Archive for Letters

Disappointed in the governor

An open letter to Gov. Hutchinson.

Disappointed in the governor

An open letter to Gov. Hutchinson: 

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Rev. Gwen Fry

President of ArTEC

From the web

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Benjamin for writing this great piece.

Trudy James

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

Kay Ekey

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

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


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

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

Tony Galati

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Thanks to the Times for your frequent reporting on this.


Feeling unwelcome

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

Feeling unwelcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Arkansas? I'm so sorry."

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

"Why? It's awful down there."

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

Yet Arkansas could.

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

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

Andrew Suarez


Universal health care

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

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

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

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

Richard Hutson


From the web:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chopped beef

Think of the future

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

Think of the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthony Newkirk

North Little Rock

Not buying story on Kurrus firing

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

J.D. McGee

Little Rock

From the web

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tony Galati

Kurrus spoke truth

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

Kurrus spoke truth

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

Richard Emmel

Little Rock

That I-30 mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keith Weber


Smart to invest in pre-K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chelsie Kennedy


From the web

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

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

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

Ralph Cloar

Little Rock

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

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

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

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


Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

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

Think about all of the pieces mentioned above.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nell Matthews


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

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

Lyons on the Clintons

"In his latest column, Gene Lyons was true to form watering down the record of the Clintons."

Lyons on Clintons

In his latest column, Gene Lyons was true to form watering down the record of the Clintons. I'm wondering what gyrations he'll go through in explaining away Hillary Clinton's strange remarks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard about her position on the federal minimum wage.

Besides making fact-free claims worthy of Donald Trump, she contradicted what is written on her own campaign website.

Lyons also makes some strange claims. Like the one that "the 1994 crime bill has little political salience in 2016." While Bernie Sanders did vote for it, the implication is that Clinton was also in a position to vote on it. But she was not in Congress in 1994. By the way, that was two years before she declared in public that black men must be "brought to heel." Lyons pooh-poohs the incident as "one time, twenty years ago" when she was just using "a comic book term."

Why does Lyons refer to the Clintons' confrontations with Black Lives Matter activists during the campaign as "hubbub"? We must remember that no one seems to be forcing Clinton to wrap herself in her husband's reputation. We must remember that he signed off on the Crime Bill, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 and the abolition of banking regulation in 1999. Oh, and the 1993 Defense of Marriage Act.

Clinton has set herself up for criticism. And defenses of her actions are becoming more desperate by the minute.

I hope there'll be coverage of the latest Fight for $15 protests in Central Arkansas, part of a national day of action. Now, that's newsworthy.

Anthony Newkirk

North Little Rock

Make recycling easier

I have been a dedicated recycler for my entire adult life. I live in the county, just outside of the city limits, and Pulaski County Sanitation does not provide recycling pickup. Ever since the city closed its drop-off locations, I've been driving to Waste Management HQ on I-440, a 14-mile drive. But they recently shut down their drop-off. (They closed their electronics drop-off some time ago.) Natural State Recycling, also on I-440, has bins, but they require recyclables to be separated, and they don't accept glass. I would like to do the right thing, but it's getting very difficult, and other concerned county residents have the same problem. I'm not sure, but I suspect apartment dwellers in the city likewise have no options. For a city that likes to consider itself progressive, I think this situation is disgraceful. Please help.

Matt Patton

Pulaski County

Trusting Ray

I learned what I needed to know about Ray Thornton the night in 1972 when Roger Glasgow was arrested for allegedly smuggling marijuana across the border with Mexico (Arkansas Times, Feb. 25).

Glasgow was an assistant to Attorney General Thornton and was acquitted at trial. Properly so, I'm convinced.

I was the anchor and managing editor of KTHV-TV, Channel 11, new to Arkansas, young, and I'd spent the previous three years in Athens, Greece. I had little history with General Thornton, or Glasgow, though I'd certainly met and covered them.

I learned of the arrest just after the 6 p.m. broadcast. I called Thornton's home. Mrs. Thornton answered and told me that he was not yet home, but on the way. I asked her to have him call me as soon as he arrived. I told her why.

He soon returned the call, said he had to check on some things, talk to Roger, and drive back to Little Rock.

He knew I wanted an interview (he probably did, too) and asked me to meet him at his office in an hour or so.

Remember, these are the days of film, not videotape, not live transmission. It required 30 minutes to process and several minutes more to edit.

Thornton, our cameraman (I think it might have been John Miller) and I met outside the AG's office. In those days the anchor (me) wrote and produced the entire broadcast, so all of us felt a great deal of pressure, but none more than the attorney general.

