The recent Republican debate was an absolute farce. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battled it out like guests on Springer, Jeb Bush looked like the kid that didn't get picked for the kickball game, Ben Carson appeared to be napping on stage and Rand Paul flipped the bird at the media and refused to participate in the kiddie debate. It's disheartening to think the Republicans have come to this. But more than that, it's disturbing to see so many Americans cheer on this circus that is the Republican primary race. I guess P.T. Barnum's words were true. There really is one born every second.
Dale Bumpers was one of the first persons I met when I came to Arkansas. Martin Borchert, who lived next door, invited me over to meet him. He was then a low-ranked candidate for governor.
I was totally impressed.
I have also crossed paths with Mr. Clinton.
Both wanted to be president. Dale deferred.
How much better a president would Dale have been? We'll never know. But I think Dale also could have been elected. And I think he would have been better remembered historically.
History can't tell.
Funding the Arts Center
Here's another idea to put "on the table." What about selling the Arkansas Arts Center building to the Arts Center Foundation for some nominal sum, execute a long-term, mutually favorable ground lease, let them finance whatever improvements they wish with their vast personal resources and business contacts, exit a money-eater and create a money-maker for the city? Many wonderful museums in the U.S. are privately owned by affluent private foundations, so the precedent certainly exists. Also, it strikes me as odd to maximize our local hotel tax to, essentially, benefit only one entity. Where is the "public good" in that? And, finally, to impose this tax at the very time there are other local tax increases on the horizon seems overwhelming, as Arkansas already has the highest sales and excise tax rate in the nation.
Just thinking out loud.
From the web
In response to the Jan. 18 Arkansas Blog post, "A cold King Day in Little Rock, but plenty to do and think about":
It's funny how personal opinions can change over the years. I was prejudiced in my early life because that's how I was raised by my entire village growing up. Not lynching prejudiced, just whites are better than blacks prejudiced. There were no daily lessons at my father's knee or neighborhood meetings on how to keep the black race down; it was pretty much a normal childhood for most kids raised in the South of the 1950s and '60s.
Twenty-nine years ago tomorrow our oldest daughter was born, and probably not on that day, but soon afterward I learned she was born on Robert E. Lee's birthday. Something I was proud of, small P, and I remember being thankful, small T, that our daughter wasn't born on Martin Luther King's birthday. I put no real thought into all of that and I didn't worry that if she had shared King's birthday her skin would darken or hair would be kinky. My thoughts reflected my upbringing and after all, Mag and I are white people, you know.
But I finished growing up, and years before today I began feeling guilty for even worrying whose birthday she was born on. I share Julia Child's birthday but our only connection is that I have set fire to tea towels a time or two while trying to fix supper. Why did I spend a second being proud of her sharing Robert E. Lee's birthday? Didn't I have better things to do in 1987?
At that late date when I would have sworn I had conquered my medium racist upbringing, there I was, glad my baby hadn't been born on a famous black man's birthday! I don't know what was wrong with me. I guess I hadn't evolved and civilized myself enough, damn me.
Again, I remember my thoughts when I accidentally attended the first King parade back in the late '80s. It wasn't well organized and amounted to 10 or 15 carloads of black people waving homemade signs as they passed my business after dark with a police escort going about 40 miles per hour, honking their horns down our main street. I stood with six or seven other white guys and we laughed and shook our heads and thought the whole thing was pretty silly. Shame on me! Why did I join in mildly disrespecting the celebration of the most important modern man in black history? What did I gain? How did that make any human life better?
Well, at least after 50-plus years of living, I finally became civilized, I'm guessing, in the early 2000s. I'm still proud that I was in Little Rock the night Barack Obama was elected our first black president and that my family got to witness the unbridled jubilation of thousands of black residents of Pulaski County.
You know, my kids showed me the way by not seeing race. Mag and I raised them that way despite daddy's private slowness in coming around. It's the best thing Mag and I have pulled off as parents. Happy birthday, Dr. King!
In response to the Jan. 15 Arkansas Blog post, "Jury finds Arron Lewis guilty of capital murder and kidnapping in the death of Beverly Carter":
Aaron Lewis is a horrible, worthless, disgusting excuse for a human being. No one should ever suffer like that helpless lady did, and I would have had no problem with the death penalty in this situation.
Bill James is one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state. But what he put Beverly Carter's family through, trying to taint her memory while trying to save this piece of shit, went beyond human decency.
Bill James didn't have much to work with as his client confessed to the crime to a TV reporter (in addition to being an evil scumbag, Lewis is obviously dumb), so his only option was to throw whatever he could at the wall and see what might stick. But still ... .
I realize that my support for the death penalty doesn't have a lot of approval. I strongly think that it is overused by overzealous prosecutors. However, sometimes it's called for. It would not have bothered me a bit had Lewis been sentenced to death. This is the sort of defendant that calls for death. He knew what he was doing. He planned to do it. And he did it without remorse. He may not have initially planned to kill, but he knowingly made a conscious decision to kill. Yes, [Crystal] Lowery was an accomplice, but she simply does not show the inherent evil that he does.
Vanessa, I'm inclined to think Lowery is as evil as Lewis is. She seems to be slightly more sensible, but I can't accept that she was incapable of seeing that Beverly Carter's death would be the only way she and Lewis would have a chance of getting away with this horrible crime.
I suppose it will be "he said, she said" from now until the end of time, but her presumed lesser culpability — at least in terms of sentencing — bothers me.
Then again, I wonder at her acceptance of and marriage to a man who surely displayed aberrant behavior (to put it mildly indeed) early on.
I can only shake my head ... .
I don't know why the prosecutor waived the death penalty in this case, given the total depravity of the crime. Granted that the likelihood of a death penalty ever being carried out again in Arkansas seems pretty small now.
The prosecutor waived the death penalty because the Carter family requested that he do so. He was honoring their wishes. Otherwise, the case being such a slam dunk, I think he would have asked for it.
Bill James, in some part, did us all a favor. He put on a defense with zeal so that there is little hope for a successful appeal down the road for Lewis. In some ways, his actions were the equivalent of throwing away the key after the prosecution locked the door.
Glad to see that justice was done without resorting to the insane use of state-sanctioned murder. The guy is going to get back what he gave for the rest of his days. Let him live the consequences, and spare us the dehumanizing impacts of having to live in a state where the antiquated form of retribution masquerades as "justice."
Black Panthers for Open Carry
In response to Ernest Dumas' column on mainstream Republican columnist David Brooks' fears about presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, posted Jan. 19 on the Arkansas Blog and appearing on page 7 of this paper:
When David Brooks appears somewhat sane, that means somewhere hell is freezing over. This is what happens when pizza guys and witches are pandering to people who want government out of their Medicare. Own it, GOP. You created it ...
Now Brooks is boo-hooing because "center-right" Republicans, of which there are very few, are irrelevant ...
Maybe I'm crazy (no, I am crazy) but my fear is a Kasich/Fiorina ticket. That sounds like what Brooks is talking about. The GOP convention is going to be a mess. We'll see how much clout the establishment really has when they try to boot Cruz and Trump ...
Brooks' fantasy is predicated on the erroneous premise that the GOP "establishment" has any control over the crypto-Fascists who are leading the base in this terrifying political year.
In response to an Arkansas Blog post on the Jeopardy contestants who wagered all and lost because they couldn't identify the city in which an important event occurred in 1957 and the president whose library is in that city:
Most Americans are woefully ignorant of history and geography (as evidenced by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and their followers) but it does surprise me that not a single Jeopardy contestant knew the answer.