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Better Call Rusty

Better Call Rusty

August 16, 2018

Vol 44 • No 50

Read the print version

The saga of Rusty Cranford

The man in the middle of Arkansas's vast public corruption scandal.

Juicy Seafood lives up to its name

Bib up and enjoy the combos.

Targeting teachers

The Hutchinson administration has riled the teachers union in the Little Rock School District.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2018 football preview, part 3

It's hard to call any SEC schedule "favorable," to be sure, but Chad Morris' first hand of 12 games at the helm of the Arkansas football program this fall will be roughly the equivalent of a full house: The Razorbacks draw conference titans Alabama and LSU in Fayetteville, their only true road games are in Auburn, Ala.; Fort Collins, Co.; Starkville, Miss.; and Columbia, S.C.; and they won't be drawing the presumed best of the East Division.

Politics and the court

When they say that confirming a Supreme Court justice is about the Constitution, they mean it's about politics. It's always about politics, at least in the modern era.


A Q&A with Christine Donahue

Florence Foster Jenkins is in the ear of the beholder.

Having the abortion conversation

One potential game-changer on attitudes regarding abortion is a clear change in its legal status.

'Blackkklansman' delves deep, even as it entertains

It's Kkkomedy.

Back to school

Greetings students, parents and assembled faculty! It's that time again. Time to peel off the cockleburs and brush the dandelion floaties out of your hair, time to say your goodbyes to the kind folks at the Cajun Sno trailer for another year, pick off the last of the summer ticks and reacquaint yourself with shoes.

Kaleidoscope Film Festival continues

And much more.

Federal lawsuit challenges Arkansas Works

AG Rutledge sued and more.

Boy Named Banjo comes to Stickyz

Also, The Uh Huhs come to White Water Tavern.

Ad hominem

Everybody's favorite logical fallacy these days seems to be the argumentum ad hominem. That's where you make a personal attack on somebody's presumed motives instead of engaging the substance of what they've said. Sad to say, it's as prevalent on the political left as the right.

Your tax dollars — and power politics — at work UPDATE

The legislature's powerful review committee yesterday reportedly signed off on a lengthy list of contracts and other items for the University of Arkansas System, which would be routine except for one thing.

Satanic Temple arrives supported by Arkansas Christians; Rapert vows to defend 'will of the people'

The Satanic Temple is bringing its 8.5-foot Baphomet statue to the Capitol from 1 to 3 p.m. today to rally for religious pluralism and stand as an objection to the state's endorsement of religion through placement of the 10 Commandments monument backed by Sen. Jason Rapert. Rapert is perturbed.

Arguments filed in challenge to Issue One

Briefs have been filed this week in the lawsuit seeking to have Issue One, the limit on lawsuits and legislative usurpation of judicial power, removed from the ballot.

More candidates file for LR City Board, including an incumbent

New filings for Little Rock City Board:

Aretha Franklin dies at 76

Aretha Franklin flew home this morning.

Former CJRW CEO Ron Robinson dies at 75

Former Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods (CJRW) CEO Ron Robinson, 75, for whom the CALS Ron Robinson Theater was named, died Tuesday.

Monk Higgins' "Extra Soul Perception" reissued

"Extra Soul Perception," the best-known album by Conway County’s finest saxophone stylist, Monk Higgins, has been reissued.

"Rock Island Railroad in Arkansas" at next "Pen to Podium" lecture

Michael Hibblen, a longtime chronicler of the Rock Island Railroad, speaks about his new book Tuesday evening at the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

LRPD helicopter in crash with injuries

The Little Rock Police Department has sent a message on Twitter that an LRPD helicopter has crashed at 11400 Ironton Road and there are injuries.

Minimum wage increase certified for the ballot

Secretary of State Mark Martin has certified that the campaign to increase the minimum wage submitted sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Thursday's open line

The open line and daily news roundup, with Reality TV-style news all over.

Satan vs. the supremacists UPDATE

So it goes. The Satanic Temple unveils its statue for a rally in support of the First Amendment protection against state establishment of religion. Meanwhile, a tiny group of white supremacists appeared in opposition, lending comfort to Bro. Jason Rapert's Biblical slab on the back side of the Capitol.

New ownership for District Fare, H.A.M.'s Brandon Brown managing

Tomas Bohm, the owner of The Pantry and The Pantry Crest, has sold District Fare, his Hillcrest sandwich shop at 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd., to Little Rock restaurateur Daniel Bryant.

