Archive for Letters

Cotton’s muddy record

The best thing we have to look forward to is the certainty that we will have someone other than Tom Cotton to represent us in the 4th Congressional District. His voting record has been an embarrassment to humanity. When his record was brought up as an issue after he announced his candidacy for the Senate, he accused his opposition of slinging mud. At least we know that Tom Cotton is honest: He acknowledged what his voting record looks like.

Cotton's muddy record

The best thing we have to look forward to is the certainty that we will have someone other than Tom Cotton to represent us in the 4th Congressional District. His voting record has been an embarrassment to humanity. When his record was brought up as an issue after he announced his candidacy for the Senate, he accused his opposition of slinging mud. At least we know that Tom Cotton is honest: He acknowledged what his voting record looks like.

Cotton voted against the Farm Bill, which everyone knows is vital to Arkansas. Why? Because it still contained food stamp appropriations! Contrary to popular belief, more whites receive food stamps than blacks. Single mothers and children are the primary recipients. Proper nutrition is essential for the development of the mind and body. A well-nourished child is more likely to become a well-educated student and a productive adult. Since Cotton is Harvard-educated, we should not allow him to claim ignorance on any of this.

It would be admirable if Cotton were seeking ways to make food stamps less necessary. Does he support efforts to get Walmart, McDonalds, etc. to pay employees a living wage? Does he support the meager increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour? (Even though that's much better than $7.25 an hour, ask yourself whether that's enough to pay your bills.) Does he support putting millions of unemployed workers back to work by creating well-paying jobs to improve America's crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, parks and electrical grid? (The construction of Interstate 69 across South Arkansas is still unfunded!) No. It seems that he just doesn't care.

Cotton agrees with many Arkansans that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has to be repealed. It appears to be a vote-getter to have the callous belief that in the U.S. only those wealthy enough or lucky enough to have a job that provides health benefits should be able to get insurance. However, by the end of this year, millions of people will have signed up for policies they couldn't afford before. Also, in states like Arkansas that expanded Medicaid coverage, hundreds of thousands have coverage who otherwise would be without (like those unfortunate enough to live in the wrong states). Are we really going to just take away their insurance?

Does Cotton want to replace the ACA with something better? Is he recommending universal health care: Medicare for everyone? Medicare is already fully operational, it works fine, and it's less expensive. (Many of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 have never forgiven him for not fighting for universal Medicare. Instead, President Obama immediately opted for the Republican plan proposed by the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation.) No. Cotton has actually voted to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 70, privatize it, and turn it into a voucher system! That's a not-too-subtle method to destroy it altogether.

The Republican contribution to the ACA was the requirement mandate and the use of private (for-profit) insurance companies. It's doubtful Cotton and his Fox-Republican-Tea Party colleagues would really get rid of either of these. They both benefit the insurance companies. Remember, the Republicans asked Mr. Obama to delay the employer mandate for one more year; he agreed to their request; they've now filed suit against him for doing what they asked! So they obviously support the mandate. Don't you just love them?

There are ACA provisions Cotton and company would likely get rid of in any replacement program. They would be the Democratic contributions in the ACA that benefit the people rather than the companies. Do you really want to say goodbye to these: 1. You can't be kicked off your policy if you get sick. 2. You can't be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition; 3. Women can't be charged more than men. 4. If unable to get a job with health coverage, your son or daughter can stay on your policy until age 26. 5. The elderly can't be charged more than three times what is charged to younger policy holders. 6. The donut hole (the time when there is a gap before being covered again) in seniors' Medicare drug programs is being closed. 7. No more than 20 percent of your premiums can go to overhead, profits and CEO salaries.

One of the most shameful votes by Cotton was his opposition for relief aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Here in Arkansas, we have our fair share of natural disasters: tornadoes, droughts and floods. When we need federal aid, we need to have a representative in Washington with the credibility to ask his colleagues for support. Tom Cotton doesn't qualify. I don't recall his ever claiming to be a "compassionate conservative," which seems to be an oxymoron anyway, but we need a representative who is capable of showing empathy to those in need.

Cotton insists he votes according to his principles. I respect anyone with principles that make sense. But his anarchistic principle of opposing government of, by and for the people but favoring corporate rule is not a principle that I admire. I find deplorable his sociopathic principle of doing everything he can to help his corporate benefactors while sacrificing the rest of us. Nor can I find any redeeming value in his dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself principle. Cotton's muddy voting record stands on its own.

David Offutt

El Dorado

From the web

In response to "The story of Jimmy Doyle's Country Club" (Oct. 16):

Really enjoyed reading this. I used to come out there and danced all night. I'm so ready to come back and see if this old body can still party.

Yvonne Ware

I enjoyed reading the story. I have been a member of Jimmy Doyle's Country Club for about 21 years now and even though the crowd has gotten smaller, it is still my home away from home.

Angela Sweatt

I was one of the regular guys there always dancing, always had pretty women at my table. Guess maybe I was good two-stepper, don't know, maybe I was just a good-looking guy. Wish those days were back. Now I can hardly walk, but I would not do it any other way. Hope it never changes and stays open for a 100 more years.

John Franklin Studdard

Boy, did I ever exercise some poor judgment at JD's 30-something years ago.

Paul Covert

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Arkansas following Kansas over cliff

This has been an especially informative political season, but the most significant revelation comes from the state of Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts and his buddy Sam Brownback have built a Republican empire that has brought the state of Kansas to its knees.

Arkansas following Kansas over cliff

This has been an especially informative political season, but the most significant revelation comes from the state of Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts and his buddy Sam Brownback have built a Republican empire that has brought the state of Kansas to its knees.

To make the long horror story short, Sam Brownback took over as governor in 2011, instituted the perfect Republican reforms to "stimulate" the Kansas economy, and, naturally, these Republican reforms have crippled the state of Kansas.

Arkansas is about to do the same. If Arkansas continues to elect Republicans, our state will wind up just like Kansas, and we know it.

