Archive for Letters

Against drone legislation

Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris is sponsoring HB1079, a bill that criminalizes the use of drones to capture "images" by anyone other than law enforcement agencies.

Against drone legislation

Arkansas Rep. Justin Harris is sponsoring HB1079, a bill that criminalizes the use of drones to capture "images" by anyone other than law enforcement agencies. While the intent of the bill would seem noble on its face — the protection of privacy and all that — my question is whose privacy is it really protecting? That of individual citizens or of corporate agriculture? I suspect the latter.

In the last assembly, a bill was introduced that criminalized the undercover use of cameras to expose animal cruelty inside factory farms. I don't know if it was passed and signed into law, but I believe a similar law was passed in another state and then struck down in a court case as a violation of freedom of expression.

Just recently, footage from a privately owned drone exposed a factory farm in North Carolina that had a "lagoon" of pig feces and urine. This open cesspool was the size of four football fields! And it was just one of over 2,000 factory farms in that state alone.

Rep. Harris is the owner of Growing God's Kingdom Inc., an evangelical preschool program that, as of 2005, had received over a million dollars from the state of Arkansas to teach his brand of religion to kids along with their education.

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Harris, being such a loyal evangelical Christian and Republican, is affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, and if his proposed bill is nothing more than the latest cookie-cutter legislation handed down to him by this corporate bill mill.

If such is the case, then Arkansans should be made aware that our rights as citizens are being slowly and systematically eradicated, bill by bill, by the corporate state.

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

Crime in midtown

I have become increasingly concerned about the crime in Little Rock's midtown. I own several houses and my daughter lives in the area. I am a member of the Hall High Neighborhood Association and am receiving multiple reports daily now about crimes, specifically burglaries, being committed in the area. It's out of control in my opinion. Offenders need to be put directly in jail and prosecuted to the fullest. The offenders seem to be becoming more brazen in that they are now breaking in when residents are home. It's simply a matter of time until this turns deadly. Little Rock police need to take this much more seriously and flood the area with patrol cars during the day. Not only do I fear for safety of residents, but property values in an upcoming Little Rock neighborhood will eventually suffer. Please LRPD, do something NOW!

Michelle Snyder

Maumelle

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog post about Monday's gathering of parents, teachers, board members and students who oppose a state takeover of the Little Rock School District:

I love hearing all the passion for education. However I do believe that this is all political. Improving our educational system could be done with a few small but very significant changes that require funding those impoverished schools equally as well as the more affluent areas. 1) A teacher should have no more than 10-15 students. As a mother and former substitute, it is a challenge to give appropriate attention and care to two or more children. 2) Our teachers must have assistants ... teachers' aides. Our teachers wear way too many titles to allow for true focus on the curriculum. 3) Our students and teachers must feel safe, from disgruntled employees, students, and outsiders. Safety is always a distraction especially in impoverished schools. 4) Give our students and teachers stability and stop moving them all around; real learning and growing requires a relationship. As soon as our students and teachers become familiar with styles of [teaching] they are transferred, moved around. This gives a very inaccurate measure of progress for all parties. 5) Give incentives and pay our teachers what they are worth. My children's education is priority, and those who are dedicated to educating our greatest assets should be rightly compensated. These minor alterations will require funding, BUT isn't it worth so much more.

amadden

In response to Max Brantley's observation that Little Rock School Board member Leslie Fisken doesn't represent anyone but herself:

Patently untrue, Max. 

She represents the Chamber of Commerce and the carpetbaggers that want to privatize education for profit.

After reading how much the Koch brothers intend to pour into the 2016 election, Leslie Fisken will hardly be the only elected official who answers not to those who elected her, but those that paid for her.

And once again, has the state given any clue as to what their plan is to "improve" LRSD? The options given by [school board member Jim] Ross seem to be logical first steps. If the state doesn't have a better plan ready to go, we're removing local control on the assumption that the state can do better. This is a dangerously slippery slope ... and a dangerous precedent. What state department will next decide that a locally elected government isn't doing things quite right and decide to eliminate a legally elected local entity and take over?

inthetrenches

In response to David Koon's Jan. 15 report on Arkansas's criminalization of the eviction process, a law ruled unconstitutional by Pulaski Circuit Judge Herb Wright Jan. 20:

I am a landlord. I find this appalling. First off, the taxpayers do not come out of pocket to pay for MY evictions like that litigator would have everybody believe. Not only do non-paying tenants cost me money in the courts, all the while not receiving rent from a deadbeat who stays in MY asset, I have to pay the sheriff to do the actual eviction, plus pay a bond called a double indemnity so that if the tenant sues the sheriff, then he is covered. This is BS. 

... Here is another way to look at it. Say I own a liquor store. A guy comes in and robs me. He tells the judge, "Well yer honor ... I just didn't have enough money this month." Just a guess, boys and girls, but I think the judge will put him in jail. What's the difference between that and the same guy not paying my rent. Oh, well, that was a public place ... you are a private landlord. Now wait a second, guys and gals, if I OWN the liquor store the justice system will help me put a crook away for acting irresponsibly, but if I OWN a house the justice system won't? Seems to me stealing is stealing.

HughMann

Hugh, say you own a liquor store. Say you let a customer run a tab for a month and at the end of the month he fails to pay. Has he stolen from you? Arguably. Would you expect the prosecutor to file charges?

Collecting rent and evicting tenants is a cost of doing business as a landlord. If you want to avoid it, pick better tenants. Why should you expect a taxpayer like me to increase your profits by paying your cost of doing business?

Silverback66

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Publish the cartoon

In last week's issue (Jan. 15), The Observer commented, "... And so we can do nothing more than to write the names of the dead."

Publish the cartoon

In last week's issue (Jan. 15), The Observer commented, "... And so we can do nothing more than to write the names of the dead."

I think, instead, if you really wanted to make a comment, you could have published that which we all want to see. That which apparently angered the Muslims to the point where they murdered all those people. It isn't like the cartoons are child porn. It isn't like they were such an offense to our infidel sensibilities.

