Archive for Letters

The Powerful People and charters

Out of the hundreds of words the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette used Sunday, Sept. 20 and the following Monday opining on education, one thing was correct.

The Powerful People and charters

Out of the hundreds of words the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette used Sunday, Sept. 20 and the following Monday opining on education, one thing was correct. The paper wrote, "Rather than re-create the neighborhood-based schools that had recapitulated generations of poverty, the city created a network of public charter schools." Even in this sentence, one has to focus on the truth (neighborhood schools can be destructive), and not the blatant advertising for charter schools.

Pushing charters is the new parlance of the Powerful People (PP) along with maintaining their beloved private schools. From safe havens, they delight in exposing the details typical of destructive destitution dominant in schools populated almost entirely of the poor.

Only a few private schools (mostly Catholic) can say they were around before being private was a way to avoid integration. Even those few schools that were not originally for avoidance now accept folks ducking public schools. It requires a lot of money to operate a school so you cannot blame them for taking new students knowing that doing so hurts public schools. Dollars usually trump (pun intended) integrity.

Charter schools are a new (cheaper) way to avoid rowdy public schools. However, what happens if all of our schools become charters? Would there be good charters and bad charters? Would they, in effect, become the new neighborhood schools?

Does the magic of charters overcome the effects of poverty? The Democrat-Gazette editorial made it sound like that was the case in New Orleans. However, the facts speak differently. The DemGaz mentioned one article that pointed out the problems in New Orleans, and then tore it apart, a typical ploy of the PP. If you search "new orleans charter schools" you can read as many (perhaps more) cons as pros.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

From the web

In response to last week's cover story, "Stranded":

So does it follow that in the absence of foster families DCFS fails to place at-risk, abused and neglected children who need to be in care?

Of course it does.

We are so infatuated with the fetus and do not protect children no longer in the uterus.


The solution is pretty easy: Increase the pay of DCFS workers. If the state did that it would suddenly have an influx of well qualified, caring individuals who would help sort out this whole mess. There's very little incentive right now to stay working at DCFS. Make it more appealing for great folks to apply and actually STAY. But we all know that politicians talk a good game about fixing DCFS when articles like this come out or when Justin Harris get caught being evil but nothing ever changes sadly.

Christine Robertson

From the time we initially were asked about being foster parents, it took about 16 months to finally go through classes, paperwork, home studies, etc. Everyone involved seemed overworked. You could go for months without hearing anything and then suddenly you had to be available the next day for a house check — no warning till the last minute. Once you do get to have foster kids, the minute one is about to leave, you get tons of calls for taking another child. The system needs so very many more employees to get homes open efficiently and to follow kids in the system.

Noma Kellner

Great investigation, guys. Seems like a lot of he said she said, nonsupported allegations from the aggrieved, and the turning of a blind's eye. For example, the garage incident seems like a lot worse than just being less than perfect parents.

Slithey Tove

I'm not sure "the garage incident seems like a lot worse than just being less than perfect parents."

Of course a lot depends on the weather and many other variables, but have you ever let your kids camp in the back yard for example?

The nonsupported allegations? DHS employees and others in a similar situation aren't free to comment, pro or con, to such situations.


In response to "Trump, Carson top new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Huckawho?" a Sept. 27 Arkansas Blog post:

Poor, poor Huck. All dressed up and so few places to so places to go.

He should make gobs of money on the crazy religion tour. I believed it all along (granted, not much of a revelation) that this was all about padding his wallet and less about saving the country. Mission accomplished!

We should be proud of the Huckster and his moves as one of the finest carpetbaggers we've ever seen.


What does it say when over half of those polled would vote for one of the none-of-the-above candidates? That not even Republicans can stand Republicans?


My less affluent Republican friends seem to be all eat up with Donald Trump. The reason appears to be "Trumps Kick Ass of anyone not white or with a funny name" attitude.

So Huck might get more than 578 supporters if he'd come out totally Chuck Norris-Terminator-whatever's worse than the Terminator — morphing into a Jeffery Dahmer, eater of all minorities, maybe.

Huck should kill a minority or a gay and walk around holding up the blood dripping head. Or find a day care filled with Mexican kids and burn it down, kids and all. Man, he's got to do something quick if he wants to keep sucking up the money.

Beware of Robo-Huck!!!


Covered in fog

Sadly, a decades-long state newspaper subscription ended with the realization the paper would not publish an article opposed to the Democrat-Gazette's editorial page ideas (Sept. 16) about how to operate public education, especially in Little Rock.

Covered in fog

Sadly, a decades-long state newspaper subscription ended with the realization the paper would not publish an article opposed to the Democrat-Gazette's editorial page ideas (Sept. 16) about how to operate public education, especially in Little Rock.

The state newspaper flaunts the "darn good" charter schools and tells the academic distressed schools "they just have to get better." Almost $1 billion was spent to improve our schools, and to no avail. Therefore, according to the state paper, the poor people with minimal or no support must somehow improve their plight, even to the point of being competitive with the much ballyhooed charter schools. Obviously, the editors cannot see very well in the fog caused by keeping their heads positioned in the clouds.

The powerful people (PP) knew money would not solve the school problem. Because they have money to waste, that was not a concern. Nor are they open to ideas that could improve public education. They knew that eventually the government would come to the same realization: money, even a lot of money, would not solve the problem. Finally, because the government capitulated, the PP can legally separate themselves from the weaker, less fortunate folks. Moreover, they can say, with clear conscience (after all, they spent almost a billion dollars), "Well, the schools will just have to get better, won't they?" Can you see the callous, cruel, conniving stinking thinking of the PP?

Read what the heavily funded Forward (really Backward) Arkansas (a PP ploy) writes about troubled schools:

"Academic Distress: All schools in academic distress and pre-academic distress receive support and interventions that enable them to transform their school cultures, dramatically improve student achievement, and sustain their improvement over time."

In all that codswallop, can you find any real help? In a sacred text, the son of God states, "By myself, I can do nothing." I know what he means about being by himself. This writer cannot even get Baker Kurrus to talk over a cup of coffee.

