Roy Blunt and the fine art of finessing the truth

Most of you have probably heard that GOP Senator Roy Blunt hasn’t been entirely forthcoming about his relationship to the draft during the Vietnam years of his youth.  Here’s what Steve Benen has to say about this little Missouri contretemps:

Blunt, up for re-election this year, is facing Jason Kander, widely seen as a rising star in Democratic politics, and an Army veteran who volunteered to serve in the war in Afghanistan. This dynamic prompted local media to take a fresh look at the Republican incumbent’s background when it came to military service.
When the Kansas City Star specifically asked last year about Blunt’s draft history, the senator’s office last year talked about his low draft number, but failed to mention the three draft deferments.
There’s no evidence that Blunt ever lied about his record, but for the Republican’s critics, it’s a sin of omission.
“As someone who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, it’s personally disappointing to me that, according to today’s report, a United States’ senator would spend decades misleading his state and country about his draft record,” Kander said in a press statement. “I don’t sit in judgment of anyone who chose not to serve in Vietnam, but hiding three deferments and saying you couldn’t remember them is completely inexcusable.”
Making matters slightly worse, VoteVets.org chairman and Iraq War veteran Jon Soltz took the opportunity to emphasize Blunt’s less-than-stellar voting record on veterans’ issues.
Blunt’s avoid-the-draft strategies don’t bother me at all; I was all for young men making it clear that they weren’t going to support that contrived, silly, unnecessary and very destructive war with their lives. But I think Kander sums up th real issue very aptly. Blunt’s convenient omission of the fact of the student deferments and his awkward explanation when confronted by the omission  that he just forgot about what could only have been a major –  perhaps even a life preserving – boon tests the limits of ones credulity.

 

But the business about Blunt’s less-than-stellar voting record on veterans’ issues is what is really important. While Blunt has not been forthcoming with support where it matters – in the budget, he’s been more than willing to talk up his supposed efforts for vets. The famous Karl Rove $800,000 ad buy on Blunt’s behalf tried to present him as a fearless supporter of veterans, claiming that “Senator Roy Blunt fought to provide jobs for veterans when they returned from service. Now Senator Blunt is fighting for more military family support.” Sadly for Blunt, the Missouri Democratic Party did a fact check that documented no such thing, but simply  confirmed the many ways in which Blunt has been less than a friend to returning vets.

This is a recurring pattern for Blunt. Take Medicare for example. I wrote this on the topic back in November:

So last Thursday (11/19) readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were treated to a quarter-page ad that proclaimed in large letters “thank You Senator Blunt for protecting access to patient care.” The ad was paid for by the Federation of American Hospitals, a for-profit hospital lobbying group.

As near as I can make out Blunt’s service to the group consisted of advocacy against cutting down the federal subsidy that compensates for Medicare “bad debt.” This is the debt that occurs when Medicare beneficiaries cannot manage co-pays or other Republican-sponsored (and Blunt endorsed) outlays designed to make sure that our elderly have “got skin in the game.”

Laudable, right? But bear in mind that this is the same Senator Blunt who just a few years ago proclaimed that, “We’ve had Medicare since 1965, and Medicare has never done anything to make people more healthy.” It’s also the same Roy Blunt who has voted against just about any expansion of healthcare that hasn’t involved a subsidy to healthcare industry beneficiaries – folks who, incidentally, have done quite a lot of good for ol’ Roy in their turn. Healthcare industries and Big Pharma account for quite a sizable chunk of Blunt’s campaign dosh.

Carefully parsed announcements and actions that are intended to obscure past actions – it’s nothing new. In fact it’s Blunt’s modus operandi. There are endless examples. Blunt moans about poor folks who he claims will be hurt when big coal contributors will be the ones taking it on the chin if Obama’s EPA rules are ever enacted. He went on the war path against net neutrality in defense of his pals and campaign supporters at AT&T – which is, in addition a client of Blunt’s lobbyist son, Andy. But, get this, he did it to save jobs, not thay any were actually threatened, but as I indicated in the title, Blunt is a master of finesse and never blunt about what he’s really up to. – which is collecting the campaign dough that feeds his ambitions.

So, I’m not surprised about the fact that he has tiptoed around the issue of his activities during the Vietnam war as well as the actual facts of his non-support of veterans. And it’ll probably work. Pavlovian conditioning will kick in and the VFW boys will refuse to believe that a Republican an be any thing other than a muscular kicker of backsides.

Just passing through?

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This afternoon in west central Missouri:

In traffic.

In traffic.

Do you think he took the opportunity to do a little door-to-door campaigning since he was already in the neighborhood?

