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Fave Fives™: President’s Day Edition!

17 Feb

As friends and loyal TWP readers know all too well, I absolutely love to talk presidential history and politics, so naturally I’m a fan of President’s Day. After reading a few news stories detailing lists for the best & worst in POTUS this morning, I figured I’d add my takes to the mix and give you a quick snapshot of my all-time faves.

Here we go!

Bubba’s still got it.

1. Bill Clinton: His personal story and rise to fame, his ability to connect with people of all stripes, and his record of achievement.

2. John F. Kennedy: His charisma, courage, and ability to inspire a generation.

Theodore Rex

3. Teddy Roosevelt: His ambition, confidence, practical approach, and tenacity — of all our former presidents, I believe his skill set and ability to proudly fight for the American people over partisan politics would be best served to lead us in our current crises. Bully!

4. Abraham Lincoln: Our greatest and most-important president — his background as a “country lawyer” and the wisdom he demonstrated during the Civil War.

LBJ

5. Lyndon Johnson: The Big Daddy from the Pedernales had an uncanny ability to get things done with a “New Deal” Texas swagger. Fascinating man.

Vote Now: Who is the best president as ranked by historians?

In honor of Presidents Day, we take a look at the small group of presidents consistently ranked among the best, and ask your opinion in this online vote.

Source: National Park Service

Historians have been ranking presidents on job performance since the late 1940s, when Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. polled 55 historians in a survey for Life magazine. He followed with a similar poll in 1962. The survey sparked a lot of talk, and criticism, as some experts didn’t find much value in it.  Stanford historian Thomas A. Bailey claimed the Schlesinger polls included a bias toward Democrats, liberals and anyone with a connection to Harvard.

But over the years, various presidential rankings have focused on a small set of presidents who always appear at the top of these surveys of historians. In 2000, a survey from The Wall Street Journal and the Federalist Society ranked Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as “great” presidents.

A study of historian rankings from Meena Bose at the United States Military Academy in 2003 showed little variation from different historian surveys.  Bose said after a symposium of experts looked at all the studies, there was a consensus that the actual exercise of rankings had “limited value,” but the exercise was useful because it provoked debates about qualities make a president a great leader.

Also, surveys about presidential greatness taken by the general public showed different results, with a preference to rank more-recent presidents higher. Ronald Reagan, in particular, has polled well in recent surveys. In 1999, Reagan was listed as the fifth-best president ever in a popular poll, but 11th in a poll of historians. In recent years, Reagan was listed as one of the top 10 presidents in four out of five historian surveys.

Living presidents also present a challenge to historians, and tend to be ranked higher by historians as time goes by. But for the purpose of our informal polling, here are the five presidents who historians have ranked among the top five presidents in surveys since 2000.

1. George Washington. The 1st president was the only person the Founding Fathers even considered for the job.

2. Thomas Jefferson. The 3rd President was a driving force behind the Revolution and an intellectual force as the Constitution came to be debated and ratified.

3. Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president served little more than four years in office, but accomplished much.

4. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Democrat served for 12 years as the only president elected to four terms, in a period that started in the Great Depression and ended with World War II nearly concluded.

5. Theodore Roosevelt. The Republican, a distant cousin of FDR, led considerable reforms at the start of the 20th century and redefined the president’s role.

You can vote here by clicking this link: 

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Redefining “Anti-Racist” [UPDATED]

22 Dec

[ORIGINAL STORY]

Wow.

Yes, it’s Arkansaw, so I get it. But it’s also 2013, folks, so pardon me while I’m still a bit shocked and dismayed by the following display of anti-enlightenment I recently had a chance to take in directly from our friends and neighbors to the north in A Place Called Harrison:


[STORY UPDATE]

From the Harrison Daily Times, November 29, 2013:

A Harrison Police report shows that a witness saw some people vandalizing a billboard on the Bypass early Friday morning and reported it to police. Now it’s under investigation as a criminal matter. The report shows the witness called police about 12:10 a.m. Friday to report seeing several people vandalizing the sign.

The sign, which has drawn much controversy since it went up, is bright yellow with the words “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White” emblazoned on it in black letters. The vandals had painted over part of the last two word and wrote the word “Love” on it.

Assistant Police Chief Paul Woodruff said the witness saw the act in progress and was able to give police the license plate number of a vehicle seen leaving the area Friday morning. He said the incident is an open criminal mischief investigation and no formal report had been finalized by Friday afternoon.

antiwhite_harrison

Hard to consider such an upgrade “vandalism.”

As loyal TWP followers and other newsies will recall, said billboard began causing a stir with local residents and travelers passing through along the busy U.S. 62/65 highway bypass when the sign went up sometime in mid-October, despite drawing the ire and condemnation of several city leaders. Since then, the company that owns the sign has refused to identify who is paying for this absurd public proclamation, only saying it was a “young man” who had agreed to pay $200 per month for a year.

