Archive for Letters

Art and protest

When Michelangelo finished his statue of David it was recognized for the triumph that it was.

Art and protest

When Michelangelo finished his statue of David it was recognized for the triumph that it was. A holiday was declared and the statue was paraded through the streets of Florence.

Artists continued to lead the parade for several hundred years and then, in the 1800s, things changed. Artists continued to lead the parade but at such a distance that only a few of the most attentive followers could see them. The impressionists and post-impressionists, the leaders of their day, were lucky to be recognized in their own lifetimes.  

In the 20th century things changed yet again. Artists continued to lead the parade but they failed to notice that, at some point, the parade went off in a completely different direction. The 1960s were the most divisive time since the Civil War. A prolonged unjust war, political assassinations, mass demonstrations, riots in the street and cities in flames were the order of the day. And yet, when we look back at the art of that time, we see minimalistic canvases with stripes and stains, cartoons blown up to epic proportion, and cans of soup. Where was the protest, where was the outrage, where was the HOWL? It has been said that the baby-boomer generation has not stepped up to support art like previous generations. Perhaps they are not there for art because art was not there for them. The best art of the 1960s was not in galleries and museums; it was on album covers.

Today the parade has all but disbanded. There are still gatherings that are moving in one direction or another and there are still people out there who believe they are leading the movement. What is lacking is some consensus as to where that movement is going. The Delta des Refusés does as good a job as any, and better than most, of pointing the way.

David Rose

Hot Springs

Born & Bred: Thus is the title of one of my Pinterest pages. I am a native Arkansan and avid Arkansas Times reader. I have lived in Little Rock my entire 32 years. I have experienced and watched a lot of changes take place in this state. I've met former President Bill Clinton, campaigned for judges, our former governor and have even shaken hands with Mayor Mark Stodola. This state was once called "The Land of Opportunity." For quite a while I believed wholeheartedly that great opportunities awaited me here in Arkansas. So with that in mind, I strived to do well academically.

I graduated from high school with honors. I attended Philander Smith College immediately following high school, where I obtained a B.A. in political science. I obtained my M.B.A. here recently and I remain optimistic of the opportunities that await me. However, I have applied to numerous jobs with annual salaries in the $40K-$80K range, but can only get offers from employers paying much less. I once believed that there were greater chances of financial success through a good education, but instead I see that Arkansas employers don't want to pay wages that meet or exceed the cost of living. Which, I don't know if you all have noticed, but it has gone up over the past few years.

Trust and believe that there are plenty of beds lying in wait in Arkansas's Department of Correction for those who choose not to pursue an educational path, but a criminal one instead. I have personally felt the impact of loved ones incarcerated in ADC. I also know that it's easier for an ex-con to boomerang back in there than it is for them to adjust to the standard of living in society. With the issues taking place with the Little Rock School District, there's a possibility that our youth will become more subject to violence and a life of crime than they are to a quality education.

I'd like to thank Max Brantley for shining the light on the chaos taking place with the charter schools and the test scores of those students in low-income LRSD schools. My children currently attend Brady Elementary, one of those schools mentioned. Thank you for also shining the light on the head of our state, Gov. Hutchinson. This guy is quite the character. I'm not sure how anyone's success will go under his leadership, especially when he and his comrades are in the pockets of the esteemed Waltons.

After reading the March 31 issue of the Arkansas Times, I learned some interesting things about Mr. Hutchinson. For one, who knew that he attended a university that was deeply rooted in racism? I sure didn't. No one thought to mention that during his campaign. My fellow Arkansans, this is who you voted for, remember? Also, who wants Medicaid in the hands of those "very wealthy with big corporate interests (Republican Party)"? I sure don't. Why is it such a big problem for the truly sick to receive adequate health care? Why is it such a big issue that a majority of Arkansas's poor and underprivileged are now covered? Don't even let me get started on the mandatory drug tests that were just stipulated for new welfare applicants. Mr. Hutson (recent Times writer) makes a good point. The effects of this will only trickle down to cost the state more. Wait a minute; I can't fail to mention this highway proposal. There is plenty of inner city roads that could use some much needed repairs. University Avenue, Fair Park, 12th street between Kanis and University, West 36th street in the John Barrow Community, to name a few, could use more than just pothole patch jobs. Here we are faced with a tax hike, though, to build a super highway after we just gave West Little Rock interstates a nice makeover. Please make better choices for our people, Mr. Hutchinson. For the record, neither Johnny Key nor Michael Poore is good for LRSD. I just wanted to make sure I pointed that out for you.

True enough, Arkansas is a Confederate and Republican state. So why blame today's leaders for the values they hold near and dear? Yes, "the war against the poor is in full swing." The Confederate flag still proudly flies in various places throughout this state. Anyone born and raised in this state certainly knows what it symbolizes. With leaders such as Asa Hutchinson, Tom Cotton, Leslie Rutledge, Treasurer Milligan and their party-mate Donald Trump, who really stands a chance of success in Arkansas? Certainly not lower-class individuals like me who also pay taxes and heavily populate this state as well.

I would also like to say to Mr. Suarez, the recent Bentonville resident who wrote in, imagine if you were walking down one of those streets in your neighborhood with a hoodie on and your skin was a whole lot darker. How comfortable would you be and how safe would you feel then?

Kymisha McDonald-Holmes

Little Rock

From the web

In response to the Arkansas Blog post "Facts Win on Abortion":

And another thing: Having lost twice Big Time in the SCOTUS (first same-sex marriage and now abortion), when will the South finally give up trying to legislate hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny and homophobia in the name of "Jesus?"

Your latest losers?

"Mississippi clerks cannot cite their own religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, under a ruling a federal judge handed down Monday.

"The effect of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is that the state can't enforce part of a religious objections bill that was supposed to become law Friday.

"Reeves is extending his previous order that overturned Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage. He says circuit clerks are required to provide equal treatment for all couples, gay or straight. He also said that all 82 circuit clerks must be given formal notice of that requirement."

How much MORE time and taxpayer money will your GOP governor and attorney general waste devising mean-spirited and ultimately losing end-runs around the Constitution?

Norma Bates

Facts have not been relevant to politics since the tobacco industry stood and swore their oaths before Congress. A sincerely held belief, however hopelessly ignorant and physically impossible, has been treated as the equivalent of information.

Are we turning a corner?

Silverback66

These right-wing, vagina-meddling, fetus-fetishing, gay-hating elected officials who want to put women back where they belong — in kinder, kirche und kuche — are seeing their world threatened once again by the onrush of present-day reality. Never mind the future; these people hate the world as it exists around them today. 

They're not conservative, they're regressive. We should begin calling them that.

Black Panthers for Open Carry

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's on the waste of money involved in freeway expansions:

Resistance is futile; livable downtown neighborhoods do not serve the paving good. All will be merged into the mega-lane collective. 

No matter how many well-researched studies, no matter how many other cities are changing their transportation strategy away from ever widening highways. The AHTD is going to boldly move forward. Into 1960.

tsallenarng

Hutchinson’s silence

The response of Gov. Hutchinson and other state elected officials to the massacre at the LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, in the early morning on Sunday, July 12, 2016, has been feckless, hollow, minimal and obfuscating.

