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July 3, 2014

Vol 22 • No 19

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America's worst politicians

Hatemongers, sleazeballs, blowhards, users and boozers, and horn dogs

Lyons: Media hating on Hillary Clinton

Exactly why the Washington press clique has always had it in for Hillary Clinton has never been entirely clear. Only that their collective sneer has been the single constant in her political career ever since she and Bill Clinton descended upon the capital from darkest Arkansas more than 20 years ago.

State ends fiscal year up slightly on tax take

State revenue was up slightly for the fiscal year ended June 30, but the latest month shows a decline against the same month in 2013.

Study touts economic benefit of expanding alcohol sales

The committee financed by Walmart and Kum & Go seeking elections to allow retail alcohol sales in Faulkner, Saline and Craighead counties commissioned a report from the University of Arkansas that touts the benefits of sales expansion.

Tom Cotton: "Mark Pryor thinks that faith is something that only happens on Sunday mornings."

In an interview with KNWA in Fayetteville, Rep. Tom Cotton commented on Sen. Mark Pryor's faith in response to a question about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case: "Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11:00 on Sunday mornings. That's when we worship but faith is what we live every single day." Pryor called it a "deeply personal attack...for him to question my faith is out of bounds." The Pryor campaign called on Cotton to apologize.

Stealth campaigning reaches the city board level

I mentioned recently that robocalling was reported several days ago to stir opposition to Little Rock City Board approval of a MAPCO gas station and convenience store at Third and Broadway, in the midst of a government corridor bracketed by a federal courthouse, City Hall, the County Courthouse and the under-renovation Robinson Auditorium.

Minimum raise campaign could fall short of valid signatures at first deadline, but leader optimistic

Steve Copley, chair of the Give Arkansas a Raise Now Coalition to raise the Arkansas minimum wage, tells me that the group has 75,000 signatures on the proposal to raise the $6.25-an-hour minimum wage to 

Post-Hobby Lobby: Now religionists want protection to discriminate against gays in employment

Hobby Lobby set the stage for this: Employers want the ability to discriminate against gay people in employment. They oppose the president's non-discrimination order for federal contractors.

Suspect linked to three robberies of same bank

Fox 16 reports that a Texas man arrested in the robbery of a Summit Bank branch in Benton is suspected of robbing the same bank in 2009 and 2011.

Jack Wagoner cover gets editorial comment, national attention

Little Rock lawyer Jack Wagoner gets an unsettling reaction to our cover story about the marriage equality lawyer. It prompts a police report and national media attention.

Picking apart the teachers' insurance "fix" just approved by the legislature

The crisis in the public school employee (PSE) insurance system is complicated. The politics behind it are complicated. The solutions just passed by the legislature to once again shore up the troubled fund — those are complicated, too. But the underlying reason behind the fund’s insolvency is simple: the public isn't paying enough for its share of PSE insurance.

Five carriers will sell policies on Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015; all expected to sell statewide

The Arkansas Insurance Department today announced that five companies plan to sell health insurance plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015, the second year for the regulated marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The issuers that have filed are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the national multi-state Blue Cross Blue Shield, Celtic Insurance Company (selling in Arkansas as Ambetter), and two companies owned by the parent company QualChoice Holdings: QualChoice Life and Health Insurance Company, Inc. and QCH Health Plan Inc.

Mount Ida man gets 60-month plea deal in fraud scheme

The U.S. attorney's office has announced that Steven Standridge, 57, of Mount Ida had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering and would receive 60 months in prison.

Todays' headlines and OPEN LINE: Faith and Tom Cotton, alcohol, minimum wage, guns in Target

Open line and today's video headlines: A discussion of Tom Cotton's attack on Mark Pryor's faith — another excuse to say the word Obama — leads..

Arkansas begins to grapple with climate change

New proposed EPA rule could dramatically impact state.

Reaganomics and climate change

At long last the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally decided what it wants to do about the carbon issue! The EPA has successfully regulated emissions of mercury and sulfur dioxide, but never before has it regulated carbon dioxide, and we've known about its greenhouse effects for over 30 years.

35 more Arkansas artists to watch

In the Delta Exhibition.

Oaklawn hosts Spa Blast

Also, Fourth of July festivities.

The Observer's guide to reporting

Even if you're smart enough to have chosen a profession other than Reporter, you might find something here of use.

Sprint, shoot, kill, hoot

Little more than mindless action in 'Transformers: Age of Extinction.'

