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January 16, 2014

Vol 40 • No 20

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Clinton Inc. still makes Arkansas go

For their work in Arkansas and abroad, the Clintons are our pick for Arkansans of the Year.

Other Arkansans of the Year for 2013

Mike Beebe, Jeff Long, Rep. John Burris, Sen. David Sanders, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, Tippi McCullough, Nate Powell and more.

Tech park board hires realtor for downtown study

ARK Commercial to be "investigator/negotiator" on downtown properties.

Airline merger produces Little Rock-New York LaGuardia service

News release tonight from Clinton National Airport has me cheering. The airport is going to lose a direct flight to National Airport in Washington on account of a recent airline merger.

City Board could put an end to 5 a.m. clubs

Little Rock might not quite be a "city that never sleeps," but for decades the city's night owls have had a scattering of options for late-night socializing thanks to licenses that allowed private clubs to operate until 5 a.m.

Betting online at Oaklawn

Q: Somebody told me that you can now bet online on races run at Oaklawn. Is that true? And if so, how is that legal?

Good blast from the past

Asher Dairy Bar serves up cheap, tasty burgers and shakes.

Down on the Hogs, but lifted by Qualls

Oh, those wily, expectation-killing Razorbacks! Lest you think for a moment that signs of The Great Pall Over Basketball lifting are real and tangible, we give you the new Hogs of old. Newest verse, same maudlin dirge.

Few complaints over veterans' center on Main in Little Rock

Two years after the planned move sparked controversy.

The Central Arkansas Library System goes to the movies with Ron Robinson Theater

CALS new theater to offer all stripes of programming.


A reader asks whether a brazen lie is bald-faced or boldfaced.

It was a good week for approving a settlement

It was also a good week for accountability in the lieutenant governor's office and Jay Barth. It was a bad week for the 20-week abortion ban, Mayor Jill Dabbs, sickness and cheerleader moms.

Weird neighbors

A beautiful, sunlit afternoon was had last Sunday at The Observatory, a memorable afternoon of light, warmth and laughter after a week of frigid days when the sky looked like an old wool sock and The Observer was forced to break out the BIG coat and gloves.

Immigration, income inequality

Noticeably absent from your commentaries on immigration is any mention of the effect of flooding our labor market with over 30,000,000 new unskilled laborers on the Democrat's latest topic du jour: income inequality.

Don't Stop Please returns to White Water

Also, 'Hello, Dolly' at Robinson Center Music Hall, Ron Robinson Theater grand opening, Holy Shakes at Delucas in Hot Springs, Reproductive Justice Rally at the State Capitol, Waka Winter Classic at Stickyz, 'Gen Silent' at the Darragh Center, The Dirty Streets at White Water Tavern and Broadway on Ice at the Reynolds Performance Hall at Conway.

Bad blood

For my entire adult life, the blood of all gay men has been rejected — initially by the Red Cross and then, starting in 1985, by a policy of the Food and Drug Administration — for the fear of HIV contamination of the blood supply.

An unpalatable week

It was an appropriate week for the annual Gillett Coon Supper, a hoary political rite full of fake bipartisan bonhomie and bad food.

War torn

'Lone Survivor' a real white-knuckler.

Christie, Darr blew apologies

Chris Christie and Mark Darr are loudmouthed, corn-fed politicians whose unbridled ambitions took a dive last week owing to failures that they considered trifling to the point of silliness.

Big Red Ball Homebrew Contest comes to MacArthur Museum

Also, Big Mike performs late at Discovery.

Little sister is watching

Most of us hear of the Little Sisters of the Poor only in joking reference to the weakness of opponents scheduled by major-college athletic teams: "We couldn't run the ball against the Little Sisters of the Poor."

Quiet in the River Market

A lone pedestrian braves a rainy morning in the River Market last Friday.

Read Elizabeth Smart's book

If I had to describe Elizabeth Smart with a single adjective, that word would be "sane." If allowed a second, I'd add "courageous."

Remember the Mexican breakfast

Something that’s still missing, in general, from our Mexican food offering is the promise of a great Mexican breakfast. There’re just not enough options.