Hutchinson's silence

The response of Gov. Hutchinson and other state elected officials to the massacre at the LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, in the early morning on Sunday, July 12, 2016, has been feckless, hollow, minimal and obfuscating. By his inactions, the governor has highlighted his timidity and cowardice. After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the governor has done nothing and said only that he is concerned about terrorist attacks on potential targets within the state. He is not concerned about violence against the LGBT community or the Latino community in Arkansas. He is not concerned that a gay couple might be beaten to death for holding hands or that an LGBT venue or event might be the next site of a mass shooting. Strikingly, in his minimal remarks the governor deliberately did not say that the 49 people killed and the 53 people wounded are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and that Saturday night was Latin night at the Pulse gay nightclub. While hundreds of people lined up for hours to donate blood and millions of dollars were raised to help the victims and their families and the LGBT community in Orlando within three days of this hate crime and the airline JetBlue was flying the partners and families of any victims to Orlando at no charge, the governor of Arkansas, who is a former member of Congress and a former undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, failed us and failed to be a leader whom the state or the nation could be proud.

C.H. Henderson

Little Rock

The magic words

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo, higgity piggity, radical Islamic terrorism. Now throw in an alakazam! and a few hooahs and mumble this magic incantation, over and over, louder and louder, until you reach the same keening crescendo as a deranged village idiot or a presumptive presidential nominee.

But I repeat myself ...

Yes, my brothers and sisters! Merely recite the magic incantation of "radical Islamic terrorism" and you, too, can help the Grand Old Party smite evil Muslims, including that nefarious, born-in-Kenya black man in the White House! Yes, my friends, repeating this magically delicious charm will most definitely protect lily-white good folk from those dusky barbarians storming the gates of citadel America.

Or is it the unhinged gates of Christian America? Land of billionaire hillbillies and movie star preachers, babbling crude. Braggarts, bullies and bigots peddling prosperity gospels and telling tall tales of pistol-packing infidels under every rock and around every corner. They hate us for our freedoms, you know. They're trying to impose sharia law, you know.

Are you poor? Plant a seed and get rich quick, for Jesus' sake. Are you sick? Dig deep, and conjure up enough blind faith (and cash) to heal thyself — anything less is godless socialism. Pray for America and then come, let us go down together and worship the golden calves of mammon and manufactured paranoia.

God bless the bogeymen, for they shall keep us afraid. Of everything and everyone. Much too afraid to notice a rising, toxic tide of fascism that lifts only the yachts of a privileged few. God bless the bogeymen, for they shall justify our blood lust. And our love of guns. And armor-piercing bullets and semi-automatic assault rifles. God bless the bogeymen, for they fill our bellies with hate radio and Fox News.

Your magic incantations will not save you. And the things you should really fear are much closer than you know.

 John Ragland

Hot Springs

An open letter to Ken Starr

I am baffled by you. You see, for me, it would be hard to live with myself, to look at myself in the mirror and to feel any sense of self-worth. And, the crazy thing about it is, you seem to be pretty thrilled with yourself. You walk around with a Trump-like confidence, with no remorse, no guilt, without even the slightest notion of the deep shame that would normally be present in a person with your history — a person who is only looking out for himself no matter what it costs others.

In my case, your actions cost a lot. I was an emotional wreck throughout my teenage years, spending most of my time at my grandparents' house watching the television as my aunt was led in-and-out of prisons. My grandmother and I would sit in the middle of her living room, holding hands, crying, praying and wondering how in God's green earth this happened. We waited for her phone calls and watched the mailbox for her letters. We listened as nighttime comics made light of the situation and there was absolutely nothing we could do. We sat in a dim-lit living room in pain. Our hearts were so hurt, it caused physical pain.

And, all for what? To get Clinton out of office? To prove that you are a big man? As we all now know, nothing, I repeat nothing, came out of Whitewater. It was a made-up lie by a sick man. You never wanted the truth. You took a lie (that you knew was a lie) and you ran with it. You got in an 18-wheeler and ran over us with a lie.

So now I turn on the news and find out that you were put in charge of college kids. And, while you were in charge of these young lives, you helped cover up a sex scandal. And all I can think is: He did it again. It's all about you, isn't it? Your agenda comes first over everything else. Never mind my family (and the countless other Arkansans you stepped on), never mind the poor college girls who were assaulted, never mind the truth. Let's just skip over all of that so we can make ourselves look good. Is that your thought process?

As a Christian, I am called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And, I take that calling very seriously, but for some reason, even today I can't seem to let go of the hurt you caused my family. So, I'm asking for an apology. I want an apology to my Aunt Susan first because you know what you did to her. And then I want an apology to my entire family for putting us through the unnecessary pain that YOU caused us and that ruined what was supposed to be the best years of my grandmother's life. And, then, I want you to apologize to the young women who were sexually assaulted and for not standing up for them when they needed an advocate. I want you to look deep into your soul and for the first time show a little remorse for those you've stomped on. And, maybe, just maybe, that would help me in a healing process that has been years in the running.

Gini Wietecha (niece of Susan McDougal)

Siloam Springs

Asa and Trump

Asa Hutchinson called Donald Trump's remarks about the judge overseeing the case against his phony university as "antithetical" to what America stands for.

Asa and Trump

Asa Hutchinson called Donald Trump's remarks about the judge overseeing the case against his phony university as "antithetical" to what America stands for. However, that won't stop Hutchinson from supporting Trump as the GOP's nominee for president. In recent comments regarding his support of Trump, Gov. Hutchinson said, "Yes, I will support the nominee of the Republican Party because the Republican Party is the best framework to improve our economy, protect our freedoms and assure a strong defense."

Improve our economy? Really? Has the governor noticed what Republican policies have done to our economy over the past 30 or so years? All the GOP has in terms of economic policy is "Reaganomics." That's it! And we see where that approach has led us. As far as protecting our freedoms, the only freedom we see the GOP trying to protect these days is the freedom of some to legally discriminate against others. Asa also thinks the GOP is better at maintaining a strong defense. Well, we spend more than every other country combined on our national defense, and have been doing so for decades. However, our list of enemies and their potential for doing us harm seems to be increasing. Also, I thought Republicans were against simply "throwing money" at a problem. Go figure.

Sorry, Asa, your stated reasons for sticking with Trump don't hold water. At least be honest about your real reasons for supporting him.

Rich Hutson

Cabot

Sanders was for democracy

Last month, Gene Lyons feigned nonchalance about the election season, claiming he wasn't "angry enough to participate fully in the festivities." This month, he suddenly goes postal on Bernie Sanders, hurling invectives every which way: "Trotskyite," "damned fool," "children's crusade," "poisonous," "crackpot opinions," etc. He even throws in some sexual innuendo for good measure.

Yes, Mr. Lyons, you're engaging in McCarthyism. You're also completely ignoring the fact that the real centers of power in this country are corporate entities and moneyed special interests, not the government. They call the shots. We don't. That's what Sanders is trying to fix. It's not "Trotskyism" he's fighting for. It's democracy.

Both mainstream parties have become just one: the Business Party. And the stench of corporate corruption has overrun every lever of power in this country, including the electoral process.

And the voters smell it. They know something's really wrong with the system itself. That's why they seek someone willing to institute radical change like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. It's a last ditch attempt to initiate change from the top down.

Both parties have contributed to an economic decline that's seen wages for the working class stagnate for the last 30 years, while the uber-rich are enjoying a new gilded age. The military gets a $600 billion budget and half of all discretionary spending, while college students are strapped with a whopping trillion-dollar debt.

