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June 19, 2014

Vol 22 • No 17

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The life and times of Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes — zydeco superstar, naturalist, full-time park ranger, former NFL player

One of the world's best zydeco musicians hails from Benton. How Sunpie Barnes followed his dreams to New Orleans.

Thanks to Oprah, Daniel Lilly walks 11 dogs at a time

In the latest edition of "Speak, Arkansas," in which everyday Arkansans tell their stories in their own words, we hear from Daniel Lilly, a professional dog-walker and familiar presence in the River Market district.

Information wants to be free: The legislative edition

A legislative committee heard a broad discussion of the Freedom of Information Act today from a panel in which I participated. Bipartisan agreement ensued that some improvements were in order.

North Little Rock to reopen the rocket slide

North Little Rock will again have a Rocket Slide as a premier playground attraction for kids in Burns Park. The earlier version, something of a city icon, was damaged by vandals earlier in the year.

Former senator and LR school board member John Riggs thinks state takeover a solution for schools

Add former Little Rock School Board President John Riggs to the ongoing discussion here about tough decisions facing the Little Rock School District. He's another who thinks a state takeover might be the only way to break through to positive changes.

Fact-checker says misleading claims continue in Hutchinson-Ross race

Fact checkers continue to find misleading or exaggerated claims in ads for the race between Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross.

The open line — former LR cop gets split verdict; Tom Cotton cozies up to the Kochs

The open line: Randall Robinson, former Little Rock cop, acquitted on drug charges, but convicted of lying to FBI. Tom Cotton gets included in secret Koch gathering and is exposed for plotting run for Senate as soon as he got to Congress.

Today in Arkansas: We're No. 2 ... when it comes to guns vs. libraries and museums

Also: a legislative committee meeting on the FOIA law, former school board member John Riggs thinks it's time to talk about the state taking over the LRSD, Burns Park plans to reopen the Rocket Slide and more.

UPDATE: Greyhound association declines prosecution in Arkansas dog case

A greyhound protective group reports that a greyhound racing industry group doesn't want to prosecute — and doesn't want that sentiment known — in a case of mistreated dogs found in Izard County.

Sonny Burgess' 85th birthday party at Ron Robinson

Also, Jazzlights in the Park at First Security Amphitheater, Night of the Proms at Verizon Arena, The Body at Vino's, Juneteenth at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Blake Shelton at Verizon and "The Trial" at Vino's.

The 1,000 eyes of Doc Mabuse

Avant-garde musician and builder of synths comes to Little Rock.

The beautiful game

Fans piled in to Dugan's Pub in downtown Little Rock to watch the U.S. soccer team defeat Ghana 2-1 in its World Cup opener.

Ross vs. Hutchinson: Clear choices

The general election is almost four months away but the major party candidates for governor last week gave voters ample ground to make a decision.

A hopeful view for Little Rock schools

I have long appreciated the balanced and fair reporting of the Arkansas Times and Max Brantley regarding public education in general and the Little Rock School District in particular. My perspective is, however, quite different from that recently expressed in Brantley's June 12 column about the present and future of the LRSD.

Frances Barger, 80 years and running fasting than you

Frances Barger doesn't make a big fuss over her running records. She says she's never been a real fast runner. She's even thinking of pitching some of her trophies and plaques, and keeping only the "special" ones in her display case.

Waiting for specifics in Obama's promise to extend LGBT rights

LGBT rights advocates celebrated Monday's news that President Obama is now committed to taking one step more toward a more inclusive America by signing an executive order in the near future extending employment discrimination protection to LGBT employees of federal contractors and subcontractors (approximately 28 million total workers fall in that category).

Speak, Arkansas: Daniel Lilly, the downtown dog walker

In the latest edition of "Speak, Arkansas," in which everyday Arkansans tell their stories in their own words, we hear from Daniel Lilly, a professional dog-walker and familiar presence in the River Market district. Find him at

Bar Louie goes broad

But largely succeeds.