Hooked on Lassis

Home of catfish we crave.

SCOTUS's digital revolution

In any number of high-profile cases considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the term finished up this week, the typical split — five conservatives and four liberals with the occasional wander across the divide by Justice Anthony Kennedy — predominated. Justices split and often issued biting opinions in cases involving corporations' mandatory coverage of contraceptives, caps on overall contributions to federal political candidates, town councils' kicking off meetings with sectarian prayers, and the mandatory payment of union fees by public sector employees.


Children perform a traditional dance at the LULAC Fun and Family Fiesta this past Saturday at the Clinton Presidential Center.

The Arkansas legislature punts

I wrote this before the Arkansas legislature convened Monday for a three-day session to do something about school employee insurance, provide money for prisons and halt, at least temporarily, an expansion by the Arkansas Lottery into video games like keno.

Hobby Lobby ruling politically crafted

There are legal decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have big political dimensions and then there are just big political decisions. The narrow decision allowing certain corporations to deny birth-control coverage for their women employees as required by federal law is one of the latter.

Obama all the time for Cotton

During his prepared remarks in a press conference in Little Rock on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton managed to say President Obama's name 14 times in four minutes. That's his campaign in a nutshell: Obama and Obamacare are destroying America.

Ask the Times: Has the Ron Robinson Theater stopped showing films?

Few cultural institutions open with the kind of goodwill and high expectations that the Ron Robinson Theater had leading into its official unveiling in January.

Juvenile to Club Elevations

Also, Bombay Harambee and Swampbird at White Water Tavern, Pops on the River at First Security Amphitheater, Marty Stuart at the Ozark Folk Center, the Arkansas Spectacular Gospel Concert at First Security Amphitheater, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss at the AMP and "Goonies" at Riverdale.

Jim Mize will have another

A night with the legendary Arkansas singer-songwriter.

A Half-Century of Tradition Still Pleases at Terri-Lynn's BBQ & Deli

Terri-Lynn’s BBQ & Deli on Rodney Parham has been quietly serving up their menu since 1959. Like many places in town, they have built a steady following by consistently providing quality food at a decent price.

UPDATE: Early morning shootings on South Main

Overnight TV reports are crackling with sketchy reports of two people wounded in shootings about 3 a.m. in the 1300 block of South Main, described variously as having occurred near Midtown Billiards or the EZ Mart across the street.

Coming soon to KATV, critic of CBS 'liberal bias'

Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson who hit headlines for remarks about liberal bias at the network has been hired by Sinclair Broadcasting (which has a reputation for conservative-tilted decisions). You'll be seeing her on KATV, a Sinclair outlet.

More tension in Arkansas Supreme Court chambers: Desire reported for lie detector tests to find leakers

Continuing reports of internal friction on the Arkansas Supreme Court now includes multiple sources saying two justices wanted to administer lie detector tests to court employees to find leakers.

Minimum wage petitioning resumes

I've learned this morning that petitions for an increase in the Arkansas minimum wage won't be submitted today, as had been expected, but will turned in July 7, the deadline.

Last night's 'Movies in the Park'

Skip Movies in the Park last night? You are apparently the only person in town who had that idea. River Market officials are reporting that over 7,000 attendees showed up for "Frozen."

Jobs, market, health security looking up: What an Obamanation

Economic indicators are looking strong and 6 million more people have health security thanks to new insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. How good would things be if we didn't have such a terrible president. (Snark intended.)

One dead, three injured in car-train wreck at Sweet Home

The sheriff's office said one person was killed and three were injured this morning when a Union Pacific train hit a car at a crossing at Highway 365 and Harper Road in the Sweet Home area south of Little Rock.

One killed in early morning wreck on I-630

Jaalen Watkins, 21, of Little Rock, was killed about 2 a.m. today in a wreck in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 630 near State Street.

Beebe finishes the job Huckabee started with pardon for Conway drug dealing conviction

Gov. Mike Beebe today recommended a pardon for a prominent Conway cattleman, William Lewis, whose sentence commutation by Gov. Mike Huckabee in 1997 created a political controversy.

The Stupid Things Tom Cotton Said Edition

This week’s special session of the Arkansas General Assembly, the stupid things Tom Cotton said this week, more drama at the Arkansas Supreme Court, more politicking around the proposal to build a Mapco in downtown Little Rock and the deadwood of the former lieutenant governor’s office drifting off to new opportunities — all covered on this week's edition.

