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June 14, 2018

Vol 44 • No 41

Read the print version

First, get a job

On June 1, with the blessing of the Trump administration, Arkansas became the first state in the 50-year history of the Medicaid program to impose a work requirement on certain beneficiaries.

Rusty Cranford enters guilty plea

Teach for America's name comes up

Inconsequential News Quiz: O'Lantern/Any Functional Adult in 2020!

Play at home!

The Arkansas swamp

The Arkansas Capitol is a fetid swamp of corruption and the bipartisan lack of concern tells you plenty.

Bill Frisell Trio in Fayetteville

Argenta Art Walk and Stifft Station PopUp, too


The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this week has me thinking about two things that just can't quit each other: politics and religion. Peas and carrots to some. Oil and water to others. Either way, to write on politics in the South is to write on religion in the South.


Nacho's world

Votanitas la moreliana looks out of place among the strip malls of the south end of Central Avenue in Hot Springs.

A new center

There's a new center in Arkansas politics, and abortion rights, Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, decriminalized marijuana and LGBTQ rights are its defining issues.

Young Valley at White Water

And Shannon Boshears at Copper Grill

The world is not you

'Kaala' a revolution unto itself.


If you can, cast your mind back to when you were very young and recall what it felt like to be separated from your mother and father.

Legislative boodlers

Which sounds like the best use of your taxpayer dollars: helping pay for medical care for unemployed people, or bribing and lobbying legislators and other government officials to bestow millions of your tax dollars on a corrupt organization that claims it helps poor people who have drug problems or disabilities?

Him, again

Now that President Trump has brought us peace in our time, can we all get back to stoning Bill Clinton? Because no Christian doctrine is so universally ignored among the influential tribe of Pundit-Americans as Jesus' admonition against sexual self-righteousness: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7)

Power surge

During that weird — and frankly, dull — era of college baseball where composite bats were being championed as the universal cure-all for player safety woes, Arkansas went to Omaha with a rather moribund offense but a considerably stout pitching staff.

The play's the thing

"Our producing artistic director, Rebekah Scallet, works very hard to give each season a theme," AST Executive Director Mary Ruth Marotte said. "This year it is 'Transformation' — the ways that our experiences shape who we are and who we become through our interactions."

Float your own boat

Greg Johnson's Little Rock Boat Builder Supply can make it happen, no experience needed.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders heading for White House exit? Fake news?

Will she stay or will she go?

Kentucky governor threatens to kill Medicaid without work rules

Pay attention because this has relevance in Arkansas. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says that if a lawsuit strikes down the state's requirement of work to receive Medicaid health coverage he'll end the program, throwing 500,000 people off insurance. What would Asa do in a similar situation?

Video released of DWI arrest of governor's son

After a delay in the Washington County prosecutor's office, the State Police yesterday released video and other material related to the May DWI arrest of William Asa Hutchinson III, the governor's son.

Jamming on the Clinton Center lawn

Food trucks, live music and beer are headed to the Clinton Presidential Center lawn for the East Village Street Jam on Saturday, June 16.

Morsels: Restaurant and food event news

B-Side gets a new name, Wildwood Feastival is Saturday, Ira's opening set for June 25.

HAM dinners: 'History is Served'

Tickets are now on sale for the third dinner in the Historic Arkansas Museum’s “History is Served” series, set for 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. July 26.

Today on Trump TV: Probes and tweets and prison

The reality TV presidency today: A lawsuit against the Trump Foundation; the long-awaited report on the FBI's Clinton investigation, and plenty of tweets:

Senate rolls out ethics ideas

Senate leaders today revealed ideas on ethics rules for the chamber in light of recent revelations about rampant corruption in the Arkansas legislature.

Thursday's open line

Here's the open line. And news and comment from legislative corruption to Trump stuff.

Troy Braswell favorite for federal judge opening in Little Rock

The Arkansas Bar Association is meeting in Hot Springs and the gathering has stirred the rumor mill about the nomination for a federal eastern district judgeship to succeed Leon Holmes, who took senior status in March. Put short odds on Circuit Judge Troy Braswell of Conway, multiple sources tell me.