For a growing town where most are eager to turn the page on an ugly history and want to promote commerce, investment, and be a place where young folks might stick around to raise their families, this has to be a very aggravating setback.

Hopefully the voices of “Love” truly do win the day for the citizens there and throughout our beloved, yet very racially-challenged Natural State.

[STORY UPDATE: PART TWO]

“The People’s Lawyer” (Campbell) doesn’t shy away from controversy, does he?

…and now: The Litigation.

A billboard located along Highway 62-65 in Harrison garnered national attention when it first appeared in October, as reported to you here on TWP.  The sign read, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White,” until late November, when it was altered it to read, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Love.”  Though sign owner Claude West has refused to say who rented the space for the bargain price of $2,400 per year, suspicions abound that the renter of the sign has ties to the Ku Klux Klan.  Only days before the sign went up, Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the KKK, posted on his Facebook page, “Anti-KKK is a Code Word for Anti-White.”

The suspicions that racist motivations were behind the billboard have only grown since this past Wednesday when a local resident, Chad Watkins of Harrison, was arrested and charged with defacing the sign.  Watkins’ friends created a Facebook page and fundraising website to call attention to the matter and raise money for Watkins’ legal defense.  Almost immediately, bigoted and hateful comments began appearing on both sites.

Watkins has retained none other than Matt Campbell of Pinnacle Law Firm in Little Rock to defend him.

“It’s incredible,” says Campbell.  “The majority of the people leaving hateful comments about Mr. Watkins online tout themselves as Christians, yet, only days from Christmas, they are angry because someone changed a hateful message to one of love.  They scream about constitutional rights, but they seem ready to condemn Mr. Watkins before he ever even has a day in court.  The cognitive dissonance is staggering.”

Watkins friends have created an online fundraising campaign to cover Watkins’ legal costs, and Campbell has stated that all money raised beyond actual costs and fees will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center at the close of the case.

“I’m doing it at no charge to him. He already has a fundraiser campaign set up for legal fees.  I told him I’d bill against whatever was raised, and, when the case was over, if there was excess money donated, we’d donate it to the SPLC.”

“Evildoer” graffitist, Chad Watkins

The Facebook page started on behalf of said vandalist, Watkins, includes the following formal description:

Let’s come together and raise money to help Chad Watkins with the legal fees he acquired when he “vandalized” an incredibly racist billboard with the word “LOVE”. If you’re from Harrison, I’m sure you’ve seen that hideous, racist sign on the bypass; It reads “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White”. It attracted lots of protestors, and made our entire town look bad to those passing by. Many of us locals were disgusted with the sign, and shocked that it was even allowed.

Several weeks after the billboard was put up, it was vandilized with the word “love”. We all silently cheered for the brave sole who did this! Surprisingly, we found out that the “vandal” was someone we all know and love- Mr. Chad Watkins. Sadly, he was caught!

Donate Here: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/9fHh3/ab/a2To93

(Southern Poverty Law Center ©)

Law Librarians Changing to Adapting Users

16 Nov

[Editor’s Note: This entry originally appeared on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog on November 11, 2013.]

Teaching? It comes with the territory for today's law librarians.

Teaching? It comes with the territory for today’s law librarians.

Although we have long incorporated elements of teaching into our “toolkit” of skills as reference librarians, there is an increasing trend of academic law librarians having formal teaching duties inside traditional classrooms. In today’s rapidly changing information environment remaining relevant means librarians must understand our role (and ourselves) as library and information professionals. We have roles beyond those of traditional encounters at the Reference Desk. And whether we’re at the Reference Desk or inside a classroom, we must strive to understand the complex behavioral processes that information seekers experience during the search process.

Law librarians serve a variety of roles as legal information professionals, especially in today’s day and age of advanced software and online technologies. Still, in the end, our traditional functions as being the people best equipped to help others access the information our patrons need and providing them with the tools they need to perform efficient research themselves remain paramount to what we do. We must always appreciate the roles we serve within the library and the overall mission that library serves for its users, regardless of all of the new “outside the library walls” duties we have now incorporated into our more traditional daily routines.

Of course, with that comes a new responsibility to not remain static and merely wait for today’s patrons and our new students to seek us out. Instead, we must be able to evolve constantly as technology demands and users and their needs adapt accordingly over time. Today, while we concern ourselves most with how to best serve our primary users and patrons to serve their information-seeking needs, we are now serving a much more diverse group of users and find ourselves having to adapt to their constantly-changing needs.

It’s important to note that even with all of the formal change seen in academic law libraries, many information professionals, even those not in the academic setting, generally acquire some pedagogical teaching skills along the way in their education—or will need to pick up these communication skills in other ways to effectively assist the wide range of patrons headed their way. We know that a lot of what we do in this profession involves “mini-lessons” with our users, and to be successful at that, one must be adaptable to various user learning styles. Each user is unique, and we need to be able to adjust to meet those needs in the best manner possible. Though we may serve unique individual users, we can also become better at what we do by picking up on general trends displayed by users to be better prepared when common needs arise. This is even more important when adding so much online technology in the mix because we find that we’re not just demonstrating the process of how to navigate the library’s resources, but often having to teach basic computer software and online researching skills as well.

