Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
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Republicans are building a reputation as "the party of No," and Tom Cotton could be the poster boy for the movement. A U.S. representative from the Fourth District, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Cotton voted against this year's farm bill, the only member of the Arkansas delegation to do so. Longtime congressional observers were aghast. How could a congressman from a small, poor, agricultural state vote against the farm bill?
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
To contemporary Republicans, there can never be too much money in an election, but there can be too many voters.
There was a time when Randolph Scott's movies made more money than anybody's, but if he were around today he'd find the situation much changed. Randolph used to be the hero of the picture. Now, he and people like him — the lone warrior riding out for justice, defending the ladies and the little guys — those are the villains of the modern melodrama. The new hero is the giant corporation, buying lawmakers by the trainload, standing up to the consumers, environmentalists and government regulators, collecting huge profits and paying no taxes.
The voucher is to the new corporate cowboys what the Colt .45 was to the admirable Randolph Scott. Most often, vouchers are aimed at the public schools. Walmart is a huge backer of using school vouchers to knock down the public school system, perhaps figuring that with fewer public schools, there would be fewer of those informed consumers that corporations hate so.
The nation's best media review, Extra!, says the biggest news story most Americans haven't heard of is the Trans Pacific Partnership, a treaty being negotiated secretly between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, and other Pacific Rim countries, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.
The Supreme Court continues its efforts to keep riff-raff from influencing elections. Otherwise, "They could embarrass the rest of us," U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts has explained. "Poor people get some strange ideas, you know. My mother thought she had voting rights equal to the Koch Brothers. She knows better now."
As the Times goes to press, it appears that enrollment in the new marketplaces created by Obamacare will have reached at least 7 million Americans as the March 31 open enrollment deadline passed (because of an extension, people have more time to sign up, and that number will grow).
Arkansas has had many governors who were unfriendly to public education. Proudly ignorant themselves, they thought it presumptuous of others to ask for more. Besides, people who get more education are likely to want more money, and the Curtis Colemans of the state are committed to keeping workers' wages low, so that bosses' profits can be kept high. Low wages are among Arkansas's most enduring traditions.
Promoters of school vouchers argue tiresomely that voucher-school students do better academically than public-school students. It's untrue, as every study shows.
Judicial politics in Faulkner and Conway counties was a colorful, if smelly, business in the '50s, '60s and '70s. A gang of judges, legislators and county officials regularly used the courts to advance the interests of themselves and their deep-pocketed friends, and they did it more or less openly as well as lightheartedly.
Watching a young Asa Hutchinson operate in the smartest-guys-in-the-room-style of Washington politics in the 1990s, the Republican Party's Grand Old Man, Richard Nixon, said, "I find the way his jib is trimmed appealing. What about you, Hank?" "Ach du lieber," Kissinger replied.
If Asa Hutchinson has been wildly overrated over the years, Mike Beebe has been, by many of us, vastly underrated. "Oh sure, he's been a successful legislative operator," we've told each other. "But to what ends? And he's had some questionable friends and allies."
Soulwise, these are trying times for Razorback sports fans, about as bad as we can remember.
Happy days are indeed here again, as they were in that time of peace and prosperity we remember as the Clinton administration. But we cannot say with equal conviction that It's a Grand Old Flag (again). It kind of depends on which side you're looking at.
The Walton Family Foundation, abetted by the wealthy Stephens, Hussman, Murphy and Dillard clans, is winning the "school choice" war.
It's become accepted — because it's been repeated by corporate media so often — that PBS and NPR and their local affiliates are left-leaning. It may be true of some of the local affiliates, though demonstrated in ways so small as to be irrelevant.
It's not often we have a chance to praise five members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation for their votes on one bill.