The interview was straightforward.

Too much time has passed to get this exactly right, but here is what I remember Ray Thornton saying: "I hired Roger Glasgow because I thought he was a fine lawyer and a trustworthy man. He has told me he is innocent. I trust my judgment in hiring him, and I will stand by him as this develops."

Please don't take the quotation marks to mean that's an exact quote. It's a paraphrase at best.

That's why I say I learned about Ray Thornton that night. He was a man who trusted himself, so he could trust his own judgment about others.

It also meant we could trust him.

J. Craig Barnes

Phoenix, Md.

GOP craziness

The presidential primaries have become more contentious. Donald Trump is still the frontrunner for Republicans, but the Republican establishment hates Trump, so House Speaker Paul Ryan will likely reject Trump as nominee for president and Republican delegates at this summer's nominating convention in Cleveland will likely be instructed to vote for Ted Cruz. In a nutshell, there are at least four host committee chairs, but Ryan is in charge. Even if Trump wins the magic 1,237 delegates in the primaries, he may still be rejected. The really heavy lifting would start if Cruz were nominated. Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be required to motivate the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress to quickly pass a constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born citizens to serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada, and if the case of Cruz's eligibility to serve as president goes to the Supreme Court, Cruz might be disqualified.

The Democrats have a bigger problem. Obviously, for political purposes, the FBI is maintaining an open investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails and will likely press charges for an October surprise. Of course, Hillary is innocent and most of the charges would be dismissed, but a hearing would naturally follow. If the FBI could charge Hillary now, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee, Congress could refuse to amend the Constitution, and Bernie Sanders would be in like Flynn.

Gene Mason


Dominionist influence in Arkansas

A recent CBS article revealed the source of the plethora of so-called religious freedom restoration laws that were introduced in some 20 states across the country and that specifically disenfranchise LGBT people.

The culprit is Liberty Counsel, a conservative law group devoted to imposing a Christian Dominionist version of Sharia law on everyone else through force of legislation.

The minions of Liberty Counsel here in Arkansas are legislators like Sens. Bart Hester, Jason Rapert, Cecile Bledsoe and Reps. Justin Harris and Bob Ballinger.

The head of LC is Matt Staver:

According to Jeff Sharlet, author of the books "C Street: the Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy" and "The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," the twin political pillars of Christian fundamentalism are the public legislation of morality and the privatization of resources. The latter agenda endeared the Dominionists to the corporate state and secured their rise to power.

But in the intervening years, corporations have realized that discriminating against LGBT people is a dead-end street that ultimately affects the bottom line. So now, the corporate state and the Christian Dominionist movement have reached an impasse.

Power-drunk after decades of rule, the latter refuses to sacrifice its written-in-stone religious ideology on the altar of the free market.

But more and more people are finding out what the Christian Dominionist movement really is: a garden variety form of fascism with a long hit list of undesirables to eliminate in its utopian quest to establish a "Kingdom of God" on earth. And like most fascist movements, democracy and an open society are chief among its enemies.

Brad Bailey


On the web

In response to Max Brantley's April 14 column, "Bootstraps for me, not thee" on Rep. Josh Miller (R-Heber Springs):

While I sympathize with the situation in which Miller finds himself through nobody's fault but his own, I find him otherwise repugnant and despicable. He made sure he has his. Everyone else can go screw themselves. And just who are these deadbeats to which he refers? How about some names or photos? Let's put a face to these living off the largesse of the public dole. Of course any such lineup would have to include Miller himself. He really needs to crawl back in his hole, and the people of his district need to elect someone a little more concerned about the public good rather than making sure the young, the elderly and the disabled have no chance of getting government assistance.


Dear Arkansas 66th District,

Really? You can't do better than this cretin? Seriously. There's gotta be someone with more appeal who can run against this excuse of a legislator and win.


No. Our district CAN'T come up with better. Before Josh, we had a rodeo clown. Lasted one term. Had an old theft conviction on his record when running for sheriff and dropped out. Ran again and lost. Josh was not working while receiving all of his benefits until he was elected. Our district should win an award for the most mean/un-Christian pols in the state. We also have Missy Irwin as our senator and she is even more of a tea-bagger, mean-spirited pol.

David Smith

Equality and Greenberg

The state's other newspaper recently ran a piece by longtime laissez-faire champion Paul Greenberg entitled "Down with equality."

