BITS & PIECES: Saturday, June 4

Part 9/9
We married the following spring, and 17 years later we’re still married and call Arkadelphia home. I still have the scar on my lip from the accident, and it’s a constant reminder of how a horrible day somehow led to finding my soulmate, and a souvenir I’ll never lose.

We’d like to congratulate Facebook follower Derrick Derick Derek (D Beard) for being the first to accurately predict the outcome of the “Scars” series we’ve included in each “Bits & Pieces”. We know you’ll enjoy the six enormous cinnamon rolls from Ludwig’s Bakery. Thanks to everyone who played along and has kept up with the series. Maria Fields-Chism also predicted the marriage, but there never was a “perfect date” unless you count Taco Bell after I got a tattoo of a smiley face symbolizing how she made me feel. Lorrie Adams correctly predicted that I had found my soulmate. Honorable mention to Sarah Sykes for her humorously accurate knowledge of dating in college. Leftover pizza from work was a staple in our diet then. There were nights we stayed up until dawn, but I never vowed to keep my face shaven (as evidenced in the photo accompanying “Bits & Pieces”).

We plan to have another serial and contest, so pay attention!

We spent somewhere around five hours in the recent weeks waiting in a lobby while the Arkadelphia school board met in executive session during the hiring process of a new superintendent. That’s quite a lot of time just sitting by oneself with no one to talk to. After the first meeting, we found good company in a book from our personal library, one written by Matt Bondurant about his bootlegging grandfather and great-uncles in Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition. You might have seen the film adaptation, titled “Lawless” starring Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and Shia Labeouf (“Holes”). It’s the second time we’ve thumbed through these pages.

We caught a little flack on Facebook when we broke the news that Arkadelphia Schools had a new superintendent because we didn’t outright name the person in our post. That’s not how this works, folks. We’re not going to spend hours waiting as the school board meets in executive session just to give details of a breaking news story in a Facebook post. We wanted you to know a decision had been made, and we went directly to work after that to write the story, which we did post on social media. In hindsight, we should have been upfront and said “Read the full story later this evening.”

Some days we get so buried in work, some good stories go left untold or forgotten altogether until we feel it’s too late. Story ideas come across our desk, but it seems they pour in during weeks when there’s plenty of big news happening. That noted we’re looking for some trustworthy folks who can write well and report accurately. If you know someone who’d be interested in some side work, drop us a line at

We had a conversation this week with our friend Joe May at The Southern Standard about the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s recent decision to open a bear season in Zone 4, which includes the southeastern portion of Clark County and most of southeastern Arkansas. Joe was unaware that there was a bear population large enough to sustain a hunting season, and we informed him there most certainly is! Bears have become such a nuisance in Dallas County that several years ago we stopped hunting at a lease near Manning where they seemed to run all the deer away and destroy our feeders. We started hunting in bottomlands in Ouachita County, below Tate’s Bluff, where bears (and Dallas County miscreants) were not an issue. Unfortunately, we learned last year that a black bear has been spotted on our lease there. If we have the time and resources this year, we might try to help fill the Zone 4 quota at our Manning lease.

We’ve somewhat kept up with the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial, but not because it’s the trial of the year. We were interested in whether Depp had a case against his former spouse because of their celebrity status, and also because we are big fans of “The Rum Diary,” a book on our shelves that’s been read more than once. The film adaptation, too, has been viewed at our home many, many times. We fancy our own parallels between how the newspaper journalist Paul Kemp (portraying a young Hunter S. Thompson) lives and works. Depp and Heard met and subsequently began their relationship while working on this film — Depp actually testified that he fell in love with her during the filming of a scene. The love story aside, we feel in good company with the young writer as he works on breaking a big story as the newspaper where he’s hired begins to fold. We see snippets of each character in ourselves — Kemp, Sala, Lotterman and even Moberg.

To our Yahoo! email newsletter subscribers, are you getting your newsletter each Wednesday and Sunday morning? We have made some changes to our plugin, and one reader said she started receiving the newsletter in her inbox. If you’re subscribed but aren’t getting it, please let us know by sending us an email. Not subscribed yet? CLICK HERE to get Clark County news delivered to your inbox twice a week!

We met and talked with a couple of fans of The Arkadelphian at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Clark County Courthouse. It’s always nice to hear from our readers who both appreciate our service and enjoy consuming our content.

Be sure and take a look at our Reader Poll, located on the right-hand side of the homepage (mobile users: scroll to the very bottom of the homepage). We’ll post the results of this one on June 8.

Joel Phelps is publisher and editor of The Arkadelphian. Any opinions expressed in this column are his own. Email him at or call him at 501-304-2134.

Categories: People, Voices

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    Opinion | The Uvalde Police Scandal
    Peggy Noonan
    8-10 minutes

    The great sin in what happened in Texas is that an 18-year-old with murder in his heart walked into a public school and shot to death 19 kids and two teachers. The great shock is what the police did—their incompetence on the scene and apparent lies afterward. This aspect has rocked the American people.

