The Kansas City Star, Nov. 19

It’s in possible violation of voter registration law that Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is registered to vote at his sister’s home in Ozark, Missouri while actually living full time in his $1.3 million house in northern Virginia. He’s building a big new house that’s in Ozark, too, but is not yet living there, though he’s really supposed to have a legal residence in Missouri.

In the Trump era of defining scandal down and then further down and so on, this is a lapse that won’t make the history books. But it is one that’s gotten other officeholders in serious political trouble over the years.

In 2012, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar lost his seat in large part over not having a legal residence in the state he represented. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who like Hawley spends most of his time in northern Virginia, found that he had all kinds of explaining to do when during his 2014 reelection campaign, it came out that he was using a friend’s address as his. His joke that he had “full access to the recliner” at his buddy’s didn’t go over that well.

Defeated, soon-to-be-former Kansas Republican Rep. Steve Watkins is facing felony charges for using the address of a Topeka UPS store on his voter registration, and as a result voting in the wrong district in a 2019 municipal election.

In 2018, Hawley went after his opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill for not spending enough time in Missouri, where she did then and still does have a home: “She flies over us in her private plane … to her luxury condo in D.C.”

Now that Hawley is being questioned about his lack of a real Missouri address, naturally, this whole line of questioning is suddenly outrageous and out of line.

And what’s a lot more telling than where Hawley lays his head versus where he’s registered is how he and his office responded to questions from The Star.

In a statement, Hawley spokeswoman Kelli Ford said, “Josh and Erin sold their home in Springfield earlier this year to build a new one in Ozark, Missouri, and are staying down the street with family in Ozark while it’s finished. We realize Ozark may not be ritzy, but it suits Josh and Erin just fine. With ridiculous stories like this one, it’s no surprise the KC Star is losing money and had to move its printing operations out of state.”

“Enjoy Iowa!” tweeted Hawley, because production jobs are moving to Des Moines.

He and his spokeswoman actually seem to be relishing the impending loss of 68 full-time and 56 part-time Missouri jobs. But the men and women who run the presses at The Star have worked hard and well for a long time, and however affronted the senator is by being asked about his voter registration, their displacement is not a joke.

The ritziness of Ozark is not at issue, either, and has nothing to do with whether or not Hawley is following the law.

But, leave it to our junior senator to turn this into yet another pretend instance of sneering elites unfairly roughing him up.

When McCaskill, who always had a house in Missouri, also kept a place in D.C. while serving there, Hawley made that out to be evidence that she had become an out of touch elitist, of course.

But now that he is being dinged for living in his D.C.-area home full time, that’s somehow an uppity attack on Everyman Josh Hawley — son of a banker and graduate of Stanford and Yale — for living in humble Ozark. Where he’s not actually living.

Maybe this unvaried aria of resentment is just what America will be looking for in a president four years from now. But in case it’s not, Senator, you might want to at least try out some other material.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 22

Not that anyone should still need it, but there is now further proof of the effectiveness of wearing masks against the coronavirus. An ongoing St. Louis University study comparing infection rates of St. Louis-area counties where masks are and aren’t required confirms the obvious: Mask mandates dramatically lower the transmission rate. Even Missouri Gov. Mike Parson now encourages citizens to mask up.

So why does he continue to resist implementing a statewide mask order, as other Republican governors have finally started doing?

Many GOP leaders are finally getting the message: Masks are not (or shouldn’t be) a culture-war issue. They are an effective tool to mitigate this deadly pandemic. The need has never been more acute with more than a quarter-million Americans dead, infection rates rising, hospitals filling up and the holiday season and coming winter expected to spawn even higher spikes.

Republican governors in Iowa, Utah, North Dakota, Ohio and elsewhere have recently instituted or expanded mask orders in their states. They have belatedly joined Democratic governors who were quicker to take action. In doing so, they’re finally bucking a counterproductive notion among too many conservatives — bolstered by election-season political positioning — that mask mandates are a “freedom” issue.

No, like seat belt laws and public smoking bans, they’re a health issue. It’s tragic that it has taken so many deaths for some politicians to figure that out. “I don’t want to do this,” Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said last week as she reversed her longstanding opposition to mask orders and imposed one. She cited “the cost in human life” of continued resistance.

That largely partisan resistance helps explain why, according to a study last month out of the University of North Carolina, Democratic-run states have, on the whole, done a better job of controlling the virus than Republican-run states.

The St. Louis University study, still awaiting peer review, looked at the specific issue of whether a given jurisdiction requires masks. As the Post-Dispatch’s Bryce Gray reports, it found that mask mandates in St. Louis city and county dramatically slowed infection rates this summer as compared to surrounding counties without such mandates.

Parson has come a long way since earlier this year, when he infamously dismissed suggestions that he should encourage anyone to wear a “dang mask.” After contracting and recovering from the disease himself, he has started to set a better example. Last week, he acknowledged Missouri’s spiking infections and urged citizens to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings.

Good. But Parson’s promise that his administration will do “everything we can” to confront the rising infections rings hollow when he’s pointedly still refusing to do one big thing: Drop the ideological nonsense and impose a statewide mask order — now. It’s past time.

St. Joseph News-Press, Nov. 20

Everyone who’s having a great 2020, raise your hand.

That’s what we thought. It’s been a tough year for just about everybody, from teachers to factory workers, small-business owners to health-care workers. Farmers experienced more than their share of economic shocks. On the heals of a trade dispute, the coronavirus caused bottlenecks in the livestock supply chain and contributed to a crash in corn-based ethanol demand as transportation came to a standstill.

This summer, farmers were taking a short position on various commodities, with corn for December delivery priced at $3.36 a bushel. At one point, corn prices bottomed out at $3.06 in one contract on the Chicago Board of Trade, but now things are picking up.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reporting strong export demand. U.S. soybean sales to China doubled since the countries signed a bilateral trade agreement earlier this year. Now, corn exports are picking up as China looks to rebuild its swine herd following an outbreak of African swine fever, a crisis the preceded the coronavirus. U.S. producers also gain from a significant drop in Ukraine’s corn exports.

The USDA raised its season-average corn price to $4 a bushel, a 40-cent increase from the previous month’s projections. Soybean futures took a breather last week after climbing to a four-year high of $11.18 a bushel. After a market rally that started in August, the USDA puts the average price for soybeans at $10.40 a bushel, up from $9.80 the previous month.

All this comes as good news for Americans who will sit down for some version of Thanksgiving dinner this coming Thursday, though these gatherings might be smaller with certain restrictions. These days might seem like the darkest period before the dawn, with a wave of coronavirus cases hitting rural areas extremely hard.

Through it all, farmers still are able to provide a cheap and ample supply of food for our tables, with market conditions that seem to be showing signs of improvement for the critical segment of the local economy. This is cause for thanks.