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June 12, 2014

Vol 22 • No 16

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The story of Jason Woodring, the Arkansas power grid vandal

The FBI calls him a 'terrorist.'

Let's talk about the Little Rock School District

Max Brantley's column this week broaches the idea of a state takeover of the Little Rock School District and/or a change in district boundary lines in Pulaski County.

Ginsu Wives to release new EP in pill bottle form

Locals Ginsu Wives, who we noted in this week's paper will almost definitely give you nightmares, are playing a record release show on Saturday June 14 at White Water Tavern, and here's one more reason you should go: The EP, titled "Panic," will come in the form of a prescription bottle containing a pill-shaped USB flash drive that includes the EP in three formats, music videos for each track and other stuff. Check out the infomercial above. The album will be available online July 1 at Thick Syrup Records.

The death-by-stoning open line

An open line includes news of an Oklahoma legislative candidate who thinks it would be proper to execute homosexuals.

Little Rock Tech Park director to begin work in July

Brent Birch, the newly hired director of the Tech Park, will start work July 7. He'll work out of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce until the ARK Challenge wraps up at the end of the year when he'll move into the temporary space the tech park is subleasing on the first floor of the Block 2 Lofts building on Markham.

Big on Baja Grill

Food truck turned brick-and-mortar restaurant delights in the Heights.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Fight for your right to party edition

Play at home.

The line between frustration and salvation for Razorback baseball

It probably edged on the bounds of realism to expect much more from an essentially made-over Arkansas baseball team in 2014 than what the Razorbacks ended up giving us.

Arkansas schools deserve high-speed internet

Many Arkansas schools don't have sufficiently high-speed Internet. A task force of lawmakers, education officials and business leaders recently recommended that K-12 schools use the existing fiber optic network connecting Arkansas's public universities, the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON).

Far right hysteria

So the Bonnie and Clyde of the great Bundy ranch standoff thought they could start a national uprising by murdering two cops in a Las Vegas pizza joint. After executing Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo in the most cowardly way possible, would-be freedom fighters Jerad and Amanda Miller draped the officers' bodies with a Nazi flag and the "Don't Tread on Me" banner flown at Tea Party rallies, and left a note proclaiming a new American Revolution.

Nightrain covers GNR at Stickyz

Also, Alejandro Escovedo comes to Stickyz.

Drastic measures for Little Rock schools

It's time to think about radical steps for the Little Rock School District, including the possibility of state takeover. Current governance isn't working well and seems unlikely to get better.

Dave Jauss' last lesson

A UALR creative writing icon steps down.

Storm damage

Trees fell at the Historic Arkansas Museum last Friday after storms blew through downtown Little Rock. Damage could be seen all over downtown.

X-X-X: The Observer is feeling unlucky, punk

The Observer has been having a run of powerful bad luck recently. I won't get into exactly what, lest I call more down on my head along with the locusts, but trust me: It's been a rough couple weeks. Let's just say it variously involves a large tree, the recent Lear-strength hurricane that struck Little Rock, a guy damn near getting his lip shot off, a busted foot and the heaviest tube-type color TV ever made. Let's leave it at that.

Tom Cruise plays a perpetual Lazarus in 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Die and start again.

Chris Denny returns to Little Rock for show at Juanita's

Also, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, David Sedaris at Barnes and Noble, The Libras play The Beatles at White Water Tavern, Walter "Wolfman" Washington at Stickyz, Ginsu Wives and Vision Control at White Water Tavern and the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame induction at the Afterthought.

Arkansas Constitution supports equality

Three things struck me about your latest issue: All of the letters were signed by real people who do not claim to be "from the internet," the article about Rita Sklar was fun, and (last, but most important) the words of both Ernie Dumas and Judge Griffen still missed an important point in regard to the appeal of the ruling made by Judge Piazza.

'Shkspr' as live-action cartoon at The Rep

It's madcap.

Fair housing group testing rental bias in Little Rock

'Discrimination with a smile.'

