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Basic geography 

Basic geography

In his June 10 column, John Brummett declares that cheese dip, with its apparent genesis at the Mexico Chiquito restaurant in Prothro Junction, is "a Little Rock thing." Well, I'm sitting here in my domicile in downtown Dogtown, looking at a map, and I'm pretty sure that Prothro Junction isn't on his side of the river. Not by a fair piece.

The denizens of the south side have periodically exhibited a disturbing penchant for slapping their brand name on choice cuts that are geographically ours — Alltel Arena, Dickey-Stephens Park, and now the iconic appetizer from one of our home-grown franchises. Could be it's lingering resentment from when we trounced their fancy-pants lawyers at the state Supreme Court back in Nineteen-Aught-Four and took back Argenta.

But really it has ever been thus, bigger cities laying claim to anything noteworthy found in the smaller burgs that share their orbit, if not their boundaries. Yet has North Little Rock tried to affix its moniker to the River Market? Sims Bar-B-Que? Mark Stodola? Indeed not.

All I ask, as a hometown partisan, is that Mr. Brummett and the rest of y'all give geographic credit where it is due. In exchange, you can come over here and eat all the cheese dip you want.

Eric Francis
North Little Rock

Cheers, jeers for Dumas

Ernie Dumas has done it again. Week after week he does outstanding analysis of US politics. He deserves even wider circulation. I encourage him or you to submit his "What socialism?" as an op-ed piece to the New York Times (and to the Pulitzer board). I urge your readers to copy it from your website and send it to 100 of their closest friends as I did.

Just a small example: "Scary times always breed popular delusions and this season's is socialism. ...The letters to the big newspapers are full of this nonsense, and it is the mantra of Republican candidates for everything from county judge to Congress ... socialism is government ownership of the means of producing ... and distributing the goods. ... our circumstances are exactly the opposite ... corporatism, ... management of the economy and society by large industrial and commercial organizations. That is the drift of modern U.S. history, at least the past 30 years."

Dumas is as good as any of the New York Times writers, including the several who have won Pulitzers.

Robert Johnston
Little Rock

In his June 10 column "What socialism?", Ernest Dumas tells us that all the talk of socialism is not true, much to his chagrin, and that we actually live in the age of corporatism. He's got it partially right. Elements of socialism have crept in, to be sure. The government is now in the automotive business, owning 61 percent of General Motors and 10 percent of Chrysler. What we really live in is the age of crony capitalism, which I define as management of the economy and society by a symbiotic joint partnership between big government and big business,.

The flaw in Mr. Dumas's analysis is that he apparently never asks himself how large corporations could control society or an entire economy absent the protection of governments. It's massive and expensive government regulations that protect a handful of health insurers from smaller competition in most states and that allow them to monopolize those markets. It's the existence of mass quantities of government Medicare and student loan checks flooding the market that drive up the prices of health care and secondary education, hurting the very people they're intended to help. It was the government's incestuous relationship with the big banks at the expense of smaller, more responsible banks that resulted in the bailouts. It was government's intervention into mortgage finance by way of the government-created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that placed the seal of approval on subprime lending. And it was government's monopoly over monetary policy via the Federal Reserve that led to financial collapse.

Most people never think about the fact that the setting of interest rates is almost entirely a function of government, not the free market. Does anyone seriously believe that the teaser rates that Wall Street and its mortgage originators used to lure subprime borrowers would have been possible absent Alan Greenspan's keeping short-term interest rates dangerously low for far too long? Or that interest rates would have ever been that low or remained that low had rates been set by the free market? And does anyone really think that subprime borrowing could have taken off like it did had not Fannie and Freddie either originated or backed over 50 percent of all mortgages in the country, including a large percentage of subprime mortgages?

Mr. Dumas blames free-market capitalism for the ills that were actually brought on by crony capitalism and the unintended consequences of previous government intervention.

Richie Graham
Little Rock

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