Update: State board of education to review Friendship charter's bid for compressed Little Rock start date

The state board has yet to set a date on the review hearing, but it will likely happen quickly — possibly as early as Friday.

This takes the cake: the Bible endorses family breakup

Huckstering hits an unprecedented low.

Senators propose new ethics rules but won't call for resignation of colleague

Hendren said he felt confident that members would "step up and do the right thing" despite the difficulty of confronting a fellow member.

No to Issue 1. Justice delivers on Trent Garner

Retired Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, writing today for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial pages, obliterated alleged lawyer and senator Trent Garner's recent cheerleading for Issue 1. Also yesterday, a Supreme Court justice dove into the fray on Twitter.

Today's outrage: State inaction on Medicaid scandal

So the Arkansas Senate yesterday announced supposed improvements in an ethics code that has been unenforced for the 45 years I've worked in Arkansas. Meanwhile, the Senate, House and governor stand silent on the biggest scandal of the moment — disregard of a massive criminal enterprise from which the prime beneficiary still receives more than $40 million a year in taxpayer money.I refer to the healthcare provider, Preferred Family Healthcare Services, sitting fat thanks to criminal or unethical acts by at least one of its executives and many legislators.My take:

Trump wants you to sit up straight, just like in North Korea!

Donald Trump gave Fox and Friends an interview this morning and early reports suggest it was something. Lies were told, of course. Example: Democrats are to blame for jerking children from parents at the border, not his policy. Also: Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to a crime, has been treated unfairly. Also this: Trump continued his warm (and scary) talk about the dictatorial ways of the leader of North Korea, aka Little Rocketman.

Arkansas unemployment rate unchanged in May

The Arkansas unemployment rate in May held steady at 3.8 percent.

A trade war with China could be felt in Arkansas

Donald Trump is moving ahead with tariffs on China and it has vowed to retaliate. Arkansas could feel it.

Arkansas schools don't need no stinkin' journalism

High school journalism? Who needs it, the Arkansas Legislature decides.

If: A challenge from The Observer over the tragedy at the border

The Observer (most know him as David Koon) has written powerfully in the Times this week on the Trump- and Sessions-ordered cruelty at U.S. borders. His Bible and heart are more expansive than those of the Trump administration.

Last chance for tickets to Pig & Swig

The Arkansas Times second annual Pig and Swig event is tonight from 6 - 9p.m. at Heifer Village. Get your tickets before it's too late!

John Troutt, former publisher, dies at 88

John Troutt, the long-time publisher of the Jonesboro Sun, died Thursday night at 88, his family tells me.

Shepherd becomes House Speaker; defers ethics rule change questions

Shepherd would not say whether he'll push for similar changes in the House. "As with anything else, we’ll look to see what if any improvements we can make," he said.

No Small Talk, Ep. 20: Mutants of the Monster, "Unforgiven"

No Small Talk, Ep. 20: Mutants of the Monster, "Unforgiven." This week, Omaya and Stephanie chat with Christopher Terry (C.T.) of Rwake about the upcoming heavy music micro-festival, and take a look at the next film in the Arkansas Times Film Series, "Unforgiven."

Governor edges into ethics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke today to the Arkansas Bar Association and proposed a couple of small improvements in ethics law. He could have gone further.

Chief justice urges defeat of Issue 1

Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp says vote NO on Issue 1. He's right, of course.

TGIF and news

Here's the open line. Also today's news and comment.

Enrollment in Arkansas Works declined by 5,000 in May

The decrease was not due to the new work requirement that went into effect for some Arkansas Works recipients this month. Instead, it appears to be the result of DHS' ongoing efforts to remove beneficiaries it says are ineligible.

What took so long? A new legal problem for Sen. Hutchinson

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's mishandling of a lawsuit, subject of an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today, is old news to readers of the Arkansas Blog. A new lawsuit looks a little like rear-covering from here.

