Sep 26

Free Speech and Honest Speech in Missouri

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – The questions and controversies you’ve seen on the news may impact you, no matter where you live in the Show Me State.

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri still leaves more challenges than answers over a month after the shooting death of Michael Brown. While the debate continues over the police tactics during the aftermath of the shooting, there’s another discussion emerging from the controversy: did police violate the First Amendment rights of protesters?

Constitutional Attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri thinks police went too far in trying to keep order. Among his concerns is the efforts made to control where news media were allowed to be and to stop pictures and videos from being recorded. Some protesters and reporters on the scene say they were ordered by police to not use their cameras. That’s an order many defied.MWSnap007

“What police are generally permitted to do is to ask people who are actively interfering with a law enforcement effort to step out of the way. The police cannot say ‘turn off your cameras. We don’t want you filming this.’ That would be a gross invasion of the freedom of press, the freedom of speech and, unfortunately, we saw some of that.”

Roland, in an interview on “Missouri Viewpoints” discusses why he believes those – and other – actions by law enforcement need to be challenged. He also explains his view of the role civil disobedience has in situations like the one in Ferguson. During the discussion, Roland was careful to note that not all of the actions by those involved in the unrest are protected as free speech.

As an example, Roland notes that law enforcement has the right and duty to try to stop activities like looting, arson, vandalism and other violence, which also occurred in Ferguson.

Also, what happens when free speech, political speech is negative speech? A Missouri organization called F.A.C.T. Compass wants to offer a free market solution to what they say is a destructive part of our political process: misleading or otherwise negative campaign ads. Daniel Rubenstein explains the goals, the methods and the opportunity for you to get involved.

F.A.C.T. Compass wants to take a similar approach to campaign ads as the Better Business Bureau takes with commercial organizations.

Daniel Rubenstein wants their seal of approval to eventually send voters a message: that the claims in the ad have been researched and found to be both accurate and in context. He believes the public is ready to demand the end of negative attack ads and wants them replaced with verifiable, honest ones.MWSnap008

“We think that, from talking with a lot of people, they’d like to see that happen. I mean, everyone seems to be frustrated with the negative advertising in political campaigns. It’s ridiculous. They’re taking small slivers of truth and turning them into a dagger and they’re avoiding the real issues.

“It’s time to talk about what’s going on and what they stand for, not just throwing mud.”

Generally speaking, the process they hope to use is one where candidates open up their ads to a truth audit of sorts. A team, or more than one team, of F.A.C.T. Compass researchers will verify the technical accuracy of the claims. They will also, according to Rubenstein, consider the context of the claims being made, especially the ones attacking another opponent.

If the ad passes the review, it will be allowed to display the F.A.C.T. Compass seal.

Rubenstein says everyone who joins the research teams will go through an assessment to identify their political leanings and teams will be put together that balances viewpoints. The audit-like process, research and approval will not be an endorsement of any candidate or party. It will only indicate that the claims have been verified as not misleading.

On the web:

Freedom Center of Missouri: www.MOFreedom.org

F.A.C.T. Compass: http://factcompass.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/free-speech-and-honest-speech-in-missouri/

Sep 19

Veto Session 2014: What Does It Mean To Missouri?

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – What happens when the relationships between the people in government break down? That’s what some politicians on both sides of the aisle say is happening in our state government right now.

It’s nothing new to hear Republicans complain about Democrats and vice versa. Right now, though, both sides say there is another divide. Democratic State Representative Vicki Englund (St. Louis County) explains.MWSnap004

“I think what we’re looking at is relationships between the Legislature and the Governor’s office that have been less than stellar. I think we’re looking at relationships between the Senate and the House that have been less than stellar. I think what we have here is just a very political process over the budget.”

Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R) has more confidence in the relationship between the House and the Senate but he agrees with Englund when it comes to the situation between the Legislature and the Governor. He also believes every Missourian should be concerned about it as well.

“It means that we start experiencing what they are in [Washington] D.C., which is complete gridlock and I can tell you that the only reason we are experiencing that here is because Jay Nixon is governing differently than he did his first four years.”

At issue is how state government spends your money. With votes from both parties, lawmakers overrode spending line item vetoes 47 times this month.

Still, the Governor’s decision to withhold millions in spending that was approved by the Legislature is not setting well with many lawmakers, according to Englund.