For further reading, please see the following:

Beatrice A. Tice, The Academic Law Library in the 21st CenturyStill the Heart of the Law School, 1 UC IRVINE L. REV. 159 (Mar. 2011).

Michael Rogers, Turning Books Into Bits: Libraries Face The Digital Future, MSNBC: The Practical Futurist (Sept. 2005).

Redbird Recovery: Thursday Morning Coming Down

31 Oct

Well, it’s over.

Barney Frank has sung.

Doris Kearns-Goodwin can now die a happy man.

And somewhere, Curt Schilling is still talking as he pretends he somehow deserves some of the glory for this.

Unfortunately, all we have going on here is Thursday Morning Coming Down for yours truly, as I add my name to disappointment roll call today, along with all of you other Cardinals loyalists out there.

There’s no joy to be found in Mudville at the moment.

No solace.

No, sir(s).

Not yet.

Matty C. makes final out at Fenway.

Umm…Wha-Wha-What Happened?

I reckon there’s plenty to discuss regarding things that quickly went downhill for the NL Champs in this noted “Weird Series” fall classic. From multiple quirky plays occurring all over the field, to the total disconnect from the Cardinal Way of sound fundamentals shown throughout regular season/previous playoff rounds compared to the various baseball brain farts that left us scratching our heads multiple times in this series. Those simply could not be the same Redbirds we all had been watching together for the last seven or eight months. Right?

Lacking the spirit in St. Louis? Freese & Jay done seen better days.

Am I incredibly bummed about all of those obvious failings? Of course I am. There were so many blatant miscues here and there it’s no wonder many in Cardinal Nation are e-ranting and e-whining on and on about them in today’s post-mortems. But it was certainly not at all shocking to see this team go down in flames and lose a series when our “Mr. Clutch” ace (Adam Wainwright) loses both of his starts, and especially when an entire half of the starting of line-up is barely making any contact whatsoever. “Big City” AdamsDavid FreeseJon Jay, & Pete Kozma? More like Out, Out, Out, Out! Seemingly e’r other inning; seemingly e’r single at-bat. Our ducks at the top-half of the order were continually hitting with nobody on and were left stranded out there on the bearded pond. It became awfully clear awfully early on that this no-show quartet had little business riding the bench somewhere on a sh!tty team, let alone on one the remaining two that were vying for the crown.

A clutch knock, fellas? Maybe a couple lil’ bloop singles that somehow find a way to fall in and break the funk? Hell, how about just a productive out that advances a runner???

NAH.

(Not even close.)

jbw_ms(seattlegame_2013)

Rest Assured: Serfass & Woodmansee (Baseball Nerds)

Ok, I’ve had a chance to swallow my pride and sleep on it now…and this is still not Happiness! Perhaps taking some time to “write out” my frustrations and slowly start rattling off those silver linings and looking ahead will be therapeutic. Perhaps things are just paining me that much more today because a very good friend, colleague, and fellow baseball nerd assured me several months ago that I had nothing to worry about all season with this team — they were destined for another championship run. Oh, and as if that false sense of security wasn’t cruel enough, it was none other than that ol’ Serfass Phamily Phave, Shane Victorino, that ended up doing us in!

Reeled in and filleted, I tells ya! What emotional battering! 😉

These f*cking guys? #FearTheHygiene

[Bitterly] Moving Forward…

From our Fearless Leader:

“There’s been a lot of talk about [being set up for success], and rightfully so,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday night, moments after a 6-1 Red Sox victory ended the World Series. “You look at the young arms. We’ve got experience behind the plate and in left and right. We’ve got a lot of young players out there. There’s a lot of things to be excited about moving forward.

“It’s really hard to think about at this point, because it’s so rare and special to be on this stage. And you hate to see anything slip away — not that we gave it away, they took it. They played us and they beat us.”

Matheny’s View? A Bright Future

“As we look through the season — and we’ll start doing that tonight, kind of reviewing what we were able to accomplish — we had plenty of adversity,” Matheny said. “[There were] plenty of things we had to overcome. And they did it in a style that represented the organization well, the way they played and didn’t back off one second, of the way they prepared. It was a relentless team, and I think that’s a way to label them. And I’m very proud to be a part of them.”

