Legal questions In much of the world and throughout recorded history, marriage has been substantially a contractual, economic institution. In Arkansas, it is possible by contract for unmarried couples (of either sex) to structure many of their respective property rights to approximate those of married couples. Since 1948, racially based real estate covenants have been unenforceable in the courts because that would mean an arm of the state was enforcing discrimination, contrary to constitutional mandates. Would an Arkansas court have to refuse to enforce agreements as to property rights made by unmarried couples (straight or otherwise) because it would thereby recognize a “legal status” that was “substantially similar” to marriage? Just what does that proposed “marriage” amendment mean? W. Christopher Barrier Little Rock It will be a dark day, indeed, for our country if President Bush succeeds in his plans to amend the Constitution with the Federal Marriage Amendment. For the first time, we will have incorporated "hate" and "bigotry" into our country's most sacred document -- a document that has, for over 200 years, prevented Congress from legislating such concepts into the laws of this land. How can any one seriously consider adding an amendment to the United States Constitution that takes away the right of states and public employees to provide domestic partnership benefits and hospital visitation rights? The Federal Marriage Amendment simply has no place in the United States Constitution. And just as importantly, someone who seriously considers such an amendment has no place in the Oval Office. That's why I'm supporting John Kerry for President this November. His public opposition to FMA and considerable leadership for over 30 years on civil rights for all make him the best candidate -- my candidate -- for president Rick Ramsey Little Rock Point of view The big three-oh, wot? An anniversary worth marking, to be sure. But just as when I turned 30 a few years ago -- okay, more than a few years ago -- that magic age doesn't impart infallibility, especially when it comes to measuring your own importance. Or to paraphrase the book title: "Catfishes are not the only fruit." Messr. Sabin, methinks, spreads his oleo a little thin when he proclaims that Arkansas Times "is almost your only choice" for a point of view other than the Democrat-Gazette's. How now? There are scads of other newspapers in this fine state, and more'n a few of them are not the property of the Walter E. Hussman Co. Their editorial pages doubtless offer a more local "local point of view" than yours, especially in some of the farther-removed reaches of Arkansaw. Why, heck, even in Pulaski County there's a paper or two that don't take their marching orders from Mr. Hussman -- including one that's borne "The Times" on its masthead for some 76 years longer than your feisty little pub. Well, Arkansas Times is still just a pup as newspapers go, and perhaps the next three decades will bring some hubris. Or not. Either way, congratulations and "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum." Eric Francis Managing Editor The Times North Little Rock Judge Arnold Judge Richard S. Arnold was unique. His unforgettable combination of intellect, character and manner -- each uniquely fine -- explain why he was always first, from his record-setting academic record through his leadership assignments for the federal judiciary. How typical that at Justice William Brennan's funeral, when the clerks met separately, Richard was the main speaker. I remember that when, a few days after the Clinton inauguration, I expressed concern about there being no one in the White House with Washington experience, Richard reassured me. He knew that I found him unfailingly gracious, loyal and optimistic, and at once he beamed and said "I know what you're thinking, but believe me, you will be happy." So many of us owe him so much. Roy A. Schotland Professor Georgetown University Law Center Washington Mid-America Museum Does anyone know how opposed the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission is to keeping the Mid-America Museum open? Recently on a closed day at the museum Gordon Mahoney, deputy director of the A&P commission and two gentlemen walked into the museum. The men proceeded to ask for and receive the architectural plan for the museum. The three men, two of whom are affiliated with the National Park Community College, proceeded to appraise the building as if a real estate sale was occurring. Later the gentlemen were asked why and they said for classrooms and awnings. I thought a committee existed to recommend whether the museum should be kept open or not. This is a blatant show of how the A&P commission feels. They have been stating in committee and in the newspaper they are in control and have no superiors in city government. They are letting the public know that it has no choice in the matter. I think the people and city need to know what type of monster has been created. The commission receives tax money and has to account to no one Leslie Mitchell Hot Springs What will be While my