Friday, March 31, 2006

Hosmer is Top Pick for School Board

Tuesday is an important election. No, we aren’t voting on our nation’s President nor for our State’s Governor. We are voting on school issues, our children, which is at the heart of our country’s future. It is a powerful thing to have a free election and voting on a bond issue and on three school board members can change the face of education in Springfield.

There are five persons running for three positions to the Springfield School Board. Those candidates are (in alphabetical order):

Kris Callen
Roy Holand
Andy Hosmer
Gerry Lee
Bruce Renner

I have read the Springfield News-Leader’s coverage of the candidates and I support Andy Hosmer for school board member. I knew of the Hosmer family when I worked for The Marshfield Mail newspaper. When I started working for Disability Connections, I spoke several times with his brother, Craig Hosmer, during his tenure in the House of Representatives.

Hosmer has made three major specific statements that set him apart from the other candidates:

  1. Springfield School District must establish and implement a long range, 20-year-plan to address systemic school issues. The City of Springfield has done the same and our city has seen great improvements on streets, drainage, and light signals. This was supported by taxes because the public understood the need and could see the plan in writing. Hosmer insists that the school district must do the same, and I find that insight to be a good clue on the seriousness with which he approaches this position. He goes further to talk about the inclusion of the community in this long rang plan including representation from: parents, teachers, administrators, citizens, Missouri State University, Drury University, the City and the County. This type of inclusion is what will secure the community’s support for projects, issues and funding.
  2. Children should be reading and also be read to. You might be amazed to know that many teachers do not read to their children anymore. Curricular requirements are become ever more strict and teachers are struggling to make sure their students are good test takers rather than independent thinkers. Hosmer states directly, that students should read (or be read to) every single day. As a future teacher, this resonates with me. I find it disgusting that some teachers do not make time for reading in the classroom. I can tell you now, I believe in reading and will insist upon it when I am teaching and I want the support of my school board behind me when I make that decision.
  3. Salaries of Springfield teacher’s should be in line with other teacher’s salaries throughout Missouri. Springfield teachers make, on average, $1,500 less than others in the state. Yes, this does mean money. But if it is part of a long range plan that is developed with input from the community, then this community will support that.
  4. The school board should look at standardized testing and determine what is being lost when the focus is on test taking, rather than teaching students how to be independent thinkers. I support standardized testing as I think Hosmer does as well. My personal believe is that the problem comes from when teachers, out of frustration, constant change and lack of support from administration, move into emergency teaching modes and simply teach how to take tests. In his own words, Hosmer stated in the news-leader: “I think we spend too much time and effort training our children to be good test-takers instead of teaching them to be good thinkers. I firmly believe that we succeed in educating our children if we simply teach them to read well, to write well and to speak well. If we do that, everything else falls into place.”

Andy Hosmer is committed to the Springfield community and has a history of service to this community and to the world. An attorney who has a child who will enter kindergarten next year, Hosmer joined the Peace Corps and went to Romania from 1996-1998. While others abandon Commercial Street, he has served on the Commercial Club of Springfield and also the Commercial Street Farmer’s Market. There are many groups to join in Springfield if you want political clout and be seen for the sake of being seen. Neither of these groups fall into those categories.

The Hosmer family was raised to be community-minded, volunteers. I think this is evident. Hosmer is concerned about the whole of education and the health of our school district. After all, a good school district will bring in more families. His inclusion-focused long rang plan is something this district has needed for a long time. We have a new school superintendent, which was sorely needed. Our district is in disrepair and I think Hosmer is one to work with the community first, teachers second and the board last. That is something we have not had in a while.

Roy Holand is a former member of the House of Representatives. He was ousted due to term limits. He was my personal Representative and I must confess that he is a very nice man. He always took time to speak to me and to listen. However, he did not listen enough to support positive legislation for people with disabilities. He headed the campaign to close Regional Centers, which is the state agency for persons with disabilities. I support privatization of many government agencies. I do not support total privatization and closure of state agencies, when dealing with the United States largest minority population: people with disabilities. Specifically, persons who have developmental disabilities (Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Fragile X for example) are this state’s most vulnerable population. Predators will seek out those persons because they make for perfect victims. Closing the Regional Centers only serve to deregulate those services, lower investigators of abuse and neglect and create environments where abuse is unchecked. Holand, however, supported this very strongly and quietly and succeeded in moving this forward. We have positively implemented some privatization of case management services. But the movement to close Regional Centers is gaining steam among conservative legislators. It is all about saving money on the backs of those who are most vulnerable. I can’t help but think that Holand will be Hell-bent on cutting many very needed services, just for the sake of saving some tax dollars and not for the benefit of the school district itself. Holand does not have children in our district and never has. You can see that as he simply left that area blank on his news-leader survey.

I have not yet made up my mind on the other three candidates: Kris Callen, Gerry Lee, and Bruce Renner. Two of these members are up for re-election (Callen and Renner). Incidentally, both Callen and Renner have experience with persons who have disabilities. Callen has a child with a disability and Renner was a teacher in Special Education, but neither experience is an absolute that they will support good disability policy. In fact, I can say with confidence that Springfield Public Schools has the worst special education services of almost any district in the area.