The economy is on the rise and other headlines from today; plus an open line

Here's Max telling you what you missed if you haven't been reading the blog today. Plus, space for you talk amongst yourselves.

Supreme Court already expanding Hobby Lobby ruling

The women's sex organs-obsessed U.S. Supreme Court majority has already broken faith with its brand-new Hobby Lobby ruling and given further protection from U.S. law to institutions that don't believe women should have contraceptive coverage in health insurance policies. The women on the Supreme Court are furious.

Missing evidence in police brutality case costs Pope County $4,500

KARK reports that a federal judge has ordered Pope County to pay $4,500 in attorney fees in a police brutality lawsuit over conduct of law officers in Dover because evidence that should have existed from police recording devices was missing.

Independence Day: Independents don't rule

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan writes for Independence Day that the most despised Congress ever will be returned to office next year in largely its current form, event though independents are the biggest voter bloc in America, with Democrats next and Republicans trailing.

Food Feedback Friday: Fabulous Fourth Edition

Happy Birthday, America! We love you and all the delicious foods you have provided us. In honor of our wonderful nation, I think it would only be appropriate to eat copious amounts of celebratory food. Burgers, BBQ, and pie might be a nice way to start. Let's get to the feedback, mmmm-kay?

Hillcrest celebrates July 4

A neighborhood parade and the downhill Firecracker 5K got July 4 off to a red-white-and-cool start in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Little Rock.

Open line: News includes a 116-year-old and search for a killer

An open line includes news that the oldest living person in the U.S. celebrated her birthday today in Camden at age 116. State Police also are searching for a suspect in a Boone County slaying.

The fight for The Pill

The Obama administration is rushing to find alternatives to contraceptive coverage for women harmed by recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. It won't be easy.

Prairie Grove's pay phone gets national attention

The Prairie Grove Telephone Company's decision to revive its last pay phone booth — a victim of an errant SUV — has drawn the attention of the New York Times' traveling feature writer Dan Barry

Better pay is good for business

Here's more evidence from successful fast-food chains that paying better wages makes better employees, which is good for business.

The firecracker 500 open line

The Saturday night line includes a report from Little Rock police on illegal fireworks activity in the city limits over July 4. A lot.

SWLR homicide last night

LRPD reports a gunshot death about 10 p.m. Saturday at 8911 Victoria, off Baseline Road in Southwest Little Rock.

Out-of-state wineries lead applicants under new mail order wine law

Out-of-state wineries far outnumber Arkansas wineries in the number obtaining permits for mail order wine sales under a relatively new Arkansas law.

School groups criticize insurance 'fix'

John Lyon of Stephens Media rounds up the critical views of school groups of the legislature's recent "fix" to avoid another round of giant increases in health insurance premiums for school employees. Sen. Jim Hendren is again exposed as a hypocrite.

A MAPCO update: Predictions still say it won't pass

A social event last night provided me with some first-hand background from several related parties on the raging City Hall debate on the proposal to install a 24-hour MAPCO gas station and beer outlet within two blocks of the front steps of the Robinson Auditorium, where a $70 million renovation has begun. PREDICTION: The proposal can't pass, but eternal vigilance is required.

The crime-in-broad-daylight open line

The Sunday open line includes a theft report from the gym.

Hutchinson wouldn't push to shut hog operation in Buffalo watershed

Asa Hutchison, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, is trying to have it both ways on hog waste in the Buffalo River watershed — critical of the regulatory process that allowed it, but not wanting to do anything about existing operations.

New growler fill station at Colonial Wine is fantastic

With a change in Arkansas law, retail establishments are now installing growler fill stations to provide fresh beer outside a bar setting.

Statewide alcohol vote and minimum wage petitions filed

Petitions for statewide votes on state alcohol sales and an increase in the minimum wage were filed Monday with the Arkansas secretary of state. Medical marijuana initiatives won't make the ballot, backers have said.

Tom Cotton: Too extreme even for reddening Arkansas

New video from the Mark Pryor campaign underscores the potential local impact of Republican Rep. Tom Cotton's multiple votes against disaster aid funding,

Ob-gyn: Morning-after pills are not abortions

An ob/gyn explains why the types of birth control pills and devices Hobby Lobby doesn't want to provide for its employees through group health plans cannot be viewed as "abortifacients," or terminating life. For the fact-based community only.