But, red state Arkansans are truly the same as the proverbial lemmings that follow their leaders right off the cliff. Wiser folks can stand and say, "Look, Arkansas! There goes Kansas right off the cliff," but the average Arkansas voter has already chosen the way of Kansas, and no one can convince a lemming to change direction.

The halcyon days of Democratic leadership in Arkansas will soon be over. It is time to accept the Kansas-style demise of the Natural State in the hands of Republicans. Over you go, Arkansas.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog post about National Education Association ad criticizing Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton for his vote against the student loan program:

Is Tom Cotton running against Michael Bloomberg, President Obama or David Pryor? I've heard commercials indicating Bloomberg's radical idea of background checks for people purchasing guns is infringing on my 2nd amendment rights. Since I'm not a felon, stalker or spousal abuser I don't feel like it does. Maybe it's a good idea to try and keep weapons out of criminals', spousal abusers' and the mentally incompetents' hands. Just saying. Or is Tom Cotton running against President Obama? I hear TC say about every 10 seconds that ACA is bad even though it seems to provide healthcare and make nearly everyone pay something towards the cost. Why is healthcare a bad thing again?  Mark Pryor seems like the best guess as he seems to be linked to both Obama and Bloomberg frequently. If only Mark were as charismatic as those two he could smash the softball that is Tom Cotton out of the park.  Come on Mark (and all other D candidates), ACA makes most pay something towards their own healthcare. Surely in the age of Ebola we can all agree on the need for health care. Our founding fathers thought of it in Article 1, Section 8 of the constitution that put healthcare (general welfare) on the same footing as national defense. Come on Mark, uphold the Constitution.

Quid pro quo

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on the AETN debates between Senate candidates Rep. Tom Cotton and Sen. Mark Pryor and between 2nd District Congress candidates French Hill and Pat Hays:

Running against Prez Oblackula is a tired easy route for the ditto heads. Far more difficult if you run against Hays. Pat said he would not have voted for the Affordable Care Act if he were in Congress. Kinda hard to keep trying to tag him to Prez muslimkenyan. I suspect, folks like me in the middle liked the calm, upbeat, hopeful and collaborative approach from NLR versus the turdblossum backwash from the LRCC.

Yapper John

Just watched the Hays-Hill debate. I don't want to say that Hill is desperate necessarily, but when he tries to link Mayor Hays to the president, it just comes off as too great of a stretch. Hill tries to say he understands real people and talks about how he supports public schools, etc. Don't his kids go to private school? Isn't he a Country Clubber? I mean, what does he have in common with regular folks? French Hill has more in common with Milton Drysdale than he does with the Man on the Street.

Poison Apple

A few folks kept a count, during the AETN debate today: Cotton referenced "Obama" 74 times. A friend did the math and it comes out to once every 14 seconds in the time that he spoke. Textbook case of "Obama Derangement Syndrome."

elwood

In response to Benjamin Hardy's cover story "Family vs. institutional care in Arkansas" (Oct. 9):

This article is disgusting! People in the human development centers are not "forced" into institutions. They are not there as a last resort. The resident is in their "home" (should not be called an institution), because that is the best residential "choice" for the individual. Each resident has a legal guardian who makes the proper choice for that individual for the most appropriate place to live. DO NOT EVER JUDGE THE GUARDIAN FOR THEIR CHOICE. You do not know what the circumstances are for each individual and you should not judge them for their choice.

HappyHomeforKim

HappyHomeForKim, no one is arguing against the placement that you chose for your daughter. The point made by the families like the Dodsons (almost 3,000 of them) is that they want their son to remain at home with his family and friends. That's what I want for my son, too. As far as the cost is concerned, I believe Mr. Hardy interviewed representatives of DHS who stated that Medicaid expenditures are higher for care in an institution than care in the community. Individuals with disabilities and their families should have a right to choose between supports in the community or care in an HDC, but at this time they aren't afforded that choice. Not having another option does, in fact, force some families like the Dodsons to place their child in an HDC.

Diana DeClerk Varady

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Decriminalize drugs

Arkansas is about to make a costly mistake. Its citizens seem willing to spend $100 million to build a new prison. For whom are they building that prison? A high percentage of the prisoners will be young black male nonviolent drug offenders. Black males now have a 30 percent chance of going to prison.

Decriminalize drugs

Arkansas is about to make a costly mistake. Its citizens seem willing to spend $100 million to build a new prison. For whom are they building that prison? A high percentage of the prisoners will be young black male nonviolent drug offenders. Black males now have a 30 percent chance of going to prison. Is there anyone who thinks the new prison will end drug abuse in Arkansas? Has anyone thought of the consequences of incarcerating so many young drug offenders? $100 million is an unthinkable amount. However, that is the direct cost. Considerably more than $100 million will be spent to keep people in prison for years. The average cost for one year is around $30,000. The taxpayer never stops paying for a prison.

What happens when inmates leave prison? A more important question is what happens to these young people inside the prison? They learn to be criminals. When they come out they have no credit, no job and they cannot vote. At most, they might be able to get a minimum-wage job. With the misery inherent for an adult trying to live on minimum wage or, more likely, unable to get a job what is the possibility they will use the criminal skills learned in prison to survive? When ex-prisoners get to retirement age, they might get a minimum Social Security payment and certainly no retirement plan money. There is no end to their misery.

Our taxes create better criminals. When released and unable to survive under impossible conditions, many end up back in prison. In 2010, almost half the released prisoners were returned to prison. Instead of spending $100 million on a prison, we use money to rehabilitate nonviolent drug offenders. Once rehabilitated, we should help them get jobs with livable wages. For the small number (about 1.3 percent) unable to be rehabilitated, we should provide safe, affordable housing and some means to earn as much of their support as they are able to do. In simple terms, provide hope instead of depressive hopelessness.

