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February 6, 2014

Vol 40 • No 23

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Swimming against the tide of desegregation in Little Rock

Integration came late, if at all, to public pools in Little Rock.

Pryor goes after Cotton on his Medicare voting record

[embed-1] Happy to see one of my Hillcrest neighbors in a new TV ad for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Make it two people with objections to Darr's Gang of Four welfare checks

Senate President Michael Lamoureux is apparently one of those guys who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Merle Haggard coming to Robinson Center in April, tickets on sale Friday

Singer/songwriter Merle Haggard, best known for honky tonkin' hits like "Okie from Muskogee," "Today I Started Loving You Again," "

This weekend: three days of free films honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman at Ron Robinson Theater

The Little Rock Film Festival and CALS announced today that they will present free screenings of three films by Philip Seymour Hoffman this weekend, as a way of honoring the late actor.

Over the hump: Arkie angle in glimpse inside the Koch beast

The midweek line is open. Finishing up:

Lamoureux takes control of Darr's staff; says he needs them

This news release from the office of the non-existent lieutenant governor in the name of Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux beats all:

Tell us your love and anti-love stories

To go with the same love-themed issue, we're hunting two more things: The worst pick-up lines you've ever used or had used on you. And really good marriage proposal stories.

MOCA moves to Paragould

Contemporary Art museum lost money in Hot Springs.

Where in Arkansas February edition

Know where this slice of life in Arkansas is?

Peckerwolf takes round one of Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Showcase continues with The Fox Blossom Venture, John Willis, Dead End Drive and Bombay Harambee.

Darr and away

Mark Darr has left the lieutenant governor's office after resigning in disgrace over misuse of public and campaign funds, but his staff remains. How will members occupy their time? We speculate.

Slate's Plotz thick on Glass ruling

Everybody hates the other guy's lawyer, so the news that serial fabricator Stephen Glass was denied a license to practice law by the California Supreme Court has unsettled certain of his former colleagues in Washington journalism.

Bob Schneider at Juanita's

Also, KEN Mode at Vinos', Red Octopus' 'Trysts and Turns' at the Public Theatre, Mothwind at Maxine's, Patty Griffin at George's Majestic, "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" at the Weekend Theater and Ash at Juanita's.

Graffiti's still impresses

It's a Italian standby in Little Rock.

Six weeks for basketball Razorbacks to turn it around

As if you needed further convincing that Arkansas Razorback basketball is a rudderless vessel with nary a trace of luck to keep it seaworthy, last week's pair of tilts probably did wonders to skew your perception.

Miss Universe

The Observer has been watching with some interest the goings-on in Colorado since they legalized marijuana for recreational usage. We're not planning on packing up the VW bus and heading out there any time soon, but we're keeping an eye on it, just because we know it could potentially be a similar boon someday to this state we love. There's a lot of black dirt in East Arkansas, and a lot of sunshine.

Creationism in the classroom in North Little Rock

A social studies class at Lakewood Middle School teaches religion with evolution.

Displaying restaurant inspections

I read your article titled "An Open Government to-do list" in the Jan. 23 issue with great interest. Regarding restaurant inspection scores, I want to tell you that Alabama has required posting of scores right next to the cash register since at least 1990.

From Kipling to Jones

Some people, including me at times, have trouble with evoke and invoke.

It was a bad week for Mark Darr (again)

It was also a bad week for Reggie Corbitt and Little Rock police stability. It was a good week for a bank merger and Arkansas education policy stability.

Mad Conductor comes to Vino's

Also, The Hudson Falcons come to White Water Tavern.

Only one cross on public property in Searcy?

Some Arkansans were surprised to hear that only one cross was found displayed on public property in Searcy, so identified the city has become with Republican right-wing politics.

'Awkward Moment' disguises rom-com in dude flick

Three men and their ladies.

Aim higher, Waltons

The well-to-do Walton family from Bentonville is not enamored of religious freedom either, especially as it relates to education.

The staff to nobody

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr slunk out of town last week after delivering a one-sentence resignation letter to Secretary of State Mark Martin. He petulantly refused to resign to the governor, whose job it is to declare the vacancy.

The poor, the private option and minority tyranny

To help us understand the fury over the "private option," food stamps and all the other initiatives to help the poor, may we channel good old J. Marion Futrell once more?

