Archive for Letters

A Harvard man

Like Tom Cotton, I have served in a war. I have four medals, none terribly important, to show for it. Perhaps he has more.

A Harvard man

Like Tom Cotton, I have served in a war. I have four medals, none terribly important, to show for it. Perhaps he has more.

Like Tom Cotton, I have the distinction of having a degree from Harvard (HBS '58). Unlike him I cannot claim to be "a Harvard Man." That distinction goes only to graduates of the college.

I do have a good friend, however, a fellow naval officer, an important Republican (or at least he has been), who is "a Harvard Man." I hope he will not chastise me for sharing a recent email:

"Would it surprise you when I say that your new senator is a despicable piece of shit? It's too bad that Harvard doesn't revoke degrees. When I was an undergraduate, there was a common belief that not only can you be expelled but, in really bad cases, you could be expunged. All record of your existence at the college would be erased. Of course, that would not be possible now, if it ever was."

To expunge our junior senator would only bolster his bona fides for the Arkansas voters who voted against their self-interest to elect him. But it would make some of us in the Harvard community feel good.

"Support our troops?" Yes. Support someone who quite obviously joined the Army in order to add to his resume when running for election? No.

Since 1636, graduates of Harvard have aimed to advance the cause of freedom and republicanism (small "r") in America, some liberal, some conservative. Preserve us from one who may destroy the Republic. Arkansas deserves better.

Edward Wooten

Little Rock

An open letter to Tom Cotton

Congratulations on your election to the Senate of the United States of America. You may run for president someday, but I want to point out to you that you are not currently the president.

When you were elected I had no doubt you would embarrass the state of Arkansas, but I had no idea it would be this soon or that your actions would be so injurious to the security, power and prestige of the United States of America. Your unprecedented correspondence with the leaders of the nation of Iran is the most astonishing thing I have seen a member of Congress do. I am 65 years old and have seen a lot.

Not only are you wrong about your interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, you seem to be ignorant that what you did was illegal. By now I am sure you have had to read up on the particulars of the Logan Act, which criminalizes the actions of persons who attempt in any way to negotiate or effect the negotiations of the duly authorized president with other nations. In another copy of this letter, I am urging Attorney General Holder and his successor to fully investigate whether you and the 46 other Republican senators can be charged with the crime.

Your action in this matter is beyond arrogant. It is reckless, it undermines this and every future president by showing that this nation is no longer unified when it comes to negotiating agreements and treaties. It should not have required knowledge of the Logan Act for you to know that what you did was inherently wrong and un-American.

I have no hope or expectation that you will retract your actions. I do hope that the other members of Congress come to appreciate your reckless ambition and see it for what it is, so that you are never able to undermine this nation again for the remainder of what I hope is your final term in office. I also hope the Department of Justice will do its job.

Keith Jones

Little Rock

Truth and abuse

I would like to make a few comments regarding Arkansas Times' coverage of the Justin Harris adoption story. This kind of story is heartbreaking, complicated and (aside from being high profile) not uncommon. I've worked more than 30 years as a therapist with abused children and see several cases each year where many months may go by before those involved begin to get a clear understanding of "what really happened." Sometimes things never become clear — typically as a result of little reliable information, too many conflicting stories and too much ambiguity. These cases always bring up strong unpleasant emotions and immediate urges to ease the resulting discomfort by quickly finding out what is "true" and "doing something." Simplifying things and quickly throwing in our lot on one side or the other brings some comfort. When we feel we have the truth we can confidently blast away at those on the other side who got it all wrong. Three or 12 months later more "facts" come out and, oops, it turns out we had it all wrong. I've been through this process dozens of times with my clinical cases and find myself going through it again as I follow coverage of this Harris adoption story.

What I find very pleasing, however, is the quality of journalism in the Arkansas Times. It is wonderful! This depth of coverage with an impartial tone is welcome and rare. The fourth estate at its best. Kudos to Benjamin Hardy! It is this kind of reporting that can, and I hope will, bring about real change that results in better care for the kids in our state's child protection system. There is a need for levelheaded policy discussions about the issues raised in these articles and some meaningful change, not just rolling of heads and passing of more knee-jerk laws.

Jim Harper

Little Rock

Conservatism throughout history

The conservative mentality has a long history of being wrong and having to change its position, at least outwardly, in the face of scientific and social change. Consider the fact that Earth was once believed to be flat. Conservative church leaders went so far as to force Galileo to recant his findings on the issue or face trial for "heresy." A conservative church also thought once that mental illness was the work of the devil and disease epidemics were God's way of punishing wicked people for their sins. There was once a time when conservatives used the Bible to justify slavery, as well as the oppression of women. In all these instances conservatives have had to admit being wrong and change their stances. One might think a history of getting it wrong would make conservatives more cautious about continuing to apply the same mentality in more recent times, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Today's conservatives, primarily mainstream Republicans and Tea Party types, are still using the same worn-out arguments to justify their positions on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, the death penalty, poverty and the "War on Drugs." If conservatives have been wrong so often in the past, why still hold on to this archaic approach? Is it possible that today's conservatives may have to change their stances on these hot-button issues? With most of the world, including a majority of Americans whether conservatives will admit it or not, becoming more progressive, they must change with the times. If not they will risk becoming a despised minority within their own country, and the GOP will be added to the list of failed political parties such as Whigs and Federalists.

