- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20

Sexism is out of line in presidential election:

There are legitimate reasons to not vote for Hillary Clinton for president. Some might ding her for voting in 2002 to support the Iraq invasion or for backing the North American Free Trade Agreement. Others might fault her for recently saying she’d put coal miners out of work.

The fact that she’s a woman, however, is out of bounds. A new line of criticism, leveled solely at Clinton, reverts to a 1950s mentality that gender is a legitimate campaign issue. KMOX radio host Charlie Brennan apparently embraces it.

The day after she won the Democratic primary in Missouri, Brennan described Clinton’s voice as shrill and said her yelling would be a turnoff to some voters. Several national male political pundits offered similarly tired observations that seem not to apply to men in the presidential race.



Fox News’ Howard Kurtz tweeted that Clinton was shouting on Tuesday night during her victory speech in Florida and suggested she use “a more conversational tone.” Brit Hume, also from Fox News, tweeted that she was “shouting angrily in her victory speech.”

Politico’s chief political correspondent Glenn Thrush tweeted: “@Hillary Clinton in a nutshell: Calling for love and kindness - by SHOUTING.” And NBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeted: “Smile. You just had a big night.”

Telling a woman of Clinton’s stature - a former U.S. senator, secretary of state and first lady - how to speak and when to smile goes far beyond the realm of legitimate political punditry and analysis. It’s sexism. Women don’t need men to tell them how to behave.

These and other critics apply an unfair double standard that only speeds the steadily degrading quality of American political discourse.

While these media men are using gender encoded-language to bash Clinton, they allowed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to escape lasting political damage for remarks about Carly Fiorina’s face and for suggesting that Fox News’ Megyn Kelly’s tough questioning was due to her menstruating.

Trump shouts but is not condemned. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., yells and no one tweets that he sounds angry or tells him to smile. This double standard forces Clinton, on top of all her other campaign challenges, to battle a stereotype that should have died decades ago. Is it any surprise that, according to The New York Times, the one group resisting her candidacy is white men?

In her five major primary victories on Tuesday, Clinton’s most telling deficit was among white men. She lost them by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.

Gender shouldn’t matter in the White House. American voters should demand higher qualities of discourse on the campaign trail. They need to hear details about policy positions, pocketbook issues, foreign policy and international security. They shouldn’t have to watch an accomplished woman be treated like a child.

___

The Kansas City Star, March 19

The case for stepping in before next round of bullets flies:

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker didn’t mince words when she announced charges last month against two Kansas City men accused of killing 3-year-old Amorian S.L. Hale.

The root of the homicide was retaliation, she said. Investigators believe three Kansas City men planned and carried out an assault-style attack on a home in the 6700 block of Walrond Avenue in May 2015 because they suspected someone in the home had been involved in the murder of D’Shawn Marchbanks four months earlier.

A high-powered bullet struck Amorian in the head as he slept.

Marchbanks’ brother, Dominque Marchbanks, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting, as is Sulif Wilkins, 26. SirTerry Stevenson, 23, was charged last year.

“This was about retaliation. That is what this case is about, and beyond that I cannot make any more sense of it,” Peters Baker said.

It was unusual to see a prosecutor speak so candidly about retaliation. And useful. Payback is a central factor in Kansas City’s homicide problem.

Peters Baker sees it all the time. “My victims one day are my defendants another day,” she said. “I’m not trying to besmirch my victims. It’s just a reality.”

Retaliation has always been part of the criminal tableau. Think of “West Side Story.” But it has become a governing creed in violence-prone places like Kansas City.

Generations of young men have grown up with a distrust of police and the criminal justice system. Their ethos is to take care of problems within their own circle, even if that circle may change from week to week.

“One of the last things that comes to mind is that you call the police,” said Ken Novak, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Social media has raised the stakes. Information that appears on Facebook and Instagram is incendiary and often false, but people fueled by anger and machismo react to it quickly.

Police for too long cleaned up after retaliatory violence without making efforts to stop it. Fortunately, that’s changing in Kansas City.

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance project, or KC NoVA, has collected extensive data on criminal groups and their activities and has begun mining it to predict whether certain shootings might provoke retaliation. Patrol officers and detectives also contribute information.

If police suspect that a homicide or armed assault could provoke retaliation, they conduct an intervention or “custom notification.”

Usually this involves paying a visit to people and delivering the same ultimatum that KC NoVA makes when it periodically invites individuals prone to violence to a “call in.”