Since the 1970s, the idea of village education has been written about (that is about to end because both papers for different reasons will not promote the idea), but meaningfully discussed in public only a few times. Village education keeps the children together for 13 years in a family-like environment that builds character. Character development, for example, will help end the brutal murders in our city. Now, village education can only be given mere mention in the context of writing about something else. In his seventh decade of life, the author is running out of time. The vision of village education in Little Rock could end when he does.

Note to myself: Do not mention Hillary's book "It Takes a Village" because that will bring negative attention to the idea. What a shame that village education has never been seriously appraised by anyone in this town. Lack of concern and the PP's pontificating putrid public pabulum instead of real food keeps attention away from the idea. What are they afraid of?

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

From the web

In response to the Sept. 17 article about Sen. Jason Rapert's reports of threats to the State Police:

Rapert (to Arkansas State Police Major Henry La Mar): "When you say you will add this to the file, what exactly are you doing? Someone stating they will 'gun down' another seems to be over the line. Will your team try to discover who would send something like this to an elected official ... I look forward to hearing from you because I want to be certain I understand what you are or are not doing."

OK, point one, Rapert: Do you think the ASP owes you as an "elected official" more attention than, say, your Lowe's questioner?

Point two: If I were to say/write that you irritate me so much I'd like to kick your rear up between your ears, do you consider that a threat? It's not; it's hyperbole. Learn the difference.

Now that I've been calm and judicious (more or less) in this post, let me add this: I wish someone had a jackass named Truth who would bite you in the arse (thank you for the idea, Vanessa) any time you showed said arse. I'd even fix a stall so Truth could come down for a few days to recuperate from his daunting workweek.


In response to an Arkansas Blog post about state Rep. Charlie Collins' movement to draft Sen. Tom Cotton to run for president:

Please Re-thugs, please nominate him. May I suggest Cotton/Carson? Please double-down on: stoppin' them mus-lims, gays and the gays they want to marry, non-whitey's, of course the lib-rals, real rape(c), no minimum wage, really push that whole "Christian" nation thing, declare war on China, Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea and any other country that looks to be gettin' uppity (American Exceptionalism! Go Hogs!), only the poor should pay taxes (they're not job creators, just job doers), privatize Social Security (it's socialist, don't ya know?) and propose lots of new laws (from all-male lady-part Congressional committees) regarding lady-parts and what ladies are allowed, or not allowed, to do with them.


In the Republican mind, all Trump needs is a foreign policy expert on his ticket. This is a move to get Tom up to speed before the big push for Trump/Cotton 2016. They're right, it's the end times.

Arkansas Guy

In response to an Arkansas Blog post on Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury's post-game brag that Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema "got his ass kicked":

I understand Kingsbury's satisfaction with beating the Hogs on Saturday. I can also understand his animosity towards Bielema based on the Hog coach's braggadocio at the coaches' meeting. However, I think that it was bad taste for Kingsbury to make such a statement at a post-game press conference. I don't recall a coach calling out another coach in that venue before.

I think anybody named Cliff who spells it with a "K" so it would be more atune with his last name is a ridiculous prima donna. But I have the good taste not to mention it at a press conference.

"Kliff?!" Derisive pig snort!!!


Amen to Griffen on incarceration

Wendell Griffen's recent letter, "Summit won't help mass incarcerations," struck a positive Amen chord with me. How many young lives have been ruined and will be ruined because of our antiquated drug laws?

Amen to Griffen on incarceration

Wendell Griffen's recent letter, "Summit won't help mass incarcerations," struck a positive Amen chord with me. How many young lives have been ruined and will be ruined because of our antiquated drug laws? It is ridiculous to have so many nonviolent offenders overflowing our prisons when law enforcement could be focusing on the rampant violence in our state.

We need a leadership that will talk less and act more. A leadership that will in fact lead — not just reflect an ideology. I would also suggest that a leadership that attacks and defunds Planned Parenthood on the basis of Arkansas's "family values" while continuing to fund Rep. Justin Harris' religious school and questionable adoption practices is not leadership at all. Enough of this smoke and mirrors.

Bill Russell


Age and 'A Walk in the Woods'

I can imagine movie reviewer James Matthews being disappointed in the movie, "A Walk in the Woods," having read the book. Can anyone name a movie that has done total justice to a book? I can't. However, having seen the movie just yesterday, I can tell you this: 1) it was one of the funnier movies I have seen since "Blazing Saddles." I actually laughed out loud several times, which I rarely do; 2) the scenery and the dialogue were beautiful and poignant. The description of natural objects and our own human insignificance were thought provoking; 3) it was refreshing that there was no slaughter, no violence, no overwrought sex scenes; and 4) it was delightful to see two older men embark upon a taxing adventure (yes, I know Bill Bryson was much younger when he wrote the book). I would like to know how old James Matthews is. Being older myself, I found the movie to be one of the best I have seen in a long time. Maybe you should have had an older person review it for your magazine.

Phyllis Haynes

From the web

In response to a blog item on the "grand opening" of the redesigned portion of Main Street:

Narrowing the street was fine. The bioswale idea was fine. Making the neighborhood more walkable is more than fine. But the corner trying to turn south on Main at Third Street is as close to impossible as it can be. Heaven help you if you're not driving a compact car. The curbing on the corner is ridiculously close to the actual lane. They seriously need to go and jackhammer it back some.


In response to Arkansas Blog reporting on Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against the state Department of Human Services for withholding of federal dollars:

Some 60 percent of pregnancies (after fertilization and implantation) do NOT reach full term. Those so-called "babies" (so-called by theocrats, but not by scientists or even simple dictionary definitions of "baby") are aborted naturally and spontaneously.

Calling a fertilized or implanted egg a "baby" or a "child" is a lie. So is referring to an aborted embryo or fetus as a "lost life." It never had an independent life to lose in the first place.

It's an irrational emotional appeal by theocrats to sentimental simpletons who prefer Hallmark Cards to real life.

One may as well refer, ridiculously, to a removed appendix as a "lost life." It isn't.