Richard Hutson

Rose Bud

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Brewing for this fight

Historically, Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has brewed for every First Amendment fight he can generate. His proclivity for social and political commentary as a judge has always been his platform. Perhaps he does not believe any other platform would be available to him with as much credibility and notoriety. In any event, the current controversy is made to order for him.

Brewing for this fight

Historically, Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has brewed for every First Amendment fight he can generate. His proclivity for social and political commentary as a judge has always been his platform. Perhaps he does not believe any other platform would be available to him with as much credibility and notoriety. In any event, the current controversy is made to order for him.

Having read his order, it seems to me he has missed the point and misstated the ethical standards he is bound to observe. He thinks Justice Antonin Scalia has paved his way to say whatever he wants and never disqualify unless the case is already filed in his court and he has announced a decision before the case is even tried.

His public letter published on Jan. 28 was his First Amendment right, however unseemly it may be for a judge to utter. However, it is laughable for him to conclude that it was not foreseeable that a lawsuit would be filed in Pulaski County if state takeover occurred. Equally laughable is his conclusion that he did not prejudge the legality (no credible evidence, etc.) or propriety of such a takeover in his Jan. 28 statement.

I don't question his conclusion that both the school district's poor history and the present takeover is tainted with abject racism. The presence or absence of racism is not the issue. The real issue is whether his statements have conveyed the appearance that he cannot be impartial in weighing the evidence and following the law. His Jan. 28 statement must be evaluated as a body of work to determine its impact on appearances. For him to split hairs and say his statement does not expressly commit him to a legal result is sophistry.

Scalia only said that a state cannot prohibit an elected judge from publicly commenting on social and political issues (not just one case)during the course of a political campaign. That decision also indicated that the cure for any appearance of impartiality for those statements is for the judge to disqualify, even if not because of an actual expressed bias. Appearances do matter.

In my opinion Griffen wants this fight. He has waited a long time for a fight like this, and it will accomplish nothing. Any other judge would have immediately disqualified from the case assignment under the present circumstances and not waited for a party to ask for it. And rightfully so. Such is the fallout from a judge commenting on the social and political events of the day.

David Stewart


Fight for public school

I have taught in the public schools for 13 years. I am the son and grandson of public school teachers. My love and affection for a free and fair public education system runs deep. At this moment in time I fear public education is at a dangerous crossroads. The same corruption that has befallen our political system and our economic system is now threatening to infect our schools. I understand why moderates turn from politics and focus on their own lives. Politics is an unseemly business where integrity goes to die and self-interest and greed thrive. I understand how moderates can feel a sense of disenfranchisement from our elected officials. However, moderates, as I write this, there has been a systematic attack on our public education system.

Our country was founded on the idea of advanced citizenship. Advanced citizenship only works when "we the people" can benefit from a robust and strong public education system. Schools are held in public trust and should remain in the public trust. Once the public becomes divested of public education we truly will be a nation of individuals. We will lose the most fundamental of American principles, that out of one comes many.

To protect a core American value, free and public education, we must realize that no right has been won, no victory celebrated without the unified voices of American citizens challenging the status quo. Today, that status quo is represented by state legislators who have been bought and paid for by lobbyists from Washington, D.C. We must reclaim our constitutional authority over our elected officials and hold them accountable to the great American idea of public education. It was American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who reminded us that man is moral, while groups are immoral. The protection against immoral groups is a free and public education. We must demand our elected officials protect our public education from the self-interest and greed of the private sector. Our educational system should not be a financial bottom-line industry. Public education should be held in the public trust, and ensure our children have every opportunity to achieve their American dream.

Public education is sick. However, turning over our children to for-profit industry is not the cure. The cure can be found in our capacity to love. We must remember what is great about America, and what makes us the United States of America. Our communal spirit, the spirit that reaches out to the weary and beaten traveler and welcomes them back into community. That is the spirit that we must embrace. Education is our secret weapon. It can cure society's ills, mend its broken relationships, but only if all members of society engage in the process. Public education is public because we all benefit from it or we can all suffer if we turn it into a for-profit bottom-line industry.

I want to call on all my brothers and sisters who feel disconnected, ignored or disenfranchised by the political system to not sell yourself short, to speak up and defend the great public trust we have been given, the education of our children.

