and hopefully, viewers will ignore the context.

I miss the days when St. Louis had two dailies. The Globe-Democrat, the Sun, whatever.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories

Ed Martin Changes Races, Again

I was concerned when Bill Hennessy posted about Ed Martin changing races for the second time this election cycle. First, he was running for the Senate. Then, he was running for the 2nd District Congressional seat. Now, he’s running for Missouri State Attorney General.

I’ve supported Ed Martin in his race for the Missouri 3rd Congressional District race in 2010, and I’ve supported him in his quest for both legislative positions this year. I’ll probably pull the lever for him in November for the Attorney General. But the continuing changes give me pause. Continue reading “Ed Martin Changes Races, Again”

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories