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Talking Politics

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Commentary: A Critical Look at Media Bias

Oct 29, 2019

Here’s a quick poll: Are the media in the United States biased? If your answer is “It depends,” congratulations. You have a promising future as a political scientist.

Sidney Steele / KBIA News

 

 Last month, Columbia saw the deadliest month from gun violence since 2001. There were more deaths in September 2019 than the entire previous year.

As gun violence rises, addressing mental health continues to be discussed in tandem with gun control. On Friday, the mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield met with Governor Mike Parson to address the problem of violent crime in their communities.

This week on Talking Politics, Sidney Steele sits down with MU Professor of Communications Dr. Cassandra Kearney to discuss her research on the construction of rhetoric surrounding mass shootings and how legislators have been discussing increasing gun violence in Missouri.

 

It’s a brisk Sunday morning, and nearly 100 people are singing hymns at the steps of St. Louis City Hall. The congregation waves rainbow and transgender pride flags and hoists picket signs that demand civil rights for LGBTQ workers.

Among the protesters is Beth Gombos, who says they’re "terrified" by the possible outcomes of three ongoing U.S Supreme Court cases.

The court could rule next year that federal civil rights law doesn’t prevent employers from firing people for being gay, bisexual or transgender. If the court decides against the employees in the cases, Missouri’s estimated 180,000 LGBTQ adults would be left with little recourse against discrimination in the workplace. 

Missouri’s low-income housing tax credit is a complicated program that often gets debated in terms of dollars and cents, but for Mary Harris, the incentive that creates housing for the poor, elderly and disabled isn’t some philosophical concept.

Harris lives in a townhouse in Pine Lawn. Thanks to a tax credit to developers, she pays significantly less money in rent than for other places she’s lived throughout the St. Louis area. It’s an arrangement that’s had a profound impact on her life.

  

One thing is certain about the Trump impeachment inquiry: Anything you say about it today is likely to be obsolete tomorrow. This fluidity certainly impacts any attempt to do a commentary about it, so I am trying a different approach. Monday October 7, I’m recording a log of impressions and reactions from the past couple of weeks.

 

In a scathing letter to Facebook this week, Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, along with three of his Republican colleagues, renewed his criticism of the social media giant, saying the company censors conservative voices.

It’s Hawley’s latest call for more government scrutiny and regulation of tech companies stemming from concerns like data privacy, internet addiction and censorship. 

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

The local group Race Matters, Friends is calling for the resignation of Columbia Public Schools’ chief equity officer Carla London.

The group officially made the call last week in a letter saying, “The district has been unable to provide RMF with evidence that Ms. London’s equity training program is meaningfully addressing the racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions, harassment, bullying and attendance.”

From time to time I visit with two well-connected, well-informed, and well-respected local politicos, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.  We caught up even though it is way more than a year until the next national election, and a year in politics time is longer than the amount of time it takes light to reach Earth from the most distant observable galaxy.  Still, it’s good to check vital signs occasionally.


Commentary: The Angry Voter

Aug 7, 2019

When I attended the Midwest Political Science Association meeting in April I sat in on a number of good panels and brought back much good content for my classes at Columbia College and for these commentaries.  In a panel on the 2020 election one author made the case that the traditional metrics used to predict presidential elections may not apply in 2020, just as many of them failed in 2016.


In 1932 and 1933 Joseph Stalin deliberately starved between three and ten million residents of Ukraine – no one knows the number for sure – and he tried to keep it secret.  When a later official Soviet census showed a multi-million person decline in Ukraine’s population, Stalin did the only thing he could do.  He had the top officials of the census executed.

So the pollsters recently fired by President Trump because internal polling showed Trump was behind in several battleground states should consider themselves lucky.  But Trump has a point.  People: IT IS A YEAR AND A HALF UNTIL THE ELECTION.  


Commentary: History's View of D-Day

Jun 23, 2019

Seventy-five years ago this week my late father, Lt. H. Bruce Smith, went ashore on Omaha Beach.  He was an Army combat engineer and a demolitions expert – a sapper.  The unit he had trained with went ashore on D-Day in the first wave and suffered 80 percent casualties, but because of a training accident my father was hospitalized for three weeks and then attached to a different unit that didn’t arrive in Normandy until late June.

On today’s episode of Talking Politics, Terry Smith, a political science professor at Columbia College, joins us to discuss the shift in the way candidates participate in presidential primaries. You can read his full commentary below. Also on today’s episdoe, KBIA’s Will Robinson gives us a look at Cowboys at the Capitol, a day when members of the Missouri Cattleman’s Association walk the Capitol halls to advocate for agriculture-related issues.

Terry Smith's Commentary:

Seth Bodine / KBIA

In Marthasville, Missouri, the fire department is made up entirely of volunteers. Between its three stations, the department is responsible for covering 168 square miles including surrounding towns like Treloar and Hopewell.

Volunteer fire departments are common in rural communities. In fact, The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 65 percent of the nation’s fire departments are made up of volunteers.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

On today's episode of Talking Politics, KBIA's Sidney Steele visits Mexico, Missouri to get to know Mayor Ayanna Shivers. Shivers is the first African-American woman to be mayor of Mexico. She discusses her concerns and goals for the community. You can see the full story here.