I support the bond issue. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the smaller school closures, the proposed bond issue is a good thing. Let’s be real. How many of us would be supportive of our employer cutting off our air-conditioning at work. Maybe the employer does it to save money or maybe it’s because it is now determined that we can work just fine without air-conditioning.

It’s a ridiculous idea. True, my grandmother didn’t have air conditioning in her school and neither did my Dad. Actually, I didn’t either. I wasn’t reading full sentences in kindergarten and taking MAP tests in first grade. The brain power required of children is much higher than ever before. The entrance requirements for college is much higher than in year’s past. It is a good thing to air condition my school. It will benefit me as a home owner. Better schools mean more people want to go to your school. Demand increases price. Yes, I may pay more in taxes, but I will also make money when I sell my home later.

Springfield’s debt service levy is so much lower that other school districts. Here is the debt service levy of many of our area schools:

Currently in Springfield: $.33
Springfield if Bond Passes: $.51

Ozark: $1.09
Nixa: $1.06
Logan-Rogersville: $.86
Willard: $.69
Branson: $.70
Strafford: $.70
Republic: $.55

What is happening in those districts? Families are moving there so their child will have a better education. If we don’t fix and repair and upgrade our schools now, then things will just get worse. Our buildings will deteriorate and education will take a back seat. We will ultimately pay much more later.

So how do you feel? Do you agree with my support of Hosmer and my opposition to Holand? How do you feel about the other candidates? I would like to hear your rational and thoughtful comments about our school board members and the bond issue.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Free Democracy At Work

JEFFERSON CITY -- It was a day that anyone, who loves the exercise of a free democracy at work, would be proud to have experienced. Well, that is, unless the lover of democracy promotes cutting the services of people with disabilities. Then it was an embarrassing day served with a warm lunch of crow on the plate and egg in the face. But most anyone else with common sense would have been proud to have witnessed the day.

Hundreds of persons with disabilities traveled to Jefferson City yesterday to fight for their civil rights to be treated as contributing members of society. Not an easy trek, considering that last year, the Missouri legislature voted to cut the health insurance of thousands of persons with disabilities. When you lose services, it becomes very difficult to live day-to-day, let alone finding a way to travel to Jefferson City and spend the day walking the Capitol talking to legislators. But because of many non-profit agencies, many people were able to make the trip. Medicaid, you should know, is not welfare and is not a monthly check delivered right to one’s mailbox. Medicaid is a fancy term for health insurance.

My friend, Tim, had to quit his part time job last August. He worked for my non-profit agency for over six years. He has a spinal cord injury, very similar to Christopher Reeve, with the exception that Tim can breath on his own. He wasn’t getting rich mind you. He was working 20 hours per week for less than McDonald’s wage. Basically, Tim paid for his own apartment with the money made from his job, allowing him to live with dignity and pay taxes like everyone else. But after their cuts to the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD), he had to quit, apply for housing assistance. Now he pays no taxes through his pay check, but relies utterly on the State of Missouri. This year, our Governor says we have a surplus of money. That money was leveraged on the backs of persons with disabilities.

Last year there were multiple rallies and protests at the Capitol, but the ears of the conservatives were tightly shut (as the Democrats unanimously opposed the cuts). The Republican mantra: No one who really needs the services will be cut. That fear is a liberal media scare tactic. Well, both sentiments have now been proven wrong. It should also be strongly noted, that many, many conservatives in the communities have also opposed the cuts to MAWD and other Medicaid programs, which I suspect was really the key to getting the cuts reversed, but I digress.

People with disabilities went back to the Capitol yesterday to voice their concerns. The legislators have come to their senses, and are quickly passing a bill to reinstate some of the MAWD program. The Republicans now say that they cut too deep. The new program will not be as expansive, but it is a great start. Too bad the cuts were made to begin with.

The reinstatement of the MAWD program is not the real victory. The exercise of democracy, the fight of the good fight, and the determination of an oppressed people to fight for their civil rights is the victor here. Yesterday, apathy and disenfranchisement ended. This is something very hard to achieve in all communities, including the disability community. Believe it or not, according to the Census Bureau, disability is the largest minority population in the United States. African Americans come in next, followed by Hispanics and Latinos. Yet people with disabilities are the first to be cut, when budgets are concerned.

It was honor to participate in yesterday’s rally. It is good to know that there are people who work hard to make the world a better place. You see, I wasn’t the one working and fighting. My agency simply coordinated the participation, the transportation, so those who really count could make their voice heard. Politics is not really enjoyable for me, but the exercise of freedom is an honor to behold, and I am privileged to have been able to participate.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tuesday is Election Day

With only seven days left, are you prepared to vote for the issues on Tuesday’s Election? Not only is there a Springfield School Bond Issue, but school board members to vote on as well. Statewide, we have SB 816, which is the cable TV to which there have been many convoluted and say-nothing advertisements on television. So far, the only media coverage I can find is an opinion piece in the Columbia Tribune.

On the entertainment side of the election, Missouri will see it’s first transgendered person challenging Congressman Roy Blunt for his Republican seat in the August Primary election. Midge Potts will fight for her right to be Missouri’s newest Republican Congresswoman. This will not be on April’s ballot, but it is worth noting as one our state’s firsts.

