Archive for Letters

Policy led to Little Rock’s segregation

Are Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods the result of a conspiracy? You bet. City officials admitted as much during a school desegregation suit in the 1980s, the federal courts ruled that was in fact the case, and the federal appeals court upheld those findings. We're not talking grassy knolls or faked moon landings here; we're simply repeating the conclusions that the federal courts have reached based on the evidence.

The legacy of tobacco

Before I could get to the cover story of segregation history in the July 10 issue, I was treated to a full-page Camel cigarette ad. Talk about "history." It was the production of tobacco that brought huge waves of slaves to North America and started a problem that has never died, including the segregation of Little Rock. The slavery continues as an enormous amount of tobacco production in the world, including the U.S., is accomplished with child labor. At least part of the "living history" could be ended by not taking tobacco industry advertising.

J. Gary Wheeler

Little Rock

Policy led to Little Rock's segregation

FindX's comments (Letters, July 17) last week raise some interesting points about our article, "The roots of Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods," (July 10) that are worth addressing, particularly their assumption that segregation is somehow a "natural" phenomenon.

As our article points out, segregated residential patterns have become much more pronounced in Little Rock since 1949. If segregation were natural, this change could not have occurred, since natural laws are by definition immutable. So if changes in residential patterns have occurred, that must be because of human intervention.

Are Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods the result of a conspiracy? You bet. City officials admitted as much during a school desegregation suit in the 1980s, the federal courts ruled that was in fact the case, and the federal appeals court upheld those findings. We're not talking grassy knolls or faked moon landings here; we're simply repeating the conclusions that the federal courts have reached based on the evidence.

What about the students who self-segregate in the hallways, at lunch and in the classrooms? I'd suggest that the artificially created segregated environments that they grow up in, which constantly shape their social reality day in and day out, are replicated by extension in schools. To suggest that self-segregation in schools proves that those students are happy enough to grow up in segregated neighborhoods is to fundamentally confuse cause and effect.

As to the refrain "how about we spend our time and effort on getting people to naturally integrate and value others for our diversity," I agree, but that has been the charge of the city's schools since the Brown decision in 1954. The past 60 years don't seem to have gotten us much closer, and I don't see that magically changing anytime soon. How about we start to address and tackle some of the persistent and entrenched structural obstacles in the way of achieving that goal to get better outcomes?

However, all the indications are that Little Rock, along with the rest of the United States, is in retreat from integration. The school settlement earlier this year removed exactly those remedies — magnet schools and M-to-M transfers — that were put in place by the courts to counteract the effects of the conspiratorially created segregated neighborhoods. Once these remedies are phased out, there will be no active measures in place to combat segregation. Meanwhile, numerous factors, some old, some new, continue to racially polarize the city and its schools.

It is precisely because of these developments that we thought it timely to revisit and reflect upon exactly how and why Little Rock got into the condition that it is in today. We believe it is important for everyone in the city to understand. Without being fully aware of how the city got to this point, there can be no hope of productively going forward from it.

John A. Kirk

Little Rock

One for Otey

I think the choice of "Otey the Swamp Possum" as one of the Arkansas Travelers' two new mascots was a good one for a number of reasons.

He is cute, cuddly and friendly, which will make him a favorite with kids.

He is a unique and original type of mascot.

Opossums have lived in Arkansas for a long time, so they have a natural connection with Arkansas.

To give Otey more notoriety, I'd call him "The Awesome Possum."

Kenneth Zimmerman

Huntington Beach, Calif.

Disproportionate

Stop killing kids! Israel has a disproportionate response in Gaza — which may be a war crime or a violation of the Geneva Convention — killing over 300 civilian innocents, including more than 100 children. Hamas has killed no kids and one innocent civilian. 300-1 is disproportionate. It is a similar ratio to last time Israel bombed and tank cannoned Gaza, killing 900 innocents to three Israeli civilians killed. The U.S. Secretary of State expresses concern about killing so many innocents, especially children. Express your concern to your government officials.

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

From the web

In response to "That 'ghetto' traffic box," a story about Theresa Cates' public art depicting African Americans. It has received complaints and, in a few instances, been painted over.

It's sad that people would have such little respect for the joy depicted in this work and would refer to it as "ghetto." This is an amazing piece and the people in power who bowed down to the complaints of a few should be ashamed of themselves. Stick up for the many rather than buckling to the few.

Felicia Knight Olson

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From the web re ‘The roots of Little Rock’s segregated neighborhoods’

As a teacher in LR, I have noticed that our students segregate themselves across racial lines.

From the web

In response to "The roots of Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods," July 10:

As a teacher in LR, I have noticed that our students segregate themselves across racial lines. It happens in the hallway, at lunch, and even in the classroom (the reason an integrated seating chart is necessary or there would be an imaginary racial line drawn down the center of the classroom). I don't think anything sinister is going on, but only the fact that people tend to naturally surround themselves with others like themselves. I also think it is important for these students to be encouraged to cross racial boundaries and work together.

Your article makes it sound like there is a conspiracy plot going on, when I think much of this just occurs naturally. Instead of finger-pointing, how about we spend our time and energy on getting people to naturally integrate and value others for our diversity?

FindX

I spent the first 25 years of my life being raised in Little Rock and only once do I recall a white stranger saying hello or good day to me (excluding folk at school of course). I have lived in N.Y. ever since and I am no longer treated that way (marginalized). In fact — instead of being the black this or that I am just simply Latonya. This is why I am tormented; should I go back home so my chocolate baby can grow up with family and friends or stay up here without family so as a brown person he can have better opportunities and higher self-esteem? It really is a no-brainer I guess but a terrible sacrifice just the same. I am certain that if I stayed in Arkansas I wouldn't be a manager reporting to the VP of Operations for one of the richest companies in NYC.