French Hill, Republican congressional candidate, touts money effort

French Hill, the Little Rock banker seeking the 2nd District congressional seat as a Republican, reports raising $568,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and says he has $534,000 on hand, with no debt.

When church doctrine collides with new law

An article from a Seattle newspaper discusses a topic familiar here — the collision of church and employment as same-sex marriage becomes increasingly legal.

Republican Rep. Biviano applies for job he created

Unseemly note of the day: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that Republican state Rep. Mark Biviano of Searcy was one of only two applicants — and the only one from Arkansas — for 

More contact information for University of Arkansas Board

I suggested yesterday that anybody with an opinion on the recent controversy over financial and public relations matters at the University of Arkansas should get in touch with University of Arkansas Board of Trustees members before next week's board meeting.

Supreme Court orders new trial for Death Row inmate Rickey Dale Newman

The long saga of Rickey Dale Newman, convicted of slaying a woman in a transient camp in Van Buren in 2002, took another turn today.

What's at stake in the debate over the "private option" for Medicaid expansion

[embed-1] Arkansas Advocates put together the video above, which tells the story of Jennifer Trader, a self-employed Springdale mother of two who gained health coverage through the "private option."

Arkansas charter school operator teaching creationism in Texas

It's probably not worth getting too upset about news that a national charter school operator that is expanding in Arkansas is teaching creationism, as opposed to science, in biology courses.

City Director Stacy Hurst announces as Republican for state House

City Director Stacy Hurst has announced as a Republican candidate for state House of Representatives, the seat held by term-limited Democrat John Edwards.

Senate Judiciary again approves Arkansas judicial nominees

Carl Tobias, a Richmond law professor who tracks the federal judiciary, alerts me to news that the Senate Judiciary Committe has re-approved a batch of President Obama's judicial nominee, including Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville and Circuit Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock.

Pasquine at Mugs Cafe

Buddhist-themed paintings.

CORRECTION: Wrong attribution on e-mail promoting Republican candidate

Debbie Pelley, the Jonesboro conservative, called me today. She and I have disagreed on just about everything over the years, but she is nothing but not sincere.

Hot Springs lawyer Andi Davis, who figured in Dustin McDaniel decision to drop out of governor's race, arrested in Hot Springs

Andrea Lea Davis, 36, a Hot Springs lawyer, was arrested by the Garland County sheriff's office today on a theft of property charge.

Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson!) to perform comedy show at UCA

Ron Swanson, the government-hating Parks official on  NBC's "Parks and Recreation" with a ravenous appetite for woodworking, brunettes and breakfast, is one of the best television characters of all time.

Bruno Mars to North Little Rock

Former child Elvis impersonator Bruno Mars is coming to Verizon Arena as part of his "Moonshine Jungle World Tour" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 10.

Education Department responds to article about Texas charter operator

This story will bear far more checking, but I did ask State Education Director Tom Kimbrell today to review the Slate article on the junk science, thinly disguised religion and fractured history that Slate reports is being taught in Texas charter schools operated by Responsive Education Solutions, which has a growing presence in Arkanss

Voter ID law takes hold: Dozens of absentees uncounted in Jonesboro

Benton Smith, attorney for the Democratic central committee in Craighead County, tells me the first wrinkle in the state's now voter ID law has emerged.

The working man's open line

The line is open. Thinking about the working men and women again today:

Costs for "private option" for Medicaid expansion coming in on target; DHS preparing request for HSAs

The average monthly cost for “private option” enrollees thus far is $476, officials from the Department of Human Services testified today before the joint Public Health Committee.

What's happening at Westover Wednesdays

This week’s gathering was one of the most successful I’ve seen in Little Rock to date. The demand for higher quality and thoughtfully presented food in Little Rock is not going unnoticed—many of our trucks are answering the call and providing some really spectacular dishes.

Leaked: Walmart internal guide to fighting unions

Interesting reading. Occupy Wall Street got hold of internal documents at Walmart that instruct managers how to fight unions. 

Tom Cotton voted against Children's Hospital — and a whole lot more

When you are more extreme than Sen. John "Dr. No" Boozman, you are extreme. It couldn't have been clearer this week.