If, for whatever reasons, a woman and her physician deem an abortion advisable, that medical choice cannot legally or constitutionally be decided by some theocrat who lacks any understanding of nature or science and instead depends solely on false sentiment and lies to control and subjugate women's reproductive choices and medical health care.

Governors like Asa Hutchinson promote that theocratic lie by asserting that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue from aborted fetuses. It doesn't. 

Governor Hutchinson claims that the thoroughly discredited video hoax perpetrated by the Center for Medical Progress, a right-wing group trying to discredit and defund Planned Parenthood, is true. It isn't. It is a fabricated hoax.

Governor Hutchinson is a liar on this as on other topics beloved by Christian theocrats.

He and governors like him will ultimately lose in the courts. It will prove costly to their states, and profitable to attorneys for both sides. All of that taxpayer money could be better spent on many constructive measures of lasting value to citizens, instead of bolstering the power and control of religious bigots.

The relentless chipping away at a woman's right to choose an abortion has shut down legal abortion clinics everywhere, largely at the expense of less fortunate women who are least in a position to be effective parents — thus forcing unwanted babies into the world, and perpetuating the very problems overpopulation and poverty engender, with all their additional future human misery and costs to society and taxpayers.

Religions that use ignorance, emotionalism, fear, superstition, threats, intimidation and violence to maintain their misogynistic dogmas at the expense of the world's greater good are — no exaggeration — cancers on societies.

From the Pope to Asa Hutchinson, those who spread these cancers are liars. They know it and so do increasing majorities.

The only antidote is to speak out and speak the truth. Loudly and often, wherever the lies are raised. Like here. Like now.

Norma Bates

Politics today just entertainment

Is anybody paying attention? What used to be about a year's worth of media run wild that we euphemistically refer to as a national election started this past spring.

Politics today just entertainment

Is anybody paying attention? What used to be about a year's worth of media run wild that we euphemistically refer to as a national election started this past spring. The current gaggle of candidates is spilling over with escapees from the kindergarten playgrounds of politics that have become the sole focus of a flickering screen-obsessed, perpetually adolescent, self-absorbed congregation compulsively seeking salvation only at the ends of their fingers.

They call it social media while its realization screams for the prefix "anti" with the force of a Category 5 hurricane. Even a season of brain-busting sports won't satisfy the lust for virtual floggings, torture racks and gore demanded for the price of one vote. Entertain me, me, me and I'll gladly squander my birthright mindless for any consequences.

The list of distractions is already embarrassingly jejune: She used e-mail! Muslims are evil! Immigrants are evil! Health care for everyone is evil! Up, up with fetus! Poor people are evil! Abort immigrant fetuses — no, wait, that one hasn't popped out yet. Build a giant wall to keep "them" out! Kill Obamacare! Bomb Iran! Bomb Korea! Bomb Syria! Bomb — well, you get the idea. Meanwhile, the gun chorus sings loudly and long as bodies fall singularly and in clusters every day. Grandma rots away on a nursing home bed of sores. Glassy-eyed children with sunken cheeks and distended bellies rummage empty kitchens and bare dirt yards for food. Your life savings crumbles like the highway you drive on under the weight of those who have too much.

Science and history are discounted in exchange for belief. High school graduates can't count their own limbs and arrive at the same number twice.

Anxiety vibrates in every household amid constant fear that somebody else might get theirs before you can snatch it away. Pride, greed, envy, gluttony and wrath are worshiped as religious deities. Laws are replaced by dictates. Justice is only bought; it's never achieved.

So what is it "we the people" look for when it's time to choose the guardians of the public good? Amazingly, we want someone who can claim the least possible experience with governing and the political process. Would we look for someone who doesn't know the difference between a chicken and a cow to operate our farms? Do we seek the most computer-illiterate to run our technology companies? What is the special kind of ignorance we want to see in our politicians and elected officials? Do we really believe that the less experience someone has with government, the better that person will be in managing the most complex arrangement for achieving the common good ever devised?

Perhaps someone has the skills and ability to work toward solutions for our real problems. I do know that person will not be someone with hate, anger, pride, greed and envy roiling within his heart until it bursts out in a vituperative belch at the rest of us. I guess that rules out most or all of the Republican candidates for public office, doesn't it?

David Stedman


Complaint of unfair treatment at Insurance Department

Mike Pickens,a former Arkansas insurance commissioner, represents a client in an Insurance Department regulatory action. He thinks his client is getting harsher treatment than current Commissioner Allen Kerr got in a dispute with an insurance company when Kerr was in the insurance business. Democrat-Gazette columnist Paul Greenberg mentioned Pickens and defended Kerr Aug. 19, based on his reading of an article in Arkansas Business. Pickens gave the Times a letter to the editor that he's been unable to get published in the Democrat-Gazette.

Respectfully, I am not "suing Allen Kerr" as Paul Greenberg wrote. I am simply representing an insurance agent client (who never had a complaint filed against him in some 33 years of doing business) in an appeal where the Arkansas Insurance Department revoked his license. My client received much different, less favorable, treatment than did Kerr in a case of questionable jurisdiction and constitutionality. My client qualifies as a "little man" trying to protect himself from an over-reaching government agency's unfairly discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious decision that adversely affects his ability to earn a living.

Although I cannot recall any significant piece(s) of legislation Kerr actually passed in his six years in the legislature, I did get to know him fairly well beginning in August 2014, when he contacted me to help him in his determined quest to be appointed state insurance commissioner.

I agree Mark Friedman's Arkansas Business article was an excellent, objective one. However, the questions I have been getting from the folks who read it and are familiar with the insurance business are not favorable to Kerr. For example:

Why would Mr. Kerr state on a commercial insurance application that Cregeen's Pub was a "fine dining establishment"? It was this blatant misrepresentation and the death of a Cregeen's patron in an auto accident who had been over-served alcohol that led to Farmers Insurance reviewing Kerr's entire book of business and finding a large number of other material misrepresentations on insurance applications.

How is it that Farmers was able to produce applications and underwriting materials for 80 risks Mr. Kerr submitted for insurance coverage that contained a total of 78 misrepresentations made by Kerr? (AR DOI Order No. 2013-021 at Page 3, Paragraph 7)

Why is it that there exists NO other order(s) allegedly "clearing" an agent in similar circumstances to Mr. Kerr's in any of the public records of the Insurance Department?