But please, don’t let this bit of entertainment politics deter you from Tuesday’s very important election. In the world of media ratings, this type of hype is just what they are looking for. But it takes away from the election and the issues that we need to vote on. On Sunday, the News-Leader will offer it’s Election Section. Sometimes it is very informative and other times it offers nothing but glorified sound bytes. But it can serve to help you define your thoughts before going into the polling booth. Following are some stories that may help you in your decision making process:

Springfield School Bond Issue
School Board Candidates Tackle Issues
Profiles of Springfield school board candidates
Candidates’ full responses to schools issues
School district hopes voters help it improve classrooms
Springfield Public School Bond Issue Web Page

SB 816 – Cable TV Bill
Opinion from Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri Senate page on SB 816

State Election Info
Transgendered Congressional candidate may be state's first
List of some Political Blogs (representing all sides)

KY3 Election Coverage

Monday, March 27, 2006

Islam: Religion of Peace?

I have a very conservative friend, RP, who recently wrote me an email. The gist of the email was very upfront: Muslims cannot be peaceful as Islam preaches war and destruction rather than peace and love.

A few days later, I received this email, which essentially touted his views. Here is the email, reprinted as it was delivered to me:

Can a devout Muslim be an American patriot and a loyal citizen? Consider this:

Theologically, no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia.

Scripturally, no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

Geographically, no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially, no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically, no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the great Satan.

Domestically, no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).

Religiously, no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256)

Intellectually, no, because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt. Philosophically, no, because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression.

Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually, no, because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as our heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran's 99 excellent names.

Therefore after much study and deliberation, perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both good Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you wish, it's still the truth. If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country. Pass it on. The war is bigger than we know.

I suspect that this is mainstream viewpoint of many Americans. I must confess, I don’t know enough about Islam to really be able to intelligently discuss this. However, the journalist in me is skeptical of information like this. First of all, I understand our history and find that these types of generalizations have always been used in order to discriminate against a group of persons. Secondly, it is a question of religion. The assumption of both my friend, RP, and the friend who sent me the email, is that Islam is a religion of hatred and war. Conversely, the unspoken assumption is that Christianity is the religion of peace and love.

Now the Quran (Koran) does state that Islam is the one true religion, but so does Christianity. My fear is that we are quickly moving toward condemnation of a religion, and thus we condemn any member of that religion. RP feels very strongly that no Muslims should be allowed to live in the United States. Yet, historically, haven’t many tragedies and travesties been committed against individuals and specific groups in the name of Christianity? Christianity is not a religion of war and hatred, but it has 9and still is) being used to justify hatred and war. We have many Neo-Nazi groups in Southern Missouri who believe that Caucasians are God’s chosen people. They condemn Jews, Blacks, and many other groups. Does that mean that all Christians interpret the Bible in the same way as the Neo-Nazis?

President George Bush ran his campaign on a Christian platform. Yet we have started a war with Iraq. Without going into the War in Iraq, does the fact that we are in Iraq, amidst the complaints by some of the people in that country, mean that all Christians support that war?

I ask these questions of RP, and he only responds by asking me to read some books by conservative author, or by sending me the hyperlink to the recent story of Abdul Rahmah, the Afghan man who has converted to Christianity and is now threatened with the death penalty by Afghanistan. Incidentally, pressure from President Bush has lead to the charges being dropped. Now, hundreds of people are protesting the decision not to kill the man. To which RP responds with: “Religion of Peace?

So here are my questions to you:
  1. Is Islam a religion of peace or of war?
  2. Are Muslims a threat to Christianity and the United States?

Resources To Consider:
Understanding Islam
Afghans Protest Decision on Christian

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On the Politics of Christianity

For some time now, I have been concerned about the unscrupulous use of Christianity within politics. This has really taken hold during the Bush presidency as he used his faith (among other things) in order to secure his election and re-election. Other politicians have used religion before, but Christianity has never been a major part of an election campaign as it was during Bush’s re-election. He was successfully able to secure the religious vote, encouraging religious leaders to support him as a candidate over another, based on a perception of faith.

There is little question that the fundamentalist religious right elected President Bush. They claim as much proudly, believing that God’s will was done. (The ability to know God’s will is a blog for another day.) This utilization and exploitation of faith has opened a new pavement of golden hypocrisy. Bush established the campaign technique and now we are seeing other politicians, understanding the voting power of the fundamentalists, who are standing in the pulpit, in order to be seen.

Christianity and politics are two issues that should be mutually exclusive on the campaign trail. That is not to say that politicians cannot be Christians (or any other faith for that matter.) I am saying that the use of religion on the campaign trail is not sound policy; it is a matter of attracting attention in order to gain favor.

I have maintained for many years that there is no such thing as a Christian politician. I don’t necessarily mean that literally, but more as a matter of practicality. I am not convinced that a person can climb to such heights as being a member of Congress and still maintain his or her integrity. Morality has to be sold in order to play in the field of the lords.

I do not make a practice of judging the faithfulness of Christians. It is not up to me to decide who is a real Christian and who is not. I do not doubt President Bush is a practicing Christian who has a daily walk with God.