Previously:

Mike Parson (r) “redirects” for Lieutenant Governor in 2016 (July 26, 2015)

Campaign Finance: back home again in Indiana… (October 7, 2015)

Campaign Finance: building funds (October 16, 2015)

Mike Parson (r) – October 2015 Quarterly Campaign Finance Report (October 25, 2015)

Campaign Finance: Is there a club or something? (January 26, 2016)

Mamas, don’t send your babies to Mizzou …

… because they’re liable to get shot through and through!*

Seem a bit dramatic? How about if our intrepid GOP lawmakers institute concealed carry on UM campuses? Frat-house shoot-outs after all night drinking binges anyone? Escalating classroom arguments? Escalating boyfriend-girlfriend angst ? Resentful students unhappy with grades? All of this dumped on that unstable, still-developing adolescent brain? I’ve taught college students my friends, and let me tell you, it can get intense. Does anyone think that putting guns into this mix is a recipe for an attractive campus that can perform well in an increasingly competitive market place?  Which we are told is a growing concern for MU – and ought to be a concern for the legislature.

But first maybe a little background will help to put the enrollment problem into better perspective.

Last Thursday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the University of Missouri is facing declining enrollment. There is general agreement that fewer applications are due in part to demographic factors – fewer high school graduates, for instance – but there is also  speculation that the recent racial unrest, along with general administrative malaise, aggravated by legislative meddling, isn’t doing much to help. The Post-Dispatch‘s Tony Messenger summarized the  situation  succinctly:

The university system lacks a president. Its main campus lacks a chancellor. Many of its deans and other administrators hold interim titles. Black students and faculty feel disenfranchised. White donors are angry. Lawmakers are meddling with the curators. The curators are meddling with the now nearly nonexistent administration. The governor lacks a strong enough relationship with lawmakers in either party to do much about the dysfunction.

The situation has led Standard & Poor to consider lowering the University’s credit rating. Out of state Missouri conservatives don’t want to send their children to a school where, in the words of some Mssouri legislators, the “animals [are] running the zoo, or the inmates running the asylum.” Less biased folks or, maybe, just less authoritarian folks, on the other hand, might have qualms about sending their children to a school where students, specifically African-American students, are characterized as either animals or insane by the lawmakers who (a bit too ostentatiously) wield power over the institution.

Now add to this picture the looming prospect of guns everywhere on campus. What mother would want to send her  kids off to a shootout at a spectacularly disorganized Okay Corral – which could well result from Senate Bill 589 , which simply proposes to do away with concealed-carry restrictions on Missouri public campuses, and the less draconian  Senate Bill 731 , which would allow campuses to opt out of permitting concealed carry as long as they are willing to guarantee increased security, including metal detectors at all buildings and more campus police presence – not an insignificant expense for institutions that have had to beg a meddling, right-wing legislature for a pitiful sufficiency to carry out their strictly educational projects.

Of course we get the usual blah-de-blah about hpow letting folks carry guns will actually increase their safety. Here’s what supporter Senator David Schatz (R- ) has to say about the the perceived virtues of the two bills:

During testimony about this legislation, it was pointed out repeatedly that mass shooters can kill many people in the time it takes for police to arrive. Some statistics show, on average, it takes just over 12 minutes for law enforcement to respond to an active shooter situation. Statistics from mass shootings show a person is killed nearly every 17 seconds. To me, it makes sense that law-abiding citizens with proper training can save lives in an emergency situation like this.

Years ago, when staff members would present arguments against proposed changes with numbers and measurements, I used to be really pleased because it showed that they  were trying hard and not resorting to tantrums – even when the numbers and measurements were lousy and only presented part of the picture. I expect more of my lawmakers, however. Do you really  think it would improve things if a “mass shooting” became a shooting free-for all? What happens when the police do arrive? How do they tell the “good guy” with guns from the initial shooters? In situations of this sort, folks trying to help are just as apt to miss or shoot victims. Civilians are not trained to deal with mass shooters – and studies show that even highly trained police officers frequently miss when shooting at persons.

A little careful thought shows that the deterrence argument, as has been frequently noted, is nothing more than a myth. College campuses are largely gun-free and though several, highly publicized mass-shooting incidents have occurred over the years, there are few gun-related homicides on campuses when considered in relation to other locales; colleges and universities are very safe places. A Department of Justice study a few years ago found that 93% of the violent crimes (pdf) that afflicted college students happened off campus.

The prospect of guns on campus has alarmed police departments and professional educational organizations. If appropriate response is the problem, there are plausible alternatives:

In calling for a repeal of campus carry laws already on the books and blockage of future campus carry legislation, they did offer up ways to protect faculty and students when school is in session. “We encourage colleges and universities to embrace critical incident planning that includes faculty and staff and to advise all faculty and staff of these plans,” said the groups in a statement.  “We further call on these institutions to rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents. State legislative bodies must refrain from interfering with decisions that are properly the responsibility of the academic community.”

