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Editorial: Short takes on Boss Hoggs, black bears and protecting freedoms


Michael Sparks and his wife were all smiles on Monday as they left the federal courthouse after U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced the former Mingo County prosecutor to a year in prison for trying to frame an innocent man.

“You had an obligation to treat George White in a fair and just manner,” Johnston said to Sparks. “Instead of justice you gave him injustice.”

Under a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, the judge could not sentence Sparks to more than a year in prison. Sparks did help in the investigation that brought down former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who ran the county like a real life Boss Hogg.

Mingo has a long history of Boss Hoggs. Wilburn T. “Wig” Preece ran the county for decades until federal prosecutors brought him down. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph F. Savage Jr. said at the time, “I never saw any place that was as bad as this.”

The Preece prosecution did not end the corruption. Johnie Owens simply took over. He sold the sheriff’s office for $100,000. He wound up in federal prison, too.

All these Boss Hoggs share in common one thing; they are Democrats. They deliver the votes in statewide races that often decide elections in favor of Democrats.

While Republicans are not perfect, the only hope for Mingo and the rest of the corruptocracies in many southern coalfield counties is the two-party system.

Regardless of one’s party or political convictions, people who believe in good government should do all they can to restore the two-party system to all parts of the state, even the dark corners where innocent men like George White live in fear of the law while criminals hold public office.


Several people spotted a black bear near the Montrose Exit of Interstate 64 this week. A vehicle later hit and killed the 50-pound cub on the freeway.

As sad as the event was, the crash was evidence that the bear population is healthy. As the woods fill up with bears, some are leaving and encroaching on man’s territory throughout the United States.

What a remarkable contrast to 35 years ago when the Daily Mail launched its Save Our Bear campaign. At the time, Division of Natural Resources officials estimated the state was down to its last 500 black bears. Today, conservative estimates start at 10,000.

The DNR advises residents to secure their trash so they do not attract bears from the wild. Bear interactions with humans often lead to a tragic end for the bear.

As happened this week on I-64.


In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court upheld the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which allows Hobby Lobby to cover 16 types of birth control while forgoing four its managers object to on religious grounds.

A Democratic Congress passed the law, which a Democratic president signed into law.

Hysteria over the decision may be the end of ENDA -- the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Gay rights lobbying groups have withdrawn their support because the bill includes a provision that protects people from discrimination over their religious beliefs.

“If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can’t have access to certain health care, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them,” Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told the Washington Post.

Many people objected to this measure because they feared it would infringe on their religious rights, so some common ground has been found.

But the issue is not whether we protect sexuality rights or religious rights. This is America. We can do both.

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