Equality and Greenberg

The state's other newspaper recently ran a piece by longtime laissez-faire champion Paul Greenberg entitled "Down with equality." Mr. Greenberg suggests in his column that the meaning of the word "equality" has been changed since the time of our founding fathers. A word once meaning "equality only before the law" and "equality of opportunity," as Greenberg says, has undergone a profound transformation and now means "material equality — an equality of income, of property, of spoils," as he puts it.

What Mr. Greenberg is saying is that founders like Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith envisioned a level playing field where attributes like integrity and determination could win for one a position of power and material wealth within society. Or as he puts it, "an aristocracy of merit arising out of an equality of opportunity." Wow, by using the word "aristocracy," Mr. Greenberg doesn't even hide the fact he believes in a ruling class.

To put it plainly, Greenberg believes in a free market utopia where honest and hard-working individuals are rewarded for their efforts. Yes, the political right has its dreamers, too.

This all sounds good, but the fair and free market of opportunity so desired by Greenberg is only possible if everyone involved starts at the same level materially and educationally and conducts themselves morally while participating in the market. This, however, is not the reality of the situation. We don't all start life with the same opportunities laid before us. There's a lot of hard-working and honest people out there struggling, and with few, if any, prospects of doing better. And there are members of a ruling elite that seek to profit off the misery of the struggling masses.

If we truly want to achieve a free market of equal opportunity, as Mr. Greenberg says he wants, then we must acknowledge the playing field is not level and consider measures to even it a little. As most Americans know, freedom comes with a price. If we want more freedom of opportunity among the masses, then the privileged few may have to give up some freedom — at least the freedom to benefit disproportionately from the labors of others.

Richard Hutson


On 'Nowhere Man'

To Will Stephenson: Wow! What a joy to read your superbly composed feature ["The Ballad of Fred and Yoko," March 31]. As a veteran DJ and vinyl lover and a lesbian, I was deeply moved. What a great tribute to a tragic soul. Thanks.

Alicia Banks

Little Rock

From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog post by David Ramsey on state Sen. Terry Rice's statement that Medicaid expansion to cover health care costs for the poor would be "enslaving" future generations, a term that state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, who is black, took exception to:

David, less than a year ago, your paper published an article by Ernest Dumas entitled "Slaves to the past." The force of the metaphor in Dumas' title is that we are, sometimes and to some extent, controlled by things that happened long ago. You can fight the metaphor all you want, but I find it hard to believe that a smart, well-read guy like you really finds its use all that unusual — apparently other Arkansas Times staffers do not. I think a more sober analysis of the metaphor is that, if anything, its use approaches a cliche. I appreciate that there are some members of the legislature with an almost entrepreneurial talent for taking offense, but this is a pretty slim reed.

Thanks for the link to the Arkansas Project — I think if you go back and read it, you'll see that there is a pretty strong argument that the .0004 percent figure is not the relevant one. Medicaid expansion on a national basis is very, very, very expensive.

Dan Greenberg

Hi Dan! The argument that the .0004 percent figure is not the relevant one is not strong, but silly, as I already addressed in the post: "The Arkansas Legislature has no control over whether or not other states accept the Medicaid expansion." 

The Arkansas Legislature's decision on Medicaid expansion has an impact on the debt so trivial as to be meaningless. You are well aware of this, but my understanding is that you oppose the state's decision to move forward with the Medicaid expansion for other reasons.

David Ramsey

Dan Greenberg, for your enlightenment, my husband might have died seven years earlier than he did had he not had Medicare. As it happens, he was treated and remained in reasonably good health for most of the rest of his life.

I might now be in a nursing home because of increasing blindness with a resultant inability to drive. Or I might have developed another malady that could have led to my death, had it not been found and treated early, all with the assistance of Medicare. 

I'm not about to deny anyone else the opportunity to have decent medical care on the basis that it's going to cost too much. That you would shows what kind of person you are.


Money well spent

Some cynical people who are not loyal to our valued athletic traditions question our current culture's curious emphasis on athletics — particularly in colleges.

Money well spent

Some cynical people who are not loyal to our valued athletic traditions question our current culture's curious emphasis on athletics — particularly in colleges. They claim there's an imbalance between academics and athletics that is demonstrated in various ways, but none as dramatically as in money matters.

Even if they were correct, there is evidence that the operating budget pendulum is swinging in favor of academia. The University of Arkansas recently hired a new chancellor for the Fayetteville campus — the CEO. In a fit of exuberance, even if fiscal irresponsibility, the Board of Trustees agreed to pay the new head of the campus almost as much as some of the assistant football coaches make.