The media, our hifalutin journalists with their supposed ethics and free speech, somehow across the board are all now scared shitless that the same might befall them, I think.

If the "media" had published the cartoons, what would the Muslims have done? Killed everyone? I doubt it.

The New York Times, and other media, published Piss Christ for crying out loud. Really, what is your rationale for shrinking in the face of this controversy?

James R. Moneypenny

Little Rock

Health care without barriers

A recent post by Max Brantley on the Arkansas Blog (" 'Working' for private option's survival," Jan. 16) noted that our new Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a few of his allies were headed to D.C. and the speculation was that they were going to seek waivers from the Obama administration allowing them to increase the barriers between poor people and access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the speculation was that Hutchinson wants to add some work requirements and perhaps a requirement that poor people pay a greater percentage of their already low income for health care insurance. A statistic noted in the same post implied that 40 percent of those served by the Medicare expansion approved in Arkansas are not engaged in gainful employment.

If either of the speculations about Hutchinson's motives for seeking ACA waivers is correct, then it's apparent that Hutchinson views work as punitive and an appropriate punishment applied to poor people. Otherwise, why seek the waivers? If Hutchinson believes that work is a beneficial activity and that having more people gainfully employed would be good both for individuals and for the state, then there are many more efficient and more cost-effective ways of accomplishing that goal than attaching a work requirement to access to health care. If our new governor is connecting a work requirement with increasing the tax base then he also must know that instituting a more progressive tax on both personal and corporate income is a much more effective way to improve the tax base than more heavily taxing low income people, as has been definitively demonstrated both historically and statistically. If Gov. Hutchinson believes that poor people should pay a greater percentage of their already low income than they do now for access to health care, then he is morally bankrupt. I strongly suggest that he read the New Testament of the Christian Bible and consult with his chosen deity before seeking to impose greater burdens upon those who are less fortunate than he. I think the message offered in the New Testament is "Jesus loves you," not "Jesus will bill you for his services."

David Stedman

Damascus

Accommodate Palestinians

Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, said, "Jews have the right to live in many countries, and it is their right to live in perfect safety. But I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have only one country, the state of Israel, the historic homeland that will accept them with open arms, like beloved children." Prime Minister Netanyahu added, "Today more than ever, Israel is our true home, and the more numerous we are, and the more united we are in our country, the stronger we are in our one and only state."

I hope he will also say, "Palestinian Muslims and Christians have the right to live in many countries, and it is their right to live in perfect safety, but I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have only one country, Palestine, that will accept them with open arms, like beloved children. Today more than ever, Palestine is their true home, and the more numerous they are, and the more united they are in their country, the stronger they will be in their one and only state."

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

Torture damages America

So a new year has arrived. Last year was both good and bad. Toward the end of 2014, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released its conclusions on the CIA's torture practices. The worst attitude was expressed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who vowed to continue promoting the use of human torture.

I never thought I would need to explain this to my fellow Americans, but human torture is wrong. People who resort to human torture are depraved and need psychological counseling. Political leaders who condone torture are the cause of unraveling of society's moral fabric. Those who claim to have extracted information via torture have admitted their guilt and must be punished, starting at the top of the command chain. No excuses. Any "what if" scenario is the stuff of TV drama. The Bush-Cheney administration's promotion of torture has made the world more dangerous for America. Worst of all, Bush and Cheney spawned a new torture culture in America that thinks the United States has the raw power to get away with it.

Some Republicans, like John McCain and Asa Hutchinson, warned Bush and Cheney not to promote torture. Unfortunately, McCain and Hutchinson supported Bush and Cheney in every other endeavor, so McCain and Hutchinson are guilty of aiding and abetting torture criminals.

Let us hope America finds its spine this year and punishes the leaders of our new torture culture.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Hickey vs. lottery

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. is systematically destroying the Arkansas education lottery for some unknown reason. ... Perhaps his motives should be investigated by the proper federal authorities as there doesn't seem to be any agency within the state of Arkansas that either has the mandate or integrity to investigate.

Hickey vs. lottery

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. is systematically destroying the Arkansas education lottery for some unknown reason. ... Perhaps his motives should be investigated by the proper federal authorities as there doesn't seem to be any agency within the state of Arkansas that either has the mandate or integrity to investigate.

The recent bill he introduced to eliminate the Arkansas Lottery Commission and move the management into the state Board of Education is the worst idea yet ... unless you want to destroy the lottery and the opportunity for Arkansas students to earn a subsidized education. Sen. Hickey doesn't like to play by the rules so he wants to throw the rules out and control this governmental revenue stream by fiat. It is amazing that the Arkansas Legislature allows him to run roughshod over the rule of law.

The parent company of Camelot Global Services (the consulting group he illegally hired in the fall) does operate a very successful lottery in England, and they have a board that oversees their operation to generate funds for "good causes." The distribution of those funds is delegated to a different commission as this separation of activities makes commercial and political sense. Camelot Global Services did not recommend that he eliminate the Lottery Commission, so I guess the senator is now a self-educated "expert" in lottery operations. Delusional state legislators that meddle in areas where they have little or no expertise tend to create chaos that does not benefit the population, but often benefits the individual who creates the mess.

The evidence of the operation of a lottery under a commission appointed by the elected head of state has been very successful in states where the rule of law and transparency prevail. The Georgia Lottery Corp. has dealt with the same problems of funding educational scholarships as the program has been extraordinary successful. The addition of monitor games and the centralized reporting of video lottery terminals have augmented the lottery sales and allowed the state to continue funding most of the demands of the students who participate. Sen. Hickey stopped the introduction of monitor games and video lottery terminals for reasons only known to him, and then moved to have the oversight of the lottery switched to the recipient organization that will create an enormous conflict of interest on the operation methodologies of the lottery.

The citizens of Arkansas deserve better than this.

Kip Peterson

Roswell, Ga.

From the web

In response to David Koon's cover story "Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel" (Jan. 8):

If somebody local would coordinate the effort, I know I and many others would donate to establish such a memorial.