Unlike many conservative fundamentalists who claim that Hillary Clinton is an atheist or as Tucker Carlson stated on his show last night (March 22, 2005) that Hillary Clinton is a non-practicing Methodist, disguised as an atheist. I do not make a habit out of judging the faithfulness of Christians. I do not doubt that Hillary Clinton is a practicing Christian who has a daily walk with God, despite the avid attempts at labeling her a lesbian (or my personal favorite from Rush Limbaugh) a “feminazi”.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” -- Matthew 6:5

I do, however, object sharply to President Bush’s use of Christianity and his manipulation of the fundamentalists in order to gain an election. I also object to Hillary Clinton’s recent use of a pulpit to talk about the ills of the conservatives. Shame on the pastors who used their pulpits to convince their members to vote for President Bush, and shame on Hillary for using it to talk about the Republican Party. We are living in a time where politicians are putting on the armor of Christ in order to gain favor with the public. That will serve only to confuse the masses. We should not analyze or evaluate our politicians by their presence at church on Sunday. We should criticize them, not on their faith, but on their vote on particular issues. Once again, we should not listen to what politicians state, but by what they do.

A Better Place To Live

My good friend of many years, Cantleaveitalone, has started a blog, and in his first post he is asking the question: "What do you think is the one thing you as an individual can do to make our world a better place?"

My first instinct is to talk about all the wrongs that are committed in this world, and how the erosion of our society is creating a systemic … blah, blah, blah. The question is not asking what is wrong with the world nor is it asking my opinion of what others should or could be doing. The question, so brilliantly posed, is about what can I, as one little person (well not little) can do. That makes this question much harder as it requires me to analyze myself, take inventory of my faults, list those faults for you to read, and then to address what I think I need to do to work toward alleviating those faults. By doing so, I am creating an environment where I must be truly self-introspective, honest, and can also be held accountable.

The Macro Perspective
In its most macro sense, this question is about Love. Everything good, after all, is linked to love. Without love, we fall prey to the ills of society and the failings of our own souls.

  • Love is the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Love is compassion
  • Love is forgiveness
  • Love is understanding
  • Love is knowledge
  • Love is wisdom

To frame this using a Christian perspective, love is a primary tenant taught by Jesus. Followers are taught in Matthew to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Love is, above all things, the primary directive that should frame our decisions and our world view. Without love, I cannot and will not have the desire to do good, nor to work to making this world a better place. If one does not care, if one does not have love, or one has replaced love with apathy, then the question dies. And thus our quest for introspection to answer Cantleaveitalone’s question begins. If I have love then I am capable, and more importantly, willing to move to the next level and discover for myself how to answer the question: what can I do to make this world a better place?

The Micro Perspective
Not everyone has a social injustice in which they mount a media-induced campaign. However, that does not mean that the part we play is somehow diminished or less important. This question of my role in making the world better is not just about my works or my labor. It touches what it means to be human and be alive. Ultimately it is a piece of the meaning of life. The struggle comes in evaluating our lives, my life, and finding a place where I can use my talents to make a difference.

My place of employment is downsizing and my position is being eliminated. So over the last year-and-half I have been looking for new employment. That journey has taught me something about myself. I have applied for positions in administration, marketing, and fundraising -- all jobs that I have experience in. However, I found that I was apathetic about many of the jobs to which I was applying. I may have the skills to do the work, but I find that I do not wish to do the job.

So I applied for some career counseling and after the testing quickly discovered that I my career goals do not center around a particular type of work, but rather center around civic duty. I want a job in the helping field -- a job where I contribute to the betterment of my community. That realization lead me to stop looking for a job, transition our family to one income, and go back to school full time to become an elementary school teacher. While that may be difficult for our family for the next three years, my wife helped me understand that the trek is worth it.

We each contribute differently. Some people teach, others volunteer at church. Some people recycle, others take care of their neighbors and friends. Some are social workers, some volunteer at local civic organizations.

In my family, we do many things such as volunteer at church, volunteer for charitable organizations, participate in public school fundraisers, we exercise our rights as a free democracy by voting, and we help our friends and family.

I am not, however, very patient. And thus comes the deeper introspection and call to change, which is what I think Cantleaveitalone was hoping for. So here you go, good buddy. If you have known me for over a decade or more you will be able to attest that I, at one point, was a very opinionated, harsh, overbearing, impatient, black-and-white thinker. I left little room for grey. Now, over the last 11 years of marriage, my wife has systematically softened me and opened my eyes to the shades of grey. I am still opinionated, but I am also open to other perspectives. I am still crass, but I am learning empathy and compassion. I’m still pretty impatient. But in the long run, the more I work on these things the more my outlook is changed, and on a level of daily human interaction my becoming more tolerant, compassionate and patient affects other people's lives. Those are things that I must work toward.

With that said, I still have not actually answered the question. What is the one thing that I, as an individual can do to make this world a better place? I would say that the most important thing that I (with help from my wife) do in order to contribute to the betterment of the community and our world, is to share with our daughter, our intense desire to do good, be good, and practice Love -- above all things. If there is nothing else we do in this world, it is to raise a child in a loving, tolerant, Christian home and instill in her a sense of community over self.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sen. Leonard K. Bullfinch Newsletter #1

Michael Soetaert at the Holy Grail Press has posted a great little piece on Missouri’s attempt to establish a state religion. Soetaert is a writer whose tongue is frequently placed firmly in cheek.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let's Go to the Circus

The Shrine Circus is in town and this year we just could not pass up the opportunity to take our 5-year-old daughter for the first time. We invited our 10-year-old cousin, who starred in a movie short at the film festival a couple of weekends ago, to spend the weekend with us. He had never been to a circus either.

