MIZZOU: From Bad to Worse

What do you do when enrollment is down and your budget has been cut?  Raise tuition and fees, of course! That’s what the Board of Curators for the University of Missouri has opted to do anyway.

MIZZOU has faced a sharp drop off in enrollment in the past two years, due in part to the uproar over on-campus protests in November 2015.  Freshman enrollment in 2015 was 6,000. In 2016, it was 4,700, and it is anticipated to drop down to 4,000 in 2017. That will be its smallest incoming class since the late 90’s.  As a result, the school is shutting down seven dorms.

Faced with the enrollment decline and budgetary reductions by the State, the University has opted to increase tuition 2.1% (the maximum under law) and increase student fees, as well.  I’ll confess I don’t recall all that much from Walter Johnson’s Econ 101 class*, but this strikes me as counterintuitive.  Apparently, I’m not alone in that:



*Yes, I’m a MIZZOU grad.


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A Photo Opportunity With Speaker Ryan Becomes a Chance for Parents to Use Their Kids for Politics

When I was in the 5th grade, our class wrote “get well soon” letters to President Reagan after he was shot by David Hinckley in 1981. I know my parents were not Reagan supporters, having voted for Carter the year before. I remember them being supportive of the efforts and I remember being thrilled when we got a letter back from the President, thanking us for the kind words.

Considering it was an assassination attempt, it’s hard for me to imagine my parents telling I couldn’t write the letter but I also never felt driven by their politics. One thing I do know is if there were an opportunity to be photographed with the President or Congressional leaders I’d be told to behave and be respectful.

Times sure have changed and not for the better.

I read the story in the Washington Post, and it had me shaking my head:

Matthew Malespina, one of the students who stayed away, said in an interview Sunday that he chose not to be photographed with Ryan because he disagreed with the policies the speaker and his party are pushing on health care, among other things. He called Ryan “a man who puts his party before his country.”

He said he and the others stood across the street while Ryan posed with their peers. Their act of civil disobedience was picked up by a local news website, the Village Green, and drew attention from larger media outlets.

“I don’t like to take a picture with somebody that I can’t associate with,” Matthew, 13, told The Washington Post. “Let’s say somebody is not nice to me at school, for example. I wouldn’t take a picture with them, probably.”

Does anybody believe a 13-year-old kid understands the intricacies of what Speaker Ryan does, day in and day out? It’s obvious he’s echoing Mom and Dad’s sentiments, and Mom is happy to brag about it:

Matthew’s mother, Elissa Malespina, a public-school librarian who was not on the trip, said she was surprised but pleased to hear of the students’ protest action. She posted about it on her Facebook page.

“I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of the other students that chose to exercise their constitutional rights and did so in a respectful manner,” Malespina said Sunday.

Her explanation is even more stupefying:

She said that while politics are a frequent topic of discussion in their household, criticism that she or other parents “indoctrinated” the kids involved is unfounded. “Teenagers, honestly, do they listen to their parents anyway?”

First of all, “indoctrination” is a harsh word. Kids just tend to pick up their parents words, not understanding much of the context of what the parents are discussing. My son was ten years old when Barack Obama won in 2008, and he was “disappointed.” Why? Because I was disappointed. It’s natural for kids to react similarly to how Mom and Dad respond to a given situation.

But if my son or daughter were taking a class trip to Washington DC and had the opportunity to be photographed with then-Speaker Pelosi? I’d tell both of them to smile big and be on their best behavior. If they organized a “protest” with other little snots, I’d be sure to make them write letters of apology for being disrespectful to both Nance Pelosi and the office of Speaker of The House of Representatives.

Don’t use kids to express your politics. It’s demeaning to them and makes you look ridiculous.


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Memorial Day Honors Men and Women Who Paid The Ultimate Price

Every year as Memorial Day approaches we’re all reminded through various media that we should remember what Memorial Day is really about. That we have this long weekend, not to kick off summer, but to honor those who gave all fighting for our country — and for those of us who haven’t served, on our behalf.

Very few Americans intentionally ignore that aspect of Memorial Day, the memorializing part. It’s likely more to do with the fact that the number of Americans who have lost someone they knew personally during wartime, particularly in the last generation, is a blessedly small number. But whether we knew them or not, this day is the one day a year we set aside to pay our respects to the men and women who died serving their country.

It is truly a blessing we live in a time when the true purpose of the holiday hasn’t touched home for so many of us. For those it has, one day of decoration and remembrance no doubt seems insufficient. Regardless, it is up to us to remember the countless Americans who died in battle, not to pick up more hot dog buns on the next beer run.

Every Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I go with my mother and her first cousin, Sharon, and usually a handful of other relatives, to lay wreaths and flags at the headstones of family members who served in the military, all during wartime. Not to diminish their service, these men thankfully all made it home and raised families and lived their lives for several decades after returning from war.

I’ve walked through the rows at Woodlawn Cemetery in Ferndale, Washington for as long as I can remember. My sisters and I only ever knew our great grandparents in pictures and as the names on a headstone with “JOHNSON” taking up the entire upper half. Over the years, Edna and Melvin’s children have all buried nearby. A luxury Edna’s own grandparents knew they’d never have with their son, Henry.

