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pleasantly
eccentric


by Aimee Patton


 

Missouri and
Kansas are alike
in many ways
2/26/14

I know you have heard it. “What's the matter with Kansas?” It seems like these days article after article is published with that blaring headline from local newspapers to national publications. It is all based on the popular book by the same name by Thomas Frank. These days, there has been so much extreme legislation coming out of Kansas that is really does beg the question, “What is the matter with Kansas?”

Now, I realize I'm writing for a Missouri paper and a Missouri article. You might be thinking there is a world of difference between Missouri and Kansas. You may be thrilled that Kansas is getting all of this negative attention in the press and so frequently a topic of conversation on comedy programs like the Daily Show.

Not so fast, Missouri. I think it's time someone asked the same question of Missouri – “What's the matter with Missouri?”

Unfortunately, there is not much difference between the two states when it comes to extreme legislation.
Gun legislation is a prime example-

Missouri voted to nullify any federal gun laws imposed by the federal government. Federal agents enforcing the laws could face up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000.

Guess what? Kansas also voted for a similar law. From the Kansas law: “Any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States which violates the second amendment to the constitution of the United States is null, void and unenforceable in the state of Kansas.”

I would say in this case Missouri one-upped Kansas by added the $1,000 fine for federal agents. This is one where you can truly ask, “What's the matter with Missouri and Kansas?”

I think we can all see the writing on the walls that this type of legislation will end up being challenged in court. The sure thing in this type of legislation is that it costs taxpayers millions in lengthy court battles.
Moving on to the anti-gay legislation….the nation had their eyes on Kansas with the attempt to pass HB2453. The bill states that anyone with a “sincere religious belief” doesn't need to provide services to homosexuals. The public outcry to this bill was so loud and even though the bill passed the Kansas house, the Senate killed the bill.

Now you may be thinking, well that's Kansas. Things like that don't happen in Missouri. Not so fast…there is a representative in Missouri that wants to impeach Gov. Nixon for allowing homosexual couples who have been legally married in other states to file joint tax returns. Rep. Nick Marshall of Parkville filed the initial paperwork to start impeachment.

It states in the Missouri Constitution that a marriage is between one man and one woman. Gov. Nixon's attempt to recognize same-sex marriage could cost Missouri taxpayers millions in costly impeachment hearings. Across the nation, judges have found the ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

Instead of acknowledging this trend and changing the Missouri constitution to reflect the nationwide change, Missouri will attempt to impeach the governor to prevent any such acknowledgment.
So I ask, what's the matter with Missouri?

Finally there is the Missouri bill that would require equal treatment of intelligent design in Missouri schools with the teachings of evolution. If you teach one, you have to teach the other as scientific fact, which is highly debated among the scientific community. It also requires a rewriting of Missouri textbooks to reflect the change. Again, if the bill passes you can guarantee that this one will also end up in court, that is if it actually is signed by the governor, which is highly unlikely. Parents who oppose evolution could opt their children out of science class. This is not the first time this type of bill has been introduced. It had previously died in committee. But like the Little Engine That Could, this bill keeps coming up with the hope from conservative Republicans that it will pass.

Again, I ask, what's the matter with Missouri?

The nation can't continue to point our finger at Kansas for all of their far right legislation and ignore what's happening in Missouri. As I watch legislation from both states, I can almost guarantee what one is doing the other will soon follow. The two states mirror each other in so many ways. The only difference is Missouri has a Democratic Governor…for now anyway. The two states continue to pass controversial legislation that ends up costing taxpayers on both sides of the state line millions in court battles.

When will it stop? It will only stop when extreme right politicians are voted out of office. Until then I will continue to shake my head and ask…what's the matter with Missouri and Kansas?

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger and a Midwest Voices columnist. Find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 


Some curriculum
is best left to
parents and churches
2/19/14

From the “here we go again” file - this week, I give you Missouri HB 291 or the Missouri Standard Science Act. This bill known as the Missouri Standard Science Act basically says that evolution and creation should both be given equal time in Missouri public schools. The bill is far from an interesting read with line after line of scientific definitions. I will admit while reading the bill I dozed off for a bit. I'm admittedly not a science gal.

