Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Harrison Daily Times, Feb. 10, 2014
Do we really need a lieutenant governor?
A statewide elected office is vacant, and no one has been appointed to fill the position until the next election.
So how is Arkansas still able to function?
Well, we're actually getting along fine because the vacant position is that of lieutenant governor.
Being the lieutenant governor is kind of like being a prince in a monarchy. He doesn't have any real power . unless king (or governor, in this case) is out of town.
Here are the job duties of the Arkansas lieutenant governor:
— Preside over the state senate and break tied votes;
— Serve as governor when the real governor is out of state (Can be an issue when the lieutenant governor abuses the power to sign legislation in governor's absence then, when questioned, retreats back to being lieutenant governor.);
— Serve as governor if the governor is unable to fulfill the office's duties.
Expenses include not only the lieutenant governor's salary but those of his staff, as well as the cost of running an office.
The expense budget is part of what got the former lieutenant governor in trouble and prompted elected officials from both parties to ask him to resign.
With the office vacant, now seems an opportune time to quietly write this job out of the Arkansas Constitution, and give those few job responsibilities to the senate president pro Tempore. That position currently is being filled by State Senator Michael Lamoureux of Russellville, and the additional duties could be accomplished without huge increases in his staff.
Does anyone really believe we'll miss having a lieutenant governor for the next 11 months?
Maybe we should make this an honorary position for people who need a sense of importance, since it doesn't have any real responsibility.
Texarkana Gazette, Feb. 10, 2014
President's executive order a threat to national security
During last month's state of the union address, President Barack Obama vowed to use his power to issue executive orders as a means of getting around Congress in order to get what he wants.
And he has already started.
Last week, the president issued a directive that made it easier for those who had given "limited" support to terrorist groups to immigrate to the U.S.
No, this is not a joke.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, any foreign national involved in terrorism at any level_including those who did not take part in violence but who publicly supported terrorist groups or were involved in propaganda campaigns at any level_have been barred from entry into the U.S.
Now those whose past support of terror is considered "limited" will be able to come to the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security promises, though, that each such individual will have to pass a rigorous security check.
Well, that certainly makes one feel more secure.
Supporters argue that not everyone suspected of supporting terrorist groups is guilty. And they point to individual cases where people made "mistakes" as youths but have changed their mindsets in intervening years.
Such anecdotes may stir the emotions, but are irrelevant.
Being allowed to cross our border is not a right, but a privilege. And our national security comes before even the most compelling of sob stories.
"President Obama should be protecting US citizens rather than taking a chance on those who are aiding and abetting terrorist activity and putting Americans at greater risk," U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Associated Press.
The president should consider something else. The White House wants comprehensive immigration reform. While he can do some things through executive orders, he can't do it all. He will need cooperation from lawmakers, including Republicans.
That will require a certain level of trust. And actions like this makes such trust nearly impossible.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 11, 2014
An Arkansas moment
The cop working the accident looked frustrated. He wasn't angry. He wasn't scared. He wasn't reaching for a nightstick, and who would have blamed him if he had? As we skidded by him, window open, crying out for help, we caught the look in his eye — and it was nothing more than understandable frustration.
Friday night. February 7th, 2014. Just after dark. Most of the state was covered with ice and snow. Yes, the weather forecasters had given the state fair warning hours earlier, but who knew it was going be this bad?
Lots of folks, like us, must have left work thinking, well, thank goodness it's Friday evening, and no schools would have to be closed. (Again.) The whole thing was going to amount to just another dusting, right? That's what happened earlier in the week after another of those oh-so-dire Winter Warnings on TV.
The red light on JFK in North Little Rock might as well have been another light pole for all the good it did. The cop was working an accident under the light as we skidded by shouting, "Can't stop!" Thankfully nothing was in the way. When our truck finally came to a halt (thank goodness for curbs), we were able to creep into the parking lot of a Taco Bell.
The place was crammed. The manager said it hadn't been that full at that time of night in quite a while. One lady was sitting at a table laughing at the absurdity of it all. Does any local government in Central Arkansas even own a snow plow?
A family marched in, stomped the snow off their shoes, and sat down. Might as well eat. What does everybody want?
A young lady named Jo at the next table over (we hope that's how she spells her name), said she was only 2.8 miles from home. And she was going to chance it on foot. The rest of us told her not to try it. Not because the roads were too slippery, but because the sidewalks were.
Then she told us she was from Minnesota, and we stopped worrying. After "borrowing" a couple of to-go bags from the Taco Bell's manager-to wrap her feet in, over her socks before putting her wet shoes back on (so that's how they do it in Minnesota!)-she set out. Brave girl.
A couple of young men came in, talking Spanish to each other in that fast, perfect, let-me-use-my-hands-onthis-word way. We admired their fluency in a musical latinate tongue. Then they placed their order. In perfect English.
The young couple snuggled in the corner. Yes, you can find romance even in a Taco Bell.
The teenagers at the big table stayed on their smart phones. Probably keeping their parents updated.
The employees kept drying the floor at the entranceway. And everything was "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am." It let you know where you were. "American by birth," as the second-best bumper sticker we ever saw said. "Southern by grace." (The best bumper sticker we ever saw was on an old beat-up station wagon parked in a Wal-Mart lot. It said JESUS WILL GET YOU THROUGH, and then in smaller type underneath: If you can stand the PULL.)
Ah! The lady at the table finally got in touch with a neighbor. And he had a jeep. He was coming to get her. Good for her. And good for him.
One thing kept registering as we watched the scene unfold. There wasn't anybody mad in the whole room. Or at least not one person let it show.
Remarkable. Because there were some reasons to be mad as a hornet this evening. Did any municipality in the Greater Little Rock Area take the weather warnings seriously enough to put out some salt and chemicals to keep the streets safe? Does any public works department around here own a snow plow? And if so, where is it? Why weren't there people out clearing such a busy thoroughfare? And, finally, the perennial question: Why do so many drivers lose their minds when snow hits the streets?
Yes, all those questions were raised. But in a smiling, laughing, good-natured, can-you-believe-this sort of way. These folks, even facing the prospect of spending the night in a fast-food joint, were still in good spirits. And keeping ours up. They made us proud to be from Arkansas.
Maybe it's something in the water. Maybe it's the way mamas in these latitudes raise their young 'uns. Maybe it's being part of the South. Maybe it's all three and more.
It would have been so easy for one — just one! — grouch to storm in, cuss various street departments, shout to the stars about never voting for an incumbent again, yell into a cell phone about needing a tow right this minute (because I'm special), snort to nobody in particular that he has no time for this (because I'm special), say something nasty about being marooned in a #@!$&# Taco Bell (Me! And I'm so special!) and what the hell is the matter with these drivers?
No. Nothing like that, nothing at all. Not even from the cop we skidded by. He had good reason to be frustrated, but he didn't appear to be angry. Just ever patient.
Thank you, Arkansas. You've opened this cynic's eyes once again. Welcome to the Natural State.
Come to think, snow and ice are natural, too.