Leave a soldier behind? Reagan didn't do it

Something about the tumult over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ought to worry everyone who ever put on the uniform of his or her country or contemplates ever doing it. It is the notion that only exemplary soldiers deserve the thanks of their countrymen or at least sufficient gratitude that the nation should take extraordinary steps to repatriate them when they fall into the clutches of the enemy.

The Double Wide, Arkansas Fresh Bakery, and Jonathan Wilkins' return to form

We caught up with Jonathan Wilkins at the Argenta Farmers Market with Arkansas Fresh Bakery. Follow Arkansas Fresh Bakery on Facebook where they post their weekly menu including Wilkins upcoming creations. Get there early, the good stuff won't last long.

The Aerospace Education Center: What if?

What if the Aerospace Education Center had been built in the River Market, as many wanted, rather than next to the airport? Just a thought as the airport prepares to demolish the now-vacant structure.

Tom Cotton waters Delta roots with Skype

Tom Cotton skips in-person attendance at Delta meeting, not surprising given his lack of support for Delta Regional Authority and other grassroots government program. Not too surprising in this context that Cotton has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, also dismissive of that "47 percent" helped by government programs.

Mike Ross issues a jobs plan

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Ross went to Fort Smith today to release a jobs plan.

Walton Family Foundation comes to rescue of new LR charter school

The Quest charter middle school will open in August in West Little Rock after a rocky regulatory road, thanks, we now know, to some financial help from the Walton Family Foundation, billion-dollar backers of charter school expansion.

Private option rolls continue to grow

A map tells the story of the very real personal hurdle if teabaggers stick to their gun and try to call the private option at any cost. The cost is people.

Another for the Delta: Angela Davis Johnson

Little Rock artist Angela Davis Johnson, whose painting "The Gathering: From Childhood to Reality" was accepted into the annual Delta Exhibition that opens June 27 at the Arkansas Arts Center, read the previous post here on Arkansas works in the Delta and sent along an image of her painting.

Tony Wood approved to lead state Education Department

As expected, the state Board of Education today approved Tony Wood as head of the state Education Department. He'd been recommended by Gov. Mike Beebe to succeed Tom Kimbrell, who left the job to become superintendent in Bryant. The Board also moved to return the Dollarway School District to local control.

Today in Arkansas: Drugs, violence and rock 'n' roll

[embed-1] Plus, Mike Ross's jobs plans, the future of the Little Rock School District and the Walton's bailout of Quest Charter school. 

Open line Thursday

The open line commences from a staff meeting at Flying Saucer.

Cooking with Capeo at Eggshells Kitchen Co.

Nestled right in middle of the Heights is Eggshells Kitchen Co. Eggshells bills itself as the "toy store for foodies." This is a very apt description: whether you are a cook, chef, griller or mixologist you will find something here that you need or never even knew you needed. But one of our favorite things they do is host cooking demonstrations featuring some of the finest food stars in the city.

How do you spell relief? Obamacare

A UAMS project to interview people about their experiences in getting new insurance coverage under Obamacare found problems in the signup process but relief at the outcome.

Repubican House candidate fined for illegal campaign contribution

The state Ethics Commission has fined David Ray Wallace of Leachville, a Republican candidate for House District 54, $500 and given him a letter of caution for taking a campaign contribution in excess of the $2,000 limit.

Tom Cotton a 'no' and proud of it

Participants in the Delta Grassroots Caucus asked a lot of questions of Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton yesterday and he owned up to his record in opposition to popular program after popular program.

Pryor brings in Bill Clinton for Delta caucus

Mark Pryor will speak in person to the Delta caucus at a meeting in Little Rock today and bring in a heavy hitter by a remote hookup — Bill Clinton. Game, set and match to Cotton's announcement of his endorsement yesterday by Mitt "47 percent" Romney.

Nate Bell declares departure after three terms

Nate Bell tweeted this morning that he couldn't afford to serve more than a third term in the legislature. If only.

Delta post No. 3: Katherine Rutter

So the word from artists whose work you'll see in the Arkansas Arts Center's Delta Exhibition keeps coming. The latest is from ambiguously figurative artist Katherine Rutter of Little Rock.