So here are some of the highlights:

(a) Course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint. Textbook materials include text, pictures, illustrations, graphs, tables, questions, discussion items, student exercises, teacher support material and other material supplied with the textbook, with freedom allowed the textbook publishers to arrange, substitute, or size material to provide an approximately equal teaching of each viewpoint for a specific textbook;

In case you were wondering, all textbooks printed to date are exempt from this law, but all textbooks going forward need to be printed reflecting this new Missouri requirement. So next obvious question – who is coming up with the money to print these new textbooks? If memory serves, those suckers aren't cheap. Missouri taxpayers, listen up – sounds like you will be getting a bill for this shortly.

(b) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course;
Note the broad brush saying that other scientific theories may also be taught. So if you have a theory that we were all sent here in rocket ships by aliens in far off universes…there is a place for you in Missouri teaching science.

This is my favorite part:

(4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive.

Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection;

So no matter how much evolution is proven, Missouri science teachers have to teach it as a theory versus fact. Way to dial back the clock on evolution in Missouri by dumbing down Missouri's science teachers.

You may be thinking, “haven't we been down this road before?” Ding! Ding! You would be correct. A bill similar to this died in committee both in 2004 and in 2012. So what's changed?

Not much. This bill is almost identical to the 2012 bill.

Even if this ridiculous bill passes, you and I both know it will be immediately challenged in court. There is that whole First Amendment of government not establishing a religion. Call me crazy, if religious theory is going to be forced into the public schools, it sounds to me like the government is establishing a religion. I'm not anti-religion, but there are plenty of places called churches to learn about Creation.

Also, why do we think our science teachers are the right people to be teaching intelligent design? Why not just go one step further and put a clergy member in every public school to handle this new curriculum? Oh, that's right - because it's a public school not a church.

Psst…Missouri lawmakers as a sidenote--in case you weren't aware there are things called parochial schools in Missouri. I'm pretty gosh darn sure that they teach intelligent design. If a parent wants intelligent design to be taught in the classroom, no one is objecting to parents sending little Johnny to a parochial school.

Stop wasting taxpayer time and money on bills like this. Our nation is already trailing parts of the world in math and science. Let's not dial that clock back even further by wasting our science teachers' time on adding curriculum that is best left to parents and churches.

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger and a Midwest Voices columnist. Find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 


Monitoring the good
that could come from
Sam’s announcement
2/12/14

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard that Michael Sam is gay.

I don’t even follow college football and I know that Michael Sam played for Mizzou and now he’s out of the closet. Sam is heading into the NFL draft after making this announcement. Numerous politicians, including Gov. Jay Nixon and First Lady Michelle Obama voiced support over Sam’s decision to come out.

As a reminder, Sam isn’t just another college football player. Sam is one of the best in the league. Sam was Mizzou’s MVP and was named first-team All-American and named Associated Press defensive player of the year.

"I am an openly, proud gay man. I understand how big this is," he said. "It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be ... I want to be a football player in the NFL," Sam said to ESPN.

Yes, Sam it is a big deal. You are a trailblazer. Now, I’m no sports expert, so I will let the sports bloggers comment on if the NFL is ready for an openly gay teammate. Looks to me like that train has left the station, but I know many will have a lot to say. Just as soon as Sam could finish his announcement, the Westboro Baptist Church fired up their hatred caravans and headed toward Columbia.

We know…we know…Westboro Baptist Church, you think homosexuality is wrong.

Blah..blah…blah…See I saved you the trouble of driving all the way to Columbia. Leave the poor guy alone.

While I leave the sports analysis to the sports bloggers, there are a couple different aspects to this story that intrigue me. First, I will take up the irony in Sam’s announcement coming from the heart of Missouri where anti-gay laws are commonplace. It’s not like Sam announced this from San Francisco or New York City where there is widespread acceptance of the gay community. Sam announced this while playing for Mizzou in Columbia, Missouri. Some might say it’s the heartland of Christian conservatism. Here comes this big announcement from a guy playing for a school in a Christian, conservative state. I understand that Mizzou tends to be liberal, but you can’t divorce the college from the overwhelming conservative politicians not far away in Jefferson City.