Latonya Brown

In response to an item on the Rock Candy blog on the few films being shown at the Ron Robinson Theater:

I have really had a difficult time with the theater. My understanding was that our tax dollars were going to support a space that could be used by the public. When I asked about that I was told it could only be used Monday-Wednesday if I wanted it in the evening. That pretty much cuts out any kind of public use. I was told it was being used to screen movies. Not many movies were on the calendar. Then, it took me nearly two months of back and forth email to just get a quote. I was then told that they weren't booking anything anymore. After questioning this, I was contacted by someone else, who was very helpful, but by then, it was really too late for the planned event. It certainly left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I hope that this can end up being a space that can be used by the public. It is a shame that it is sitting empty when people are ready and willing to use it for events.

PaulPrater

In response to a post on the Arkansas Blog about former Gov. Mike Huckabee's private jet travels and how he pays for them:

Oink! Oink! Oink! That this talentless hack can make himself rich shows how stupid Americans are these days. Bro. Huck is one of the most dishonest con men to come out of Arkansas. We yack yack yack about him but no one bothers to investigate his record and get him behind the steel bars where he belongs.  Continually escaping punishment for crimes committed creates monsters that we're forced to live with and sets a terrible example for our kids. Huck should have been nabbed when he was taking money under the table to spy on Hillary back when we were paying him to be our Lt. Gov.  His last year in office as our Gov., he committed outrages I didn't think anyone could get away with ... and yet danced off to be the Fox darling of the dumbest people in America. It would seem Huck escaped his sins thanks to professional courtesy offered by his fellow politicians on both sides of the aisle in Arkansas and ain't that a damn shame! Maybe because Huckabee is fat ... he's just too big to fail?

Deathbyinches

In response to an Arkansas blog post on Tom Cotton's lead in second-quarter fund-raising for his U.S. Senate race against Sen. Mark Pryor:

I don't know which is worse: out-of-state billionaires who think they can buy Arkansas on the cheap, or a supposed Arkansan like Tom Cotton who is willing to sell out his fellow Arkansans to these out-of-state billionaires. I guess I can't blame the billionaires as much as I do the sorry sapsucker who will betray his own people for the likes of the Koch brothers and Karl Rove. Cotton should be ashamed, but he is so cold and fishlike, he has no feeling or concern for real Arkansans. I could never vote for anyone like that, regardless of what party they are in. He is not one of us.

Poison Apple

I'll consider voting for Rotten Cotton just as soon as his new bride moves to Arkansas. Further proof he's not one of us!

RYD

In response to an Arkansas Blog post about headway being made in the South by Democratic politicians:

This is the 50th anniversary of Barry Goldwater's famous "extremism" speech to the Republican National Convention that brought the South into the Republican Party, thus changing that party from a party that espoused economic conservatism and social liberalism to one that espoused reactionary social views as well as economic conservatism. Even Barry Goldwater backed away from those views later, after he was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in what was the biggest margin ever up to that time. I remember that speech. The context then, of course, was Communism, aimed at bringing in the John Birchers, but the White Citizens Councils and other anti-civil rights groups in the South also took it as a rallying cry for resistance. It signaled the beginning of the Republican Party as we know it now. His opponent in the Republican primaries was Nelson Rockefeller, brother of Winthrop Rockefeller, who served as New York governor, and who was a very decent, respectable Northeastern Republican who would turn over in his grave if he knew what the Republican Party has now become. The Republican Party was civilized then. You remember Goldwater's words: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the fight for freedom is no virtue."

plainjim

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The power of voting

I just read your article about "America's Worst Politicians" (July 3). When I read or hear about how terrible our politicians are I try to figure out just what it is that generates those complaints. Are those "worst politicians" really different from the rest of us?

The power of voting

I just read your article about "America's Worst Politicians" (July 3). When I read or hear about how terrible our politicians are I try to figure out just what it is that generates those complaints. Are those "worst politicians" really different from the rest of us? Our elected politicians must inevitably reflect who we are because we are the ones who vote for them and give them the opportunity to represent us. Of course, everyone isn't happy with the outcome of every election because only one candidate can be elected and not everyone votes for the same candidate. Nonetheless, all eligible voters have an opportunity to cast a ballot for his or her chosen politician. Of all the responsibilities we have as citizens of this American republic, voting for a representative in our government is our most valuable and vital one. If we have any spark of interest whatsoever in local, city, county, state or national government every eligible voter must vote every time he or she has the opportunity. We must never allow inconvenience or some temporary hardship to disenfranchise any one of us. It's easy to find fault with attempts to block voters from exercising our most vital right and to rail about the unfairness of it all. Such foolishness is no excuse for not voting. It's even easier to whine that your vote doesn't matter because someone else will just vote for the other candidate and "cancel" your vote. As Forrest Gump's mom told him: "Stupid is as stupid does." You are the only one who can "cancel" your vote and you do that every time you do not vote.

Perhaps you are disgusted with partisan politics and like to say you don't want to have anything to do with politicians. As a citizen of the U.S.A. you do not have that choice because citizenship carries responsibilities with it that must be exercised if you want to continue to enjoy your citizenship rights. Our country wasn't formed and our Declaration of Independence from British tyranny wasn't written by unanimous consent. Many more American colonists rushed to sign a pledge of allegiance to King George than ran to serve in the Colonial Army. We were born from extreme partisanship. The right to vote and have a representative government has always been the struggle of a few against the many. If you have any respect for the few who have carried that battle and passed its bounty freely on to you, you must take the easy responsibility of voting whenever it is offered. Hold your head up high; be proud of carrying out the most important and hard-won responsibility you have as a citizen of the U.S. Honor those who wore the bloody bandages and those who died for your right to vote. You don't have to be on the front line to be part of the struggle. Otherwise, throw away your flags and your fireworks and your "Second Amendment remedies" and crawl back into your spider hole and wait for those who want to keep you from voting to come for you. It won't be to give you a medal. As a bonus, you'll get to read more articles about "America's Worst Politicians" and shake your head in shame.