Pop down to the Stifft Station Popup today

The Stifft Station Popup, an experiment in encouraging more pedestrian use in the commercial district at West Markham and Kavanaugh, will bloom with entertainment today.

Delay in LR City Board-shrinking ordinance

City Director Erma Hendrix's proposed ordinance to eliminate the three at-large director seats on the 10-member Little Rock City Board has been deferred for consideration until July 2.

The wired Little Rock open line

Here's the Saturday open line and an item about a modest effort by the city of Little Rock to provide WiFi access in a public area.

Issue 1: An opponent issues a challenge

A lawyer issues a bounty for anyone who can prove misleading arguments in favor of Issue 1, the corporate amendment to squelch damage lawsuits.

The press copes with the Trump era — calling a lie a falsehood

The press is making progress in coping with a serial liar in the White House.

The Cheech and Chong Memorial Open line

A big pot bust in Little Rock is part of tonight's open line.

Freedom of choice: A new force for segregation in schools

An in-depth report here on evidence of segregation in charter schools from the nonpartisan Hechinger Report (also the basis of an NBC TV report last night).

At the U.S. border cages. Whatever the enclosure word preferred, the scene is Orwellian

The United States of America is treating families unspeakably at the border as a tactic to discourage asylum seekers. That's bad enough. But cages for children? Trump defenders have responded by playing word games.

VA pathologist fired; patient death may be linked

The Veterans Health Care Center in Fayetteville has announced the firing of a staff pathologist and also said a patient's death may be linked to a misdiagnosis.

Democratic candidate expands call for tougher ethics rules

Jared Henderson, the Democratic candidate for governor, today expanded on his call for tougher ethics rules in Arkansas with some new specific ideas.

Former senator Jake Files gets 18-month prison sentence

UPDATE: Federal Judge P.K. Holmes this morning sentenced former Republican Sen. Jake Files to 18 months in prison for scheming to divert state money into his own pocket and his failing construction company.

Hendrix now wants to take up city board ordinance Tuesday

City Director Erma Hendrix now says she wants to take up her ordinance to abolish three at-large city board seats Tuesday.

Democrats choose new House leaders

The House Democratic caucus has chosen Rep. Charles Blake of Little Rock as the new minority leader, succeeding Rep. David Whittaker of Fayetteville. Rep. LeAnne Burch of Monticello was chosen whip of the group.

Monday's open line. Children in cages

The open line and the daily news roundup, beginning with the caged concentration camps operated by the U.S. on our southern border.

Municipal League targets FOI law changes

The Arkansas Municipal League adopted four resolutions at its convention last week endorsing legislative changes in the state Freedom of Information Act. Some will not be well-received.

Judge again stops enforcement of state anti-abortion law

Federal Judge Kristine Baker has again temporarily stopped Arkansas from enforcing a law that ended medicial abortions in Arkansas.

Fayetteville boots its school superintendent

40/29 reports that the Fayetteville School Board Monday night ended its contract with Superintendent Matthew Wendt.

Clint Conque, former UCA coach, suspended from football job in Texas

Steve Sullivan provides the tip that Clint Conque, once head coach of the UCA football team, has been suspended as coach at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas.

Koch billions fight mass transit, including in Little Rock

The New York Times today reports on national efforts, including in Little Rock, by the Koch billionaires to kill tax support for public transit.

Family separations won't stop Asa from sending Guard to border. French Hill parrots Trump

Arkansas Republicans, including the governor and U.S. Rep. French Hill, remain unmoved by the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Corporate America pays big bucks to cozy up to Leslie Rutledge and other GOP AGs

For $125,000, you, too, can spend four days at a swanky South Carolina retreat with Leslie Rutledge and other Republican attorneys general.

Tom Cotton loses it over immigration. Sympathy for the children? Nada.

Tom Cotton has now been heard from on the separation of families at the border. Why it's just a plot by slave traders to sneak criminals into the U.S.  He's bonkers.

Casino amendment starts (misleading) advertising

Driving Arkansas Forward launched its first campaign advertisement today, encouraging Arkansas voters to make sure they can cast their ballots Nov. 6 for a measure that will spur economic growth and create jobs.