So now what, Missouri? The whole world is watching you now. How about if you take this announcement by Sam as an opportunity to start changing laws in Missouri? I understand that Sen. Scott Sifton from St. Louis is asking Missouri to adopt new language in the anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation to the list. That is a great start.

The second part of this story that fascinates me is that everyone already knew he was gay. His teammates knew, the coaches knew and even some in the media knew. This is a huge step for gay rights because this wasn’t a “scandal.” If it was considered a scandal, then it would only take moment for the right media source to out him publicly.

Twenty years ago, this would have been considered a scandal. Heck, probably five or 10 years ago it would have been considered a scandal. It would have sold papers; it would have received media attention. Twenty years ago this type of information probably would have gotten Sam kicked off the team. As for any possibility of an NFL career…you could probably forget it.

Times have changed; however, I’m not saying the story still isn’t dangerous. Homophobia is widespread in Middle America and any public person coming out of the closet still is likely to receive threats of violence. What Sam did was courageous to say the least and not without risk. His comments to ESPN may have been easy, but the life he will lead as a result may not be.

For once in my life I will probably tune into the NFL draft. Oh heck, who are we kidding? I won't be tuning into the NFL draft, but I have no doubt that social media will keep me updated on where Sam lands in the NFL. I applaud Sam’s announcement and wish him the best in the NFL. I have a great feeling that the NFL will rise to the occasion and find a team for Sam’s talents. I will continue to watch Missouri’s laws and monitor what good can come from this big announcement.

In the meantime, heads up Columbia – the Westboro Baptist Church is on its way.

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger and a Midwest Voices columnist. Find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 


MISSOURI: WE'LL SHOW YOU, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
2/5/14

From my “we will show you, federal government” file, I give you Missouri Senate Bill 613.

What is SB 613 you ask? It is Missouri's answer to any possible gun control legislation that the federal government MAY pass. It basically says, “Hey federal government, we dare you to pass gun control legislation. If you do…talk to the hand. Missouri isn't complying. So there!” If the federal government passes any gun control legislation, the state of Missouri will refuse to acknowledge it.

I think we can reasonably draw a conclusion that Missouri has oodles of tax dollars to spend on legislation like this. Other states have tried to pass similar legislation only to find that the legislation has been struck down in the courts. Expect a court battle, Missouri, and that means taxpayer dollars to fund it.

Also, just a quick reminder that the federal government hasn't passed any sweeping gun control legislation lately, however, if they do Missouri will be ready (that is until the courts find that their law doesn't stand up to Federal law.) I know…details…details.

So let's take a look at some of the bill's highlights.

“In addition, no person carrying a concealed or unconcealed handgun may be disarmed or physically restrained by a law enforcement officer unless under arrest or if there is no reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Any person who violates these provisions may be issued a citation for up to $35. No ordinance of a political subdivision may be construed to preclude the use of a firearm to defend property or persons.”

$35 whole dollars? Why not make it $5,000 or $50,000 if you are serious? My kid makes more than that in babysitting jobs per week. What exactly is a political subdivision? If it's a subdivision where you talk about politics at the neighborhood picnic, call the moving truck. I am so there.

Hey healthcare peeps, there is a special shout out to you. The government can't require you to ask about firearms in the home. This goes for health care people who screen for domestic violence. We all know that firearms in the home greatly increase the risk for homicide. But to protect this supposed threat by the government to take everyone's guns, no more asking.

“This act specifies that no licensed health care professional or person under the supervision of the professional may not be required by law to ask a patient whether he or she owns or has access to a firearm, document firearm ownership or access in a patient's medical records, or notify any governmental entity of the identity of a patient based solely on the patient's status as a firearm owner or the patient's access to a firearm.”

My favorite section was this one where it LOWERS the conceal and carry age from 21 to 19. “Under current law, a person, who is not a member of the United States Armed Forces or honorably discharged from the armed forces, must be at least 21 years of age in order to qualify for a concealed carry endorsement. This act lowers the age to at least 19 years of age.”

Let that one sink in for a second. Johnny can't go into a bar and order a drink at 19, because we have decided that he isn't old enough to make reasonable decisions about alcohol, but it is a-ok to let Johnny walk around with a firearm? Somebody help me understand the logic to this one. “Here you go son. Here is a firearm that can, if discharged, instantly kill someone, but sorry I can't let you have that beer while we're watching the game.”