UA-Fort Smith chancellor leaving for South Dakota, interim named

Edward Serna will lead UA-FS will search for new chancellor is made.

The saga of Rusty Cranford

Don't miss David Ramsey's telling of the Rusty Cranford story and the Arkansas public corruption scandal in which he's a central figure. It is far from over, but this also gives you some personal insight to a man in the middle of the action.

State close to hiring marijuana permit consultant UPDATE

40/29 reports that the state is close to hiring a consultant to help evaluate 203 applications for the 32 permits to be awarded to dispense medical marijuana.

Legislative pay commission sets meeting

The Independent Citizens Commission that sets pay for state officials, including the legislature, will meet Sept. 11. Will they give lawmakers more money?

It's simple: Democrats support a higher wage for working poor, Republicans don't

It's easy to summarize reporting on political reaction to certification of a ballot issue to raise the minimum wage — Democratic candidates support it, Republican candidates don't.

Out In Arkansas Episode 9: With Ken & Melissa Ballard

Out in Arkansas’s hosts Traci Berry and Angie Bowen have casual talk about all the things because all the things are LGBTQ. This week Traci and Angie visit with two amazing parents, Melissa and Ken Ballard. Ken and Melissa’s love for their child went viral twice in two years ... just doing what good parents do, loving their kids. Give it a listen.

Unemployment rate drops in July

The unemployment rate in Arkansas in July was 3.7 percent, down from 3.8 percent the month before. The total number working declined slightly.

How charter schools and Asa Hutchinson's policies are hurting education everywhere in Arkansas

Here's a new voice writing about the damage being done to Arkansas education by the charter school movement and the Hutchinson administration's waiver of school standards.

Judge orders release of records on fired Fayetteville superintendent

A circuit judge today said the Fayetteville School District must release records related to the firing of Superintendent Matthew Wendt, 40/29 reports.

Police identify pilot in LRPD helicopter crash

The Little Rock Police Department has identified William Denio, a retired officer who was hired in 2012 as a civilian pilot, as pilot of the helicopter blown over in a strong wind Thursday in an accident that left him injured.

Little Rock City Board filing closes. Most interest in Ward 1 UPDATE

Filing for seats on the Little Rock City Board closed today with a five-way race for mayor and eight people trying to unseat Ward 1 Director Erma Hendrix.

Another one done — open line and news roundup

The week ends with a rare lack of new Trump headlines, but the day is young. Other news on the daily roundup. This is your open line.

Judge Griffen argues for dismissal of ethics case

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen made his argument today before the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that ethics charges against him related to a death penalty protest should be dismissed on 1st Amendment grounds. He said it was a case "about optics, not ethics."

No Small Talk, Ep. 26: Dillon Hupp of ACANSA, "The Red Shoes"

This week, we talk about “The Red Shoes,” the 1948 film that inspired Scorsese and Gene Kelly, and the next film up in the Arkansas Times Film Series. Also, Dillon Hupp, Executive Director of the ACANSA Arts Festival, stops by to talk about this year's lineup.

The Work Requirement Court Challenge Edition

The long-anticipated filing of a federal lawsuit challenging Arkansas’s work requirement rules for Medicaid recipients, a First Amendment showdown on the Capitol grounds and gun violence in Arkansas — all on this week's podcast.

Death reported in Malvern prison

The Correction Department is reporting what it calls an apparent suicide Thursday evening in the Ouachita River Correction unit in Malvern.

DHS confirms it's withholding personnel records on Leslie Rutledge

Chris Burks, the lawyer in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking personnel records of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge when she was a staff lawyer at the Department of Human Services, says DHS confirms the existence of records that have not been released in previous examinations of her record there.

Jerry Dhonau, former Gazette editorial page editor, dies at 83

Jerry Dhonau, a retired newspaperman whose career included reporting on the Little Rock school crisis and being editorial page editor of the Arkansas Gazette when it closed in 1991, has died. Ernest Dumas provides his colleague’s obituary.

Arkansas Week on public corruption and a plea for support for public interest journalism

Check out Benji Hardy talking about the corruption scandal covered in this week's cover story with Steve Barnes in a long segment on "Arkansas Week."

An open line

Tell us something.