Your 2014 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase semifinalists

After much scrutinizing, we’re pleased to announce the 2014 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase 20 semifinalists.

Duck Dynasty ratings nothing to quack about; take tumble after controversy

And speaking of cultural issues that drove the late, great Duck Dynasty debate: * GAY MARRIAGE: Houston Mayor Annise Parker married her longtime partner Kathy Hubbar

Owners of Big Orange, Local Lime and ZaZa to open brewery Lost 40

Yellow Rocket Concepts, the team behind Big Orange, Local Lime and ZaZa, is expanding into the beer business. Partners John Beachboard, Scott McGehee and Russ McDonough have leased 19,000-square-feet in the former headquarters of Candy Bouquet in the warehouse district east of I-30 for a production brewery they're calling Lost 40 Brewing Co.

Gift makes Arts Center 2nd largest holder of Marin drawings

Promised gift is made official.

They're still fighting the Civil War in Florida

Great story in New York Times about an enormous controversy in Florida over a proposal to add a Union memorial to a Civil War battleground state park that only contains Confederate monuments currently.

Art and Soles for FOCC

I think I can safely predict a Black-Friday type scramble Jan. 30 when Boswell-Mourot hosts the Jan. 30 event.

UPDATE: Opinions vary on fix for voter ID victims in Jonesboro

I spoke this morning with Scott Richardson, chairman of the Craighead County Election Commission, which will meet at 3 p.m. today to decide what to do about 83 absentee ballots in this week's 

Southland Park announces $37 million casino expansion

Southland Park Racing and Gaming, the greyhound race track that now makes its big money from casino gambling, primarily slot machines has announced a $37 million expansion.

Pepperboy, 607 drop 'Mixed Messages' EP

Two of Little Rock’s finest and most eccentric rappers quietly dropped a collaborative EP on Wednesday: Pepperboy, the South’s only delegate to the Bay Area-based Green Ova Underground, and 607, who released his 39th album last year and calls himself “Tupac + Fiona Apple.”

Feds announce 62-count drug indictment

The U.S. attorney's office has announced that 25 people have been charged in a 62-count indictment with meth, marijuana and related charges for drug trafficking in the Blytheville area. 

Two arrested in Jan. 13 carjacking, robbery

KATV reports that two teens have been arrested in a Jan. 13 kidnapping in which the victim was forced to withdraw money from an ATM. 

Things go better with Koch: Ask Bruce Westerman

More for those who like to keep up with the many-tentacled Koch octopus, well on its way to strangling the Arkansas and U.S. body politic.

Demographics for enrollees in "private option" for Medicaid expansion

As we reported earlier this week, the "private option" is leaning younger, with more than half of the enrollees thus far under the age of 40 (that's very good news — a younger pool will both keep down costs for the "private option" policy and could help keep premiums down for everyone shopping on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace).

Show on Saturday to benefit 5 a.m. clubs

A promoter who works with late-night clubs sends word of this last-minute booking this weekend at the Rev Room, "raising awareness & rocking out to support Little Rock's 5 a.m. clubs.

Arkansas PSC gives Entergy Arkansas $81 million rate increase; company had sought $179 million

THAT explains it. Idle talk at the Capitol recently has included a professed desire by some legislators to rein in the state Public Service Commission in some fashion, perhaps with legislation in 2015.

The voter ID open line

The line is open. I'll close out with an update on my earlier post about the dilemma in Craighead County on absentee ballots mailed in without the newly required ID.

The Portents of Jonesboro Edition

The state Senate special election in Jonesboro, early consequences of the new voter ID law, state Rep. Mark Biviano applying for a six figure job he helped create, Tom Cotton voting against Arkansas and creationism and charter schools — all discussed on this week's edition.

Food Feedback Friday: a day late edition

Got caught up in a long dinner last night, hence, FFF is a day late, but never a dollar short. You've still got time to give us your feedback.

Morning report: Yarnell lovers alert, cop reports

David Koon spied on Craiglist news of a Yarnell family estate sale in Searcy this weekend.