Further evidence of this momentum in favor of academia is a more equitable balance of capital expenditures. The university will issue $160 million in construction bonds. The proceeds will increase seating — in the end zone — for the football stadium. This fine facility, which was expanded in recent years, is frequently filled in the six afternoons that it is used each year. This large sports investment, however, is balanced by the pending issuance of $30 million of bonds with proceeds divided among various academic facilities and programs. That's about 5:1 — a reasonable ratio. So, the complainers don't really have much to gripe about. Fair's fair. We must keep our priorities straight.

Go Hogs, go!

W.W. Satterfield

Little Rock

When we talk about health care

There is some talk of a group of self-absorbed and wholly self-interested people getting together this month at the Capitol under the umbrella of being a "legislature" and tinkering with the lives of Arkansas residents. One of the themes of their tinkering is encompassed in the broad and ill-defined phrase "health care." In its current configuration, the phrase "health care" almost always means you are talking about paying somebody other than an actual health care provider to pay the people who claim to be health care providers. We call that "health care insurance" in a feeble attempt to avoid facing the real prospect that we all get sick and we all need care. The self-absorbed people getting together this week will trivialize the notion of care by using sterilized terms such as "beneficiaries," "providers" and "benefits." That allows them to dig the denial hole deeper so no one has to face the real-life fact that all of us require actual care, health and otherwise, from the moment of birth until we die. They will bluster mightily about how we are all just self-sufficient engines driving some imaginary economy rather than being the actual poor, needy and care-dependent beings we, in fact, are.

Our local bastion of health care provider education, we'll call them the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) as a kindness, has told some of the aforementioned self-absorbed people that they will be overwhelmed financially by "indigent care" if they don't get a heaping pile of dough out of this tinkering. Again, we have to be careful not to speak directly about the real "care" problem and focus on the "indigent" part. The reality they will not deal with is that we are all indigent when it comes to paying for health care. The only ones who are not indigent are the people we pay to pay the health care providers for us, that is, the insurance companies. No one will ask the insurance companies to chip in a small percentage more of their gigantic haul of our money to help provide actual care of any kind.

Perhaps strangest of all, this meeting of tinkerers will be seen not as an opportunity to meet some real need of Arkansas residents. Rather, it will be viewed as a contest of some useless imaginary skills imputed to the self-absorbed people doing the tinkering and whatever befalls us will be secondary to who wins or loses the contest. No one will ask: Where did we go wrong? If someone did, what would be an honest answer?

David Steadman


From the web

In response to Will Stephenson's cover story last week, "The ballad of Fred and Yoko":

Devastating. Every preacher in Little Rock should have to read this and deliver a sermon on it. I wonder what they'd say?


What an amazing life and lonely death. I work with others to provide outreach and assistance to people in the Little Rock and North Little Rock area who do not have homes. The people we serve are a diverse group of people with a wide variety of experiences, hopes and challenges, as is true for all of us. There are never enough resources to provide the comprehensive health, housing and supportive services needed, but some progress has been made locally in recent years, including a day resource center, veterans' center and other expanded services and improved efforts. Fred Arnold's story should, indeed, be read from every pulpit, at every civic group luncheon, by every provider of services to vulnerable people. We, as a society, must acknowledge our failures as well as our successes. The notes he sent show just how badly we failed Fred Arnold. May he rest in peace.


The churches fell down on the job, didn't they? A prime example of why charities can't be our only way to help others in their time of need.

Well done story.


Great piece of journalism, Will! Heartbreaking in the end as it was, all those wonderful eccentric characters could populate several Charles Portis novels.

I think there really is an afterlife somewhere where Fred and John hang out together, playing and writing music, counting down the days until Yoko will join them. I imagine that all this came as a delightful surprise to John after he died. He wasn't really expecting it, of course. No doubt, George comes around every now and then, but he stays mainly over in the Hindu territories of East Heaven, practicing his sitar. And you, Will. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. You're a good man. I can tell it from your writing.


In Arkansas, only in the Arkansas Times would we find such an interesting and human story. It makes one wonder how many others among the homeless people that we pass by without giving much attention have equally fascinating back stories. Despite all the efforts of his friends to help, he could not be helped.


As a longtime/long ago Charleston friend/Beatles fan/record store customer of Billy's (i.e. Fred Arnold), I was very moved by your beautifully written story, Will.

I had completely lost touch with the man by the late '70s and was dismayed to read how badly south his life had gone since, no matter how much he may have contributed to it himself. Appalling to see how little assistance he received from most of the Little Rock community, particularly those who espouse their Christian values — Christian when convenient, apparently. A salute to Pastor Marty Mote, however, for being there for Billy when he could.