“It’s just kind of anyone’s bet why decisions are made. I don’t think we really know what the Governor’s priorities are. We just know that funding is released whenever it’s released.”

Jones agrees with Englund on that point.

“The media, at least in the headlines, did not properly dissect the issue and didn’t explain what it was truly about. What the overrides on the spending items were about were priorities. This money has already been ‘spent’. It’s already been appropriated in the budget.”

The Speaker believes the communication breakdown may be the result of political decisions.MWSnap006

“Democrats and Republicans agreed. We passed a true balanced budget. It was $300 million less than what the Governor originally asked for but he got mad at us for a number of reasons.”

Among those, according to Jones, is the override of an income tax cut the Governor vetoes earlier this year.

While members of the two parties still disagree on many things, Jones says they overcame differences to get the job done when it came time to decide the state’s spending plan for the year.

“You ended up with a veto session where Republicans and Democrats joined together to put that money back into the categories that we felt deserved the priority. What were those priorities? We focused on seniors, children, the mentally disabled, veterans…there was no pork.”

That’s not happening when it comes to legislators and the Governor working together. At least that’s the accusation from some lawmakers, both Republican and Democratic. To Representative Englund, the solution is less political and more personal.

“We need to do what I believe we in the House of Representatives have done and that’s start talking to each other. I feel as though we’re not even having those conversations started.

“It’s one thing to have a conversation with someone and, at the end of the day, disagree but when you’re not having those conversations it’s very difficult to support any program or support any strategy that someone – at the last minute – asks for your support about.”

With two years left in Nixon’s term, Englund still hopes the working relationships in Jefferson City will improve.

“I think the opportunity is there. Whether or not he seizes it, that’s up to him.”

On the web:

Vicki Englund: http://www.vickienglund.com/

Tim Jones: http://timwjones.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/veto-session-2014-what-does-it-mean-to-missouri/

Sep 18

Are There “Two Missouris”?

By Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – Election Day always has an impact on Missourians.

Some are happy that their candidate or cause won and others are unhappy with the election results. With some exceptions, there tends to be a pattern in the Show Me State’s voting. While it can be classified as “red” or “blue” regarding the selection of state lawmakers, there’s also a pattern when it comes to some issues.

It’s not necessarily Republican versus Democrat, it’s urban Missouri versus rural Missouri. Urban areas tend to vote more Democratic and in favor of issues like gun control and animal rights. Rural areas are often more Republican, sharply oppose gun control proposals and support agriculture issues that sometimes conflict with the efforts of animal rights groups.

Some political and media observers go as far as to refer to “two Missouris” – where people in the same state are worlds apart in terms of priorities, values, culture and politics.

Do we live in “Two Missouris”? This week, a media panel of Jo Mannies (St. Louis Public Radio), Scott Faughn (The Missouri Times) and Eli Yokely (PoliticMO.com and the Joplin Globe) discuss what they see as dividing Missouri and what can unite Missourians.

On the web:

St. Louis Public Radio: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/

The Missouri Times: http://themissouritimes.com/

PoliticMO: http://politicmo.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/are-there-two-missouris/

Sep 05

Justice, Protests and Finding Solutions In Ferguson

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – A half-hour television interview show includes about 26 minutes of actual “talk time”.

That’s not enough to cover all facets of the controversies and investigations related to the August shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of the black teenager came as a result of shots fired from a white police officer’s gun.

What happened prior to the trigger being pulled remains unconfirmed at this point. That’s is the focus on one investigation. The United States Department of Justice has now launched another investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.

Protesters continue to be active in and around Ferguson and supporters of Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, have now begun to organize to defend him publicly and financially.

On “Missouri Viewpoints”, two guests from opposite sides of the political aisle agree on the need to heal the emotional pain centered around the shooting, the behavior of the police in the aftermath and what one State Senator says is a long, boiling history of a community feeling injustice and poverty.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat, represents Missouri’s 14th District, which covers St. Louis County.

“Really, what the issue has become is an experience of young, African-American men…they have been intimidated, they have been harassed, they have been treated differently for so long. And then you have the killing of Mike Brown and the body laid there [in the street where he was shot] four hours or more. This community is so angry because they see themselves as a Mike Brown.”

She says that’s what fueled the start of the protests that resulted in businesses being damaged, looting taking place and in clashes with police. She is also highly critical of fellow Democrat, Governor Jay Nixon, for what she says has been too slow and too little of a response to the situation in Ferguson.