Democrats push back on Lamoureux's seizure of lt. gov.'s office

I've already said plenty about Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux's pre-emption of the office of lieutenant governor and his fiat that the $267,000 Gang of Four will continue to be employed at his direction, though still having nothing to do.

The expected disagreement over John Walker's legal fee

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headlined on page one today a sentence in a court filing that forecasts a development everyone had been expecting since parties reached an agreement on settling the Pulaski County desegregation case.

Clarke Tucker to announce for Little Rock House race

There's a new candidate in the race for state House District 35 held by term-limited Democrat John Edwards.

Arkansas Catholic delves into fracking debate and activism by priest, nuns

More public policy information in Arkansas Catholic. a five-article package of coverage of fracking — the exploration for oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing.

Democrats place a big bet on strategy to hold the Senate

The New York Times reports on an investment by the Democratic Party into a voter targeting strategy that, in short, aims to produce a better turnout among traditional constituencies — minorities, women — than typically expected in non-president election years.

Where to get your "Burger Fix" in Maumelle

While we don’t often find ourselves in Maumelle, we were please to find an eatery worth returning to. Burger Fix may not have enough pull to lure us to M-town regularly, but we’d certainly venture there again when the occasion presents itself.

The bubbling constitutional crisis — Lamoureux v. the Law

I keep hearing that it ain't over until it's over on Senate President Michael Lamoureux's breath-taking power grab in which he annexed the lieutenant governor's $265,000 staff and called it his own, with power to hire, fire and pay.

Private option update: nearing 100,000 covered under expanded insurance program

[embed-1] The number grows of people who'll be out of luck come the day Mrs. Dr. Missy Irvin and her gang of eight defeat reauthorization of the Private Option version of Obamacare.

Rasmussen poll gives edge to Cotton in U.S. Senate

A Rassmussen poll gives Tom Cotton a 45-40 edge over Sen. Mark Pryor in a recent poll with 10 percent undecided and 5 percent favoring another candidate.

Arkansas scores well on school funding fairness survey

A new study from the Education Law Center reports reasonably good findings for Arkansas on its study of fairness in school funding.

Thursday To-Do: Bob Schneider

If you've got a yen for contemporary funky/bluesy/rootsy pop singer/songwriters such as Ben Harper, Josh Ritter, Jack Johnson and the like and you have never listened to Austin, Texas, mainstay Bob Schneider, you'll wanna go ahead and get yourself down to Juanita's Thursday.

Democratic field cleared in House District 35 race

I wrote this morning about the entry of Little Rock lawyer Clarke Tucker in the race for an open seat to represent House District 35, which covers the Heights and a big stretch of the city west and south.

Snow and sip, at Gallery 26

Thaw out with multimedia work by Erin Lorenzen.

Tim Griffin considering race for lieutenant governor

Fancy this. U.S. Rep. Tiny Tim Griffin is thinking about making a race for lieutenant governor — this year.

Maumelle Art Group open house — in Little Rock

Artists collaborative now in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center.

Emily Wood here, Emily Wood there

At Thea and Justus Fine Art on Friday night.

More Friday art: Gaines and Coven at Stephano's

Artists' reception is 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Thursday To-Do: KEN mode

You've got to figure that a band from frozen-ass Winnipeg is just gonna be way gnarlier and tougher than a band from some sun-kissed tropical clime where people wear tank tops and flip-flops year-round.

An early open line: Outlet mall, Razorback basketball, more

Still cold. Still not much else to report.

Gathr Film Series begins tonight with '12 O'Clock Boys'

The Ron Robinson Theater begins a new film series tonight with a screening of 12 O'Clock Boys, filmmaker Lotfy Nathan's hypnotic 2013 documentary highlighting Baltimore's dirt-bike subculture.

Mail fraud charges added against former Arkansas Treausurer Martha Shoffner

The federal government stacked 10 new mail fraud charges today on former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner, these for allegedly transferring campaign contributions to her personal bank account.

Pleased with Pei Wei

It's been a long day — the office was crazy, the commute horrendous, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is fire up the stove and cook dinner.

Snow in the afternoon forecast

Here's an early morning reading on today's potential snow from Shara Brazear, spokesman for the North Little Rock School District:

Separate and unequal schools: The trend continues

Several sent me a link to a report on an effort by a wealthier portion of Baton Rouge, La., to seek to separate itself from the larger local school district — and from the poorer, blacker students.

