- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette, Oct. 12, 2014

Right side, wrong tactic

The Arkansas State Supreme Court is considering whether or not Arkansas voters will be able to decide the fate of local option alcohol sales.

It’s something that dates back to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

Arkansas banned the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in 1915. But after Prohibition ended, the state became wet again, allowing beer in 1933 and the hard stuff in 1935

But not every area of the state wanted beer joints and package stores. So counties were given the option to allow sales or not.

Miller County was among the first to authorize liquor sales. But many counties chose not to do so.

Right now 37 of the 75 counties in Arkansas are dry. In addition, there are a few cities and towns in wet counties where voters have outlawed the sale of alcohol.

That could change.

A group called “Let Arkansas Decide” mounted a petition drive to force booze sales on every county in the state and they got enough signatures. The Arkansas Alcoholic Ballot Initiative makes “the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors . lawful within the entire geographic area of each and every county of this state.”

Provided the voters approve in November, of course.

But they may not get the chance.

Opponents filed a lawsuit, charging that the Secretary of State’s office violated the law when it extended the date to submit the petitions due to the July 4th holiday. The state’s highest court heard arguments on Thursday. No telling when they will rule, but it will be before the November vote.

We are on record as opposing this measure. Arkansans already decide whether or not they want alcohol sales in their county and have for decades. The current system works just fine.

But this argument is ridiculous. It is common practice for state offices to close on national holiday and extend deadlines in response. This is no different and the court should recognize that.

We hope voters turn down the proposal. But we are content to leave that to the people of Arkansas. This courtroom “Hail Mary” should be no score.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Oct. 8, 2014

A welcome respite

What’s this - a high court that exercises self-restraint, patience and more than due deliberation? Instead of deciding an ever-contentious issue with one immediate, draconian decision that is bound to prove indecisive in short order, given the changeable course of human events.

That arbitrary approach is the one the high court chose to follow when the issue was the never-settled one of abortion, and the justices succeeded only in ushering in decades of dissension that are far from over even now, and may never be.

That’s what happens when courts get in a hurry and choose to speed up history. History, however, is not that amenable to human direction, and may take its own sweet or sour time.

In the end, such sweeping decisions may only prolong the agony and acrimony of a monumental dispute, not end it. And wind up sweeping away the court’s own authority. Just as a great civil war swept away the Dred Scott decision that declared human slavery the law of the land now and forever. Dred Scott may have been the most infamous decision ever rendered by an American court, and its end was not long in coming, violently.

The whole notion of “settled law,” like “settled science,” can prove dubious, and should. For patient Clio, muse of history, will not be hurried but only amused by mortals’ never-ending hubris, and if there ever was a way to invite hubris, surely it is to yield to the temptation of appointed judges with lifetime tenure to decide this or that great question in a hurry, and leave their court - and their country - to repent at leisure.

That’s what comes of the foolish assumption that a court, however high, can settle some some great political or even moral question once and for all with one stroke of the pen, or in the case of too many loquacious federal judges, with reams of jurisprudence.

Yes, sometimes the Gordian Knot can be untied, or just cut, as in Brown v. Board of Education, which finally barred racial segregation in the public schools, a decision that was perhaps the greatest single example of law’s ability to approach justice at last. But perhaps such a knot of jurisprudence can be cut only after it has grown frayed by years or even decades and centuries of wear, when even those fighting history may recognize that the time has come for justice at last.

This time, this very week, the Supreme Court may have demonstrated that it has learned patience, at least for now, or maybe even accidentally. For it has decided to let the contentious question of same-sex marriage cool down, the way the prudent will handle any hot potato of an issue.

Why ask for trouble? Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; let’s give it a rest. Maybe permanently if our and the court’s luck holds. For there’s a reason the wheels of justice turn slowly - the better to grind finely. And let the wheat separate itself from the chaff.

