- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Oct. 18

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on violence in U.S.:

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America great again!”



We’d settle for making America good again.

As bloody horrid as mass shootings are, the sad routine violence of Chicago and other major cities has more to say about American society than do Roseburg or Sandy Hook.

Chicago, which just posted its bloodiest September in 13 years, has become the poster city for gun violence. The Chicago Tribune reported “two consecutive weekends in which more than 50 people were shot. … And in August, more than 40 were shot on four consecutive weekends.”

But both phenomena - the daily gun battles and the periodic mass shootings - are clear indications of an even larger problem:

America’s society is just sick.

Our culture promotes violence and deviance in movies, video games and living rooms every night on television. We’ve become increasingly selfish, shortsighted and narcissistic: Our consumerist bent advertises the myth that everyone can have everything they want, whenever they want it; notice the childlike tantrums and occasional violence at fast-food restaurants when meal orders are fouled up.

Meanwhile, reality shows glorify and normalize barnyard behavior and cutthroat relations with others.

Families are imploding. Marriage is more often mocked and redefined than honored and supported. Church attendance has sagged. Moral moorings, when they’re discussed at all in the “mainstream” media, are sniffed at. The Ten Commandments are being removed from the public square, while a group of hundreds in Detroit this summer unveiled a statue of a satanic idol.

One lion’s shooting in Africa sends liberals through the roof, but Planned Parenthood is applauded as it angrily lashes out at the videographers who caught them casually chatting over lunch about vending aborted baby parts as profitably as possible.

Even if talk of morality and immorality repels you, let’s just talk about practicality: In almost every area of society, we are trending toward what doesn’t work, and away from what does.

The breakdown of the family is a prime example, and is likely a leading factor in much of the violence, crime and other dysfunction we see in society. It all starts in the home.

Our problems can’t all be reduced down to a gun problem, as some always try to do.

“These shootings,” presidential candidate Bobby Jindal writes of the mass shootings in Roseburg and elsewhere, “are a symptom of deep and serious cultural decay in our society. …

“It’s the old computer axiom - garbage in, garbage out. We fill our culture with garbage, and we reap the result.”

Blaming the guns is easy, but the truth is more involved than that and, frankly, not pleasant for many to admit: We have a sick culture.

We need a renaissance of personal responsibility in this country. We need parents who really do plan parenthood - and who don’t just procreate with the next person because it feels good or to scare away the loneliness for a few moments.

We need to do what works: Statistically, the best way to reduce the chances of poverty, crime, substance abuse, dropping out and other social ills is to get married, stay married and don’t get pregnant until you do.

That’s not moralizing. It’s just statistical reality.

Yet, we would also argue that a source of morality is paramount for a free and peaceful people.

Don’t be fooled by the political class: Our problem isn’t solvable with a few new laws here or there.

We don’t need gun control as much as we need self-control.

Online:

https://chronicle.augusta.com

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Oct. 18

The Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times on state’s Free Speech Week:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights, five American freedoms are guaranteed. Among them is the freedom of speech.

This week is recognized across the nation as Free Speech Week.

No American right is more fundamental than the freedom of speech.

Inextricably tied to the freedom of speech is the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to public assembly and the right to petition the government. These rights define freedom more than any other principles. As Americans, we should never be afraid to speak our minds.

The First Amendment applies to everyone - liberals, conservatives, libertarians, people with whom we disagree, and it must be noted that public employees and elected officials also enjoy the freedom of speech.

No one knows more about what goes on, and the possible abuses of government, than the people who work in government halls.

The law in Georgia says, “No public employer shall retaliate against a public employee for disclosing a violation of or noncompliance with a law, rule, or regulation to either a supervisor or a government agency, unless the disclosure was made with knowledge that the disclosure was false or with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”

All public employees, including teachers, law-enforcement officials, city or county staff or others employed by federal, state and local government should not be intimidated into thinking they cannot express their opinions publicly because they work in the public sector. The courts have said a public employee’s behavior and speech should not be disruptive, but they cannot be told they are not allowed to express their opinion or speak to the media.

As we have observed, in New York Times vs. Sullivan, the Supreme Court said, “We consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

In Pickering vs. the Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a teacher has the right to speak out on issues of public importance without fearing being fired. Garcetti vs. Ceballos simply says if the person is speaking in their official capacity as a government employee they might be held accountable for public comments, but if they are speaking as a private citizen their freedom of speech cannot be abridged.

Elected officials have First Amendment rights as well.

The state’s leading authority on the First Amendment, attorney David Hudson said, “From time to time, elected officials such as city council members, county commissioners, school board members or appointed members of the board of government authorities will receive advice (usually a lawyer representing the public entity) that the public official may not disclose information learned in a closed session. Such advice has no basis in fact or in law.” (Georgia Press Bulletin, Dec. 2013). He added, “Elected officials are subject only to the voters.”

He explained there is an obvious misunderstanding of the Code of Ethics contained in O.C.G.A 45-10-3 that prohibits them from disclosing proprietary information for “personal gain” or in violation of the public trust. He said, “none of its provisions would prohibit an elected or appointed member from disclosing what occurred in an executive session if the member felt it was in the public interest to do so.”

Online:

https://www.valdostadailytimes.com

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Oct. 16

The Brunswick (Georgia) News on placing a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial at state Capitol:

Members of Coastal Georgia’s delegation to the Georgia General Assembly offer valid points in support of arguments raised by the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an Atlanta-area chapter of the NAACP and the Georgia chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy. Stone Mountain is not the place for a memorial to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The grounds of the state Capitol constitute a more prominent and public site for the memorial, as suggested by two Republican state legislators who reside on St. Simons Island, Sen. William Ligon and Rep. Alex Atwood. It would have greater visibility, if nothing else, which is the ultimate goal of tributes to the nation’s heroes.

Why this is even being discussed or debated in the first place is indeed puzzling. If members and officers of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are right, the General Assembly designated Stone Mountain as a memorial to the Confederacy. Whether the Rev. King could be memorialized there is legally questionable.

But beyond that, because of what Stone Mountain is, it would be a mockery to all that the Rev. King stood for, fought for and ultimately died for - equal rights for black Americans - to place a tribute to him in a park dedicated to the president of the Southern states and two of its generals, three men who weren’t even Georgians and who were dedicated to a cause that included preservation of the institution of slavery.

A better place should be reserved for one of Georgia’s most renowned and revered citizens.

Stone Mountain is not it.

Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said it best the other day when he questioned why this was even an issue or even being debated as one. There are more serious issues for state legislators to concern themselves with when they convene in Atlanta in 2016.

Public school education, for example, needs more work - a lot of it, in fact. While it’s slowly inching forward, its progress is far too slow. Thousands of children are still being left behind. That does not bode well in a state with a high rate of poverty.

There is an answer here somewhere. Few problems are without a solution. But resolving it will require full concentration, the full focus of those who sculpt policy and write budgets.

Distractions like this latest nonsense are unhelpful and unwarranted.

Online:

https://www.thebrunswicknews.com

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