- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette, Jan. 21, 2014

President sends wrong message with political ploy

President Barack Obama smoked marijuana as a young man.

And he doesn’t deny inhaling.

Furthermore, he doesn’t consider the drug any more harmful than alcohol.

Speaking to the New Yorker magazine in an interview released Sunday, the president called pot a “bad habit” and a “vice,” similar to cigarettes.

“As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” he said.

But, he added, he had warned his daughters against using marijuana, telling them it was a “waste of time.”

The president also brought a bit of class warfare into the New Yorker interview_as he is wont to do_saying that poor kids go to jail for smoking marijuana, while middle-class kids do not.

He praised Colorado and Washington for their recent efforts to legalize and regulate recreational pot sales and use_calling such experiments “important.”

But he cautioned there could be some unintended consequences.

If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, ‘Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka,’ are we open to that?” he asked.

Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a sitting president to make such statements. But poll after poll shows Americans are more open to legalizing marijuana than ever before.

And that is likely the reason for the president’s remarks.

Democrats face an uphill battle in November. It’s quite possible they could lose control of the U.S. Senate and fail to gain a majority in the House of Representatives

It’s unlikely the idea of legal pot could swing the vote this time around, but embracing the concept could mean a gain in votes as demographics continue their inevitable change. And if the Republicans continue to oppose marijuana legalization_as well as continuing to lead the fight against gay marriage, abortion and other issues_that could lead voters who came of age in the 1960s and later to label the party as out of touch with the American people.

It’s a cynical strategy. And one that could work.

One can argue the merits of legal marijuana all day long. We oppose it and will continue to do so. We see no real upside to making yet another harmful substance legal. We expect some readers will disagree.

That’s a debate for another day.

For now, in what looks for all the world as a political ploy, the president of this nation has just told our young people that an illegal drug is no more harmful than legal substances. We don’t care what you think of pot, but that is just the wrong message to send.


Southwest Times Record, Jan. 19, 2014

Participate now to be part of marshals’ story

For a museum that isn’t even open yet, the U.S. Marshals Museum sure is busy.

Leslie Higgins, director of education for the museum, outlined Monday for the League of Women Voters of Fort Smith a full schedule of activities sponsored by the museum that is still just a gleam in its designer’s eye.

In addition to the rounds representatives make to local schools, they send out hundreds of packets for teachers everywhere.

Looking to educate some grown folks, the museum will offer a series of four lectures, one a month from March to June, about important guns it has acquired. The guns once belonged to Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, hangman George Maledon and Zeke Proctor, a Cherokee whose trial for the murder of Polly Beck led to the Goingsnake Massacre in 1872. The day of the shootout at the Cherokee Courthouse, when eight members of a 10-marshal posse were killed, remains the bloodiest single day for the Marshals Service, Ms. Higgins said.

The museum also will host with partners Arvest Bank and Cox Communications the seventh annual Safe Kids fair, which offers important safety tips for kids and parents and supplies families with DNA LifePrint kits, which include biometric fingerprinting, a digital photograph, a take-home cheek swab and a journal that includes the top questions law enforcement officers ask parents when a child goes missing.

Last year saw the Nov. 9 dedication of the museum’s Hall of Honor, which will memorialize each of the marshals, deputy marshals and special marshals killed in the line of duty since the service was instituted in 1794. The Marshals Service has the highest incidence of death in the line of duty of any federal law enforcement agency, Ms. Higgins said.

The high point of 2014 will be the Sept. 24 groundbreaking for the 50,000-square-foot museum, which will have 20,000 square feet of exhibition space highlighting the marshals’ role in three areas of American life: the changing nation, the frontier and today.

The museum’s grand opening is on tap for late 2016 or early 2017, Ms. Higgins said.

Of course, there is a powerful lot of fundraising to do between now and then as well as the acquisition of many more artifacts for display. But the events already undertaken offer plenty of evidence that the marshals are important in our history and today, and that the museum is an important part of telling their story.

Stay alert for upcoming events sponsored by the museum. Check out the Marshals Museum on Facebook. Take part in what the museum has to offer now, and when it is finally open to the national public, you’ll be able to say you too are part of the story.


Log Cabin Democrat, Jan. 18, 2014

Cooper could throw wrench into private option

So much for the bipartisanship that ended last year’s legislative session.

Despite contentious battles over social issues that changed the landscape of Arkansas from a conservative blue state to something much more red, both houses hashed out a compromise over Arkansas’ response to the Affordable Care Act. Not only did they make rational decisions concerning the far-reaching health care initiative, but they became a model for other states to follow when dealing with an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

But that could all go out the window with the entrance of the newest member to the Arkansas House of Representatives, John Cooper. The Northeast Arkansas Republican recently won the spot vacated by Paul Bookout, and he is adamantly opposed to the “private option,” calling his victory a referendum on the law.

His ascension into the discussion now brings pressure onto those who narrowly approved the plan last year but now have to deal with the $5 billion budget this time around. There is talk that the Republicans who joined in the passage could face opposition from those in their own party unless they change course, making the private option harder to approve this time around.

So Cooper’s against it. What exactly is he for? He hasn’t said what he would do other than vote against every measure that even rhymes with private option. But something needs to be done. One can’t just be an “agin’ner” and then retreat home and not deal with the challenges facing the state.

By passing the private option in 2013, the legislature dealt with tough questions about the federal law and looked at every alternative to help the people of Arkansas, and although there are issues and problems - as there are with any sweeping legislation - those who we elected made tough choices but decided that doing something was far better than doing nothing.

Now Cooper could change all that if he can rally those on the fence to defeat what has already been approved. Sen. David Sanders, a Republican who represents a small portion of Faulkner County, told the Associated Press that the private option can be approved again if the legislature debates policy instead of politics.

Let’s hope that whatever happens during the session, that something is accomplished rather than just a host of ideas being swatted down. So far, that’s all we can figure Cooper is good at doing.

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