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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

May 7, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

The Jonesboro Sun. May 5, 2019.

Even though they can’t file to run for the office until September and wouldn’t actually take a seat on the bench until 2021 if successful, candidates for circuit judge in the 2nd Judicial District are already starting to throw their hats into the political ring.

With a new circuit judge’s seat being added to the 11-seat judicial district and four judges retiring — two because they have to or lose hefty retirement checks and two because they feel it’s time — it could be years before so many seats on the bench are available.

It will be interesting to see how many candidates end up filing for the five seats up for grabs — plus the Division 10 seat, to which incumbent Circuit Judge Dan Ritchey, of Blytheville, has already announced that he’ll seek re-election.

Rarely does a sitting judge face competition at the ballot box unless scandal plagues the office. Attorneys are shy to run against a sitting judge because it’s hard to defeat an incumbent — and it can be difficult to run a successful practice if you lose.

Expect lots of political signs across the landscape later this year and in 2020, because it could well turn out to be a mad scramble to the ballot box in March. With a $168,096 annual salary and paid health insurance benefits, it’s a sweet deal — not to mention the retirement windfall.

So far, Kimberly Boling Bibb, Paragould, has announced she’ll run for Circuit Court Judge Barbara Halsey’s Division 7 seat. Halsey has to retire because any judge who turns 70 years old during a term in office forfeits retirement benefits if he or she decides to run again.

If a judge is vested — which means he or she has served at least eight years — and retires, the retiring judge gets 3.2 % of their salary times the number of years of service — up to 80 percent or $134,477.

Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Also retiring are: Division 3 Circuit Judge Brent Davis, 65; Division 8 Circuit Court Judge John Fogleman, 63; and Division 5 Circuit Judge Ralph Wilson Jr., 70. Davis has served 12 years; Fogelman, 25; Wilson, 30; and Halsey, 12.

The six-county 2nd Judicial District is comprised of Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Mississippi and Poinsett counties.

Matthew Coe, an attorney in Crittenden County, jumped into the race early, announcing he’ll run for Fogleman’s Division 8 seat.

Second District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington announced last week that he’ll run for the new Division 12 seat, one that should draw competition based on Ellington’s timid record as prosecuting attorney.

If Ellington is unsuccessful in his bid for the new judge’s seat, he’ll still serve as prosecuting attorney until at least 2022, when his seat is up for re-election. Ellington has been prosecuting attorney since 2010, his last two terms running unopposed.

Ellington ran unsuccessfully in 2012 as a Democrat against U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, for the First District seat.

Candidates for open judge’s seats often try to announce early, hoping to fend off other attorneys who weren’t as quick to jockey for the position.

Come September, there may only be five or six candidates file for the open seats. Then again, there may be a dozen or more. As an electorate that should encourage contested races for each seat, we should all hope for the latter, not the former.

These are important races that could seat judges in positions of power for the next 25 years or more.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. May 5, 2019.

A couple of items made the news last week involving white nationalists, semi-Kluxers, quasi-Nazi types and those living around (or in) the dark side of American politics.

And not just American politics. Because these people have a worldwide following. For, as the book of Job says, the infernal one goes to and fro on the Earth — the whole Earth.

These minor characters on the American stage can steal the show if the rest of us aren’t careful. Like those Westboro Church types who protest military funerals: If they take the headlines, shame on the headline writers. They should be given as much space needed, deep down in the story, to serve as testimony at Judgment Day. But quote them on the jump.

Some fools interrupted a writer last week at a Washington, D.C., bookstore, and the whole thing was filmed. Or at least recorded. Film doesn’t seem to be in style any longer.

Get this: They were chanting, “This land is our land.” Supposedly to protest the left-leaning author during a promotion. A more, say, well-read person would understand the folk song that made the phrase famous, and the person who wrote it, his politics, and the notion of irony.

Did we actually laugh at the video? God help us, we did. And we weren’t laughing with them, but at them. We could no more stop watching the video than we could stop watching maggots putter around in coffee grounds and banana peels. Somebody once called this the fascination of the repellent.

On the same day, this very newspaper had an Arkansas-related story about a deceased professor at Arkansas Tech, some reading assignments, long-ago accusations of anti-Semitism, and a scholarship in his name. There was some sort of a rally (they were against), and a more local fool showed up to show his backside, as Mama would say. Daddy would’ve put it plainer.