David Steadman

Damascus

The radical Christian right

Mike Huckabee knows exactly what he's doing. By casting the gay marriage movement in the light of a fascist group, he is attempting to deflect that very accusation from himself and his fellow Christian Dominionists.

I've read the Chris Hedges book, "American Fascists, The Radical Christian Right and the War Against America." I've read Jeff Sharlett's book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."

Radical Christian conservatives like Huckabee are no joke. They are dead serious about taking control of all institutions of power: the government, the media, academia, the arts and the scientific community. They have a huge funding pool from the corporate world because, like most fascist movements, they support the suppression of the labor force and the protection of the corporate class. In America, this alliance dates all the way back to Fred C. Koch — father of Charles and David and a founding member of the John Birch Society — and his rabid support of the Mussolini regime for this reason.

Like fascist groups before them, Christian Dominionists have a long hit list of enemies: Democrats, feminists, intellectuals, artists, scientists, homosexuals, non-gender conforming people, those of different religions and Christians of other denominations whose ideology they disapprove of.

The Christian Dominionist movement is not a religion. It is a fascist political movement, a heresy that works in tandem with powerful corporate interests to achieve its goals. And it has achieved astounding success since the days of Jerry Falwell, one of its original architects. Representatives of this movement now occupy the highest positions of power in our government.

Any fascist movement can only thrive in periods of severe or prolonged economic drought. That's all that stands between the radical Christian right, which counts Mike Huckabee among its prominent members, and its complete ascendance to power. We ignore the threat these people pose to our democracy and our open society at our own peril.

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

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Reaganomics and climate change

At long last the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally decided what it wants to do about the carbon issue! The EPA has successfully regulated emissions of mercury and sulfur dioxide, but never before has it regulated carbon dioxide, and we've known about its greenhouse effects for over 30 years.

Reaganomics and climate change

At long last the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally decided what it wants to do about the carbon issue! The EPA has successfully regulated emissions of mercury and sulfur dioxide, but never before has it regulated carbon dioxide, and we've known about its greenhouse effects for over 30 years. Coal-fired power plants are the greatest polluters, and Arkansas has several of them.

The EPA and Obama administration hope to reduce carbon emissions nationwide to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. What's taken them, or previous administrations, so long? Maybe it was necessary to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the Clean Air Act gave the EPA the authority to regulate carbon emissions, but they did that in 2007. So maybe it was necessary to wait for the recent climate change reports to conclude that we have only a 15-year window before it's too late to prevent the global average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees centigrade.

My explanation for our procrastination and unwillingness to act has been the success of the Lewis Powell Memorandum of 1971 and the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. Powell laid out the mapwork that was needed to re-educate the voters so that they would vote against their own best interests. In the affable Ronald Reagan, the plutocracy (the upper 1 percent or upper .1 percent) found a spokesman who could change the public's opinion about them: Instead of their being "robber barons," they would become "job creators." The result has not only been devastating for our middle class and our national infrastructure but also for our environment.

Reagan persuaded a large number of voters that the restoration of the plutocracy and a New Gilded Age would solve all our problems. All we had to do was "return to normalcy" — return to the Gilded Age that existed between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the Progressive Era in 1901. Get rid of those pesky union workers who expect fair wages and benefits and safe working conditions; get rid of those costly safety regulations on products like food, toys and automobiles; get rid of those progressive income tax rates in which the wealthy pay a higher percentage than those with lower incomes; and get rid of those absurd environmental regulations that cut into profits for ridiculous reasons like clean air, clean water and better health.

Reagan reminded voters that it was the inventors and industrialists who had made America great. Every American could become a millionaire like railroad builder Cornelius Vanderbilt, financier J.P. Morgan, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. (In the mid-1800s, English essayist Thomas Carlyle called people like them the "captains of industry.") All we had to do was get our constitutional government out of the way. Let developers once again have unlimited access to natural resources and labor with no regulations. Let's return to laissez-faire economics where the government gives support to Big Business, keeps its hands off the economy's ups and downs, and lets the buyers beware.

It's important to remember that the corporate welfare system of the Gilded Age led to such a wide income gap between the plutocracy and everyone else and created such unpleasant working conditions that many victims were considering alternatives to capitalism: socialism or communism. As the 20th century began, President Theodore Roosevelt became the leader of the Progressive Era. His goal was to reform the abuses of capitalism to save the system from itself. A lifetime hunter, he became a champion of the environment; and a Republican, he offered the working class and consumers a "Square Deal."

The disillusionment of World War I's failure to "make the world safe for democracy" brought a halt to our progressivism. During the "Roaring Twenties," Americans elected to return to the plutocracy of the Gilded Age. Laissez-faire was restored as "trickle-down" economics and the income inequality gap between the haves and have-nots widened again. The Great Depression that resulted brought a return to progressivism and a renaming of the "captains of industry" to the "robber barons." Capitalism had virtually collapsed, and another Roosevelt had to save it again.

Progressivism lasted for nearly 40 years.

The breaking point for the "robber barons" was probably Earth Day 1970 that led to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and creation of the EPA. The fact that these occurred while a Republican — Richard Nixon — was president was more than they could take. It was corporate lawyer and lobbyist Lewis Powell, a lifelong corporate Democrat, who provided the guide rules as to how the plutocracy could regain control .

Months before Nixon appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court, Powell's 1971 memo outlined several steps the plutocrats needed to influence government policy — and they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Right-wing "think tanks," lobbying organizations, and radio and TV propaganda networks emerged to change voters' perceptions of government and corporations: the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Fox "News," Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, et al. Corporations even created the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to write laws for their extremist lawmakers to present as their own to promote the interests of the plutocracy.