New music from The Canehill Engagement, 'Civilian Drag'

If you haven't bought your copy of the long-awaited debut single from The Canehilll Engagement, the Little Rock all-star league rock group featuring Burt Taggart from The Big Cats (etc.), Mulehead's Kevin Kerby, Jeremy Brasher and Brian Rodgers from The Moving Front and Jay Calhoun of Free Micah, you still have time. The 7", issued on gorgeous red vinyl, is shipping now from Max Recordings.

The grassroots campaign for legal marijuana

Legal marijuana campaign announces its effort to gather signatures by July 7 deadline.

Huffington at auction: "Earth"

Winslow sculptor Anita Huffington's work "Earth" sold at auction in New York recently for $8,125 (including the buyer's premium), a good bit more than the $3,000 to $5,000 estimate for the piece. Maybe it went to Crystal Bridges.

Asa and Ross at Delta caucus; On big issues, sharp differences

Some clear leadership on hot issues emerged at the Delta Grassroots Caucus today. Democrat Mike Ross gave full support to the private option and he's already endorsed a minimum wage increase. Republican Asa Hutchinson continued to dodge the private option question and essentially opposed the ballot initiative on a minimum wage increase.

Public meeting on widening of I-630, I-30 tomorrow

Randy Ort of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commission will meet with skeptical members of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods and other folks at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Hinton Resource Center, 12th and Pine streets, on the highway department's plan to widen I-630 and portions of I-30.

NY Post address change for Walton: Park Avenue

The New York Post, whose speculation that that Alice Walton had bought a $70 million pad on Fifth Avenue was reported by Eye Candy in April, now says our Walmart heiress has instead bought a more modest $25 million duplex at the 515 Park Ave. high-rise.

2nd Friday Art Night: Jansen, Sell, Gore, Wittenberg, Freeman ...

Arkansas Capital Corp. at 200 River Market Ave., the Historic Arkansas Museum, Gallery 221, the Old State House Museum, the Butler Center Galleries, Marriott Courtyard and the Thousand Words Gallery will be open 5-8 p.m. tonight for 2nd Friday Art Night, the downtown trolley-travel art event.

Food Feedback Friday: loud music, liquor tax, and Lulav

Food Feedback Friday y'all. Time to talk food.

Secretary of state staffer Alex Reed back at work

Mark Myers at the secretary of state's office says Alex Reed is no longer on leave but back working as internal communications director. He'd been responsible for external communications, but the job shifted after he got involved in controversy back in April.

`60s Little Rock pop, Australian TV, nostalgic fonts and Dolly Parton duets

Arkansas Times Recommends: `60s Little Rock pop, Australian TV, C.S. Lewis, nostalgic fonts and Dolly Parton duets

Beebe joins push for giving schools access to state broadband network

Gov. Mike Beebe weighed in today on the battle over a state law that prohibits schools from tying into a state system for broadband, leaving them to get the service for telecom companies. He wants the law changed.

Former UALR baseball coach hits web with locker room rant

Deadspin has posted an audio recording of a profane locker room rant attributed to Scott Norwood, who resigned Monday as UALR baseball coach.

2nd Friday Addendum: StudioMAIN

Oops! I somehow overlooked tonight's 2nd Friday event at StudioMAIN, 1423 Main St.: The unveiling of this year's UA architecture students designs in the annual Main Street Design Competition. Students were to design a SoMa Community Center and natatorium, aka a swimming pool, for the corner of South Main and Daisy Bates, according to StudioMAIN's Facebook page. Visitors tonight can vote on their favorite design.

The Friday night line; radio newsman Ron Breeding dies

The Friday night line is open. We close with news of the death of radio news veteran Ron Breeding.

The Shape Of Two Big Political Races Edition

Analysis of Tuesday’s primary election runoffs, political jousting at a big meeting of Southern leaders, the legislature and schools and new Southern Baptist Convention pres Ronnie Floyd — all on this week's edition.