Lindsay Irion

David, once again you have touched our hearts with a beautifully told story about an exceptional person. Thank you, sir, for making us feel deeply about the people and things that should stir our heart and souls.

And count me in with Lindsay. I would be honored to contribute to such a memorial.

mountaingirl

I am a physician who graduated from UAMS in 1982. I am sobbing now. I recall this new disease that we didn't have a name for other than "gay people get some weird fucking shit." Then we called it GRID. We finally found a virus we called HIV and finally a consensus and we called it AIDS. We expected a vaccine any day once we identified the virus. It never came. I got the New York Times and every Sunday the pages of obituaries of young men, and we knew what it was. Even in Little Rock, two to three young men EVERY DAY. Everyone who got the disease died. Everyone. I try to make my young gay friends, young colleagues in medicine understand how sad it was. How helpless we felt in medicine. How frustrated we were that there were people, MDs, afraid to take care of these people, these lovely young men. Then heterosexuals — drug abusers, people said. Then Elizabeth Glazer and her young daughter were diagnosed and came forward. Things began to change. But still so many beautiful young people were gone.

Janet Riley Cathey

This brings to mind Angels in America. I don't know if I believe in angels, but if they exist, Ruth is surely one among us.

Also, this seems ripe for a film adaptation.

Ctmurray

Mr. Koon, this is utterly breathtaking. I'm a Hot Springs girl. I want to know how and when I can pay tribute to this woman and the precious people she served all those years. I certainly wish I had known her in the '90s when I was in high school being told I was going to hell for not making fun of and ostracizing our gay members of the community. It felt lonely to feel the way I did about GLBTQ rights. I was an advocate then, and although I did not know of her work, I'd like to help it continue to grow today. She makes me PROUD, PROUD, PROUD!!!!

Allison Johnson

An amazing story of an incredible woman. Thank you, Ruth Coker Burks. You're an inspiration. I think it's difficult for many people to realize the tragedy of those years without having lived through them. Bless you.

donald.smith.16

Thank you for writing Ruth's story. Her bravery, compassion and love surmounted so much bigotry, ignorance and outright hate. She brought light and peace to so many consigned to death.

Irishdanmcd

What an amazing heart. As a parent, I cannot imagine abandoning my child like so many of these families did (and still do). Bless Ruth for the love and comfort she provided these people when they were sick, and the dignity they deserved when they died.

JY

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Time for road fix

Anyone who knows anything about Economics 101 knows that this is the best time to do a major fix in how we pay for our road system. For several years Congress has been making up the shortage the trust fund has run up in our attempt to maintain our highways. The biggest problem is how the trust fund is funded.

Time for road fix

Anyone who knows anything about Economics 101 knows that this is the best time to do a major fix in how we pay for our road system. For several years Congress has been making up the shortage the trust fund has run up in our attempt to maintain our highways. The biggest problem is how the trust fund is funded. A set amount of tax on a gallon of gas has to keep up with inflation or you have to reduce service. How much do you think prices have increased over the last 20 years?

The gas tax hasn't changed one cent. Could you live on your pay from 20 years ago? And Congress still has no intention to deal with it! This tax is one of the fairest out there: The users of the system pay the entire tax.

To get things back on a sound footing Congress should do one of two things. They should raise the federal gas tax to 25 cents a gallon or change the fixed tax per gallon to a percentage of the cost of a gallon.

The first option would put much-needed funds into the trust and assure engineers can keep our roads at current levels of service. We've been and are still going backward due to underfunding.

We're talking 6.5 cents a gallon more. About a dollar on a fill-up to get the trust fund stable. A dollar! That's not going to break you with current fuel prices.

The other option Congress could do is make the gas tax a percentage. To make every thing neutral, since no one wants to raise taxes, the current percentage on $2.25 per gallon of gas is around 8.25 percent. Congress could make the federal tax rate 8.25 percent and not change a thing in the current environment. What this would do is let the tax stay on par with the cost of the fuel. As prices climb, so would the trust fund.

We used to have the best road system in the world. But because we've not kept funds coming in to maintain it, we are slowly going down the list of first-class roads in the world. Now is the time to take care of the trust fund. Contact your congressman and tell them you can afford the extra buck a tank and raise the rate to 25 cents. Or at least make it a percentage, if nothing.

Steve Heye

Little Rock

White pride

I am really taken aback by comments made by your paper regarding a billboard put up by Thom Robb.

Personally, I can't say that I know the man. However, I am white, and I am proud of being white, and by no means a racist.

I have Hispanic neighbors and no problems. Black neighbors and no problems. But from what I've read, you consider it wrong to be proud of being white. Remember that the next time your paper donates to the NAACP or United Negro College Fund. Anything pro-black or pro-any other race is OK, but anything pro-white is racist?

I have to ask then, who is the real racist? Folks that are proud of being whatever color they are (including white) or those ridiculing those of a specific color? Like what you have done?

C. Kem

Columbia, Utah

Word flub

In an item in "The Week That Was" (Dec. 25) you wrote, "The amount of hours ..." Doug Smith is spinning in his grave! Obviously, it should read, "The number of hours ..." A later reference to "The number of Arkansas Congressmen" was correct.

Mike Watts

Little Rock

Plant flub

Although the sentiment behind the article in your Big Ideas issue to plant with native plants [Dec. 18, "Go native with plants") instead of introduced exotics for the benefit of the environment is commendable, the misinformation is deplorable. Of the eight species of plants that the author cites by name as wonderful examples of "native" species to plant, three (blackberry lily, Queen Anne's lace and spotted knapweed) are unequivocally not native to North America, much less Arkansas, and the latter two are troublesome invasive weeds that negatively affect native ecosystems.  Spotted knapweed is an especially nasty and detrimental weed in North America and great pains are being taken to try to eradicate or at least control it. The simplest research on these plants should have brought to the author's attention the status of these species ... most of the first items that are retrieved when performing an Internet search on "spotted knapweed" contain headline references to its "invasive" nature.

