It’s a Different Story Now

Then, the stories were all about how Missouri’s gas taxes were low compared to other states, and it’s a bad thing.

Now, the papers are all aflutter: Missouri’s gas tax going up again Friday as hike in Illinois suspended for 6 months.

I always note stories that talk about low taxes as though raising tax rates should be a competition between taxing authorities (note I did not say “governments,” as through the miracles of modern “governance,” non-elected authorities can tax citizens, which I thought led to a revolution sometime in the distant past, before Thefacebook), with the media acting as cheerleaders for more taxes. Until they don’t, and their little minds have no hobgoblins, no sir.

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Welcome to the Urban Party

Neo discovers the expansive definition of ‘urban’ to government bean counters:

I recently came acro<.ss a statistic indicating that “In 2020, about 82.66 percent of the total population in the United States lived in cities and urban areas.” That rather astounded me. But what I didn’t know (and what a commenter – sorry, I forget who it was) pointed out was that the statistic is based on a definition of “urban” that counts any town with a population over 2,500.

As you might remember, gentle reader, I discovered this definition ten years ago, after the 2010 census, and presented a series for my defunct Missouri Insight blog that I imported here on gritty urban clusters of southwest Missouri:

Ah, in those days, I ferried my young boys around for small, one-hour road trips to see little towns and, briefly, to talk about them on the blog I started after leaving the group blog 24th State. It got little traffic, though, so I got away from it a bit. But I’ve made up for it, I suppose, by taking all the small town newspapers I do (about 11 at last count).

At any rate, Neo concludes:

How many people are aware of these definitions? I certainly wasn’t. And how do they affect our perception of statistics and their meaning? When we read that America is so overwhelmingly urban, it conjures up one sort of country. If the cutoff for “urban” was at a higher number, it would change the statistics and bring to mind a different sort of country.

As I said in 2012:

So why does the Census Bureau want you to think that these are urban areas?

Because government leaders favor urban solutions.

Consider how much money is spent at the state and federal level on mass transit, particularly light rail trains or what have you. Mass transit makes sense in a densely populated urban area, like a real city, but makes no sense for Republic. How many train stops or bus stops are you going to put to serve the widely scattered population?

Consider fuel economy mandates, the drive for smaller automobiles, and higher fuel prices. A small electric car might make sense when you only put 5,000 miles a year on a car in short trips through a city. But out in the country, your electric car might not make it to the next town.

Consider the Missouri Department of Transportation, who spends millions of dollars on dynamic message signs for urban areas. The Springfield signs spend about 362 days a year displaying MODoT public service announcements. I’ve only seen three other messages on them in the time they’ve been up. One day when it was snowing, the signs announced a weather advisory. Once, I saw a test message. But just this week I did see a message about an auto accident. This same department of transportation also spends millions of state dollars and millions of Federal dollars on sound walls to benefit urban residents who bought near a highway. But when it comes to maintaining actual, you know, roads in rural areas, say hello to tolls.

If you live in southwest Missouri, you’re used to being battered and bullied by statewide ballot initiative wherein the residents of St. Louis and Kansas City dictate, based on their consciences, the livelihoods of residents throughout the state (the recent furor over 2010’s Proposition B comes to mind, as does this musing of a now-retired Indiana farmer). Actual urbanites take vote their simple hearts according to their personal urban experience without knowing, or mostly even caring, what impact it has on the people out in the country.

Now that the Federal Government has declared that we’re all city-dwellers now, these urban solutions can be applied even more lavishly. Of course, the fiscal outlays will continue to go to the actual cities, where the votes are, but the government officials who tell themselves that they want to do what’s best will govern conscience-free, knowing that their pet urbanism applies to everyone.

Further thought: Did this small series inspire Lileks’s current weekly feature on small town downtowns? Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? But, no.