We’re beyond the “conventional wisdom” stage of what to do next at this point — it’s now an outright necessity for the team’s brilliant GM John Mozeliak to go ahead and tap into that surplus of young pitching talent in order to make a couple of significant upgrades going into 2014. Obviously, the stockpile of fastballin’ young’uns are the StL organizational strength and that highly-touted farm shouldn’t be sold outright for assumed instant glory…but we also find ourselves in a position where the team can afford to ship a couple of those arms for the sort of quick improvement to the regular line-up that puts us over the top come next October. It’s a rare luxury for a contending team to have, no doubt, and timing-wise, it’s very promising to see several solid (and very affordable) free agents out there this offseason that could quickly fill a need, too.

Top Priorities: Yunel Escobar at SS in 2014?

What’s Next? Who’s Next?

Among my laundry list of would-be improvements, whether filled via trade or scrap-heap signing, includes making an investment for a long-term SS solution the top priority of our Hot Stove efforts. Methinks Tampa Bay’s Yunel Escobar would be an absolutely perfect fit on this squad right now, so I’m going to go ahead and declare an “all in” on this call.  Beyond acquiring the next Edgar Renteria at SS, I also feel that infield depth is a serious concern moving forward…especially now that we have seemingly repaid our debts to Lucifer for the aformentioned Freese’s amazing 2011 playoff run (who’s soul was clearly being punished with his .170ish/0/0 series output…but thanks for the memories, right?). Behind newly-minted starters Matt Carpenter moving over to the hot corner, and the Flyin’ Hawaiian “Mighty Mouse”, rookie phenom Kolten Wong replacing him at 2B, I’m thinkin’ we rake in a reliable veteran who can play a few spots behind them and help be a clubhouse leader for us, someone like the highly-respected Michael YoungOmar Infante, or even another tenure for Rafael Furcal (if he’s willing to play for peanuts in order to be on a winner and prove he’s healthy again, that is). Just don’t get totally lame and pull another Felipe Lopez or Ty Wigginton on us again for that role, ya hear? I haven’t forgot.

Rosie2012stl

Closing Rosie!

Additionally, pressing team needs include filling a glaring void in CF with a solid option for the time being (1-2 years?), as well as adding another good lefty out of the ‘pen. For the latter, perhaps the hard-throwing former closer Mike Gonzalez could both compliment 1-batter specialist Randy Choate and serve as another reliable gap-filler between Martinez, Siegrist, and my main man Trevor Rosenthal at the back end of games. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing if we might throw a few bucks Roy Halladay’s way, have him play the role of his likely-departing buddy Chris Carpenter, and see if he might surprise some folks with another decent year or two as a fifth starter or converted RP on the cheap.

That’s my $0.02 on the Nows & the Laters following our latest crushing World Series defeat to those damned BoSox from Beantown. If you’re like me and from the Nintendo and Bases Loaded era, I think the proverbial “Agony of Defeat” can be summed up pretty well by the reaction of reliever Seth Maness to Jonny Gomes’ go-ahead HR in Game 5. (By the way, if you’re old school and scoring this at home, let’s just agree that it made just about as much sense to pitch to PAPI as it did to pitch to PASTE in the video game. Get out tha way! Yikes!)

WS2011_stlclasswar

Hot Stove Heaters: Will we see free agent bidding wars from the usual big market spenders this offseason?

Baseball writer Jayson Martinez over at The Bleacher Report adds his voice to the one of many out there today also touting a very bright future for those Birds on the Bat:

Earlier this season, I chose the St. Louis Cardinals as the “Most Brilliantly Run Franchise in Baseball”. True to form, they had another brilliant season that included their fourth World Series appearance in the past 10 years. While they couldn’t outlast the Red Sox, who beat them in six games, they shouldn’t miss a beat in 2014 as long as they continue to follow the model of success that’s allowed them to post winning seasons in 13 of the last 14 years.

As they’ve shown the baseball world throughout the season and into the playoffs, their young talent is for real, and they should continue to produce more homegrown talent that should put the team in a position so that they don’t have to rely on the free agent and trade markets.

Carlos Beltran: Sliding Away from St. Louis

The Cardinals have the financial resources to make moves in free agency and the farm system that would allow them to do nothing and still be a good team. It’s good to have those options. Some teams have neither.

General manager John Mozeliak had a quiet offseason prior to the 2013 season, opting to use his financial resources to lock up Craig and Adam Wainwright to long-term extensions. With most of his team’s core of talent under club control for several more seasons and several million dollars coming off of the books, he could focus more on adding another impact bat or pitcher to push the team over the top next season.

[. . .]

The question is whether they’ll have to spend that much to put together a championship-caliber roster for 2014. There really isn’t much that needs to be done. They’re great now and they’ll be losing just one key component—Beltran—to this year’s team. Finding an upgrade at shortstop is most likely at the top of the team’s “things to do” list this winter while adding depth to the pitching staff could also be on the agenda.

Prognosticate here with me for a moment, fellow citizens of Cardinal Nation. What’s your Day After diagnosis looking like? What is it now, just 104 days ’til pitchers and catchers can officially report? Today may not be Happiness, but that day, friends, will be Baseball Bliss all over again. 