Why would the Insurance Department intervene in a private contractual/termination dispute between an insurer and its captive agent?

Why did Mr. Kerr vote FOR the Insurance Department-sponsored private option legislation soon after the order allegedly "clearing" him in 2013, then vote AGAINST it in 2014?

If Mr. Kerr's employer violated his employment agreement, why didn't Kerr simply sue them in court rather than run to the Insurance Department for protection?

Why would Farmers fire a "successful agent" who was apparently selling many policies and making them money, especially when that agent was a sitting legislator who voted on laws affecting their business interests?

Is it fair or legal to hold a wealthy insurance agent who also is a sitting legislator to a different, and lesser, standard of conduct than a regular Joe agent?

Is it ethical, fair, and legal for a regulator to derive income, directly or indirectly, from a business his wife runs, and over which he has direct and ultimate regulatory authority of not only her business, but all of its competitors?

Mike Pickens

Little Rock

The LRSD and Baker Kurrus

Your article about Baker Kurrus ("Walking the tightrope," Aug. 20) was well written, informative and enlightening to readers. Thanks!

The LRSD and Baker Kurrus

Your article about Baker Kurrus ("Walking the tightrope," Aug. 20) was well written, informative and enlightening to readers. Thanks!

I believe that the real estate owners in West Little Rock deserve a public school for middle grades and the higher level. One that is convenient to their neighborhood like the Roberts school is now for them.

Yes, there are numerous private schools in the area — only because a public school was not there. It is past time to take care of the constituents in that area. Yes, it will take bus transportation, too.

Kurrus can do it with cooperation, integrity and leadership for all the children!

Anita Gatzke

Little Rock

Both newspapers write page after page about Baker Kurrus. The articles leave the impression that the Harvard-trained lawyer will get us out of a mess on his own initiative and/or has the backing of all the right people. However, there is no meaningful change in the Little Rock system. Mr. Kurrus is a lawyer, not an educator. He thinks in terms of winning a case instead of helping children. His high status and work ethic make him immune to criticism. He does not have time for ordinary people. What is changing, perhaps intentionally, on his watch is decreased public school attendance, and increased charter/private school population. Ironically, when the Supreme Court eliminated the last legal barrier to integrated education almost immediately social barriers took the place of racist law. The Powerful People responsible for our public schools have no intention of uniting us. No, they use their privileged position to take over public education and force it to follow the rules of business. The folks with money get the best, and the rest of us get what is left. At least when this was the case in the past due to bad law, the poor had community. Today's public school organization eliminates community. We are more divided now than ever and divided we fall.

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

Not for long

Just as I predicted. The future is so bright, I have to wear shades. Gas prices are down, unemployment is low, durable goods are up and the economy is stoked. This has been a sweet summer, indeed. Unfortunately, our nation's prosperity will not last much longer. Republicans are about to take the White House. I say this based on the fact that Mitt Romney, the most unlikely Republican presidential nominee ever, won 24 of the states back in 2012. The next Republican nominee will surely win more states and the White House. Republicans will be in complete control of our nation's government, except for the judicial branch. "Hope and change" will give way to trickle-down economics in which poor folks get trickled upon under pretense of rain.

So, basically, we have two more prosperous summers left before the next Republican presidential administration turns this nation completely around in the opposite direction, back to the Bush-Cheney era. Fortunately, when the new president takes the White House in January 2017, our nation will still be operating on an Obama-era budget until September 2017. That gives us at least two more years of prosperity, but by the summer of 2018 there will be lots of change, very little hope, and I will no longer need my shades.

Gene Mason


Values and Hutchinson

Max Brantley was correct: If Gov. Asa Hutchinson believed in Arkansas values as expressed in recent legislation, he would have ended funding for Growing God's Kingdom to the [Justin]Harris family.

Thank you, Max Brantley, for letting all know what's going on in our state.

B.L. Hyde

Little Rock

From the web

In response to Gene Lyons' Aug. 27 column, "New York Times fails again," on how the Clintons are treated in the press:

Somehow I have the feeling it's not going to stop due to the fact that bad news travels so fast. Doesn't matter if it's really not news at all. With the help of Get-Clinton publications it travels even faster.


In response to the Aug. 27 cover story, "Visionary Arkansans 2015":

An excellent list.

I'm especially happy to read that Rep. Jana Della Rosa will try again on modernized campaign finance reports.

radical centrist

In response to the Aug. 30 Arkansas Blog post, "Hutchinson administration: no plan in place to help tens of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries kicked off of coverage in violation of federal regulations":

This bunch, especially Asa, doesn't have a "plan in place" for anything, 'cept their scorched earth policy toward folks that ain't in the right class. That "stay to the right" course the ship of fools is on will soon create a whirlpool from which they cannot escape.


OK, the people of the state are compassionate, but not the leader. Asa has shown himself to be a hateful incompetent who will never admit that they made a STUPID mistake by trying to screw the state's inhabitants. And yes, those same people who screwed up 58,000 people have nights and weekends to correct their mistake. That is what "private business" would do.

Forget this "running the state like a business" GOP crap. If they ran a company the way they are running the state, it would have been out of business by May 20. No company would hire the losers they have put in positions and commissions, allowed idiots to hire relatives, and purposely misread regulations so they could be asshats and be sued.

Go ahead, ACLU, sue the idiots for 100 percent reinstatement with a new 30-day window and damages. The state apparently has a lot of money under Asa to lose federal cases so Asa can appear to be the smiling idiot he has chosen to be.

couldn't be better

Defunding Planned Parenthood hurts Arkansans

Planned Parenthood provides critical and preventative health care to a lot of low- and moderate-income women and men. Contrary to popular belief, abortion is not the only, or the most important, service provided by Planned Parenthood, and federal dollars are not used to provide abortions.