Billy was quite the character in '70s Charleston society, and became a colorful counterpoint to a lot of what conservative Charleston was then all about.

Thanks again for the story, Will. I look forward to reading more of your work down the line.

Steven Prazak

How fascinating! It was such a sweet surprise to hear about his relationship with Yoko and how kind she was to him. I wonder if his collection ended up in a dumpster or if someone is still holding onto it. Great story with a local connection.

Joni Davis McGaha

One of the most brilliant pieces of journalism I have encountered in years. Bravo, Will!

Kelley Bass

In response to Gene Lyons' column last week, "Obama's success":

Seems nice that unemployment is down, except when you realize how many people are not employed, are under-employed and how job creation has taken a step backwards.

Bonds suck, since confidence in the government is tanked, so stocks are higher, which could lead to more sudden volatility and less stability.

Obama had no choice about Syria, since he squandered a coalition that turned its back on him when he finally did decide to try something. Obama wasn't active, he was hapless to those events. Hardly leadership.

Don't forget, too, that Obama was the one that ignored ISIL when it could have been dealt with, and instead went ahead with his policy of removing the one thing that could have stopped ISIL while it was still the "JV" team.

Few females of the species are as disgusting and hateful as Michelle, so it is hard to see how anyone could see her on the same level of Jackie O or Ladybird or anyone else who can refrain from showing contempt for the country that elected her hubby into the White House, twice.

We also have Obama to thank for making race relations what they are, with his inability to keep his mouth shut until the facts are out, so as to create as much hate as possible so no amount of facts will allay the hysteria created by a president who will attend the funeral of a thug shot trying to murder someone but not the funeral of a Supreme Court justice.

Steven E

Steven, you are playing the "blame the victim" game here. It isn't promoting racial division to publicly point out the latent and overt white elitism that permeates every aspect of our country. Every time the president invites any black celebrities to the White House he gets called racist. Yet white presidents could invite white celebrities without getting tagged as showing favoritism to their own race. Yes, he used some high-profile mass shootings to bring attention to insane racial hatred. I would hope that a white president would have done the same thing. But we have far too many mass shootings in this country for him to attend the funeral of all of the victims. The funeral — get over it. He was following long established presidential protocol for that and for Nancy Reagan's funeral. I travel frequently outside this country, and in every country people tell me they respect and admire our president. You just hate that, don't you!

Another brick in the wall

On drug testing

Gov. Hutchinson has implemented a statewide mandatory drug test for every new applicant for a welfare program known as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

On drug testing

Gov. Hutchinson has implemented a statewide mandatory drug test for every new applicant for a welfare program known as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

The original bill, SB 600, was created and sponsored by 39 Arkansas senators and representatives, all but two of which were Republicans, and seven of which were members of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC is a notorious corporate bill mill that gives newly elected Republican legislators a free family vacation at selected resorts in exchange for sponsoring its cookie-cutter bills that favor corporate interests at the expense of taxpayers.

In a 2014 Time article, Darlenam Cunha wrote: "The [drug] testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn't being 'wasted' on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month (July 2014), only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8 percent, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year."

In 2013, the U.S. District Court in Orlando struck down the Florida welfare drug-testing law as a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable searches.

For anyone who hasn't realized it yet, let me reiterate: The Republicans are the party of the very wealthy and big corporate interests, and this law testifies once again to their well-organized and well-funded class warfare against the poor and disenfranchised.

I urge any TANF applicant who is denied access to this program for refusing to answer drug-related questions to contact the Arkansas ACLU and consider filing suit against Blake Johnson, the bill's sponsor, Gov. Hutchinson and/or the state of Arkansas.

Brad Bailey


The state's other newspaper announced the Department of Workforce Services' launching of a drug-testing program for welfare recipients in Arkansas. The new law requires that funds bypass heads of households who test positive for drugs and then fail to meet the requirements of rehabilitation, all in an effort to keep aid from being spent on drugs. According to the legislation's co-sponsor, Rep. Robin Lundstrum, (R-Springdale), the goal is not to keep the "truly needy" from receiving assistance, but to stop aid from being paid directly to drug users. Lundstrum was quoted, "I want to see that money gets into the hands of the truly needy, get it to those kids, whoever is in charge needs to be drug free."