They were able to ride the elephants (for $7 per person) and had the opportunity to have their picture taken with a albino Burmese python, but neither one of them wanted anything to do with that snake. They offer the elephant rides and snake pictures before the show, during intermission and after the show, so there is plenty of time to get that done.

They had all the circus staples: elephants, tigers, a lion, monkeys two clowns, acrobats, tight rope walkers, jugglers, and trapeze. They also had some other acts. There were no ponies this time.

The tight rope act was particularly interesting to me because no one in the act used wires, with the exception of the 7-year-old and there was no net either. There were a couple of times where they almost fell, which made it all the more real for me. I do wish they had more clowns in the act. There were Shriner clowns present, but they were not part of the act.

Now be aware, they do sell a lot of stuff (popcorn, cotton candy, light up toys, balloons, etc.) so if you don’t want those things, prepare your child before going. The ladies bathroom line is very long during intermission, so get in line quickly. No waiting for the guys.

All in all, the kids really had a good time and that makes it worth it for me, even if I had to shell out some extra dough so they could ride the elephant. The circus will be in Springfield until March 19.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shoot, Shoot -- Bang, Bang

My wife does not like guns. She likes the fact that I have several in the home even less. From her perspective, it’s such an odd thing for me to purposefully drive to the firing range near Branson to shoot my firearms for fun. I honestly think she is worried that the rifle will somehow, magically, blow up in my face. To her there is no such thing as firearm safety. They are just too dangerous for her. So it’s just as well that she doesn’t know anything about them.

I, however, was raised with guns and more importantly gun safety. I started shooting at 5 and 6 years old. My father and I were in a mountain man club – similar to a re-enactment club, except the majority of our time was spent shooting our muzzleloaders at the range. A muzzleloader, is an early model rifle. The powder is poured into the barrel, followed by the lead ball.

I was so small …(well I wasn’t really small as you can guess from the name of the blog). I was so young that I wasn’t able to hold the heavy muzzleloaders by myself. So my dad built me a kid-sized muzzleloader. He is unbelievably talented with his hands. We shot our guns, attended mountain man rendezvous, and really formed wonderful memories together.

With the business of life, I really don’t get the change to shoot anymore. That is, until my friend Gabe joined the Army and became a sniper. He is doing his second tour of duty in Iraq right now. He was home this last week on leave, then he heads back to Iraq for another nine or twelve months or who knows; it’s the Army.

When Sgt Gabe comes home, we got shooting, which just makes Kathy crazy. Gabe and I will pop down to the Busiek shooting range near Branson. The last time we went, he brought four rifles with him and I took three of mine. That was one big freaking mistake because these Army boys are just crazy with cleaning their firearms. We break the guns down all the way, which means we take them apart from the stock, pull the trigger mechanisms out and all of that. It’s a good habit, but when you spend all day at the range and then have to come how and spend the next six hours cleaning on the kitchen table (until 11 pm) it does not make for a happy wife. I had to impose a firearm limit and a specific time table.

There is something very primitive and authentic – male – about spending the day shooting with family and friends. It can be very soothing too, as long as you clean your guns on the porch.

The Springfield School Bond Issue

On April 4, there will be an issue on the ballot in Springfield, MO to complete several projects for the Springfield Public School system. This issue is called Proposition B and it is an 18-cent bond proposal. It will address needs such as: overcrowding, air conditioning, repairs and renovations, and upgrade some science and technology labs.

Down to the nuts and bolts: If a person owns a $100,000 home, he will pay $34.20 more per year in property taxes. That really isn’t very much money, considering one might spend that on a dinner for two.

The price tag for this is $96.5 million and will affect more than 21,000 students. Currently, the district’s debt service levy is 33-cents per $100 of assess valuation. This proposal will increase that by 18 cents, giving Springfield a debt service levy of 51-cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Interestingly enough, many of us in Springfield feel that we spend a lot of money in school taxes. I was very surprised to discover that most of the area school districts have much higher debt service levies.

Springfield’s current levy –- 33¢
Nixa -– $1.06
Willard -– 69¢
Ozark –- $1.09
Rogersville -– 86¢
Branson –- 70¢
Strafford -– 70¢
Republic –- 55¢
Springfield’s levy if the bond passes – 51¢

My daughter will go to Cowden Elementary area will attend Pershing Middle School. Students then have the choice to attend Parkview or Kickapoo high schools. All of these schools (Cowden, Pershing, Parkview and Kickapoo) will benefit from this bond. Cowden and Pershing will get air conditioning while Parkview and Kickapoo will see new renovations and upgrades. It will really help many other schools.

Personally, I have always felt that Springfield wastes a lot of its money on high paid administrators and that is why our classrooms are lacking. While I still think that the Springfield School District has too many highly paid upper-level administrators, I am now wondering if our classrooms are lacking because our debt levy is so much lower than other area districts. No wonder Nixa and Willard have such good classrooms. Maybe our forth graders would have technology classrooms (like in Willard) if we paid more. Not that I want to pay more, but I also want my daughter to get a good education and also learn to use technology. I certainly want her to have air conditioning. I can tell you, as an aspiring elementary school teacher, I would prefer to teach in an air-conditioned environment. It’ sure ain’t pretty when a fat man sweats like a dancing mule.