refined Southern Whig genes tell me that life is art and that everything we think or do has considerable importance, I have to agree with Bob Lancaster’s deterministic world view that historical developments he cited would have come about regardless of politics and personalities, with this exception: Had it not been for Lincoln’s election in the 1860 and the Southern secession movement, the peculiar institution might have hung around into the 1900s. It was disgusting to see and hear the segregationists spewing their poison for three decades; hearing them defend slavery would have been far worse. Greg Williams Memphis You decide Fox News says they'll give you the news and let you decide for yourself. But during the Democratic convention, Fox shut out many of the speeches and showed their own pundits instead. Watching Fox is like listening to a baseball game where the announcer only tells you when one team scores. Whatever team you're rooting for, that's not how the game is played. CNN and MSNBC gave a lot more coverage to the convention, allowing voters to decide whose plan for America they prefer. Cindy Brown Little Rock Define unethical What defines unethical, immoral, and criminal? Why do citizens place blind allegiance to the Democrat and Republican parties over morality, especially those who identify as conservatives? Example: Wal-Mart, world’s largest retailer, has the highest per capita employee welfare usage. Taxpayers not only subsidize Wal-Mart’s employee’s healthcare and food, but also Wal-Mart stores and distribution centers in excess of $1 billion. Eighty percent of Wal-Mart’s purchases are from foreign countries, the bulk from China. Wal-Mart’s history is to move into an area (remember ill-gotten subsidies), sell below cost, driving longtime merchants out of business, then raise prices. Wal-Mart is not practicing free-market competition. Question: Is Wal-Mart’s conduct unethical, immoral or criminal? Joe McCutchen Fort Smith Life in NLR It is probably not a bad idea to have Mary Steenburgen promote life in North Little Rock even though she doesn't spend a lot of time in that city any longer. Regardless of where Ms. Steenburgen really spends her time, her endorsement is benign since most people don't choose where they live based on how many celebrities they might meet there (Kato Kaelin being a notable exception). So too the irony of being catechized by Mad Max; weird, but if his witnessing works for you so be it. A similar situation exists with World War II. Remembrances and movies have installed Tom Brokaw, a celebrated employee of GE/NBC; Tom Hanks, born in 1956, and Steven Spielberg, director of such notable war epics as "1941," as permanent stars of the annual D-Day memorial. In these times though, watching media figures act out imaginary experiences of the grandeur of war is a bit more suspect than attending an enactment of the Gospel according to St. Mel. This is particularly true when the output of actual veterans of the Good War includes the sometimes less-than-glamorous recollections of Herman Wouk, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joseph Heller, Richard McKenna and Howard Zinn. North Little Rock — to this resident of Little Rock anyway — looks like it is, in fact, the nice place to live that Mary Steenburgen says it is; and the world would certainly be a better place if everyone emulated the life of Christ (in the same way in which action movie stars always have). But trusting people like Mr. Brokaw or Hollywood "greenlighters" to either tell citizens what the sacrifice of war is about, or to undertake the responsibility of doing honor to our veterans seems to be a very bad idea indeed. (See John Wayne's "The Green Berets," 1968.) Richard DeLaurell Little Rock School reform Changing the mindset that principals, librarians, counselors, or state department workers do not teach could add thousands of teachers to our classrooms for little or no increase in cost. One of the greatest feelings in the world is to teach. That feeling keeps people in the classroom when they could earn much more money doing something else. That feeling caused a counselor who had taught for many years to answer "yes" when asked if she would teach a class. The mindset that counselors do not teach caused her the next day to change her answer to "no." I watched a principal enjoy the teachable moment as she worked with a special education class. She brought them to the computer lab for a writing lesson. It was obvious that she had special skills needed to help students learn how to write. I remember Fr. Tribou. He was a priest, teacher and principal. He could have easily given up teaching and done his other two jobs but all of his students would have lost the opportunity to have been taught as only he could teach. But minds are so difficult to change. Richard Emmel Little Rock Presidential politics Yellow dog Democrats know what to do to Bushes. Braxton Bragg Camden In February 2004, President Bush sat in the Oval Office and told the American people, "I did my duty." But all available evidence shows that Bush failed to fulfill his duty in the