I agree with Lundstrum. Public assistance meant to help those in need should not be used to support a self-destructive habit. I applaud Lundstrum and other Republicans who do not simply promote the cessation of all public assistance. This shows that some of our current Republican leaders possess at least some measurable level of compassion, an attribute seemingly in short supply among today's conservatives.

While this all sounds good, there is a bigger picture to consider. The provisions of the new law allow tax revenue to be spent on identifying and labeling drug users, while simultaneously denying benefits that help the user pay for assistance in overcoming their addiction. So, once again we see modern day right-wing thinking at work. Spend money on identifying, labeling and punishing, but not on helping everyone who is in need. Lundstrum and her supporters want to help the children of those who may be addicted to drugs, but they also want to punish their parents. This proves that many conservatives refuse to see drug addiction for what it is: a sickness. For whatever reason, many on the political right are determined to keep drug dependence within the realm of criminal activity, as opposed to seeing it as a public health issue requiring understanding and compassion.

Another question comes to mind. What happens when the head of the household's failure to adhere to the stipulations of the new law results in eventual incarceration and the state must step in and assume the cost of caring for the children? Now we have a scenario where tax money is being spent on prosecuting and warehousing the drug-using head of the house, and providing care for the children through foster parenting and all the public services that typically accompany this approach. This is a far more costly route than simply trying to help the sick individual overcome their addiction in the first place. Again, this shows the conservative propensity to care more about punishment than compassion.

Richard Hutson


Bob Jones and Asa

I read Gov. Asa Hutchinson's biography that was online prior to the election. I noted that it omitted his time at Bob Jones University and that of his wife and brother. The school website is boastful of them as graduates.

I regard that as deceptive and an indicator of character weakness. It is well known that BJU taught racism, homophobia and was disparaging of women and their autonomy. Women who were raped were counseled that it was their fault because underlying sin in their lives brought it upon them. That they should ask their rapists for forgiveness!

My point: If Asa refuses to publicly admit marinating in such tripe and doesn't renounce its teachings, we citizens have reason to believe he still holds those values. Backing legislation by those of his party that codifies such garbage into law would indicate he still holds such values. Allowing such tripe to become law without his signature would seem to indicate he agrees with it or fears the tea party and fundamentalists among them. How should we regard him for that?

Asa is catering to Obama haters in changing the private option. He obviously had that intent while campaigning, but refused to say as much. The refusal to release the budget before election would have revealed his present efforts and that he feared the tea party.

We need some answers as to why Asa hid his BJU background and up-front admittance of adherence to its mess or renounce it publicly.

Karl Hansen


Balancing act

It warms the cockles of my heart to witness the exquisite balance that the Arkansas Times' writers strike between objectivity and bias. Of course, no one expects perfection from this gang, with the possible exception of Gene Lyons, whose yeoman efforts to canonize Bill Clinton continue apace and could bring him a Pulitzer Prize, perhaps after the current committee takes pity on him or dies.

Joe Anderson

Cotton Plant

Failing Gideon

On March 18, 1963, a diminutive man accused of stealing $5 and soda from a pool hall threw himself at the mercy of the Supreme Court and changed the course of American history.

Failing Gideon

On March 18, 1963, a diminutive man accused of stealing $5 and soda from a pool hall threw himself at the mercy of the Supreme Court and changed the course of American history. Prior to this moment, Clarence Gideon had been sitting in jail, trying to overturn a five-year sentence he had received because he was too poor to pay for a lawyer. The Supreme Court sided with Gideon, declaring that those that could not afford counsel still had the right to receive one in criminal proceedings. Gideon would go on to be released and to die in obscurity, buried in an unmarked grave.

It's important to ask, however, as we pass the 53rd anniversary of this decision, whether Gideon would be better off in the legal system that has been crafted in the wake of the case that bears his name. The nation, and Arkansas in particular, is in a legal crisis. In January of last year, the Arkansas Public Defender Commission stated that the average public defender in the state handled 537 clients, far above the American Bar Association's recommendation that attorneys manage 200 misdemeanors or 150 felonies per year. In March 2015, a study found that in rural Arkansas counties, there were .44 lawyers per 1,000 residents, perilously below the national average of 4.11 lawyers per 1,000 residents. Cleveland County had no lawyers at all. A Brennan Center for Justice study in 2012 found that public defenders are so overworked that they can only average a meeting of six minutes per client. Appointed lawyers have become placeholders in a system that was supposed to provide the poor with equal opportunity of justice.