I'm disappointed in you, Missouri. If you are going to do this…then really do this. Go big or go home, as they say. Why don't you just issue state-sponsored guns to every 16-year old that comes in to apply for a driver's license? Think about the possibilities. It goes along with the idea that more guns keep us safe. That way every Missouri citizen will have a gun. You can be sure that the guns are manufactured in Missouri, so it's a job creator. Every time someone comes in to renew their license, they get a new gun. You can bet the crime rate will be zero with all those Missouri citizens armed.

Last but not least, my favorite part of the bill. Missouri citizens, you can be sure that starting at 19 you can deter crime by carrying a loaded weapon, but that right doesn't apply to everyone. If you are here illegally, it is illegal for you to possess a firearm.

“Under the act, a person commits the offense of unlawful possession of a firearm if the person is illegally in the United States.”

If the logical argument is that guns make us safer, doesn't an illegal immigrant also have the right to safety? It seems like by adding this exception, Missouri is afraid of something. Why not make exceptions for others like regular drug users? This called out exception doesn't make sense.

Take my tips, Missouri. Next time I want more radical gun legislation. I want to see 16-year-olds carrying guns. What's another three years, really, when it comes to keeping Missouri safe?

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger. Find her work at pleasantlyeccentric.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 


PREDICTING THE STATE OF THE UNION
1/29/14

It's that time of year again…time for the State of the Union. If you are reading this, it has already happened. I'm going to attempt to do what few people have successfully done before. I'm going to predict the future. Like I said, I'm writing this before the speech has happened. I'm going to predict the State of the Union.

Ok, president walks in. That was easy since it's customary for the president to be announced and then walk in. President Obama walks in with cheers of the crowd. There is a lot of hand shaking and back slapping. Everyone will jockey to get that great shot of the president acknowledging him or her and have it flashed across CNN. This is when I get to play the fun drinking game of name that politician. Yes, I stink at political face recognition so I'm usually pretty lit by the time the president actually makes his way to the podium. “I don't know. Is that Mitch McConnell or Lindsay Graham?” Drink.

After all the pomp and circumstance, the president will make his way to the stage. His speech will be long. Not as long as Bill Clinton, who loved to hear himself speak, but it will be a long speech. It won't be as dynamic as his previous speeches during his first term. It won't be his best speech like when he was “discovered” at the Democratic Convention in 2004. To be honest, I expect this speech to be flat. Why? There isn't much to get that excited about and let's face it; the guy is probably just worn out.

Cue the speech. This is where we have the fun game of stand up/sit down. Every president has to deal with this. It's that awkward time when the president says something exciting to one party and the other party has to sit there stone faced. The best is watching the vice president and the speaker of the house behind the president. One is standing up applauding the other has to sit there giving a face like he just ate a lemon. It's this that keeps the body language experts in business.

What will get the entire room on their feet applauding the State of our Union? Not much. The president will talk about how the economy is recovering. Democrats stand applauding. Republicans sit thinking the economy isn't recovering fast enough.

Moving on to health care…President Obama is going to have to mention the elephant in the room –no not the Republicans, but the Affordable Care Act. Like it or hate it, it's law. Obama will talk about the struggles the website had launching. Cue uncomfortable laughter by the Democrats. He will then go on to list how many people have signed up. This is where sand is brought in and the Republicans will be found sticking their heads in it pretending this law doesn't exist. Why else would they attempt to defund it….about 75 times, give or take a few dozen. Wait…where is Kathleen Sebelius? Looking into the future, I don't see her present. I believe she is stuck in that horrible DC traffic. Smart, Kathleen…very smart.

Continuing on to social issues….this is where the stand up/sit down game gets good. The president will reference gay marriage. Will any Republicans be brave enough to stand and applaud? The president will mention the War on Women and Reproductive Rights. Again, Democrats on their feet and Republicans keeping their chair warm, shaking their heads mouthing “What War on Women?” If the Republicans were hoping to get their exercise by standing up and sitting down, they better have hit the gym BEFORE the speech. The Democrats on the other hand will have a full cardio workout.