National Guard, including disobeying a direct order to take a physical and failing to show up for required service. Why did Bush say "I did my duty" when he missed months of duty in 1972, 1973 and 1974? How did Bush avoid getting called into active service? Why did Bush disobey a direct order to take his physical? Why did Bush say he received "no special treatment" when Ben Barnes says he pulled strings to secure a Guard slot for him? When will Bush produce any credible witness who can attest to his service in the Alabama Air National Guard? He has not only lied about his service in the National Guard, he has consistently lied to the American people about Iraq and why he got us into this war that cannot be won. .It is extremely irritating to me that he and the other Republicans that rode President Bill Clinton over his lying about relations with a young White House intern can sit there and pretend he has been HONEST with the people of America. Brenda Word North Little Rock There has been much oral and written commentary lately concerning CBS News and the so-called “memo-gate” scandal. What is important is not the authenticity of the memos but the underlying truth. Does anyone seriously doubt that President Bush relied on political connections to get into the Texas National Guard? Just look at the members of Bush’s entering class. Sons of privilege, including the sons of Texas politicians and even a number of Dallas Cowboy football players. Being a vet from the Vietnam era, I have a clear understanding of the politics of getting into the guard at that time. In fact, before being drafted, I tried to get into the Michigan National Guard. There were hundreds of kids trying to do the same thing, but only the politically connected achieved success. Even after being given a coveted position, our fearless Commander and Chief couldn’t seem to bring himself to fulfill his obligations and report for duty in Alabama. If there is doubt that this is true, there is apparently a $50,000 check available for anyone who can place Bush in his Alabama guard unit at that time. Contrast this behavior to that of Senator Kerry. He not only volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam, he actually went. As a result of two tours of duty in a combat zone he received 3 purple hearts and a silver and bronze metal. In spite of the republican mantra, can anyone doubt that Kerry knowingly put himself in harms way for the love of his country? Some may question his behavior when he returned from Vietnam and renounced the war as savage and futile. I have met and talked to many Vietnam vets that have expressed the same opinions. To me, Kerry is a true hero who was early to recognize the national tragedy that the Vietnam War became. I believe that people willing to speak up, like Kerry, were instrumental in bringing an end to the war. Meanwhile, Bush continued to support the war as long as other people, comprised of mostly poor kids, were putting their lives on the line. On to Iraq. Our president has led us into an effort that is quickly turning into another quagmire. Even his justification for taking us to war seems to change from day to day. First, it was unequivocal proof for the presence of “weapons of mass destruction”. Then it was unequivocal proof of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Then it was the world is better off without a ruthless dictator. And they call Kerry a flip-flopper! As far as the world being better off, I wonder how the thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis that have died or have been wounded feel about that. In fact, I wonder how the families of over 1000 Americans that have died and thousands more that have been wounded feel about that. I also wonder how many of Bush’s extended family feel strongly enough about the war to actually participate in it. Dennis Baeyens Little Rock I just don't get it. The only opposition party in sight is the Democratic Party, which in Arkansas seems to consist of superannuated cheerleaders involved in a social club. The other party is more interested in accusations than issues, but there are real issues in this election. The war for example. Now, don't get me wrong, I believe we should support our troops by giving each of them a first-class ticket home but I do not hear this from the Democratic Party of Arkansas. Item. 1,200 troops of the U.S. and its allies have been killed simply because they were told to go in harm's way. Item. In Iraq 30,000 civilians have been killed. Item. An unknown number of Iraqi draftees have been killed defending their country from invasion or in defending their religious beliefs. Item. The social and infrastructure of a sovereign nation have been destroyed by 10 years of economic sanctions followed by devastation. Item. The basis for taking these actions were suspicion and faulty intelligence. Item. Here in Arkansas there are matters such as literacy, health care, childhood diabetes and mal(over) nutrition. National security begins at home, but our first responders have not been immunized against anthrax or smallpox. Question: Why Iraq? Colombia has