Food Feedback Friday: soup, spaghetti, and steamed buns

No better way to keep warm than to snuggle up with some of your favorite food from one of your favorite restaurants around town. If you’ve been able to brave the elements this week, getting out there to chow down, we’d love to hear what you’re eating.

A Democrat lives in Benton County

The Arkansas House has 100 seats and I don't intend to keep up with all the campaigns for those seats, except in the broader picture of Democratic Party efforts to recruit sufficient forces to attempt to win back a majority, which Republicans currently hold with 51 seats.

Driver found shot to death on Stagecoach Road

Jon Allen, 29, of 5106 Nancy Court, was found shot to death in his car about 10:20 p.m. last night in the 5800 block of Stagecoach Road.

Another poll puts Pryor behind Cotton

Another robopoll puts Sen. Mark Pryor behind Republican Tom Cotton in the race for U.S. Senate, this time by six points.

The 'office' of lieutenant governor

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page said today that because the office of lieutenant governor has constitutional status, its four employees should remain on the taxpayer teat so that the "office" may be maintained, even if there is no officeholder.

John Willis wins Round 2 of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Little Rock's John Willis won the second round of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase last night at Stickyz.

Trailer: David Gordon Green's 'Joe'

Here's the first look at the trailer for David Gordon Green's "Joe," his adaptation of the book by the great Larry Brown.

Pulaski schools close early

Better safe than sorry. Ask Atlanta.

New Shoffner indictment released

The U.S. attorney's office has provided a copy of the new indictment against former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner which added 10 mail fraud counts to earlier extortion charges.

Waiver of fund-raising ban in House apparently has been shelved

Gabe Holmstrom, chief of staff of the House of Representatives, responded to my question about tips that a proposal to suspend a rule prohibiting 

Rasmussen poll: Ross leads Hutchinson

How about this. A new poll from Rasmussen has Democrat Mike Ross leading Republican Asa Hutchinson in the race for governor, 44-41.

LR sewer worker's firing notice cites verbal abuse, drinking, work on camper

New reasons for the firing of Stan Miller, the Little Rock Wastewater Utility operations manager.

The Lt. Gov's Office Has Never Gotten Such Attention Edition

Michael Lamoureux and the staff of the former lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin’s interest in running for lieutenant governor, Mike Ross’s plan to cut income taxes, new charges against Martha Shoffner, plans for a medical school at ASU and a compelling state House race in Little Rock—all covered this week.

Sunday Night: An Evening with the Peter Martin Trio

This Sunday night at 7, jazz pianist Peter Martin will play at South on Main alongside Hot Springs bassist Bill Huntington and New Orleans drummer Geoff Clapp.

The open snow line

Snowing your way yet? I'm on the lookout.

No honor among Republicans: New Yorker 'knifed in back' by Tom Cotton gives him $1,000

An article in the New York Daily News today gives, if nothing else, an example of how Republican Party dogmatism conquers all, including common sense and demonstrable damage to a congressman's own constituents.

Government action sought on propane price spike

Arkansas's U.S. senators have joined others in seeking federal help because of difficulties faced, particularly in rural areas, because a sharp rise in the price of propane.

Snowfall creates Atlanta Jr. gridlock in Little Rock

Like a lot of people, I drove home around 5:30 p.m. Friday with a few snowflakes blowing downtown.

Two jump from I-30 bridge over Red River to avoid truck, one still missing

This just in from State Police: Arkansas State Troopers and emergency services crews are at the Red River Bridge along I-30 west of Hope this morning searching for one of two individuals who jumped from the bridge earlier today.

Little Rock weather update; plows at work, some streets closed

The city of Little Rock reports on closed streets and snow clearance work: "City of Little Rock staff is working around the clock to get streets cleared and to keep residents safe.

The human rights open line

Here's an early open line. News note:

Do a good deed: Buy some Girl Scout cookies

My friend Sybil Hampton — one of a cadre of readers who keep me supplied with ideas from around the web and world — passed along a link to an an article in The Nation that's worth sharing.

Arkansas couple in ACLU's Big Gay Wedding contest

Heres some more participatory fun for a slow Sunday morning. The ACLU is sponsoring a contest — My Big Gay 

Legislature convenes Monday as 100,000 newly insured watch

Stephens Media's advance look at the legislative session boils down to the same simple question:

Fearless forecast: Tim Griffin will run for lieutenant governor

I listened to the Tim Griffin Radio Show on the Buzz this morning while driving to the grocery store.