Crass partisanship is the real "children's crusade" because it only perpetuates this sad state of affairs. It plays right into the hands of the corporate state, which actively seeks a divided, polarized citizenry.

The Alcoholics Anonymous definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Such are our elections.

So, yes, we need a revolution. The only real way to get corporate and special interest money out of government and return power to the people is by mass revolt and sustained acts of civil disobedience.

So rant all you want, Mr. Lyons. In the end, change will come from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

From the web:

In response to last week's cover story, "A mother and child disunion":

The Adoption and Safe Families Act needs to be abolished. It incentivizes removing children from families instead of providing services, traumatizing parents and the children it's supposed to be helping. It also incentivizes adoption over family preservation. [Lisa] Rushing's treatment at the hands of children's services is common even for parents who aren't in prison.

States are making money off of children in foster care and even more money from severing parental rights and getting kids adopted. Many social workers deliberately interfere with parents' efforts to regain their children (many of whom should never have been taken in the first place) by placing insurmountable barriers, endless hoops to jump through and refusing to grant even a smidge of leeway for things like having to miss a class or court appearance in order to keep the job the parent is required to have.

Abolishing the Adoption and Safe Families Act would be a great first step in fixing the horrendously broken foster care system.

LisaC

In response to Gene Lyons' June 11 column, "Democratic endgame":

Well, another doozy! The Donald has nothing over Gene Lyons. Sure, free speech is priceless, whether practiced by progressives like Bernie Sanders, hypocrites like Hillary Clinton, or by McCarthyites like The Donald and Gene. Gene really does not like anyone who disagrees with him or, God forbid, anyone on the left. Or who is an intellectual. Brainy folks. He literally believes that red-baiting is legitimate behavior in a democracy! Any discussion of economic and social equality makes Gene sick.

Citizen

Citizen: Do you realize that every one of your statements about Lyons is false? You're just pissed because you don't agree with him. Lyons loves to point out pointless behavior. It's just one of his many qualities that keeps me reading. This week, it happens to be Bernie being skewered. Next week, it might be Trump, or some dumb-ass cattle ranchers.  In my opinion, there are three great political columnists working today: Gene Lyons, Roger Simon and Joe Klein. All straight shooters. None of them would write anything that they didn't believe. None of them allows anger to dictate his writing.  Lyons writes from the heart. If you don't agree with him, that's fine. I'm sure he doesn't mind.

Tony Galati

A shameful article, full of vitriol, language that would suit a Trump. Like many others, I find Bernie Sanders' views not only refreshing, but necessary in the political oligarchy the Republicans and Democrats are expecting us to believe is a modern, viable democracy. And, like most of my ilk, I will hold my nose and vote Democratic in November, simply because not doing so will benefit Trump.

peterjkraus

Correction

An actor who plays Glenn Brannon in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production "Windfall" was misidentified in a cutline that ran with his photograph last week's issue of the Arkansas Times. His name is Ray Wills.

Mansion ownership

For many years, I volunteered at the Governor's Mansion as a docent and in other roles. Docents are part tour guide and part historian. The Mansion is full of our state's history, and our tours were absolutely nonpartisan. As tours began, we would make a point to say: "The governor and first lady want you to know that this is your house, and they have the privilege of living here."

Mansion ownership

For many years, I volunteered at the Governor's Mansion as a docent and in other roles. Docents are part tour guide and part historian. The Mansion is full of our state's history, and our tours were absolutely nonpartisan. As tours began, we would make a point to say: "The governor and first lady want you to know that this is your house, and they have the privilege of living here."

But, that was during the Beebe years when the governor and first lady took pride in making sure everyone felt welcome.

Mansion tours started at the portrait of the late Gov. Sid McMath — the Mansion's first resident — and included every room except the first family's private quarters and the governor's office. Docents took pride in former Gov. [Winthrop] Rockefeller's generosity when pointing out the living and dining room rugs. Each item in the Mansion had a story that we were proud to tell visitors, both Democrats and Republicans alike.

I am saddened by the Hutchinsons' declaration of ownership. It appears they believe the Mansion belongs to them. The portrait of Gov. McMath — removed. Volumes of books that belonged to former President (and Arkansas Gov.) Bill Clinton — removed. The bipartisan authority of the Governor's Mansion Commission — removed. A million-dollar grant requested to make over the Mansion with no oversight or regard for historic preservation — approved.

The Governor's Mansion is the people's house. Treating it as anything different is arrogant and self-serving.

I wonder if future docents will talk about all of the artifacts of Arkansas history we lost during the Hutchinson administration.

Sheila Castin

Little Rock

Planned Parenthood necessary

What a wonderful, well-rounded, positive article about Planned Parenthood clinics ["Planned Parenthood: More than abortion," May 26]. The people who told about their personal experiences with the clinic were awesome. Thank you for stepping up and challenging the misinformation that has been spread by political special interest groups. The detailed research, accurate information and comments by the staff are things the public needs to know. The services offered at Planned Parenthood clinics are necessary and important if people want to promote a more educated, healthier society. Men, women and teenagers need health clinics that will give them accurate, nonjudgmental medical information and options so they can make better choices about their health care needs. I appreciate the article's open-mindedness and I appreciate that Planned Parenthood clinics treat whoever walks in their doors with dignity. Not everyone has a high-paying, everything-is-covered insurance plan, but that doesn't mean they should not have access to good health care clinics. I can't come up with a good reason why anyone would want their state overrun with diseased, sexually ignorant, pregnant teenagers, especially when Planned Parenthood clinics offer practical, common-sense heath care education that could prevent it. I can't come up with a good reason why anyone would force a rape victim to carry to term, when she would rather terminate the pregnancy. I support Planned Parenthood's valuable medical services and the good work they do. To me personally, it is about our basic human right to choose what is done or not done to our bodies, without interference from the state government. The state government should not endanger my health by invading the privacy between me and my doctor or by restricting my doctor's ability to do what is best for my health. I expect equal health care laws. I have the same right to good medical care that men have. I have the same right as a man does to choose what is done or not done to my body. Period. End of discussion. No ifs, ands or buts.

Shirl Standridge

Little Rock

From the web

In response to Gene Lyons' June 2 column about Bernie Sanders:

I liked what Bernie had to say and voted for him in my state's primary. It was the self-aggrandizing sanctimony of his supporters that put me in the tank for Hillary. Bernie and his fans have a choice. They can have influence in the Democratic Party and be a queenmaker or they can get absolutely nothing or, worst case, get hunted down by Trump's mobs after the election. From what I can tell, they prefer the latter.

Mack Paul

I suppose it was inevitable. With Bernie's delegate count getting dangerously close to the anointed's (don't count the game-rigging superdelegates), and the grand prize of California just around the corner, it was time for Gene Lyons to unleash another scattershot smear on Bernie.

When the best opposition research you can dig up on Bernie is a 40-year-old essay he wrote for an alternative rag (just like this one, ironically), you must be awfully desperate. One awkward line, taken completely out of context, and it's perfectly acceptable to lynch a good and decent man for the high crime of misogyny? Did you bother to even read the essay?

Of course not. Hatchet jobs and yellow journalism don't require that sort of responsible reporting. Have you noticed how the television bobble-heads have quit referring to Bernie as a "Democratic socialist" and just call him a "socialist" now? That's if they even bother to mention him at all. And apparently the mainstream media is planning to announce that Hillary has clinched the nomination (by including those damnable superdelegates), before the California primary even starts.