Chris Arps hopes the violent protests are a thing of the past at this point. He’s the co-founder of Move On Up, a network of black conservatives.

“Let’s have cooler heads prevail. Let’s have the investigation play out and see what happens. Then if people aren’t satisfied with the conclusion, then you should take further action.”

Part of that action he wants to see is political at the local level. He is encouraged by seeing more Ferguson residents register to vote and showing a desire to get involved in local government.

MWSnap001Sen. Chappelle-Nadal says she wants the community’s response to be based on facts and justice and she takes issue with part of the claims in support of Officer Wilson’s actions. Specifically, she says the convenience store security video purported to show Michael Brown committing a strong-arm robbery is irrelevant to the discussion of the shooting that ended his life in August.

“That video that was release [as being] the same day as Officer Wilson, the date on it was in June. It was not in July or August.”

Protests continue and some organizers say they plan to block traffic on I-70 in St. Louis next week. A smaller protest blocked traffic on I-270 recently. Senator Chappelle-Nadal seems to not be sold on the I-70 shutdown idea but understands the motivation to protest.

“From my constituents’ viewpoint, they want to do a complete shutdown of businesses, not go to businesses that are in Ferguson. They want to protest in the neighborhood streets. The highway, I’m not too sure what that would accomplish. I know in trying to express themselves, my constituents want to release some of that negative tension that they have on the inside.”

Arps, who grew up near Ferguson, says he believes some of those getting involved in promoting some of the more controversial protests may not be from Ferguson but, instead, are possibly outsiders who are agitating the situation for a variety of social and political goals.

“I don’t think that boycotting businesses or shutting down the highway doesn’t really do anything other than tick people off.”

Chappelle-Nadal says she hopes the chain of events that sparked protests, violence, political upheaval and a national discussion on race, politics and culture are able to also launch something positive.

“I think Mike Brown gave this community a gift. He gave us a gift to wake up and participate and not be lax or passive. So, the gift that he gave us is a movement for young people to become more aware and actively engaged at every single corner.”

Arps adds that the ongoing conflicts highlight the need to focus on solutions as the goal of political debates.

“Even though we have different political beliefs, we have to come together. Maria is a Democrat, I’m a Republican but we’re friends. We don’t agree on much politically but we can still talk about things. We need to foster more of that.”

On the web:
Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal: http://www.senate.mo.gov/14info/members/mem14.htm

Move-On-Up: http://move-on-up.org/index.html

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/justice-protests-and-finding-solutions-in-ferguson/

Sep 02

Protecting Missouri’s Four-Legged Friends: Why It Matters To Everyone

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4t4jvswb3oib63p/MOViewsPets.mp4?dl=0

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – They are our companions, our protectors and our friends so it’s hard to understand why some people abandon – or abuse – pets.

You may be surprised to learn that most local governments spend a significant amount of money dealing with animals. There are health reasons and safety reasons for that but Brent Toellner thinks animal issues are also personal.

“About 65% of people in this country own a pet of some type so pets are something that definitely appeals to the majority of us and, whether you’re a pet owner or not, the pets in your community have an impact on you and where your tax dollars are spent.”

Toellner is the Board President of the Kansas City Pet Project, one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in the state.

Tens of thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters in Missouri every year. Toeller explains the most common causes.

“Number one, they get lost and someone else finds them and brings them back and we’re unable to reunite them with the home…another reason is that many people have to surrender pets because they end up moving into an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets.”

Not all animals make it out of shelters, even if there’s nothing wrong with their health or behavior.

“Primarily, the reason a lot of them are put down when they should be found homes is because shelters feel overwhelmed because of the number of animals they get and they aren’t able to find homes for them at the same rate as they come in.”

Toellner says, nationwide, about eight million animals go to a shelter each year. About three and a half million are euthanized each year, often because they stayed too long in the shelter and there’s simply no more room for them.

That happens after money is spent on the animal’s care.

Toellner says animal shelters have an important role in keeping us safe from strays. At the same time, they are also good resources for families who want to add a pet to the home.

To him, it’s important that shelters are available and funded, even when that can get expensive.

“We should be a caring and compassionate society. That’s not only for people who have issues and need our help but also for animals that have issues and need our help. I think as a society, we don’t want to be the type of people who think of animals and pets as disposable.”