Providing such inaccurate information that the public is likely to take as fact given the source greatly undermines the effort that groups like the Arkansas Native Plant Society and other competent professionals in the fields of botany, ecology and natural resources management have put forth to create an educated and informed public regarding these issues.

Brent Baker

Arkansas Native Plant Society member

From the web

In response to "The Internet gap in Arkansas education" (Dec. 25) by Benjamin Hardy:

Good luck getting decent speeds to some of the more rural schools. No big provider is going to lay down the cost or infrastructure to get to them. There are fixed wireless solutions, but even that technology requires bandwidth from somewhere.

Lbishop

I have spent my career in small rural school districts. Speeds were always lightning fast. Don't know why they haven't been going after the APSCN software for the last couple of decades. APSCN was adapted from a suite of software named Pentamation used in very large corporations. Many years ago the State Department [of Education] asked for suggestions. There is even school management software available open source (free) developed in South Africa, as well as scheduling.

Maxifer

In response to "Unrestricted high explosives, available at a sporting goods store near you" (Dec. 17) by David Koon:

Fear mongering at its best. Way to go AT.

Scott Connaway

Fear mongering?!? How many US citizens in the last 10 years have been arrested for building/using/threatening to use explosives? Hello! You can go to Sports Authority and buy your premade high explosive in unregulated large quantities, pack a car with it, drive it to the Capitol building or target of choice, and set it off with a cell phone from wherever the F you want! It's not fear mongering, it's concern that crazy people do crazy shit with high explosives all the damn time, and we shouldn't make it easier for them to kill indiscriminately. Any terrorist with a fake ID or less could buy this without any trouble, and how would we find them after?

D burn

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Praise for Broadway

I was a college professor for about 20 years at three colleges, two in Arkansas. In eight years on the Arkansas House of Representatives Education Committee in the 1970s, I observed and interacted with directors of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

Praise for Broadway

I was a college professor for about 20 years at three colleges, two in Arkansas. In eight years on the Arkansas House of Representatives Education Committee in the 1970s, I observed and interacted with directors of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. In the 1980s as chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission I followed their successors with interest and some interaction. While working with USAID in four foreign countries I kept up with ADHE. Eventually, in Gov. Mike Huckabee's administration, I went to work with ADHE as associate director for research and policy. Thus I have a little perspective to evaluate Shane Broadway in comparison with his predecessors.

He is the best in a long line of capable directors. The best.

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

Celebrating the brave

I'd like to take this time of year to celebrate all the Arkansans who have shown the courage and audacity to be themselves despite a lack of support from their local communities.

To all the drag queens and bull dykes, the non-gender conforming, the weirdos and the nerds: I celebrate you!

To all the un-good-ol'-boys, un-Razorback fans, un-hunters and un-Duck Dynasty fans: I celebrate you!

To all the un-religious and irreligious: the un-Mike Huckabees, un-Ronnie Floyds, un-Bob Ballingers and un-Jason Raperts: I celebrate you!

To all the un-white heteronormative privileged: the un-Susie Everetts and un-Mike Mastersons: I celebrate you!

To all the losers, whether in love, economics or life: I celebrate you!

To all those plagued by conscience, inner demons, doubt or indecision: I celebrate you!

To all those who have fallen between the cracks of Arkansas society and culture: I celebrate you, wish you goodwill and raise you up to the arms of the universe and good fortune!

May 2015 be your best year ever!

Brad Bailey

Fayetteville

Back to the Stone Age

I've been thinking about this for some time now, and I think it's time that America get more aggressive in our effort to rid this world of the evil embodied in ISIS, the Taliban and that little troll who runs North Korea.

Even though I understand and believe in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as echoed by Mohandas K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am not a pacifist.

It seems clear to me that wherever there is no separation between church and state, there is inherent evil and violence.

ISIS and the Taliban's distorted concept of Islam, as well as the beliefs of the North Korean people that their leader, that little monkey, is a God, are examples of this.

When groups like ISIS, the Taliban and nations like North Korea continue to act in cruel and barbaric ways, they must be removed from this planet by any means necessary.

I hate violence, and I did not come to this conclusion overnight.

But I think the time has come to consider bombing these people back to the Stone Age.

As ignorant as they are, it will only set them back a few years, but it may give the rest of us decades of peace and security.

Butch Stone

Maumelle

From the web

Re: the suggestion in the Big Ideas issue (Dec. 18) to keep graduates of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Arkansas:

Great stuff! As an ASMSA alum (class of '03, woot woot) and North Little Rock resident, I would love to see Arkansas foster the kind of tech environment that is pulling people to Austin. There are a lot of great things about living in Arkansas, and graduates should be able to stay here and have fulfilling and exciting careers.

Dana Vickerson

In response to a reader's criticism that David Koon's story on the availability of the explosive Tannerite (Dec. 18) was "fear mongering at its best.":

Fear mongering?!? How many U.S. citizens in the last 10 years have been arrested for building/using/threatening to use explosives? Hello! You can go to Sports Authority and buy your premade high explosive in unregulated large quantities, pack a car with it, drive it to the Capitol building or target of choice, and set it off with a cell phone from wherever the F you want! It's not fear mongering, it's concern that crazy people do crazy shit with high explosives all the goddamn time and we shouldn't make it easier for them to kill indiscriminately. Any terrorist with a fake ID or less could buy this without any trouble and how would we find them after?

D burn

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on legislators and lobbyists ignoring the prohibitions on gifts voted in at the General Election:

I doubt it can be accomplished by the first of the year but clearly we need to issue every citizen of Arkansas an electric cattle prod to use on gift whore legislators and pimping lobbyists. See any two together in public or in private and shock the living shit out of both 20 or 30 times and they just might understand what the word ETHICS means. 

By God, nearly every family has or had someone with a drinking or drug problem and knows of terrible times when he or she slipped out, slipped in and slipped up. Our legislators are addicted to free stuff, probably learned it from Mike Huckabee, and it is our job to make sure the car keys are hid, the doors are locked and there's no bottles hidden in boots or pills under the mattress. What a sad chore for hard-working people having a hard enough time just keeping the lights on. 