Air Supply at Oaklawn

Also, Darius Rucker at AMP.

'Jump Street' goes to college

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return.

Something has to change

The LRSD has run off the rails and cannot right itself all the while the children suffer.

EPA rules mean clean air, not fewer jobs

The opening act is always shopworn and the ending is always a boring anticlimax, but the audience never fails to eat it up. It is the industry lobby's well-staged propaganda campaign against any new government effort to control, phase out or reform an activity that has proved harmful to the American people.

The strangler, Tom Cotton

Last week, participants in the Delta Grassroots Caucus meeting in Little Rock asked a lot of questions of Republican Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton via Skype and he owned up proudly to his record of opposition to popular program after popular program.

Iraq crisis inspires Chicken Little talk

Here's an amazing fact that most of the Chicken Little rhetoric about the crisis in Iraq fails to take into account: The city of Mosul, population 1.5 million, fell to ISIS insurgents because two divisions of Iraq's army (30,000 soldiers) shed their uniforms, abandoned their weapons, and fled from 800 Sunni religious extremists in pickup trucks.

New UALR survey finds a lack of basic 'financial literacy' among inmates

There could be a new front in the war on criminal recidivism: teaching inmates how to hold onto their money.

Bring home a taste of Tuscany with Bonta Toscana

Amy Bradley-Hole has developed a signature Tuscan garlic tomato sauce and is marketing her product under the name “Bonta Toscana.” Those customers who’ve had a chance to sample her product have been smitten by this addictive garlic sauce.

UPDATE: A clear issue in 2nd District: Minimum wage

Republican congressional candidate French Hill opposes any increase in the minimum wage. His Democratic opponent, Pat Hays, favors a modest phase-in of an increase in the state minimum. Country clubber French Hill seems more than a mite insensitive to the plight of working people who are paid a fraction in a year what it costs to join the place he plays golf.

This is a solution to teacher insurance problem?

The legislature apparently is nearing consensus among members on a "solution" to the teacher insurance crisis. It is no solution. It robs school districts of already budgeted money.

Former state Rep. John Miller died Wednesday at 85.

Former state Rep. John Miller of Melbourne died last night. He was immensely influential during his 40-year tenure, particularly in fiscal matters.

Asa Hutchinson takes a brave course on tax policy

What's this? The Republican candidate for governor is speaking ill of treasured chamber of commerce tax and corporate welfare giveaways?

Calling all cell phone photographers: 'Explore Arkansas' instagram show coming to Mugs Cafe

Mugs Cafe in Argenta is hosting an exhibition of Instagram photographs made by the members of @ArkMoPhs through July 17; catch them during regular cafe hours or at Argenta ArtWalk, 5-8 p.m. Friday, June 20.

Mavis Staples remembers Levon Helm and 'The Weight'

Big thanks to Stephen Koch for pointing me in the direction of this New Yorker blog post, in which Mavis Staples recalls The Staple Singers' performance of "The Weight" in Martin Scorsese's 1978 "The Last Waltz," a last minute addition to the film as they figured the concert had been, in Helm's words, "too lily-white and missing something crucial.”

March for Marriage draws modest crowd in Washington

Crowd extremely modest at the March for Marriage, a demonstration in favor of continued legal discrimination against gay people. The Washington march came along with new poll numbers that backed the small turnout — even opponents don't much care should marriage equality come to pass.

Arrest made in 2013 murder case

The Little Rock police say Cornelius Pittman, 25, was arrested in Chicago Wednesday on a capital murder warrant in the June 2013 fatal wounding of Lawrence Thomas, 39. Thomas was fatally wounded during a robbery last year.

Tom Cotton dodges the truth; and, worse, he passed up Bradley County tomatoes

Two black marks for Tom Cotton in one week. It's revealed that he was planning a run for Senate within days after arriving for his first term in Congress. Worse than that: He passed up the Pink Tomato Festival for a secret retreat with billionaires in California.

