- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Oct. 10, 2016

Do the right thing

The October surprise came Friday with the release of the vulgar and offensive comments Donald Trump made about women back in 2005. Not surprisingly, the audio tape came from Hollywood. Politics can be a rough and dirty business. But it’s always been so. Indeed it was so in this republic even before it was a republic, when it was just another crown colony in His Majesty’s empire.

Just because it’s an October Surprise doesn’t mean anything about it should surprise us when it comes to revealing the character of Donald Trump or rather lack of same. He is condemned by his own words. Here’s another reminder that people with skeletons in their closets should not run for public office unless they’re prepared to hear the bones rattle.

What a sad if recurring spectacle in American politics, especially for The Donald’s wife, children, and his entire family. For they, too, must be numbered among his innocent victims now exposed, again, to ridicule and retribution by ever-thoughtless and ever-fickle public opinion.

This time even the shameless Mr. Trump seemed capable of shame. For he apologized. How’s that for an historic precedent in his case? But with less than 30 days left before the election, any apology will be dismissed as just another cynical campaign tactic on his part. His chances of being elected president of the United States after this foofaraw may safely be put at zero.

Is there still some way for him to pull this election out of the fire? It would seem hard to think of a way for the The Donald to extricate himself from this royal mess. Maybe, just maybe, he could. If Donald Trump really cares more about his country, the Republican Party, and the future of both, he could step aside, and save the country from Hillary Clinton and her many minions. Which would leave his running mate Mike Pence free to run for president. Or let the no-longer so Grand Old Party choose another candidate for president this sad year.

If such a move would be unprecedented, and in American history few things are, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done. You can imagine people - especially those rooting for Hillary Clinton - saying that ballots have already been printed and there’s no time to make such a change. But in today’s world, with most Americans walking around with a hand-held computer in their cell phones it should be possible.

There’s only one person who can make this decision, and that’s Donald Trump. He could go down in history as the candidate with so many character flaws that he ensured the election of Hillary Clinton. And would be blamed for whatever further failures she may suffer in high office. Whatever happens, the odds are he will spend the rest of his life in embarrassment and humiliation.

Or he could be remembered as a deeply flawed person who, at the last minute, experienced an epiphany, a transformation, and put country above self. Such a decision would also prove that the Age of Miracles is far from past.


Texarkana Gazette, Oct. 6, 2016

Feeding fraud

When we think of public benefits fraud, we most immediately conjure up images of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen,” who eschews gainful employment in order to fund a lavish lifestyle through government checks and food stamps.

Or perhaps they think of some single mom, having child after child to add more zeroes to her monthly check.

The fact is cash welfare and food stamps don’t offer much these days. All states limit cash payments and there quickly comes a time when more children does not mean more money. While it’s true that some welfare cheats are recipients - no government program is immune from fraud - the fact is those stereotypes blind us to others who game the system, others who play the game with a much larger payoff in mind.

On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Dallas-area man named Waymon D. Weeams Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program in Arkansas.

The program is designed to provide meals for needy recipients.

Weeams admitted conspiring with the husband of an Arkansas Department of Human Services worker to set up feeding programs in three Arkansas towns that falsely claimed to feed nearly 900 children per day.

In fact only around 50 children at most received meals.

Weeams’ part of the scheme brought in nearly $700,000 in ill-gotten gains. But the investigation that uncovered this fraud has already resulted in 10 other plea agreements covering a total of more than $11 million in fraudulent payments. And that’s just this one investigation of one program in one state.

This kind of fraud and abuse drains funds that could be doing a lot of good for those in need. And it further fuels the already considerable public anger and frustration with what they see as “giveaway” programs.

The victim here is not just the American taxpayer, but also the neediest among us.

We hope the court understands that come sentencing time.

But there is a further question. Even if those involved conspired with insiders at the ADHS, how did this fraud go on to the tune of $11 million?

The state, which administers the federal program, must share some blame. Were none of these fraudulent feeding sites ever inspected to see if they were indeed feeding the number they claimed? In the future, there should be more eyes on where these tax dollars go and how they are spent.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Oct. 8, 2016

Tomorrow’s heads, hearts

Members of the Washington County Quorum might once have known what all the H’s stood for in the 4-H name - head, heart, hands and health - but it’s hard to tell lately.

4-H is the youth development program conducted by the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. Its member pledge says:

“My Head to clearer thinking.

“My Heart to greater loyalty.

“My Hands to larger service

“My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

Was clearer thinking, i.e. using their heads, going on Tuesday when the Quorum Court rejected a funding request designed to ensure Washington County youth have an extension agent devoted to coordinating the countywide 4-H program?

First, some relevant history: County governments often take a hit when it comes to its interaction with state government. Take, for example, the housing of state prisoners in county jails. The state pays about half of the daily cost associated with each inmate, leaving county taxpayers to essentially subsidize the state’s shortage of space in its prison system.

Funding is always a challenge, so who can really blame the justices of the peace on the Quorum Court for being a little sensitive when it looks like the state is trying to shift the cost of a program to the county? Dollars are less abundant at the county level than in state government.

Bernie Kurz, the county extension office staff chairman, approached the Quorum Court, which provided $159,650 for the program in 2016. Kurz requested $224,612 for 2017. Last year he had asked for $222,000.

It’s a steep increase. Eva Madison, a Democratic justice of the peace who lives in Fayetteville, expressed frustration that the state’s solution to higher costs is to expect the county to pay more for what is a state program. It’s a fair observation.

The trouble for the Quorum Court, however, is that the young boys and girls who benefit from the 4H program aren’t wards of the state. They’re Washington County residents whose families have counted on 4-H programming for decades.

A decision against funding for the program may sound like a good way to rebuff the state’s misplaced priorities, but the ones who will pay the price are the young people of Washington County, the ones we hope have opportunities to learn about leadership and about life, business, agriculture, careers and technology.

We hear constantly - and rightly so - that a few strategically placed dollars in developing young people pays lifelong dividends. That’s the argument advocates for early childhood education make, and it’s sensible talk. Who knows, if we devote attention to developing leaders and thinking young people, maybe we won’t need so many places to put inmates.

Kurz predicted county’s decision means Washington County won’t have an agent to work the 4-H program and will lead to a decline in youth participation, which would be regrettable. Kurz, a state employee, didn’t say it, but we will: The state’s priorities are also contributing to that outcome.

Kurz noted Benton County government has paid for two agents.

Perhaps there’s some benefit in promoting a face-off with state government budget-makers, but it’s not for the youth of Washington County. Conventional wisdom suggests the Quorum Court, because its members are closer to the people they represent, would be the most likely governmental body to realize the lost opportunity a lack of funding creates. The shortage of funding from the state isn’t fair, but is that all that matters?

Washington County should have a robust, difference-making 4-H program. It’s unfortunate a squabble over state vs. county funding could get in the way of it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if extension service decision-makers and county leaders could get together and resolve this issue? Seeing problem-solvers in action would be a testament to the value 4-H brings to Washington County and would set a great example for the young people.

What will it take for that to happen? People with some heart using their heads to lend a hand.

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