Rally for women's reproductive rights; a victory in N.C.

Good news today on the continuing battle for women's reproductive rights, hanging on by a bare thread in Southern states such as Arkansas.

Mark Martin continues to flout law on attorney spending

KATV reported yesterday on Blue Hog Report's finding that Secretary of State Mark Martin continues to pay fees for outside legal counsel despite the ruling by a Pulaski circuit judge that state law clearly requires the secretary of state to get attorney general approval before hiring outside counsel.

Related parties: state Board of Education member and charter school advocate

When I wrote about last week about the state Board of Education's 6-2 approval of the new Quest charter middle school to be located in Chenal Valley, I heard from a reader.

In the kitchen with Mary Twedt

The host of Arkansas Cooks gives us some of her favorite recipes.

Good night all; good riddance Llewyn Davis

One-word movie review on Llewyn Davis: Eh. The line is open.

Charter school leader defends creationism in schools' curriculum

The subject has come up on previous threads, but more prominent attention is due a response issued by Texas-based charter school operator Responsive Education Solutions to a powerful piece of investigative

Battle lines developing on UA Chancellor Gearhart

It looks more and more like this week's University of Arkansas Board of Trustees meeting will be the climactic event in the long-running saga over deficits in the fund-raising arm of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and what culpability Chancellor David Gearhart has for that situation

Taking the pulse of the Arkansas legislature on the private option

Over the last several days, I’ve been talking to numerous lawmakers about the private option.

Private option foes spreading misinformation

Opponents of the private option really, really don’t like the policy, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance plans for low-income Arkansans.

Air Force One tokes over the open line

Sorry. Couldn't resist the headline to start the Sunday open line:

M.L. King Day morning report: UA situation continues to bubble

It's a public holiday today and already things look slow. However, I have heard from John Di

Lobbyists slop congressional hogs at 'destination' fund-raisers

You've heard of destination weddings? Read in the New York :Times today about "destination" campaign fund-raisers for members of Congress, luxury events at ski resorts, for example.

NY Times on 'renaissance' vision for Wilson, Ark.

The New York Times today reports on a dream of a renaissance for the Delta town of Wilson, Ark., once the seat of the vast Wilson family plantation.

Senatorial fun on Facebook: One sings, another rips po' folks

And look what the cat drug in on Facebook last night: * THE SINGING SENATOR HUTCHINSON: Prin McGhee posted a video of Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson singing and offering some commentary on Lt. Gpv.

Wendy Davis goes under the press microscope, caught on some personal details

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, who rose to national prominence for her brave fight against Texas legislative assaults on women's medical rights, is now a candidate for governor and getting more attention to her rags-to-riches life story.

Retirements, layoffs from Children's Hospital

CEO outlines restructuring.

Things go better with Koch

I happened to notice on Twitter this link to the fourth quarter congressional lobbying report by Koch Industries.

Arkansas has one winner in science talent search

A friend sent a link to the semi-finalist list in 2014 version of the prestigious Intel scientific talent search competition.

Main Street continues to buzz with redevelopment talk

Slow day, not surprising for a holiday. But my phone's been buzzing about downtown Little Rock (and with the buzzing outside my window where a parking deck is going up adjacent to our home in the Heritage West building at Markham and Scott Streets.)

Speaking of Main Street: The open line

The line is open. And why not another bit about Main Street and Little Rock neighborhoods.

Warwick Sabin to run Central Arkansas ARK Challenge

Business accelerator will initiate Little Rock "bootcamp" in August or September.

Missy Irvin releases statement: she will vote no on the private option

As we reported this weekend, Sen. Missy Irvin said “I’m not happy with the way [the private option] is going – right now I cannot support it.”

At least Bart Hester is honest about his opposition to the private option

I wanted to quickly revisit Max's note this morning on Sen. Bart Hester, and his email exchange with a constituent whose father has coverage under the private option, coverage he would lose if Hester and his allies are successful in blocking the appropriation.

John Diamond: The University of Arkansas plays loose with personnel rules

I continue to hear from John Diamond, the former head of university relations at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with criticism of hiring and promotional practices.