A special session: Maybe. And some questions about this group pushing for change in broadband law

Gov. Mike Beebe talks about the possibility of a special session. It's still in the "maybe" stage on school employee health insurance, prison financial aid, lottery changes and a state broadband network. But I do have some pressing questions about transparency of the group pushing to change the law on broadband delivery.

UPDATE: Ethics complaint filed against group seeking to block wet-dry vote

A group seeking to legalize alchol sales in Faulkner County has filed an ethics complaint against the group attacking to stop the measure.

The convenience store open line

The Thursday line is open. Finishing up is more opposition to a proposed convenience store downtown.

Today in Arkansas: special session coming?

Talk of a special session to shore up public employee insurance, Asa Hutchinson departing from Republican orthodoxy on corporate welfare, French Hill opposing minimum wage proposals and more — all covered on today's quick video news catchup.

Huckabee compares opposing same-sex marriage to fighting the Nazis

Mike Huckabee tries to appropriate Martin Luther King's Letter of Birmingham in service of fighting against same-sex marriage, analogizing those who stand against gay marriage to those who oppose the Nazis.

Food Feedback Friday: The joys of June

Welcome back to Food Feedback Friday, folks. We’re happy to have you here. I hope you’ll take a second and share with us some of the things you are eating this week…we always appreciate your input.

Wesley Clark: Big cheese

Former NATO commander Wesley Clark's service on the Little Rock Airport Commission pops up in the news periodically because some other commissioners chafe at his rare in-person attendance at meetings.

Marriage equality vote today; the real issue is separation of powers

Sen. Jason Rapert will get his Legislative Council vote today on a resolution endorsing discrimination against gay people in marriage and the resolution will pass overwhelmingly.

Bill Clinton is right — as usual

Former President Bill Clinton says candidates should worry more about helping the middle class than worrying about income inequality. These are words to live by in key Arkansas races this year.

Arkansas unemployment rate continues to decline

The unemployment rate in Arkansas in May was 6.4 percent, down from 6.6 percent the month before.

North Little Rock's Eddie Armstrong will lead House Democratic caucus

The House Democratic caucus this morning elected Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock as the new leader of the minority contingent, succeeding Greg Leding of Fayetteville. 

Ethics case against Judge Maggio continues

The state Ethics Commission held a closed-door hearing today on its staff investigation of an ethics complaint against Circuit Judge Mike Maggio over campaign contributions he'd received from PACs financed by

Legendary newsman Gene Wirges dies at 86

Gene Wirges, who fought the Conway County political machine as a Morrilton newspaperman, died Thursday at 86.

Legislative Council passes Rapert resolution against same-sex marriage and for judge punishment

As expected, the Arkansas Legislative Council easily approved Sen. Jason Rapert's resolution endorsing Arkansas's constitutional discrimination against gay couples in marriage. It includes encouragement of legislative action to prevent judges from negating the "will of the people."

Prostitution ring busted in Fayetteville

You perhaps will be shocked to learn that there are escort services in Fayetteville in which you may hire a woman to come to your room and have sex.

University of Arkansas responds to latest Hillary records hit

You've perhaps read that the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, is raising sand because it was denied visiting privileges at the University of Arkansas archives for unpermitted use of material on Hillary Clintonn.

Catholic bishop joins push to enroll people in Arkansas's private option

The Arkansas legislature took the crazy step of approving the private option version of Medicaid expansion while also preventing government from publicizing its available (preparatory Rep. Nate Bell said to killing Obamacare altogether.)

School Board member Jody Carreiro will seek re-election

Little Rock School Board member Jody Carreiro, who drew a challenge recently from district parent Jim Ross, announced today that he would seek re-election to the Zone 5 seat in September.