So if they are not needed to deter crime or for self-defense what happens with all these guns on campus? I think I touched on some of the possibilities in my first paragraph. One issue that I didn’t mention, however, was the risk of adding easily available guns pell-mell into a population where suicide is already epidemic (didn’t we say something up-front about adolescent instability coupled with the stresses of college?). A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that gun related suicides in concealed carry states far outnumbered gun-suicides in low gun ownership states – and, yes, the study was limited to six states in each category with similar overall populations. Non-gun suicide rates in the two groups of states were similar.  What could this mean for MU? Draw your own conclusions:

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college age young adults, exceeded only by accidental death (mostly from motor vehicle accidents). On average, about 1,000 college students commit suicide each year while another 24,000 attempt suicide. Whereas suicide attempts by overdosing on drugs (the most common method) are fatal only about 3% of the time, suicide attempts with firearms are fatal more than 90% of the time. It goes without saying that making firearms more available to college students will make it more likely that more of these 24,000 unsuccessful attempts each year will be fatal.

Professional educational groups are also alarmed about the implications for free speech within a safe learning environment:

Meanwhile, AAC&U said in a statement that higher education institutions should be safe places where students can freely express their own views, but that the presence of concealed weapons in college classrooms can silence students and professors. “There have been unprecedented attacks from many sectors in recent years on higher education institutions and on their authority to create and shape healthy and diverse learning environments, but none is as dangerously destructive as the recent calls to allow concealed firearms on college campuses,” says AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.

And, finally, for the potential effect on future  enrollment. There isn’t much evidence out there about the effect of guns on campus on enrollment since the issue is relatively new. However, a recent study by the  The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus (yes, a partisan group, but their methodology seems fairly rigorous given data constraints)  compared ten years of data from Utah and Colorado. They found that not only did violent crime on campus increase after guns on campus became legal, but, in addition:

… the student population decreased. As the population of the United States rises at a steady rate of about .7% yearly, the student population of Utah campuses has fluctuated over a ten-year span (2004-2013) with the last two years (2012-2013) consisting of a 1.7% and 2.3% drop in enrollment. The fluctuation for Colorado is similar with the last two years consisting of a .6% and 1.3% decrease.

So maybe if we’re really worried about enrollment in Missouri’s universities and colleges – not to mention student well-being – we might stop fixating on campus protests, and give a little thought about what message it will send if our legislature imposes the shootout at high noon as a viable response to student safety concerns.

*With apologies to Willie Nelson and his lovely and rather metrically complex song. Sorry to mangle it here.

**Second sentence edited slightly for style.

Campaign Finance: it’s like a campaign contribution, only smaller – part 26

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Today at the Missouri Ethics Commission for Eric Greitens’ (r) 2016 gubernatorial campaign:

C151053 02/11/2016 GREITENS FOR MISSOURI John R Miller 299 S. Main St. Suite 2450 Salt Lake City UT 84111 JR Miller Enterprises Executive 2/11/2016 $5,001.00

Nope, can’t vote in the primary, either. Sigh.

Previously:

Eric Greitens (r) – January 2016 Quarterly Campaign Finance Report – “Running for governor in which state?” (January 17, 2016)

Campaign Finance: Nope… (January 18, 2016)

Campaign Finance: not something you see every day (January 19, 2016)

Campaign Finance: it’s like a campaign contribution, only smaller – part 24 (January 22, 2016)

Campaign Finance: it’s like a campaign contribution, only smaller – part 25 (January 25, 2016)

Campaign Finance: look at that (January 29, 2016)

Campaign Finance: Leawood, Kansas! (February 3, 2016)

Campaign Finance: pretty soon we’ll be talking about some serious money (February 5, 2016)

We couldn’t make this stuff up

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In Oregon:

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation Ends
by Conrad Wilson and John Rosman OPB | Feb. 11, 2016 8 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 11, 2016 12:19 p.m

….Fiore gave this advice to militant Sandy Anderson about writing her story: “Be detailed Sandy, be very, very detailed,” Fiore said. “Like that author did in Fifty Shades of Grey….”

The giant asteroid needs to strike the planet now so that it can reboot.

Previously:

Because the Air Force isn’t in the Constitution… (January 27, 2016)

Soylent Green wins the Internets today (February 5, 2016)

Campaign Finance: it’s been very quiet of late

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It’s been a while since any family has dropped $500,000.00 on a candidate.

Yesterday at the Missouri Ethics Commission for one of the 2016 republican candidates for Attorney General:

C151132 02/10/2016 HAWLEY FOR MISSOURI Jerry Sumners PO Box 604 Aurora MO 65605 Service Vending Company Owner 2/9/2016 $5,800.00

[emphasis added]

It’ll just have to do.

