Monthly Archives: September 2012

Shimkus staffer in dust-up with Lindsay Lohan

Christian LaBella, a staffer for Republican Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, had a confrontation with celebrity Lindsay Lohan after partying with her at a New York hotel early Saturday morning. Lohan, who claims she was choked, reportedly was upset to find photos of herself on LaBella’s cellphone, the New York Daily News reported. Harassment charges were filed by each against the other.

Read Politico’s account here.  Read the original account in the New York Daily News. 

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Illinois races

Romney, GOP move Mo. assets to Florida

Confident of  his chances of winning Missouri, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has shifted many of its resources out of the state and to the battleground state of Florida. Quietly this week, Tom Brandt, communications director for the Romney campaign and Republican National Committee in Missouri, was moved to Fort Lauderdale from St. Louis to assist with the party’s effort in Florida, a critical swing state.

Read Eli Yokley’s report at

Posted in Campaign Coverage

Voter ID is an issue in Mo. secretary of state race

The nationwide battle over restrictive voter ID laws is emerging as an issue in the Missouri race for secretary of state. Republican state Rep. Shane Schoeller of Willard favors photo ID for Missouri, despite being unable to cite any instance of voter fraud that would have been averted with such an ID. Democratic state Rep. Jason Kander of Kansas City calls such measures “extreme and unfair.”

Read Jason Hancock’s report in the Kansas City Star.

Posted in Campaign Coverage

Missouri conservatives sticking with Akin

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s bus tour rolls through Missouri, stopping at crossroads where politics and religion merge. Although some female supporter are still uneasy with his “legitimate rape” comments, they are standing by Akin in his fight to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Read Lisa Mascaro’s report in the Los Angeles Times.

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Missouri Senate race

GOP cavalry of 4 riding to Akin’s rescue

Four Republican senators in some of the GOP’s safest seats — Jim DeMint (right) and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — will host a  jim demintfundraiser for Missouri’s Todd Akin in Washington on Wednesday. With a top “suggested donation” of $2,500, the fundraiser marks a return of support for Akin after his “legitimate rape” remarks threatened to derail his challenge of incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.

Read Alexander Burns’ report at Politico.

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Missouri Senate race

McCaskill (sort of) has her own billionaire

TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts (right), a billionaire pledged to spend $10 million to elect Mitt Romney, is chairman of a PAC that is backing GOP Senate candidates this cycle, with joe rickettsone notable exception: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom Ricketts’s group has endorsed. However, the PAC has yet to spend a dime for McCaskill, and the picture gets fuzzier now that opponent Todd Akin has also come out against earmarks.

Read Sean Sullivan’s post on The Fix blog.

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Missouri Senate race

Gephardt panel educates students, sparks debate

The Gephardt Institute of Public Service is running a program at Washington University to educate and engage student voters. Beginning with a voter registration drive Sept. 18 and ending election week in November, the “Issues and Ideas: Election 2012” series will highlight one issue weekly, including energy and the environment, the economy, LGBT rights, healthcare, foreign policy and national security, and religion.

Read Sadie Smeck’s report in Student Life.

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Education, Issues

One man’s opinion on ‘opinionated’

Opinionated used to imply obstinate. These days it’s taken on another meaning, according to UMSL dean Robert M. Bliss.

By Robert M. Bliss


Now there’s a word for you.   It’s not too often used, possibly because it has five, or arguably six, syllables in what is really a very short space, but I was quite familiar with it as a child. My father used it often, too often, for he generally thought of himself as a careful writer and speaker and didn’t like excessive repetition. But he repeated “opinionated” with some regularity.  His former commanding officer in the field artillery was opinionated.    His dean was opinionated.  The president of his university was opinionated, as was the president of his country, his youngest brother, his Uncle Harold (a Republican national committeeman for Iowa) and quite a few other people.

Clearly dad did not use “opinionated” as a compliment, so I was not surprised when I found, arriving at my history department in England, in 1970, that there the word was commonly used pejoratively. Specifically, it was used (too often, no doubt) to describe the work of, especially, those first-year students who saw a historical problem not as something requiring a solution but rather as an excuse to rehearse their preconceptions, whether about politics or human nature or the Chelsea Football Club.  After all, solving historical problems called for a good deal of reading, note-taking, marshaling of evidence, and the construction of narratives that not only told a story but also linked causes to effects in more or less chronological and cardinal orders.     And they also let you in for a good deal of uncertainty, because for most of the time that you slaved away at this solution you really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Micawberish, you had to keep on the lookout because something new might turn up and throw all your work into a cocked hat.