Look at Colorado and Washington. They legalized marijuana. The police no longer chase after marijuana crimes. They now have time to investigate murder, rape, robbery and property crimes. Decriminalized drug states make millions from taxation of marijuana. The drug is controlled and regulated by the state. All the illegal activity surrounding marijuana went away with legalization. The citizens of Colorado and Washington benefit from marijuana instead of spending excessive amounts of money fighting a war against the plant that cannot be won.

Rather than build new prisons, Arkansas should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington. The governor should appoint a group of legislators to construct an amendment to legalize marijuana. We have the successful amendments of Colorado and Washington as models. As soon as the amendment is written and approved, it should be brought to the public for a vote. Further, the governor should free every nonviolent drug offender in prison covered by the amendment. Doing this would provide prison space and make building another prison unnecessary.

Arkansas should follow the results of decriminalized marijuana closely so that they can make a wise decision on decriminalizing other drugs. There should be many public discussions about regulation and control of drugs. That is to be expected. Eventually, we could be in the position of regulating and controlling all drug sales. The drug cartels, criminals and gangs will no longer control the production and selling of drugs. Besides eliminating the criminal element, government control of drugs will make them safe for the user. The state will benefit from taxation of drugs.

Ending prohibition of drugs is not a panacea. Drug problems will continue. We should fight drug addiction, just as we have fought tobacco addiction with sane regulations, good education, taxation, age restrictions, limits on usage, and clinics to help the addicted. Decriminalization will put the afflicted into the position of controlling their addiction rather than risking imprisonment to get their next high. Decriminalization cripples the cartels and gangs, reduces street crime, and that makes Arkansas a safer, more enjoyable place to live.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

Social Security's future

Most Arkansans I have talked to believe their grandchildren will receive little or no Social Security in the future. This is puzzling because just 14 years ago, Social Security was in its heyday. Our federal government had a budget surplus and so did Social Security. Did George W. Bush spend all that surplus and more?

Arkansans today are probably correct. Social Security may not be available in the future, mainly because most Arkansas politicians today are fundamentally opposed to socialistic government programs, and Social Security is the great white whale of government socialism in America.

As Arkansans have resisted Obamacare, our state could also reject Social Security. Conceivably, if our right-wing legislators could prohibit all Arkansas banks from processing Social Security payments, leaving such processes to the federal bank and outside state banks that allowed government socialism. Of course, this would ruin the Natural State's economy and send hordes of Arkansans clamoring to other states, but this would be a glorious victory against government socialism. This would be just one of the great sacrifices Arkansans would need to make in order to save our grandchildren from socialism.

Remember when George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security? Today's crop of Arkansas politicians think like Bush. They are fundamentally against the principles behind Social Security and may continue to strive to make Social Security un-socialistic and insecure.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

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Cotton Land

Gene Lyons' beautiful piece on Tom Cotton ("Government dollars matter," Oct. 2) inspired me to write this ditty.

Cotton Land

Gene Lyons' beautiful piece on Tom Cotton ("Government dollars matter," Oct. 2) inspired me to write this ditty:

"Cotton Land"

Oh, I fear to live in the Land of Cotton,

ALEC rules and truth's forgotten.

Look away, look away, turn away Workin' Man.

In Cotton Land it's hard on women

Under paid and always scrimpin'

Look away, look away, turn away Workin' Man.

I wish my leaders heard me and cared today

For people's needs not corporate greed

We long to see a just way.

Some how, some way, the truth will set us free.

Some how, some day, the truth will set us free.

Joyce Hale

Fayetteville

What a Republican takeover looks like

The mid-term elections are coming up in early November, and the consensus is that the voters will choose to continue the tragic gridlock in Washington. President Harry Truman campaigned in 1948 against the "good-for-nothing, do-nothing 80th Congress." Then, he was referring to the first Republican Congress since the Great Depression and World War II. But if he were here today, "Give 'em Hell" Harry would have another field day with the Republicans in the 113th Congress who have been obstructing just about everything.

The Fox-Republican-Tea Party majority in the House wasted so much time pretending to repeal Obamacare that it had little or no time to deal with real issues: the minimum wage, carbon emissions, violent crime, etc. Even though they received a million fewer votes in 2012 than the Democrats, they had 22 more seats in the House instead of 14 fewer — partly because of safe and carefully drawn districts. The Republican majority represents only a minority of the voters, and the deplorable results speak for themselves. That's unlikely to change.

Thanks to new 2013 rules in the Senate that prevent the filibuster from being used against federal judiciary and executive agency nominees, it is no longer necessary to get 60 votes of the 100 senators to debate and vote on the president's appointees. The Senate Republican minority abused the filibuster to the point that the Senate became a joke and the judicial and executive branches were understaffed. And, don't forget that a Republican Senate majority will never approve any Democratic presidential appointee whom they fear will try to do a good job — he or she will never get out of committee to come to a vote.

However, the filibuster can still be used against legislative bills, so Senate Republicans still join their colleagues in the House and continue to sabotage the usefulness of their own legislative branch. If the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, they and the House will be able to actually pass bills to send to the president to sign. Unfortunately, they will squander their tax-paid salaries by passing bills intended to turn the clock back — ultimately to the 19th century's Gilded Age: before the Affordable Care Act, before Roe v. Wade, before Medicare and Medicaid, before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, before FDR's New Deal and Social Security, and before TR's Square Deal and conservation legacy. That means that the president will have to waste his time vetoing bills that should never have been introduced.

One of the targets of a Republican majority will be "intrusive government," which sounds good unless you know what they are really talking about. They support "intrusive government" into our private lives, like women's reproductive rights and same-sex marriage — they know how everyone else should live their lives and want to make their beliefs the law. The "intrusive government" they oppose is the regulatory and enforcement functions of the executive branch.

They object to any intrusions that cut into the profits of their benefactors and mentors, like the Koch brothers and the Club for Growth. David and Charles Koch are spending a lot of money on right-wing extremists and are trying to turn the U.S. Congress and as many states as possible into subsidiaries of Koch Industries of Wichita. They seem to be doing a pretty good job at it. They just about have Arkansas in their bag. When Obama took office, these guys were worth about $20 billion each. Now they are worth about $50 billion each. You have to wonder why they hate Obama so much.