Adam Kirby Little Rock

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It is evil, Rep. Harris

Harris' conclusion is absolutely correct, but it has nothing to do with the article. It IS evil. You don't like your new kids which you've adopted? Well just give 'em away to somebody. Give them to a potential sex abuser. I'll give Harris the benefit of the doubt on this because, at the time, he might not have known this could happen. Maybe, maybe not.

From the web

Online comments from readers on last week's cover story on state Rep. Justin Harris' rehoming of his adopted girls to a man who turned out to be a pedophile:

It is evil, Rep. Harris

"In February, the Arkansas Times asked Rep. Harris to comment on the case and explain what became of the girls he and his wife had adopted. He refused, and stated that the Times was attempting to 'smear' him. 'It's evil,' he said, becoming visibly upset."

Harris' conclusion is absolutely correct, but it has nothing to do with the article. It IS evil. You don't like your new kids which you've adopted? Well just give 'em away to somebody. Give them to a potential sex abuser. I'll give Harris the benefit of the doubt on this because, at the time, he might not have known this could happen. Maybe, maybe not. Harris has some questions he needs to answer about precisely why Francis was fired. In other words, what did Harris know and when did he know it? Was there more to this than Francis' punctuality?

Either way, Harris shouldn't be eligible to serve on any public body or in any civic capacity. Giving your unwanted children away to somebody is despicable according to anybody's religious beliefs whether it's technically illegal or not. Add to that, Harris is always putting himself up as a paragon of "Christian" virtue — quoting scripture to the Times for example. Obviously, a righteous man such as he would not make a decision such as "rehoming" your children without a lot of prayer. They all say this, all the time. So who's he gonna blame for the tragedy which followed? God? Probably not. Justin Harris? CERTAINLY not. 

Well, who does that leave? I guess that leaves the Arkansas Times for revealing the story. Short of a libel lawsuit, he can't do anything about that. So who will he punish, who will he lash out out [at] — other than liberals in general? Everybody needs to pay close attention to what happens at DHS. They appear to be the main one in the line of fire.

Let's also watch for who defends him in state government. The voters might catch on some day ...


DHS secrecy

There are lots of problems with this matter. The news media can't adequately investigate what happened after the adoption because the court case file is sealed and not available to the press or the general public.

DHS will be hesitant to investigate this because they could easily end up with a lot of egg on their face and because Justin Harris is an incumbent House member.

I'm wondering if the adoption was subsidized by the state? If so, did the subsidy continue after the adoption and did Justin Harris and his wife continue to receive those subsidy payments after they no longer had physical custody of the children? If so, there could be some criminal fraud involved there. Some of those subsidy funds are federal dollars, so maybe the state needs to ask the feds to help investigate this matter.

I agree, Benjamin Hardy has done a good job here, but I think he's just found the tip of the iceberg so far. I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money there's a heck of a lot more to this story that may never see the light of day.

What we do know at this point is that Justin Harris and his wife in effect abandoned those children they had adopted. At least one of those children was sexually abused and will now have to live with the effects of that for the rest of her life.

Yes Justin Harris, there is something evil about this. I would suggest you will see it along with a Teapubliban hypocrite every time you look into a mirror.


Pets treated better

Some pet rescue organizations take adoption more seriously than our state laws do.

When children are legally adopted as these children were, that means you are their Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad as may be the case in more enlightened places). You can't walk away from that morally even if you can legally.

Years ago, acquaintances in California adopted a brother and sister, aged 4 and 6. The adoption agency had not disclosed how severely abused the children had been nor the psychological damage they bore as a result of that abuse. My friends, who were not particularly religious, never faltered. The next 15 years of their lives were a living hell. THEY NEVER GAVE UP. 

If Justin and Marsha Harris ran a kennel, I would not board my three furry best friends with them! If this is an example of their attitudes toward children, imagine their attitude toward animals.

The Outlier


Threats of possible abandonment charges? 

What utter bullshit. Is that why they were forced to continue cashing checks from the state? 

They can hire an attorney to defend abandoning those babies by rehoming them, but they couldn't stand up to "threats of abandonment charges" from the state? 

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Harris — This is not about you. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about those little girls, but then it was never about those little girls with y'all, was it? It was about you and how wonderful it was supposed to make you look by filling your quiver. 

Time to resign, dude. Get it over with. You're digging yourself in deeper with every breath you take. Threats of charges over abandonment don't happen when you try and work with DHS, so the only explanation is that you did not want to work things out. 


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Conway takes positive step

I couldn't be more proud of the six Conway City Council members who voted for the city ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to city of Conway employees.

Conway takes positive step

I couldn't be more proud of the six Conway City Council members who voted for the city ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to city of Conway employees. After sitting through the public hearing portion and rising to speak in favor of the ordinance, I continue to be struck by the amount of sheer ignorance and intolerance of so many in that courthouse, including council members Mark Ledbetter and Mary Smith. Those in opposition to the ordinance are simply devoid of any logical argument against extending these protections to the LGBT community.