So far, so good, at least with the meaning of the word “opinionated.”  My father’s usages and those of my colleagues at Lancaster were close enough to each other (and to the favored dictionary definitions) to qualify for my use, too. To be opinionated was to think too highly of, or hold obstinately to, one’s own opinion (as it were in the face of the evidence or of logic or, often, both).  It was to be conceited and dogmatic without any extenuating excuse. I am here paraphrasing main meanings given in the Oxford English Dictionary, so I write with some kind of authority.  And the OED, as is its wont, has some nice examples drawn from English authors like Aphra Behn (1687) and Samuel Richardson (1753) and Americans like Alison Lurie (1965).

Behn:  “She was very Opinionated and Obstinate.”

Richardson: “A young gentleman lately married; very affected, and very opinionated.

Lurie: “He was lazy, untrustworthy, and opinionated.”

In this climate of what seemed a transatlantic consensus, and one dignified by great age, I became impatient of opinions, maybe even opinionated about them. It’s a free country, I would say to my Lancaster seminars (and Britain was almost as free as the US despite having gun laws, a working class, and socialized medicine), and in a free country opinions multiply like rabbits. In this seminar we’re going to have a bit of birth control concerning the conception and parturition of ideas and arguments. Failing that we will try myxomatosis, always a good cure when you have too many rabbits.

By the time I got to UM-St. Louis and its Honors College, the routine had become settled.  I began PLHC seminars, in August or January depending, by saying “in this seminar we will discover the truth” about, well, about whatever the seminar was about, church-state relations in early America or the interrelatedness of freedom and slavery, or why Giles Corey was pressed to death at Salem in 1693. But I was a bit perturbed to find, almost every time, that at least one student would then ask “does that mean we can’t give you our opinions?”

Now, this sort of question raises a many-layered problem, involving (heaven help us) the nature of historical truth, freedom of speech and writing, and civilized behavior in Bob’s seminars, but what I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this piece for The Stew is that it raises also the problem of the migration of words and their meaning(s) from one certain place to another certain (but different) place.    Specifically, the migration of “opinionated” from pejorative to positive.   Because when I write about a word one of the first things I do is to call it up on the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (just join the St. Louis County Library and you have free access to this wonderful treasure without moving from behind your computer*).  So that’s what I did with “opinionated” and, lo, I discovered that since I jumped the good ship USA in 1969 the word itself has acquired a new and specifically American (or, as the OED would have it, a U. S.) meaning, #4 in their list of definitions, of simply “holding firm views or opinions.”  It must be true because it’s in the OED and the OED offers American (U.S.) usages from 1961, 1976, 1986, and 2002.

This is quite a shift, really, in just forty years, from being “obstinate, conceited, and dogmatic” to being “firm.” I mean, “firm” is what we are looking for, isn’t it? We don’t want to flip-flop or shilly-shally, especially if we are running for the presidency of our country, or climbing up the company’s promotion ladder.    As the Financial World put it, in 1986, of a top business executive, “His humble manner and placid voice notwithstanding, Wal-Mart’s CEO is heartily opinionated, possessed of a staunch, personal sense of right and wrong in his business dealings.”

Hurrah for Wal-Mart, I say, and for its CEO. Hurrah for “opinionated,” especially when it’s hearty.   Let’s all be firm.    Or, failing that, let’s all join the firm. And if the evidence and the logic points in another direction?  Well, let’s not vacillate. Let’s be opinionated. Firm is always better than feeble, not least when it flies in the face of the facts.

Robert Bliss is dean of the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. This essay first appeared in The Brain Stew,  the newsletter of the students at the Honors College.


Posted in Across the Spectrum

Akin defends ‘ladylike’ remark about McCaskill

U.S. Senate Candidate Todd Akin is dismissing the controversy over his remarks that his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, was “more ladylike” when she defeated Jim Talent for the seat. McCaskill said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday that  she is once again “at a loss” to describe Akin. In Kansas City, Akin said: “It seems that some people want to take offense at words…”

Read Adam Allington’s report for St. Louis Public Radio.

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Missouri Senate race

GOP consultant likens attacks on Akin to siege at Waco

Kellyanne Conway, a consultant for embattled Senate candidate Todd Akin, on Friday compared Republican attacks on Akin to the 1993 federal siege of cult leader David Koresh. An Akin spokesman called the comment “stupid.” Read Kevin McDermott’s report at

Posted in Campaign Coverage, Missouri Senate race
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