- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

A collection of recent editorials from Arkansas newspapers:

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Aug. 11 - Here’s the good news of the day, especially for the public’s right to know. Hard-core editor types are still employed by newspapers and wire services, and some are still demanding that the public have access to public records. Just as the law says.

For proof see The Associated Press, and its years-long battle to get information from the high muckety-mucks at the United States Department of State.

For several years now, reporters and editors at the AP have been asking for certain documents about Hillary Clinton’s tenure back when she was the secretary of the State Department - including her schedules, calendars and that sort of thing. The department has balked. For the longest. The AP finally had to sue back in March after State didn’t turn over files requested under the FOI Act, including a request made more than five years ago.

Five years ago. And the excuses coming from the apparatchiks at State? Well, it has limited resources, don’t you know. (It only has the entire United States Department of State at its disposal.) And, oh yeah, the AP isn’t the only news organization asking for documents. Gosh, following the law takes so much time. Besides, another few years of dragging this out, and—to paraphrase a secretary of State a few years back—what difference, at that point, would it make?

Last month the judge in this case, the Hon. Richard Leon, chastised the department for its foot-dragging on the FOI requests. He said some of the documents the AP asked for could have been processed by “the least ambitious bureaucrat.”

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Is the Department of State filled with the least ambitious of bureaucrats? If so, it sounds as if a house cleaning is in order.

Still, Judge Leon gave the department another 90 days to turn over almost 5,000 pages of calendars and schedules from Hillary Clinton’s four years as secretary. And he gave State another eight months to come up with 13,000-plus pages of other materials.

Ah, well. At least the AP will get what it wants from State before the next presidential election. One in which Hillary Clinton might be a participant.

That is, unless the least ambitious bureaucrats at the State Department can find other reasons for not doing their jobs. And allowing the public to see the documents it has paid for.

Maybe the United States Department of State should try another option:

Try following the law.

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Texarkana Gazette, Aug. 13 - There has been a lot of discussion lately on social media about the homeless in Texarkana.

Specifically a small group of homeless people who have taken to hanging out under a tree near Interstate 30, across from a local restaurant.

The comments are overwhelmingly negative. More than a few posters complain of the litter left around the tree_and have posted photos to back up the claim. And, of course, there have been those who say they were accosted by these folks asking for handouts.

But there have been more disturbing allegations. Public urination and defecation. Public drinking and drug use. Even prostitution.

Needless to say, these aren’t the kinds of things folks want to see when they go out to dinner_especially if they bring the family along. And they wonder why something isn’t being done about the situation.

We wonder, too.

There are those, of course, who think such criticism is unwarranted. They think those complaining are unfeeling and want to put the homeless out of sight, out of mind.

They also contend it is wrong to “judge” these people, since we don’t know why they came to be in such circumstances.

It’s true we should not be quick to judge someone because he or she is homeless. We really do not know the whole story. But we can and should judge their actions. Just like we would someone who is not homeless who engages in such activity.

No matter how someone came to be homeless, it doesn’t excuse public misconduct. It doesn’t excuse illegal activity.

There are agencies in place to help the homeless. There are many individuals in Texarkana who volunteer their time to help the homeless. There are plenty of homeless people who avail themselves of the help that’s offered. They want to have better lives. And we think that’s great. They deserve a helping hand.

But some don’t seem to care. It could be mental illness. It could be addiction. In both cases, treatment is available. And in many cases such treatment won’t happen unless the authorities step in.

It could also just be a lack of self-respect and character.

Now, we know some won’t like that last sentence. But it’s true. It’s true among some who aren’t homeless, too. Being homeless does not necessarily make you a victim of an unjust world who deserves our sympathy and respect. In some cases, if you are homeless and stay homeless it’s your own fault.

The bottom line is this: No matter how you feel about the homeless, they should not have license to engage in activities that would bring the law down on someone else. We encourage the police to monitor this situation and, if illegal activity is observed, take appropriate action.

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Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Aug. 11 - Over the last several years, both of America’s major political parties have become radicalized.

The ascent of politicians such as Howard Dean and Ted Cruz has come at the cost of moderate voices like Blanche Lincoln and Mike Castle. Our government is now in a lurch with little hope on the horizon.

One might say the frustration which drives extreme rightists must be alleviated so the GOP can carry on. The same could be said for radical leftists in the Democratic Party. This is not the case; a certain segment of the population has always been hate-prone, but thankfully ignored.

As of late, it has become more difficult to pretend that radicals don’t exist, however.

During 2007, Nature and Neuroscience, a scientific journal, featured a most intriguing study. Scientists discovered that people on the right interpreted things differently from those on the left, and vice-versa. This can be chalked up to what goes on in the anterior cingulate cortex, where the human brain sorts through disagreeable data.

“David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, and lead author of the study, says these results suggest that liberals and conservatives have some basic brain differences - and those differences are influenced by our genetic makeup,” Elizabeth Cohen wrote on CNN.

Modern science has established that both genes and environmental factors play a role in our decision-making. So, in times of great right-leaning success, lefties naturally become aggravated and translate this into hardline public policy measures which support their ideology.

During an era of left-leaning governance, righties do the exact same.

“The radical liberal aggressively pursues a collectivist utopia to sooth his paranoid fears of individual liberty,” veteran forensic psychiatrist Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of The Liberal Mind, which strives to analyze the psychology of leftist politics, told me. “The conditions of liberty arouse primitive fears in the radical liberal mind, to which he responds by seeking control over others and over basic social institutions.

“Control through power seeking is reassuring to him, but his exercise of it destroys both freedom and authentic security for the larger society. … His ultimate goal is control because that is the only thing that makes him feel safe.”

Dr. George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist who has taught at UC Berkeley for over four decades. Throughout his storied career, he authored a library’s worth regarding the science behind political belief.

“Over the past 30 to 40 years, radical conservatives have established a remarkable communications system and, together with smart framing experts, they have created a powerful language of conservatism that has been repeated almost daily throughout both the US and other countries,” he explained to me. “This has the effect of activating, and therefore strengthening, conservative ideas in the brains of the public.”

Dr. Lakoff also mentioned that, as compared to progressives, “(c)onservatives have been more practiced at using fear and rage. Fear tends to activate strict father morality - you want strength and protection. Rage is easier to activate in those who lack empathy for others.”

A jumble of special interest groups, new demographic trends, a growingly secular society, and more have combined to embolden the left. That, in turn, has served as an impetus for right-wing rancor.

All of this provides America with a spectacular display of nature and nurture joining forces in pursuit of power. Politics simply provide an arena for the competition to take place.

Therefore, while partisan radicalism is undeniably horrid, it is symptomatic of a much larger problem. That problem, for its endless nuances, is quite simple: Our country divided down to the cognitive level.

While we never will be able to command Mother Nature, each of us can get along. Whether or not all too many want this, however, is another matter entirely.

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