After reflecting on the public hearing on the matter, I would like to respond to the sometimes incoherent, fallacy-filled rhetoric of those opposed. Time and time again, the opponents presented their side using four completely unfounded and, in some cases, scientifically disproven fallacies.

The idea that the city of Conway should not extend anti-discrimination protections because of religious reasons has no place in governmental policies. Those who say that it should be a factor cannot seem to realize that the very idea of the separation of church and state serves to protect their views as much as those who have other beliefs. Propagating policy based on religious beliefs is a dangerous and delusional endeavor. Christ said nothing about homosexuality, but He did say to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

I am continually baffled to see those using Christ as their reason to oppose viewing people who are different as less than human or deserving of fewer rights. This ideology flies in the face of Christ's teachings. To call yourself a Christian and then oppose offering equal protection from discrimination to the LGBT community is the epitome of hypocrisy. By opposing this ordinance on religious grounds, you are saying that Christ Himself would believe that it is fair to fire someone based on the fact that they are gay. If you believe that to be true, you need to consider adopting a non-Christian religious philosophy, because only a twisted rationale can reconcile such a ridiculous idea that we all know Jesus Himself would disavow.

Regarding those who hold on to the belief that homosexuality is a choice, I imagine no amount of scientific evidence will be able to change your mind. The only question I have for that false assumption is to ask, "When did you choose to be straight?" It seems to me that making the conscious choice to be gay or straight should be a celebrated day in life — like a Jewish boy's bar mitzvah. There should be gifts, cake and the big reveal for the audience of the sexual path you have "chosen" to undertake. The simple fact is that homosexuality is not a choice. I can point to countless studies by reputable organizations like the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence, and the American Journal of Sociology that provide significant evidence that no "choice" is ever made to be straight or gay.

The "slippery-slope" fallacy is a staple of those with little evidence to support their assertions. I heard numerous opponents state that this is "opening a door" to further problems (I'm not sure what door or how). This ordinance will lead to "lawsuits" that could bankrupt our city, an assertion made by the incomparable and incompetent Sen. Jason Rapert. This ordinance will even lead to naked gay men in a public bathroom! This type of logical fallacy is a tactic used by the weaponless, a form of fear-mongering in a desperate attempt to scare people into supporting a morally reprehensible and ultimately untenable position.

One citizen took umbrage to my assertion that this ordinance is not a slippery slope by bringing up a previous ordinance regarding the sale of alcohol. He asserts that the people of Conway were told that the licensing of alcohol sales to certain restaurants wasn't a slippery slope and that "now, there are bars in Conway!" Oh no! Remember that time when the sale of alcohol plummeted Conway into a deep economic recession? Remember that time when alcohol killed hundreds of Conway residents? Remember that time when alcohol led to prostitution and the dramatic increase in robbery? Me neither. Scare tactics are used when that is all they have. Let's just stop with the hyperbole and view this ordinance for what it really is — the acceptance of the LGBT community as members of humanity.

This is a minute step toward the type of statement that the LGBT community really needs. This is but a drop of water to a raging river. Those that oppose LGBT rights are indeed afraid, for they see the writing on the wall. This country is rightly heading to the just decision that all men and women are created equal. And as such, they deserve the respect of the citizens with whom they share their lives. As American citizens, they deserve equal protection under the law. Regardless of the opposition's deeply held convictions or beliefs, I have faith that true virtue will triumph over those misguided souls who cling to the idea that their citizenship is somehow more valuable than another's.

Jim Harris Conway

Almost funny

The Arkansas legislature seems to be off to a great start in fulfilling its regressive agenda. Anti-equal rights, anti-vaccination, anti-fluoridation, anti-education, anti-minimum wage and pro-guns. Why, it even wants to arm university and college faculty and staff while the good Sen. Rapert wants to drop a tactical nuke in Syria. It all would be amusing if it weren't so serious. God help us.

Bill Russell


Israel gets a pass

Notice the White Elephant in the room? Notice the Emperor has no clothes as he addresses Congress? Notice he does not explain why it is OK for Israel to have dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons but not OK for Iran to have any — even 10 years from now? Notice the media does not explain anything about Israel's nukes? And why the asymmetry? Why?

Robert Johnston Little Rock

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American id

After satisfying myself that Sen. Cotton really did say what he said about miscreants rotting in A.) hell, or B). Guantanamo Prison (in other words, that you guys weren't just making this stuff up), I have to say that a part of me agrees 100 percent with him.That part is called the id. It's the part of us that demands immediate gratification, the only part of our consciousness present at birth, probably located in our brain stem.

American id

After satisfying myself that Sen. Cotton really did say what he said about miscreants rotting in A.) hell, or B). Guantanamo Prison (in other words, that you guys weren't just making this stuff up), I have to say that a part of me agrees 100 percent with him.That part is called the id. It's the part of us that demands immediate gratification, the only part of our consciousness present at birth, probably located in our brain stem.