I, for one, always believe in supporting our schools and our school children. We have enough children who are illiterate, to not support our schools. If this bond issue passes Springfield will still have a bond levy lower than the surrounding schools. Throwing money at a problem does not necessarily fix it, but in this case, this money will be used to physically improve the schools and that will impact everyone. When you have good schools, you have property that increases in value and it’s always good to have your investment grow.

Let Them Eat Cake

SPRINGFIELD – A fifth grade girl with cerebral palsy and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was allegedly forced to crawl on her hands and knees to and from recess at Bissett Elementary School, according to a story by Sarah Overstreet in Sunday’s Springfield News-Leader.

The News-Leader reported that during a tape-recorded meeting between the family and school officials, the child’s teacher stated that she was afraid the child would fall down, so they made her crawl. The parents complained that their daughter was already being teased and this would make it worse.



If she can’t walk then let that cripple crawl. This let-them-eat-cake mentality shows how out-of-touch many governmental administrations (from the White House to the mayor of New Orleans) are with the common person. A school, which is mandated to follow federal discrimination laws somehow circumvents those regulations and justifies that x-group of persons are not really worthy of dignity and respect.

And so it goes. Persons with disabilities are treated as sub-humans and not given respect or dignity. The disability always comes first, not the person. Am I to understand that there was no other recourse to ensure the child’s safety but to make her crawl? If she cannot walk alone, then devices such as walkers and gait belts are a perfect solution. They are used everyday in hospitals and nursing homes. And of course one can always use a wheelchair. According to the story she did have a walker and gait belt, they just didn’t want to use it.

Something similar occurred last year when Missouri’s legislature cut the Medical Assistance for Worker’s with Disabilities (MAWD). The MAWD program allowed a person with a disability to have a part-time job, making less than McDonald’s wages, and still qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid being health insurance, not welfare. There is no such thing as getting a monthly check from Medicaid. Persons with disabilities were working, making very little money, paying taxes and filling part time jobs that others would not fill. The elimination of the program forced thousands to quit working so they could keep their health insurance (Medicaid).

By the way, the conservative machine convinced the people that the media coverage opposing the elimination of the MAWD program was nothing more than liberal media “terrorist” scare tactics. On April 15, 2005, Rep. Jim Viebrock (R-Republic) stated in his weekly email address:

“It would be unwise for me to enter a crowded room and yell ‘fire’, yet that is exactly what the press is currently doing with its twisted, slanted and agenda driven articles that I have been reading from around the State. I have felt anger and disgust as I read the gross misrepresentations that are designed to strike fear and turmoil in the most vulnerable of our state residents. I have received countless phone calls and letters from people who simply are acting on pure compassion from articles that present a quadriplegic that is the victim of a horrible situation to be thrown out in the front lawn, yanked out of their wheelchair and left to die a slow and heartless death. Although exaggerated slightly, and I mean slightly, these types of stories are running amuck, striking the same panic and public distress as a terrorist threat. I am appalled at these blatant attempts to push a political agenda by the “free” press.

He went on to say: “Ask yourself, what kind of heartless, cold, sorry excuse for a human being would actually vote to cause pain and suffering for another person? If you are open-minded and honest, you would determine that no one would, and neither have we, Despite what you have read, seen or heard, no one who actually needs help from the Department of Social Services will miss a single payment. No one will be abandoned.”

This year he and the other legislators have changed their tune, realizing that stories in the media were telling the truth and not acting as “terrorists”. Of course, we don’t see them retracting those partisan statements, owning up to the fact that the media was not acting in a “terrorist” manner. Terrorist. He actually accused the media of using terrorist tactics. People were hurt by these cuts, which is why this year there is a bi-partisan support for House Bill 1742 which will re-instate the MAWD program with good changes. And what of the “terrorist” news media? I think it is a shame to make that statement about a group, discover you were wrong and never make a public retraction. That is exactly why we have such low voter turnout. You just can’t trust any politicians

Despite the specific events of these two particular stories, there is a much bigger wrong here at play in the field of the lords. There is a world-wide perception that people with disabilities are a drain on society, that “those” people are “fraudulent” (the buzz word during the Medicaid cuts last year).

People with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and spinal cord injuries are not deceptive, system suckers, looking to score some suck time at the teat of the Missouri tax payer. They are real people.

Who makes a kid crawl to and from the playground?

What kind of heartless, cold, sorry excuse for a human being would actually vote to cause pain and suffering for another person?

Judas Priest, my friends! Has the world gone topsy turvy? Has compassion taken a back seat to winning for the sake of winning? Indeed, it has.

Getting Ahead of Us

JEFFERSON CITY – Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville) filed House Concurrent Resolution 13 to establish Christianity as the official religion of Missouri, according to a March 4 report from the CBS affiliate, KMOV, in St. Louis.

The resolution establishes that the forefathers recognized a Christian God and used the principles of that God as the founding principles of this nation. It further establishes that the General Assembly “exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation ….”

What is this really about? As my wife pointed out when we first heard of this (packaged as establishing Christianity as the state’s official religion) that this was really about prayer in school. She was right. The actual language of the resolution never says anything about establishing Christianity as the state’s official religion, at least now how I read it.