Are there no honest people? Is there no one in elected office who feels like they have enough? It used to be an honor to be elected by your community. Now it's a free ticket to free stuff and under-the-table nest feathering.  ...

Get the cattle prods! Let's make 2015 a year of real change!

Deathbyinches

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Raping with impunity

In Gene Lyons' Dec. 11 column "Rolling Stone Now Publishing Fiction," he asked a rhetorical question: "Had American culture really coarsened to where college boys could rape with impunity?" I'm writing this letter because I thought he might like to know that question has been empirically answered by social scientists.

Raping with impunity

In Gene Lyons' Dec. 11 column "Rolling Stone Now Publishing Fiction," he asked a rhetorical question: "Had American culture really coarsened to where college boys could rape with impunity?" I'm writing this letter because I thought he might like to know that question has been empirically answered by social scientists.

A few years ago, psychologists at the University of Massachusetts in Boston conducted a survey of 1,882 undergraduate men that asked, among other things, if they had ever forced anyone to have sex against that person's will. One hundred twenty respondents — or 6.4 percent — said that they had. The methods the self-reported rapists used varied, with most saying that they had used alcohol or drugs to incapacitate the other person, while others admitted to using physical force to coerce sex from their victim. The 120 self-reported rapists acknowledged committing a combined total of 483 rapes, slightly more than four rapes per rapist. Other social scientists have replicated the University of Massachusetts study and found similar results.

In the third paragraph of Lyons' column, he wrote that he found the Rolling Stone story regarding rape at University of Virginia difficult to believe because he "wouldn't go to a movie with such cartoon villains." Although Mr. Lyons may ultimately be proven right about the Rolling Stone article he criticizes, he may wish to consider the possibility that his glibness about this topic is perhaps misplaced.

Nigel Halliday

Conway

Hoodwinked

Recently Congress passed a $1.1 trillion government-spending bill. The big bank lobbyists that represent banks like Citigroup and JP Morgan were able to get a banking provision attached to the bill. This provision allows banks to keep their swaps trading in units that have federal backstops. More specifically, this provision allows financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the FDIC, explicitly putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by these contracts, which are currently valued at over $300 trillion. This provision negates the rules enacted by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which protected taxpayers against bank losses after souring derivative trades helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. There is another financial crisis on the horizon and the big banks know it. Sen. Boozman voted for this bill and Sen.-elect Cotton, as the 4th District representative, did not, but I could not get a comment from his staff as to why he opposed the bill. There is not one thing about this provision that is good for the U.S. taxpayer. It only allows the big banks to gamble with you, the taxpayer, as their backstop. The profit potential for them is huge, billions of dollars, and now the cost of losing their bets is zero, courtesy of taxpayers. I urge you to contact your congressional representatives to get this banking provision repealed. We cannot afford another $700 billion bank bailout.

Mike Flemming

Hot Springs

From the web

In response to "A racist system," a guest column by Sam O'Bryant:

If we are going to discuss the nature of race and police shootings, then it is incumbent on us to discuss this honestly. If you have a shooting like John Crawford's, where it is evident that the police came storming into Walmart with intent to kill, then you can show a problem.

If you have a kid like Trayvon Martin who is shot in the act of trying to kill someone, justice is done the moment the citizen fires that shot in self-defense.

Some of the cases clearly have a racial animus in them, yet they seem to be the ones that get little airplay. Also forgotten is that in some of these cases, the full court of justice has found in defense of some of those black lives. The shooter of Oscar Grant is out of a job, unlike the shooter of John Crawford. Michael Dunn is doing 60 years in the killing of Jordan Davis.

As far as zip codes, yes, that is true. It also works that way for non blacks, too. If you're Hispanic, and born into a certain zip, your life expectancy is not much better. That delves more into issues of community, rather than race. Blacks in other zip codes that have more mixing and less gang trouble do tend to live longer. Same goes for Hispanics born outside of East L.A., or in my case, Echo Park. We got out; I got a better life.

The question then becomes why are so many blacks committing so many crimes, and how can these communities get together to properly address the problem, instead of blaming others.

Michael Brown and Martin were examples of the system working well, and justice being served. Trayvon was not stalked, and Brown was not shot in the back with hands held high, and Eric Garner was not choked to death. There have been a legion of lies to show these cases as ones of racial animus, but the facts do not hold that up. Still, people seem to want to buy into the dubious nature of these shootings to legitimize the riots and lootings that have happened since.

Yet nobody riots for Tamir Rice, or John Crawford, which are clear cases of police murders. Will Al Sharpton make a speech about Crawford, or will Obama and Holder get the DOJ to investigate Rice?

There may be a point to the racial hysteria. It is entirely possible. For that point to be honestly made, one has to cull the dubious from the righteous. Brown, Martin and Garner are definitely dubious, and trying to hinge any aims towards justice on the lies that play in those narratives only creates racial strife.

Steven E

Equal protection and due process shouldn't require you to first be a saint for those constitutional principals to apply. Even if one inserts himself into the criminal justice system, his experience throughout should be dictated by the constitution not his or her race or class. A black suspect should have the same fair process as anyone else. Studies and stats have repeatedly shown that is not the case.

J.O.

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Beau don’t know Bo

All credit to Arkansas for their 30-0 whitewashing of Ole Miss. The Hogs played a great game, with their defense causing six turnovers and stifling a potent Rebel offense. However, Wilcox is way off base when he declares "you can bet that Ole Miss will have more offensive stability when their signal caller changes next fall. He's not a natural scrambler, misses reads and is just not capable of making decisions under duress."