The Family Council vs. Issue 1

Here's a storyline to watch: The Family Council, the conservative Christian group that's long fought against same-sex marriage and abortion rights, has come out heavy against Issue 1, the so-called "tort reform" ballot proposal that would limit damage awards in lawsuits. The messaging battle over Issue 1 has long been seen as one that pitted the deep pockets of the state Chamber of Commerce and big business in the state against the deep pockets of trial lawyers. Could the Family Council's truck with evangelicals tip the scales?

Legislative meddling in UA job further exposed

More gas from the legislative swamp in UA job meddling.

Four overnight shootings in Little Rock

The LRPD was busy last night and this morning.

The John Lewis open line

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Civil Rights hero, gave a rousing speech today at a rally for Clarke Tucker, who's hoping to join Lewis in Congress next year, at Philander Smith College. Also, here's an open line.

A question for French Hill

Who’ll rally French Hill’s troops?

Forecasting the House

Polls! Forecasts! Predictions! Oh My!

Tyson to buy chicken-nugget maker Keystone Foods in $2.16 billion deal

Springdale-based Tyson Foods announced today that it is acquiring Keystone Foods, a major supplier for McDonald's, for $2.16 billion in cash.

Severe weather predicted for Eastern Arkansas

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for much of the state today and tonight, with the northeast corner of the state getting hit hardest.

Kentucky governor's lawsuit against his own citizens over Medicaid work requirements dismissed

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's quixotic efforts to snatch health insurance away from poor Kentuckians was dealt another setback today when a federal judge in Frankfort, Ky., tossed out the governor's lawsuit against sixteen low-income Kentuckians. Meanwhile, the legal battle over Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas continues.

Warwick Sabin releases video in opposition to I-30 expansion

State Rep. Warwick Sabin today put out a 2-minute video on his opposition to the proposed I-30 expansion through the downtown corridor.

UA professor wins $3.4 million grant

A University of Arkansas professor and his team will develop a device to link solar power arrays to the national power grid thanks to a $3.4 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Brett Kavanaugh pushed Ken Starr to ask Bill Clinton about masturbation, orgasms, phone sex, oral sex, cigar sex, and more

Here are the ten naughty questions Brett Kavanaugh wanted to ask Bill Clinton.

Medicaid expansion could make ballot in Nebraska

Speaking of Medicaid expansion in red states, the Omaha World-Herald reports that the issue could make the ballot as a popular initiative in Nebraska this November.

Windgate gifts to Arts Center endow curatorial positions, support future: UPDATE

Arkansas Arts Center Interim Director Laine Harber announced today that the Windgate Charitable Foundation had made an "exciting gift" to endow the Arts Center's curatorial positions. John Brown, the senior adviser to the foundation, confirmed this afternoon that the curatorial endowment is part of a $5 million operating endowment granted the Arts Center at the end of 2017.

Lucero releases new video directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Michael Shannon

Jeff Nichols has a new movie out today. It's a short film inspired by Lucero's "Long Way Back Home," from the band's recently released ninth album, "Among the Ghosts."

UPDATE: Circuit judge rules that DHS must release Leslie Rutledge's personnel records

Word just in that Circuit Judge Tim Fox has ordered from the bench that the state's Department of Human Services must release the personnel files on Leslie Rutledge that have previously been hidden from public view.

Griffen ethics case will proceed to trial

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission Monday denied Judge Wendell Griffen's request to dismiss ethics charges against him. It also granted him only limited access to documents he'd sought related to the investigation.

Leslie Rutledge mounts the Trump defense

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is adopting the Donald Trump strategy on news of her lackluster history as a DHS lawyer: unleash a Tweetstorm and call it "fake news" This is another way to say "facts unflattering to the candidate." She protests too much.

Dogpatch deal appears to be unraveling

The Harrison Daily Times reports that an eviction suit has been filed against a company that had leased property above the old Dogpatch USA theme park. It alleges Heritage USA Ozarks Resort and the company owner David Hare haven't paid the rent.

New Rock the Culture: We want to be counted with Congressman John Lewis!

In this week’s episode, hosts Antwan Phillips and state Rep. Charles Blake provide perspective and conversation on the candidates running for the Little Rock Board of Directors, North Little Rock landing an Amazon facility, and Satanic Temple Rally at the state Capitol.