But this is really about something more. This is about protecting the majority against the minority and about being right. As one of my older family members says: “The are trying to get ahead of us.” This is a core element in her belief system and I think it is much more prevalent in America than we want to think. I just most folks know who they can and who they cannot say this to. My family member who says this thinks “we” all think the say way she does. She has no concept that others may feel differently.

The language in this resolution talks about protecting the majority, which is a politically correct way of keeping “us” ahead of “them.” Our founding fathers felt persecuted because their beliefs were different than the Church of England. They left and came here to establish rule that allowed the people to be free to practice faith in their own way. Our founding fathers were trying, in essence, to protect the minority from the dominance and oppression of the majority. This bill is trying to “protect the majority” which is not, as is maintained in the bill, the tenants of this country’s founders.

Setting an official state religion does not protect the majority or solidify freedom. It is just one more way to erode the freedoms that all persons have. In fact, God himself does not force Christianity on us. He gives us free will to choose him, choose another god(s) or to choose nothing. That freedom of choice, free will, is what Christianity is all about. Maybe our attempts to establish an official state religion or forced prayer in school will erode those Christian tenants and make us less free.

I am glad that I am free to choose Christianity. I come to Christ, to God, willingly and knowingly.

The Red Carpet

I really love movies and enjoy watching the Academy Awards every year with my family and friends. I don’t really worry about the controversies and attacks of being out-of-touch with the common person. Hollywood, despite what the talking heads may lead us to believe, does not set policy for America. It is a art gallery for movie making and art lends itself to controversy. Good art or bad, it is meant to challenge us, anger us, make us feel emotions and entice us to talk about uncomfortable issues. That is, after all, how we progress as a people. I have not seen all the movies, but I will as they come out on Netflix.

As for the Oscars, that is my family’s party. That is our time to get together with friends (both conservative and liberal) and talk about the movies we love and the movies we hate. We have flicks that we root for and see awards given to people we don’t think deserve it. It’s all about having fun.

This year’s host, Jon Stewart, has seen mixed reviews for his performance. I think people expected him to be as cutting at the Oscars as he is on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”. But the Oscars is a different venue. I think back to M. Night Shyamalan’s movie “The Sixth Sense.” It received wonderful reviews, but audiences were very disappointed with his next film “Unbreakable” because it was not “The Sixth Sense.” Of course it was not, but “Unbreakable” was a great gem in it’s own right. And so it was with Jon Stewart. Everyone expected “The Daily Show” but what they got was an Oscar host.

Crash won Best Picture, which I didn’t think would happen, but which in a previous post, has said that it should. I picked Brokeback Mountain to win because of the hype it generated. I thought it was a lock. I have to say, I did a pretty poor job picking winners this year. I got only nine correct.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Let's Protest A Funeral

SPRINGFIELD -- As reported in today’s Springfield News-Leader, members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan, known for its “God Hates Fags” and “God Made IEDs” signage, will continue to picket the funerals of solders killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. An IED (Improvised Explosive Device) is a home made bomb or booby trap.

The pastor, Fred Phelps, and the church body are protesting at these fallen soldiers funerals, not because the soldiers were gay. That has nothing to do with it. According to the article, the church believes that God is allowing our soldiers (and the coal miners) to die simply because the United States tolerates homosexuals.

This congregation used to protest the funerals of known homosexuals, but has since moved on to soldier’s funerals. And the notoriety is climbing. In response, the Missouri legislature passed a law prohibiting the protests and pickets “ion front of or about” any funerals. However, according to the News-Leader, the church is interpreting this as only applying to protests directly in front of the church where the funeral is being held. The crime is only a misdemeanor.

The group is apparently preparing to test the new law by protesting across the street or down the road from the funeral

MY RESPONSE -- I was raised that a man never wears a hat in church. I can feel my father’s firm smack to the back of my head, knocking my hat to the floor, just thinking of wearing a hat in church. So to conceive the very idea of protesting a church is beyond me. I cannot think of anyway to earn my father’s disappointment than to protest the funeral of a soldier killed in combat.

Apparently this group did not get enough notoriety by protesting the funerals of homosexuals exclusively, so they moved on to soldier’s funerals. Not that the soldiers were gay, mind you. If you follow this church’s teachings, you believe that soldiers and miners are dying because of the homosexual-tolerant sins of the United States. To continue the logic the church has no choice but to then protest the funerals of the victims of the US’ sins.

So this issue is really about more than homosexuals. Beyond the issue itself is the ideology: How involved is the Lord in our daily lives. It really all comes down to the details. Does God punish us (soldiers, or miners, etc) for sins?

Before you answer that question, think about this. I work with persons who have disabilities. I have had discussions with families who had a child with a disability. Sometimes those parents believed their child had X-disability because of some sin they (the parents) or another family member (grandparents or great-grand parents) committed. This is a prevalent belief in the Ozarks. We don’t run into it very much in Springfield and Greene County. But you will run into this much more in the rural counties. Do you really think that God punishes people for their sins by giving them a child with a disability?

Recently, Pat Robertson stated on the 700 Club that New Orleans was hit with the hurricane because of the decadence and depravity of the city. It was punished for it’s sins.