New mixtape from Pepperboy and S. Ray, 'Hard 2 Cope'

Here is some more good and weird Little Rock rap from Pepperboy, who uses his new tape, "Hard 2 Cope," as an outlet to introduce S. Ray, just as he did last year with Yung Envy (what happened to Yung Envy?).

Carl Garner, long-time engineer at Greers Ferry Lake, dies at 99

William Carl Garner, resident engineer at Greers Ferry Lake for decades and namesake of its visitors center, died Sunday at 99

More apartments for downtown, these in SoMa corridor

Sixteen one- and two-bedroom apartments are being built at 13th and Louisiana, a block west of what is now a heartily reviving South Main commercial strip. Framing has begun and work should be finished in early 2015.

Baptist Health breaks ground for new hospital in Conway

Baptist Health broke ground today on a 37-acre site on the west side of Interstate 40 in Conway for a 96-bed hospital that will cost $130 million.

Today in Arkansas: Petitions filed, Asa walks a thin line and a new hospital for Conway

Max talks about the biggest news of the day in a video roundup: Groups trying to get proposals to raise the minimum wage and allow retail sale of alcohol in every county in the state have turned in their petitions. Asa Hutchinson tries to walk a fine line on the Hog farm in the Buffalo River watershed. A new hospital breaks ground in Conway. And more.

New music from BLACK PARTY, 'Falling'

One of the Times' most anticipated releases of the fall is "V O I D," the new tape by Malik Flint, aka BLACK PARTY, which is due out on August 14th. Here's the first official single, "Falling," which finds him getting all morose and bleakly honest over a self-produced beat that samples James Blake.

The growler open line

The line is open for public comment with good news — fresh draft beer is now for sale in Arkansas retail outlets.

Local option alcohol sales petitions filed in Craighead, Saline counties

Petitions for local option alcohol elections have been filed in Craighead and Saline counties. A group organizing these drives said petitions will be filed later for Faulkner County.

The Pie Hole now operational and putting out some fine pies

We reported that they were coming a while back. Well pie lovers, that time has arrived. Little Rock has its first mobile pie vendor—The Pie Hole truck is operational and rolling around our town.

That special legislative session: Folly begets more folly

Times columnist Ernest Dumas, who's seen a half-century of legislative sessions, sums up last week's three-day gathering. In short: It didn't provide a fix for any of the three items on the agenda: school employee health insurance, inadequate prisons or lottery games opposed by the Oaklawn slot machine parlor in Hot Springs.

Jonesboro, too, has the convenience store blues

Turns out protectors of downtown Little Rock fighting a giant MAPCO convenience store and gas station at Third and Broadway, have soul mates in Jonesboro. Residents of a historic neighborhood are fighting a Kum & Go.

Tom Cotton ripped: Holier than thou comment, hypocrite on student loans, 'cold fish'

The Senate campaign is tight and Tom Cotton suddenly has a lot to answer for: His holier-than-thou comments on Mark Pryor's religious faith; his hypocrisy on student loans and even his personality. A "cold fish," according to a new article in a national publication.

Hillary: Did her duty in 1975 rape case defense

Hillary Clinton has given her first interview this year on the subject of her court-appointed representation of an accused rapist in Fayetteville 39 years ago. Her story hasn't changed since it became an issue in her presidential race in 2008. She did her ethical duty as a lawyer to defend her client, though she hadn't wanted to represent him.

Lucero to release two-hour live album in August

Lucero, the beloved Memphis alt-country band fronted by Little Rock native Ben Nichols, will release their first-ever live album, "Live from Atlanta" on August 12. The album was recorded over three nights at Atlanta's Terminal West last November, and will be 2 CDs ($15) or 4 LPs ($34.99) with 32 songs, a "massive, career-spanning ... greatest hits collection," in their words. At two hours long, the goal was to simulate the real thing. You can pre-order the record now at their site.

Hillary helpers direct aid to Arkansas

Huffington Post reports that Arkansas is among the states receiving benefits from the Ready for Hillary PAC, which is laying groundwork for a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy.

Paying for the county jail: Cities resist Villines' big hike

Yesterday, in a closed session including Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, mayors and representatives from the business community (the shadow government of Little Rock), parties got closer to a compromise on a new contract for paying for county jail costs.

Legislators decide 11 years in prison on wrongful convictions undeserving of compensation

A legislative panel today reversed a $460,000 award to a man held in prison more than 11 years on a wrongful conviction on a drug charge. Justice?