What will be missing? Any mention of gun control. President Obama should speak about it, but he seems to be very quiet lately. That's the other elephant, or should I say gorilla, in the room. There were so many promises after the Sandy Hook shooting and so little done to stop the mass shootings that America faces on almost a daily basis. Pro-gun or anti-gun, you can't deny that nothing has been done to prevent the rash of shootings. Even forget the gun argument, where is the mental health reform? (crickets)

What will get the whole room on their feet? The ONLY thing I can think of is when the president mentions our brave troops around the world. Right now that is the only thing both parties can agree on. The service of the brave soldiers around the world deserves a standing ovation and it better be a long one. Our soldiers are all very brave, but how sad that this is about all I can think of that unifies our nation. There should be more. There needs to be more.

I predict this State of the Union will bum me out. It will do nothing more than highlight how polarizing our politics are. Since I am looking into the future while writing this, we will have to see how many things I get right. If I get the majority right, I'm quitting my day job and starting a psychic hotline.

(Aimee Patton is a local KC blogger. Find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 

 


 

ABOUT THOSE FIRING SQUADS AND GAS CHAMBERS
1/22/14

Missouri is making national news again. House bill 1470 has been introduced to bring back…wait for it….firing squads and gas chambers. Right now Missouri's chosen method of death for inmates has been by lethal injection. There is currently a shortage of one of the chemicals used in lethal injection. As a response to the shortage, HB1470 allows for two additional ways to execute prisoners: firing squad and gas chamber.

If you haven't watched a western movie in about 50 years, here is a detailed description of dying by firing squad. From the Death Penalty Information Center, “For execution by this method, the inmate is typically bound to a chair with leather straps across his waist and head, in front of an oval-shaped canvas wall. The chair is surrounded by sandbags to absorb the inmate's blood. A black hood is pulled over the inmate's head. A doctor locates the inmate's heart with a stethoscope and pins a circular white cloth target over it. Standing in an enclosure 20 feet away, five shooters are armed with .30 caliber rifles loaded with single rounds. One of the shooters is given blank rounds. Each of the shooters aims his rifle through a slot in the canvas and fires at the inmate. (Weisberg, 1991) The prisoner dies as a result of blood loss caused by rupture of the heart or a large blood vessel, or tearing of the lungs. The person shot loses consciousness when shock causes a fall in the supply of blood to the brain. If the shooters miss the heart, by accident or intention, the prisoner bleeds to death slowly.” (Hillman, 1992 and Weisberg, 1991)

Heck, if we are going for the go big or go home mentality when it comes to executions, why not bring back death by lions in an arena? The Sprint Center has been looking for an anchor sport for the arena. Think about all the money the state of Missouri would make. I have no doubt…no doubt…that if we brought back arena deaths it would be standing room only for the blood sport. Now, that's crazy talk, Aimee. We couldn't execute people with lions. That is so 70 AD of you. Yes, but back in Roman times the coliseum was thought to hold up to 80,000 people with an estimated 500,000 people dying in coliseum. Just think about the revenue! That would put revenue made from Arrowhead to shame.

Well, maybe my idea is a little out there, but isn't death by firing squad? Just because you are running short on the drug that brings about humane death, doesn't mean that you should revert back to Wild West justice. Everyone is focusing on how outragous the bill is that brings back firing squads, but how about the gas chamber? Death by gas chamber isn't like the inmate lies down to take a little nap and slips off quietly his sleep after inhaled the deadly gas. It actually sounds pretty gruesome.

