- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:


Texarkana Gazette, Jan. 28, 2015

Good Times, Bad Times

Gas prices have for quite a while been the cause of a lot of grumbling.

But now they have many folks celebrating.

It wasn’t too long ago that many of our readers would pay $50 or more to fill their tank. Now it costs about half that.

That means more take-home pay stays in our pockets.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

While low prices are good for motorists, they aren’t so good for the oil industry.

Over the last few years, we have seen a boom in oil production. Fracking technology has made it easier to tap oil deposits in shale formations. The U.S. is producing more oil right now than it has in the past 25 years.

More production means more jobs. Good paying jobs. Such jobs mean more disposable income and that leads to more spending, which creates demand, more jobs and benefits the overall economy.

But lower oil prices_fueled to a large degree by Saudi Arabia’s refusal to cut production_means that fracking is becoming less viable. If the price of oil doesn’t justify the expense of getting it out of the ground, then that could lead to less production and layoffs, possibly higher prices and a continued dependence on imported oil.

Which is exactly what the Saudis want.

Now, for years we have been hearing that Americans want our country to be less dependent on imported oil. And now there is that opportunity. But it will not come with lower prices.

So the question becomes just how much are Americans willing to pay for energy independence? Are we willing to make the sacrifice needed?

The same can be said of our reliance on imported goods. We all pay lip service to the “made in the U.S.A.” mantra, but we also look for the lowest prices. In doing so, we send jobs overseas where labor costs are much, much lower, safety standards lax and regulation practically nonexistent.

So do Americans mean what they say? Do we want to end our dependence on foreign oil?

Well, then we will have to willingly pay more at the pump.

Do we really want to see more products made in this country? Do we really want the manufacturing jobs that will bring?

Well, then we will have to willingly pay more at the checkout counter.

You can have low prices. Or you can have energy independence and more American-made goods. But not both.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 2, 2015

So let him veto

What do you think will be the next reason the president and his people come up with to delay the Keystone XL pipeline? One would think they’d be out of excuses by now.

Thinking back, first it was—what?—that pumping oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast would create even more greenhouse gases. But then the State Department put out an 11-volume review concluding that building the pipeline would not significantly increase global warming. Eleven volumes. That would probably make for helpful reading. For insomniacs.

Not that it would take 11 volumes to say this much: Some of us never thought that pumping the oil from Canada’s tar sands south would have a significant effect on the world’s carbon emissions. Because this oil is going to the market. One way or another. It’s either going to be piped to Nebraska, where it would link up with other pipelines on its way to refineries in this country, or it will be sent to Canada’s western coast and eventually shipped to China.

When global warming couldn’t be trotted out, again, the president said he could not make a decision on the pipeline until a court case in Nebraska was settled concerning the pipeline’s route. Earlier this month, the Nebraska courts cleared the way.

The president has said the pipeline won’t create many jobs. But maybe the president should listen to his own administration, which concluded the project would add thousands of jobs to the American economy during the two years it would take to build the pipeline.

And wouldn’t it make more sense to import oil from a friend like Canada, rather than from sketchy characters in Russia, Venezuela or the Middle East? It would seem to be in the national interest to deal with a pro-American, stable democracy at every opportunity. Let’s hear it for Canadians. We wouldn’t trade Mom for Alex Trebek or apple pie for poutine, but our neighbors to the north aren’t just steady allies, but friends.

Now the Senate has voted for a bill that would push through the pipeline, and the president has again vowed a veto. Why? Because signing the bill, the president says, would interfere with his executive authority to make a decision.

The problem is, he won’t make a decision. The folks trying to build this Keystone pipeline started putting together the paperwork in 2005. For his entire time in office, this president has shuffled his feet on the matter. Even the executive director of the Sierra Club—the Sierra Club!—has said the president needs to make a decision.

So now the Congress is pressing the matter. Good for Congress.

Send the president a bill.

Let him veto it, if he chooses.

Then ask the country who’s leading the Party of No.


Log Cabin Democrat, Jan. 24, 2015

FOIA is tough because it needs to be

The law journalists know the most about is the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. It’s the law we use most frequently, and it is the one we cherish. At a local level, it can actually be most important since this is the level where actions by elected representatives can directly affect citizens on a daily basis.

The obvious restrictions on FOIA - national security issues, information that could harm an investigative process and others - have been hashed out through the years, but what we have nationally and at the state level is a strong check on those who eventually make and enforce our laws. It is extremely important that we (journalists and citizens alike) fight for this act at every turn.

Which brings us to the disappointing news earlier this week in which 10 of the 12 elected county representatives wanted to ease FOIA laws on their activities and sent a proposal to area state legislators. The belief seems to be that the two levels of government (county and state) do not share the same type of restrictions when it comes to the discussion of business without informing either a) the public or b) a news-gathering entity.

But here’s the perplexing part: those who made the proposal don’t want stricter rules on the state level. They want looser rules on the county and city level. That is patently wrong.

Yes, the rules can be maddening to justices of the peace who want to have lunch at Bob’s Grill. Yes, they can seem to be akin to an overbearing parent or a needy spouse. But the push back is this: deal with it.

It’s not that we don’t trust those in office. It’s that there has been enough untrustworthy actions taken in this county alone over the years that makes one more than weary to allow business to be conducted in private.

And we’re not so naive to think that it doesn’t already happen. We prefer to believe in the process, however, that will create the most trust in the general public.

The rules are tough to abide by. We understand. We sympathize.

But if we have anything to say about it, they won’t change.


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