I tried to look up its exact location, but "location of Idaho" was as close as I could get. Close enough. Freud described the id as a riderless horse, which is apropos for our purposes here. Not for nothing do we have the word idiot. The Native Americans are supposed to have believed that the camera steals the soul.

Maybe "reveals" is a better word. Indulging in this kind of kill-'em-all rhetoric feels good, but in order to defeat ISIS we're going to have to re-evaluate some of our own stuff in order to avoid playing into its hands, and bilge like Cotton's is as good a place as any to start.

Mark Whitman Johnson

Little Rock

From the web in response to Michael Roberts' Eat Arkansas blog post, "We can do better, Little Rock," bemoaning Chick-fil-A ranking as 2014's highest grossing restaurant in Little Rock and encouraging readers to eat at local restaurants instead.

I think we have some excellent local restaurants and I frequent them but Chick-fil-A is delicious for fast food. Most people either don't care about their politics or they agree with them but apparently many people think the chicken is a superior product. Good luck, but I don't think you will be diminishing their sales with your rhetoric.

Andrew Branch

I avoided Chick-fil-A for nearly four years due to politics, and I regret it. Since my rediscovery of the amazing Chick-fil-A sandwich a few months ago, I eat there at least twice per week. Perhaps instead of crying about how much money Chick-fil-A makes, you should encourage local restaurants to aspire to the clear success of Chick-fil-A. The market has spoken, and Chick-fil-A rules. I do go out of my way to eat local and support local restaurants/farms. If a local restaurant had anything comparable to the deliciousness, speed, polite service and quality of a Chick-fil-A sandwich, I would eat there. But they don't.


Y'all need to stop eating factory-farmed chicken, which is all fast food. Follow one of the trucks transporting chickens to the slaughterhouse to see what winds up on your plate. The chickens are filthy dirty and some of them are obviously sick and injured.


I'm shocked at the Chick-fil-A defense. Really. However, as much as I try to support local businesses over chains, all this clamoring for delicious fried chicken makes me hopeful that somewhere a Bojangles exec is reading these comments and is planning to open a Famous Chicken and Biscuits restaurant here in Little Rock!

The Rank Stranger

Clearly many people on this thread know better than the common unsophisticated consumer how best to spend their hard-earned food dollars. I wonder how many of the kitchen staff at South on Main or one of the other local restaurants are able to afford to feed their family of four if they must pay $9 per chicken sandwich. Be upset all you want, but in a state with a rather low average income, places like Chick-fil-A thrive because they offer a great product at a reasonable price working people can afford. Sure it isn't locally grown hormone- free chickens that were read poetry every night before bed, but who can afford that shit on a regular basis when they support a family on $20K per year.


From the web, in response to Leslie Peacock's cover story, "Little Rock's flyover status grows, thanks to changes in the airline business": Even though the airport is losing money if federal subsidies are not counted, the Airport Commission made up of successful businessmen and one woman fail to run the operation as they run their businesses. Declining passengers, loss of flights, increasing expenses and salaries while revenue declines seem to offer obvious solutions. Yet they seem hell-bent on giving the airport director a larger salary and a whopping bonus. What is wrong with this stinking picture? A wholesale change in leadership seems to be the answer.


XNA has lost flights, too. Flights to Miami, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Memphis, D.C. and Los Angeles have been dropped or reduced. Directs to Minneapolis will continue due to the significant overlap in business between accounts dealing with both Walmart and Target keeping the planes filled.


I have to fly for business. Tomorrow I catch a 9:45 flight, go to Dallas Love THEN go to New Orleans. I will not get in until 2 p.m. I have had to drive to Memphis several times to get cheaper direct flights that make the company happy but are a pain for me. Drive to Memphis, fly to destination ... work several days ... fly back to Memphis then drive back to Little Rock. Even flights out of Memphis are harder to work with. If not an international airport the regional airports are going to continue going down in the number of flights. Flying out of Little Rock is easy, few lines, quick security and relaxed, BUT if I cannot get the flights I need it is not going to matter.

Miss Ellie

From the web in response to Max Brantley's column "Little Rock's time" (Feb. 19):

To be tolerant yourself, would you not have to be tolerant of those whom you regard as intolerant? Although eliminating by law and, more importantly, by action, discrimination because of race, ethnicity, religion, and other such characteristics (please see above, regarding political points of view) is good for business, is not the better reason that practicing nondiscrimination is the right thing to do?


From the web in response to the dining review, "Samantha's taps into new Main vibe" (Feb. 19):

The waffle. OH MY the waffle. Unlike any other waffle I've ever eaten. Likely quite dangerous that Samantha's is only a two minute walk from our front door. Love this place! They had me at PURSE HOOKS.


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On point on horseracing

High marks for letter writer Carl Buchanan (Feb. 5) for reminding everyone of the sad truth about horseracing and Oaklawn. The horses involved are pawns in a cruel game.