From the same source cited above, “In 1924, the use of cyanide gas was introduced as Nevada sought a more humane way of executing its inmates. Gee Jon was the first person executed by lethal gas. The state tried to pump cyanide gas into Jon's cell while he slept. This proved impossible because the gas leaked from his cell, so the gas chamber was constructed. (Bohm, 1999) Today, five states authorize lethal gas as a method of execution, but all have lethal injection as an alternative method. A federal court in California found this method to be cruel and unusual punishment. For execution by this method, the condemned person is strapped to a chair in an airtight chamber. Below the chair rests a pail of sulfuric acid. A long stethoscope is typically affixed to the inmate so that a doctor outside the chamber can pronounce death. Once everyone has left the chamber, the room is sealed. The warden then gives a signal to the executioner who flicks a lever that releases crystals of sodium cyanide into the pail. This causes a chemical reaction that releases hydrogen cyanide gas. (Weisberg, 1991) The prisoner is instructed to breathe deeply to speed up the process. Most prisoners, however, try to hold their breath, and some struggle. The inmate does not lose consciousness immediately. According to former San Quenton, California, Penitentiary warden, Clifton Duffy, "At first there is evidence of extreme horror, pain, and strangling. The eyes pop. The skin turns purple and the victim begins to drool." (Weisberg, 1991) Caryl Chessman, before he died in California's gas chamber in 1960 told reporters that he would nod his head if it hurt. Witnesses said he nodded his head for several minutes. (Ecenbarger, 1994) According to Dr. Richard Traystman of John Hopkins University School of Medicine, "The person is unquestionably experiencing pain and extreme anxiety...The sensation is similar to the pain felt by a person during a heart attack, where essentially the heart is being deprived of oxygen." The inmate dies from hypoxia, the cutting-off of oxygen to the brain. (Weisberg, 1991)”

Where does it stop? Heck, why don't we just starve the prisoners? Yes, it would take longer, but think of all the money it would save. Just when I think Missouri takes steps forward with common sense laws, along comes this gem. It doesn't really matter if you agree or disagree with the death penalty, as a civilized society we have evolved to put to death our prisoners in the most humane way possible. Bringing back a firing squad or the gas chamber is not exactly evolving, it's taking huge steps backward in our criminal justice system. Like prisoners on death row, I hope this bill finds a quick and painless death.

(Aimee Patton is a local KC blogger. Find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

 


 

YOU CAN STILL
BE A JERK, BUT
YOU NEED TO OWN IT
Written 1/15/2014

Say you go to your neighborhood coffee shop and order your favorite latte. When you taste your latte, you realize that the milk wasn't steamed to the perfect 160 degrees. The end result is your latte tastes terrible.

Twenty years ago, you would have marched yourself and your failing latte back into the coffee shop and asked for a new latte or possibly your money back. Now, the first thing you do is log onto Yelp to tell the whole world how your latte was less than stellar.

“My skinny latte may have been made with fat-free milk, but the coffee shop overheated my milk causing it to ruin my day. I will NOT buy another latte in that shop. They should be officially closed for poor latte making and ruining people's days,” anonymous, Kansas City.
Not so fast, upset consumer and anonymous Yelp poster. A ruling in the appeals court of Virginia has many who frequent online reviews taking notice. The ruling is forcing Yelp to reveal the identities of some of their anonymous posters.

You mean I have to own up to being a jerk and ruining someone's business?

That's what the Virginia court ruled in a case of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in Alexandria, Virginia vs. Yelp. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning sued Yelp to identify the source of seven anonymous reviews. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning thought the reviews posted may have been faked and they successfully sued Yelp to reveal the identities of the reviewers.

Yelp fought the lawsuit, claiming that posting reviews anonymously was protected by the First Amendment of Freedom of Speech. The judge didn't see it that way.

From the ruling, "Generally, a Yelp review is entitled to First Amendment protection because it is a person's opinion about a business that they patronized," Petty wrote. "But this general protection relies upon an underlying assumption of fact: that the reviewer was a customer of the specific company and he posted his review based on his personal experience with the business. If this underlying assumption of fact proves false, in that the reviewer was never a customer of the business, then the review is not an opinion; instead, the review is based on a false statement of fact—that the reviewer is writing his review based on personal experience. And 'there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.'”

Yelp said it was "disappointed" in the ruling, adding that it "fails to adequately protect free speech rights on the internet, and which allows businesses to seek personal details about website users — without any evidence of wrongdoing — in efforts to silence online critics.”

Faking reviews is nothing new. Businesses have been sued for writing fictitious reviews about their competitors. Google has taken steps to be sure of the validity of online reviewers by linking the reviews to people's Google profiles. As much as I don't like them, online reviews have a place to help consumers make buying decisions. A survey by Dimension Research found that 88% of people surveyed were influenced by online, customer reviews.