Beau don't know Bo

As an Ole Miss graduate and a diehard Rebel fan, I would like to comment on Beau Wilcox's column "Resurgence" (Nov. 27). All credit to Arkansas for their 30-0 whitewashing of Ole Miss. The Hogs played a great game, with their defense causing six turnovers and stifling a potent Rebel offense. However, Wilcox is way off base when he declares "you can bet that Ole Miss will have more offensive stability when their signal caller changes next fall. He's not a natural scrambler, misses reads and is just not capable of making decisions under duress." First of all, may I remind Wilcox that Bo Wallace led the Rebels to victories over Arkansas in 2012 and 2013. Moreover, he was a three-year starter for Ole Miss who set all sorts of school records during his career. He played a key role in making the Rebels a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West. Yes, he isn't a "natural scrambler" and "misses reads" like all quarterbacks do. But I think during his time at Ole Miss he definitely proved he could make "decisions under duress." Starting every game from 2012-2014, Wallace led the Rebels to come-from-behind victories and what will turn out to be three bowl appearances. Against Mississippi State, Wallace played with a bum ankle and guided the Rebels to a convincing 31-17 victory. In the process, he threw for nearly 300 yards. For the past three years Bo Wallace has been the face of Ole Miss football. He hung in there and provided Rebel fans with many memorable moments. To say he wasn't capable of "making decisions under duress" is just plain wrong. Finding a replacement for Wallace for the 2015 season will be no easy task for head coach Hugh Freeze. Go Rebels!

Jimmie Purvis

Little Rock

Lessons from Doug

When I arrived at the Arkansas Gazette newsroom in 1966, I had several lively conversations with reporters over a two- or three-month period. We discussed how to gather news, interview technique, etc. It was very informative to me as a 27-year-old rookie. Doug Smith and I had those kinds of chats, and we also discussed how important it was to report the truth as we could tell at the time we gathered the data. That was sacred, because we valued our relationship with our readers. But we did have one disagreement: What was America's best beer. We quickly resolved that issue by agreeing that the beer that was available was the best beer.

Doug was one of my favorite writers. I loved his honesty.

Wayne Jordan

Little Rock

Giving up privacy

With all of the new technologies promising to make our lives faster, easier and more organized, most of us are becoming more public with our lives than ever before. We go about our day with "smart" devices sending location data out for navigation routes, search terms for returning webpages, or using apps to find a nearby hangout. Often, we don't realize just how critical this data can be.

Privacy rights have been vanishing since 9/11 with the creation of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act gives the government unprecedented authority to spy on United States citizens. The general consensus seems to be "I'm not doing anything wrong. Why should I care?"

Imagine for a moment that you are an average law-abiding citizen writing a short suspense thriller during the time you have off from your day job. Some common search terms you might use writing this story could include topics such as poison, types of firearms or creating a fake ID. Couple this with your normal jogging route through the rural part of the county, constantly sending location data to what is essentially the same data set as your search results from earlier.

This kind of information could be used to force you to confess to a crime you didn't commit. In 2010, "Bill," a New York resident, was wrongfully accused of downloading child pornography. This accusation surprised Bill so much that he fainted during questioning. Bill lost his job, his home, and was shunned by some of his best friends for something that he never even did.

Even you could find yourself being questioned for conspiracy to commit a crime. If you had to go to legal battle with the FBI, CIA, NSA or any other "alphabet soup" organization, would you be prepared?

Michael Tomlinson

Sherwood

I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected a friend of mine wore a black armband and said bad things were going to happen. He was right. Reagan let the federal budget get so out of control, he became the first U.S. president to budget for over a trillion dollars. Reagan also attacked working Americans by labeling hundreds of thousands of Americans as "double dippers" and stealing their Social Security benefits. Reagan demonstrated that Republicans could take away Social Security and be lauded as heroes. Arkansas has not learned from history.

The 2014 Republican sweep of Arkansas and the Congress was not the result of a TV show contest or a political game. The political cycle was a life-and-death struggle between the Great Society and robber barons. No sports metaphor suffices. LBJ's Great Society has been strapped to a chair with wheels and left to rot by the fireplace. FDR's New Deal is being replaced by (insert next Republican president's name)'s raw deal.

Here is how it will happen. The next Republican president will borrow heavily from the Social Security fund, declare the social program bankrupt, and win support from states like Arkansas to privatize Social Security, whereby creating a system that steals life from the poor and gives to the rich. George W. Bush almost succeeded in doing this.

Billionaires now rule Arkansas. Social Security cannot survive.

Gene Mason

Jacksonville

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Don’t slight Pinnacle

I do not know why you felt the need to insult and basically bash Pinnacle Mountain State Park in your seemingly unrelated introduction. It sounds like you have hiked in only one small area of the park (on a busy Saturday, at that), and are unaware that Pinnacle Mountain State Park is much more than solely the mountain that gives it its namesake.

Don't slight Pinnacle

I enjoyed and appreciated your article on the new trail guide for Petit Jean State Park ("Rediscover Petit Jean," Nov. 20). It was great that you got the chance to meet Dr. Matt Moran and go on such an informative guided hike. His knowledge of the ecological diversity of the trails is fascinating.

I do not know why you felt the need to insult and basically bash Pinnacle Mountain State Park in your seemingly unrelated introduction. It sounds like you have hiked in only one small area of the park (on a busy Saturday, at that), and are unaware that Pinnacle Mountain State Park is much more than solely the mountain that gives it its namesake. Several other trails are spread throughout the park, containing extremely diverse ecosystems. One can find bottomland hardwoods, swamps, mixed hardwood pine forests, upland hardwood forests and glades, all within the park's 2,351 acres. With two rivers running through the park, and several areas left untouched by the public, Pinnacle is home to a thriving, healthy amount of wildlife and plant species. These include wild turkeys, whitetail deer, bald eagles, coyotes, bobcats, several amphibian species, every species of snake in Arkansas and a wide variety of birds. Please note that the list I just gave is in no way exhaustive. I also did not include the park's trees and plant populations. I would be quite thrilled to find any of the aforementioned species in a "grand city park."