The Club for Growth is an anti-government (anarchistic) group that finances like-thinking politicians. Rep. Tom Cotton in the 4th District is their poster boy, and he's running for Democrat Mark Pryor's Senate seat. Mike Huckabee called that organization the "Club for Greed" because it condemned him for his two finest achievements as Arkansas's governor: the children's health program ARKids and the restoration of Arkansas's interstate highways, which truckers had voted the worst in the nation. He's never forgiven them for that, but otherwise he thinks the same as they do.

A Republican majority will step up its assault on "intrusive government" by demanding further spending cuts. This is a major way to castrate federal agencies. The real purpose is to reduce the likelihood that businesses and corporations will be inspected and fined for any violations, so they can relax or ignore necessary regulations and increase their profits. This leads to several negative domino effects: (1) Public servants are laid off, decreasing the agencies' effectiveness and increasing unemployment rolls, probably requiring unemployment insurance payments and food stamps; (2) Workers are more likely to face unsafe and unfair working conditions; (3) Consumers will be even more likely to purchase uninspected food, drugs, automobiles and other products, and (4) All of us will see a decline in air and water quality and further deterioration of our highways and bridges.

According to the polls on the 2014 elections, there is no reason to hope that the Washington situation will get better. It looks like the gridlock will either stay bad, or, if the Fox-Republican-Tea Party gets official control of the Senate, it will get even worse. We deserve better than a sociopathic Congress that only represents the 1 percent plutocracy at the expense of the rest of us. Don't stay home on Election Day unless you truly don't care.

David Offutt

El Dorado

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Suggs at Parkview

Recently, Dr. Dexter Suggs, Little Rock School District superintendent, made a very bizarre appearance at Parkview High School. All Parkview seniors, including myself, were instructed to go to the auditorium where the superintendent led an assembly that quickly spiraled out of control.

Suggs at Parkview

Recently, Dr. Dexter Suggs, Little Rock School District superintendent, made a very bizarre appearance at Parkview High School. All Parkview seniors, including myself, were instructed to go to the auditorium where the superintendent led an assembly that quickly spiraled out of control. After instructing all teachers to leave us alone, Suggs gave us a vague lecture about picking our future path. It wasn't until I left that I began to feel as if the assembly had been a strange kind of political theater. Suggs seemed very ill-informed about the college process or about high school in general. He did not understand teenagers and behaved more like a politician than an educator. He often averted our questions, only repeating over and over again the same mantra about setting life goals. When one student mentioned that he felt stressed, the superintendent changed the subject and conversationally asked, "How could a teenager be stressed, I mean you don't pay bills?" to which the entire class erupted in frustration.

Suggs seemed in over his head throughout the entire rest of the assembly as many students rose to tell serious stories about the stress they have in their lives. Eventually, students became angry and talked over one another. In what appeared to be desperation Suggs told the group his email address in case we needed anything. He later randomly promised to take the entire senior class out to lunch. Suggs' appearance at Parkview felt more like the assembly in "Mean Girls" than the motivational talk that had been intended. Most of us left confused and annoyed that we had used our class time for his talk. Suggs seemed very overwhelmed by his position. We were much taken aback by the superintendent, who we felt was merely using us to fulfill his own agenda.

Josie Efird

Little Rock

Race conflicts with Jewish holy day

I was greatly disappointed to learn that the Komen Race for the Cure is scheduled on Oct. 4, in direct conflict with Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish members of our community. It is the Day of Atonement, observed from sundown, Oct. 3, to sundown, Oct. 4. There is no way the Komen Foundation could not have known as it is listed on every calendar, including those on smart phones and tablets. Scheduling the Race for the Cure on that day deprives Jewish women, many of whom have supported the Foundation and the race itself since its inception, of the opportunity to participate in race activities. It is especially cruel to those Jewish women who are survivors or who have lost loved ones to disease. This is wrong. Other organization planners have scheduled the dates of their events so as not to be in conflict with Yom Kippur out of respect for these members of our community. As a human being, and a strong supporter of the race, I find the Oct. 4 date at the very least insensitive. In response to inquiries, you state great attention was given to avoiding conflict with Razorback games. Really? Can this affront be more offensive? I think not.

Mary Healey

Little Rock

From the web

In response to "The 40th anniversary of the Arkansas Times" (Sept. 18):

I am forever grateful to Alan Leveritt for starting the Arkansas Times. Where would we be as a state today without this rare media company? We'd be worse off, for sure. The Arkansas Times has improved our state in a unique way, and we are fortunate to have this business operating here. It is quite possible that it could survive for another 40 years, and I hope that happens.

radical centrist

In response to Gene Lyons' Sept. 18 column "Reality sinks in: No answers in Middle East":

There were plenty of options, but this president played politics rather than Commander in Chief. Now he has created a situation that was worse for his incompetent handling.

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum is right that we should not have left. One of Obama's generals told the president that leaving Iraq completely on its own would have consequences. Obama wasn't worried about consequences, he was worried about politics. Now it is more difficult to go back.

Several other Arab nations have made ISIL a priority, but ISIL is not a local problem. They held strategic territory, and are still holding towns. It isn't over by a long shot. Add to that the fact that Obama is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into a situation where he cannot even get a proper coalition going spells more disaster for Barry the Bungler.

StevenE

About Max Brantley's Arkansas Blog post, "Reviewing the Ross-Hutchinson gubernatorial debate":

View from afar: So, pretty much the same proud God, Guns, Gays visionary leadership that's kept The Natural State neck-and-neck with Mississippi for last place since, oh, forever. That about it?