Abortion: Takes center stage in 2014 elections

Abortion never went away. But the Republican noise machine has been pumping more decibels than ever on abortion.

Tim Griffin gives Politico exit interview: Family and Obama figure

Politico interviewed some departing members of Congress, including 2nd District Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock.

Federal challenge of Arkansas same-sex marriage ban amended to reflect developments

Plaintiffs in a federal court lawsuit challenging the state's statutory and constituional prohibitions on same-sex marriage have filed an amended version of the lawsuit.

Beebe adds charter school facility money to fiscal session

Gov. Mike Beebe has written legislative leaders to inform that he wants to spend $10 million in unobligated state money to create a construction loan fund for charter schools.

As the 'private option' turns; contingency anyone?

Sen. Linda Chesterfield remarked at budget hearings today that the private option health insurance plan was, at best, "on life supports."

New poll shows more Arkansans favor continuing to fund the private option

Talk Business is out with a new poll showing support for the so-called "private option," the unique Arkansas plan to use Medicaid funds to buy private health insurance plans for low-income Arkansans. 

The UA gravy train open line

The line is open. I close with some material submitted from people at UA.

Dozens of voters disfranchised in Craighead County

I missed connections with Craighhead County election officials today, but the Election Commission was to meet and decide which absentee ballots could be counted among 

More benefits to Arkansas from Obamacare

Benji Hardy writes at the Legislative Digest's blog on an aspect of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — that is bringing significant amounts of new money to Arkansas to help difficult cases — the developmentall

Kathy Webb appointed to Little Rock Airport Commission

A tweet from Clinton National Airport indicates former state Rep. Kathy Webb was appointed to the Little Rock Airport Commission last night by the City Board.

Tom Cotton's war on women's medical rights

A day — heck an hour, it seems like — doesn't pass without a direct e-mail from Extremist U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton or one of his social media enablers touting Cotton's animus toward women.

John Tyson: Football had nothing to do with UA Board departure

John Tyson, chairman of the Board of Tyson Foods, sent me a prepared statement this morning relative to speculation about his role in the ongoing discussion of financial proBecause of all the speculation in your Blog and elsewhere about why I resigned from the U of A Board of Trustees, and the suggestion by some individuals that I did so because the U of A did not hire Butch Davis as the Razorback football coach, I decided that I needed to comment on the matter.

Look out Netflix; here comes free streaming at Central Arkansas Library System

More cutting-edge services from the Central Arkansas Library System. From its news release:

Creationism continues to evolve politically

Good timing, given the recent reporting on how a charter school operator with multiple charter school operations in Arkansas — Responsive Education Solutions — emphasizes creationism in its Texas schools.

Looking back at the Arlington Hotel

A look at a menu from the early 20th century full of classic dishes.

State trooper fired; actions included calling legislator "fool"

Stephens Media broke the news this morning that the State Police had fired a state trooper, Cpl. Tom Weindruch of Yellville, for misconduct.

Hayes sculpture at PRI

Donors make purchase possible.

Montessori school in works for downtown Little Rock

A friend directed me to this weblink for the Urban Garden Montessori School, which, according to info there, aims to eventually offer non-sectarian education from pre-school through high school.

Mia Hall, Michael Warrick and others on UALRTV

Artists talk about the sculpture surrounding the Fine Arts Building on the UALR campus.

Police shoot Sherwood man at his home

KARK reports that a Sherwood man was shot by police responding to a disturbance call when he refused to put down guns

State employees get early payday

This just in from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration: The biweekly payroll for Arkansas State Employees processed two days early this week.

Pryor gets credit in Fort Smith for money for Air Guard wing

A news story in Fort Smith notes that the recently passed catch-all federal appropriations bill included $40 million that will go in part to pay for a transition of mission of the 188th Air Guard fighter wing at Fort Smith to drone operation.

Free horror double-feature tonight at Rob Robinson Theater

There will be a double-bill of horror tonight at the Ron Robinson Arcade Theater in the River Market 

An early open line: gubernatorial gifts, big boom

I'm out early today to head to a newspaper meeting. I may get back to a computer.