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Careful readers may have noted an interesting sidelight that turned up in comments yesterday on Dr. Johnny Rhoda of Clinton, the Republican executive committee member, preacher and financial adviser who GOP chairman Doyle Webb enlisted to be plaintiff in the lawsuit over free state cars for constitutional officers.

We learned from Tim Griffin’s touting of Rhoda as his campaign chairman in Van Buren County that Dr. Rhoda’s doctorate, a Ph.D., comes from Belford University, an Internet operation which Dr. Rhoda acknowledged in a phone interview with us has had its critics. He countered that some people don’t think much of the University of Arkansas, either. (He was just making a point, he said, with the remark about UA, that many schools have both supporters and critics.) He said he holds an Arkansas Tech undergrad degree.

A friend of ours, a member of the state’s education establishment, got so interested in Belford University a while back that he tested its course offerings by having his English bulldog, Max Sniffingwell, apply for a degree in “theriogenology/animal reproduction.” On payment of $549 by money order, a diploma, transcript and letter of recommendation shortly would arrive from the United Arab Emirates. The proud doctor is shown in his graduation photo above. You will definitely want to continue to the jump to read Dr. Sniffingwell’s degree application.

PS — Max’s owner is Dr. Ben Mays, a Clinton veterinarian and member of the state Board of Education. He explains that his investment was to make a point (though he declined the opportunity to make Max an honors grad for an extra $75.)

Fourteen states have laws that make it illegal to use this kind of false credentials in one’s line of work. But in Arkansas, stud dogs like Max, and unscrupulous individuals in other fields can use fake diplomas to dupe their clientele.

Dr. Sniffingwell’s diploma, graduation picture, and application biography all hang nicely framed on the wall in my clinic’s reception room.