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NWA EDITORIAL: Thursday’s thumbs

Thumbs are everywhere these days. Oh, it’s not as though we suddenly discovered the opposable digit and its usefulness, but that oddball appendage alongside the four fingers gets plenty of play in our culture.

Politicians use them almost in lieu of a wave, giving up a simple “hi” gesture for one that indicates approval. Of what, who knows? Maybe they just like the ambiguity of the upturned digit. It doesn’t really say anything, except that they approve of something. Those Fonzie-like expressions make everyone in the crowd feel good without requiring the one originating the move to commit to any particular comment or idea.

We noticed an item the other day about the popularity of “nail art” and a growing trend toward featuring it on the lowly thumb. Maybe it’s just because there’s more of a canvas there for those still-tiny expressions of individuality done, of course, because everyone else is doing it.

Our U.S. attorney general mentioned our favored digit just the other day. In explaining the Justice Department’s investigation into the origins of the investigation of potential Russian involvement in attempting to sway the 2016 election, William Barr said it’s necessary to determine whether some federal officials “put their thumb on the scale” to influence the outcome. Time to get out the fingerprint kit.

It’s hard to be over-appreciative of the thumb and its power to show favor or disfavor. Let’s give it our usual Thursday whirl:

[THUMBS DOWN] The laws of the state aren’t that complicated when it comes to school buses. Flashing red lights and a protruding sign on the side of the bus that spells out “S-T-O-P” would appear to deliver clarity as to the expectations of other drivers. It’s not like busing public school students is a new thing. And yet Arkansas school bus drivers reported 884 instances during a one-day survey of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses. Students, some of them quite young and eager to get to home or school, can rush around the bus to cross the street and … crash! It’s a horrible thought. Traffic traveling in either direction — with the bus or in the opposing lane — are required to stop until the red lights stop flashing and the stop sign is retracted. Simple. Easy. And potentially life-saving. Pay attention, folks. Those big, yellow buses are hard to miss with even just a little effort.

[THUMBS DOWN] One can undoubtedly quibble with the precision of any sort of ranked list, but there’s only so much positive spin one can put on a nonprofit health care watchdog group’s designation of Arkansas as the 45th state in the nation in terms of its hospital safety record. Using publicly available data and voluntary information from hospitals, the Leapfrog Group found just two Arkansas hospitals qualified for an “A” grade. The rankings rely on data about infections, avoidable surgery-related complications, the kinds of practices in place to promote safety, and attitudes or behaviors of doctors and staff. Does this mean Arkansas hospitals are fills with slackers? Not at all, but clearly there is plenty of room for intentional programs designed both heal the sick and protect them from predictable problems related to hospital stays.

[THUMBS DOWN] President Donald “Art of the Deal” Trump declared Wednesday that he won’t work with congressional Democrats as long as they’re investigating him. For better or worse, congressional investigations into presidential behaviors aren’t that unusual, and past presidents have managed to handle them while also leading the nation. To declare any advancements for the good of Americans dead on arrival unless Congress drops its oversight role is shortsighted and reflective of a president who is more focused on his circumstances than those affecting the nation.

[THUMBS UP] Kudos to the creative folks who made Game of Thrones, the HBO series that ended its run last Sunday night. The fact that a good many viewers are still debating whether the ending was worthy of the series demonstrates how the show, over its eight-season run, entertained and intrigued its audience. Isn’t that what we tuned in for? Like Seinfield, The Sopranos, Lost, Dexter, Roseanne and so many others, viewers tuned in to be transported into another world and entertained. Each of those shows accomplished that in their own ways, and a final episode’s success or failure shouldn’t destroy the appreciation for the compelling stories that kept viewers coming back for more throughout the journey. And really, not every series can be Breaking Bad, right?

[THUMBS UP] We appreciate the several Northwest Arkansas lawmakers who, on Tuesday, pledged their effort to make sure Arkansas voter-approved medicinal marijuana processes aren’t abused by people looking to use the drug just…

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