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Inmates are human, too 



Humanizing convicted criminals is no easy feat but Doug Smith’s article, “Faith of Our Felons,” effectively demonstrated that people are people no matter where they reside. What struck me is how similar the plights of the inmates and those of us in the “free” world are. We all struggle to become centered, to forgive ourselves and to believe that tomorrow offers us a brighter future.

Mr. Smith also highlighted the fact that the women have taken responsibility for their crimes. In the article, the inmates focused not on tactics meant to benefit themselves (i.e. pardon or clemency applications) but how they could be best utilized within the prison system, which shows a tremendous amount of poise. Any program — faith-based or not — that can produce such results is worthy of note. Thanks to Mr. Smith and Arkansas Times for finding a valuable story in such an unexpected place.
Loria Taylor
Little Rock


Take another look
In reference to the article “Have coffee, have shelter” about a new homeless shelter on West Markham Street: Next time founder Matilda Buchanan has a grand idea, I hope she will pursue it in her own neighborhood. Maybe, when she went out with her camera, she couldn’t see through her lens that people actually live and work in this neighborhood. Or else she might have knocked on a door or two to find out what those people think of her NIMBY generosity. She could have discovered that these people have been working hard to get our understaffed police to pay more attention to the crackheads spilling in from the direction of the Salvation Army. And that with their gallant help, we are keeping that problem just under critical mass.

Maybe Mrs. Buchanan has some romantic notion of the homeless, like down-on-their-luck hobos looking for an honest job, and thinks they will make themselves scarce after that half hour of coffee in the morning. Maybe she never heard of crack cocaine and never heard of the schizophrenics and psychotics who have been turned loose on the streets without medication.

It just saddens me that the old man across the street hardly dares to leave his house to go to work now. It saddens me most of all, that my two-and-half-year old son will hardly get to play out in the yard the next four months, but I’m glad for him that Mrs. Buchanan is a schoolteacher no longer. One thing he never would have learned from her is common decency.
Mick Smit
Little Rock


Keep it up
Ernest Dumas’ article on the Bush Administration’s determined policy of just plain lying was dead-on correct. Please keep up the good work.
Billy Sikes
Aleene


Onto something?
It’s clear what David Koon thought of my Oxford American editorial: “rambling,” “ass-covering,” “weird,” etc. What’s not as clear is that I criticized David’s Jan. 26 Media column on The OA in an e-mail and, later, in the very piece he took pains to attack.

Why didn’t David mention this conflict of interest? Many publications demand that writers recuse themselves from writing about people with whom they have possible conflicts or, at least, mention it. For a news professional to be lazy or misleading on this point is bad enough, but for a media critic, it is hypocritical.

In my piece, I referenced David after arguing that mistakes in the press can be “almost comical” and that “recent articles in distinguished local papers have reported on our sloppiness in the LeRoy affair with sloppiness of their own.”

“An Arkansas Times columnist misidentified James Frey as ‘Stephen Frey’—in the very first sentence.” Though I didn’t mention his name, that screwup appeared in David’s Jan. 26 column.

Isn’t it possible that most readers would be surprised to learn that many publishers don’t check the accuracy of the facts and assertions they print? As I wrote: “The lack of effective fact checking lies at the heart of many of the current scandals in publishing and it’s revealing to see that these errors occur in both small and large doses — and with frequency.”

I’ll leave it to your readers, and ours, to decide if I’m onto something.
Marc Smirnoff
Editor & Publisher,
The Oxford American
Conway


Forest sale
I am opposed to the Forest Service proposed sale of public lands envisioned in the proposal associated with the Federal Secure Rural Schools Act. The sale of public lands (National Forest land in Arkansas included) will not make rural schools more secure. It will diminish the public lands.

I realize that current federal government revenues are deemed inadequate to meet the long-term commitment to help fund rural schools through payments in lieu of taxes on public land. However, despite unbalanced federal budgets in the past, no proposal has ever been made to cover shortfalls by actually selling off public assets. Even during the the Great Depression of the 1930s the federal government continued to ADD to the store of public lands.

If the 304,370 acres that would be offered for sale nationally (including 68 properties in Arkansas) are really “excess” properties, revenues from the sale of the properties could be used to acquire other properties needed by the National Forests to meet existing needs within current National Forest boundaries — both for people and recreation and habitat for rare plants and animals. (I work as a biologist on the Ouachita National Forest.)

It has long been understood that as our country’s population grows, there is a need for MORE, not LESS, public land. A nation of 300 million people requires a LOT of public land. Reducing the stock of public land is the wrong idea and the wrong direction.
Joseph C. Neal
Fayetteville


Dangerous trends
It has been proven that a good example is worth more than a thousand empty words.

This nation is no longer an example of a democracy, nor of a just, compassionate and fair republic.

It is fast becoming a dictatorship wherein the leader dictates according to his will, or that of his collaborators, not according to what is constitutional or in the best interests of the nation. Perhaps he/they are well-meaning, but they have missed the mark on all counts.

There is a growing danger that ordinary citizens who disagree with the guiding principles of government leaders will lose their rights to speak out and be deemed as friends of the enemy, if not terrorists.

There is a present danger that the free press will be so muzzled as to become simply an arm of government. That the government is paying/has paid for the publication of favorable news/propaganda is no secret.

What’s a country to do when avarice, greed, wanton wastefulness, terrorism, and self-service have replaced justice, compassion and conservatism?

What would the Founding Fathers think about the current trend toward a dictatorship/theocracy?

On a religious note, what’s a so-called Christian nation to do?
Marilyn Fish Bryan
Taylor


Teacher pay
Teacher pay. You will get more of what you reward and less of what you penalize. So, in today’s schools we are, without a doubt, going to get higher test scores for more money. The question then becomes, have we completely and thoroughly thought this through and are we absolutely sure that higher test scores are what we want? For example; does the test unequivocally indicate how well the teacher is accomplishing all the tasks we expect? I submit that no such test that can be affordably administered and scored has ever been devised. For instance, a pencil and paper test would have great difficulty assessing how well a student is socialized. Yet, creating moral and respectful citizens was one of the reasons for this country’s adoption of universal education.

Why not try something really radical? How about giving each school principal a budget for teachers’ pay and let each teacher negotiate pay and benefits. This would allow teachers with better reputations, track records and qualifications and certified to teach subjects in greater demand to be paid more.
Richard Picard
Cabot


Make a difference
Remember the commercial — Where’s the beef? A variation is needed for the House of Representatives and Senate — where is the oversight? I pray that our members of Congress have the moral courage and character to stand up for what must be done. The administration has misled and lied to us to start an immoral and unnecessary war. Even more disquieting is their complete and arrogant disregard for the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.

Each of us can make a difference. It is time for us to write, email, or call. After all that has occurred in the past six years, it is time for us, each of us, to challenge our representatives in the House and Senate to stand up for us and our country and do what is necessary and righteous!
James R. Carroll
Bigelow












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