Quote of the Week:
"A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to dream of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do, when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton."
— Pope Francis, calling for social, economic and environmental justice in his historic address to Congress last week.
On Friday, U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he'd be resigning his position (and his congressional seat) in a month's time. Brought down in large part by restive conservative members within his own caucus, Boehner couldn't find a way to govern the nation without enraging the uncompromising hard-right elements of the GOP base. Good luck on finding anyone who can.
More tilting at windmills
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced last week that she'd ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower court decisions on a 2013 Arkansas abortion law. The statute, which bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected, was found unconstitutional by a federal district judge. The decision was then upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was no surprise. It would require a reversal of decades of precedent to allow a state to prohibit abortions months before viability of the fetus, the standard established in Roe v. Wade. But Rutledge is insistent on wasting more time and money with a futile appeal to the nation's high court.
Driving Dixie down
Last week, the Little Rock Planning Commission voted unanimously to change the name of Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard along the full length of the road, which runs between Roosevelt Road and I-440 on the southeast side of town. It's a decision welcomed by most residents of the neighborhood, including Gloria Springer — the street is named for her grandfather, Horace, who was a pillar of the African-American community in the Granite Mountain and Sweet Home areas many decades ago. Springer told the Planning Commission that the name change means something "for my grandchildren and grandchildren to come. It's like handing a baton to the next generation."
Not everyone feels that way. Jay Clark, one of two men who spoke against the name change, decried the work of "leftists, blacks and politician" in attacking "a symbol of Southern heritage." Clark's comments fairly summed up the reason why it's long past time to ditch Confederate symbols in public places: "The Southern states left the union lawfully. ... They fought with honor, dignity and courage. ... It's disgusting that [people] want to sully the names of these good people, true heroes." He did not mention their cause: to keep black human beings enslaved as property.
The City Board of Directors will take final action on the name change.
This Supreme Court brought to you by big business
A fundraiser on Monday illustrated the perils of electing judges. Circuit Judge Shawn Womack, a former Republican state senator from Mountain Home, is running for an open seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2016 and is expected to be a reliable vote on the judiciary (as he was in the Senate) for the business lobby. Might that be why three business PACs — including that of the State Chamber of Commerce — held a reception to raise money for his campaign in Little Rock, with a suggested contribution of $500 a head?
The thing is, the state's ethics rules say judges aren't supposed to raise money for themselves for their races. Fundraising is to be done by committees that don't communicate with the candidate about who gives money — the logic being that such knowledge might unduly influence their activities on the bench. So, don't worry, voters: We're certain candidate Shawn Womack remains blissfully unaware that the Chamber's PAC is actively raising money for his campaign.