When I was a teenager growing up in St. Louis, professional wrestling was a big deal. Old smoke-filled Kiel Auditorium would be packed on Saturday nights and designated heroes and villains would duke it out in the ring, strutting, taunting and cheating. Even as kids we knew it was fake and a show, but that didn’t matter. It was pure primal entertainment. For an actual sporting event, we would go to old Sportsman’s Park to watch the Cardinals.

Sam Mosher/KBIA

By 2100, temperatures in Columbia are projected to rise by about 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a city report, and carbon emissions will be largely responsible. But the city has a plan to reduce its carbon emissions and prevent such a drastic rise in temperature.

The Columbia Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will take Columbia to 100 percent carbon reduction by 2060. The plan outlines steps to meet goals involving energy, transportation, building construction, food, water and waste.

Jamie Hobbs / KBIA

Dr. Andrea Benjamin is a political science professor at The University of Missouri whose research focuses on local elections and how community organizations can influence them. She joined us in-studio to analyze last week’s municipal election. She says Columbia is unique because of the level of civil engagement promoted by its citizens and public officials.

You can view the full interview below:

Commentary: Short Takes with Terry Smith

Apr 1, 2019

Every Saturday, instead of a lengthy editorial, the St. Louis Post Dispatch runs what it calls Short Takes: brief, unrelated news pieces accompanied by a thumb’s up or thumb’s down, depending on whether the content of the piece comports with the Post’s editorial policy. I thought I’d try short takes in this week’s commentary. You can supply your own thumb’s up or thumb’s down.

Missouri has long been a conservative state in its outlook, no matter the party in charge. So in January, when legislative leaders celebrated the 100th General Assembly and the 100th anniversary of the Assembly meeting at the Capitol building in Jefferson City, there were no fireworks over the Missouri River or a grand gala.

Instead, there was a special joint session of the General Assembly and a reception with a “massive” cake in the rotunda.

Jamie Hobbs / KBIA

Recently, I conducted a poll with my students at Columbia College. I asked 43 mostly-traditional age undergraduates four questions. The first three were:

Meiying Wu / KBIA

The Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and places of public accommodations based on certain protected classes including race, color, religion and disability.

A Roe v. Wade challenge could be coming. Will it come to Missouri?

Feb 25, 2019
Aviva Okeson-Haberman/KBIA

With multiple abortion-related bills on the table for the 2019 session, some are raising questions about the possibility of a future legal challenge or an eventual Supreme Court hearing.

“In order to get Roe versus Wade changed, we need to push it further than we’ve pushed it in the past,” Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said.

Commentary: The 2020 Presidential Race

Feb 18, 2019

President Trump gave his State of the Trump Administration speech recently. As usual, I only listened so as to avoid the visual distractions. Evidently, I missed some cool stuff: Speaker Pelosi’s walrus clap and the female Democratic representatives decked out in white. The optics are the show but the words are the content, and President Trump’s words were the opener to his 2020 reelection campaign.

A bill that critics say would allow most government records in Missouri to remain closed to the public passed the House Thursday and now heads to the Missouri Senate. It reverses some of the transparency laws ushered in by voters in November.  It’s raising red flags among transparency groups, the press, and some citizen groups.

A refresher in civics:  why public records are important

Commentary: The Media and Politics

Jan 29, 2019

Earlier this month an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Who Will Win the Internet?” caught my eye.  The author, Kara Swisher, did not begin by making the question a multiple choice quiz, and it’s a good thing, because in her column she left out the obvious correct answer: Russia.  She restricted the competition to domestic contestants and argued that the two primary combatants are President Trump and his followers and freshman Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her followers.  

Commentary: The Realities of Clean Missouri

Jan 9, 2019

Missouri voters used to be in the news because we were the bellwether state for presidential elections.  For 100 years with one exception Missouri voted for the winner – until 2008.

Now we are in the news because we are a trending red state that votes for progressive ballot initiatives.  Republicans have super majorities in both houses of the state legislature, control all but one statewide office, including both Senate seats, and six of eight congressional seats.  Yet in 2018 voters defeated right-to-work, approved a state minimum wage, approved medical marijuana and passed the “Clean Missouri” amendment, strengthening ethics laws and changing the way state legislative districts are drawn.

Some of you might be interested to know that this coming Saturday is the 666th day of the Trump presidency.

How did your party and candidate and ballot issue do last week? I feel the same way: Could have been worse, could have been better.

If you are a Republican you like picking up seats in the U.S. Senate, with Missouri being a big contributor to that. You don’t like losing the U.S. House, especially by more than the average number of seats after a presidential election.

Kathryn Palmer

On Nov. 6, Missourians will have a chance to decide if they want to raise the state minimum wage. Proposition B would increase the current $7.85 an hour minimum to $8.60 by next year. It would increase the state minimum wage 85 cents each year until it reaches $12 hour by the year 2023.

So how might this affect Missouri’s low-wage workers and business owners?

Dave Elman, the owner of Fretboard Coffee in downtown Columbia thinks it would help.

Commentary: A Peak at Political Literature

Oct 24, 2018

I read about politics and I read about politicians. Three fascinating books I’ve read recently have been about politicians from New York. I read Shattered, which is the gruesome account of Hillary Clinton’s misbegotten campaign in 2016. In case you’ve tried to forget, Clinton was a senator from New York from 2001 to 2009.


Those of us with October birthdays always get two gifts. One is that we often get gorgeous weather. The other is that each of us has a personal police radio code. Police codes, which are law enforcement shorthand for various incidents or situations, start with the number ten; so does our birth month.

  

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