So, for more than 30 years, we've been stuck with Reaganomics (A.K.A. laissez-faire and trickle down). The income inequality gap has returned to Gilded Age and Roaring Twenties levels. The middle class is in rapid decline, and the burning of fossil fuels is heating up the planet. The plutocracy, through its "think tanks" and politicians and pundits, has succeeded in convincing many voters than none of this is actually happening and, even if it were, nothing can be done about it.

Plutocratic Reaganomics and climate change denial go hand in hand — and that's the problem. Voters who bought into the first in 1980, and continue to do so, are stuck with accepting the other no matter what the scientific evidence indicates. The EPA and Mr. Obama want to do the right thing at great political risk. Big money, their politicians and their voters will continue to do everything possible to stop them — regardless of the consequences for planet Earth.

David Offutt

El Dorado

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Defining marriage

Regarding state Sen. Jason Rapert's recent guest column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he makes some good points, but I think there are other ways to analyze the matter, irrespective of the merits of the issue. If our president can change his mind on same-sex marriage less than two years ago, surely this is a fair topic for discussion.

Defining marriage

Regarding state Sen. Jason Rapert's recent guest column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he makes some good points, but I think there are other ways to analyze the matter, irrespective of the merits of the issue. If our president can change his mind on same-sex marriage less than two years ago, surely this is a fair topic for discussion.

Let us not forget that those who opposed federal marriage legislation, whether DOMA or a constitutional amendment, did so on the ground that issues of marriage are matters of state law for the individual states to decide. So be it. The Arkansas voters then spoke loud and clear, by a supermajority no less, apparently to no avail. Judge Chris Piazza is a fine jurist and a good man, before whom I practice regularly, but he is no more qualified or empowered to issue edicts on such cultural matters than any judge. His opinion also contains some highly questionable propositions, such as that the voters acted solely out of animus, there was no "conceivable legitimate state interest or purpose" and the "speculation" that children of "opposite-sex marriages" (his words) were better off that children of same-sex marriages. A few comments are in order. First, where in the record is the evidence that the voters acted out of animus? Second, and more importantly, where is it written that it is exclusively the province of the judiciary to decide what is or is not a legitimate state interest? Do the legislature, executive and electorate have no say in the matter? The constitution provides otherwise. Third, where does he get the authority — and where is the factual basis in the court record — to opine which relationships are better for children? The only speculation is found in his opinion when he implies that the adopted children of same-sex couples are as well off as children of traditional families, despite thousands of years of human experience versus recent history and no valid scientific evidence or empirical data. Lastly, his decision assumes that he is more qualified to make that determination than the voters. That is what I, and I think Sen. Rapert, find so frustrating.

No one disputes that marriage is a fundamental right. The cases that recognize that right, however, starting with Griswold v. Conn. (which struck down contraceptive bans and explicitly recognized a right of privacy that I cannot locate in my Constitution), were based on the sacred marital relation between husband and wife, which actually pre-dates the Constitution by a few thousand years and which, alone, has the inherent potential for procreation. Let's leave the Scriptures out of the debate. Are we to void natural law, too, on the ground that it is discriminatory? The true questions then are simply: What is marriage and who gets to decide? What relationships does society recognize as fundamental and deserving of recognition and constitutional protection? No one proposes putting constitutional rights up to a vote. That is a "straw man" argument that no one advocates. After all, marriages and families are the central units around which we have organized our society. It is not for judges to decide what is or is not a fundamental right, or to proclaim who has what rights and who does not. Rather, the judicial role is to enforce and protect those rights society chooses to recognize as fundamental. As the racial voting patterns and recent gathering of African-American ministers show, it is also fallacious to compare this issue with civil rights. Civil rights arose from discrimination based upon immutable personal characteristics, such as race and sex (which used to be immutable). The judiciary played a vital role in that area — not by declaring that civil rights are fundamental — but by enforcing and protecting the rights that society recognized as fundamental. After all, we fought a Civil War and passed the 14th Amendment to establish and enshrine these rights.

What I feared is occurring before our eyes. A hotly debated issue in the "culture wars" — involving the central organizing principle of our society — is being pre-empted, removed from the public sphere and decided by the judiciary, which is not empowered or qualified to decide the issue for us. Public opinion is evolving in this area, no question. It may trend toward or away from traditional marriage, but all citizens and adherents of representative democracy will respect the result if the judges will get out of the way and trust our democratic process to work this out.

Just as Clemenceau said that war was far too important to be left up to generals, marriages and families are far too important to be left up to the judges.

Michael Emerson

Little Rock

It takes a village

Max Brantley's lament on the LRSD ("Drastic measures for LR schools," June 12) caused this response and, more than likely, wasted time. The Village School concept has been described by this writer in print many times. Now I know some, perhaps many, are thinking, "I never heard of that." Such is the power structure of Little Rock. Powerful People keep an idea isolated to the opinion pages and friendly conversations so that it never has a full and unbiased hearing. Isolating thinkers to the back pages allows the Powerful People to control the place. The public is allowed police protection because those same police protect the Powerful People. We have reasonable city management because the Powerful People use the city. The good public schools are those controlled by the Powerful People. For the most part, the Powerful People use private schools.

A Village School has several grades located on one campus. The private schools are all villages as is eStem. It is the best educational environment because you get more for your money and it builds strong community. The old structure of neighborhood schools in a district run by expensive administrators is costly and destroys community. With modern technology, one staff can manage a county. Village Schools are self-governing. The first Village should be established in the Central High area. After that, picture the campus of PA or the Episcopal School, and place them wherever there is good space. A Village campus is so large that it is unaffected by neighborhood. Of course, eStem is unique for not having a campus, just buildings. Perhaps the entire city is its campus.

