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Roundup of Arkansas editorials

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Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette, Aug. 5

After 50 years and $20 trillion, grand plan to eradicate poverty in U.S. is a failure

In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress for the annual State of the Union address and declared a "War on Poverty."

Johnson had a plan to do just that and it involved providing government assistance so poor Americans would have the opportunity to become self-sufficient.

"Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities to help more Americans, especially young Americans, escape from squalor and misery and unemployment rolls where other citizens help to carry them. Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children," he said.

How did that work out?

Well, as a recent op-ed by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation points out, not too well.

Basically, Johnson's idealistic program has become a massive failure.

Over the past five decades, the War on Poverty has morphed into a mass of government handouts that has not led Americans to become more self-sufficient, but more dependent. The assistance has not given people a way out of their desperation, but instead set them up for failure and generational poverty.

Since 1964, the government has spent more than $20 trillion_yes, that's "trillion" with a "t''_to wage the War on Poverty. But the overall poverty is virtually unchanged since the war began.

In 2012 alone, the U.S. spent $916 billion on more than 80 programs designed to assist the poor. About 100 million Americans receives assistance from one or more of these programs, with an average benefit of $9,000 per year_and that doesn't include Social Security or Medicare..

Why has a decent idea turned into such an ineffective monster?

There are a few reasons. Bleeding hearts with good intentions_both back in 1964 and today_who can't or won't see the harm they are doing. The nature of government to expand and try to do too much. Politicians using government benefits to buy votes.

You cannot expect people to do anything to help themselves when the government tries to provide of their every need. It's just not going to happen.

The War on Poverty wasn't a bad idea in its original context. But the execution has been tragically wrong. It has created generations of wasted lives. It has destroyed whole communities.

It took a long time to get where we are. And it's going to take time to get out of this mess_that is, if anyone in Washington actually wants to do so.

We have seen the results of five decades of paternalism. Now it's time for some tough love.

_____

The Times Record, July 27

Fort Smith Marathon Suits Historic City

If you're planning to participate, you better be training already. The first Fort Smith Marathon route has been set, and its date has been finalized. The Feb. 8 race is fewer than 200 days away.

The idea of a Fort Smith Marathon has been kicking around for a while, according to a report in Friday's Times Record, and it's a great one. Running 26 miles in a picturesque but oh-so-hilly city? That's going to be something to brag about for a long time. The route, which will start and end in historic downtown, is not for the faint of heart.

Patrick Pendleton, one of the race's organizers, said the race will have history, scenery and hills and will be organized around a "True Grit" theme in honor of the book and movies that reveal Fort Smith's history from the time it sat on the border between relative civilization and the Wild West.

"It's a heck of a course," Mr. Pendleton said. "It's scenic, it's got hills, it's got neighborhoods, it's got history, it's just got grit."

That's the same message you see on the FortSmithMarathon.com website: "Just like the colorful characters that got Fort Smith going: soldiers and settlers, cowboys and Indians, lawmen and outlaws, madams and nuns. . Sure it's February. Darn right the course is challenging. But we didn't earn the name 'Hell on the Border' for nothin' and they didn't hand out U.S. Marshal's badges to just anybody."

So, it's a challenging event for people who love a challenge. Perfect.

Proceeds from the $80 entrance fee for the full marathon ($60 for the half) will go to Park Partners of Fort Smith, a nonprofit corporation devoted to developing parks and recreation facilities in the city. The marathon proceeds will go toward expanding the Fort Smith Trail System, according to the marathon website.

We look forward to hearing more about the race in the coming weeks. Let us know if you plan to participate.

In the meantime, there are just two other notes.

First, it's sentimental, but we like the idea floated by Times Record Sports Editor Scott Faldon that somehow the marathon include a memorial to former Mayor Ray Baker, who was a well-known and enthusiastic runner long before running was cool.