The message: “Leave the criminal lifestyle and we’ll help you with jobs, school or whatever services you need. Stay on the wrong side and we’ll be watching your every move.”

“It’s about giving people a choice and fair warning of the consequences of their actions,” Novak said. “You will get some people to listen and you will reduce retaliatory violence to some extent.”

Often police will enlist people in the community, like pastors or members of KC Mothers in Charge, a group of parents who have lost children to homicides, to join them in the notifications.

Another anti-retaliation effort, Aim4Peace, operates out of the Kansas City Health Department. Using the rationale that violence is a disease, workers try to prevent it by teaching conflict resolution skills through street outreach and violence prevention programs in high-crime neighborhoods. They also work at Truman Medical Center’s emergency room, seeking to calm emotions after shootings and other crimes.

The program is funded through a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and contributions from Kansas City and local foundations.

It is controversial, in part because its workers don’t share information with police and in part because it has always struggled to present reliable metrics that show it is slowing down violence.

Asked if she thought Aim4Peace were successful, Peters Baker said, “I don’t like that I can’t answer that question. I’d sure like them to be.”

Tracie McClendon-Cole, who oversees the program, points to high numbers of street interventions and good attendance at violence prevention sessions as evidence that Aim4Peace is doing its job.

Similar “cure violence” programs have been praised in other cities, and could be a useful complement to ongoing law enforcement measures. But a better rapport appears to be needed here.

The No Violence Alliance has done a good job of forging ties between community members and law enforcement. Sustaining that partnership will be crucial to changing the deep-seated mindset that victims of violence and their associates and family members should “take care of things” with gunfire.

“We are saying, let us have a chance,’” Peters Baker said. “We can’t allow those who are on the receiving end at some time or another to be decision makers as to whether they choose to prosecute or not.”

___

St. Joseph News-Press, March 16

Openness works by building trust:

This is Sunshine Week, when the public is reminded of what should require no reminding.

In plain English, government is our creation, the people who draw paychecks there work for us, and it is everyone’s right to know what goes on there.

The term “transparency” is used these days as a synonym for “government in the sunshine.” It is made up of a range of behaviors that serve our interests when they are employed by public servants and elected officials.

Neither term is appropriate, however, when the system works to undermine openness and public access to records, meetings and deliberations that are part and parcel of governing.

What’s worse, those who choose to thwart the public’s interest in openness miss out on the benefits: When people have ready access to lawmakers and how they arrive at decisions, this builds trust that is vital to the credibility of those in elective office.

The Associated Press reports three of the four leaders of the Missouri Senate and House recently rebuffed an open records request to examine a week’s worth of their emails and daily calendars.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny and House Speaker Todd Richardson all asserted individual lawmakers are not subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

They may be technically right, but that hardly makes their position honorable. The Sunshine Law states it applies to any “public governmental body.” The state Supreme Court has not definitively ruled on whether the law applies to individual lawmakers, but critics note the obvious loophole.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel was the only one of the top four lawmakers to provide the information requested by The Associated Press.

“We think that we are not above the law, and that we should absolutely turn over the records when requested,” said Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat, who instructed all House Democrats to comply.

This position fits well with the intent of the Sunshine Law, which defines minimum expectations for openness in government. There is nothing prohibiting an officeholder from erring on the side of openness.

___

Columbia Daily Tribune, March 18

Click continued:

Assistant Professor Melissa Click was fired by the University of Missouri Board of Curators. She appealed her case, and the board reiterated its decision, this time unanimously. The American Association of University Professors is investigating and almost surely will decide the university failed to follow prescribed procedures for firing a faculty member.

The AAUP is likely to censure the university. So what?

Censure by the AAUP is meant to discredit a targeted institution, potentially affecting its appeal as an employer of faculty. But many institutions now are under AAUP censure without mortal effect, and MU has been there before without lasting injury.

The Click episode and the AAUP reaction will cause worthwhile reflection on campus. Melissa Click’s firing process was abnormal, legal but beyond the intentionally ponderous steps outlined for consideration of a faculty dismissal, which involve a series of considerations by departments and faculty before final execution by administration.

The Click matter had gone off the rails before the curators found it in their laps. Given the curious circumstances - resignations and replacements of the top two university officers and the documentation of the professor’s actions on the Internet - Click made a shortcut to the very top.

In the end it was a political decision that was, in many minds, necessary for the welfare of the institution. Click made a mistake. Outside political pressure took her case out of the hands of university officials who could have resolved the issue, though admittedly not in a manner satisfying to those skeptical of campus culture. It was too late for the niceties of usual campus procedures.

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