Goodness knows this dispute over who can marry whom has produced enough chaff; it’s just about covered with the stuff thanks to the posturing on all sides of this question. Why not leave this whole, hornet’s nest of law to the states, their courts and their federal circuits - and to their own people and laws and legislatures? Isn’t that what the genius of the Founding Fathers still recommends, and what the Constitution of the United States was designed to assure? A federal union of sovereign states rather than one uniform and all too often blundering national government. That way, these 50 laboratories of democracy can discover and develop their own solutions, trusting that the best will spread to the rest of the Union in all due and well-measured course.

If states can have their own divorce laws, why not their own marriage laws? There was a time when people from the rest of the Union would come to states like Arkansas or Nevada, with their liberal divorce laws, and stay long enough to get a divorce, or even permanently. (Welcome, Winthrop Rockefeller! Who knew you would bring so much more than a great fortune to Arkansas, like great leadership?)

Now there was States’ Rights in full and beneficial action, for states’ rights can be more than a just an empty slogan or, far worse, an excuse for prolonging injustice. The principle of states’ rights - these days it’s called federalism - can offer a way to see through the most vexing issues, and even solve them.

What a relief it is to see the members of the country’s highest court recognize that insight, even if only by accident, or even if only for the time being. Let’s hope its decision this week not to decide the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States will hold, for it is a wise decision, even if it may have been an unwitting one. Judges that don’t decide can prove the most judicious ones.

The authors of the Federalist Papers would surely have approved of Monday’s non-decision of the court. Just which Founding Father wrote just which Federalist Paper - Madison, Hamilton or John Jay - may still be a matter of debate among historians, but there’s no doubt there were giants in the earth in those days. The Federalist Papers first appeared as newspaper editorials, we are proud to note, under the collective signature Publius, and after all this time the wisdom therein still serves the American public well.

It is a rarity when a great justice appears who can overcome the court’s ideological differences, and even his own ideological preferences - a Louis Brandeis, say, or a Robert Jackson - but this time all the justices did. Without a superfluous comment. The court issued only a brief, direct order. Well and simply done, your honors.

How will this latest decision of the Supreme Court of the United States affect this state’s own highest court, which now has the same question before it?

It is useless to speculate. Although it is clear that this non-decision out of Washington does not strengthen the argument that the law restricting marriage in this state to one man and one woman is somehow forbidden by the Constitution of the United States - but neither does it weaken that argument. It just leaves the question to Arkansas, to her own laws and mores and convictions. Which is as it should be. For there are times when no decision is the best decision.

Conclusion: God save this honorable court, both the country’s and the state’s.


Camden News, Oct. 7, 2014

Killings can’t be routine to Camden

Of the four killings in Camden this year, three have been at sites operated by the Camden Housing Authority, and that is definitely cause for concern.

- On June 7, a woman was stabbed to death in her apartment at the Ft. Lookout site of the housing authority.

- On Sept. 14, a woman was beaten to death in the authority’s Lincoln Center complex.

- On Sept. 28, a woman was stabbed to death in Ft. Lookout.

This is not to suggest that crime is running rampant in the housing authority areas or that they have become overrun with lawlessness. The recent killings seem to have been isolated acts of violence rather than products of general crime activity. But the frequency with which they are occurring signals a need for scrutiny by the authority and the Camden Police Department.

The housing authority complexes are major elements of Camden’s residential community. The need for residents to feel safe there - or any part of the city - goes without saying. But also of critical importance is the reflection the killings have on Camden overall. We do not want to get the reputation and stigma of other communities where the reporting of killings seems to have become routine.

We do not presume to have the answer to reversing this trend. That is something to be addressed by the Housing Authority administration and the Camden Police Department. It could be that increased visible presence of police officers in the complexes will be necessary. Perhaps a neighborhood watch-type organization in the housing authority areas could help keep tabs on festering problems.

The authority has worked vigorously in the past, such as the after-school program, to have a positive impact on its residents, and we’re confident it will be working with the police department to address this serious problem.

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