Defunding Planned Parenthood hurts Arkansans

Planned Parenthood provides critical and preventative health care to a lot of low- and moderate-income women and men. Contrary to popular belief, abortion is not the only, or the most important, service provided by Planned Parenthood, and federal dollars are not used to provide abortions. In fact, abortion services make up only 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. And using federal funds to provide abortions has been banned by law in almost all cases since 1976. Instead, Planned Parenthood provides affordable birth control and sex education. It provides more than 800,000 cancer-screening tests for men and women each year. It also provides more than 4.5 million sexually transmitted disease tests for both women and men each year. These services are particularly important in a state with the third highest teen birth rate and a high rate of teen STDs (Arkansas ranked 21st in 2008). Teen pregnancy and childbearing and the spread of STDs affect the economic well-being of the individuals, but also the state. For example, having a child in adolescence makes it more difficult for young people to achieve their educational career, and other life goals and affects the future prospects of their children — at considerable cost to taxpayers. Therefore, it is critical that Gov. Asa Hutchison not defund Planned Parenthood.

In 2013, among high school students in Arkansas, 49.4 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse and 48.9 percent of those students who were currently sexually active did not use a condom during the last instance of sexual intercourse (Center sfor Disease Control State Profiles). In 2012, more than 4,300 girls ages 15 through 19 gave birth. That is approximately 12 per day. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide access to contraception, it also provides basic sex education that is fundamental for the future of Arkansas's young people.

STDs are extremely widespread in Arkansas. In 2013, there were 2,132 cases of chlamydia, 532 cases of gonorrhea, 56 cases of syphilis, 13 cases of AIDS and 26 cases of HIV diagnosed in Southeast Arkansas (Arkansas Department of Health). Arkansas ranks seventh in the nation in the rate of Chlamydia infections, seventh for gonorrhea, ninth for syphilis, and 32nd for the number of HIV diagnoses (Centers for Disease Control State Profiles). STDs add an estimated $14.7 billion to the nation's health care costs each year (Arkansas Department of Health). This makes Planned Parenthood extremely important if you consider that 42 percent of its budget each year is dedicated to STD diagnosis and treatment.

There are many myths about Planned Parenthood. It does not use federal money to fund abortions. Instead, the organization uses money from other sources — private donors and foundations as well as fees — to fund its abortion services.

All Arkansans should have the opportunity to make choices that lead to health and wellness. Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and cancer are uncomfortable topics to discuss. But they don't go away if we ignore them or stop funding clinics. Access to affordable health care and contraception is key for a healthy Arkansas. Tell Gov. Hutchinson that you want better for the young people in this state and you do not support the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Jodi A. Barnes


Wrong direction on prisons

I awakened today to learn of the governor of Arkansas's proposal to build 200 more prison beds for $7.4 million near Pine Bluff. Taking a deep, deep breath, I wonder what we gain from this decision to build more prisons. Hmm, the sheriffs will no longer have the backlog of state prisoners, a good thing, and the public will gain a 200-persons-behind-bars' improved sense of public safety by punishing more of our criminals, most of whom are nonviolent. Again, the up-front value is $7.4 million. But if we knew some of the hidden costs, would we reconsider and think of innovative alternatives? I have to wonder, and hope.

These are some of the hidden costs that matter to me, using simple arithmetic, and are unconsidered in our outreach for public safety, if that is what we choose to call it.

Of the 200 prisoners we will send to this new prison space, an estimated 75 percent are parents of minor children, meaning 378 minor-aged children will lose a parent to incarceration, fall more deeply into poverty with its associated risks, and will gain more risk factors, as this group of children has the greatest volume of risk factors among all at-risk children. And, along the way, many of these children will suffer the emotional harms of stigma and shame so pervasive among children of incarcerated parents. In the long-term, many of these children will pay the cost with poor health outcomes, both physical and mental, and with such a volume of risk factors, the CDC's Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) study tells us their lives are likely to be shortened.

A reliably estimated 20 percent of the children of the planned 200 prisoners will enter foster care at an annual rate of $25,000 per child, equaling an additional $1.9 million in foster care expenditures by the state, with no dollar amount to claim the trauma and harm of separation from their parents. Furthermore, the children who do not enter foster care (80 percent) when their parent is incarcerated will likely remain with a custodial parent whose economic well-being is known to slide further into deeper poverty when the other parent is incarcerated.

Alternatively, the child will reside with a grandparent or relative. If that individual even knows of the TEA-child only public assistance offered in our state for relative caregivers — and most caregivers do not know of its availability — the grandparent or relative will receive cash assistance for one child of $2.70 per day, an amount that has not seen a COLA increase since 1996, when Welfare-to-Work went into effect. We, the public, will chronically complain about such assistance. However, the average number of children per incarcerated parent is three, and the relative caregiver will receive public assistance from opening a TEA-child only case that amounts to $1.83 per day per child, as the rate diminishes with the second and third child.

We certainly do an excellent job of punishing the poor, and we certainly know how to spread the pain of parental incarceration to our children and seniors, along with struggling custodial parents.

Dee Ann Newell

Little Rock

Summit won’t help mass incarceration

I have decided to boycott Gov. Hutchinson's Restore Hope Summit, aimed at bringing faith leaders together to discuss ways to improve recidivism. I have publicly criticized this and the previous administration about governmental policies and practices responsible for producing the largest population of incarcerated persons in Arkansas's history. Those policies, not anything faith leaders are doing, have done, or may be asked to do, lie at the foot of the Arkansas version of mass incarceration.

Summit won't help mass incarceration

I have decided to boycott Gov. Hutchinson's Restore Hope Summit, aimed at bringing faith leaders together to discuss ways to improve recidivism. I have publicly criticized this and the previous administration about governmental policies and practices responsible for producing the largest population of incarcerated persons in Arkansas's history. Those policies, not anything faith leaders are doing, have done, or may be asked to do, lie at the foot of the Arkansas version of mass incarceration. I have carefully examined public statements by Gov. Hutchinson and others about what he has called "criminal justice reform."

Respectfully, the public (and now faithful people and leaders) are now being invited to embrace measures that will not do anything to release the captives. Most of the people now in prisons, jails and other adult detention facilities (whether in Arkansas or whether shipped and warehoused for tens of thousands of dollars per inmate in other jurisdictions) are nonviolent offenders. In fact, the top 10 offenses responsible for incarceration in 2014 included only one violent offense (battery in the second degree), according to data compiled by the Arkansas Department of Correction. Drug convictions were far and away the reasons most people were incarcerated last year.