To be fair, not all reviews are bad on Yelp and Yelp does allow the business to respond to negative and positive reviews.

The problem arises when people write anonymously. Nobody is stopping anyone from voicing their opinion on the web. Nobody's freedom of speech is being compromised. The ruling is just forcing people to stand by their comments. Review sites like Yelp have become a modern day, Wild West with people writing whatever they want whenever they want without having to deal with any of the consequences to what they write.

People will hide behind anonymous comments to be extra rude. In fact, there was a study done from the University of Houston studying anonymous comments on newspapers and it found that 53% were uncivil compared to 29% of comments that insisted on log-in names or Facebook profiles. I don't think it's a big stretch to believe the same is true of people who leave anonymous, online reviews.

I'm sure Yelp is concerned at the impact this may have on the number of reviews on their site. The good news is that if you really feel that you received poor service, you still have many online review sites, including Yelp, where you can leave your opinion. Now you just have to be really committed to your comments and know that the next time you walk into your local coffee shop to order your favorite latte, they may not be so happy to see you, because now they know it was you being an online jerk.

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger and Midwest Voices columnist. Find her work at pleasantlyeccentric.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)


STOP SAYING
WELFARE RECIPIENTS
ARE DRUG ADDICTS
Written 1/8/2014

You know what they say…imitation is the highest form of flattery. Well Missouri, you should feel very flattered. Why? Kansas, your neighbor to the west, is about to implement the same drug testing program for welfare recipients that Missouri has.

How about if we give you a second to pat yourself on the back? I mean, the program is genius and we all know that welfare recipients are using taxpayer money to buy drugs. What better way to be sure that our tax dollars aren't going to waste than to drug test people who receive welfare?

Let's look at some numbers shall we? This year, Missouri drug tested 636 people in 8 months. Out of those 636 people who were drug tested, the test came back positive for….drum roll please….20 people.

See….see…all welfare recipients are drug addicts. Wait, maybe that was supposed to read 200. Hang on while I check the source. Nope, its 2-0. Seriously that can't be right. Yep…20 people tested positive for drugs out of 636 people. That means 3% came back positive.

Hum…3% kind of blows the whole “everyone on welfare is a drug addict” argument. Now what? We probably should change our rallying cry to be a wee more accurate…less than 5% of the people on welfare are drug addicts. It doesn't pack as much punch to the conservative argument that social programs only fund drug addictions.

But still 3% is 3%. Look at how much money it's saving Missouri to kick drug addicts off welfare! I've read a few different stats about how much people earn on welfare per year in Missouri. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 32,000 people in Missouri receive TANF benefits (temporary assistance for needy families).

Now admittedly the government spends a lot of money on welfare programs. The last five years, the government has spent $3.7 trillion on welfare benefits. That’s a bunch of money. One would think that drug testing recipients would be a common-sense solution to reducing the number of people receiving the temporary benefits.

Here's the deal. The cost to drug test 636 people in Missouri was $500,000 or $786 per person. If I do the math on finding the positive cases, it costs the state of Missouri $25,000 per positive drug test. Heck, the cost of testing positive drug users outnumbers the benefits the person receives. The conclusion….the whole program is a wash.

There will be people who will say that it's more about the point then the actual outcome. Even though I'm a Democrat, I agree that I don't want my tax dollars funding drug use. I don't know who does on either side of the political spectrum. So, let's celebrate those 20 positive drug tests. Woohoo! Pass the champagne!
Hold it. Put down the champagne glasses. Florida has attempted to implement the same drug testing policy. A judge blocked their drug testing rule, stating the rule violated the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. I know everyone is super clear right now about not violating the 2nd Amendment, but jump ahead two amendments and you will find the fourth.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Turns out you can't just drug test someone because you are mad they are poor. You actually have to have probable cause. Being poor and needing government assistance isn't probable cause. And based on our Missouri findings of 20 positive tests out of 686 drug tests, the theory that all welfare recipients are drug addicts is false and now it seems unconstitutional.

I find it funny that so many people are quick to defend against any government intrusion when it comes to the 2nd Amendment and owning guns, but are fine overlooking the 4th Amendment when it comes to helping the poor.

