A strong candidate for this year's Constitutional Law Quizbowl Least Valuable Player, Ballinger lands a seat on the dunce stool for filing a bill called "The Arkansas Second Amendment Liberties Safeguards Act," which would have forbidden the federal government from enforcing federal gun laws in Arkansas. While it might be easy to come to the facepalm-worthy conclusion that Ballinger (who has a law license) has never heard of the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which says federal laws take precedence over state laws, the alternative is even more disturbing: that, like a lot of far-right Republicans these days, Ballinger simply doesn't believe in the validity of the Supremacy Clause, even though it is nothing less than the glue that keeps the "United" in "The United States." As you'll no doubt recall, we fought a very bloody Civil War a while back over the issue of states rights versus federal supremacy, and the Union won. Nonetheless, similar federal power "nullification" bills have been floated in far-right legislatures all over, with Tea Party legislators proudly proclaiming they're standing up for and protecting the Constitution while busily wiping their asses with it. Luckily, Ballinger's bill failed in committee, allowing the state's political science and American history professors to slowly take their seppuku swords away from their exposed midriffs. Simultaneously, and thank the Lord, Arkansas taxpayers were spared the cost of fighting off legal challenges to yet another blatantly unconstitutional law.
What greater ding-a-ling exists in the Arkansas legislature than Nate Bell? The Mena legislator earned the moniker "the moron from Mena" thanks to his Twitter page taunt of Boston "liberals" that the marathon bombing had them quaking in their boots wishing they had guns and lots of ammo. (Twitter has not been kind to Bell: He once compared Democrats to Nazis, using a bogus quote by Hitler to do so.) Fortunately, some of Bell's ideas didn't make it into law, like requiring students who for some reason failed to get a degree to pay back their Academic Scholarship to the state. He withdrew a bill that would have made it easier for gas companies to build pipelines on property over the objection of the landowners; with oil running all over Mayflower, the timing seemed poor. To be fair, Bell was on the right side of the entire eminent domain issue, seeking to prohibit its use for private enterprise. His support of privacy rights (unless it's a woman's) makes sense. Still, he is wholly owned and operated by the Tea Party and the Koch machine (his wife has been employed by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity), and so he voted against using federal dollars to buy health insurance for a quarter-million Arkansans.
Arkansas legislators said a lot of stupid, insensitive things during the General Assembly, but it's hard to top Clemmer defending the 12-week ban on abortions she sponsored in the House: "I really believe that we are not eliminating choice at all. We're just saying after 12 weeks, the choice is over," and, appropriating a famous line from Bill Clinton, "The purpose of this bill is to make abortion safe, legal, and more rare." When she's not sponsoring bad legislation, Clemmer is a political science professor at UALR. She's clearly not stupid. With an eye on Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's Senate seat, deeply cynical might be a better description. How else to explain a political scientist who grew up in majority-black Mississippi County, but now represents majority-white Saline County not just casting a vote for a modern day poll tax (voter ID), but having the gall to take to the House well to express mock outrage that anyone might suggest the legislation was aimed at keeping people from voting? With her voice wavering, she said she found that notion "horrifying," and added that when she spoke for her abortion ban, she "did not accuse anyone in this body of wanting to kill babies." Maybe she did her graduate study on the political science of demagoguery.
Visual art, through Nov. 4, "Nature & Nurture", works by Carol Corning and Ed Pennebaker,…