US tolerates homosexuals = soldiers die
New Orleans is a depraved city = killer hurricane
Mom and Dad commit sin = child born with disability

This group, may indeed seem extreme and bizarre to some, but this idea that God is actively punishing our society for it’s sins is a prevalent one. It is not underground and cultish. It is taking hold and sweeping the nation in fundamentalist churches. Not all fundamentalist churches, but many of them subscribe to some version of this sin-equals-Gods punishment. When you understand that, then you realize that the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests may very be supported quietly by many a Christian. Pat Robertson has called for the execution of Mexican President Chavez, spewed that New Orleans got what they deserved.

The sin-equals-punishment theology is further promoted by Pat Robertson in his quote about the terrorist attacks on 9-11 “We have imagined ourselves invulnerable and have been consumed by the pursuit of ... health, wealth, material pleasures and sexuality... It [terrorism] is happening because God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.”

So how much does God Almighty play in our day-to-day lives? Does he, with the New Covenant, actively kill, maim, terrorize, disabled or otherwise victimize others in order to punish us? In all of these cases, the assumption is that God is sending down punishment on an innocent victim in order to punish someone else.

Today, I offer you the news story and some observations and questions regarding the issue. I am not prepared to offer an answer yet. I am not quite ready to decide just how closely God is involved in the details. But know this: The Westboro Baptist Church’s protests may be demonized in the public, but don’t be so sure about how folks really feel behind closed doors.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We Don't Care!

What is it with American culture that we don’t care what happens in our world? Are we so disconnected with our own souls, that we care more about American Idol and Tom-Kat than we do about persons with disabilities, senior citizens, our own communities, or schools?

I am on the committee to help pass a school bond issue for the Springfield public schools. I have some statistics that absolutely boggle my mind. In my school district, and I think you will find that these stats are state and even nationwide standards, we have a terrifying number of potential voters who are too apathetic to even register to vote. Here’s the skinny:

  • 35 percent of all residents in my elementary school district are registered to vote.
  • 43 percent of those registered actually voted in our last presidential election.
  • 75 percent of the voters are over the age of 60.

I always assumed that most of the people who voted for school tax increases were those with children. Apparently, that is just not true. If it weren’t for the senior citizens, the Springfield Public School district may be in worse shape than it is now.

I understand being upset with politicians and political ads. I, too, am tired of pundits and talking heads telling us what we should think and believe. If you read my blog post, I am a DEMUBLICAN, you know I am mad as Hell at those who force us to exclusively choose one political side or another.

I went to the PTA meeting the other night and spoke to the crowd about the proposed bond issue and how it will affect them. I stood in the foyer with the elementary principal and the secretary. The school secretaries in Springfield are all authorized to register people to vote. She asked every single person that walked in the building if they were registered to vote, and if not, they could do it right there. Without exception, everyone stated they were registered to vote. Liar, liar pants on fire.

I was only given 2-3 minutes (really) to speak to the crowd about the bond issue. So I just hit the highlights. Not one person had a question about it. Not one. I give a lot of presentations to the public and this audience was a dead as they come. This bond issue will directly affect them.

Like the current war in Iraq or not, (and I don’t) the fact remains that we are now there to liberate the people, and folks have been killed just for voting or voting the wrong way. Yet, they line up anyway. All for the right to be a free people. We are too fat on our own lust for the internal, that we have forgotten our roots. We are not, as a country, keeping it real.

ELECTION: Tuesday, April 4

(NOTE: I will be post information on the upcoming Springfield Public Schools bond issue. I will also being posting information on the new proposed change to the Missouri Constitution known as TABOR. Have you heard about this yet? No? I would think a change to our state constitution would be hot news, especially something this drastic. Interesting isn't it? Don’t worry, kids. I will provide you with information on it in the future.)

Don’t Blander Me You Blogstard

Well Dad’s on a Rant Again, moaning and groaning about my utter laziness in starting my own blog. I don’t know what his problem is. I did finally start my own blog, and I stopped blog squatting on his and Larry’s sites. (Need I make payment of $.01 to Bryan for using his word?) Now he has claimed the word “blog squatting” as his own, and he did this all the while blandering me. (I’ll explain the meaning of that in a minute).

So while we are on the subject of claiming made up words, I claiming the following, one of which I have already used in this blog, and the other two I will soon enough:

Demublican (dee-mub-lick-hen), n. 1. One whose political beliefs, while consisting of both Democratic and Republican ideology, may to lean more toward liberal viewpoints. 2. Slightly left of center. 3. A moderate liberal.

As I am claiming this term, I am also claiming the opposite:

Republicrat (ree-public-rat) n. A person whose political beliefs system consists of conservative and liberal viewpoints, but who leans more toward conservative ideology. 2. Slightly right of center. 3. A moderate conservative.

Blander (blan-der), n. 1. Blog-Slander. 2. To defame someone in a blog.

Blogstard (blog-stard) n. 1. Blog Bastard. 2. One who blanders others in his blog. Syn: Blastard.

Unlike Bryan, I do not give any ownership of my words away. I am in this entirely for the money. Maybe I should be a Republicrat. I guess it’s time to send some of my hard, pipe-hitting hillbilly friends out Bryan’s way, learn that blogstard to blander me.