contributed more to the decay of American family structure than Iraq by our inability to limit cocaine. Mexico has been a conduit for drugs for generations. How about sub-Saharan Africa where war and genocide have been institutionalized? Maybe you or your readers can relieve my perplexity. I don't identify with any party or candidate and I need help. Cecil Fox Little Rock During the 2000 campaign, PBS aired Bush and Gore biographies showing Bush in his cheerleader uniform at Yale and Gore in football uniform as co-captain of his high school team in Washington. I think seeing a picture of Bush in cheerleader uniform might drive some in these parts to Kerry. Anyone? Doris Mason Cabot President Bush's nomination acceptance speech was rife with promises for the next four years when he has only fulfilled the promises of the first four to his wealthy friends and backers at the expense of everyone else. During Mr. Bush's four years in office, the wealthier have gotten richer, the middle class has shrunk, and the number of impoverished has grown, simply because creating minimum wage jobs doesn't raise one above poverty level. More people have lost health care, more government "bureaus" have been created, state and local education departments have lost control to the federal bureaucracy under the guise of "No Child Left Behind", and federal government would have more control over the lives of every individual should Bush initiatives be adopted. If you think all this is good for America, vote for Mr. Bush. Marilyn Fish Bryan Taylor The Republicans' underhandedness and complete disrespect for people's rights to vote, assemble or practice freedom of speech is a slap in the face to all the servicemen and women who have fought and died so Americans can have these rights. In 2000 in Florida, more than 52,000 voters were removed from the rolls under the guise of cleansing the rolls of felons. This was done by Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state and the state campaign manager for George W. Bush. Over 90 percent of those that were refused the right to vote had no criminal record. That's 46,000 people in an election that was decided by 500 votes. These voters were predominantly African American. This is still going on.. In Pennsylvania, Louisiana and South Dakota there were threats against voters at the polls by armed private guards, fliers distributed in African American neighborhoods stating that the election would be held at a later date, and Native Americans sent to the wrong polling places and given misleading information about the ID they needed to vote. George Bush has conducted an undeclared war against all dissent by people that do not agree with his policies, and this has resulted in people being incarcerated for refusing to give up their right to assemble and express their opinions. Are we still in America? Martha Lindsay Fayetteville Let’s not talk about Bush’s past, only Kerry’s. We will be welcomed in Iraq with open arms. Oil money will pay for the war. Personal responsibility. No child left behind. We could have won in Vietnam. One of my favorite movie lines comes from “The Outlaw Josie Wales.” A Confederate leader has been tricked into having his men surrender and then they are shot. He tells a U.S. senator, “Don’t urinate on my shoes and then tell me that it is raining.” This is the legacy of Bush-Cheney. Steve Wheeler North Little Rock Fact is President Bush served honorably and was given no special treatment in the National Guard while John Kerry went to the beautiful beaches of Vietnam and had a wonderful time. The real hero is Bush. Send both of them to Iraq and see who the real deal is. Richard Blume Little Rock I have been a Republican for 30 years, but I am prepared to consider voting against President Bush and his war. However, why should I vote Democratic if the Democrats are going to engage in the same mendacious Arab-baiting? The Democrats tell centrist voters who want more of Bush’s Middle East wars that they are ready to fight Muslims, too, but they will do a better job because Bush is attacking the wrong Muslims and they’ll go after the right ones. That’s why I haven’t left the Republicans yet — because the Democrats are such crass opportunists. Michael Klossner Little Rock It made sense for conservative Americans to vote for George W. Bush in 2000. And it was understandable, and appropriate that all Americans rallied to the President in time of national crisis. But while some self-proclaimed conservatives have chosen to temper their convictions out of political loyalty, this is not true of all of us. Many true conservatives question the legitimacy and the wisdom of the war on Iraq, how it has been managed, and what it is now costing us, economically, politically and spiritually. We don't agree that getting Saddam was more important than getting Osama. There are conservatives who were angry over the handcuffing and stonewalling of the 9/11 Commission, and the Bush Administration's attempt to prevent its very existence. Some conservatives do care who really wrote and are profiting from Vice President Cheney's energy and