On point on horseracing

High marks for letter writer Carl Buchanan (Feb. 5) for reminding everyone of the sad truth about horseracing and Oaklawn. The horses involved are pawns in a cruel game. Whether money makes horseracing go round, take a guess. And if you're among those raring to run yourself silly around an oval track while being whipped, get in line, for goshsakes, if you can find one.

Regarding the mantra of a neighbor who wears himself out handicapping that racehorses are well cared for, that ain't no matter. The risk of injury and death is the thing. Jockeys are in the same boat; they ought to have better sense. That the money horseracing revolves around provides an income for a myriad of people, there's always something to do of at least a little social importance, hauling scrap metal included.

Best of all for my part, I move we say goodbye and good riddance to horseracing sooner rather than later, and then hang our heads in shame forevermore. This means you, too. Especially if you throw even a nickel to Oaklawn.

Bill Steinkamp

Hot Springs

Cotton the TV personality

I can't fathom how we, in Arkansas, continue to elect knuckle-dragging, war-mongering Republicans like Tom Cotton. He's allegedly well educated (Dardanelle to Harvard). Where is the disconnect?

I think he must be like O'Reilly, Maddow or Limbaugh: an entertainer who we mistakenly elected to political office. Who can take him serious?

Skip Cook

Little Rock

Lee for president

Why doesn't the state legislature just pass a bill declaring Robert E. Lee to be a former president so we can all celebrate his birthday on President's Day along with the rest of the lot? I'm sure there would be some legal gymnastics to go through but that shouldn't stop the group of acrobats we currently have under the Capitol dome. It really wouldn't be that much of a stretch. After all, Lee was president of some little Division III school someplace in Virginia ... . Go Generals.

David Rose

Hot Springs

Create jobs, save on prisons

The major issue yet to come before the legislature is prison overcrowding. Before voting to spend $100 million to build another prison, and the $30 million-$40 million annual cost to staff it and supply it with groceries, please consider what has caused the crime problem in Arkansas, and possible remedies to reduce it that do not involve building another prison.

I believe that past regulatory and legislative actions are responsible for much of today's crime problems, and repealing or modifying those past decisions may be a less expensive and more effective method of solving much of the problem.

Recent reports show that youth unemployment statewide in Arkansas is around 37 percent. Teens with jobs rarely get into trouble with the law, but those with too much idle time on their hands and no hope for an entry-level job often do. Theft, burglary, gang activity, assault and drug dealing are often the result. Senior citizens are not going into the criminal justice system in record number, the youth of Arkansas are, particularly the black youth.

We didn't have this problem back in the 1970s, but shortsighted changes in regulatory policy, pushed forward by a couple of special interest group lobbying efforts, might be to blame. At one time any teenager could get a part-time job at the neighborhood service station after school and on the weekends pumping gas, washing windshields, doing minor repairs, oil changes, etc., and then came the repeal of fire safety ordinances and self-service fueling came on the scene. Some of those jobs disappeared. Later in the early '80s the beer and convenience store lobby mounted a major effort to repeal the regulation that prohibited the sale of alcohol wherever motor fuels were sold in Arkansas, and this regulation was eliminated as well and beer sales permits began being issued to gas stations in the 35 or so wet counties of Arkansas, but unlike the liquor store permits (which are limited in number by county population) there was no limit placed on the number of beer stores that could be licensed in these wet counties. Since that time somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 beer outlets have been licensed in the wet counties, and most of them will no longer allow anyone on their payroll under the age of 21. As a result, I would guess that the rate of youth unemployment in the wet counties might be double the rate in the dry counties (where employers have no reason not to employ folks under 21). The crime rate in these counties may be producing the majority of the candidates for those badly needed prison beds.

Within 10 years of this repeal of the "no beer in gas stations" regulation, the violent crime rate in Pulaski County got enough national attention that HBO produced the "Bangin' in the Rock" documentary featuring our Pulaski County coroner. If I remember correctly, in one of the scenes a gang-banger remarked, "All we need are jobs!" Yet since that time nothing has been done to create them. Why can't limits be placed on the number of beer outlets in each county? Why are these convenience stores permitted to be operated in dangerous areas of town with only one person on duty, unable to provide any service to disabled motorists as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act? How many more clerks will be shot, workers' children orphaned, or citizens caught interrupting an armed robbery before something is done by the legislature that apparently does not want to ruffle the feathers of the special interest groups causing the problem and not caring a whit about either their employees' or the public's safety?

Voters expect you to come up with solutions, not to just throw money at the problem (particularly when new or higher taxes may be necessary). Are you in favor of job creation? Here is a possible solution over time that will not require any new taxes or higher rates. Two states have banned self-service fueling: Oregon and New Jersey. They have learned that plentiful job opportunities for teens in their communities will pay off in the long run. It is long past time to start ruffling the feathers of the special interest groups that have caused the problem.