Early this year, there was a casual invite extended to talk with the planning board about the Village concept and the Central High area, in particular. A PowerPoint was created for the meeting. As it has too often happened, the meeting did not take place. The Powerful People operate that way. They make you jump through hoops until you are exhausted while they enjoy the good life. The worst thing about the Powerful People is that they think they know all the answers. Being all-powerful and knowledgeable, there is absolutely no need to associate with peons. We are kept at arm's length with only the ability to waste our time on the opinion page.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

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Something has to change

The LRSD has run off the rails and cannot right itself all the while the children suffer.

From the web

In response to Max Brantley's June 12 column, "Drastic measures for Little Rock Schools":

I couldn't agree more. Something has to change. The LRSD has run off the rails and cannot right itself all the while the children suffer. Those who can afford to leave the district do, particularly after elementary school. Those who cannot afford to are stuck, and it's not fair. It's not fair to any of those children. If they start in the LRSD, they should be able to and want to graduate from the LRSD.

Just Someone's Mom

Has the "new" superintendent really been unable "to form a consensus on the school board" or has he rather lost the consensus he had a year ago when he began? Might investigating beyond skin color yield more insight? Have grievances and contract disputes been without merit? Have district actions been fair to those affected? Have makeover plans been based on evidence of their educational successes or instead on hopes, revealed knowledge, or urgency for just doing something whether it does any good or not? Have proposals actually addressed what students need to succeed and make good decisions for themselves and their community?

Jim Wohlleb

Even if the state takes over, there's no easy solution. Max suggests a new school for SWLR, but then talks of trying to "work some failing schools off the state list." So some neighborhoods are to be "rewarded" with a new school, and then some neighborhoods are to be "punished" for failing to come off the "list." And you wonder why the black school board members are concerned? Are you saying that the local school board's voices should be silenced for expressing differing concerns so that a state appointed board could take over? Does anyone think this will promote community support? One example sited for progress under the state for Pulaski County was a reduction in the disciplinary rate for black students. Often what happens is that teachers are instructed to "handle" the problems on their own and reduce the number of referrals that are reported, so the number of incidents are not reduced, just the number of reports on them.

Also note the suggestion for changing district lines. All of the county south of the river would be one district with most of the tax base. But the cities of North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Sherwood and Maumelle could have their own separate districts; they would also have a lower tax base. This sounds like the plan for Shelby County where the suburban cities like Germantown around Memphis have been allowed to withdraw from the county school system to set up separate districts. This makes those people in those neighborhoods happy, but what effect will it have on neighborhoods like Franklin to have a reduced tax base?

Is it any wonder that the black members of the Little Rock School Board are reluctant to trust the promises sounding like "forty acres and a mule"?

aqua blue

In response to the June 16 Arkansas Blog post, "Domestic violence in Berryville; searching for help for battered women":

Researching why victims return to their abusers is not blaming the victim. It's an important piece of a layered approach to reducing domestic violence. Police, courts, community programs, and research and education for both the perpetrator and the victim are necessary to make any significant dent in the problem. The roots of abuse are diverse and the ability to identify the warning signs is imperfect so no one "silver bullet" will eliminate it. Use all the tools we have at our disposal. Research is one of them.

Rutrow

Law enforcement blaming women for being murdered is insulting, dangerous and misinformed. Women return to abusers for a variety of reasons, including threats again them/their children if they leave, lack of alternatives (housing, income) etc. Domestic violence is complex and varies on a case-by-case basis. Much research shows an increase in violence/lethality when women assert themselves/leave their abusers. I guess even when women are able to leave, it's still their fault they get killed?

Fact is, our culture has a big problem with violence against women. Law enforcement, medical, mental health and school professionals all need training on how to recognize the signs and refer for help. Boys should be raised to respect women as equals, and men who abuse should be held fully accountable. Check out thehotline.org for more info.

kateicl

I hate to be categorized as agreeing with those who blame the victim, but I think at least some of the problem is a woman going back, at least without some consistent long-term evidence that he — usually "he" — has changed. I also suspect such evidence is vanishingly rare.

I suppose it's a self-perpetuating cycle, with the children of both sexes growing up to accept violence.

I'm also concerned that both people involved in a violent domestic argument are sometimes arrested. It's happened down this way and, I suspect, in many other places. While it's not always clear exactly what happened, I tend to support anyone who is attacked defending themselves. I know I would, probably with the closest heavy object at hand.

Doigotta

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Arkansas Constitution supports equality

Three things struck me about your latest issue: All of the letters were signed by real people who do not claim to be "from the internet," the article about Rita Sklar was fun, and (last, but most important) the words of both Ernie Dumas and Judge Griffen still missed an important point in regard to the appeal of the ruling made by Judge Piazza.

Arkansas Constitution supports equality

Three things struck me about your latest issue: All of the letters were signed by real people who do not claim to be "from the internet," the article about Rita Sklar was fun, and (last, but most important) the words of both Ernie Dumas and Judge Griffen still missed an important point in regard to the appeal of the ruling made by Judge Piazza. Those who challenge the ruling are citing the primacy of the voters to control the content of the Constitution of the State of Arkansas; those who support the decision make a valid, albeit federally oriented, argument.

I firmly believe that the Arkansas Supreme Court has a duty to rule on a state basis, which they will do despite the fact that one side has failed to raise an Arkansas defense of the ruling. Our ancient Constitution contains a marvelous answer in Article 2. This statement of rights was over a century ahead of the issues of today, and it is a well-crafted promise of total equality. Although many of its sections are applicable to the instant case, No. 2 as well as the concluding section are of the greatest importance. It should be noted that nothing in the recent amendment outlawing same-sex marriage clearly repeals any part of Article 2, nor does it purport to grant an exception. Judge Piazza has ruled correctly, but the best defense of the ruling is still in waiting. I urge every Arkansan, regardless of their position on this one issue, to read, understand and appreciate the protections they all share under the terms of Article 2. I hope that the Arkansas Constitution will be considered in addition to the federal arguments.