environmental policies. We share the distress of conservative Republican governors over the unfunded "No Child Left Behind Act" and its effect on our schools, and our children. Many conservatives question the fairness of the Bush "tax relief", which is a windfall for the rich, and are greatly concerned about the debt we are leaving our children. Conservatives believe in the American Dream. And we know that it can't be available to all of our children if health care is not. Being conservative means believing in traditional values, such as these. Sometimes being conservative means believing change is necessary. Mark McKinney Pine Bluff How has President Bush affected the lives of Arkansans and other Americans? Let us count the ways: 1. He took away the right to overtime pay from 6 million Americans. 2. He created a huge loophole that allows dirty power plants to operate without controlling their emissions. 3. He endangered pregnant workers when he stopped regulating exposure to the chemicals used in the manufacturing of semiconductors. 4. He rolled back mercury regulations and proposed to defer controls on mercury emissions by power plants for at least a decade. 5. He eliminated protections for mine workers and eliminated rules to protect workers from tuberculosis. 6. He misled us with lies into a Vietnam-like quagmire where we have already lost a thousand of our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. We need a leader in the White House who thinks about people, not just about big business and their profits. Edgar Williams North Little Rock As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and its promise of equal opportunity for every child, America is faced with a choice between two visions for the future of education. Our current President has utterly failed to comply with his "No Child Left Behind," act. We do not have the funding to pay our teachers' well, to enhance after school activities, and not to mention the atrocity it is to afford college. I currently attend college at UALR. Also I work to pay my college tuition, college bills, college books, etc. I am a 21-year-old living with his parents because of how hard it is to get the federal help. I have exemplary marks but the money just isn't there. Well, maybe it's because of our growing deficit and the money we have spent on waging a war with a nation that was never an imminent threat, nor involved in the heinous acts of 9/11. Bush has forgotten how important education is for this country to move forward and to lead the global society. Chad Lilly Little Rock In the most affluent country in the world, why can’t we afford health care for all our citizens? Why is it that 44 million of us lack health insurance and at some time during the last two years 82 million — most of them working families — were uninsured? We have excellent medical care in this country, but it costs a lot. Spending on drugs has doubled over the last five years. Since President Bush took office, health insurance costs have increased four times faster than earnings. Fewer small businesses can provide coverage to their workers. And uninsured costs are borne by us — taxpayers, hospitals, governments. We need some answers and John Kerry has them. He would expand insurance to 95 percent of all Americans and all children. He has a plant to help small businesses offer health insurance coverage by providing them a 50 percent tax credit and reducing their premium costs by 10 percent by creating a pool that would cover most catastrophic illnesses. He would bring drug costs down by permitting re-importation of drugs from Canada. He would create a Patients Bill of Rights that would assure access for each of us to the doctor we trust. Better use of technology would cut costs and make our records safer. Lower costs, preventive medicine, education for healthy living — who needs it? Don’t we all? John Kerry says, yes, we do. Now. Elaine Scott Little Rock As the founder and president of the Young Democrat Club at Conway High School East, I try to take a very active role in politics. My country gives me every right to be as involved in politics as I can be – except the right to vote. Being 15 years old, I am ineligible to vote, but I still have very strong views concerning the election. That is why I am asking YOU to go and vote in my place. Please, go to the polls Nov. 2 and vote for John Kerry. Rest assured that in 2008, I will be performing my American duty, voting right along side you. We all want a stronger tomorrow. Micah Toll Conway I’ve seen little or no discussion of the latest Bush tax increase on the elderly — nearly a 20 percent rise in Medicare fees, the largest increase in the 40 years of the program. Trying to balance the budget on the backs of the old and sick. How’s this for an example of a compassionate conservative. An outrage. Jay Fulbright III Bentonville Submit letters to The Editor, Arkansas Times, P.O. Box 34010, Little Rock, AR 72203. We also accept letters via E-mail. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We also accept faxes at 375-3623. Please include a hometown and telephone number.