Today in Arkansas: History won't remember Jason Rapert and Mike Huckabee favorably

On today's news wrapup: Sen. Jason Rapert's resolution to endorse discrimination, Mike Huckabee's insane comparison of the drive to same-sex marriage to Nazi Germany, Mike Maggio in front of the the Ethics Commission and more.

Detective fiction, Charlie Rich, Krautrock and 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'

I would like to recommend Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache mystery series. No, no one is flayed. There are no sadistic psychopaths who drive around with battery cables and a battery in back that they don't use on the car. Instead, there is the snowy Canadian woods, a small town where folks are always gathered around roaring fireplaces swilling whiskey and watching the snow fall and eating the fabulous food served up by hilarious gay restaurant owners, where a mean old poet mooches booze off everyone, where two of the main characters are painters.

The lying liars open line

It's Friday. The comment line is open.

The Mike Huckabee Is Finished Edition

Jason Rapert’s discriminatory dog and pony show, Mike Huckabee’s hopefully career killing speech at a marginal rally to oppose same-sex marriage, whether a special session is coming and what it’ll look like and the middle class as a campaign trope — all covered on this week's edition.

UALR brings in former NCAA official to review baseball

UALR has hired a consulting firm headed by a former NCAA compliance officer to make an independent review of allegations about the baseball program and former coach Scott Norwood.

See Europe with Mike Huckabee

CBN News brings word of a financial and political outreach by Mike Huckabee. He's peddling a trip to Europe — aimed at evangelical pastors from early Republican primary states Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. CBN's David Brody sees this as the Huckster building backing for a potential 2016 presidential run (not to mention a little something to help fill the ol' Huck coffers.)

Daily Show ridicules John Boozman on climate change

The Daily Show held climate deniers up to ridicule Thursday night and those skewered included Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, whose denial including citing his optometrist creds in his scientific view of the issue. Which leads to a little climate change eye exam by Jon Stewart.

Hillary Clinton book tour in Little Rock next Friday

Hillary Clinton will be in Little Rock next Friday, June 27, to sign copies of her new book, "Hard Choices." She's schedled to be at the Walmart at 700 Bowman Road from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Saturday night line: A shoutout for Ghana and Arkansas tomatoes

The line is open. A bow to the World Cup and also to the arrival of Arkansas fruit and vegetables in curb markets.

Equal rights for gay people imperiled by Arkansas judicial politics

John Lyon, writing for Stephens Med ia, makes clear what's afoot in Sen. Jason Rapert's little demagoguery at the Legislative Council last week with his resolution decrying Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling. It's all about intimidating the Arkansas Supreme Court. And emerging judicial politics throw quite a wrinkle in this.

The open line: Bitter enders, charter schools and a sane Republican

The Sunday night line is open. A roundup includes Koch-heads carrying their anti-Obamacare evangelizing to Utah; another academic proclaims charter schools a failure, and, from Texas, a sane Republican.

In Forrest City, Delta Q is doing it right

I hesitate to declare something “the best in the state,” as I know that’s a highly subjective proclamation, but Delta Q definitely needs to be in that discussion. And if a finer barbecue establishment does exist in Arkansas, I’ve yet to find it. To any barbecue devotee, plan to make the trip to Forrest City to see for yourself what Delta Q has to offer.

Speaking of judicial politics; 2016 Supreme Court politicking underway

The item yesterday about judicial politics brought some news of recent talk at the Arkansas Bar Association about potential candidacies for the Arkansas Supreme Court. Top of the list aggressively building contacts for the race was Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home the former Republican legislator.

The fight for equality: columnist calls out Walmart

Timothy Egan, writing for the New York Times, says that as long as Republicans stand in the way of anything beneficial to working people, such as an increae in the minimum wage, it will be left to private enterprise to fill the gap.

Live Review: Blake Shelton at the Verizon Arena

Since hitting the top of the charts with “Austin” back in 2001, Blake Shelton has worn a number of hats – even though he doesn’t wear a real hat much anymore. He’s a coach on NBC’s reality TV singing competition “The Voice,” he’s a popular co-host for the annual Academy of Country Music awards, he has deals with Pepsi and Pizza Hut and, of course, he’s the husband of country star Miranda Lambert.