Marijuana applications need a recount

More evidence emerged today for the overwhelming case that the state Medical Marijuana Commission must rescore the applications to cultivate cannabis, preferably using an independent contractor such as a national accounting firm.

New episode of Rock the Culture podcast: “New Schools, Old Books”

In this week’s episode, we provide perspective and conversation on the Pulaski County Special School District’s vote against purchasing updated science textbooks, proposal for new charter school in Little Rock, and the Dunbar Community Center Semi-Pro Basketball League. We also discuss the importance and impact of one-on-one mentoring with Chrissy Chatham, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas.

Huckstering in the desert; a payday in Qatar

The Huckster mines some Qatari gold.

Tuesday: Open line and video

Open line and news roundup.

Children in crisis: The clergy weigh in

The Catholic bishop of Arkansas and a group of faith leaders, Faith Voices Arkansas, have called for an end to the Trump policy of separating children from parents at the border.

Morsels: Restaurant and food news

Noodle bar and a new Starbucks coming.

Another alley, another party, on Thursday

The Downtown Little Rock Partnership, which has been throwing parties in alleys downtown as a way to attract people to the neighborhoods, will host a party from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 21, in the alley next to the Museum of Discovery on President Clinton Avenue. The party is on a gravel lot accessible by the bridge to the Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center.

Westerman, once hard-line on immigrant children, breaks from Trump policy on the border

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, once one of the heartless in housing immigrant children in Arkansas, indicates even he thinks Trump has gone too far in separating children at the border.

Boozman joins Senate group letter calling for halt to family separation

Seung Min Kim, a Washington Post Capitol Hill reporter, Tweets that 13 senators, including Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, have written the Justice Department asking it to temporarily halt the zero tolerance policy that has led to separation of families at the border.

Arkansas GOP backs Trump lies on border policy

Whoot there it is. Arkansas Republican leader says the Democrats made Donald Trump take children from their parents.

Update: Senate approves tougher ethics rules for members

The changes passed the Senate on a voice vote. The only "No" came from Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), who told reporters later that he was concerned the rules were more cosmetic than substantive.

Found: Trump baby concentration camps

Might this finally convince people of the horror of the Trump decision to separate children from parents?

City Board kills ordinance to end at-large directors

As expected, the Little Rock City Board Tuesday night defeated Director Erma Hendrix's proposal to refer to voters an ordinance that would eliminate the three at-large city directors on the city board and go to a seven-member, ward-only board.

Steve Womack's budget is bad news for the old, poor and sick. Also: Tax-cut report card shows straight Fs.

Rep. Steve Womack, as chair of the House Budget Committee, took the lead yesterday in introducing a Republican budget plan aimed at fixing growing deficits. "A Brighter Future," the GOP is spinning it. He didn't mention that rising deficits were made worse by the tax cut for the rich he supported. Nor did he mention the pain his budget will cause millions of Americans.

The border crisis: Nine governors say no to Trump; reports arrive from baby concentration camps

Nine governors — two Republicans and seven Democrats — are refusing to send National Guard troops to "border protection" duty requested by Donald Trump. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is not among them. News of concentration camps for babies might grow the list today.

Homeland Security chief decides to eat Mexican; gets an earful from protesters

Protesters heckled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen when she dined out at a Washington restaurant Tuesday night. Out of all the restaurants in all of D.C., wouldn't you know she chose Mexican.

LR woman sues Louisville police over failures in rape investigation

Salisa Luster Harrison, who now lives in Little Rock, Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Louisville, Ky., alleging multiple failures by the Louisville police investigating a sexual assault of her more than 10 years ago.

Tucker objects to use of LRAFB for child detention

Clarke Tucker, the Democratic candidate for 2nd District Congress, stepped up his objections to Trump administration immigration policy today with a statement opposing use of Little Rock Air Force Base as a detention facility for children taken from parents at the border.