I encourage you to explore the rest of the park, besides the mountain itself. Yes, the mountain is packed on the weekends and has probably suffered some ecological damage from all of the foot traffic. Any state park within bike riding distance of Arkansas's largest metropolis would suffer the same consequences. Luckily, the rest of the park seems to be a well-kept secret, and could still be considered, perhaps, a small bit wild. No park in Arkansas can boast being "remotely wild," I'm afraid. Not even the revered Petit Jean. The park's "stubby anthill" is still just as awe-inspiring as other mountains in Arkansas; the fact that it is the most used makes no difference. Perhaps you have become jaded due to the fact that this mountain isn't "just an hour further down the road."

No two areas in Arkansas are the same — that is the beauty of our Natural State. I beg you to do a little bit more research on areas that you decide to publicly dismiss. Thankfully for everyone, no matter how far "West Little Rock's sprawl" increases, Pinnacle Mountain State Park will remain.

Gillian Hannah Rossi

Pinnacle Mountain State Park interpreter

Little Rock

Pro Circles

According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 percent of Arkansans live in poverty. 28.6 percent of those impoverished people were Arkansas children. Comparable to the United States, Arkansas ranked No. 48 of the 50 states having citizens living in poverty. Depending on your definition of what it means to be poor, those percentages may be lower or higher. However, the truth of the matter is Arkansas needs to do something to combat this very serious problem.

There are many negative attitudes towards people who need some form of government assistance to help them make ends meet. I'm sure many Arkansans hold these same opinions. Some feel as though people shouldn't receive handouts and need to work like everyone else. Yet what about those who do work but whose job doesn't pay enough to cover food or bills? The public has this perception that the majority of people receiving welfare benefits are deviants that are working the system. If citizens have a problem with how the government manages welfare benefits, why don't those individuals who criticize government solutions lend their own personal helping hand?

Circles USA is a national program with the goal of helping families out of poverty. It does so by bringing low-income people and middle-class community members together. The way the program operates is one Circle leader, a low-income individual, is matched with allies, middle-income members, who meet once a month. During these meetings the leader creates a plan to obtain the economic, professional and social resources to move out of poverty. The allies form a support group to aid the leader to achieve these goals. Some Circles programs offer classes that the leader can take to learn about budgeting, planning and setting goals. Circle programs offer training for communities and encourages them to tailor their programs to the needs of citizens in their specific communities.

There are some criticisms of the Circles program. New sites are cautioned that some participants take four or five years to move out of poverty. There is a maximum of 25 participants at a time, so there aren't a large number of people being helped at once. Circles has a "slow and steady wins the race" mentality. According to a Stanford Social Innovation Review, 64 percent of participants finish the program and their income was increased by an average of 28 percent while participating. This promising data is the reason why Circles advocates say small numbers of participants and adequate time lead to success.

I believe that Circles could be utilized very well in Arkansas. Personal relationships crossing class lines can only help in the fight against poverty. Learning about finances and networking with leaders of communities may be the tools needed for people to move away from being financially underprivileged. We all know the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime."

Kolby Harper

Gurdon

Correction

In last week's Comment, we mistakenly transcribed a letter from Kavion Wang, owner of Fantastic China. Instead of "Everything that comes from our kitchen is French and homemade" the letter should have read, ""Everything that comes from our kitchen is fresh and homemade."

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

Tell us next time

I'd like to respond to the recent review your writers completed of my restaurant ("The good, the bad, the rubbery," Nov. 20). Fantastic China has a long, successful history (nearly 20 years) in The Heights area, and we have always been dedicated to providing the best quality food to the residents of Central Arkansas.

Tell us next time

I'd like to respond to the recent review your writers completed of my restaurant ("The good, the bad, the rubbery," Nov. 20). Fantastic China has a long, successful history (nearly 20 years) in The Heights area, and we have always been dedicated to providing the best quality food to the residents of Central Arkansas.

As in all businesses and personal interactions, there can be a bad day. The experience of the reviewer is not indicative of the quality of my restaurant and the food that comes out of the kitchen on a daily basis. Everything that comes from our kitchen is fresh and homemade, including all the appetizers like the dumplings and eggrolls. My chef has been with me since we opened and continues to make the food your readers and my customers love and keep coming back for.

I understand that people have different tastes and what may be too spicy for some may be just right for others. I appreciate the review of my business; however, I take issue with the fact that the reviewer did not bring his or her dissatisfaction with his meal to my attention or to the server's attention. I make every attempt to make sure that every one of my customers receives a quality experience when dining with me. If something is not right, it is fixed immediately. I was not given the opportunity to do so this time.

In the future, your reviewers should take all of this into consideration not just for my restaurant, but for all restaurants in the area.

Kavion Wang

Owner, Fantastic China

Little Rock

Fluoridation, Mandrake!

In March 2011, Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law Act 197, which mandates fluoridation for most water systems in Arkansas. Whether you were for or against the issue, you cannot deny that much research and discussion has taken place in the almost three-year period since the signing of it into law. It is important for you to read about it for yourself.

In my opinion, the fluoridation of our water is nothing less than the poisoning of our water. For those who perceive the need for it to prevent cavities in children, there are studies indicating, "It just ain't so!" But if you insist, then simply buy it in the form of toothpaste. And for all other water issues, such as bathing, the fluoridation of our water is going to be a waste of money. Consider the warning labels required on products containing fluoride, and ask yourself, if you really want to ingest this no-less-than-questionable substance into your body on a daily basis. Some may argue that they are not concerned about it, because they use water purifiers. However, not everyone can afford such equipment, and it is not fair for those who cannot afford a purifier to have to be forced to drink it. And personally, I do not want to rely on filtering it as being adequate.

This is a major issue for the health of each and every one of us. I suggest a letter campaign to our legislators, as well as to State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, head of the Senate Public Health Committee, to bring to light the current research on fluoridation and the need for the overturning of that law.

Remember, Hot Springs voted against the fluoridation of our water many years ago, when the trend was big to accept it. So did Eureka Springs. My father, Dr. Cecil Parkerson, was a medical doctor in Hot Springs for over 50 years, and I know that he voted against the fluoridation of our water and felt strongly about it, and he was always ahead of his time in thinking.