Previously:

Campaign Finance: Hail Columbia! (February 3, 2016)

HB 2513: uh, do your job

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Representative Mike Colona (D) [January 2016 file photo].

Representative Mike Colona (D) [January 2016 file photo].

A bill, filled yesterday by Representative Mike Colona (D):

SECOND REGULAR SESSION
HOUSE BILL NO. 2513 [pdf]
98TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVE COLONA.

6368H.01I D. ADAM CRUMBLISS, Chief Clerk

AN ACT

To repeal section 451.100, RSMo, and to enact in lieu thereof one new section relating to marriage solemnization.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as follows:

Section A. Section 451.100, RSMo, is repealed and one new section enacted in lieu 2 thereof, to be known as section 451.100, to read as follows: 451.100.

Marriages may be solemnized by any clergyman, either active or retired, who is in good standing with any church or synagogue in this state. Marriages [may] shall also be solemnized, without compensation, by any judge, including a municipal judge if requested by persons legally entitled to marry. Marriages may also be solemnized by a religious society, religious institution, or religious organization of this state, according to the regulations and customs of the society, institution or organization, when either party to the marriage to be solemnized is a member of such society, institution or organization.

[emphasis in original]

It’s interesting that in this day and age there’s a need for legislation to point out that public officials are supposed to do their job.

Previously:

Marriage Equality in America (June 26, 2015)

Rep Vicky Hartzler (r): has another U.S. Supreme Court sad – today it’s marriage equality (June 26, 2015)

Recorders Association of Missouri: issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples in Missouri (June 26, 2015)

Campaign Finance: west is west and east is east

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Today at the Missouri Ethics Commission for John Brunner’s (r) 2016 gubernatorial campaign:

C151077 02/09/2016 MISSOURIANS FOR JOHN BRUNNER Ann Dickinson 1200 West 55th Street Kansas City MO 64113 Retired Retired 2/9/2016 $5,001.00

C151077 02/09/2016 MISSOURIANS FOR JOHN BRUNNER Craig Schnuck 25 N Brentwood Blvd St Louis MO 63105 Retired Retired 2/9/2016 $5,001.00

[emphasis added]

That extra dollar makes the difference. Oh, wait…

Previously:

Campaign Finance: not that it’s really needed (January 12, 2016)

John Brunner (r) – January 2016 Quarterly Campaign Finance Report – “I want to be a loan” (January 15, 2016)

Campaign Finance: a true friend (February 1, 2016)

Campaign Finance: that was fast

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Today at the Missouri Ethics Commission, a brand spanking new committee:

C161030: Consumers For Energy Fairness

Committee Type: Campaign
Po Box 1645
Jefferson City Mo 65102 Established Date: 02/08/2016
[….]

Ballot Measure History

Ballot Measures Election Date Subject Support/Oppose

Fair Renewable Energy Initiatives 11/08/2016 Renewable Energy/Statewide Support
Fair Renewable Energy Initiatives 11/08/2016 Renewable Energy/Statewide Oppose

[emphasis added]

Oppose and support? The devil must be in the competing details. There are at least seventeen initiative petitions listed with the Missouri Secretary of State and approved for circulation on the subject of renewable energy tax credits. There are a couple more on the same subject awaiting public comment.

And they also have the resources to support and oppose whatever they like:

C161030 02/08/2016 CONSUMERS FOR ENERGY FAIRNESS Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives PO Box 1645 Jefferson City MO 65102 2/8/2016 $1,000,000.00

[emphasis added]

That’s commitment.

Campaign Finance: yes, there is a bit of a difference

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Chris Koster (D) [August 2015 file photo].

Chris Koster (D) [August 2015 file photo].

Today at the Missouri Ethics Commission for Chris Koster’s (D) 2016 gubernatorial campaign:

C031159 02/08/2016 KOSTER FOR MISSOURI CHIPP Political Account 1401 Hampton Ave 3rd Floor Saint Louis MO 63139 2/8/2016 $30,000.00

[emphasis added]

Their members can probably vote in Missouri and they probably can’t afford to make a $1,000,000.00 contribution to one candidate.

Previously:

Campaign Finance: familiar refrain (December 29, 2015)

Campaign Finance: back to the grind (January 4, 2016)

Campaign Finance: not to be outdone (January 8, 2016)

Campaign Finance: there is that (January 12, 2016)

Campaign Finance: get on board that train (January 14, 2016)

Campaign Finance: uh, yep (January 20, 2016)

Campaign Finance: Oh, I see… (January 22, 2016)

Campaign Finance: well, okay then (February 2, 2016)

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