Capitol Zoning Commission to consider rules for AirBnB and similar rental operations

Because of complaints, the Capitol Zoning District Commission is considering a proposed rule to govern home rentals using such Internet outlets as AirBnB and VRBO.

Trump to fold on family separation, a tacit admission to weeks of lying. But watch out for complications.

Donald Trump has said he will sign an executive order ending the forced separation of children and parents at the border. It won't correct the harm done to children these last few weeks, which has included drugging them, according to a lawsuit.

Trump's fold on his family breakups leads the open line

The lying liar's fold is the lead, of course on today's video. Have at it on the open lnie.

With Trump, of course, there's a catch

So the heroic Donald Trump proposes a compromise to tearing families apart - jailing them indefinitely.

Another prison death under investigation

John Howell, 58, who was serving a life sentence for capital murder in Garland County, died shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday after being found unresponsive on the floor of his barracks at the Cummins Unit, a spokesman said.

LR charter school application withdrawn for this year

Friendship Aspire Academy has withdrawn its request to move up plans to open a charter school in Little Rock by a year to take advantage of a vacant building being remodeled by the Walton Family Foundation for another charter operator that withdrew.

Military lawyers drafted for border immigration duty

Rachel Maddow reported on MSNBC last night that the Justice Department had requested — and the Defense Department agreed — military lawyers to handle the crush of immigration work on the border. How about adding some Arkies on the temporary duty list?

At least two sites under consideration for immigrant housing in Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson revealed yesterday that a second unnamed location, in addition to Little Rock Air Force Base, was being considered for immigrant detention facilities.

Rutledge opponent hits her socializing with corporate interests

Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has criticized Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over recent reports of her participation at private meetings where corporate interests make big contributions to a political group she heads for access to state legal officers.

State Supreme Court reverses Griffen on marijuana growers, allowing commission's licensing awards to stand

The majority opinion cited separation of powers in its conclusion that Griffen erred, stating that the judicial branch should not take it upon itself to review "the day-to-day actions of the executive branch."

SupCo rules internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes

The Supreme Court ruled today that internet retailers, even if they have no physical presence in a state, may be required to collect sales taxes. The 5-4 ruling, reported in the The New York Times, which overruled a lower court finding in Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil Gorsuch.

Crawford crows on soybean exports; Desai notes prices have plummeted

1st District Congressman Rick Crawford's tweet that President Trump's tariffs raised soybean exports 21 percent is getting blasted by his Democratic opponent in the face of a drop in U.S. soybean export prices.

Train worker crushed in derailment at Port Authority

An 18-wheeler traveling west on Frazier Pike this morning hit a Little Rock Port Authority train and a spotter who'd leaped from the back of the train at the armless intersection was crushed when the train tipped over on him, police said.

Rep calls town hall meeting

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre will host an open public forum at 5:30 p.m. on June 26 to hear from audiences, donors and the community.

Proposed child holding site in Arkansas 5 miles from WWII Japanese-American internment camp

One big difference between Rohwer and today: The parents kept at Rohwer in World War II weren't separated from their children.

More suffering for children, from the U.S. Congress

Tomorrow, the U.S. House will vote on a Farm Bill that, like Arkansas Works, stiffens work requirements for recipients.

Thursday's headlines and open line

State Supreme Court reverses Griffen on marijuana growers; Proposed child holding sites in Arkansas; Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes.

Hutchinson, Henderson issue statements on Arkansas potentially housing immigrants

The gubernatorial candidates each issued statements on the feds tour of Arkansas facilities today to determine whether they could be used to house immigrant families.

Divided Ark. Supreme Court again backs state on use of sovereign immunity defense

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday reversed and dismissed a minimum-wage lawsuit against the state based on a sovereign immunity defense raised by the attorney general's office — even though the state had explicitly stated that it would not assert sovereign immunity when the suit first began. 

No Small Talk, Ep 21: Nate Powell

This week, we sit down with National Book Award-winning comic book artist Nate Powell and talk about his work on the "March" trilogy, 90s-era Little Rock punk and Powell's forthcoming graphic novel, "Come Again."