Gay rights groups drop support for proposed employment legislation because of Supreme Court

Several major groups — American Civil Liberties Union; Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Lambda Legal; National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Transgender Law Center — have announced they no longer support the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act in its current form because there's too much risk that its exemption for religious organizations could be combined with the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling to legalize discrimination against gay people on putative religious grounds.

Death Row inmate dies of natural causes

Joe Dansby, 61, on Arkansas's Death Row for the 1992 slaying of a Nevada County couple, has died of natural causes in a Malvern hospital, the state Correction Department reported.

The sex-and-Rush-Limbaugh open line

The line is open. Final thoughts: An article in Slate on new social science research explains why conservatives like Rush Limbaugh get so mad about women having sex and seeking contraceptive coverage. It's all about control.

LR tech park to get site recommendation Wednesday

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority board will hear its investigator's specific recommendation for where the park should be located at Wednesday's meeting.

Pushing voters in the Senate race with 'polling'

Polling is incessant during the campaign season, particularly since the advent of automated polling. Some is legitimate opinion sounding. Some is aimed at determining what issues move voters, but it also serves a dual purpose of thinly disguised campaigning.

City Board politics underway with Kathy Webb fund-raiser

City Board politics begin to take shape. The mail brings an invite to a fund-raiser for former state Rep. Kathy Webb, who'll be running for Ward 3 director.

Innovation in health care under Obamacare includes single-payer experiment

Cheryl Smith, recruited from Utah to run Arkansas's health insurance marketplace, told legislators yesterday that they sky was the limit the state could take on seeking waivers for "innovative" ways to deliver coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She mentioned a single-payer experiment in Vermont, but — sadly — didn't suggest that here.

Stone's Throw announces expansion on first anniversary

Start-up nanobrewery celebrates its first year in business by announcing new equipment, new beers...and a block party.

Democrats in Senate introduce bill to overcome Hobby Lobby limits on contraceptive coverage

Democratic senators have introduced legislation to restore coverage of contraceptives for women with group health insurance policies offered by for-profit corporations.

State chamber lobbyist named to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Gov. Mike Beebe today appointed a former aide and current lobbyist for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce to a seat on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He continues a historic pattern of white male appointments to the commission, which oversees fishing and hunting in the state.

UPDATE: New polling shows edge for Tom Cotton

New polling by Impact Management, a Little Rock consulting firm led by former Arkansas Republican Party officials, has polled statewide issues and found a 47-43 edge for Tom Cotton over Mark Pryor in the race for Senate.

Press association to stream statewide candidate appearances Friday on web

The Arkansas Press Association has scheduled a full slate of appearances by candidates for statewide office at its convention Friday in Hot Springs. The public can watch on the web.

Hot Springs Film Fest names Lauren Wissot programming director

The increasingly prestigious Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, recently named an Academy Award qualifier (as we reported in February) and set to take place October 10-19, has named writer and film critic Lauren Wissot its new programming director.

The black vote in a red state produces Republican victory

This is only statistical confirmation of what has been obvious since runoff election night, but full stats now show a heavy vote from black Mississippi voters who typically vote overwhelmingly for Democrats gave Republican Sen. Thad Cochran his winning margin over a Tea Party challenger.

48 Hour Film Project screenings this weekend

In other film news: The 48 Hour Film Project, in which 30 teams competed to make a short film in two days last weekend, will be screening the completed films this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (beginning at 7 p.m. each night) at Ron Robinson Theater.

Three Clintons now contributing to the family foundation

The New York Times describes here how Chelsea Clinton is earning $75,000 for speeches, following in the footsteps of her parents, and directing the money to the family foundation.

The amazing drop in expected Medicare costs

More bad news for the Obamacare naysayers. There's been a dramatic drop in expected Medicare spending — $50 billion in savings this year against costs predicted four years ago.

First Edition, with The Casual Pleasures and Saeuce Millz

I'm headed to Nashville tomorrow morning and will be out of pocket for a few days, so here's a roundup of some good Little Rock music released this week so far. It's been a productive couple of days.

The open line, Wednesday news headlines and Bret Bielema's property tax

The open line and daily news summary. More later on Little Rock Tech Park talk.

Main Street block recommended for LR Tech Park: UPDATE

A consultant has made his recommendations for property to purchase for the Little Rock Tech Park.