All in an effort to discourage Berners from even going to the polls next week. So I guess Gene (Gene, the dancing machine) is just doing his part as a loyal Clinton apparatchik. Pretty sad and pathetic. He's a decent writer when he's not doing his establishment masters' bidding.

Vive la revolution! The time for patching's past (from a poem by Edward Arnold Brenholtz, in the November 1902 edition of The International Socialist Review).

John Ragland

In response to Ernest Dumas' column June 2 column "Beyond contempt," in which he noted that a "Senate juror who was brother of the deputy prosecutor" was one of several "tormentors" of then-President Clinton who were later revealed to be adulterers:

Ernie, I have a question.

Why do we insist on dancing around certain subjects and not naming names?

It was Sen. Tim Hutchinson who was cheating on his wife with a staffer. His brother, then-Rep. Asa Hutchinson, now our governor, was the prosecutor. If memory serves, they lived together in Washington at the time. Wonder what Asa knew about Tim at the time he was excoriating Clinton?

Rick Fahr

In response to an Arkansas Blog item about the Razorback Foundation's $3.5 million payout to former UA athletic director Frank Broyles for "speaking fees":

The greatest irony of many with the Razorback Foundation is that as a nonprofit it exists to profit handsomely a small number of elites who are public employees and who use the 501(c)(3) foundation essentially as a means of circumventing state compensation laws. 

But every Division 1 school does it! Sadly the IRS rarely challenges 501(c)(3) groups' status under their own rules.

Black Panthers for Open Carry

Well, good for Frank of the Ozarks. The Razorback marching band used to practice on a crappy field next to the football practice field back in the early '70s. God, was it hot, and each practice seemed to last forever. I was a sousaphone player and we were always backed up to the fence separating our field from the football boys. I swear, during down moments Frank would stare at me ... maybe wondering what kind of fool would be a sousaphone player. I never waved, he never smiled, which is OK with me; I didn't feel like smiling marching up and down that damn field in the hot sun.

In the late '90s when some of the football players got into trouble, Frank or the UA sports program for reasons unknown hired Fort Smith lawyer Eddie Christian to advise them. So one day Frank is parked on Garrison Avenue and after a visit to Eddie's office he strides down the sidewalk, jumps in his new Cadillac and puts it into reverse without looking behind him and backs right on out into traffic. A car heading east took the back end off Frank's Cadillac as slick as a whistle. Before the cars had stopped shaking, Frank jumped out, handed his card to the woman who had hit him and hollered, "Get an estimate and I'll pay for the damages," and then got back in his damaged Caddy and off he went lickety-split.

I'd rather see that kind of money go to save the battered and sinking Little Rock public school system, but no one ever asks my opinion. How much speaking money is the U of A paying Noland Richardson these days? Oh ... I thought not.

Deathbyinches

Looking ahead

Some final thoughts about the recent presidential primaries: I actually feel sorry for candidates like Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie and all the other experienced governors who knew how to run a state, but got bumped out of the presidential primaries by Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Looking ahead

Some final thoughts about the recent presidential primaries: I actually feel sorry for candidates like Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie and all the other experienced governors who knew how to run a state, but got bumped out of the presidential primaries by Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The entire state of Florida knew about Rubio's 2012 credit card fraud. Why did the "drive-by media" virtually ignore Rubio's character flaw? And most voters knew Cruz was born in Canada, causing doubt about his presidential eligibility. The governors should sue Cruz. What a waste! No wonder Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. At least now House Speaker Paul Ryan can see his "Atlas Runs for President Ayn Rand" fantasy come true.

Things look worse for the Democrats. FBI Director James Comey is just waiting for his "prompt" to release information about his investigation into the Hillary Clinton email controversy. This prompt will likely come from Sen. Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, who is probably waiting for Hillary to eliminate Bernie Sanders at the Democratic nominating convention in late July. With Sanders out of the way, Grassley and Comey can defame Hillary with FBI charges and practically guarantee a win for Trump. Even if Hillary wins the November election, Congress may disqualify her in 2017.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

From the web

In response to an article in the May 26 issue about the state's criminalization of the painkilling herb Kratom:

I suffer from syringomyelia, a progressively debilitating spinal cord disease; sciatica; scoliosis, and degenerative disc disease. Doctors had me on Fentanyl, a drug 100 times stronger than morphine, oxycodone, lyrica and more. I spent all my time in bed just hoping I would sleep and never wake up. After discovering Kratom, I was able to kick the Fentanyl and went from 12 prescription meds to four and was able to get back a life that resembled mine. Now that I can no longer get Kratom I don't know what to do. I do not want to go back to where I was because I'm certain I will lose my ability to function again. It's simply terrifying.

Cynthia Hemphill Moffett

Unfortunately, for every story like those of "Lisa" and Susan Ash, there are hundreds that simply involve men from 18 to 55 taking Kratom on a daily basis for its euphoric effects. Some of them, if asked, would offer up some kind of flimsy pretext — usually something impossible for medical science to confirm, like chronic back pain — but the majority are just polysubstance abusers and do it for kicks (and to avoid the sometimes severe withdrawal effects). Browse the online Kratom forums (like r/kratom on Reddit) and you quickly see that this is the case. 

Having said that, I still think that an outright prohibition is an extraordinarily short-sighted move on the part of an ignorant, reactionary, and irresponsible state government. It is this type of Neanderthal, out-of-touch ignorance that has plunged Arkansas into one of the worst opioid abuse crises in the U.S. Yes, it should be removed from head shops, and yes, irresponsible vendors should be punished, but there is a way, with proper state regulation that involves input and cooperation from the specialist medical community, that Kratom can be sold responsibly to adults that need it for pain, or to mitigate the disastrous health effects of opioid addiction. 

Mark my words: These ignorant and cowardly state legislators will be on the wrong side of history — just watch.

RandolfChurchillMD

In response to Max Brantley's column on Gov. Hutchinson's "free lunch" approach to funding highways:

Leonard White, my economics professor at the U of A back in the '80s qualified that maxim this way:

"There is no such thing as a free lunch for society, but there can be a free lunch for certain individuals."

I believe he had that right.

hugh mann

In response to an item on the Arkansas Blog about Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd of Rogers to join up with Donald Trump at a religious political gathering:

So Ronnie Armani wants to rub hands with the greatest non-Christian in the country right now. Maybe he can tell him how to pronounce "2 Corinthians." Floyd has a habit of skirting the IRS charitable regulations so he can keep his mansion and plane and $5,000 suits, but maybe it would be good if an IRS agent just happened to be in the audience.

couldn't be better

In response to a report on the Arkansas Blog about John Goodson and other lawyers that a federal judge found colluded in "forum shopping":

These lawyers are a great example of how many of the 1 percent are leeches on society, adding no value, creating no jobs, developing no new technologies. 

I'd sentence them to a year working at a minimum-wage job with no benefits, not because it relates to their crime but simply because most of us are tired of these rich bastards skimming all the money out of the economy.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

In response to Ernest Dumas’ May 19 column, “Even Trump for restroom rights”

This whole thing, from left to right, is farce.