Henry Christen was my last relative on either side of my family to die while serving in the military.


While both sides of my family have traceable roots in America to pre-Revolutionary War days, Henry was the son of German immigrants — not necessarily a desirable thing. His father, Charles, was forced to sign a “Declaration of Intent” in May of 1918, rejecting any allegiance or fidelity to “William II, German Emperor,” despite the fact that he’d immigrated 47 years prior.

Working with his family in the logging industry, Henry left the mountains enlisted in Bellingham, Washington, a month to the day after turning 28 in 1918. By August he was on the frontlines in France. I have yet to research all the details of where the 364th Infantry was fighting in October, but somewhere along the way, Henry was wounded. On October 21, he succumbed to his wounds and was buried 5,000 miles from home in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiaucourt, France. 

In 1929, his mother, Johanna, was asked by the Mother’s Pilgrimage if she would like to make the trip to her son’s grave. Apparently, at 74, my 4x great grandmother had decided one trip across the Atlantic in her lifetime was enough, as she declined.

These are the men and women we remember and honor today. While it’s human to ignore the things we’re removed from and propensity to relax and celebrate on holidays, that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook for appreciating the real reason we get to do so and those no longer here to relax with us.

There are men and women, like Henry, throughout American history and it’s only right to seek them out, learn their names, and honor them on Memorial Day.

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Is Conservatism’s New Philosophy Just Straight Up Chaos?

A view from the outside in doesn’t look pretty. The anonymous sources for the New York Times and the Washington Post tell us that the Priebus’s are at war with the Bannon’s, and the Bannon’s are at war with the Kushner’s. Everyone is trying to amass their power.

Of course, you look at the sources for the New York Times, and they disagree with the sources for the Washington Post. Different factions leak different things for different results, after all.

In the world around us, liberals attack conservatives and conservatives attack liberals. (Liberals are also attacking neo-Nazis, but shed few tears). #TheResistance is simultaneously growing in strength and dropping in numbers.

Once respected, authoritative voices in the conservative movement get reduced to the very type of water carrying they once shredded liberal commentators for being. Liberal commentators get reduced to being the very type of conspiracy theorists they once shredded conservative commentators for being.

The nation, just like the White House, is in a state of absolute chaos. Morals get abandoned for just a little bit more power, more clicks, more ratings, and more support. Ironically, in an era where very few people will claim that Donald Trump represents them, it is evident now that he is perhaps the perfect representation of the country.

What happened to conservatism that its most vocal leaders, its most influential voices, its authorities are all now supportive of the type of chaos that Donald Trump represents? Why is it that a movement that was once a movement of ideas is now content to water-carry for a near lunatic of a President? The instability and the inconsistency that makes Donald Trump what he is is now reflected in the movement that, for reasons that still mostly escape me, supports him.

The last two weeks are the perfect encapsulation of the type of insane bipolarism in this administration. Two weeks ago, the most chaotic series of news cycles that all stemmed from one meeting with Russian diplomats.  Last week, a terror attack and a foreign tour that, while not gaffe-free, was still among one of the best of his administration thus far.

However, the good vibes abroad do not overshadow the bad at home. Investigations seem to be targeting Trump’s son-in-law. Kushner seems to have sought some sort of private connection with the Kremlim, and if you were to believe half the rumors in and around Washington, there might just be an actual scandal in the making.

Not to mention, the people who are at home while he was away are still fighting among themselves for hours.

And, his supporters cheer him on, defending every little thing as media hypocrisy, media lies/fake news, and “What about Obama/Hillary?!?!” While some of what they say is certainly valid, it is not an absolute defense of the man and his words and actions.

Trump is chaos, plain and simple. The Republican Party has twisted itself into supporting him, and the conservative movement has embraced the chaos. Both of these entities, which until 2016 made up what we called “The Right,” have turned away from being a movement of ideas. As I mentioned last week, there is no moral authority for the Republican Party anymore. It has been thrown away for this new era of chaos, ushered in by a man we knew good and damn well would be this kind of president.

At some point, we decided that disruption was our calling. We decided we wanted to shake up Washington D.C. rather than elect people who could effectively help turn government around. We wanted to “drain the swamp,” without a care in the world as to whether or not the water we pumped back in was fresh.

This disruption, this chaos, has turned what should have been the single greatest opportunity for the Republican Party into its last, failed stand.

Sure, it is early in the Trump Era and he may yet turn it around. There is certainly the potential for that, after all. The Cabinet picks were, mostly, good. His pick for Supreme Court has promise. However, when it comes to the very things that throw his administration into disarray – the in-fighting, the thin-skinned comments on Twitter, the attempts to validate his manhood, and his increasingly alarming compulsion to undermine his own staff – he is time and again shooting himself in the foot, and conservatives rush to his defense without a care for the fact that, yes, some of this is actually bad.

Saying any of this, however, is taboo. We can’t call Trump out on his mistakes. To do so is sabotage, anti-Republican and anti-American. We can’t call balls and strikes anymore because Trumpism (Chaosim?) is the most important thing we can push.

No thank you.

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