Norma Bates

The Republican Twitter machine is working to create a narrative that Ross was angry and frothing at the mouth while Asa! was measured and steady. I'm not sure which debate they watched last night — maybe they confused Kansas with Arkansas. Ross was superior on substance. I would prefer to see him relax a bit but he was nowhere close to angry or over-amped. I prefer substance over a guy that smiles a lot and can't articulate a clear position on pre-K, private option and the minimum wage. Don't be sucked in by the Asa grin and cute ads; he's still the out-of-touch, hypocritical guy he's always been.

killingmesoftly

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Another dubious little war

Have you been hearing a hollow clanging in the middle of the night? Faint, but growing louder in that gathering twilight before the fitful dreams of midnight's slumber?

Another dubious little war

Have you been hearing a hollow clanging in the middle of the night? Faint, but growing louder in that gathering twilight before the fitful dreams of midnight's slumber? Could it be the sound of the dark lord himself, Darth Cheney, frenzied with blood lust, beating his bionic breast like a reborn King-Kong as the indelicate stench of unrequited war teases his flared nostrils?

It's back to golden Babylon, boys! Black gold, that is. Bubbling crude and Blackwater mercenaries. Halliburton. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where our grand inquisitors and their neocon apologists once peddled tortured euphemisms for the enhanced terrible things we did to those ungrateful Muslim wretches.

We are furiously revving up for yet another dubious little war. To ape the memorable mediocrity of Saint Ronald of Hollywood, here we go again. A chorus of screeching castrati is giddy at the prospect of a new, unholy crusade to the so-called holy land. Even our reluctant president is seduced by the siren call of the same "I told you so" liars of the last administration, warmongering ghouls urging him to reclaim lost machismo with his very own misadventure in the minefields of the Middle East.

Have we learned nothing since that blue-sky day in September 13 long years ago? Are we still so easily terrorized by some really bad guys on the other side of the world, who butcher humans and share their butchery online? Are we so much like frightened sheep that we will eagerly shed a decade of war weariness and once again send our legions off to kill and die in some faraway, forsaken place?

Perhaps we need some perspective on the (un)Islamic State's admittedly gruesome tactic. Remember the Tower of London? The last beheading there was in 1747. The Swedes finally quit beheading in 1890. The Germans were chopping off heads as late as 1935. The French used Dr. Guillotin's invention right up to 1977. And, of course, our dear friends in Saudi Arabia still do it for all sorts of crimes, including apostasy and sorcery.

Even we civilized Americans, once upon a time before we managed to pry church and state apart (ever so slightly), had a penchant for calling people witches and burning them alive. But that was us then and this is them now. If nothing else, we Americans are very tolerant of our own double standards. It's all part of being exceptional. God will be on our side, unless she's not and Matthew 5:9 is just a bunch of hokum.

Have you heard that distant clanging in the middle of the night, from deep within our restless national nightmare of unanticipated consequences? We have sown the wind. What will we now reap in the harvest to come? In 1940, Ernest Hemingway famously borrowed a line from a 1624 poem by John Donne. "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Ding. Ding. Ding.

John Ragland

Hot Springs

No representation

I am not an ideologue aligned with either party. I study the facts on each public policy issue and make up my mind as to the best solution. Sometimes that is a "liberal" position, sometimes that is a "conservative" position, more often it is neither. Also more often than either party would like one to believe the two parties' positions on issues are nearly indistinguishable.

One of the larger problems facing the state of Arkansas is prison overcrowding. One obvious policy that would help to alleviate this problem would be to decriminalize/legalize marijuana. I would rather see one violent criminal in jail than 1,000 marijuana offenders. Tell me which candidate for governor or, for that matter, the federal candidates for Senate support this or, for that matter, even mention this? I am also a colon cancer survivor who would like medicinal marijuana available as a choice to me, especially given studies showing it can have a chemo-preventive effect (prevents recurrence). Who represents me?

I am an atheist and don't want my politicians making policy decisions based on an imaginary man in the sky. Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor told Bill Maher in his movie "Religulous" that he could believe in Young Earth Creationism, which is demonstrably and factually impossible. The Republican candidate for governor is a graduate of Bob Jones University and presumably is also a Young Earth Creationist, as that is a tenet of their teaching. After a Tom Cotton comment during the campaign, he and Pryor spent the better part of two weeks essentially arguing over who is more religious — it made me want to lose my lunch. Who represents me?

One of the things that most concerns me is the unprecedented dismantling of the Fourth Amendment that began with the war on drugs and has accelerated with the war on terror. The Edward Snowden disclosures are shocking, yet I have not heard either candidate for the Senate pontificating on the need to rein in this surveillance. In fact I am quite certain both are just fine with it. Who represents me?

I am 53 years old and the United States has been at war for just about my entire life. We spend more than the next 12 countries combined on defense and most of those countries are our allies, but neither senatorial candidate calls for significant military spending cuts. Who represents me?

Our seeming need to control the internal affairs of other countries never fails to backfire (Iran, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan to name a few) but never seems to abate ,either. As of today both parties are rushing to support more military action in the Mideast against ISIS — because, you know, you can kill an ideology with bombs. Neither party dares state that the underlying problem is Muslim fundamentalism, too politically incorrect and may cause a tougher look at Christian fundamentalism in our midst. Mark Pryor is a member of "The Family," an organization that was instrumental in pushing the Ugandan law that called for the death penalty for homosexuals. Who represents me?

Dan McLaughlin

Little Rock

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Left out

I was disappointed to see I was not included in the "Visionary" issue [Aug. 28]. I think I should have gotten in on the merit of my idea for Little Rock to sponsor the first-ever Cold War Re-enactment.

Left out

I was disappointed to see I was not included in the "Visionary" issue [Aug. 28]. I think I should have gotten in on the merit of my idea for Little Rock to sponsor the first-ever Cold War Re-enactment. As you recall, the events were to include:

1.) John and Jackie Kennedy look-a-like contests.

2.) A good old-fashion McCarthy era book burning and weinie roast along with a fallout shelter cook-off (everything must be made from year-old canned goods).

3.) Musical desks (like musical chairs but with children ducking under old school desks when the air-raid siren sounds).

4.) Bay of Pigs BBQ cook off.