When deciding Gideon, Justice Black noted that, "[A]ny person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided to him." Unfortunately, as the public defender's office continues to be woefully underfunded in the current fiscal year, we as citizens of the state should take pause. As we watch our favorite police procedurals on television and hear that famous recitation, "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you," we should realize that we live in an age where those lines are becoming more and more like those dramas: works of fiction. And should we not act, the right to counsel for the poor, for those most at risk of incarceration and those who stand to lose the most, will end up just as Mr. Gideon: buried in obscurity.

James Colston


From the web

In response to the Arkansas Blog post, "How the Walton education agenda harms public schools":

Just because your daddy was rich does not mean you know what is best for me.

In Arkansas, we have no democracy. We have rule by the 1 percent.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

Regressives have always declared war on education. An educated and informed electorate will always vote for progression. That scares the crap out of Republicans.

Errol Roberts

Absolutely despicable conduct by the charterists. They care nothing for the kids affected by this idiocy, they just want to own everything and everybody below their station. It is sad to see the billions of dollars spent on a concerted effort to continue and expand the divisions in our country rather than on positive steps to ensure the future of education for all.


Schools aren't bad because of the "rich." Schools are bad because the way children perform/act in school starts at home. Not at school. So all these inner city schools are filled with children that could not help being born with no dad, no mom, no discipline, etc. But the easy thing to do is "blame it on the rich." Why not start holding parents accountable for their own children? The schools that you are whining about are a direct reflection of the community it serves. Period. It all starts at home. It's no one's fault but the parents or lack thereof. Let's start blaming the real people responsible instead of who you liberals think is responsible.

anti liberal

It's beyond credulity that the Billionaire Boys Club cannot just create an alternative school system but do it with our tax dollars. Something constitutionally wrong with this picture.


Anti, how exactly do you propose we hold those parents accountable? None of the eight different phone numbers on file are working, the emergency contacts do not answer, no one answers the door at home at 6 p.m., and DHS can't track them down, either. So, even when and if DHS takes custody, then what? Struggling parents, often mentally ill even ... how are you going to force them into caring for their children? Will you move in with them? I bet you also love ASA! and his plan to starve essential services. Family supports, more resources for DHS, more reliable and safe foster homes, more tax dollars to help are what is needed. How about we stop blaming struggling parents and start building healthy parents and children?


In response to the Arkansas Blog post, "Report: Tom Cotton to join meeting with Donald Trump":

If Trump wants to curry favor with Cotton, he needs to memorize this sentence: "Under my administration, this country will take no shit off of anybody." Cotton would wet his pants upon hearing those words and would follow Trump to the ends of the Earth.


If Trump picks Cotton as his VP, he better have two Secret Service agents assigned full-time to keep an eye on his back. Little Tom is far too ambitious for his intellect.

couldn't be better

Establishment Republicans know it will be a matter of months before President Trump is impeached and they might be ok with Cotton and therefore support a Trump nomination. President Cotton would be as dangerous if not more than Trump. At least Trump will want to be liked. All Cotton cares about is killing the bad guys and punishing Americans he doesn't like or care about.

Joshua Drake

A party in disarray

To say the least, our national Republican Party has quite a mess on its hands right now in the primary elections for president.

A party in disarray

To say the least, our national Republican Party has quite a mess on its hands right now in the primary elections for president. One candidate, Ted Cruz, was not even born in the U.S. and may not be eligible to serve as president. Another candidate, Marco Rubio, has a history of buying personal items with his GOP credit card. The most viable candidate is Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, here in Arkansas, Trump has already won the Republican primary race. Unfortunately, Gov. Asa Hutchinson endorsed Rubio, even though Rubio was a known credit-card criminal who has yet to pay his debt to society. Sure, Rubio admitted in 2012 to reimbursing the party for the items, but Florida's Republican Party let Rubio off the hook. They made the poor decision not to charge Rubio with felony theft by deception. This reminds me of when Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark, a Democrat, was charged.

Anyway, the big question now is whether Asa will actually support Trump as the Republican nominee. After all, Asa has worked diligently all these years to promote the interests of wealthy capitalists over the interests of the democratic masses. He must now accept responsibility for helping create the candidate Trump.

Gene Mason


Krugman off

Recently the state's other newspaper ran a piece by well-known economist Paul Krugman. The article suggests Bernie Sanders' recent primary win in Michigan may be the result of Sanders misleading the people of Michigan in regard to the effects of free trade. While I agree with Krugman on most points pertaining to the economy, I must disagree with his assessment of Bernie Sanders' take on free-trade agreements and how they have hurt Americans living in what were once thriving industrial communities, like Detroit. I also notice Krugman's attempt to compare Bernie with Donald Trump. I know Krugman's a Hillary supporter, but likening Bernie to Trump shows him to be more of a lapdog pundit, at least in this case, as opposed to being a true liberal/progressive journalist.