From the web:

In response to Ernest Dumas' May 19 column, "Even Trump for restroom rights":

This whole thing, from left to right, is farce. The idea that, somehow, being allowed to go into a bathroom of choosing is a right is an insult to all those who fought and died for such important rights as the right to vote, the right to work, the right to marry, the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

Compared to these rights, the fight to be allowed to go into bathrooms, one way or the other, is silly, goofy and just a waste of time and oxygen. Like so many "rights" that have been created in the last few decades, this is more about getting people to accept the ludicrous as rational than it is about actually helping people. 

In point of fact, this hurts the people it is intended to hurt. Then again, this is part of the intent. Those that are active — the government wonks that exploit these silly debates — they want to divide people away from the rational, and to embrace the myriad silly, that anything is acceptable, and nothing is beyond question or up for debate. 

That is why folks like Dumas couch bathroom rights with discrimination. True, the right has done a terrible job at debating this, trying to tie it to sexual predators, but the simply fact is that transgender people have been using whatever bathroom is comfortable with no issue. For decades. 

Few actual rights exist in the world. 

If you are a guy in a dress, you do not have a right to be accepted as a woman. You have a right to be free from being denied services, or work, or the vote or the ability to defend yourself. You have a right to seek a redress of grievance for crimes against you, but you do not have a right to be liked, or to have your disorder nurtured. 

Schools, especially, should not damage kids by letting them believe that they can be what they are not. They should be encouraged to think, to seek facts, not defy facts.

Steven E

In response to the May 21 Arkansas Blog item, "Stop talking about 'surpluses.' Asa has raided general revenue for highways.":

Some or most of the Connecting Arkansas Program projects around the state forego the 80/20 federal match completely. Has anyone ever received an adequate explanation as to why? For example, 30 Crossing's $631 million price tag includes $450 million in state funds, an amount that would normally leverage close to $2 billion in federal dollars. It seems like there're plenty of nickels and dimes in AHTD's budget already to maximize federal spending if they wanted to, without raiding the General Fund.

Also, where were all the nominally small-government conservatives this week who usually take it upon themselves to oppose any state action that will increase federal spending? I'm picturing the rabid opposition to Obamacare in general and Medicaid expansion in particular. And speaking of opposition to the ACA, the level of socialized, centrally planned, big government market manipulation involved in a highway expansion far exceeds that found in any component of Obamacare. Where's the logical consistency in your convictions, people?!

Timbo

This just proves that all of that "budgeting" is just a shell game with department heads and the legislature playing a game. Go to $0 base budgeting and defend your way up or use what they spend this year as their MAX for next year, not their base.

couldn't be better

So how many more years does Asa think there's gonna be a surplus to play Three-Card Monte with?

Vanessa

In response to the May 20 Arkansas Blog item, "A belated happy anniversary to marriage equality":

Oh yes, I would LOVE to see a list of all the evangelicals (and other haters) whose marriages have been "ruined" by the existence of marriage equality!

Kate

Reporting in from Conway, my marriage is still sound. Who would've guessed?

Conwegian

In response to the May 19 Arkansas Bog item, "Justice reform? Don't tell it to Tough Talking Tom Cotton":

You know, a man that mean and nasty often has a way of ending up on the other side of those bars. He should stop and think about that.

spunkrat

Under-incarcerated??? There's a novel concept. Why don't we jack up the mandatory minimums, double down on the War on Drugs, and make the states pay to house the additional prisoners in privatized prisons! What's not to like about that?

Black Panthers for Open Carry

"The United States is under-incarcerated," says Tommy Boy. As of 2015, the United States has 5 percent of the world's population yet 25 percent of the total number of people incarcerated worldwide are located in the United States.

Who wouldn't be locked up if Tommy Boy were in charge? I think we know. You, me and the rest of those on the left side of the American political scene.

Arkanzin

In response to the May 19 Arkansas Bog item, "Toilet terrorism bill not filed":

You wonder what the Republican politicians' parents did to them to make them so terribly sexually insecure.

Silverback66

Some of these people act as if the transgender population is a new development with which government must deal. It hasn't been an issue since day one, but the transgender people have always been with us, and I'm fairly certain they've been using public restroom facilities all along. So this is an issue now because ... ?

Holy Guano

Disappointed in the governor

An open letter to Gov. Hutchinson.

Disappointed in the governor

An open letter to Gov. Hutchinson: 

I am writing you to express my disappointment in your response to the letter sent by the federal government as guidance to the school districts of this nation regarding the fair and equal treatment under the law of transgender students. You stated that you found the letter "offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense." The guidelines the federal government made explicit to the school districts in the state of Arkansas and throughout the country may be different than what you are speaking out against and opposing. 

When the state of Arkansas took federal money tied to Title IX, the state signed a contract with the federal government that explicitly agreed to not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. 

The Republican majority in the United States Congress in 2013 actually defined "gender identity" and set the standard for nondiscrimination that is now part of the contractual agreement the state entered into when receiving funds for programs tied to Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act.

I am concerned that you do not fully understand the peril you are putting transgender students in when you come out in opposition to this letter. Ensuring a safe and healthy environment in Arkansas schools requires that you are aware that data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey show a direct correlation between the high suicide rates of teenagers and bathroom restriction of transgender teens.

Please look at whose lives you are putting in jeopardy when you refuse to acknowledge the students in Arkansas schools whose safety is in danger daily. 

Perhaps you do not have experience or previous relationship with a member of the transgender community. Let me for a moment be their voice. I am the president of Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC). There has been a lot of misinformation about our community. I would appreciate an opportunity for a direct, non-confrontational conversation. I invite you into this conversation as soon as possible so that together we can build a stronger, safer Arkansas for all Arkansans.

Sincerely, 

The Rev. Gwen Fry

President of ArTEC

From the web

In response to the May 12 cover story Benjamin Hardy, "Life Saver," about AIDS activist Eric Camp.

This story brought back so many memories — sad, joyful and poignant. It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. Eric deserves to be lauded. His work touched many and saved many lives. 

It is also a tribute to all the beautiful people of courage who are no longer with us and to all the brave and compassionate people from congregations of many denominations who got involved with RAIN at a time when ignorance and fear prevailed. 

Yesterday, I did a grief and loss workshop for health care workers. In every workshop I facilitate about grief, or about death and dying, I begin by saying that I learned everything I know from the CareTeams and CarePartners in Arkansas. I often tell their stories.

Thanks to Benjamin for writing this great piece.

Trudy James

I am thankful to see AIDS being discussed because it hasn't been wiped out. Education needs to continue. I was a RAIN team member in the '90s. Sadly, we lost a number of partners (people with AIDS who were assigned to our team for support) over the years, but I was thrilled to run into a former partner earlier this year. She is doing well and back to working full time. As effective treatments became more readily available and the families and public became more educated on the modes of transmission so fear diminished somewhat, the need for RAIN teams declined. It was wonderful to catch up on Eric's life through this article. Trudy, Eric and their brave speakers saved countless lives and the impression they made on those teens continues to shape their sexual behavior today. Thank you!

Kay Ekey

I knew and worked with Eric back in the day and I am very glad to see this article on his contributions to public health and the people of Arkansas. I remember Eric as focused, clear thinking, selfless, intense and tireless. I agree with the article that his actions saved countless lives and in my book he is a hero.

There are people who will not like this article and show their dislike in these comments, but those people have never dissuaded Eric from doing what he knows to be right.

BThomasson

In response to Gene Lyons' May 5 column about Donald Trump and the media:

Note to Republicans: The world is watching. And laughing. You know, Don Rickles puts on a better show. He's much funnier than Trump, I can tell you that. Maybe you should consider drafting Rickles as your candidate. You know, kinda class up the joint.