Whether it’s part of the city budget or a donation to a locally run non-profit organization, money spent on animal shelters often ends up impacting human lives.

“It starts form the second they come in the door. They all get a round of vaccinations so they don’t catch diseases from other dogs that might be in the shelter, because they all come in from different backgrounds and we don’t know what they’ve been treated for

“Then they’ll have to go into a kennel where they’ll have to be walked and cared for and fed every day, multiple times a day. Then they’ll get a rabies shot before it ends up leaving. They’ll get a behavior evaluation at a shelter so that we know the animal that is going out is a safe one to go into a home.”

Ideally, no one would abandon an animal but the reality is that domesticated dogs and cats will continue to become homeless. You can become part of the solution by adopting a shelter pet. Toellner suggests some discussion and planning before you head to the shelter, though.

“The most important thing they can do is be honest with themselves about what they want in a pet. Are they really active and want an active dog to go running with? Then, if you’re a couch potato and just want a do that will curl up on your lap with you. So, starting with being honest about your lifestyle and how that pet is going to fit in to your lifestyle is the most important thing you can do because then hopefully you’re going to get a pet that matches your lifestyle.”

On the web: Kansas City Pet Project: www.KCPetProject.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/protecting-missouris-four-legged-friends-why-it-matters-to-everyone/

Aug 15

E-Cigs: A Positive Step Away From Tobacco Or A New Danger?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8p4k0bkt9vrpyk6/Ecigs%20and%20Tobacco_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – The sign says “No Smoking” or maybe the law says “No Smoking”, but you see someone puffing away in the restaurant, anyway.

They might not be breaking the rules.

What they are holding in their hands could be an “E-cig” – or electronic cigarette – and those who like this new option are sometimes quick to correct you if you say they are smoking and E-cig. They are “vaping”, not smoking.

Stan Cowen explains what you’re seeing in that restaurant.

“They’re battery operated devices that will heat and vaporize a solution to create a chemical-filled mist for the user. They may or may not contain nicotine. They may or may not contain flavorings or other things to enhance the experience for the user.”

Cowen is a former tobacco use prevention program manager for the state’s Health Department.

Jason Head works for Aqueous Vaper, a Missouri-based business that sells electronic cigarettes. He doesn’t claim they are good for you but believes they aren’t as bad as regular cigarettes.

“When you put down the cigarettes and use an E-cig, you’re getting rid of a lot of the carbon monoxide and tars and other things that really tax the body.”

Cowen warns against accepting that claim.

“Often, either anecdotally or it’s implied that because this is a vapor and they say it’s primarily water vapor, that it’s harmless. That is not the case. In particular, [researchers] have found there are at least four tobacco-specific nitrosamines that are in the vapor. These are known human carcinogens.”

That’s why he wants them regulated and taxed like tobacco-based products.

Both sides agree; E-cigs are so new, there hasn’t been time to study the long term effects they have on the body.

For that reason, Head thinks government should go slow when it comes to new regulations.

“E-cigs are different. We don’t know the long term effects but we shouldn’t be jumping in to preemptive legislation based on something that we don’t know about yet.”

That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to all regulations, though. He agrees with some basic rules.

“I don’t want to be selling to kids. Parents have to be responsible also for what’s in their kids’ hands. But, I definitely don’t want the option for somebody to sell to someone fourteen years old, an electronic cigarette.”

One argument for E-cigarette use is that it can help some smokers step down their tobaccos use. There is no research available to confirm or refute that common claim. E-cig manufacturers do not make that claim in their marketing.

Could the devices actually cause more nicotine consumption? Cowen says some studies indicate – but not prove – that E-cigs might actually increase nicotine use in some smokers.

“They don’t switch from one to the other. They become dual users and they start using e-cigs in places where they can’t smoke, otherwise.”

Head doesn’t believe that should be a part of the discussion when it comes to adding laws.

“Everybody has a choice of what they put into their body. From how they spend their money and what they want to do with it. I’m the kind of person who says ‘ridiculous freedoms’ for an individual. I want ridiculous amounts of freedom to choose what I do with my body.”

Nicotine is recognized as a highly addictive substance that, of course, not good for your body. The long term impact of E-cigs on the body will likely not be known for several years.

On the web:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/tobacco/index.php

Aqueous Vapor: https://www.aqueousvapor.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/e-cigs-a-positive-step-away-from-tobacco-or-a-new-danger/

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