Krugman willfully misrepresents Bernie by accusing him of "demagoguing the issue" of "trade liberalization," making it out to be much more detrimental to American workers than the facts suggest. Krugman offers as evidence comments made by Sanders regarding the effects of "trade liberalization" on Michigan. Krugman's words suggest Bernie blames "Hillary Clinton's free-trade policies" for what happened in Detroit. I don't think Sanders has ever said the loss of jobs in Detroit starting in the '60s and '70s was the result of trade policies enacted in the '90s. That's ridiculous. Bernie simply says that trade policies like those supported by the Clintons have contributed to, or exacerbated, the problems caused by "trade liberalization." Bernie doesn't say we must stop all agreements with other countries. He says we must change these agreements in order to keep jobs from leaving our shores, and to stop other countries from taking advantage of laws that favor foreign workers over American workers.

Ultimately Bernie wants to help American workers. He's not advocating the dismantling of established trade agreements. Sanders wants to negotiate with other countries over mutually beneficial agreements, so that everyone wins, not just America, as Trump boasts.

Any way you slice it, free trade has not worked out for most Americans. It's been great for the economic elites of the world, but the rest of us have suffered. And, any way you slice it, Hillary has supported these measures.

Richard Hutson


From the web

In response to Gene Lyons' March 10 column, "Cats and dogs":

Kind of hard to equate any morality among animals basing it just on levels of joy. As noted by Gene, cats achieve levels of contentment that would make the Dalai Lama jealous, and the joy of dogs is often off the charts, so how can you measure any kind of morality?

Does it make a difference, does it prove the emotional capacity of dogs or cats?

Well, by a lot of easily observed data, dogs have it all over cats ... except when you dig deeper into stories of how cats defended their human companions from attack by human and animal.

I have been around critters most of my life. I was 13 when I rescued my first cat. She was a kitten that was put in a box and placed under a pinball machine. Kitty was a great cat. She got along with my pet rat, shared the pillow with me, and even walked across busy city streets on my heel, like a dog. Many a night I would be reading and Kitty would lie on my lap for her hours' worth of ear rubs. She would let me know her food was empty by jumping on my bookcase and knocking off my model airplanes. When I was sick, she was with me. When I was heartbroken, she would be there, rubbing against me and licking my hair. It would be years before I had another cat of her equal.

By the time I ended up with an awesome pair of cats, Jasper and Iggy Pop, I also had a pack of six wolves. The cats got along with the wolves and old Toby dog. During cold, northern Nevada winters when the outside temps were 19 below, the bed was covered by some wolves and some cats. Toby was too old to get on the bed, so one or two of the wolves and at least one of the cats would curl up next to Toby.

Toby died. I cried, the wolves howled, and I will be dipped if Jasper didn't howl along. Iggy just kept looking for Toby. She didn't understand the way the others did.

In all the critters I have raised, I poured all my love and affection into them. They were all indoor/outdoor companions. I nurtured them like kids, and they grew in emotional scope. It was a discovery that humans are like animals and otherwise as well.

That which grows best is that which is imbued with values and training and regard and concern and sympathy. Like humans, animals have the capability to reciprocate in most emotional matters. You mistreat an animal, they grow up distant, mistrustful, tending toward violence. You treat them well, they will stay by your side, mourn your loss, rejoice your joys, share your struggles.

Steven E

Yeah, we really need another test to divide us into factions. Recently, I've noticed a lot of people almost demanding to know whether I'm a cat person or a dog person. (Where did this come from all of a sudden? Some TV show?) I guess it's a question designed to immediately separate the wheat from the chaff, or the goats from the sheep. The question invariably confuses me and I usually answer, truthfully, that I like both dogs and cats. Of course, that answer satisfies none of the questioners. In one respect, it makes me a weasel person, unwilling to commit myself. (I've never owned a weasel, however, so it's hard for me to say. Although I HAVE known a couple of folks who were fond of ferrets, so weasels might not be all that bad.)

The last person who asked me the dog/cat question was ready for me when I weaseled out of it. She immediately asked me her backup question: Do I like guns or not? Rolling my eyes at the question didn't seem to help my status in her eyes at all. I flunked her test on the spot. I was definitely not one to be trusted.

Yes, I'm a cat person and a dog person. More and more, though, a people person? Not so much ... .