- Associated Press - Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Kansas City Star, Oct. 14

Attorney Stacy Shaw crossed the line with comments about police. Her apology is a start

Attorney Stacy Shaw has issued a belated apology for making statements that appeared to threaten the families of Kansas City police officers.

The apology is welcome news. Let there be no mistake: Shaw’s initial statements were wholly unacceptable. They damaged the worthwhile cause of ending excessive force in the police department.

She made the statements in a speech last week to protesters gathered outside City Hall. In a video posted on social media, Shaw shouted through a bullhorn at the police building. “We will not be kind with you anymore,” she said. “You don’t think that we know where all y’all live? You don’t think we don’t know where your children go to school?”

Criticism was immediate and appropriate. Any threat to the families of police officers is reprehensible and wrong. And, as a practical matter, it diverts attention from the real issue, which is developing a process for truly independent review of police behavior.

On Monday, Shaw walked back the comments but did not apologize for them. That changed Tuesday afternoon.

“Here is my public apology,” she wrote to us, and posted on social media.

“On Friday, I made regrettable statements that I in no way intended as a threat,” she wrote. “I sincerely apologize for the brief moment that I was not upholding the values of love and transformative justice I have consistently championed.

“To be clear, I do not endorse nor will I ever tolerate harm to police families or children. We all deserve better,” she wrote.

Shaw said she wants to focus on her behavior, and “how I may be of further service in this historic movement.” That’s an important step.

We hope police officers are also using this time to reflect, and re-evaluate their own understanding of the use of force. In a statement, Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon said his organization would explore criminal charges or an ethics complaint against Shaw.

Lemon told a KMBC reporter Monday that officers shouldn’t have to worry about their children and spouse when they go to work. “That’s off limits,” Lemon said.

He’s certainly right. But no mother or father in Kansas City, regardless of occupation, should have to worry about their children’s safety. Yet Black children are routinely warned by their parents about the threat they face when interacting with police. It is literally a rite of passage for virtually all African American families.

Incidents such as the alleged police beating in a fast-food parking lot that recently led to a felony indictment are one reason why.

Extremist statements and threats won’t fix this problem. The Kansas City Police Department must be more answerable to the community it serves, but that argument is undercut by rhetoric that diverts attention from this important objective.

Shaw’s apology and self-reflection came too late, but can still make a difference. Let’s hope she has learned an important lesson, and all of Kansas City as well.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 14

Hawley helps Barrett dodge big questions on abortion and religion

Missouri’s junior senator, Josh Hawley, has devoted his time during Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing to expound upon the right of free exercise of religion as if Barrett’s Catholic faith is somehow under attack. It is the reddest of red herrings because absolutely no one is attacking Barrett’s faith or her right to exercise it. Hawley is trying to make Barrett appear to be the victim rather than the millions of American women who would be victimized if Barrett’s and Hawley’s personal religious views are enshrined as the law of the land regarding abortion rights.

Perhaps Hawley drew the short straw and was assigned by his fellow Republicans to make his bogus argument. Or perhaps he’s trying to divert attention from his repeatedly stated precondition that high court nominees must publicly state “on the record, as part of their record, that they have acknowledged in some forum that Roe v. Wade, as a legal matter, is wrongly decided.” If the nominee dodged or avoided Hawley’s litmus test, he would vote against confirmation.

Well, Barrett has steadfastly dodged, ducked and refused to state how she would rule on the landmark 1973 Supreme Court abortion ruling. And Hawley will vote for her anyway. That’s just the tip of the hypocrisy iceberg.

Barrett’s anti-abortion religious views are no secret, yet she avoids saying how she would rule by insisting she would solely be guided by the law. Poppycock. Evidence abounds of justices’ being guided by personal morals and religious views, then using the mountain of precedents in legal archives to justify their positions.

Barrett, like Hawley, is an originalist or “textualist.” They resist moving constitutional interpretations beyond what the Founders originally intended. On the abortion question, they argue that at some point at or shortly after conception, an embryo or fetus becomes a human being and that abortion denies that human the constitutional right to life.

But originalists conveniently overlook Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution requiring a national census to be conducted every decade. Nowhere did the Founders stipulate that an embryo or fetus should be counted as a separate person. To this day, pregnant women are not counted as two separate people in the census.

Nor, despite the court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, did the Founders ever stipulate that corporations are persons. Because they’re not, the census doesn’t include corporations in the population count.

Barrett doesn’t have to meet Hawley’s abortion litmus test because it’s already clear where she stands. It’s also already clear that she would join Hawley in imposing her personal religious beliefs on millions of women who don’t necessarily share them.

Barrett’s confirmation is a foregone conclusion. Hawley’s smarmy histrionics only serve to cheapen the process and distract the public from the way this nominee, religious views and all, are being foisted upon the American people.


St. Joseph New-Press, Oct. 12

What voters really need is clarity

Sometimes, the news hits late on a Friday afternoon. That’s just an observation, not an accusation.

Some might have missed a Missouri Supreme Court opinion that provided clarification and certainty into an election cycle that, so far, has been anything but clear and certain.

Less than four weeks before the election, the court rejected an effort to expand voting by mail, without a notary signature, to every eligible voter in the state. The court held that fear of contracting COVID-19 was not the same thing as being unable to vote because of the illness.

The ruling means that Missourians will go to the polls, or cast absentee and mail-in ballots, under rules established in Senate Bill 631. That measure easily passed the Republican-controlled Legislature in the spring and was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson.

SB 631 strikes a fine line between the desire to provide other means of voting during a pandemic and reluctance to expand mail-in voting without a notary signature. The law allows absentee voting by mail to those who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 based on age, medical conditions and other specific factors. For those voters with COVID-19 risk factors, an absentee ballot could be sent in the mail without a notary signature.

The law also allows any Missourian to submit a mail ballot, but a notary signature is required for that broader category.

The NAACP and the League of Women Voters wanted to expand mail-in access without a notary signature to anyone in the state, based on a more general fear of contracting COVID-19. Significantly, the groups filed legal action in April, before the Legislature passed SB 631.

The justices declared that the lawsuit sought to expand voting by mail to a degree that the Legislature never intended.

“(An) eligible voter who expects to voluntarily confine him or herself on the date of an election to avoid contracting or spreading any illness - from COVID-19 to the flu to the common cold - could cast an absentee ballot without notarizing his or her ballot envelope regardless of whether he or she expects to be sick or ill on the date of the election,” the court wrote in its opinion. “All future voters beyond the 2020 election could claim they expect to confine themselves ‘due to illness.’”

The court also held that voting is a fundamental right for all Missourians, but voting absentee is not.

That might seem harsh, but think about those voters in other countries who have gone to the polls amid great personal risk. It is inspiring.

The government can’t protect every voter from every possible threat on the journey to the polls. It can only provide reasonable alternatives and access. SB 631 does that. Let’s give it a chance to work.

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