Today in Arkansas: Sharp differences emerge in governor's race

[embed-1] As usual Max talks about the biggest news of the day: Mike Ross, Asa Hutchinson, Tom Cotton and Mark Pryor pitch to a group of Southern leaders; a controversy develops over a proposal to widen I-630; the group trying to get enough signatures to put marijuana legalization on the ballot has an uphill climb, and a Republican state legislative candidate plays the ignorance card to explain an ethics violation.

Quiz time: Could you cut it at P.F. Chang's in Rogers?

Today's amusement: Gawker has an item about a study guide and quiz for newly hired serves at the P.F. Chang's restaurant on Promenade Boulevard in Rogers.

FactCheck faults Tom Cotton's latest attack on Mark Pryor takes apart Tom Cotton's latest ad attack on Sen. Mark Pryor which depicts Pryor as a stooge for President Obama. By the Cotton standard, he's more of a party hack than Pryor.

Broadway convenience store not on City Board agenda this week

The controversial plan to put a convenience store at Third and Broadway downtown isn't on the City Board agenda this week. It's been delayed until July 1.

Not much. You? The line is open on gay discrimination

The line is open with a rueful look ahead at some anti-gay bigotry set to be rolled out at the Legislative Council Friday morning.

Life in the most religious states in the U.S., such as Arkansas

Edward Levi, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Chicago, has written for the Huffington Post about life in the 10 most religious states in the U.S. — Utah, Oklahoma and eight southern states including Arkansas.

Speaking of religion: Pagans stir a fuss in Beebe

The Seekers Temple, a pagan temple and store in Beebe, says the mayor and others in the town have been resistant to their ability to get established in the community, to the point that the priest has been arrested and prohibited from speaking at city council meetings.

Michelle Erickson at the Arts Center

Michelle Erickson, whose ceramic work is included in the Arkansas Arts Center's "Inciteful Clay" exhibition, will speak at 3 p.m. today in the Lecture Hall, part of the Friends of Contemporary Craft "Conversation" series.

UALR chancellor releases documents on baseball allegations, asks for independent investigation

UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson yesterday posted on-line a memo outlining the schools' response to allegations made about the baseball team, whose coach, Scott Norwood, resigned abruptly last week shortly before public release of a profanity-laced locker room outburst.

So David Sterling likes Obama and Pelosi politics after all

After a steady campaign of vilification of Leslie Rutledge, Republican attorney general candidate David Sterling has endorsed her. He's our hypocrite of the day.

The Sunday night open line; Father's Day with Walt Disney

An open line for Sunday night closes with a Father's Day memory.

The Dogtown Grand Tour: Taqueria y Carniceria Guadalajara

Next up on the tour is Taqueria y Carniceria Guadalajara, on Camp Robinson Rd in the Levy neighborhood of North Little Rock. I spent quite a few years in South Texas and I wondered if it could possibly compare to the taquerias I frequented there, but the constantly-packed parking lot soon convinced me to give it a shot. The rest is history. Guadalajara is now one of my favorite places around for quick, cheap, authentic Mexican food and a great experience.

The last gasp against equality: A Huckster shall lead them

The former Rev. Gov. Mike Huckabee joins the last-ditch fight to stop the advance of marriage equality. He wouldn't mind if you send him money if you support the cause.

Public office for sale; is it the new American way?

A single contribution of $3.6 million by an Illinois billionaire to a Republican candidate for governor raises the simple question: Where will the gusher of money in politics end?

A defense of President Obama

Paul Krugman makes the case for an Obama presidency more successful than many would credit. And that the federal debt has been overblown as an issue, which doesn't mean it won't be critical in coming elections.

Domestic violence in Berryville; searching for help for battered women

Melissa Jeltsen, writing for Huffington Post, relates how orders of protection didn't prevent the slaying of a Berryville woman, Laura Aceves, who'd been a repeat victim of abuse by a former boyfriend. The case is an illustration of efforts to find better ways to protect women from abusers.