Doug McDowall

North Little Rock

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The real story of Harrison

Harrison is more than a billboard. Having lived and worked here for over 40 years, I am frustrated with the reporting by national, state and regional media about my chosen hometown.

The real story of Harrison

Harrison is more than a billboard. Having lived and worked here for over 40 years, I am frustrated with the reporting by national, state and regional media about my chosen hometown. The Arkansas Times has established itself as a reliable source for state news, so I am surprised that your coverage of Harrison seems clueless.

That some remnant of the "Klan" does something obnoxious is a dog-bites-man story. What is newsworthy is a story of change. This historically conservative district is spontaneously and vigorously repudiating atavistic expressions of racial privilege and segregation. These people are Republicans, Democrats and independents from small businesses, corporations, education, clergy and government as well as common folk such as myself.

Responsible people from all areas of our community acknowledge that our negative reputation was earned from decades of strict Jim Crow and despicable events of over 100 years ago. The Harrison I know today is an increasingly diverse and welcoming community. We accept the past, are living in a more positive present and working diligently toward an even more prosperous and inclusive future.

Maybe the Times could stop viewing us as a retrograde billboard. Maybe you could send a reporter up here to see who we are now. I'm told good news doesn't sell papers, but change does and change has been happening in Harrison.

Richard Evans


No quick fix for schools

So the Arkansas Department of Education is taking over the Little Rock School District. Whether this cures the ills of certain "failing" schools or merely proves to be too little too late and paves the way for private sector takeover remains to be seen.

Why schools fail is no black or white issue. It is complex and fraught with overly simplistic scapegoating from all sides. To continue casting blame at school personnel or at society in general does little in the way of sincerely addressing the problem. Unfortunately, American culture wants immediate, cheap fixes and easy demons at which to point our judgmental fingers.

Research has long pointed out that standardized test scores alone are no true assessment of any school. Yet their use continues to drive public policy regarding education. Couple this with the No Child Left Behind mandate that such test scores include those of special education students and those for whom English is not their mother tongue, and you have a recipe for failure at schools where numerous students fall under one or both categories.

The No. 1 reason that children struggle in school is powerfully linked to their socioeconomic level. Schools are not to blame for this. Researchers have long understood the connection between underachievement and levels of deprivation. To be sure, not all poor students do poorly. Nonetheless, it is unreasonable to expect students to do well when they lack basic necessities. Already poverty-stricken children are disadvantaged when available food provides inadequate nutrition, which is directly linked to brain development and scholastic aptitude. Already they are disadvantaged when their caregivers struggle at part-time, minimum-wage-paying jobs that often pull them away from providing the supervision and guidance their children need to learn pro-social behaviors, which are also indicators of school success.

Look at the six "failing" schools. Who are these students? How many are in special education? How many speak a language at home different from English? How many are on free or reduced breakfast/lunch programs? Compare these figures with those of the other schools in the district. District lines feed all too many low-income, special education and ESL students into these six schools. Meanwhile, more affluent children are funneled into the more successful schools. Welcome to the new segregation!

Kenneth Leithwood, an education researcher and professor out of Canada, adroitly calls school failure a "Perfect Storm with Imperfect Solutions." It would not be easy for any entity to address the multifaceted requirements of school improvement. Unfortunately, research points to the counter-productivity of standard interventions by many governmental agencies. But there is also evidence that supports methods for improving schools that may bode well.

The key is not in requiring teachers to fill out multi-page lesson plans. Students are not failing because teachers write poor learning objectives and poor step-by-step formulae for teaching. Indeed, this tendency to lay out lesson plans in a formulaic manner that ostensibly would allow just anyone to step in, follow the plan and result in students magically learning is patently ridiculous. To the unending consternation of politicians and policymakers, good teaching cannot be fitted into a narrowly prescribed formula that just anyone can take up and make successful. There are clear things that good teachers do that ensure quality learning, and some of these can be quantified. There are also those aspects that good teachers possess that make a huge difference in quality education that cannot be put on a chart or in a lesson plan or quantified in any manner. Good teachers employ both a science and an art to teaching. It is the art of teaching that eludes quantifiability.

One of the major issues that Leithwood raises is the quality of school leadership. These leaders recognize which teachers need additional assistance and provide it, and also motivate those teachers who do well to continue to do well. These leaders keep their fingers on the pulse of the schools and intervene immediately when dangers to improvement arise. These leaders further understand that the majority of teachers are committed, hard-working people who are passionate about helping young minds develop. These leaders will seek out resources needed to ensure that the passions of these teachers are realized.

If the Department of Education can populate these "failing" schools with leaders such as these, then I fully support the department's efforts.

Leeann Bennett

Little Rock

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Truth told on legal aid

I have been practicing law for 41 years. Much of that time was spent in Pine Bluff and over my time I have represented thousands of defendants and tried cases from capital murder to public intox.