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Could Have Been Me

Steve Pokin: Faced with horrifying scene, jury shows resilience in murder trial:

On Wednesday morning, it was the civic duty of the 12 women and two men in the jury box to look closely at photos of the body of Barbara Foster, who was run over and killed on Nov. 20, 2018.

(Fourteen are in the box because only the judge knows who the two alternates are.)

Deiter Duff, the Greene County medical examiner, calmly used words to describe the pictures, which revealed far more than could ever be said in even a 1,000 grisly words.

. . . .

Years ago, when I was a reporter in Southern California, I wrote a story that had the headline: The Jurors’ Trial.

I went back in old court records and found the names of jurors who had served in three or four of the most grisly and/or disturbing murder trials in our coverage area over the past 25 years.

One of the murder victims was a little girl who was assaulted and then strangled with the shoe laces from her tennis shoes. That’s how she was found. That’s the photo the jurors saw.

I wanted to know: Did they still remember the details of the trial? Ten years later? Twenty years later? Would they remember it for the rest of their lives?

Unanimously, of course, they did remember.

They remembered the photos. And the nights they couldn’t sleep because of those photos.

They remembered how random violence and depravity can be.

I was summoned for jury duty this week, but I was excused because I had to make two round trips to Rolla (at $70 gas per) to deposit and withdraw my son from a robotics camp at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

Which is just as well. I don’t know how impartial I could be as a jurist listening to experts saying that cough syrup made her do it.

I get the sense I would do better on civil trials.

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Unelected, Unaccountable Governance

Last week, Pergelator opined:

I’ve been hearing about the clown show in Washington D. C. since forever and I’m thinking maybe we need a different arrangement. Instead of having Congress decide everything, maybe we should hire a manager to actually run the country, the way some city councils hire a manager to run their city. That way the clowns in Congress could concentrate on what’s important to them (which is performing on stage for the public) and the manager could worry about actually running the country. The important part is that Congress would no longer have the power to levy taxes, award contracts or borrow money.

The way the Federal government was supposed to work was that we had a manager type: The Executive, aka the President, who was nominally accountable to the people, executing laws passed by the legislative branch, the Congress. However, it has evolved so that unelected administrators in the Executive branch get to make regulations and enforce them–and they’re barely accountable to the people if the people don’t watch closely the announcements of proposed regulations and raise an outcry when some of the more expansive are introduced.

At the more local level, especially in smaller towns but also smaller cities, where the mayor is part time and the city/county legislatures more parter time, they introduced the City Managers, the chief unelected bureaucrat who ends up serving under various mayors and councils. Who become a power onto themselves, unfortunately.

Here in Missouri, several city managers have recently been ousted by elected officials:

On the flip side, we have a police force threatening resignation when an elected mayor planned to appoint a new police chief: Pierce City, Mo. could have a ‘mass exodus’ of police officers:

”He attempted to relieve the chief of his duties and appoint someone that was not only not qualified, but her moral compass is so messed up that it’s unreal,” Hutson said.

The news story gives no real context to it, and the Springfield media has not followed up to explain who the proposed chief was or what the actual positions this person holds are. This actually follows another local town whose police force resigned en masse last year: Kimberling City Police Department chief, all of his officers announce resignations.

There’s a lot of distrust at all levels of government these days, it seems. And adding unelected authorities to the mix is unlikely to improve trust between citizens and government or even between government entities themselves.

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It Will What?

City of Springfield seeks application authorization to end youth homelessness

One cannot make sense of the headline, but if one clicks through and reads the story, it makes sense.

Springfield City Council will meet Tuesday and vote on the approval of an application for a grant to end youth homelessness.

Senior planner Bob Atchley is seeking authorization from the city council to apply for the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If awarded, the minimum the city would receive is $1 million.

“This would potentially be huge for youth homelessness in our community,” said Atchley. “It literally will allow us to develop a plan to hopefully end youth homelessness in our community.”

It’s about applying for a one million dollar grant, which some government and governmentish people will spend to create a plan to “end” youth homelessness.