There are many ways to reform welfare, but drug testing isn't one of them. Stop these costly tests for little results. Most of all, stop saying that welfare recipients are drug addicts. It simply isn't true. One thing is for sure, if Florida is taking this issue to court you can be sure Missouri isn't far behind.

Maybe Kansas, in this case, imitation isn't the highest form of flattery; it's just costly and unconstitutional.

(Aimee Patton is a Kansas City blogger and former Midwest Voices columnist. Find her work at pleasantlyeccentric.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)


WHAT’S ON 2013
‘BEST OF’ LIST?
NOT MUCH, ACTUALLY
Written 1/1/2014

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for the annual “best of” and “worst of” lists that always come out around New Year’s.

What was the best and the worst of 2013? There is so much to choose from.

Let's start with the best in politics…

First there was President Barack Obama's second inauguration as president that happened in January. Some think this deserves to be on the best list, others do not. Hum…how about if we call this one a wash and move on?

I know! Mental health reform was on the top of everyone's minds after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Both sides of the aisle agreed that our mental health system needs an overhaul. Politicians were ready to get things done to find a solution in helping our mentally ill. So I can proudly say that in 2013….not much happened. Sigh.

Ok, moving on. Then there was the 2013 government roll-out of Obamacare, the highly-anticipated health care program to insure our uninsured. This was the program that President Obama risked everything for. This was going to be his shining moment. And then…it rolled out. More like it stumbled out, tripping and falling out of the gate. There was no graceful rolling out to be had. It was like it stumbled out, tripped, fell on its face and knocked itself out. I think you get my point.

Obamacare is now up and functioning again after some rehab. I can't exactly add this to the “best of” list for 2013. I know it will end up on many people's worst list.

Again, moving on…

Anyone remember Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) filibuster to prevent the Obamacare roll-out? He talked and talked and talked for a total of 21 hours in an attempt to stop the new healthcare program. The whole nation was fixated on seeing how long an American could go without peeing. Cruz, in true grandfatherly fashion, lectured us and read us books. This political theater happened in spite of the one million times the Republicans tried and failed to defund the program. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but would you believe they tried forty-two times?
So after 21 hours and a Dr. Seuss book reading, the filibuster ended resulting in….drum roll please…nothing. I can't exactly put that on the “best of” list if the filibuster didn't result in any change.

I know! I know! How about the fight between the Republicans and Democrats over the budget? I think we all remember how both sides wouldn't give an inch. The Republicans wanted to repeal Obamacare in exchange for passing a budget. That led to a government shutdown in October for sixteen days. Those were some long days. Over 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. Many had no idea when they were going to get paid. Federal parks and monuments were shut down.

World War II veterans even had their own protest over their monument being closed. Politicians were falling on themselves to get down there even with the irony that both sides were responsible for closing the memorial.

“It's the best civil disobedience we've seen in Washington for a long time,” Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) told part of the group inside the memorial.

The best? Really? How about if politicians negotiated and compromised and not put the veterans in that position in the first place? Silly me for thinking that you can prevent situations like this with some good, old-fashioned negotiating and compromise.

Anyway, the two sides came to an agreement after 16 days and reopened the government. Did the shutdown result in defunding Obamacare and stopping the roll-out? That would be negative. The only thing substantial that happened was that the reputation of the GOP took a beating. People will go to the polls during and ask themselves, “what was worse, the shutdown (vote Democrat) or Obamacare (vote Republican)? The Republicans could have done nothing resulting in people not having to question the shutdown antics in the next election. My feeling is they would have won by a landslide. Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot, GOP.

Speaking of shooting, how about all that gun control legislation we heard about? Washington was going to do something to help decrease the number of mass shootings. That could make my “best of 2013” list. Oh that's right, there wasn't any.

My “best of 2013” in politics list didn't exactly come together and I'm at the end of my column. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty depressed. How about if we end on a good note? In 2014, things can only get better. I mean it can't get any worse…can it? Please tell me it can't get any worse.

Happy New Year!

(Aimee Patton is a local Kansas City blogger. Find her work at pleasantlyeccentric.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @AimeePatton11)

For earlier columns, click here.