Faith leaders are now, as in the past, being asked to lend our moral authority to a hypocritical agenda that will not address any of the root causes of the non-violent crimes that are responsible for mass incarceration. We are being asked to lend our moral authority to the fruit of racial profiling, draconian laws that criminalize the public health issue of drug abuse and dependency, sentencing legislation and the entire prison-industrial complex that has now made it possible for nonviolent incarcerated persons and the business of catching, sentencing, and warehousing them to be commodified.

Gov. Hutchinson did not champion early childhood education during the legislative session this year. He has not proposed any measures to expand and strengthen community mental health centers, drug abuse and dependency treatment centers, job training programs for ex-offenders, affordable housing for ex-offenders, or to eliminate previous criminal convictions on employment applications. And remarkably, he has not suggested even a desire to address these matters (whether with faithful people or others).

In short, the Restore Hope Summit is a charade. Faith leaders are not being "summoned" (what happens when someone convenes a "summit") to engage in candid conversation with Gov. Hutchinson and other policy makers aimed at doing justice or anything else remotely akin to restoring hope. We are merely being invited to endorse measures responsible for the despair associated with what Professor Michelle Alexander has correctly exposed and denounced as "the new Jim Crow."

I decline the invitation to be part of this latest exercise in political hypocrisy about justice, liberty and hope.

Wendell Griffen

Little Rock

Flying an obscure Confederate flag

It is common knowledge throughout Independence County, as well as adjacent counties, that Confederate flags have been removed from public property nationwide in response to the heinous Charleston murders. I and other Sons of Confederate Veterans abhor the use of our battle flag by hate groups or individuals for any purpose other than preservation of history or our heritage.

There is a flagpole on Independence County courthouse property that, until recently, flew a Confederate regimental Hardee Corps flag. It is a plain blue three-foot square with a white moon in the center. Unless one is knowledgeable about all of the many Confederate flags from 150 years ago, the Hardee flag can be considered quite obscure. There is no writing on it. The flagpole and flag are owned and maintained by the local camp of The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). The SCV is a national heritage group. It has many African-American members and is certainly not a racist organization.

The SCV exists solely to honor the memory of 350,000 Confederate soldiers (both black and white) who perished in combat during the War Between the States. Over 300 battles and skirmishes were fought in our state alone after it seceded from the Union.

The Stainless Banner [the Confederate flag] looked like a flag of surrender when hanging limp on a pole.

In the year 1911 the large Confederate monument, also located next to the Independence County courthouse, was erected by the United Daughters of The Confederacy. Sons of Confederate Veterans flags have served to embellish that impressive monument. That's it. The obscure Hardee flag was only there the past few years to embellish the monument — not to make a racist statement! It was removed the day after the horrendous Charleston incident when a local attorney called concerning a Facebook conversation about our flag. The flag was promptly hauled down out of respect for the Charleston victims. It was also done to protect it from developing local controversy, as well as division within our community. The Batesville SCV camp was notified and acknowledged what had happened. We optimistically look forward to the day when an appropriate Southern flag will once again grace the UDC Confederate monument.

John R. Malloy III


The Medicaid debacle

I have a friend that was living with me a couple of years ago and used my home address. She had the hardest time getting them [DHS] to change her address. Ambetter said she had to go to the website. The website wouldn't process the address change. DHS said she had to go to Ambetter.

The Medicaid debacle

From the web, in response to stories posted on the Arkansas Blog in the past several days about the Department of Human Services' Medicaid renewal system that, among other problems, gave people only 10 days to supply income information to keep from being kicked off their plans:

I have a friend that was living with me a couple of years ago and used my home address. She had the hardest time getting them [DHS] to change her address. Ambetter said she had to go to the website. The website wouldn't process the address change. DHS said she had to go to Ambetter. After considerable effort she finally found someone at DHS to change her address. At least I am conscientious enough to keep her mail for her and drop it off to her from time to time.

Ambetter is also alerting their insureds that they may be getting a letter from DHS and to respond quickly. So, I'm hoping the insurance companies that are part of the private option will help their insureds navigate the system to get their insurance reinstated.

My point mostly being they don't have a good system in place to get an address changed either.


Do you remember the time when people used to be making jokes about the Soviet bureaucracy? That's long ago. Nowadays, the joke is on us. And who's responsible? Republicans taking any opportunity they can to make citizens' interactions with Repub-controlled government as unpleasant as possible.

I hope some of the people who got kicked off unjustifiably — especially those who did send in the requested documentation and still(!) were terminated — will sue the ass off the governor and his henchmen. This was a deliberate political decision to find a way to kick people off of health insurance, and the reason isn't even saving money (it's federal money after all), it's pure and unadulterated sadism. They just get a kick out of seeing people needlessly suffer. (Sidenote: Ohio Gov. John Kasich explained his decision to expand Medicare by quoting the Bible. Result: Self-anointed Bible-thumpers hate him.)


In the spring, I attended a legislative task force meeting on teacher and state employees insurance. The tone was sometimes hostile when discussing certain conditions. In dealing with a new policy on hepatitis C, it was implied some cases were a product of drug abuse or other behavior. At least Cecile Bledsoe offered that many medical professionals were often exposed to hepatitis C. It was stated that people with diabetes and other conditions be charged a $750 per month penalty if their condition is not under control. It was stated that, if these people would control their conditions, prices would be cheaper "for the rest of us." Of course, several of the young men sitting on the committee appear on course to develop the same conditions. If legislators are this hostile toward STATE employees and teachers, it can be assumed they would be even more insensitive to citizens using the public option.

aqua blue

The sad thing is, I completely believe this is an accident. I've worked with the state's IT departments, and it's not pretty. Arkansas, due to its size, has the most to gain from well-implemented systems. Sadly, in large part because they're not willing to pay for it, and the leadership doesn't know how to use email, let alone build complex systems, we instead shoot ourselves in the foot with the very tool that should be rescuing us. It's especially ironic, given how much our politicians extol the virtues of private enterprise, that they can't recognize the market at work when they can't hire good employees.