The skeptical amongst us know this will not “end” anything, but certainly it will spend the million dollars. And maybe even yield a paper requiring further ongoing funding to implement. To not “end” anything, because the end would also be the end of the funding.

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Sadly, Again, Yes

I might have mentioned sometimes clicking crime news headlines to see if I know the people involved.

In the olden days, I would sometimes recognize the perpetrators. Of course, now that I’m of a certain age, all the people I would have known to be perpetrators are in prison or dead.

Unfortunately, I still sometimes see names I know.

Man charged in fatal shooting of Shaw resident in backyard

To be honest, I’ve only been in Facebook-touch with Chris in the last decade and a half, but he liked some of my posts, and I was pleased to see he married and adopted a child.

I am glad that we left St. Louis when we did. I am now wondering if we went far enough out.

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Local News Bits

  • U.S. Senate Poll: Greitens leads Republican candidates ahead of August primary for Mo.; Kunce leads Democratic ticket

    The media is trying to make Greitens happen. This poll was commissioned by television stations, and the company conducting the poll has a spotty reputation when it comes to predicting actual winners.

  • Pierce City, Mo. could have a ‘mass exodus’ of police officers:

    Pierce City officers say they plan to resign over concerns they have with the policies of the newly elected mayor. On Tuesday, Mayor Edward Golubski spoke with KY3 but declined to go on camera. The Mayor said he feels blindsided by the issue. He said he wants the best for the city and is happy to help work with the police to ease their concerns.

    “It’s going to be a mass exodus,” Pierce City Officer Chris Hutson said. “Most, if not all of the police officers will be leaving soon.”

    Chris Hutson has been a Pierce City officer for two years. And he has been a part of law enforcement for ten years. Hutson said he is now resigning entirely.

    ”I would be very concerned as to why it’s happening and what’s going to happen to the city,” Hutson said.

    He said it starts with concerns over several of Mayor Golubski’s policies.

    ”He attempted to relieve the chief of his duties and appoint someone that was not only not qualified, but her moral compass is so messed up that it’s unreal,” Hutson said.

    The fact that the news story does not delve into the nature of the policies nor the person to be appointed chief of police, instead focusing on police abandoning their positions, makes one wonder what those policies are. One can speculate, though.

    Although, to be honest, it might not be Soros dipping into small towns but rather someone wanting to promote a relative or significant other. However, the “journalists” don’t dig into the reasons.

    Maybe, if Pierce City runs out of police force, they can deploy their tanks (just kidding, they’re National Guard tanks, but I like linking to that old post).

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Of Course, I Don’t Have To Tell Friar….

He has already read this John Kass column: What Would Royko Do?

Kass points out that today’s news media would not support Royko’s style, and I agree.

But the media landscape has changed, too. When Royko was working, the metropolitan daily was a big deal, giving one a chance at a mass audience. Syndication would net a bigger national audience. Television appearances might follow.

But now, the printed (or written word, more to the point) landscape has fragmented. Newspapers have faded in circulation and reach, but they’ve fired their old and grizzled and expensive columnists, replacing them with the same twenty-year-old know-nothings that write the news. Columnists like John Kass and Steve Pokin have gone independent or work for smaller outfits now.

So many different conditions have changed that mean we won’t see the likes of Royko, or Kass for that matter, again.

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Springfield Three in The Sun

Today, The Sun has a story about the women who disappeared in Springfield thirty years ago: NEVER FOUND Creepy mystery of how two pals & mum vanished without a trace – with only cue being disturbing answer phone message.

As I mentioned in the book review for the recent novel Gone in the Night, this case continues to resonate vividly in Springfield.

Probably because it’s a smaller city, with less crime than other places, because it’s unresolved, and because it’s in living memory.

I mean, I cannot think of a comparable case in either St. Louis or Milwaukee, but I have been out of their stadtgeists for a while now.