Peter Dahlstrom

Little Rock

Sick, tired

Is it too early to be burned out by the election year? I am not impressed by the current lot of politicians, for the most part. Is there any Republican in our state who is not running against Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama? And exactly how can the attorney general or the state treasurer repeal the Affordable Care Act or defend the Second Amendment? I am really insulted by these people who must believe I can be so easily duped and influenced by such obvious hot-button items. And the Democrats should be ashamed as well! Tell me what you stand for other than the hollow statements no one could find fault with!

No one seems to have the guts (and brains) to say, "I have a plan and ideas, some of which you may not agree with, but overall it will be good for our country and our state!" And the gumption to convince me that I should sacrifice my immediate self-interest for the good of the nation! I would do that for the right person. My friends, these are shoes that are apparently too big to fill by any of our politicians nowadays, no matter their affiliation.

It seems that no one can be elected nowadays without selling their soul to a sufficient number of special interests in order to finance their campaign. Does not matter the party, it just changes the faces with the money. And sometimes the faces are the same.

Call me cynical. Probably guilty. Prove me wrong. I will shake your hand and call you a statesman.

Wendell Fowler

Little Rock

Swinging pendulum

I am writing this letter in response to David Steadman's letter, "War Fetish" (May 29) in which he refers to Gene Lyon's article, "Trigger Warnings," in the Arkansas Times (May 17). I am personally acquainted with both of these gentlemen, so seeing both of their works in the same edition was a pleasure. To me, the Times offers a needed liberal counterpoint to the conservative media, which is often presented as the news. I have two thoughts to share. The first is about politics being contrary to natural law. The second is the need for a newspaper that presents ideas needed in Arkansas.

There are rules that govern how all things relate in our universe. This is true of everything from atoms to apes, and maybe even to us humans. When these rules are violated, the force that governs the universe puts things right. One of the phenomena that is observed has to do with swinging pendulums. I call it the Law of Swinging Pendulums. It goes something like this: When released, a pendulum never swings farther in its second arc than it did in its first. It never swings more to the right than it did to the left. This is true unless outside force is applied. This outside force is often applied by humans. We call this phenomena politics.

I believe that since Caveman Ogg first decided to fight Caveman Sogg, the issue of peace versus war has been the basis of the most important political decisions made. This is true today of the Christians versus the Muslims, as they try to decide whether or not to have the next crusade or jihad. It is true as my neighbor and I decide which election signs we put up in our yards. This upcoming political season will apply steadily increasing amounts of energy to our already wildly swinging pendulum. I hope this energy will be directed toward detente rather than war. If we could all step back, take a deep breath, have some deep thoughts, and put down our mental rocks and clubs, then the swinging pendulum might adjust itself.

I am grateful to David, Gene and the Times for provoking these thoughts. I appreciate the role that the Times plays in Arkansas, even if it does at times border on rabid, yellow journalism. I am glad that the news media has the right to publish our opinions. I will defend this right to the death if necessary. I recently sold all of my guns, so if it does come to the Rights against the Lefts in our next civil war, I may have to use a stone or a club to defend our First Amendment right to free speech.

Ralph Hammond

Pulaski County

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Hog stench ruins tradition in Mt. Judea

By now, most of Arkansas knows about the factory hog farm of 6,500 pigs located in the Buffalo River watershed on Big Creek in Mt. Judea. You've read about the pollution and the threat to America's first National River. But what you haven't heard is how the C&H Hog Farm affects local people living at ground zero.

Hog stench ruins tradition

By now, most of Arkansas knows about the factory hog farm of 6,500 pigs located in the Buffalo River watershed on Big Creek in Mt. Judea. You've read about the pollution and the threat to America's first National River. But what you haven't heard is how the C&H Hog Farm affects local people living at ground zero.

Last week I took my mom and aunt to the old Sexton Cemetery in Mt. Judea. It's a sweet tradition; they gather their whisk brooms and cleaning supplies and go to the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried, and sweep off and wash the headstones, remove last year's decorations and replace them with their new, carefully selected flowers.

They fuss over the flowers, trying to arrange them to their prettiest and secure them so a strong wind won't blow them away. It's more precious to me every year, watching their little crooked backs tending the resting places of their family and where they too will rest someday.

We arrived at the cemetery, and it looked lovely. It was all mowed and manicured, with the big trees serenely shading the quiet plot of ground. I like coming here. My father and brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents, who were the first white people to settle in Big Creek Valley, are all buried here. If you could just take it all in with your eyes, it'd be a perfect scene; but we stepped out of the car to a horrendous and overwhelming stench of hog manure.

It turned a wonderful tradition into an extremely unpleasant task. I had to tie a scarf over my face to breathe as we worked quickly to escape back into our car. Ordinarily we would stay a while after decorating and share memories or funny stories of our loved ones, or just quietly ponder and enjoy the sweet smell of blooming honeysuckle. But not this time. It seems our concerns have become a reality — truly sad indeed.

This Memorial Day, I mourn not only our loved ones who have passed on, but also I mourn our loss of enjoyment of traditional outdoor activities, which is a loss of life as we've known it, in our little valley.

Pam Fowler

Jasper

Suggested dogma

I am a Catholic. I've heard arguments against homosexual relationships and gay marriage my whole life. While I appreciate the "hate the sin, not the sinner" rhetoric that attempts to promote love and not hate, I'm not sure the two sentiments are compatible. I'm also not convinced that the Church's anti-gay marriage stance isn't based on fear and intransigence. So here's what needs to happen. The standards that homosexuals are held to must be placed on all people. The Church says that a true marriage is between a man and a woman who are open to God's gift of life. Sex is for procreation, and homosexuality is wrong because it will never lead to new life. What if a heterosexual couple cannot or will not have children? Catholics must work to ban all marriages that will not lead to childbearing. This includes marriage between couples where one or both are infertile or utilizing artificial birth control. Gay marriage is also decried because it is "unnatural" and goes against "tradition." Sex using artificial birth control is by definition unnatural. And while methods of artificial birth control have been around throughout history (much like homosexual relations), they do not fit the Church's definition of traditional. Banning these marriages will promote marriages the Church claims to be interested in. Or, we could all admit to the hypocrisy involved with bans on same-sex marriage and focus on the true moral issues our state faces: poverty, poor health and low educational attainment.