Obama orders non-discrimination for LGBT employees on federal contracts

President Obama will extend employment discrimination protection to LGBT employees of federal contractors and subcontractors, an order that will cover such workers in Arkansas, one of several states that allows LGBT discrimination.

Photographers document historic Hotel Pines

The abandoned and crumbling Hotel Pines, designed by George R. Mann and featuring a two-story lobby, marble walls and a ballroom, is being documented by photographers and studied by architecture students. KUAR has the story this morning.

Razorback Foundation ran a deficit in most recent tax year: Severance, speaking fees cost millions

The most recent federal tax filing by the Razorback Foundation shows its expenses exceeded revenue in the year ending June 30, 2013 by more than $9 million. It also shows some $2.6 million in salary, severance and other payments to high-ranking officials and former coaches.

New video from Taylor Moon, 'Let It Go'

Little Rock's Taylor Moon, who we last posted about back in April, released a new video this afternoon, for "Let It Go," produced by Mach Soul. The clip finds her moodily loitering outside of a liquor store, brown-bagging it and barely visible in the neon — an appropriate vibe for an introspective r&b song with lyrics like "All I want to feel is nothing."

UPDATE: Sandy Hook massacre a hoax? Two Arkansas candidates seem to think so

A couple of candidates for Arkansas legislature have apparently bought into a conspiracy theory that the worst school slaughter in U.S. history was a hoax to advance the anti-gun cause. This is not a joke.

Today in Arkansas: Another victory for LGBT rights, but state politicians plan to fight against equality

Max talks about President Obama's plan to extend employment discrimination protection to LGBT employees of federal contractors and subcontractors, the Razorback Foundation running a deficit, a haunting story of domestic violence in Arkansas, UALR's investigation into former baseball coach Scott Norwood and more.

The Monday open line and money report

Here's an open line for a new week. Some news today on campaign fund-raising. Mike Ross leads in the governor's race bankroll. Walmart has put $600,000 into allowing alcohol sales in three growing counties.

Can Seyer save Savoy? New menu shows promise

Earlier this year, owner and investor Rush Harding (of RH Cuisine) recognized that something needed to be done with Savoy. If ever there was a time to bring out the culinary “big guns,” this was it…and that’s essentially what Harding has done. Denis Seyer, a locally beloved restauranteur, was brought on a chief consultant for RH Cuisine to assist with menu development. Only time will tell is Seyer is enough to save Savoy.

LR School Board president responds with note of hope on district situation

Little Rock School Board President Greg Adams has written an essay in response to my recent pessimistic column about the situation in the Little Rock School District. He cites progress and says the budget and political pressure the district faces should work in favor of action.

Voter ID laws' impact uncertain as midterm election approaches

Legal challeges continue against Voter ID laws as the midterm election approaches. A new study shows the laws — the work of an organized Republican effort nationwide — happen to be disproportionately applied in states with high minority voter participation.

'I'm warm, dammit.' Tom Cotton battles the charisma gap

Tom Cotton tries to sell a warmer image of himself to soften the terrible impact on Arkansas people of his voting record.

The annals of discrimination: An Arkansas legislator speaks

An Arkansas legislator, Stephen Meeks, in a Twitter discussion of same-sex marriage, equates it with bestiality and pedophilia.

Locked doors foil apparent bank robbery attempt

Tellers at a bank branch on University Avenue were able to lock bank doors before a man carrying a gun could enter. He fled.

Mike Ross goes after Asa Hutchinson on minimum wage increase

Mike Ross is for the ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage in Arkansas. Asa Hutchinson isn't. Now Ross is calling the Republican nominee on it.

Chicken in the hen house: Notes on the preservation front

Who says the Capitol Zoning District Commission is too ticky? All seem agreeable to building a chicken coop in the yard of a historic house in the Quapaw Quarter.

Right to counsel no protection for politically minded lawyers

A Washington Post article examines the political price paid by public defenders when they seek political office. No legal deed goes unpunished.