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I Know A Guy In The News

As I have mentioned, I have been known to click crime stories in Milwaukee or St. Louis to see if I knew any of the participants, and once in a while, I would. Well, I have been out of those cities for over a decade or two these days, and most of the guys from the projects or the trailer parks who had gotten on the wrong side of the law have probably died by now.

But here in Springfield, if I click through a story, if I know someone, it’s probably on a positive story. Like Gyms in the Ozarks returning to normal as pandemic restrictions end. I clicked through to see if it was a gym I’d recognize (basically, Planet Fitness on Republic Road, the parks’ Chesterfield or Kinney Family Center, or the downtown or Pat Jones YMCA).

And so it was–it was the Pat Jones YMCA, where I work out. So then I watched to see if I knew anyone there. Or see if I made an appearance, although I would not immediately recognize the old man I am in photographs but not the mirror.

I didn’t recognize anyone working out–the bit was not filmed at my normal time, 8am to 9am on weekdays, or I would have recognized many of the older people who have been working out there for years in the mornings. Like me–almost a decade now, off and on, at roughly the same time in the mornings (although I am probably going to switch to afternoons soon, as I will not make a daily run into Springfield to drop a child off at the Lutheran school there).

I didn’t recognize any of the staff–the CEO of the YMCA was interviewed, not any of the front desk people or trainers that I see around.

However, I did recognize the young man they interviewed. Well, no, I recognized the name and then the young man.

He and his mother and father studied at my dojo; they were a couple of months ahead of us. When they reached their black belts, the mother dropped, and then the father and son came sparingly, and then the son dropped, and then the father came on his own a couple of times before dropping. It’s a common pattern amongst families, one I’m trying to avoid.

Of course, I did not recognize the guy because it’s been five years, and he’s grown up a bit in the interim and grew some facial hair. But working off the name, I recognized him.

Between my martial arts classes and the church, I end up recognizing a far better class of people in the news these days.

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Must Be Why I Like It

Apparently, the museum hosting Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère has slapped a trigger warning on it:

The Courtauld Gallery has been criticised for introducing a ‘woke’ new label on the Manet masterpiece A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It warns viewers of the ‘unsettling’ presence of a man

As I mentioned when I read a book on Manet, this is my favorite Manet painting.

Also, I think “The unsettling presence of a man” is going to be my slug/lede on my resume and LinkedIn profile from now on.

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Who Has “Religious War in Europe” for 2023?

Today, Kim du Toit posted a news roundup which included a link to a Breitbart story German Cardinal Celebrates Mass Marking ‘20 Years of Queer Worship’:

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx celebrated a Mass Sunday to commemorate “20 years of queer worship and pastoral care” in Munich, Germany.

“I desire an inclusive Church, a Church that includes all who want to walk the way of Jesus,” said Cardinal Marx, the archbishop of Munich and an adviser to Pope Francis.

According to the archdiocesan website, the cardinal was preaching to a “queer congregation.”

In his homily, Marx insisted that Jesus himself was opposed to “those who exclude” but rather “would like to invite everyone with the primacy of love!”

“The kingdom of God is to discover that God is love — in all its dimensions,” said Marx, which includes “the sexual dimension.”

One cannot take it too lightly because it’s on Breitbart, as the New Oxford Review‘s editor thinks a schism might be brewing on the continent:

World, be warned: The Germans are on the march again.

This time they’re boldly tramping down the Synodal Path, and they’re being led by their nation’s Catholic bishops. And many in the Church are worried that their final destination will be schism.

Two years ago, the German Church launched a reform program, prompted by revelations of decades of rampant clerical sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up. At first it sounded like good and even necessary work. But over time, the focus of the reform movement, otherwise known as the “Synodal Path,” shifted, eventually homing in on a list of “binding” reforms that, if approved by the bishops’ conference, would contradict longstanding Catholic teaching on issues such as same-sex relationships, ecumenism, lay roles in the Mass, clerical celibacy, and women’s ordination. The recent release of the “Fundamental Text,” the document guiding the German Church’s deliberations, raised many an ecclesiastical eyebrow. At one point, it states that the Catholic Church appears “regressive…especially in the field of gender justice, in the evaluation of queer sexual orientations, and in dealing with failure and new beginnings.” Elsewhere, it states that “there is no one truth of the religious, moral, and political world, and no one form of thought can lay claim to ultimate authority.”