How ’bout we just turn that bunch of Clydesdales horsies loose already! ¡Viva El Birdos! Dial me up some Mike Shannon on the radio!

Not that we’re doing any counting down or anything here at TWP. 🙂

¡Viva Julián!

18 Sep

IMG_2620What a treat for me to be on hand yesterday for 2012 Democratic National Convention Keynote Speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who spoke at UALR today as part of the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lecture Series. The remarks this evening were fairly apolitical, at least in the typical partisan sense, and focused around meeting the challenges and seizing the moment resulting from the large demographic shift currently occurring in not only places like Castro’s Texas and throughout the American Southwest, but all throughout our country, including right here in Arkansas where between 2000-2010 the Hispanic population increased by nearly 115%. Having the chance to meet one of my political heroes and a future POTUS (¡Viva 2024!) following his presentation was a true honor.

IMG_2626

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From UALR:
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro told a packed audience at UALR that the way Americans approach shifting Hispanic/Latino demographics will have “fundamental consequences” for America’s future role in the world.

Castro was delivering a talk on “The Political Implications of Shifting Demographics in the 21st Century” at UALR’s Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall Tuesday, Sept. 17.

His lecture was supported and presented through the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lectures series, one of the most popular UALR campus events.

The consequences will be felt in particular in states like Arkansas, where there has been a 114 percent growth in Hispanic and Latino communities, Castro said. The shifting demographics affect not only who is voting in America, he said, but also the electoral outcomes as well as the conversation about which issues are important.

“We have a young and growing minority population, and we have an aging, non-Hispanic, white community, both with different life experiences,” he said.

These differing experiences produce people who see issues quite differently, according to Castro, who added that the changing demographics can either be an “asset or an albatross” for the U.S.

Castro added that for the first time, other countries are producing students who can outcompete American students. It is in America’s best economic interest to address the accessibility of education to minority populations, he said.

“If we ensure our young people receive an education, we ensure another century of American prosperity and dominance,” he said.

Higher education plays a unique and compelling role in the shifting demographics of the American 21st-century, according to Castro. Not only are college campuses often among the “most diverse places” in the U.S., they are a great place for people to discover the truth that “even though they look different, people are fundamentally much like we are.”

Earlier in the day, Castro met with UALR students for a master class in which he hit on similar themes.

He spoke about ways to improve higher education accessibility, such as San Antonio’s recent addition of Café College, a one-stop center offering guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation to students in the San Antonio area.

When asked by one student about his political plans, Castro said he intends to serve out the rest of his term as mayor and then run for the office again in 2015.

A San Antonio native, Castro is the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city. He won reelection last year with more than 80 percent of San Antonio’s vote and delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Underwritten by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the lectures bring nationally known speakers to the Little Rock community, including anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey and civil rights leader Julian Bond.

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When Soldiers Go Social on Politics

29 Apr

File this one under “shameless self-promotion.”

My National Law Journal piece out today takes a look at the legal restrictions on soldiers’ political speech online — particularly making disparaging remarks about the commander-in-chief — in light of the popular use of sharing political views through social networking such as like Facebook and Twitter.

The National Law Journal (4/29/13)


Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes a servicemember’s use of ‘contemptuous words’ against the president, some use social media to insult Obama.

Mike Ross 2.0: Ladies’ Man?

22 Apr

Ross-kick-off_womenLook out, it’s Mike Ross 2.0! The reinvented version, who was brought out of a very short political retirement by the party establishment, is forging ahead with a campaign strategery where he’ll tout himself as a “champion” for the rights of women in this state. Someone who will be able to defend them against those wacky GOP social ideologues who wasted no time in coming to power and enacting an agenda that seemed to offend the otherwise practical and sensible nature of Arkansans from all political stripes. By sharing his outrage about these  legislative controversies to voters, he seeks to prove his bonafides as Arkansas’s new Ladies’ Man, one might conclude.

Yes, really. He’s going there.

What’s that, you say? Everything he’s done as an elected official prior to his announcement of campaigning for governor tells us something entirely different?

Oh, I agree. Because your claims of the rhetoric not at all matching the reality is the one thing here that actually is true.

Now wipe that completely confused (and slightly constipated) look off your mug and walk through this with me.

Over at Arkansas Blog today, Max Brantley discussed the move from Planned Parenthood to highlight some of the former AR-04 congressman’s controversial and disconnected votes concerning the rights of women to control their own bodies and the funding for programs that support their overall health needs, and to press him on how he squares those actions with his recent rhetoric that tries to make his votes appear different than those cast by Republicans (and some Democrats) in the General Assembly:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross made encouraging sounds about looking out for women’s medical services and the ability to choose abortion when he announced last week. But his past record has included votes to restrict abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, which recently survived a legislative attack on funding for its sex education work in Little Rock.