5.) Fallout shelter sports competition to include solitaire marathon, recreational sleeping and competitive hair loss.

6.) Whittaker Chambers pumpkin-carving contest.

The celebration will end with the Berlin Wall Ball. Half the hall will be brightly decorated and abundantly supplied with food and drink while the other half will be in black-and-white and serve only vodka and cabbage. On the black-and-white side, careful notations will be taken of who talks to whom and who does not eat the cabbage. Entertainment will be supplied by the percussion stylings of the Nikita Khrushchev Shoe Band, U2 and a Vaughn Meader impersonator.

David Rose

Hot Springs

Long gone

It is now official: The old Southern concept of sportsmanship and fair play is now officially dead at the University of Arkansas. The announcement appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Sept. 2) when it was reported that the head football coach encourages his players to "go after" injured opponents. He is referring to boys just out of their teens. Many will carry their football injuries with them the rest of their lives. No doubt that tactic has always been part of the game, but to hear the coach who represents our state openly promote it was stunning and sad.

Steve Scott

Maumelle

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog item about a convicted murderer posting a photograph of himself on Facebook from the Varner Unit:

The Department of Correction is inept and it is a wonder worse has not happened. They are still looking for the murderer who escaped from a Pine Bluff unit, and the rumor is he was having a consensual affair with the daughter of the high prison official where he was the "houseboy." The father found out and the felon mysteriously escaped, then disappeared. They usually surface in a few weeks after robbing a place, but not this one.

LaTasha DeShay

In response to an item on the Arkansas Blog about Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's advertisements of his office on Razorback radio broadcasts and the Razorback website:

That's an interesting racket. I guess the attorney general's office has got money to burn. It would be interesting to see the Google Analytics reports from gotyourbackarkansas.org, especially the referrer stats, and calculate the cost per consumer complaint filed via the ads. It might be comparable to the old SAWER program from back in the '70s, when the state was spending $5,750 per cord of wood.

Radical centrist

In response to the Arkansas Blog's report that Rep. Tom Cotton has reversed his position and now supported an increase in the minimum wage:

Tom Cotton is something else. He currently has an ad with his mother on the air where he tells a bald-face lie about how he never has or never would do anything to harm Medicare or Social Security. I guess he is too ashamed to tell his mother about his votes in Congress that run just the opposite to everything he said in his latest ad. Really folks, if he will lie to his own mama, he will lie to all of us!  And his poor mother! I am sure she is a fine woman, but here Tom goes and drags her into yet another ad, in an effort to use her and make her an accomplice in the perpetration of his own lies. He should be ashamed of himself for using his mother to help spread his lies. How many more ads is he going to roll his parents out in? It's probably because they are so much more likable than him, he will continue to do so. I guess it is true that parents will do just about anything for their kids.

Poison Apple

Seeks support for Huntington's parity act

I am writing to strongly urge my U.S. representative to cosponsor the Huntington's Disease Parity Act of 2013 (H.R. 1015) and to ask my senators to co-sponsor the Senate companion, S. 723. If passed, the Huntington's Disease Parity Act would make it easier for people with HD to receive Social Security Disability and Medicare benefits.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a hereditary, degenerative brain disorder for which there is, at present, no effective treatment or cure. HD slowly diminishes an individual's ability to walk, talk and reason. Eventually, every person with HD becomes totally dependent upon others for his or her care. HD profoundly affects the lives of entire families — emotionally, socially and economically.

By co-sponsoring the Huntington's Disease Parity Act of 2013, members of Congress can show their support not only for this family, but the nearly 1 million Americans who are touched by this terrible disease.

Misty Sullivan

Warren

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Route non-locals around city

Across America, city after city has spent millions of dollars expanding interstate highways through their midsections only to discover that they quickly become recongested.

Route non-locals around city

Across America, city after city has spent millions of dollars expanding interstate highways through their midsections only to discover that they quickly become recongested. We need only look at our nation's capital or Los Angeles to see the folly of this approach. By and large, people recognize and accept congestion in downtown areas. It's simply not realistic to expect that travel through downtown will not be slowed during rush-hour traffic. That being the case, does it really make sense to add more lanes to I-30 downtown? Isn't that just throwing more fuel on the fire? The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department tells us that over 40 percent of the traffic on I-30 between I-530 and I-40 is destined elsewhere. To reduce this load, why not simply: 1) relabel this section of I-30 as a U.S. highway only; and 2) redesignate I-430 as I-30W and I-440 as I-30E? Locals would continue using the relabeled, existing I-30 segment, but interstate-loving nonlocals would be effectively redirected to these less-traveled and more-modern interstate segments. If, for whatever reason, lanes are added to this existing I-30 segment, double-deck them and make the new lanes for through-traffic only. Avoid duplicating the horrible mistake of I-35 in downtown Austin.

Dale Pekar

Little Rock

Pulmonary fibrosis awareness

I have pulmonary fibrosis as do 100,000 other people in the U.S. Forty-thousand new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Forty-thousand people die each year from IPF. There are no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of it. The death rate is 100 percent usually within 3-5 years after diagnosis. Right now I am stable and trying to cope with my future. The FDA originally requested more tests for a drug in 2010 that shows promise for slowing the progression of PF and may finally get approval as well as another drug in early 2015. Even though this disease is widespread and fatal, very few know about it. September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month. Join us in our fight. While these other diseases are terrible and I pray for those suffering, here are few comparisons:

ALS: More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis. About 20 percent of people with ALS live five years or more and up to 10 percent will survive more than 10 years and 5 percent will live 20 years. A total of 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.

Breast cancer: Approximately 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 39,620 breast cancer deaths are expected to occur among U.S. women in 2013. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 have slightly poorer prognoses than older women: Their five-year survival rate is about 82 percent, compared with 85 percent among women ages 40 to 74, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ebola: There have been more than 3,700 reported human cases and more than 2,300 deaths since the discovery of Ebola in 1976. Ebola has a mortality rate between 60 percent and 96 percent. While Ebola, the deadly disease spreading through parts of West Africa, has no cure, specific treatment or vaccine, there are several experimental drugs being tested in U.S. labs. Now the FDA has lifted its hold on one of those drugs. The current outbreak is not included in the figures, which to date has killed over 1,500.