It's been nine months since Hutchinson was elected office. He should have had his team prepared for this. Remember how our state Repubs were screaming when Obamacare had its computer issues? Well, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, now. I don't see them screaming for a screwup that occurred on their watch. We shall see how Asa handles this.

Poison Apple

It's like Gov. Asa got drunk and tattooed a big swastika on his forehead ... this private option scandal. It's his ugly baby and he should have known better than to birth it. 

As someone who unfortunately has some tedious health problems I can tell you lots of long stories about what happens when I can't get my medicine or insulin pens. My young doctor avoids working on Fridays and due to my lack of attention I've had to go without insulin over the weekend.

So if, thanks to Team Asa I couldn't buy insulin for a month ... one of my nine cats would have to take over my typing duties on the AT blog. 

Why would a politician happily screw up someone's delicate health? Are ALEC or the Koch brothers worth killing an innocent person? And how could Asa live with that on his conscience? Doesn't Asa's vengeful god make little notes about things as important as this? 

We can scorn crack dealers and meth heads all we want but really ... who's worse? A guy selling you drugs or a guy knowingly kicking sick people off the health insurance rolls? I'm sure Republicans sleep well at night. I just don't know how they do it?


It would be great if those who were dropped and needed to refill life-saving prescriptions could show up at one place and get these matters resolved. I nominate the governor's door tomorrow morning.


Well, the Republican screwup of state government is well underway and their ability to employ those who are incapable of thinking is working well. They will, of course, double their workload since probably at least 80 percent of those cut off by the state will have to be re-enrolled with more labor on their part as well as screwing health care companies who will have to re-do their work. 

Wouldn't it have been a lot easier to just stand outside and drop 20-pound anvils on your foot since the same amount of public good would have occurred and they wouldn't have looked like the fools they are?

 couldn't be better

This debacle is a planned debacle. Sabotage was inserted in the plan from the beginning by the GOP. Like many of you repeatedly say, they don't want to help the poor. They might set one up in the first place as a sop to the many, deluded poor who, for some well-designed reasons, tend to vote Republican. Yet they only want it to operate long enough that they can blame Democrats or dark people when it goes belly up. It's a devious plan to have it both ways and it works — at least here in the South.

Smiling Asa is the perfect figurehead for a bunch of hateful, vicious, selfish people who make up the Greedy Old Patriarchs party in Arkinsaw.


In response to reporting on the Arkansas Blog about the major change to the Little Rock teacher's union contract:

Asa saw Scott Walker effectively destroy the public employees unions in Wisconsin, and took a lesson from him. I'm afraid it is all but over for the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association. I don't know anything about the Little Rock situation, but across the nation, a lot of the public employee unions have brought widespread public distrust upon themselves. I am a union man; however, I never belonged to one. The Newspaper Guild local at the Arkansas Gazette had already been defeated and put out of business by the time I went to work there.


Seniors hurt by cuts

During the 2015 legislative session, the budget for state Senior Citizens Centers was slashed 20 percent, from $5 million annually to $4 million projected for 2016, despite the fact that the 65-and-older population is steadily growing and is expected to double in the next 20 years.

Seniors hurt by cuts

During the 2015 legislative session, the budget for state Senior Citizens Centers was slashed 20 percent, from $5 million annually to $4 million projected for 2016, despite the fact that the 65-and-older population is steadily growing and is expected to double in the next 20 years.

Senior centers provide essential services, such as home-delivered meals, socialization programs, wellness and fitness activities and transportation. However, the vast majority of funding is utilized in meal programs. The reduced budget for FY 2016 will potentially result in 127,000 fewer meals served to our seniors.

Currently about a third of all Arkansans aged 60 or older — more than 160,000 people — are living with food insecurity. The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger ranks Arkansas first in the nation for senior food insecurity, yet revenue streams to fund meals for seniors continue to decline. The negative health effects associated with food insecurity — malnutrition, poor overall health, cardiovascular disease and extended hospital stays — have the potential for substantially increasing Medicare/Medicaid costs while profoundly impacting quality of life for this vulnerable population.

Older adults attending senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual and emotional well-being. For this reason, we should all ask Gov. Hutchinson to restore $1 million to fund senior centers from the current budget surplus.

Gloria Gordon

North Little Rock

Unfit to lead

Former Gov. Huckabee, running for the Republican presidential nomination, has said that if elected president, he would ignore his oath of office and use the FBI and troops to deny Americans their legal right to abortion. This he is happy to do in order to force his own view and interpretation of his religion. This is inherently un-American. It's one thing to be against something; it's quite another to threaten to ignore the Constitution. He is unfit to lead anyone.

Dennis Hawley

Weaverville, N.C.

From the web

In response to Jay Barth's column last week on U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge's possible challenge to U.S. Sen. John Boozman in 2016, "Battle Boozman: worth the fight":

Boozman has been nothing but a yes man his entire career. It is time for him to go and be replaced by someone who is progressive about the USA!


Bozoman will be hard to beat for the reasons Jay mentioned. I suspect that only Mike Beebe could make that race competitive, no matter how attractive a candidate Mr. Eldridge may turn out to be. To challenge a GOP senator effectively will require millions of dollars and high name recognition and high favorability. A lack of negatives by itself won't suffice.

Armed Bears

One notable thing: The 2010 election was in a Republican-favored cycle. During those cycles they usually take several seats in Congress. The next cycle will be Democratic-favored.

There will be at least seven Republican senators running for re-election in Democratic or Demo-leaning states.

If Beebe is to be a candidate he's kept it close to his chest. Said numerous times as he finished his second term as governor he would not be seeking election; he was retiring save for some law practice. I've never seen a lawyer retire unless he was a corporate attorney.

They practice until their mind or health gives out.


In response to an Arkansas Blog post reporting Chief Justice Jim Hannah's imminent retirement from the Arkansas Supreme Court:

We are doomed. Who will Asa! appoint? This is a position not for small minds, and Shawn Womack has proved that he is a small mind. His equal protection argument about other state court judges' salaries was utter BS on its face. His recusing in a criminal case because he was "unqualified" is a big red flag that he's not qualified to be an appellate judge.