Republicans, who LIKED Ross’ past record, have been hooting about Ross’ pitch to women. Bill Halter, his Democratic opponent, has been beating up Ross as the next Jason Rapert. Ross himself has explicitly said 1) he’d have vetoed the abortion restriction bills Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed and 2) he would NOT support defunding of Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services in Arkansas.

An issue for the long-term? Republicans arguing that Mike Ross isn’t as liberal as he wants to you believe? Maybe not. But the Democratic primary is something else.

The facts: Mike Ross co-sponsored a controversial bill, long with Missouri’s infamous Todd “Legitimate Rape?” Akin, that sought to redefine the definition of rape and would have prevented women from obtaining important medical care, and has also twice voted to stop federal funds from going to groups like Planned Parenthood, who provide women with myriad health services beyond those related to pregnancy and abortion.

For his part, candidate Ross claims the legislation he helped put forth was somehow not the same as what was recently enacted in Arkansas, and that his position on abortion is actually “unchanged” from his time in the House of Representatives:

“Let me be clear about my position and what it has always been. I am personally opposed to abortion. I do not believe, I do not support government-funded abortions with state or federal dollars. But like Gov. Beebe, I believe, from a public policy perspective, it should be safe, legal and rare,” [Ross] said.

Despite his politically-expedient “evolution” on these issues, and his accompanying public display of “outrage” towards the likes of Sen. Jason Rapert and the rest of the ARGOP’s in leading the Arkansas Legislature to enact these sorts of restrictions, Boss Ross has an accessible voting record we concerned citizens can review which paints a very different picture of where the man actually stands. Indeed, his was a very shameful showing of bi-partisanship at its worst when it comes to siding up with Republicans in their “War on Women” crusades.

As you would expect, Bill Halter’s campaign wasted no time weighing in on the almost Mitt Romney-esque level of flip-flopping hypocrisy shown by the recently self-proclaimed “frontrunner”:

After announcing that he would not run for reelection to Congress and less than two months after saying he was not going to run governor, Mike Ross showed his true colors and voted for this ban. Only now that he is running for governor, has he chosen to flip-flop to suit his own political ambition. Mike Ross’s statements are not consistent with his own previous actions.

Mike Ross talks about believing in Arkansas values, but yesterday he demonstrated a determined willingness to ignore those values when it served his own political ambition.

With Bill Halter, Arkansans know where he stands. He would have vetoed the abortion bills and he never would have supported the attacks on women that Mike Ross promoted by cosponsoring and voting for legislation that would have restricted women from receiving important medical care.

Mike Ross’s record of denying women access to medical care is only one of many aspects of an overall record that Arkansans will find troubling. I am confident that the Arkansas press corps will do their homework and hold Mr. Ross accountable for his own record, rather than allow him to run on someone else’s record.

Democratic_Party_of_Arkansas_LogoThis state — and the floundering state party who, by any reasonable account, have been unable to regroup and come to grips with how to still have some relevance while in the minority, needs a leader with authentic convictions that understands how to build support for real reform so we can move ahead. In my mind, Democrats here should be lining up to support someone who is, at the very least, a consistent “D” in the way they generally approach policy. Hell, one day we may even learn to raise those expectations enough to get beyond some of the same unresponsive establishment do-nothing-ness that has allowed the party to  drift aimlessly into the political wilderness.

bill-halter-glowMore inspiring would be to see the calls for real reform led by someone that is not only bold enough to offer innovative ideas, but also has the conviction and know-how to effectively rally the masses against GOP priorities that thwart Arkansas’s economic and social progress. For my money, Bill Halter is the only person that provides a chance for this to happen.

We’ll never be able to truly move this state forward if we accept anything less than the best we have to offer. The days where we are able to collectively say “Thank God for Mississippi” may be dwindling, you know.

(You can watch Roby Brock’s full interview with Mike Ross from last night’s Talk Business show below.)

We Noticed.

6 Mar
SB134_vetorollcall (2)

House roll call Re: SB 134 Veto

Very disappointing to see so many Arkansas House Democrats (six, to be exact) jumping on board and/or calling in sick to work today (a total of seven didn’t even bother to vote) regarding the vote to override Governor Beebe’s appropriate veto of holy rolling Sen. Jason Rapert’s controversial Heartbeat Protection ActSenate Bill 134, which would place a ban on all abortion procedures at the point of 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter.

Unfortunately for the women and taxpayers (here come the lawsuits) of this state, the House GOP steamrolled the party of presumed common sense on this one, with so little public pressure extolled from Dem leaders in the legislature that they even picked up a few of the more spineless ones along the way.

Moral convictions are one thing.

This issue is settled law.

From the New York Times coverage:

Arkansas adopted what is by far the country’s most restrictive ban onabortion on Wednesday — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound.

The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it “blatantly unconstitutional.” The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority.