Paul D. Lawson

Little Rock

From the web

In response to the feature on lawyer and petition drive supporter David Couch in the Aug. 28 cover story, "Visionaries":

My hat is off to David Couch. I moved to Illinois and it disgusts me that Illinois does not allow binding resolutions to be put on the ballot. I hope I am remembering/understanding correctly. Example: A group can collect signatures to put an issue on the ballot and even if 60 percent or say 80 percent of the people approved the issue, the Illinois legislature doesn't have to enforce the new law. This is great for issues like, say, gay marriage if the people DON'T want it, the legislature can pass same-sex marriage anyway. On the issue of, say, raising the minimum wage, allowing recreational marijuana, etc. ... it's not such a great idea. The people are at the mercy of crooked/corrupt legislators. I'm proud of my home state of Arkansas in many ways. No state is perfect, though.  Wishing my home state the absolute best and I will forever consider Arkansas home.

SocialistArkie

In response to Benjamin Hardy's report on the legislative hearing on merging teacher and state employee insurance, Arkansas Blog, Aug. 26:

Let's keep in mind that the teacher health insurance cost problem is due to four serious medical [claims] hitting at the same time, adding costs of $10 million in a single year, stripping all annual funds plus reserves for two years. That can happen to any insurance company, e.g., Tropical Storm Sandy, but even the largest public insurance company uses reinsurance with places like Lloyd's of London to cover themselves in the event of extremely unusual claims. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but when you have that "special" year with high claims, it keeps the firms solvent. Apparently the state either doesn't do that or underestimates the possible costs. The same phenomena could have hit the state program but since they pay a smaller percentage of the program's costs, they don't see the ups and downs so much.

couldn't be better

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Remembering Howard Baker

Howard Baker died in late June. The former Tennessee senator was one of the last moderate conservatives in the Republican Party.

To the Editor:

Remembering Howard Baker

Howard Baker died in late June. The former Tennessee senator was one of the last moderate conservatives in the Republican Party. He is best remembered as the co-chair of the Senate Watergate Committee (1973-74) who asked about his fellow Republican Richard Nixon: "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" He became known as the "great conciliator" and, as Senate minority leader (1977-81), helped Jimmy Carter get ratification of the extremely important Panama Canal treaties. Majority leader in 1981-85, he retired in 1985 before his party finished its purge of people like him who actually believed in public service.

I wish he were equally remembered for helping us get through the last two years of the Reagan administration, which had virtually collapsed during the Iran-Contra affair (a scandal that appeared to be more constitutionally serious than Watergate). He gave up a possible bid for the presidency to become Reagan's White House Chief of State and restored order out of criminality and incompetence. He never wrote a tell-all about the mess he inherited and never took personal credit for his actions. He always gave the clueless, but appreciative, Reagan credit for everything.

Because I lived in eastern Arkansas in 1972 and 1978 when Baker was campaigning for re-election to the Senate, much of my television news came from stations in Memphis. I recall a TV ad in which he told a group of senior citizens that as long as he was in Congress they would never have to worry about losing their Social Security or Medicare benefits. Can you imagine any Republican saying that today? It would be a political kiss of death.

In stark contrast to Howard Baker, who led a loyal opposition, Eric Cantor rose to power as the House Republican majority leader using strictly extreme partisanship. Since 2010, he worked tirelessly to prevent the House of Representatives from ever taking constructive action on anything that might solve any of our numerous problems: high unemployment, low wages, our deteriorating infrastructure, domestic violence, et al. Although extremely influential, he was practically anonymous. A few years ago, he was the answer to a clue on TV's "Jeopardy." The contestants on that show are always knowledgeable people, but not one of the three knew who Cantor was.

Ironically, Cantor was considered to be the Tea Party's heir apparent to the inept John Boehner as Speaker of the House. But Cantor had the same flaw as Boehner — as perceived by the Fox/Tea Party wing. They each have had moments when they remembered that they really should help govern rather than sabotage the country — like when the debt ceiling needs to be raised to allow the U.S. to pay its debts and prevent our becoming a failed, deadbeat nation. So Cantor wasn't quite extreme enough and a little-known Tea Party challenger primaried him this summer and defeated him.

Shortly after his defeat, I was vacationing in Colorado at Valley View Hot Springs, near the one-street town of Villa Grove. Whenever I'm out there, I always drive into town for breakfast at its iconic trade store. There is one table in the cafe section that is always occupied by loud coffee-drinking locals who discuss the current news together. One morning Cantor's defeat was the major topic, but their dilemma was that none of them could figure out why he was so important. They were all guessing wrong until I finally had enough and blurted out from two tables over that he was the Republican House majority leader.

Poor Cantor — he was hardly known by anyone outside Washington right up to his political end. But it's not his professional end. He not only quickly resigned his leadership position but, as of Aug. 18, his district seat as well. He's going to make millions on Wall Street, officially working for those whom he's been effectively working for all along.

In a dictatorship, there is only one way to do things. The four-year Republican majority in the House has been wasting time scheming to privatize or end the social safety net, voting repeatedly to repeal the newly acquired health insurance for 8 million Americans, trying to eliminate all abortion options for women, attacking Hillary Clinton, and shutting down the government. Therefore, little time has remained to deal with much of anything else. Meanwhile, the Republicans in the Senate, while a minority, use the filibuster rule to require a 60 percent vote to move anything along, so nothing's being done there, either. It's their way or no way.

In a democracy, all the people are supposed to have a voice. But if one of two major parties, like the Fox/Republican-Tea Party, decides to become the Party of No ­—as it did after Obama's 2008 election — then we no longer have a democracy. Politics is the art of compromise, and compromise is the only way that democracy works. The former GOP has been taken over by Kamikazes, anarchists and sociopaths who work solely for themselves and their wealthy donors, like the Koch brothers. Our former democracy has been replaced with a plutocracy.

