- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Oct. 21, 2014

That’s all she wrote

That’s all she wrote, the fat lady has sung and Beam Me Up, Scottie. There’s a reason the inexhaustible American language has so many ways to say it’s over. Because it can be over in so many ways. And our courts come up with new ones all the time in the course of meeting new issues. That’s the essence of a living constitution and the genius of the English common law we have inherited. Law is made with every interpretation of it, however ardently jurists may insist that they are only interpreting the law, not making it. But to interpret is to remake, as every translator of a language well knows. Which is why some translations may rival or even surpass the original. (See the King James Bible.)

This state’s Supreme Court made law, or precedent if you prefer that word, last Wednesday when it ruled that the still new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is now old, kaput, unconstitutional.

Okay. The strange, repetitive but curiously insightful style of Miss Gertrude Stein of a “Rose is a rose is a rose” fame could have been used to sum up the significance of the court’s latest decision: The law is the law is the law is the law. And may not be added to or detracted from. So different and maybe better ways should be found to protect the integrity of the ballot in the sometimes all too natural state of Arkansas.

There is nothing more natural in politics than the human temptation to corrupt it. Politics is about power, and where there is power, you will always find those who would abuse it. No one ever came away from exercising it with clean hands, however good the intentions behind such an intervention. Such is the world_and the voting laws.

This wouldn’t be the first time a court has handed down a debatable decision or even a mistaken one, but it would be a far greater mistake to defy the court by trying to bully its justices with empty threats. Remember J. William Fulbright and company’s infamous Southern Manifesto? That was just about the wrongest response possible to a court’s decision. Why breathe fire and defiance, and even mutter about impeachment, when justices just do what they’ve sworn to do? Which is to interpret the law to the best of their ability. And conscience. For it is the law that allows us to live peaceably together in good order. Forever carrying on about a court’s decision we may not agree with is not the best response to it.

There have got to be better ways to achieve a noble end - like protecting the principle of free and fair elections in a system that depends on them, namely democracy itself. By all means, feel free to disagree with a court, even challenge it by passing another and better phrased law, but not to disobey it. That way lies no law at all, and where law ends, so does freedom. And mere anarchy is loosed. Which is not freedom at all.

So the outcome of this one case should be beyond debate: Now that an assortment of justices has used an assortment of arguments to throw out the state’s still new Voter ID law, it ain’t the law any more. Case closed.

So what, if anything, is to be done? Why, other safeguards for the ballot, safeguards that can pass constitutional muster, should be designed, passed and enforced. Which may take some ingenuity and persistence. But never, never, never give up on a good cause. Don’t risk returning to the bad old days when the likes of Marlin Hawkins, high sheriff of Conway County and low author of How I Stole Elections, was in charge of the ballot boxes in his domain.

The legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller and his merry crew of then young reformers is too important - indeed, it’s vital - to let Arkansas sink back into its pre-Rockefeller torpor. The court’s latest decision makes one wonder if it would have approved Winthrop Rockefeller’s voter-registration reforms, but that scarcely makes them any less of a contribution to Arkansas history.

Let’s remember that nothing is ever really decided till it’s decided right. And keep the faith. And that’s all we wrote.

___

Texarkana Gazette, Oct. 18, 2014

A restrictive Texas abortion law, passed last year after a well-publicized filibuster by Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, requires abortions to be performed in a surgical facility. It also requires that doctors who perform the procedure have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles.

Another provision requires abortion doctors to follow a Food and Drug Administration protocol for early-stage abortion drugs that dates from the year 2000.

Pro-choice advocates challenged the law in court. They won the federal district level, but both the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the restrictions on doctors and clinics to go into effect pending appeal.

Eventually the 5th Circuit unanimously ruled the law can be enforced, saying the new restrictions do not “impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman,” adding that “although some clinics may be required to shut their doors, there is no showing whatsoever that any woman will lack reasonable access to a clinic within Texas.”

All but eight of the state’s abortion clinics were forced to shut their doors. And the number of abortions performed in Texas dropped dramatically.

But the fight is far from over.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order barring the state from enforcing the provision requiring a surgical facility for abortions. The order also said the state could not enforce the requirement that abortion doctors have hospital-admitting privileges in the case of clinics in McAllen and El Paso.

The court gave no explanation for the orders and only three justices dissented - Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

That means six of the nine voted for the orders, for whatever reason.

Abortions rights advocates claimed victory, saying about a dozen Texas abortion clinics will now be able to reopen.

But this isn’t over.

The 5th Circuit is still mulling the law’s constitutionality. And that body could still rule in favor of the state.

No matter what the 5th Circuit decides, the case will end up back before the nation’s highest court - where we will see if the six remain united.

___

Southwest Times Record, Oct. 19, 2014

Domestic violence needs our attention

No one wants to think about it.

We read the stories, listen to the details, and try to shut it out of our minds. We think, “that’s so awful,” and then go on with our lives.

No one wants to think about who we know who could be involved - who could be a perpetrator, who could be a victim, what goes on behind closed doors.

It’s easier to live in our own little world, where things are safe, calm, normal.

But look at the facts:

According to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, almost 20 people per minute are the victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. That’s one person every three seconds - so one person in the time it’s taken you to read this sentence. Over one year, that totals more than 10 million men and women who fall victim to domestic violence. At some point, that has to hit home.

October is National Domestic Awareness Month. Just because the issue is something no one wants to think about doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

One in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life, according to the NCDV.

That means in an office of just a few co-workers, there stands a pretty good chance one of them has been a victim. That means on your quiet, safe block, the odds are high that domestic violence is making one of those houses a lot less quiet and safe.

Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crimes, statistics show.

Domestic violence leads to 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths a year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Those numbers cross all socio-economic, religious, nationality, racial and gender lines.

“On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide,” the NCDV states.

These numbers should be a wake-up call. They make us say, “Hey, this isn’t something we can pretend doesn’t exist.”

Domestic violence is described as the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.”

It’s the man pushing his wife into the wall. It’s the girlfriend picking up the kitchen knife and threatening to get her way. It’s the man vowing to hunt his wife down and make her pay if she threatens to leave.

It is physical violence, sexual violence, threats, emotional abuse, stalking, isolation and false imprisonment.

“The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime,” the NCDV states.

Domestic violence is an epidemic. And like any epidemic, it cannot be controlled or eradicated unless it is addressed.

No one wants to think about it, but more importantly no one should have to live it or have someone they love live it.

This month, let us all think about it and talk about it. Maybe if we start the conversation, something can be done. Maybe if we don’t ignore it, the numbers won’t rise.

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