Truth told on legal aid

I have been practicing law for 41 years. Much of that time was spent in Pine Bluff and over my time I have represented thousands of defendants and tried cases from capital murder to public intox. Years ago, post Gideon, but prior to public defenders, private lawyers represented indigents by appointment. The fee ranged from a princely $75 for a negotiated plea to a max of $1,000 for a murder case trial. I handled many. I like to say the hardest $350 I ever earned was a full week trial by appointment on an aggravated robbery case.

Your article was not just good; it was excellent. Fair, unbiased reporting of a leaking ship waiting to sink. I regret with the Little Rock School District, ledge in town, and other events, it is perhaps not receiving the attention and, frankly, acknowledgment that it should. It is a well-written, true account of lawyers doing their best and poor defendants still suffering because the current climate is to build more prisons and lock them up instead of determining what is just and proper. I can assure you that for every $1,000 spent on the public defender system that a multiple amount would be saved on corrections.

Excellent writing, highest example of your profession.

Don Eilbott

Little Rock

Racing form

Concerned for the welfare of animals, Oaklawn Park will not allow dogs to be left in cars in its parking lots.

With no admission fee, it's now free to get in the stands of Oaklawn Park with the possibility of actually seeing horses killed on the track.

Look closely at the bottom when draining a beverage in the slot machine room to read the words, "It is not gambling when you just give us your money."

There will be no washroom attendant after the fourth race due to parole violations.

Patrons are warned to bring a sack lunch on 50-cent Corned Beef Sandwich Day because the lines for the concession stands are six furloughs long.

It is a faux pas to wear a bolo tie if also missing a shoelace.

On Arkansas Derby Day, ladies wearing those god-awful ugly big hats have to be at least 70 years old, and their big, ugly purses will contain spare body parts.

When doing this year's 15-minute interview with King Charles Cella, Wally Hall will be wearing skid-resistant knee pads.

Losing tickets swept up off the floor are recycled into Habitat for Humanity.

The day after racing season ends the tombstones are put back in the infield.

Carl Buchanan


From the web

In response to an Arkansas Blog item noting that 13 students at Central High — in a district supposedly so in need of improvement that the state took it over — were chosen for consideration in the annual United States Presidential Scholars program: While I would like to have seen other LRSD high schools represented, my rough calculations show that LRSD had more than five times the number chosen for the program than you would statistically expect from a district its size. I notice that the New Orleans "miracle" [charter schools] only produced eight nominees from a much larger school district. Even in Little Rock, Central had 1.5 times as many as the four private schools represented, which probably have about the same total number of students as Central (more if you include Mount Saint Mary with Catholic).

Whit E. Knight

What you fail to mention is that these kids would perform well regardless of where they go. So what's the race/ethnicity of this group of stars. Looks like they're dominated by Asians. Look at the parents. How many have advanced degrees. How many parents are UAMS/UALR professors? How many of the kids actually spent all 12 years in the LRSD?

Let's see some stats from the rest of the class. You've cherry-picked results from the top students. How well are the other Central High students doing who don't benefit from the special attention in the gifted program? How many in the bottom 100 can read at grade level? How many can do math at grade level? How many have to do remedial math/English if they go on to college? What percentage of Central High School students gets an adequate education?


On an Arkansas Blog post about a plan to build a new facility for the Arkansas Arts Center in North Little Rock:

For a while great things were happening when Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Pulaski County quit squabbling and were getting together.

Alltel Arena (now Verizon), Big Dam Bridge, River Trail and River Trolley. I believe all that paved the way for the Clinton Library.

Then North Little Rock started raiding the surrounding cities and killed the unity.

NLR lured Best Buy and Walmart from Sherwood into NLR to reap the sales taxes.

NLR next teamed up with Stephens, got Stacy Hurst to sell off the War Memorial Park portion of Ray Winder Field and move the Arkansas Travelers over to NLR. For decades the team was the Arkansas Travelers, then NLR changed the name and logo to the "NLR Arkansas Travelers". (Now their mascot is a swamp possum — don't possums scavenge dead stuff and eat bugs?)

I guess NLR is envious of how the LR River Market took off and NLR Main Street/Argenta is limping along. Soon Argenta will start leasing to stores and restaurants on a weekly basis since few things last over there.

So now, instead of building something in NLR, they will just poach the Arkansas Arts Center from Little Rock.

So, now, instead of dog town, we can just refer to them as possum town.


Lots of folks prefer to do bidness in Dogtown. And there are plenty of progressive thinkers there. Maybe they're not to blame so much, Citizen. Maybe LR's power structure is stuck in a rut.


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Against drone legislation

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

Against drone legislation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Bailey


Crime in midtown

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

Michelle Snyder


From the web

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

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


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

Patently untrue, Max. 

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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Publish the cartoon

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

Publish the cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

James R. Moneypenny

Little Rock

Health care without barriers

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

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

David Stedman


Accommodate Palestinians

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

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

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

Torture damages America

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

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

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

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

Gene Mason


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