Monday, October 27, 2014

The Election - October 23, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 23, 2014

In less than two weeks, Arkansans will be going to the polls to vote in an important mid-term election.  As a matter of fact, early voting has already begun (last Monday).  Indications are that the turn-out will be very large.  If the polls are correct, most of the voting for the state and national candidates will go right down to the wire.  It looks like no candidate has a clear edge, at least at the time that I am writing this edition of the Ramblings.  May the best candidate win.  In addition to selecting their choice of the candidates, the voters of Arkansas are being asked to cast their choice, either for or against, a total of five “issues.”  Four of these issues are Constitutional Amendments, number one, two and three are being referred to the people by the Arkansas General Assembly.  Number four is proposed by a petition of the people.  Issue number five, also proposed by a petition, if passed, would increase the Arkansas minimum wage by $2.25 per hour when it becomes final on January 1, 2017.  When I was a boy growing up in Calico Rock, I remember on several occasions when there was a proposed Constitutional Amendment on the ballot at election time.  On at least one occasion, there was a proposal to hold a Constitutional Convention to re-write the Constitution (it failed).  My dad always, never wavering, voted against these issues, saying “the Constitution is just fine, has served us well for many years, and we do not need to change it.”  My dad had strong feelings about a lot of things and didn’t mind letting you know just how he felt about a subject.  I may not have always agreed with him on certain political matters when I reached voting age, but I always respected his opinions and he did mine.  I have tried my best to be an informed voter and have read each “issue” in its entirety. I also watched the debates last week on AETN.  Now, I do not intend to suggest in any manner about who you should vote for or how you should vote on the five issues, but I would like to make a few observations on Issues No. 3 and 4.  Issue No. 3 was printed in this newspaper a few weeks ago.  It took up almost two full pages.  That in itself might raise a red flag.  The state newspaper, the DG, caught it right away and editorialized against it in the next Sunday edition following the filing of this “issue.”  Some would say “hidden” in the middle of this long “issue” is a section “establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly.”  Excuse me, but didn’t we approve that in 1992 (60%) and reaffirm (70%) in 2004?”  In this case, “establishing” means doubling the current limits.  This smells a lot like the Mickey Mouse tactics that the group of yahoos in Washington do when they tack a pay raise amendment onto some obscure bill and try to send it through on late Friday, hoping no one would notice, but they always get caught.  I suspect these people think we voters are stupid.   There is an organized group travelling the State and are urging the people to vote against Issue 3.  Pulling a trailer that contained a ten-foot tall,  wooden Trojan Horse, they were in Calico Rock the last of September.   Check them out at  If passed, Issue No 4 would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in all seventy five Arkansas counties regardless of previous conditions.  This issue is also widely opposed.  In an earlier edition of the Ramblings, I recalled a time when I accompanied my mother when she and others circulated a petition to place an issue on the ballot to make Izard County a “dry county.”  The issue passed, and  since 1939 it has been illegal to sell alcoholic drinks in Calico Rock and Izard County.  As I said in that earlier edition, there is no way that I am going to dishonor my mom by voting to change that decision.  I am of the opinion that everyone should vote because every vote counts.  In my lifetime I have seen a school election decided by one or two votes.  On one occasion when the vote had ended in a tie, the outcome was decided by the lone absentee vote.  The other was decided when the outcome was challenged and the four absentee votes were thrown out, making the two vote loser a two vote winner.  Recommendation:  Rent the 2008 Kevin Costner movie, “Swing Vote.”        

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Media - October 9, 2014

As published in the White River Current - Thursday October 9, 2014

I learned another good lesson:  Be careful what you say.  A couple of weeks ago, I had a severe attack of what is sometimes referred to as “the stomach flu” or 24-hour virus.  I think it was actually caused by something that I had eaten the previous evening.  Anyway, I was confined to the house, in close proximity to the bathroom for a couple of days.  I was scheduled to sing with the choir at the Sunday service of the community revival.   I reported to the choir director that I would not be able to lend my golden tenor voice for this production, that I was ill and that it might be Ebola because I felt so bad.  Now I have been accused of overstating the facts occasionally, and maybe I did leave the impression that I was pretty sick (at least too sick to sing) because she must have implied to the choir members and others that I was soon to receive my last rites or something like that.  Now, everyone I meet is inquiring about how I am feeling and “I heard you were sick” and “how long were you in the hospital?” etc.  Just to set the record straight, I am fully recovered and thank you one and all for your concern.  Now, on to something else.  I am a slow reader when it comes to a good book.  I like to take each word and carefully digest it in the proper recesses of my brain.  I have written before about my love of the printed word especially when it is a good mystery story, most often fiction.  Occasionally I will make an exception and stray into the non-fiction category.   I am currently reading “Ghost of the Ozarks” which is sub-titled “Murder and Memory in the Upland South.”  The author, Brooks Blevins, PhD,  is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, but calls Violet Hill, Arkansas, home.  Some of his other books are for sale at the Calico Rock Museum.  The book that I am reading is a detailed account of a “gruesome murder”  that may or may not have occurred (I’ll know when I get further along in this very entertaining story) in Stone County, Arkansas, in 1929.  Brooks is a very skilled historian and he leaves no stone unturned or no newspaper unquoted in his reporting of this event that occurred in our neighboring county some eighty-five years ago.  The bibliography that is listed at the end of the book is ten pages long.  Even though I have only muddled through the Prologue and the first three chapters, I can see that the story may be as much (or more) about the way the media representatives, from Kansas City and Chicago, and as far away as California, who descended on this remote part of the country and sent back reports of this grisly act of barbarism.  I can imagine that newspaper sales skyrocketed when portrayals of the local citizens as “illiterate hill people” reached readers across the country.  A few years after this incident, when I was a boy, I remember that our state was described as the “armpit of America” by our northern neighbors.  We had to endure the radio broadcasts of the like of Bob Burns who was described as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.”  Bob made an act out of “reporting” about the people back in Van Buren which he claimed was his home town (he was born in Greenwood).  My mother couldn’t stand him and she was always critical of his making fun of the good Arkansas people.  He played a home-made musical instrument that he called the Bazooka.  The WWII tank destroying piece of military artillery is named for this invention.  Another radio show that sort of pictures uneducated, backwoodsey  residents was “Lum and Abner.”  I liked this program because it was satirical and sometimes very funny.  Their Christmas program was outstanding and they repeated it every year.  It has only been in the last few decades that Arkansas has been able to shake off the mantle of being portrayed as a backwards, moonshine swigging population.  Thanks to Charles for loaning me this interesting account of another time.  Anita told me once about her niece from Detroit who came to visit every summer and who called her Arkansas relatives “dumb farmers.”  Beverly had a rough time as an adult but Anita married a handsome young man from the queen city of the Ozarks, became the mother of two above-average children and lived happily ever after.