Tony Galati

Tony, you and I run with different people from other nations. The ones I know are puzzled, concerned, mystified and more than a little terrified. They view the possibility of a Trump presidency as unimaginably bad. I tell my foreign friends that I don't think that possibility is all that likely, but I openly confess that Trump's success thus far speaks poorly for the intelligence of an unacceptably large fraction of the American voting public.

However, I persist with the interpretation that Trump's appeal is not based on the angry white male, but on the scared white male. The decades of privilege that have benefited white males in the U.S. are going away and they are smart enough to see that happening. Trump offers the promise that if they join his gang, or tribe, they can "make America great again" and restore privilege by bluster and bully. I guess to many that sounds like a better plan than the option of being smarter and working harder to compete in the global economy. Cruz's appeal might have been that his God will make things all better, if you just sign on and trust her, or him.

deadseasquirrel

In response to Gov. Hutchinson's outrage over the federal order to allow people to use the bathroom of the sex they identify as:

I personally wouldn't want to share a restroom with Asa or our skanky attorney general.

That's no more ridiculous than this whole bathroom issue. So many are hung up on who can use the restroom with whom that it is just laughable. It is sad commentary indeed that with all the challenges and issues facing this country we just can't quite conquer that whole bathroom issue.

In many parts of the world there are no men's restrooms and there are no ladies' rooms. There are just restrooms and we all share them and absolutely nobody gets all worked up about it. Americans are way too hung up on bodily functions.

I once met this girl in a restroom in Tokyo and ... well, that's a story for another thread.

HolyGuano

We must understand that everything that goes through Asa's mind and comes out of his mouth is first filtered through his Bob Jones University indoctrination, the NRA, Walton and Koch influences and his desperation-fueled craving to die a wealthy man. You know, the kind of man the Bible says has terrible odds of getting into Heaven. The turning worm just might roll over Asa in the coming year ... GOOD!

President Obama is clearly enjoying his last months in office and I fully expect after the November elections he's going to go wild with the good stuff like the directive sent out for the protection of transgender students. Buy your ringside tickets now in order to have a great view of Republican skin sizzling for the next four to eight years!

Deathbyinches

In response to Arkansas Blog reporting on the possibility of stopping the proposed widening of Interstate 30 by lawsuit:

Pissed-off downtown resident here who also happens to be a real estate lawyer. I am happy to offer my assistance to an effort to get a federal suit going ... if it comes to that. 

While we are not in the same federal circuit as Alabama (and thus aren't benefitted by any direct precedent being set in the case), I will still be watching it in interest. 

In the interim, I am being cautiously optimistic about the process. The public outcry has been impressive and has already resulted in some substantive changes and actual improvements — the downtown interchange reconfiguration and added parks. If we can get the number of lanes down to a reasonable eight or so, I might actually consider the project a net win, though obviously not as big as outright removal or the boulevard option would be.

Thanks to the Times for your frequent reporting on this.

superdan

Feeling unwelcome

It was our first night in Bentonville. My family and I had finally moved here after a weeklong drive from Virginia. Here we were. Bentonville, Arkansas.

Feeling unwelcome

It was our first night in Bentonville. My family and I had finally moved here after a weeklong drive from Virginia. Here we were. Bentonville, Arkansas.

I'm no stranger to living in the South. If a state has ever seceded, I have probably lived there. From Alabama to Virginia to Georgia to Louisiana to Arkansas, I have strong roots across the Deep South. I feel most at home in places where I fall asleep to the thick buzz of cicadas and Southern hospitality is more than an idiom. Being from the South is important to me; it's where I'll always feel most connected.

I'm also no stranger, of course, to the Confederate flag. But there was something different about the one I saw that night in Bentonville. It was larger than you'd expect and a surprising take on the original with "The South Will Rise Again" emblazoned upon it.

And that's when, somewhat to my surprise, I realized that I felt unsafe. I may be a Southerner, but I am brown, too. As a Latino, I've always straddled a confusing divide between being a proud Southerner and my experiences with racism.

Despite the fact that people of color from the South, including Arkansans just like you and me, can feel unwelcome and threatened in their own state by the Confederate flag, their communities have yet to recognize this and continue to accept displaying it.

After the controversy in South Carolina last year about the Confederate flag flying over the Capitol, Southerners have finally started to engage in conversations about whether having this flag, with its historical associations to slavery, is appropriate. Yet in Arkansas the flag has remained popular. Last summer during the controversy, KTHV, Channel 11, reported that one Little Rock flag store, Arkansas Flag and Banner, sold so much Confederate flag merchandise that they ran out.

I understand the reasoning of those who support the Confederate flag. They say that focusing on just a flag is missing the larger issue, that the flag did not lead to the deaths of anyone. And many worry about erasing history from textbooks and the public consciousness.

The trouble is that no matter what you personally believe, for people of color it represents fear and hatred and bigotry. We are not advocating for whitewashing history; we want to feel safe in our communities. Flying the Confederate flag alongside the Arkansas and American flag is counterintuitive. If we really want to show our Arkansas and American pride, we have to think about whether our pride for Arkansas can coexist with a pride for the failed Confederacy that was built on racial oppression.

The real Arkansas, the one I know, is dynamic and multicultural and recognizes the past while looking to the future. This is an Arkansas it's easy to feel proud of.

Sadly, people will not see this Arkansas in other parts of the country if they only see us as Southerners entrenched in a debate over an outdated flag. When students at my university in New York City learn I call Arkansas home, I hear these responses:

"Arkansas? I'm so sorry."

"Ew, I don't even know where Arkansas is."

"Why? It's awful down there."

Sure, there's an annoying element of East Coast elitism here, but as a proud Southerner it also pains me that Arkansas is consistently seen as so culturally backwards. These disparaging comments about my state bother me, but at the same time so does the troubling presence of Confederate flags back home. I end up feeling stuck. New York City doesn't offer me the childhood comforts that Arkansas does, but I also love New York City because it makes me feel accepted. The truth is that I still don't believe Arkansas completely cares for my body as a brown man.

Yet Arkansas could.

We, Arkansans of color, are here. We are part of this community and this history, too. We can acknowledge the past without supporting racism. We can recognize how Arkansas was once a slave state, and celebrate the positive parts of its history and identity, without having to display the Confederate flag. We can honor Southern heritage without keeping a tie to slavery. We can move forward and create a new Arkansas that embraces people of color and accepts this multicultural reality.

I do not want to be ashamed to be from Arkansas any longer. I do not want to feel unsafe walking in my own neighborhood. Would you?

Andrew Suarez

Bentonville

Universal health care

While most middle-class Americans are glad that poor and working class Americans now have access to health insurance, we don't like the fact that we have to pay the price in order to maintain high profit margins for private insurance providers.

For example, I now must pay $263 out-of-pocket for a prescription medication for which I once paid a $10 co-pay. Granted the cost of the medicine goes down once I meet my deductible for the year, but it's nowhere near $10. Also, my deductible is $2,000, and I've yet to meet it since Obamacare went into effect. So, I must settle for a less effective over-the-counter medication.

I realize that Obama's health care law didn't require insurance companies to jack up prices. This was a response by private providers to compensate for smaller payments received through federal funds for medical services for those qualifying for the exchange.