The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Courtdecisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it. Even some anti-abortion leaders called the measure a futile gesture.

[. . .]

“As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and it won’t save any babies,” said James Bopp Jr., a prominent anti-abortion lawyer who opposed the Arkansas law. Mr. Bopp, who lives in Indiana, is general counsel of National Right to Life.

He said that lower courts are virtually certain to affirm existing Supreme Court rulings and, like many other legal experts, he predicted that the Supreme Court was very unlikely to agree to hear such a case.

Mr. Rapert originally proposed setting the Arkansas ban even earlier, at about six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. But the nascent fetal heartbeat can be detected at that point only by using intrusive technology like a trans-vaginal ultrasound.

Wary of the national firestorm that erupted last year after Virginia tried to require the intrusive procedure, Mr. Rapert and his allies revised the bill to specify that a fetal heartbeat should be detected by abdominal ultrasound or other external methods, which are not feasible at six weeks.

[. . .]

The state currently has only one clinic, in Little Rock, that performs surgical abortions; a second, run by Planned Parenthood, offers medicinal abortions, which are done only within the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

The final approval of the bill on Wednesday was a surprisingly unemotional event, with the House consideration of the override taking only moments — less time than it took just before to recognize a college volleyball team.

With the outcome, at 55 votes to 33, a foregone conclusion in a state that has turned steadily to the right in recent years, two House Republican leaders spoke briefly in favor of the bill, and not a single legislator spoke against it.

 

Profiles in Courage, Mr. Wardlaw? Hardly.

“Not a single legislator.”

Wow. And after all that public outrage. It almost seems…I don’t know…phony? Lazy? What do you think? Regardless of how you answer that right now, let’s be clear: House Dems should fully expect some fallout:

Yes, we noticed. And we’ll definitely remember come primary election time, or even if you try to take credit when this thing gets overturned later on.

The Future of Arkansas Democrats

14 Aug

arkdemsbannerIt’s one thing to duke it out and lose. It’s quite another to not even put up a fight when it comes to these important congressional races.

First, Arkansas progressives found themselves wondering what the heck happened to our Forrest Gump candidate in AR-03, now we’re supposed to come to the defense of ol’ sud-sippin’ Grandpa Herb in AR-02. We sent up a school bus driver against an impressive bunch of D.C. insiders in AR-04. Thank goodness for Scott Ellington in AR-01, who at least gives us a shot of not being shutout completely this fall. Seriously, is this the best Dems here can offer? Exactly what was it that the state party did to “regroup” following the historic GOP gains in 2010? No push to recruit top-notch candidates? Are we quietly just waiting it out until President Obama is off the top of the ticket before we even try again? If not, why does it feel that way right now?

Sadly, Governor Beebe does not use his broad popularity to push anything bold or progressive, or even to really push for other Democrats down-ticket. Historically popular politicians generally try to leave their mark on history . . . but I just don’t see a reduction in the grocery tax or a landslide re-election as having a lot of staying power in the minds of future generations. If he were maintaining his spot above the fray in anticipation of a run for federal office, perhaps that approach would make sense. Otherwise, it is just a big ol’ disappointment. Perhaps the Left’s biggest guns here, Bill Halter and Dustin McDaniel, are already setting the stage for a primary bloodbath in two years. And as we saw in the Halter v. Lincoln war, spending millions to tear down each other didn’t bode well in November with so many hard feelings still lingering. As much as I personally admire Halter and his ideas, this “secrecy” he maintains to what his next moves will be make it difficult on other progressives possibly considering runs of their own or wanting to build a movement behind his populist message.

It’s beyond time for progressives here to rebrand themselves (being champions of government ethics reform and protecting the environment in the era of fracking could be winning issues to start) and start developing a roster of young talent to run for office over the next decade. While there has been some movement on this front with progressive groups forming, it must go beyond occasional email list updates or get-togethers downtown to drink and socialize. Considering that seemingly everyone just looked around with shrugged shoulders when it came time to run against Congressman Griffin and his record – from the state’s most progressive and populated region in a seat long-held by someone like Congressman Snyder – just seems to prove that apathy has indeed settled in and that Democrats are subtly just allowing the complete GOP-takeover to occur.

AR-02: Building Upon the Snyder Legacy?

13 May

You may have already passed by your office pile of this week’s Arkansas Times and noticed retiring Congressman Vic Snyder on the cover. Yes, just a few days before the (non-early) voters finally weigh in on the Race to Replace Arkansas’s True Blue Democrat, the state’s leading progressive publication has finally cast the spotlight on that “other” highly important Democratic primary battle. In AR-02, Democratic voters have a choice between keeping this seat squarely in the corner of progress and compassionate legislating or trying to “be more like them” by watering down the message and attempting to ignore big issues facing our country because of the fear of what the latest Arkansas poll may say on the matter.