The open line Scripture lesson; plus the House lesson for the Arkansas Senate

As all eyes and ears turn again to the weathermen, I throw open an open line.

Diane Blair's papers produce trove of insight on Hillary Clinton

This story dropped last night, but should set off a round of ceaseless re-examination. The Washington Free Beacon, an on-line source of news and comment from a 

Could you live on the minimum wage?

The New York Times has an interactive feature in which you can plug in your basic living expenses and see how far the minimum wage ($8 in New York, $6.25 by Arkansas law for those not covered by the federal minimum) will go in covering it.

Tim Griffin to announce for lieutenant governor Thursday

A caller says Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin said on a radio show this morning that he'd announce Thursday his decision on entering the Republican primary for lieutenant governor — a race he once told Democrat-Gazette reporters multiple times he had no intention of making.

The private option: Meet a potential victim of the Tea Party Nine

If nine Tea Party senators (or 26 retrograde House members) defeat reauthorization of private option expansion of Medicaid under Obamcare, the toll will be tens of thousands of working poor Arkansans, stripped of health insurance they just received.

Little Rock police report one dead, one wounded in Asher nightclub altercation

The Little Rock Police Department says Brandon West, 27, of North Little Rock, was shot to death at the Quarter Note club at 4726 Asher Avenue about 1:40 a.m. this morning.

Attack on Common Core planned in fiscal session

Oh boy. Says here that opponents of the Common Core curriculum plan to introduce legislation to "defund" the education initiative.

Work by Danny Campbell at Mosaic Templars

Repurposed tires are Campbell's "Wonders."

Mixtape: Lil Futa's 'Alike Opposites'

Little Rock's Lil Futa says he plans to make a mixtape every month this year, and we are holding him to it.

Arkansas legislative session begins; also the gimmicks

The Arkansas legislature opened its fiscal session today with a pro forma quick beginning. Bills, along with the dozens of appropriation bills, include some renegates — the Common Core deterrent I mentioned earlier; an effort to do something to correct new feral hog legislation (which apparently may be considere

Mid-afternoon updates: A Supreme Court appointment and a vacillating gubernatorial candidate

Your turn as we wait for winter. Final thoughts:

Americans United challenges teaching of creationism in two Arkansas charter schools

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has written the Arkansas Education Department to object to the teaching of creationism in biology instruction at two charter a

Obama administration easing rules on implementation of Affordable Care Act

More pullback on enforcement of the new health law. This from CNN:

Arrest made in Forest Place apartment fire

After weeks of rumors, it would appear that an arrest has been made of a suspect in the string of arsons that did serious damage to the Forest Heights apartments on University Avenue.

Attorney general: Law doesn't provide cure for absentee voter who doesn't submit ID

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has issued a formal opiinion that says an absentee voter who fails to include the newly required proof of identification in a mail absentee has no opportunity to correct the omission.

The wintry open line

I'll leave you with the latest map from the National Weather Service. The line is open.

Clemons talks about "Conumdrum"

His metalwork show at UALR.

About that snow ….

Here's what the National Weather Service said about the disappearing snow forecast for Central Arkansas last night:

Would Republicans massage poll results? In Michigan and Louisiana, perhaps

Polling bias is a familiar topic, particularly among those trailing in polls. So, you expect Republicans to howl when a Democratic polling firm produces numbers they don't like and vice versa.

The staff for no one — a legal analysis of who's in charge of Darr's Dead Wood

I appreciate the situation in which Sen. Michael Lamoureux finds himself. He's working to pass the most significant public policy measure in years.

Dumas: The case for passing the private option with a simple majority vote

Ernest Dumas writes more valuable Arkansas political history today. In it he explains — and makes a plausible case — that everything you know about passing an Arkansas appropriation might be wrong.

Another Democrat into the fray in Benton County

No surrender yet. Word comes from the Democratic Party today of another legislative candidate in Benton County.

Citizens group objects to $10 million for charter school construction

Special treatment for charter schools continues as the Billionaire Boys Club rental of members of the legtislature continues to pay rewards.

Second location of EJ's Eats and Drinks coming to Hillcrest this spring

Glynda Tarpley, co-owner of EJ's Eats and Drinks at 523 Center Street, said that a second location of the restaurant will be coming to a space at 3604 Kavanaugh Blvd. this spring, hopefully in May or June.

UPDATE: Irrevelevant legislation and some action as the legislature gets cranking

Benji Hardy has rounded up the non-budget legislation filed so far for a legislative session nominally devoted only to fiscal issues.