From the story’s last paragraph:

“The protest became tense when a young man who called himself a ‘white nationalist survivalist’ and who wore a T-shirt saying ‘Death to all Christ killers,’ showed up. Defending the scholarship, he later said he was a white supremacist and said his T-shirt was referring to Jews, including those living today.”

Well.

Somebody get that guy’s name. Not that he’s broken any laws, yet. But that T-shirt is what experts at trial, always at trial, call a red flag.

That should be the whole point: Get their names. Get these guys (they’re always guys) on record. Video them, film them, record them, as was done in Washington. And let them rally! A hundred times! These types of night crawlers will only fester in the dark. The rest of us should lift the rocks they’re under and let the sun shine. It’s a great disinfectant.

It’s a public service to let these people — always on a downward trajectory, no matter how low they go — march. And speak. And get it out of their systems.

First, because to do otherwise would be like shaking a Coke bottle and setting it down for the next unsuspecting customer to pick up--and to have it explode all over a nice shirt.

Second, it’s a public service because the rest of us are forewarned, thus forearmed. At least with knowledge that these people are out there. Maybe behind us. NB: Ted Kaczynski was in hiding much too long.

All this is predictable, so we’ll predict it again: When in the course of human events those without much imagination or education need somebody to blame for their lot in life, they’ll blame the Jews. They’re a time-tested target. And if the Jews aren’t handy at the moment, there’ll still be black folks, homosexuals, the Irish, Yankees, wimmen, Mes’icans, Injuns, the gub-mint or them lyin’ newspapers. One scapegoat will do as well as t’ other.

These characters, to misuse the word, take all the romance out of the Old South, and instead remind us of all that was wrong in these latitudes for 400 years. Call them unreconstructed. Call them backward and unlettered. But don’t shut them up. They’d metastasize.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. May 6, 2019.

So let’s touch on that Arkansas Tech University scholarship mentioned in an accompanying editorial.

Some students at the Russellville campus have protested Arkansas Tech for a scholarship endowed by a $190,900 gift from the estate of a history professor who taught at the school for 51 years.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Associate Professor Michael Link died in 2016 at the age of 79. He left money for scholarships at ATU, at his alma mater Henderson State University in Arkadelphia and at Mississippi State University, where he earned his doctorate.

It is exactly the kind of memorial gift fundraisers at universities everywhere hope people associated with their school will make.

A few days ago, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations criticized ATU for having a scholarship named for Link. In 2005, Link included texts known to be anti-Semitic and examples of Holocaust denial among works students were to select from for a reading. Another ATU professor, who was appalled by Link’s inclusion of the unreliable texts, recently said Link also included other works that “represented a variety of sound and well-regarded histories.”

The incident, which Link apparently said was an effort to offer students the widest possible range of views on the Holocaust, cost the professor. He was disciplined, removed from the graduate faculty and forbidden from teaching of the Holocaust at all. His colleague mentioned above became hyper-vigilant in trying to catch him being anti-Semitic or denying the Holocaust in subsequent years, but “never heard anything along those lines.”

Link’s colleague recently defended ATU, disputing the “wholly inaccurate portrayal of ATU as having harbored a known and habitual Holocaust denier for decades. This is simply untrue,”

So what now?

The family controls the name of the scholarship, not ATU. So the university’s choice appears to be either continuing to award the Michael Arthur Link and May Reid Kewen (his mother) History Scholarship or rejecting the endowment given in their names.

Who wins if the latter happens?

Certainly not the ATU senior student majoring in history with a demonstrated financial need whom the scholarship is designed to assist.

We’re not saying universities ought to just take the cash in every case no matter whose name is attached. No, we would not back a six-figure endowment in the name of Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden or Tony Alamo.

At times, the better part of valor is making a good choice for the future. Students presented a scholarship named after a former professor hardly embrace either his best or worst teachings. They graciously accept the assistance and dedicate it to expanding their minds.

Evidence points to a man who made a serious mistake in 2005. ATU investigated more than anyone has and could not discern a history of anti-Semitism or teaching of Holocaust denial.

The best outcome is to continue making a college education more accessible for students who want to study history. Knowledge, after all, is the best path toward debunking the kinds of misplaced ideas critics of this scholarship are admirably trying to resist.