Times writer Doug Smith’s Four of a Kind story is well written, and it articulates the mood of Ark Dems and the decision they’re being forced to make when they enter the voting booth:

Many followers of Arkansas politics believe chances are slim that the Second Congressional District will elect a successor of comparably leftish views. Aspirants are not lacking, however. Five Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination, and four of them resemble Snyder in political orientation. (Though, like Snyder himself, they don’t shout their liberal inclinations.) But three of these are practically unknown, with the election imminent, and the fourth is a black woman. Arkansas has never sent a black woman to Congress. The fifth Democrat is more conservative than the others, and he’s the best-financed of the bunch, the “establishment” candidate, expected by many to lead the ticket in the first primary. The two candidates in the Republican primary are, like all Republicans these days, proudly far-right. One, the favorite in that race, is a Karl Rove protege. From Vic Snyder to Karl Rove is a long drop.

Smith reiterates what we already know: House Speaker Robbie Wills has led an incumbent-style campaign and has attempted (and, somehow, largely succeeded) to get away with not answering the toughest and most potentially divisive questions during interviews and in debates. Though he flatly stated he would have voted “no” to federal healthcare reform, and despite the efforts by candidates David Boling and John Adams to hold him accountable on this stance during the three debates, Wills “These Hands” approach keeps on working somehow as he goes about dodging the issue and spinning his original answer with deliberate mistatements about how reform will affect the state’s Medicaid obligations. In our minds, local media has not done enough to contrast the differences between Wills and the rest of the field, and, instead, has almost rubber-stamped his front-runner status and “inevitable” primary victory. Just another in a long line of name-only good ol’ boy Democrats from Arkansas, if you ask us.

AR-02: Timmy! v. ???

Though the Times rolled out their rather unsurprising endorsement of liberal stalwart State Senator Joyce Elliott last week, we here at TWP have noted her perhaps-too-out-there-even-for-progressives statements in the debates as well as the elephant in the room, her electability in a general election tilt. Smith also notes Elliott’s statements, such as “fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same way” as potential problems for her in this primary and moreso in a November match-up vs. Rove-protege Timmy! Griffin or Huckster-wannabe Scott Wallace.  We do not see her as the candidate best positioned to carry on the Snyder Legacy — one of progressive views, but also with a pragmatism any legislator from this state must bring with them in order to achieve anything meaningful.

So, again we ask, who is the best choice in this field to carry on the Snyder Legacy? Surely his chief-of-staff of the past two years, right? Well, we’ve recounted David Boling’s shortcomings during this primary — most notably how his $300,000+ spent on this campaign in order to be third or fourth in the polls is perhaps one of the biggest election flops we’ve seen here in recent years — and given the fact that Snyder himself hasn’t endorsed Boling (or anyone else), perhaps voters are barking up the wrong tree with that choice. We do applaud his attempts to contrast his positions vs. Wills’, but he just hasn’t been able to connect with voters at the debates or on television.

Lil’ P.K. takes it to tha district… state… world… SOMETHING?

Ok, so we all know that there’s one hot-headed candidate more than willing to contrast himself against the others, but that candidate has offended and alienated so many people (including Jesus?) in such a short time during this primary that we honestly look for him to head back home to South Carolina with his tail between his legs at this point.  Smith notes the “anger” shown by him. It seems that Lil’ P. Kennedy is like a homeless man’s Howard Dean — has the rolled-up sleeves and foaming at the mouth down, but comes nowhere near the adept understanding of policy the former DNC Chair always shows.

Adams: Campaigning on Competence

As Smith mentions, and as more and more local progressives have seemingly started to notice in the past couple of weeks, the real “issues-driven candidate” with the palatable demeanor is Blue Hog Report’s AR-02 endorsee, John Adams. In fact, it was Adams’ performances in the three debates that forced us to think more about his campaign — one under-the-radar in some respects, but one that has been the most consistent, pragmatic, and closest to Snyder’s core values as a lawmaker. Snyder may be given the “liberal” label here, but he is hardly far left by most national standards; rather, he has brought many of the same qualities to office that Adams could bring — ideologically progressive and forward-thinking, but inoffensive and able to win in Republican-leaning election years.

Adams delivered his third straight sound debate performance at the Sticky Fingerz debate Tuesday night. While once again not receiving the local buzz generated by Wills’ rehearsed one-liners or Lil’ P.K.’s post-debate tweets, he was the candidate tackling issues, such as making our tax code fair with true reforms and acknowledging America’s status as the world’s military super power must be re-examined in the context of the world we now face where globalization and the effect of terrorism has changed the 20th Century rules we’ve been playing by.

Who’s Your Congressman? (Arkansas Times)

Most importantly, perhaps, is Adams’ potential electability in a November showdown with whoever the Repugs choose. I just hope voters will give him a second look because he could just the right person at the right time to keep the seat.

An uphill battle to get the chance? Certainly. But hard to not believe in the cause with responses like that, isn’t it?