Marisa Nelson

Little Rock

In memory of an Arkansas treasure

Maya Angelou's memoirs were so personal, yet they had such a widespread appeal, as you could identify with her experiences. She was a brilliant storyteller, with her voice transcending geographic, racial and social barriers.

She was a poor black woman who grew up in a small town in the deep South, yet she became an internationalist, a woman of the world, living at one time in Egypt and Ghana.

Born of humble beginnings, she came to know and be admired by black leaders and world leaders, becoming an activist for human rights and social justice and equality.

Kenneth L. Zimmerman

Huntington Beach, Calif.

Browning's forever

I am certain that Scott McGehee's newest restaurant to be called Heights Taco & Tamale Co. will be a hit, but I do wish that he and his partners would keep the Browning's name in the title. Scott knows that this landmark deserves respect although many new folks just don't get it.

Suzanne Hamilton

Little Rock

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War fetish

First up let me give a great big thank-you out to your regular columnist, Gene Lyons, for his excellent article "Trigger warnings" (May 22). And, especially for his more than apt admonishment to those bleating "check your privilege" that they kiss his — well, you know. It is in that spirit of kiss my — you know, that I want to offer some thoughts about our recently passed Memorial Day and some preparatory fire for our next opportunity to wax apoplectically about our very own bloated, big (you know) military.

War fetish

First up let me give a great big thank-you out to your regular columnist, Gene Lyons, for his excellent article "Trigger warnings" (May 22). And, especially for his more than apt admonishment to those bleating "check your privilege" that they kiss his — well, you know. It is in that spirit of kiss my — you know, that I want to offer some thoughts about our recently passed Memorial Day and some preparatory fire for our next opportunity to wax apoplectically about our very own bloated, big (you know) military.

We just about love us some dead soldiers more than a big ol' Frito chili pie, don't we? A clean and sanitized flag-draped casket or some newly dug dirt with a cluster of little clean flags stuck in it gets our inner faucets overflowing every time. Well, we don't actually call them dead soldiers, we like to say they are "fallen" as if somehow that makes it all right and they're still really alive and unemployed and only missing a few unseeable body parts and trying to get help from the mean ol' VA and, God forbid, not one of those "trigger warnings."

Anyway, we blew the drums and beat the horns or the other way around, and wept and cheered, and got all warm when we saw old Colin Powell, one of the good — um, people, without his United Nations WMD clothes on, and wanted to go all Putin on those Obamacare-loving liberals. Bang, bang went the fireworks and we strapped on the kids and hugged our guns and stretched up on our tiptoes and thumped our Bibles on the hoods of our pickup trucks, which are a whole lot bigger than yours — you know what I'm saying. And here we are in the afterglow, full of love for the dead and wanting to see some blood from that VA administrator with the unpronounceable, funny name.

How about we try doing something else? Instead of continuing to make a fetish of uniforms and bombs and planes and all the other adolescent props that divert our attention from the real world, why don't we take all the wasted resources we pour into perpetuating our death fantasies and spend it on education, and job training, and repairing or replacing our outdated, rotting infrastructure, and decreasing the speed of climate change, and housing, and feeding our hungry children just for starters? While we're about change, what if we turn all the VA hospitals and their massive budgets, as well as their negotiating power over, to the medical schools in every state where one exists? Maybe it would be possible to maintain a reasonable level of national oversight and purchasing power while giving the state institutions administrative and operational authority. Open the doors to all seeking health care. A bonus would be getting rid of the current federal government-run (socialized medicine) system we have now for military veterans. How much of a scandal would that be?

As a final insult to our perpetual struggle at maintaining our childhood, what if we stop creating dead soldiers or military veterans? Can we give up our fantasy of a "good" war with everyone who isn't us and work toward peace instead? What if our children really do learn from the behavior we show them? Yeah, yeah, I know: carrots and sticks. The problem there is that when you're out of carrots, are sticks what you want to be looking for?

David Steadman

Damascus

Bigger picture

Dozens of preachers, mainly black, gathered at the Arkansas state capital today to protest gay marriage. We haven't seen this type of "ecumenical" protest since the '60s civil rights movement!

Regardless of your moral or religious stance, their priorities are totally misaligned. Arkansas ranks 49th in child poverty, minority voting rights are being threatened, mass incarceration of blacks, Hispanics and the poor is at an all-time high, Affirmative Action is about to be a thing of the past, federally funded health care coverage in under siege, violence in many of the neighborhoods where their churches are located is riveting — and you choose to march against what two consenting adults decide to do with their lives.

Gay marriage is no threat to democracy. Is it me or is someone missing the bigger picture of the Gospel meaning, which is to bring liberty to the oppressed? And the ultimate truth is some of them are gay as well but too coward to stand in truth. Now, let the church say, Amen!

Jajuan Johnson

Little Rock

From the web

On the May 22 article about Koy Butler's unsuccessful attempt to open a small group home for disabled adults in North Little Rock:

Wrongdoing is that unlicensed opportunists are allowed to move elderly and disabled people into homes that are unlicensed and unsupervised "surrounded by their prize possessions." Obviously they house only three because that is the maximum allowed without a license. This guy owns nursing homes — too much supervision? Too much scrutiny? These homes cost twice or more what a nursing home costs to the patient, but no license and no supervision. Much easier to convert patient real estate assets and personal possessions to his own bank account without licensing or oversight.