So again, why does the middle class have to pay for this? Why can't we have a health care system that puts people's health above profits? We need universal health care in this country.

Richard Hutson

Cabot

From the web:

Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville has established himself as a one-man death panel.

William Dale Varner, 86, died in a veterans' home while his nurse took a lunch break. His family is seeking $250,000 from the state Claims Commission.

While there is no evidence that Collins actually knew Varner, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quoted Collins as saying Varner had lived a "pretty full life" and that Collins "wondered whether perfect care at the time would have extended the man's life 'another hour, day, week.' "

The Republican Death Panel has spoken: It was time for Varner to die. The Republican Death Panel has spoken: There is no need for "perfect care" in nursing homes. Go head, take a lunch break. That old guy was going to die anyway, eventually.

Varner's obituary noted that he served as a Navy gunnery officer on a destroyer in the Atlantic during World War II. It also says he served in the Korean War as a naval officer on a destroyer that took part in many battles in Wonsan Harbor, and his ship was part of the longest ship-to-shore bombardment in naval history.

Collins is a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Navy until the mid '90s. He was some kind of desk jockey "analyst." There is no mention in any of his biographies that he served in naval combat during the Gulf War, which occurred while he was in the Navy. Gulf War combat service is the kind of thing a puffed-up Republican would splash all over his biography. It is conspicuously absent from Collins' resume.

The Republican Death Panel has spoken: A veteran who served his country in battle has died of negligent health care and his family is owed nothing. Move along. Nothing to see here.

(Runner-up for Worst Person in the World is Sen. Missy Irvin, who "described the claims made by the attorneys of Varner's family as 'questionable.' " On what grounds are they "questionable"? The Honorable Missy does not say.)

Chopped beef

Think of the future

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department sponsored its sixth informational meeting about expansion of I-30 last week.

Think of the future

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department sponsored its sixth informational meeting about expansion of I-30 last week. After short speeches by representatives of contracting firms (Garver Engineering, StudioMAIN, and Nelson\Nygaard), we were invited across the hall to see maps, charts and video simulations. All were very impressive to the eye. Each member of the audience was given a full-color handout and the opportunity to fill out a "Citizen Comment Form."

The only options under consideration were no construction, 6 lanes ("collector/distributor lanes and single point urban interchange"), 6 lanes ("collector/distributor lanes and split diamond interchange"), 8 lanes ("general purpose lanes and single point urban interchange"), and 8 lanes ("general purpose lanes and split diamond interchange"). The scenarios were imaginary and presumed that traffic will increase in a foreseeable way. It was taken for granted that these changes must happen.

But nothing in any of the material presented so much as mentioned a light-rail system or how the atmospheric effects of increased traffic will be absorbed. Furthermore, nothing was said about that 900-pound gorilla in the room: economic development of downtown Little Rock and beyond.

It was as if the problems of carbon emission and climate change do not exist.

Funding for the 30 Crossing project is to be from a hodgepodge of revenue streams. Interestingly, what was completely absent was any presentation of how much each contracting firm stands to profit. A general figure of $631.7 million was thrown out, though. Of course, in the budgetary agenda of our times, numbers like this will always rise. But one thing that will remain constant is that the people of Arkansas will have to bear the cost, directly or indirectly.

Furthermore, more lanes will bring more pollution, more congestion and more dangerous driving conditions. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. While six lanes or eight lanes might be better than 10 lanes, it's still an increase in the number of lanes! No amount of rhetoric about "split diamonds" and "green spaces" will make that fact go away.

What is the point of having bicycle paths in an empty city? Assuming that we want the space we live in to be more than a highway interchange.

The 30 Crossing plan is either designed to accommodate interstate commerce or to meet some perception of "convenience." But we must remember that this is not a matter of convenience for commuters. More lanes lead to more congestion, more pollution, more complaints about convenience, and more frustration, to say nothing of other "retail" effects. Instead, we should be looking for true convenience and true community. That comes with a transportation infrastructure that accounts for the health of all people in greater Little Rock and the surrounding environment.

Except for a few vested interests that stand to profit, how can the present 30 Crossing scheme benefit a struggling city like our own?

Anthony Newkirk

North Little Rock

Not buying story on Kurrus firing

I am a retired educator who worked in four public school districts, including for 25 years in the Little Rock School District as a coach, classroom teacher, principal and director of secondary education. My four children received an excellent education in the LRSD. I join the long list of knowledgeable people expressing their displeasure with the underhanded, ill-timed firing of LRSD Superintendent Baker Kurrus. Former state Sen. Jim Argue, former LRSD school board member Nancy Wood, Max Brantley and others hit the nail on the head when they said that Kurrus' firing was caused by his truthful testimony about the harmful impact charter schools have on public education in Little Rock. Gov. Hutchinson and Education Commissioner Johnny Key's excuse that they wanted a professional educator shows what hypocrites they are. The governor had to get the legislature to pass special legislation to give Key, who lacked an education background, the job. We must save our public schools.

J.D. McGee

Little Rock

From the web

In response to Max Brantley's April 27 column, "Low tactics every day: Walmart education":

Had the governor and the Education Commissioner been paying attention to LRSD for decades, as I have, they would know that the highly respected Baker Kurrus did NOT go rogue. He has always been a man swaddling in facts, not feely-feely talk. He has opposed charter schools that he thought were harming LRSD since he was a school board member. I think he embarrassed them with their own statistics because he thinks charters should also be accountable to the state. (What a concept!)

CGB

In response to Bill Kopsky's April 27 guest column, "Rigged system":

"Rigging a system as Key has done corrodes the credibility of the whole institution of public education."

That's their goal, unfortunately. So, this column only shows them how well they are doing. Although many may be outraged at these poor decisions, those in charge are quite happy with them and see no problems. I suspect this plan has been in the works for years and years, and they are more than prepared to succeed, as Republicans control the state and Democrats in Arkansas are incapable of rising to the occasion. 

I'll add yet another layer: Not only are Republicans attempting to destroy public education in Little Rock, thereby damaging it economically and socially, they are also behind the coming of the new 10-lane bridge and roadway that will decimate the River Market District and the new revitalization of downtown and downtown neighborhoods.

Republicans are specifically attacking Little Rock for some unknown reason, and the damage they are doing is incalculable.

spunkrat

In response to Gene Lyons' April 27 column, "Get real," commenting on Atlantic magazine contributor Neal Gabler, who wrote about being broke at age 66, and the "American Dream":

Gabler is probably an extreme example, but his blunders are emblematic of Americans' general sense of entitlement. Gabler's American dream is, simply put, the American nightmare. Living above your means, buying more than you can afford to pay for, is not "the dream," it's a personality disorder, not unlike gambling, and it'll put you in a hole so fast you won't know how deep it is till you hit the bottom. Then you look around for a shovel to dig your way out. Stop digging!

Tony Galati

Kurrus spoke truth

Just so we understand: [Arkansas Department of Education] Commissioner [Johnny] Key, who does not have a teaching certificate, replaced [Little Rock School District Superintendent] Baker [Kurrus] because he did not have a teaching certificate.