McDaniel sues over schemes to seek business for chiropractors

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today sued several people and related companies for tactics in soliciting accident victims

EPA finds good news in Supreme Court ruling on greenhouse gas emissions

In the familiar 5-4 split, the U.S. Supreme Court today put some limits on past EPA efforts to restrict carbon dioxide emissions.

City board to meet on Broadway Bridge land contribution

The Little Rock City Board will have a special meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday to clean up an omission from land donation to the project to reconstruct the Broadway Bridge.

UPDATE: Special session coming with bills on insurance, prisons

Gov. Mike Beebe's office said today that consensus apparently had been reached on a temporary fix to avoid catastrophic increases in school employees health insurance and he'd call a special session to pass agreed legislation on insurance and increased money for prisons. UPDATE: The session will be next week and criticism of the "solution" is already being heard.

Feds recover $4 million from estate of doctor who overbilled Medicare

The U.S. attorney's office announced today that it had recovered more than $4 million in property from the estate of Dr. Stacey Johnson, a Baxter County cardiologist who had a medical practice and outpatient surgery center in Mountain Home from 1980 to 2009.

Today in Arkansas: Will future elections sway Arkansas Supreme Court justices in marriage equality case?

Today on "Max Tells You What's Going On": It looks like a the Arkansas legislature will hold a special session to shore up the public school employee insurance fund. Will Arkansas Supreme Court justices be wary of overturning the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage because of political considerations? The New York Times slaps down Walmart for paying low wages. And the notice for bids for replacing the Broadway Bridge goes out this week; that's bad news for downtown Little Rock.

Rogers man gets 100 months in federal prison in fraud scheme

James W. Bolt, 61, of Rogers, has been sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for a $2.5 million fraud scheme, the U.S. attorney's office announced.

New video from Goon des Garcons, 'How It Happen?'

Here's the latest clip from Little Rock's Goon des Garcons (of Young Gods of America, which they are now calling a "Creative Agency"), for "How It Happen?" off last month's "Meanwhile" EP. It's a tribute to downtown Little Rock: Warehouse Liquor makes a prominent appearance, as does the Clinton Center

The oppo research and weird endorsement open line

An open line with an item about who did the recent UA researching on Hillary Clinton's role in a 39-year-old rape case.

Bill Clinton adds voice to program for gay rights activists

The New York Times reports that former President Bill Clinton is speaking further of his endorsement of the movement for gay rights, an evolution like that of his wife.

Hillary Clinton book tour location change

The website for Hillary Clinton's book tour had originally said her stop Friday in Little Rock would be at the Walmart on Bowman Road. It was announced today the location had changed. It will be at the Chenal Walmart Supercenter at 19301 Cantrell Road

Technical difficulties

Technical difficulties this morning. Sorry.

Little Rock economic conditions improving says Federal Reserve

The quarterly Burgundy Book of the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis indicates modestly positive views on the economy in Little Rock. Two-thirds believe 2014 will be better than 2013. The unemployment rate was done; payroll growth was up.

Pratt Family Salsa brings the heat

Pratt Family Salsa mix can give you fresh salsa at any time — just add tomatoes. But with this mix, you're getting far more than just salsa, you're getting a spice mix that will become a staple product in your cooking repertoire for multiple recipes.

Pagan church rebuffed in Beebe

A pagan church lost its bid before the Beebe City Council last night to get approval for a church in a residential neighborhood.

Democrats rally women; Marion Berry helping Jackie McPherson in 1st District

The Democratic Party will roundup big names from the past and 2014 candidates at a dinner Saturday at Cajun's Wharf focusing on women and issues important to them. It's being called the Jimmie Lou Fisher-Lottie Shackelford Dinner, after the former state official Fisher and Shackelford, a longtime party leader.