Read a rare interview with Charles Portis about his Arkansas days

Jay Jennings' invaluable Charles Portis collection "Escape Velocity" must have finally been published in the U.K., because the reviews are rolling in and, though universally positive, they sure can get strange. I'm sure the editor is to blame for this one, but the headline for The Spectator's review is particularly noxious: "There's so much mystery around Charles Portis that we're not even clear whether he’s alive." Journalism, etc.

Lawsuit challenges licensing standards for hair braiders

The Insitute for Justice, a libertarian legal organization, has filed a lawsuit in Arkansas challenging the requirement that people who work as hair braiders must first be licensed by the state Cosmetology Board.

New Damien Echols and Lorri Davis book 'Yours For Eternity' out today

"There comes a point when you realize that you might not have a lot of time left, and there's a lot of work to be done." That's what Lorri Davis told Arkansas Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt in an interview back in 2004, her first-ever public address. At the time, the Arkansas Supreme Court had just rejected Davis' husband Damien Echols' most recent appeal and she felt the situation was dire.

Name that Arkansas artist

In another installment of the irregular but widely lauded "Name that Arkansas artist," we offer as a clue that the painting shown won a prize in 2012.

The bear necessities open line

The Tuesday night line opens with a little wildlife photography.

Ludmila Pawlowska: Icons in Transformation

I visited St. Mark Episcopal Church's "Icons in Transformation" exhibit about a month ago and have been thinking about it since. Ludmila Pawlowska's exhibition of 150 works, many of them quite large, has traveled to churches and museums in Europe and the United States.

Today in Arkansas: Hutchinson, Ross battle over minimum wage

[embed-1] Also, Max talks about Tom Cotton's demeanor and voting record, the state legislature tinkering with the private option, a libertarian law firm going after Arkansas's regulatory schemes and nutty legislative candidates.

State officials announce details for planned health savings accounts and cost-sharing for private option

Lawmakers today got the first glimpse at details of the changes coming to the private option in 2015, including the creation of "Health Independence Accounts" and cost-sharing for beneficiaries below the poverty line.

State Police search for hit and run driver

Joy Duvall, 50, of Booneville was killed shortly before 10 p.m. last night while walking on the shoulder of Highway 23 about a half-mile south of Highway 10.

Arkansas: A preference for guns over knowledge?

Arkansas ranks No. 2 in the country in a ratio devised by the Washington Post comparing the number of gun dealers with the number of libraries and museums.

Can the state declare records secret?

It's a bad practice — and arguably illegal — when state officials strike agreements with private companies on what information they'll release from publicly maintained files. The case in point is about shipments of crude oil.

Hospitals feel the pain of Missouri's rejection of Obamacare

Here's an editorial from the Joplin, Mo., newspaper that links a reduction in jobs in the Mercy medical system to Missouri's refusal to take the Medicaid expansion provided under the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Patent Office rules against use of Redskins name as trademark

The U.S. Patent Office says the Washington Redskins' trademark should be canceled because it is disparaging to Native Americans. Let the debate begin.

Josiah Moody leaves Vino's, announces his own beer label

Long-time Vino's brewmaster Josiah Moody has announced his departure from the downtown brew pub in order to start his own beer label. Partnering with Oklahoma's Choc Brewing, Moody will be bottling his new "Moody Brews" brand within the next few weeks, and the new label will be distributed in Arkansas by Glidewell brewing.

Commission holds public hearing on banning new large hog farms in Buffalo River Watershed

The latest on a proposed ban on new controlled animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Buffalo National River Watershed. The proposed rules would only impact permitting for new operations, not C&H Hog Farm, the 6,500-hog facility in Mt. Judea near Big Creek, one of the largest tributaries of the Buffalo National River, raising concerns about environmental impacts. The coalition behind the proposed ban also continues to apply pressure on C&H, hoping that the farm will move out of the watershed. Photographer Kat Wilson took aerial photos of the farm and the surrounding watershed on a recent flyover tour.

Watch Matthew McConaughey announce the Oxford American Texas Music Issue

At a press conference Monday at the Continental Club in Austin, Matthew McConaughey was on hand to announce the annual Oxford American music issue, which will focus on Texas this year and is due out in December.