I met Hannah 15 years ago when he was campaigning for the court position. I was impressed with him in our conversation as to the responses he gave to the few questions I posed. He hasn't disappointed me. Hate to see him go for fear of who will take his seat.


Final sale of the Arkansas Supreme Court will close Sept. 1. Under a new state law passed by the Republican legislature the new owners' names may not be disclosed under penalty of law.

Arkansas justice, thy name is mud.

Sound Policy

Well, the Republicans finally have it — their trifecta. They got the Tea Party Lite governor, the Tea Party legislature and a Republican state Supreme Court that flaunts the law. This is all about showing us how they can govern? Right?

Or just how they can enrich their benefactors and their own pockets?

Congrats, Arkansas; it's amazing how you let your hatred of a president of color ruin our future.

wannabee conservative

How about Hutchinson nominate Milligan to get him away from the Treasurer's office? I am sure that Hutchinson won't worry about any requirement that the person be a trained lawyer. The Republicans have already waived the requirements for so many high level state jobs, e.g. Treasurer's office staff, director of Arkansas Department of Education, et al.


Justice Hannah is an excellent jurist and Arkansans should be thankful for his service. He represented Arkansas well both statewide and nationally. Justice Hannah was no small mind on the court and will be hard to replace.

Let's hope for one who puts the Constitution before all other constituencies.


Incarceration, child welfare entwined

Once again, your articles on mass incarceration and the efforts within our child welfare system have gained the attention of many, including people outside of Arkansas.

Incarceration, child welfare entwined

Once again, your articles on mass incarceration and the efforts within our child welfare system have gained the attention of many, including people outside of Arkansas. I have just returned from the Soros Foundation's Senior Justice Fellowship conference in Baltimore, and Arkansas's prison plight was topical at the event. Thank you for the two pieces that highlight the most difficult problems facing our citizens in Arkansas: the over-incarceration of adults and the increasing number of children in foster care without adequate oversight or enough placements.

I wish we could cross-pollinate these two issues as they are entangled in so many ways. With 20 percent of our children in the state's custody due to parental incarceration, the connection with mass incarceration is obvious, but few want to talk about the intersection, much less seek a solution that might transcend conventional thinking. I teach a course on this intersection at the University of California Davis and am witness to the many incarcerated parents and children who are caught in the web of these two systems.

Dee Ann Newell

Little Rock

Write more on Bernie

The Arkansas Times isn't paying enough attention to Bernie Sanders, the only true progressive in the field of presidential candidates. I've heard contributors to this publication refer to it as a "lefty rag." If that's true, and this is a leftist paper, then why do your journalists have their heads so far up Hillary Clinton's ass? She is about as close to a progressive as any contender in the current Republican field. You guys are the closest thing we have to a liberal publication in this state. If you truly want to own this moniker, then give your support to a real progressive.

Richard Hutson

Rose Bud

From the web

In response to "Rally round, designers for a new Little Rock flag" (July 23):

I think that Pinnacle Mountain actually looks like a pile of dog poop. Must instead refer to the Big Dam Bridge.


Create a wide blue winding strip to represent the river, then have six curved strips going over that to represent the six bridges. A little dot could be added to represent the Little Rock. The Little Rock side of the river (winding blue strip) could be green and North Little Rock side left white.

Kurt Sims

In response to "Root Out Hate," a guest column by Acadia Roher about standing up to hate groups:

The Southern Poverty Law Center's numbers are dubious, at best. It was their director of intelligence, Mark Potok, who predicted "explosive growth in hate groups" in 2008, due to "the tanking economy and a Black man in the White House." This was the "reliable source" for the Department of Homeland Security report.

In 2009, the first full year of the Obama administration and the worst year of the great recession, Potok counted exactly six new "groups" for an explosive increase of less than half of 1 percent. Since then, according to Potok's own "Hate Map," the number of "hate groups" has dropped 27 percent. Potok's "explosive growth" turned out to be a damp squib.

Last March, Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League told reporters from the South Jersey Times that Potok's numbers are inherently inaccurate:

"The Southern Poverty Law Center's list is wildly inflated," Pitcavage said. "They list skinhead groups in places where there are no organized groups, but instead it's just a couple of individuals."

Potok is a public relations man. He creates his annual hate group lists as part of the SPLC's decades-long fear campaign. Last year, Potok's map brought in more than $40 million in donations, and that does not include the $21 million in tax-free interest generated by the SPLC's $302 million endowment fund.

Sadly, there is much genuine hate in the world, but citing the SPLC's fundraising materials is a poor way to document it.

Richard Keefe

From the Arkansas Blog, in response to a picture of The Eagles performing at Verizon Arena:

Don Henley grew up in east Texas. He founded a group called the Caddo Lake Institute, which works to improve the ecological health of Caddo Lake — the only natural lake in Texas, although now highly altered and degraded.

Arkansas needs a conservationist philanthropist like him. It's shocking to me that there's no one, at least none that I know of, who has put real money into protecting and restoring the threatened gems of Arkansas. The Rockefellers come closer than any but Winthrop never rose to the level of Laurence or David in landscape preservation efforts. I guess people figured they'd done all they needed to do in "saving" the Buffalo River, in name if not in fact. To be fair, in those days if you stopped a dam you saved a river. That was before the industrial livestock holocaust came into being.

By the way, one of Arkansas's only natural lakes, Grassy Lake, was protected by a group of wealthy businessmen only to be trashed in the last few years by SWEPCO's massive Turk Power Plant. Sadly appropriate that it is right down the road from a place called Hope. Fitting, I suppose, that that is where Huckler or Huckstick or whatever his name is started his campaign.

Oh well. I'd better take it easy, and try not to let the sound of my own wheels drive me any crazier than I am already ... .

Thanks, Eagles! Come back and play again sometime while you're still able-bodied. Welcome to the Hotel D'Arkansas. There's plenty of room.

Armed Bears Against Hypocrisy