How does he recruit these patients? Does he advertise? How does he get "referrals"? Do nursing homes deny admittance to steer patients into his and others' private unlicensed, unsupervised care?

Arwth

On the Arkansas Blog item about the disqualification of 80 percent of the ballots in St. Francis County:

The fact that we got 80 percent of the ballots in a Democratic county disqualified warms this Republican's heart. 

Every conservative in Arkansas is rejoicing today, from Stacy Hurst to her partners in politics, Tim Griffin and Jason Rapert. Not since the 1960s have we managed to keep black folk in their place so well. 

And I want to thank all the poll workers and commissioners for their service to democracy.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

On the Arkansas Blog item on the rally by black clergymen against same-sex marriage:

Last week in the list of marriage licenses issued in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I saw the names of a couple of my neighbors. When I saw one of them a few days ago, I congratulated her and said that I'd seen their names in the paper. She was so excited to hear that, she pulled out her phone and called her partner to tell her. You could hear the excitement in her voice. Not only were they able to get married, they got their name in the paper for doing so — something we take for granted. Marriage or a civil union — no matter what you call it — gives them so many more important rights, things most of us take for granted.

I really wonder when looking at the men in the picture, many who have probably faced discrimination because of their race, and heard stories of what their grandparents and parents faced, how they can forget that history? I wonder how they can claim to be Christians — much less Christian pastors — when they are deliberately wanting to restrict the rights of people who are different from them? 

Never Vote Republican

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Gains for equality

Even though I have lived away from Arkansas since 2001, I have diligently followed the Arkansas Times on Facebook. Your reporting always represents our state in a way that makes me very proud, and as a gay man, I have never been more proud of the Arkansas Times than I have been over the last several days. Growing up gay in the Delta was a difficult challenge for me, and there is a real catharsis in seeing the cover image and headline of this week's paper.

Gains for equality

I'm a member of the 2001 Academic All-Star class, from Rector, Ark. I grew up on a family cotton farm in the Delta, worked as an architect/planner in Chicago and Washington, D.C., for six years after college, and am now wrapping up a master's degree in Environmental Management at Yale.

Even though I have lived away from Arkansas since 2001, I have diligently followed the Arkansas Times on Facebook. Your reporting always represents our state in a way that makes me very proud, and as a gay man, I have never been more proud of the Arkansas Times than I have been over the last several days. Growing up gay in the Delta was a difficult challenge for me, and there is a real catharsis in seeing the cover image and headline of this week's paper.

The times are changing, and it's hard not to feel very optimistic about our future. Thank you for all that you do for our state and for offering your progressive voice to the mix.

Cary Simmons

New Haven, Conn.

The Arkansas Supreme Court predictably stayed Piazza's ruling, effectively halting the further issuance of licenses to same-sex couples across the state immediately. The case is effectively moved forward in the appeals process that puts into question whether or not there will be a final ruling by the end of the year, much less prior to the election in November. But this brief opening of the equality window, in a state that has developed its reputation over decades as a backwards bastion of prejudice and intolerance, was extremely important in the natural evolution of this matter, both on a state and national level.

For the first time, Arkansans witnessed some of their friends, neighbors and co-workers rejoice in the opportunity to embrace equality after a lifetime of being denied it. Images of normal families — families that were in no way dissimilar to ones on every block of every neighborhood in each town, country and region across the state — were filling every broadcast and front page as the door of equality repeatedly opened and closed throughout the week in different county clerks' offices statewide. In many cases this newfound freedom to marry was enjoyed by couples that had spent decades in committed relationships that made up the majority of their earthly lives. Lives that were lived right here in Arkansas. Couples that entire communities had known and led their lives alongside. People who had never been afforded the dignity to express such things beyond hushed whispers behind closed doors or even left unspoken altogether. Young couples with children who every day go through the motions of life alongside everyone else and have problems and concerns as banal as any family living in the Natural State today.

And yet, as these groundbreaking unions legally came into being, and the light of tolerance and compassionate humanity shone brightly for the first time in our state, the world did not end. No one woke up to find their own marriage doomed as a result of some of their neighbors sharing their love between each other and friends. No communities were snatched into the depths of the earth through the gaping jaws of hell as retribution for allowing such unions to take place. All in all, it was a pretty normal week otherwise. And this is extremely important. The court of public opinion on same-sex marriage in Arkansas is still lagging the national trends. But that should not preclude a judge from ruling to strike down laws that he views personally as an infringement on the constitutional rights of a segment of Arkansas's population that has historically suffered marginalization, bigotry and vitriolic hate speech from others in their communities. Growing up LGBT in Arkansas is not a fun or easy task, and anyone you talk to can attest to that. However, this newfound expression of the freedom to marry raising its head, albeit briefly, across the Bible Belt for the very first time should not be overlooked. This is big, and people know it. It's worth remembering that historically Arkansan courts were ahead of state public opinion in matters of Arkansas state law on issues as varied as segregation, interracial marriage and discrimination. History has judged this, in hindsight through the lens of time, as favorable and just. Why should this issue be any different?

Although often forgotten, it is still legal for any LGBT person across the state of Arkansas to be fired from their job or discriminated against in their housing or community. And here there is no federal protection either ,and the state is nowhere near even considering such measures given the strict control of the newly elected Republican majorities of both houses of the state legislature and their vehement opposition to granting any perceived "special" rights to the LGBT minority. So at some point in the near future, a newly legal same-sex family in Arkansas could be broken apart by one or both parents losing their job, or by being thrown out of their house because their landlord simply doesn't like people like them. Until such point as a federal discrimination law is in place, Arkansas will most likely not press ahead on this front, regardless of public opinion.

Benjamin Lord

Bangkok, Thailand

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