The House has yet to designate the head for their Public Health Committee; however, you can call 501-682-7771 around January 12, 2015, to find out, and contact that representative about the updated research on fluoridation, and stress the need to work to overturn that law.

It is my opinion that the money spent for the equipment and maintenance to fluoridate our water supply will not only be a waste, it will prove to be a detriment to our very health.

Gail Parkerson

Hot Springs

From the web

In response to "Arguments today in lawsuits challenging Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage," a post on the Arkansas Blog by Max Brantley and David Koon:

Interesting that there was feeling on the state's side that the state had the right to deprive a class of its own citizens of some of their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

I hope we get the positive state ruling before the feds, or the state will come out looking even more backward than usual. And this certainly affects that Tech Park concept unless it is planned to be another white only, heterosexual only, right-church only private club and which means it won't be "high tech" and probably not "tech" but rather just assembly or a call center.

Creative people stay away from haters — they have no reason to put up with idiots as they can work anywhere, so why pick a hater's paradise. And Fayetteville, that's also for your consideration.

couldn't be better

If the state feels that they have the right to not recognize marriages from other states, then they should immediately stop recognizing first-cousin marriages and all the other marriages whose circumstances would prohibit an Arkansas license being issued.

If they had done that, then their argument might be valid. But they recognize all of those marriages, just not same-sex couples with valid marriage licenses.

That suggests animus.

Bob Donahue

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

The future of Social Security

I've heard many people lament that Social Security won't be around by the time they need it. Social Security is quite sound and is well run. It has to be tweaked from time to time to keep it that way, and that's where the voters come in.

The future of Social Security

I've heard many people lament that Social Security won't be around by the time they need it. Social Security is quite sound and is well run. It has to be tweaked from time to time to keep it that way, and that's where the voters come in. If the voters put people in office who support it, Social Security will continue to thrive. If the people vote for candidates like Tom Cotton who oppose it, and if people like him achieve a majority in Congress with a like-minded president, Social Security will indeed fade away. It depends on whom the voters elect.

Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush believed their elections in 1980 and 2004 were mandates to privatize and initiate the systematic destruction of Social Security. A Democratic majority in the House led by Speaker Tip O'Neill reached a compromise with Reagan to save it, and Reagan is still hated by many because of some of his benefit cuts. Mr. Bush was stopped primarily by a horrified public. I still believe his sneak attack on Social Security played a huge role in the Democrats' return to control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections.

President Obama stunned nearly all of his supporters in his first term when he put Social Security and Medicare on the negotiating table to achieve a "grand bargain" with the Republicans on the budget. Fortunately, the GOP didn't realize they had won and turned him down because they had decided to never agree with him on anything. Many of Obama's 2008 voters have never trusted him since. If he had agreed to weaken those programs, Mitt Romney would probably be president today because many previous Obama voters would have stayed home on Election Day 2012.

On Nov. 4, a majority of the 37 percent of registered voters who bothered to vote put both houses of Congress in the hands of the Fox-Republican-Tea Party, which is obsessed with sabotaging and ultimately destroying Social Security and Medicare. (That was the lowest voter turnout since 1942, when the nation was united by WWII.) That also means that the other 63 percent who neglected their obligation to democracy also "voted" to undermine Social Security and Medicare as well: Silence is consent.

With the election of Mr. Cotton to the Senate, Arkansas doesn't have a single supporter of Social Security and Medicare in Washington. Our four representatives in the House and now both senators are devoted to the agenda of the reactionary plutocracy that wants to dismantle our social safety net and return to the precarious past: the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Club for (Greed) Growth, Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, etc.

Regrettably, even President Obama has stacked his current 18-member Deficit Commission with 14 participants who favor cutting SS benefits. The meetings are held behind closed doors, and Erskine Bowles is its chairman! You've heard it before: They're probably planning to recommend balancing the budget on the backs of the seniors.

The OCED (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) has compared the social security benefits of its 34 member nations and eight other major economies and found the U.S. near the bottom. American workers' benefits rank at No. 36 among the 42 nations studied, right below Slovenia. We ought to be ashamed. Social Security is one of our most efficient and effective programs, but it should be made even better.

Instead, we will have a majority in Congress, and seemingly a president, that maliciously wants to reduce benefits, raise the age of eligibility to 70, and privatize it so the plutocracy can make a profit from it. This is what the majority of 2014 voters and all the no-shows evidently want. If that is what the richest country in the world truly desires, the future for American workers and seniors looks very bleak.

David Offutt

El Dorado

From the web, in response to 'The GOP in charge,' a Nov. 13 cover story by Benjamin Hardy and David Ramsey:

The answer to your question "What will it mean?" is: Some really stinky, awfully dirty shit is going to hit the fan, more so on the state level than the national level, so strap in and hang on, because we're in for a really bumpy ride over the next few years. If you want a quick and easy example, I'll simply point out the fact gas prices went up 10 cents the day after the election. Greed is good, and we're going to see and endure a lot of that attitude!

RYD

From the web, in response to Max Brantley's Nov. 13 column, 'Brave new Arkansas':

Yip. Our resident and nonresident billionaires paid good money for this.

Now ya'll bend over and enjoy it.

elwood

Here's a ray of hope amid the gloom: Essie Dale Cableton, an African American activist with Gould Citizens for Progress and the Arkansas Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, was elected as mayor of Gould.

author

When you keep voting for the lesser of two evils, Max, sooner or later the electorate asks just how much worse could the other guy be? That's what happened to Pryor and Ross, they ran too far to the right.

Dottholliday

From the web, in response to Gene Lyons' Nov. 13 column, 'Time to govern':

Congress could lower the taxes of those corporations that raise the median wage of their employees. Or link corporate tax rates to the CEO to average employee pay. You want lower taxes, bring down the X number times earnings your executives make compared to the median worker's wage.

Lower taxes on those that share more profits to the workers. 

I know, good luck with that.

Imjustsaying

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]