For our democratic-republic to ever work again, we need a loyal opposition, not saboteurs. Sadly, we aren't going to see any more Howard Bakers anytime soon. I'm reminded of what one of those guys at the Villa Grove Trade Store said: "The Republican Party won't be able to properly function again until it gets rid of the Tea Party, like a bad case of diarrhea."

David Offutt

El Dorado

From the web:

Ferguson

It's unquestioned that law enforcement agencies across the fruited plains have been and continue to be armed with weapons formerly reserved for the military. Why and to what ultimate purpose is anybody's guess.

Meanwhile, a rally of Darren Wilson supporters (he's the officer who shot Michael Brown six times, according to the independent autopsy) — all white — present a disturbing picture of distorted thinking.

"He got exactly what he deserved." 

"He had cause for shooting this boy. Seems like they overlooked the fact that he robbed a convenience store."

Norma Bates

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Arkansas needs to take responsibility

Recently, two Arkansas legislative committees approved a resolution opposing the proposed EPA carbon pollution standards (the Clean Power Plan), which requires states to develop and implement plans to reduce carbon emissions. I appreciate the Aug. 12 Arkansas Blog post by Benjamin Hardy, which presents facts about the EPA rule proposed in June, and suggests that the committees' resolution was a political stunt. A subsequent blog post by Hardy reported that a leading energy efficiency expert praised Arkansas efforts to develop a state implementation plan to curb carbon emissions.

Arkansas needs to take responsibility

Recently, two Arkansas legislative committees approved a resolution opposing the proposed EPA carbon pollution standards (the Clean Power Plan), which requires states to develop and implement plans to reduce carbon emissions. I appreciate the Aug. 12 Arkansas Blog post by Benjamin Hardy, which presents facts about the EPA rule proposed in June, and suggests that the committees' resolution was a political stunt. A subsequent blog post by Hardy reported that a leading energy efficiency expert praised Arkansas efforts to develop a state implementation plan to curb carbon emissions.

Sadly, these Arkansas legislators prefer to avoid their responsibility to protect our health and environment, and have joined the fossil fuel industry, which is choosing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to derail the EPA's proposed standards. The naysayers tell us we have to continue depending on fossil fuels or it will cost jobs and hurt the economy. But ongoing reliance on fossil fuels will be extremely costly — carbon pollution and other emissions will continue to harm our health, accelerate climate change and keep America from benefiting by being a leader in the global clean energy economy.

A strong Clean Power Plan will increase renewable energy generation, create an estimated 2,200 efficiency-related jobs in Arkansas, save Arkansas household customers $57 million a year on electricity bills, and reduce state carbon emissions by 1.9 million tons by 2020 (ICF International Inc. 2014 analysis). I hope that Arkansas continues to be a leader in state implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

The costs of doing nothing are too high. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to not be passive spectators. Tell your legislators to promote renewable energy and limit damage to our health and our planet from fossil fuels. Let the EPA know you support stronger limits on CO2 pollution (comment at www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards). Join Arkansas Climate Advocates (climateadvocates.net). Shifting to a safer, more responsible clean energy economy is the most important challenge of our time — if we work on this together, we can save the Earth.

Rick Owen Little Rock

Bravo on the bus

My wife, Nancy, and I had a wonderful time Friday taking the Arkansas Times bus to the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro. Tiffany Holland and the staff of the Arkansas Times made the trip very pleasant. They were friendly, accommodating and provided excellent service. Amy Garland was wonderful with her music en route to Jonesboro. Most everybody on the bus joined her in singing songs that we have learned over many years. The more beverages that were consumed, the better the singing — well, the louder the signing. The restaurant at Jonesboro, Godsey's, served an excellent meal and the waiters were superb. They served approximately a hundred meals within a few minutes of our arrival. The entertainers for the evening, Reba McEntire, Loretta Lynn and Bobby Bare were first-class. It was obvious that the packed house (10,000) thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Thank you so very much for providing quality entertainment for Arkansas.

John Russ

Little Rock

ACA an important corrective

I don't often agree with Ernie Dumas' take, but he is right on the money with his article about the Affordable Care Act ("Cotton's 'some folks': Obamacare helps 230,000 Arkansans"). As someone who has worked for insurance companies, (Gallagher Benefits, Humana Military Health Services) as a benefits coordinator for a hospital and a manufacturing plant and, most recently, in a specialty medical clinic with the primary duties of "extracting" payment from insurance companies, I agree 100 percent that, however flawed, this act has improved the lives of thousands. While at the clinic, I saw too many patients who couldn't even afford to stay warm in winter, much less pay the hundreds and thousands owed from visits, tests and surgeries, so they either did not get the services at all, or went into serious debt from which payment was seldom received. On the flip side, it — no exaggeration — took me six months to a year to convince an insurance company to pay for procedures. This is, sadly, a common occurrence. As a final insult, the largest insurance companies have call centers overseas. Although many of those employees are well trained and most are courteous, one often falls into menu hell when trying to reach someone who can actually address and solve your particular issue.

I suspect the well-funded hue and cry that current advertisements present as being from "the people" to get rid of Obamacare are from insurance groups that don't want to quit making hundreds of millions. If this act is repealed, then shame on the politicians who sold out!

Pat Gleghorn Corning

From the web in response to Max Brantley's Aug. 14 column, "Little Rock: Where the gold rules and just about everybody is connected" on the Little Rock Board of Directors' decision to allow a Murphy Oil gas station to be built on University Avenue despite opposition from city planning staff and neighborhood groups:

You don't appreciate the terms "property value" and "helpless" until the City Board makes zoning changes out of the blue like this near you, your largest asset, your home, where you live and your children sleep.

West Little Rock did not fund the city services that allowed the growth; the board at that time gave that honor to the suckers as well.

Diogenes

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