Second, in case you wondered, Feb. 8, 2013, had a balmy high temperature of 58 in Fort Smith with a low of 40. Feb. 8 of this year, however, had a high of 34 and a low of 24. That's the thing about February in the Fort, isn't it? You just never know.

_____

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aug. 4

Welcome to Little Rock, Chief!

Robert Redford found Dustin Hoffman rewriting his copy in All The President's Men, and didn't much cotton to it. (If memory serves, they were playing two newspaper types of some note.) Call it the vanity of newsmen, and it's not pretty. At one point, Robert Redford's character quietly tells his partner: I don't mind what you did, I mind the way you did it.

Which is the way a lot of folks in Little Rock may feel when it comes to this whole encryption thing out of police headquarters. It might not be the worst thing ever, but, boy, you'd think Little Rock's finest could've handled it better.

The police in the state's largest force have now gone quiet. Eerily quiet. The newsroom scanners and even the traffic monitors in many a local household no longer chatter. Little Rock's police department has encrypted most of its communications_and unless the cops are talking to another city employee in another department, those who Serve and Protect us are maintaining radio silence when it comes to the served and protected. We the mere people are now to be kept in the dark about what's going on as it goes on.

The cops, or at least their spokesmen, say it's all being done in the interest of public safety. Because nowadays there are apps that the bad guys can employ on their smartphones to find out when busts might be made. And that development, the spokesmen say, could get one of the good guys hurt.

Besides, those spokesmen say, other police departments in the state encrypt their communications, too. Which may be the worst argument for Little Rock's doing the same. It seems a little too Johnny's-mother-says-it's-okay for a discussion between adults.

The bigger problem might be the way this was all done. That is, quietly. Little Rock's city manager told the papers that encryption was "always on the table" when the new radio equipment was put in. But he might have been more accurate if he'd said the whole encryption business was done under the table.

Not only are the media bent out of shape. Not only are those concerned citizens who try to keep up with local crime, and share their reports on social media, yelling about this black-out. When the new encryption rules were finally announced, some city directors were taken by surprise, too. One of them, Stacy Hurst, said she worked for the sales tax increase in 2011 in part to upgrade the police department's radio equipment. But encryption? "I worked hard to get it passed, and I don't recall (encryption) being discussed. I do not recall it being a talking point. Was it in the fine print somewhere? I can't say for sure."

Adds another city director, Lance Hines: "I think everyone's scratching their heads going, 'How did we get from here to there?' "

Little Rock's city directors might do well to take up this not so little matter at their next meeting. For they seem to have questions. And other questions need raising. Such as:

—Shouldn't the public be able to hear what those responsible for our safety are saying to each other? And shouldn't the public be able to keep up with crimes in their neighborhoods? Even and maybe especially while they're being committed?

—Wasn't public money spent to upgrade these police radios? Is spending public money to keep the public in the dark really the best way to keep officers safe?

—What happens next time some officer of the law abuses a private citizen and is so indiscreet as to refer to it on his police radio? That happens, you know. Now, when the courts or just some inky wretches of the press begin looking into the case, will they find all the evidence has been encrypted?

—And if encryption was "always on the table," then how come nobody saw it sitting there? Why is the public just now hearing about it? Or was that information encrypted, too?

Little Rock's new police chief, Kenton Buckner, has been on the job, oh, about a month now. Welcome to Little Rock, Chief. Around these parts, people take their public information, and access to it, seriously. Even if it's just two cops talking about a stalled car on the interstate.

More than that, though, folks around here don't like things being put over on them ever so quietly. They prefer their public officials to stay public. That is, open and above-board and with due notice given and public hearing held before any important change is made in public policy. Citizens don't like things hidden in fine print. Or even encrypted.

Can the scrambler_or whatever gizmo is used in encryption_be turned off, and the radio chatter resumed with a push of the button? That's still another question Little Rock's city directors should ask_in public_at their next meeting. Some of us can't wait.

_____

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