Trump administration pushes for dirtier air, Sierra Club protests, Rutledge cheers

Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Donald Trump, is forging ahead with a plan to roll back Obama-era efforts to reduce air pollution by electric power plants. It's a boon to the coal industry, for which Wheeler once lobbied. The Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club says it's bad news.

Ted Suhl's appeal has friend in conservative lawyer James Bopp

Ted Suhl, the former operator of behavioral health agencies in Arkansas who is now serving a federal prison sentence for bribing a state Human Services official, has picked up a prominent friend in his request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear his appeal. It's an organization founded by lawyer James Bopp, a legal architect of the Citizens United decision that opened the flow of corporate money into politics and other legal efforts to weaken disclosure requirements on political spending.

Casino group adds signatures

The group seeking to expand casino gambling in Arkansas reports it has gathered many more signatures on the proposal — if certified enough to qualify for the ballot.

Headlines and an open line

Here's the daily roundup of news and views, plus an open line. (Sorry about yesterday, Blog regulars.)

Manafort: Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. Cohen pleads. Omarosa has more tapes.

A jury has found Donald Trump's former campaign chair Paul Manafort guilty of eight felony charges but couldn't reach a verdict on 10 other counts in his fraud trial. The judge declared a mistrial on the 10. Also today: Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has entered a guilty plea. And Omarosa has tapes to play on Chris Matthews tonight. Fake news?

Update: Another indictment in Preferred Family Healthcare scandal

A former billing director for Preferred Family Healthcare has been charged with Medicaid fraud in Independence County.

Two more Trump felons? No biggie. There's an immigrant charged with murder

For the Trump fan base there are crimes and then there are crimes involving immigrants. But there's a wrinkle in efforts to turn attention on Manafort and Cohen to a Mexican charged with an Iowa woman's murder.

A warning about the extremist Tom Cotton

Sen. Tom Cotton will likely consider a rip of him by Charles Pierce of Esquire a badge of honor, but Pierce has his number, particularly on Cotton's  view of the need for a new war on drugs and to lock more people up.

UA-Little Rock unveils restored Joe Jones mural

UA-Little Rock held a reception for contributors last night to show the restored mural by social realist painter Joe Jones, the culmination of a 33-year story that Leslie Newell Peacock recounted in the Times seven years ago.

Rutledge assault on Affordable Care Act would end coverage for pre-existing conditions

ICYMI: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is part of a proud vanguard of Republican state lawyers attempting to scrap the entire  Affordable Care Act , including the popular requirement for coverage of pre-existing health conditions.

Newspaper delivery man shot in carjacking on his route

Howard Shelton, 60, was shot in the left leg and his car stolen while delivering newspapers on Bouresse Drive about 4:40 a.m. today.

The meaning of 'schools of innovation'

More school reporting from blogger Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay of Bella Vista on the growing use of waivers from school standards for not only charter schools but also schools operated by conventional school districts.

Trump coal plan will hit Arkansas with higher death rate. Thank Leslie Rutledge

Trump's coal plan, touted as a victory by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, will raise the death rate from air pollution and hit Arkansas harder than most other states.

Arkansas: Most sexist state in the country

Another accolade for Arkansas, courtesy of the Washington Post: We're the most sexist state in the country.

Jury convicts Gary Holmes in shooting death of three-year-old

KARK reports that a Pulaski Circuit Court jury has convicted Gary Holmes of first-degree murder and terroristic threatening in the fatal shooting of three-year-old Acen King.

MADE exhibit at Boswell-Mourot through September 1

MADE is an exhibit that brings together the work of four Arkansas artists of remarkable talent: Matthew Lopas (M), Alice Andrews (A), Dennis McCann (D) and Eleanor Dickinson (E). The show opened to a full house at Boswell-Mourot Fine Art on August 11, but there's still time to go and see it before it ends on September 1.

Wednesday report and open line

Leslie Rutledge has some explaining to do and more in the day's roundup of news and comment. Here's the open line.

Deputy AG says legislators under investigation for Medicaid fraud

"We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead," Warford said. "There’re legislators who were closely associated with Cranford. There’re legislators who were in business with Cranford. There’re legislators who were routinely receiving money for one thing or another from Cranford. Whether those transactions were illegal or not is all under investigation."

Updated: Rutledge releases personnel records sought in FOI lawsuit

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge this afternoon invited media to her office (no video cameras allowed) to release personnel records that a judge said the public was entitled to see of her time as a lawyer in the Children and Family Services Division of the Department of Human Services.