    Uvalde wasn’t an “apparent law-enforcement failure.” It is the biggest law-enforcement scandal since George Floyd, and therefore one of the biggest in U.S. history. Children, some already shot, some not, were trapped in adjoining classrooms. As many as 19 cops were gathered in the hall just outside. The Washington Post timeline has the killer roaming the classrooms: “The attack went for so long, witnesses said, that the gunman had time to taunt his victims before killing them, even putting on songs that one student described to CNN as ‘I-want-people-to-die music.’ ”

    Students inside were calling 911 and begging for help. The officers failed to move for almost an hour.

    Everyone in America knows the story. Finding out exactly how and why it happened is the urgent business of government. We can’t let it dribble away into the narrative void and settle for excuses. “People are still shaken up.” “Probes take time.” “We’re still burying the children.” We can’t let the idea settle in that this is how it is now, if bad trouble comes you’re on your own. It is too demoralizing.

    We can’t let it settle in that the police can’t be relied on to be physically braver than other people. An implicit agreement in going into the profession is that you’re physically brave. I don’t understand those saying with nonjudgmental empathy, “I’m not sure I would have gone in.” It was their job to go in. If you can’t cut it, then don’t join and get the badge, the gun and the pension.

    The most focused and intense investigating has to be done now, when it’s still fresh and raw—before the 19 cops and their commanders fully close ranks, if they haven’t already, and lawyer up.

    Those officers—they know everything that happened while nothing was done for an hour. A lot of them would have had to override their own common sense to stand down under orders; most would have had to override a natural impulse toward compassion. Many would be angry now, or full of reproach or a need to explain.

    Get them now.

    Within moments of the massacre’s ending, the police were issuing strange claims. They said the shooter was confronted by a school guard and shots were exchanged. Not true. They said the shooter was wearing body armor. He wasn’t.

    They said he was “barricaded” inside the classroom. Is that the right word for a guy behind a single locked door?

    They said a teacher left open the door the shooter used to enter. Videotape showed otherwise.

    They didn’t admit what happened outside the school as parents pleaded with the police to do something and tried to fight past the cordon so at least they could do something. The Washington Post had a witness who heard parents tell the police, “Do your f— job!” The police said they were. A man yelled, “Get your f— rifles and handle business!” Those parents were patronized and pushed around.

    Even accounting for the fog of war there’s something next-level about the spin and falsehoods that occurred in Uvalde.

    The commander on scene, school district police chief Pete Arredondo, hasn’t given a public statement on what went wrong. Why is he allowed not to tell the public what happened? He didn’t take reporters’ questions until cornered Wednesday by CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz. Mr. Arredondo was evasive. Reports he’s stiff-arming investigators are wrong, he said; he’s in touch with them and he’ll have more to say but not now. Then, in fatherly tones: “We’re not going to release anything. We have people in our community being buried. So we’re going to be respectful.”

    A better form of respect would have been stopping the guy who left them grieving their dead children.

    What I fear is a final report issued in six months or a year that will hit all the smarmy rhetorical notes—“a day of epic tragedy for our brothers and sisters in a small Texas town”—but fail, utterly, to make clear who was responsible for the lost hour.
    Read More Declarations

    All this has made Gov. Greg Abbott look particularly bad. He gave the imprimatur of his office to early police fictions. In his first news conference following the massacre he was strangely insistent on their sterling valor: “They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire.”

    Only after videos of the parents being pushed around by the cops made their way to social media did he make an about-face. In a later news conference he talked of free funerals and mental health resources. Pressed finally on what was already becoming a police scandal, he said he’d been “misled” by authorities and was “livid.” Glad he talked about his emotions. We don’t do that enough in America.

    But who misled him? Do they still have a job?

    You wonder what his first briefing was like.

    Governor: “I need the truth: What went down?”

    Burly police official in Stetson: “Within minutes we stormed the school like Iwo Jima—took out the enemy under a hail of fire, carried the women and children to safety. Fixed bayonets. Knives in our teeth. Trust me.”

    Governor: “Got it, thanks!”

    There is only one way to handle such a mistake: know it won’t disappear. Lead a swift and brutal investigation, talk about it every day, keep the heat on. When people know you’re playing it straight, they’re generous. When they know you aren’t—there’s an election in November and they’ll let you know.

    I close with a thought tugging around my brain. I think I am seeing a broad and general decline in professionalism in America, a deterioration of our pride in concepts like rigor and excellence. Jan. 6 comes and law enforcement agencies are weak and unprepared and the U.S. Capitol falls to a small army of mooks. Afghanistan and the departure that was really a collapse, all traceable to the incompetence of diplomatic and military leadership. It’s like everyone’s forgotten the mission.

    I’m not saying, “Oh, America was once so wonderful and now it’s not.” I’m saying we are losing old habits of discipline and pride in expertise—of peerlessness. There was a kind of American gleam. If the world called on us—in business, the arts, the military, diplomacy, science—they knew they were going to get help. The grown-ups had arrived, with their deep competence.

    America now feels more like people who took the Expedited Three Month Training Course and got the security badge and went to work and formed an affinity group to advocate for change. A people who love to talk, endlessly, about sensitivity, yet aren’t sensitive enough to save the children bleeding out on the other side of the door.

    I fear that as a people we’re becoming not only increasingly unimpressive but increasingly unlovable.

    My God, I’ve never seen a country so in need of a hero.