By way of easing back into the swing, here are observations on some of what appears to have happened at home while I was draining Italy’s Tuscany region of its Chianti supply:

1. Ronnie Brewer announced that he will offer himself up to the pros. He apparently surmises that NBA defenders aren’t as good as Bucknell’s.


2. Mike Huckabee declared that he won’t give routine heads-ups on press conferences and press releases to the Arkansas Times because the unabashedly liberal and partisan Little Rock weekly is not a real newspaper. It was petty and petulant — par, in other words, for what frequently is Wide Body No More’s course.

There comes a time in any lame duck’s career when it is time for him to go. Good instincts and progressive record aside, His Eternal Huffiness seems now to confront that time. Alas, his hyperbolic childishness has grown tiresome. He will not hie soon enough to Ouachita Baptist, the talk radio booth, the after-dinner circuit and, if it turns out that Americans have taken full leave of their senses, the White House.


3. Huckabee’s peevishness called attention to one of the two or three good things about Asa Hutchinson’s Republican candidacy to succeed him. It is that Hutchinson seems generally open to all media, to the point that his press secretary maintains a fairly readable daily blog on which he posts even critical commentaries.

The other good things about Asa’s campaign? One is that he wants to reform the General Improvement Fund. At the moment I can’t think of another.


4. Pitiable wannabes bickered in vigorously trivial combat for lieutenant governor, a ridiculous job that ought to be abolished. The Senate president pro tempore could preside over the Senate, and, actually, does already. The Legislature could invoke a kind of parliamentary system to name an acting governor in the event we lost the real one for one reason or another, and a special election could be called forthwith.

On the Democratic side, Mike Hathorn abuses the ethics regulatory process to make whining accusations about Bill Halter. On the Republican side, many-childrened Jim Holt tangles with Chuck Banks over a hateful bill the many-childrened guy couldn’t even begin to pass in the last session to throw state officials in jail if they fail to turn in pregnant illegal immigrants seeking prenatal care.

It all reminds me of a favorite pearl of wisdom: The bitterness of the competition increases as the stakes grow smaller.

5. The azaleas and tulip blooms, radiant when I left, vanished for another year. The redbud and dogwood merged into a lush green arbor, shading much of the yard from sunlight. Somehow, though, the grass has filled in and shot up. It must have rained quite a bit.


It’s good to be back, the hot race for lieutenant governor notwithstanding.

A postscript: One afternoon I was in a hotel bar in Bologna relieving myself of inner-city traffic pressures and looking at a live telecast of the Italian parliament. The bartender interpreted. The body was trying to elect new leadership after the recent and uncommonly close elections. The center-left coalition apparently succeeded by a scant vote or two, except that a couple of ballots for the prevailing fellow by the given name of Franco had been written by the given name of Francesco. They were in quite an uproar. The bartender was disgusted. I was transported to the Arkansas General Assembly, where a $300 million appropriation to settle the state’s liability in the Little Rock school case once failed to pass by a single vote because the late Nap Murphy could not find his voting machine key, which playful colleagues had hidden.