Tom Cotton, in with extremists, as usual, on House budget talks

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Tom Cotton opposed House Speaker John Boehner's decison to have a clean debt ceiling bill.

Who's a big spender?

The Republican governors have rolled  out their ad attacking former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross a free-spending liberal, a tag that doesn't fit very well on the Blue Dog.

Jimmy Fallon ends show run with disgraceful Levon Helm tribute, Muppets

The final episode of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" aired Friday night, something I won't pretend to have known until a few minutes ago, and Fallon closed things out with a performance of "The Weight," starring himself in the role of the late, Arkansas-native Levon Helm and with The Muppets filling out the rest of the group.

Pryor: Urgency on vote on judicial nominations

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is pressing for a Senate vote this week to confirm two non-controversial judicial appointees in Arkansas — Circuit Judge Jay Moody for a district judgeship in Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville for a seat in the western district of Arkansas.

Artist talks: Kirsten Kindler, Dusty Mitchell

The Baum Gallery will host artists Kirsten Kindler and Dusty Mitchell in gallery talks this month. 

Discovery Channel comes to the 'Ozarks'

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Discovery Channel will premiere a new six-episode show on Feb. 25 about a family rivalry in Hardy, Arkansas, called "Clash of the Ozarks."

The open line: A comic opener

The line is open. Finishing up:

Republican candidate shuffle in race for lieutenant governor

Some movement at the lower reaches of Republican political candidacies. KFSM//KXNW reports that Rep. Debra Hobbs will drop out of the GOP primary race today for governor and run instead for lieutenant governor.

Hicks from the sticks: Arkansas hill people to figure in reality TV show

Do you check Rock Candy? If not, you'll find news there of another great moment for Arkansas in the national spotlight — a Hatfield-McCoy-stle reality show filmed around Har

Judge Griffen objects to new prison; draws criticism for "dog bite" rule requiring prison time

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen just doesn't operate in the shadows. Today he has distributed a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe objecting to plans to spend state money on new prison facilities.

Gilbert Baker, nursing homes, tort reform and the money trail in Arkansas politics

I was interested to hear over the weekend that former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker was a key money man in several political races this year.

Studying spring rolls with Red Kitchen Recipes

Local blogger Thanh Rasico is talking marinades and the best cut of beef in Little Rock.

State testing wrong fields near hog farm, opponents of operation say

A coalition of groups fighting the Cargill-backed hog feeder operation in the watershed of the Buffalo National River in Newton County issued a news release blasting the state's effort to monitor water quality in the area for testing property unaffected by spreading of hog manure.

Texas charter school operator pulls biology workbook after complaint of unconstitutional instruction

David Goins at Arkansas Matters reports that Responsive Education Solutions, a Texas-based operator of charter schools, has pulled a biology workbook from at least one school it operates in Arkansas because of a complaint that it unconstitutionally teaches religion (creationism) as science.

Westerman wraps himself in Razorback colors; will UA object?

State Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican candidate for 4th District Congress, is airing a commercial that features him in his days as a Razorback football player.

Coattails: Anybody have any?

Bill Clinton has sent a fund-raising appeal for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross. He remembers that a young Ross was a driver for him in his comeback 1982 gubernatorial campaign.

Kentucky judge gives gay couples another victory

A federal judge in Kentucky is the latest to say it's unconstitutional for a state not to recognize and treat equally a same-sex couple legally married in another state.

Movie adaptation of Mara Leveritt's 'Devil's Knot' gets a release date

"Devil's Knot," Atom Egoyan's adaptation of Arkansas Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt's book on the West Memphis 3, "Devil's Knot," arrives in theaters and on video on demand on May 9.

Courtway: UCA lobbyist Baker, as political fund-raiser, 'like any other state employee'

Tom Courtway, president of University of Central Arkansas, responded to my call about UCA lobbyist Gilbert Baker's busy work as a fund-raiser for political candidates.

Pryor's reward for helping Republicans: obstructionism

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of a handful of Democrats who declined to support the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to avoid filibuster

The midweek open line: Guns, politics, charter school handouts

The line is open. Topics: Concealed weapons on Baxter County road and bridge crew. Debt ceiling raised. Fight waged over charter school money.

Legislative panel approves special-language amendments to Private Option

A subcommittee of the Joint Budget Committee met this afternoon  special language  SPECIAL LANGUAGE