A historic site, but same old faces, for next week's special session.

The Old State House will have to be used for state House of Representative meetings next week because of a construction job in the regular chamber. Too bad the personnel won't change, too.

Cotton v. Pryor: Will voters understand the choice?

Ernie Dumas writes that Tom Cotton has a small-government, libertarian voting record second to none. Can he convince Arkansas voters who depend and enjoy many of the programs he wants to cut that it is in their best interest to do without?

ACLU says police use of military equipment heavily targets people of color

The ACLU has issued a new report finding that police use of military weapons and tactics have been disproportionately deployed against people of color. Little Rock is one of 20 cities highlighted in the report and police weaponry in Paragould also drew attention from the ACLU.

UPDATE: Prison releases details on murderer's escape

Prison officials say escaped killer Timothy Buffington broke into a locked safe room in a house on prison grounds to take a shotgun as he escaped from the Pine Bluff unit on Saturday. He remains at large.

Wrinkle on insurance bills slows call for special session

It would appear there's now some indication that there is no free lunch on the bill to reduce an expected increase in school employee health insurance. A wrinkle has slowed the call for a special session.

Rights group wants federal recognition for same-sex couples married in Arkansas

The Human Rights Campaign, led by Arkansas native Chad Griffin, has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to to ensure federal recognition of couples married in Arkansas during the week after Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling and before the state Supreme Court stayed the order while the case was on appeal.

Plaintiffs ask judge to lift stay of ruling invalidating Voter ID law

Plaintiffs in the challenge of the 2013 Voter ID law have asked Circuit Judge Tim Fox to lift his stay of his ruling that struck down the law as unconstitutional. The case is on appeal and plaintiffs — represented by the ACLU and the Arkansas Public Law Center — want it not to be put in effect because of the potential for preventing voting in fall general election.

Ron Robinson to host preview screening of new Glen Campbell doc July 10

The Arkansas Motion Picture Institute will host a preview screening of the new documentary "I'll Be Me ... Glen Campbell" on July 10 at the Ron Robinson Theater, followed by a discussion will the filmmakers (including director James Keach) and members of the Campbell family.

Arkansas Republican says Hillary would 'probably get shot' in Arkansas. Democrats want him gone.

Arkansas Republican official says of HIllary Clinton's popularity in Arkansas: 'She'd probably get shot at the state line.' We remember him for a famous bogus degree he once claimed as a campaigner for Tim Griffin. Republicans are backing and filling but none has yet manned up and said this guy is a jerk and shouldn't hold party office.

Beebe calls special session; insurance hangup disappears

Gov. Mike Beebe announces the call of a special session to deal with school health insurance and prison funding. It will begin Monday. He's satisfied the legislation won't unconstitutionally impair school funding. I'm not so sure all school people agree with him.

Construction underway for outlet mall in Otter Creek

New England Development of Newton, Mass., announced in a release today that CDI Contractors of Little Rock would be the construction manager for the Outlets at Little Rock, an outlet mall planned for the Gateway Town Center at I-30 and I-430 in Otter Creek. It's projected to open in the summer of 2015.

Today in Arkansas: pagans lose out in Beebe

[embed-1] Today, Max explains why the plan to shore up public school employee insurance is only a short term fix (we recorded before the governor officially called the special session).

MAPCO tries to gussy up convenience store; fails

MAPCO is lobbying the Little Rock City Board hard to get approval for a gas station and convenience store at Third and Arch, with City Director Joan Adcock carrying their case to county officials who oppose the idea. Lipstick on a pig, Prosecutor Larry Jegley says.

Arkansas's shame, worst landlord-tenant law in the U.S.

Vice has a new video with news reporting on the medieval landlord-tenant law in Arkansas. It should be required viewing for legislators who are a century overdue in decriminalizing nonpayment of rent and requiring some minimum habitability of rental dwellings.