Kurrus spoke truth

Just so we understand: [Arkansas Department of Education] Commissioner [Johnny] Key, who does not have a teaching certificate, replaced [Little Rock School District Superintendent] Baker [Kurrus] because he did not have a teaching certificate. If that is the reason (no teaching certificate), then why does it not apply to the commissioner as well? Oh yes; the accepting public does not hold Powerful People (PPs) to the same standards as the workers. Baker has a Harvard education in law, and the new guy has an education degree from a state school. We will pay the new guy $75,000 more than Baker, along with other expensive goodies. For that type of treatment, the new guy will make sure the right people get the best choice, and the others will get what is left. Without community support, many kids will fail in the leftovers schools. The new guy will place the blame for the failing schools everywhere except where it belongs. As always, a few students will do well in the failing schools, and their example will be expected of all. The PPs do not understand the hell of poverty. The new guy will maintain choice schools for the right people as long as he can, and will get more and more money each year for doing so. Baker's ethics requires truthfulness, so he spoke out against charter expansion. That cost him and the city big time. So the new guy will be here as long as he does what the PPs tell him to do, no matter what damage is done to Little Rock. I thought Baker was warming to the idea of school villages placed along major traffic corridors. Sadly, my dream will remain just that.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

That I-30 mess

I know everyone has opinions about the Interstate 30 bridge mess. I, for one, still think the area needs a bridge from the bottom of Cantrell Hill or Chester Street across to the Pike Avenue/Pulaski Tech area.

But for me and lots of other people on the north side, an extension of Interstate 630 and/or Interstate 530 to cross the river and link up with U.S. 67/167 would be best in that it would ease the I-30 headache and redesignate the Jacksonville freeway as an interstate. But that's a financial pipedream.

The people in the Heights and Hillcrest who are fighting the bridge expansion to 10 lanes should have to work nights and have to come across the bridge at 7:30 a.m. on their way home. Better yet, let them drive from Jacksonville or Cabot for three months. We may live elsewhere, but we pay sales taxes in Little Rock and North Little Rock, too.

But the best suggestion is that the project be built as four side-by-side bridges: three or four lanes for the I-30 and I-630 southbound traffic with the exit at Sixth or Ninth streets, and a separate bridge section with a two-lane on-ramp for the [East] Broadway traffic that would exit onto Capitol Avenue or Fourth Street. The two bridges would be separate and traffic couldn't merge until across the river.

The highway department would need one of those Texas under/over ramps like they have in San Antonio on Loop 410 intersections to move traffic wanting to get on the freeway and Jacksonville traffic wanting to get off at Ninth or Sixth Street.

And it would really help if there were a way to keep part of the North Little Rock traffic from the JFK onramp separate from the I-30 southbound and I-630 bound traffic if they want off at Capitol Avenue.

Again, the main problem with the bridge is the steep, slow climb up the ramp and merging by the [East] Broadway traffic. Make that traffic separate and you solve most of the backups.

Keith Weber

Jacksonville

Smart to invest in pre-K

What would you do if you were given an opportunity to invest $1 in an idea that would give you a return of $8.60?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, for every $1 invested in high-quality pre-kindergarten there is a return to the taxpayer of $8.60 in the future. Taxpayers save money in the future when they invest in high quality pre-kindergarten because research shows that children who attend a high-quality pre-kindergarten program are less likely to repeat a grade while in school, are less likely to need special education services and are less likely to get arrested as adults.

Research shows that gaps in development between children of low-income families and middle-class families are apparent by as young as 18 months of age. A study by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, showed that children from professional families were able to identify pictures of simple words faster than children from families living in poverty. The study also followed the children's language development from 18 months to age 2. The results showed that children of professional families increased their vocabulary by 30 percent more than children living in poverty. Without some type of intervention, the gaps in development continue to increase during early childhood and children from families of low income enter kindergarten 12 to 15 months behind their peers from middle-class families in language and pre-literacy skills.

Research shows that high-quality early childhood education and pre-kindergarten can help narrow and prevent gaps in development between children living in poverty and their peers because the early years of a child's life are critical times for development and the brain is most malleable during this time. It is also during this time that it is the most cost-effective to do so.

Sadly, not all children have the same access to attend a high quality prekindergarten program. The current resources available to help low-income families access high-quality pre-kindergarten are not enough to fill the current need. According to the Department of Education, 60 percent of 4-year-olds are not enrolled in a public funded state preschool or Head Start. Also, the Child Development Block Grant is only able to help one out of every 10 eligible children attend a high quality early childhood education program.

The good news is that the Strong Start for America's Children Act of 2015, if enacted into law, can help increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for Arkansas children from families of low income. The legislation will expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten by giving state matching funds to Arkansas Head Starts, Arkansas school districts, and local childcare centers that implement research based high-quality early childhood education standards.

Investing tax dollars into a program that yields a return of $8.60 for every $1 initially invested is a wise investment for all taxpayers. Please consider supporting the Strong Start for American's Children Act of 2015.

Chelsie Kennedy

Farmington

From the web

In response to last week's cover story, "The war on Little Rock schools":

The Waltons, with strong support from Hussman, Madison Murphy, et al., will not rest until they have destroyed the LRSD and others are to follow. Key and Hutchinson are merely the puppets put on stage to perform the dirty deeds and take the flack that follows. The previously named culprits do not have the intestinal fortitude to come out front. 

It is all a part and parcel of the Koch brothers to eliminate GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE! And take over this great country so the poor guys don't have to pay taxes. 

Ralph Cloar

Little Rock

Where is our government of the people, by the people, and for the people? 

Why do we allow ourselves to be ruled so haughtily by the 1 percent? 

Is Asa now a King, with his jester Key? Is the Chamber of Commerce the Chamber of Earls and Dukes? Is Walter Hussman now Count Hussman? 

How did all this inherited wealth come to believe that they know better than the people whose sweat created that wealth? 

WHY DID THE PEOPLE OF LITTLE ROCK ALLOW DEMOCRACY TO BE TAKEN FROM THEM?

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

I am admittedly more than a little cynical about all of this, but ...

Think about all of the pieces mentioned above.

1. State board approves charter expansions. Lots of new seats to fill.

2. School report cards come out and show that LRSD middle schools are BETTER or just as good as the charters that were just expanded.

3. [Baker] Kurrus brought stability (read: trust) to the district and talked a lot about how the LRSD was going to have to "compete" with the charters, even opens a new middle school.

4. Oh, shit! How do we fill all of those new seats at the charter schools?

Get rid of the stability. The resulting shake-up will send enough parents, kids and maybe teachers, running for the exits. Seats filled. Problem solved. Oh, and by the way, we can let Baker off easy now so that this new guy can take the real fall for all of this in another year or two.

Morris

I was struck while listening to the video by [new LRSD Superintendent Michael] Poore that he stated he had been offered the job two weeks earlier. For two weeks, Key and Hutchinson had planned this change and yet they made no effort to inform the public or Baker Kurrus or any of the elected representatives of the Little Rock area. I am so angry with this usurpation of the people's right to have a voice in government. Public schools belong to us, not to the Department of Education or the appointed (not elected) Board of Education. Every citizen of the state should protest this unwarranted exercise in fascism by the very politicos who claim to be opposed to authoritarian big government. Well-meaning people can work together on issues but there must be trust. Where was trust in Commissioners Key's action?

Nell Matthews

Correction

Last week's issue of the Times incorrectly reported the title of the book from which Guy Lancaster read at the unveiling of the Readers Map of Arkansas. He read from "The Moaner's Bench" by Mars Hill, not "Mourner's Bench" by Sanderia Faye.

Lancaster notes that there is another book, "The Mourner's Bench," by Susan Dodd. He did not read from that book, either.