Such worldly “wisdom” masquerading as Catholic theology is why many observers are speculating that the German Church’s march down the Synodal Path could lead to its severing from the Church of Rome.

The whole article requires registration/subscription to New Oxford Review, but clearly Pieter Vree takes the situation in Germany very seriously.

You know, I am half-Catholic, and I like some of its doctrine over Protestant equivalents, but the Church itself is more worldly than heavenly these days, and probably has been since its inception.

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Springfield Police Dept. reminds you to take advantage of “Safe Exchange Zone”:

Police remind you to think twice when meeting up to buy an item from someone you meet online.

Springfield Police Department investigators reports recent robberies when people meet up to buy off of Facebook Marketplace or other outlets. Police set up parking spots at the police station designated for internet purchases. The area is well-lit with security camera footage.

Investigators say on March 9, a victim met two unknown people in Springfield after connecting on Facebook to buy a Playstation. They met at a Walmart. Investigators say during the exchange the driver pulled a gun on the victim.

* * * *

The safe exchange zone parking spots are available 24/7.

But just last week, the headline was Springfield PD lobby and phone hours change due to staffing shortage:

Starting Monday, March 14th, the hours that the phones are answered, and the lobby is open at the Springfield Police Department on East Chestnut Expressway are being reduced. Previously, the lobby was open from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and then from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Phone lines were open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day of the week. Now, the lobby and phones will be closed over the weekend, and phones will only be answered until 5 p.m. during the week. This does *not* impact 911 calls.

It sounds like the cuts might only impact one police station, but the other has lobby hours that are not 24/7.

One wonders if the “Save Exchange Zone” only offers cameras and the possible presence of a police officer passing by.

You know, like a Walmart parking lot.

More of the messaging that you’re safe because there are cameras. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I believe that is magically fallacious.

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Wherein Brian J. Reads A Crime Story and Knows Someone In It

Springfield auto shop reports ‘rampant’ rise in thefts and vandalism

That’s our current preferred garage, exactly five miles away. I know this because sometimes I drop a vehicle off and walk home.

Sometimes, I’ve been known to swap cars, where I drive up, pick one of our cars up and leave the other for service the next day. Perhaps I’ll reconsider that strategy. It will be easier as we will soon have three vehicles and three drivers in the house briefly.

But, man, Springfield’s crime continues to increase.

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Not A Teachable Moment

Confusing siblings is not a matter of racial bias:

Tennis superstar Serena Williams took to Twitter on Wednesday to call out The New York Times for using a photo of her sister, Venus Williams, in an article about her new capital venture fund.

She called on the Times to “do better” with “engrained systems woefully unaware of their biases.”

“No matter how far we come, we get reminded that it’s not enough. This is why I raised $111 million for Serena Ventures,” Williams said on Twitter, adding “even I am overlooked.”

It’s a common mistake. Must we make everything about jargony jargon current rightthink?

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I Went To M-Word University

C’mon, man, you and I know that’s coming next now that Marquette has redesigned its seal:

Following years of student activism and campus deliberation, Marquette University announced this week that it will change its official seal, most notably by removing an image of the college’s namesake.

The university’s board approved a new seal that, according to an announcement Monday, will “more accurately reflect” the role that Indigenous tribes played in the journey that French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette embarked upon in 1673 to find the direction and mouth of the Mississippi River.

The prop bet is whether it will stop being a “Catholic” university before or after the renaming.

I’ve actually placed my money on simultaneously.

Funny thing; although the university sends me glossy magazines on occasion, they don’t try to hit me up for money any more.

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