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Four more years!

Four more years!

January 30, 2013

Vol 39 • No 22

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Freedom riders

Hope reigns on the road to Obama's encore.

The anti-discrimination and Mindy McReady open line

The line is open. Final notes: * IF IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR VICCO, KY. WHY NOT LITTLE ROCK?

Damn Arkansan takes round one of Showcase

In midst of heartbreaking night, Fayetteville band shines through.

Perpetual Groove at Revolution

Also, Science After Dark, Bonnie Montgomery at White Water Tavern, Vanishing Islands at Midtown, "The One-Legged, Ass-Kickin' Benefit" at Stickyz, Joe Diffie at Juanita's and "Drumline Live" at UCA's Reynolds Hall.

Arkansas nurses concerned about NICU rules

Could require risky transport of infants.

Republicans still refuse to face reality

Now here's a worthy project: Speaking to the Republican National Committee recently, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that it was time for the GOP to "stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican party that talks like adults...We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We've had enough of that."

Obama's polarizing address

One of the most insightful works of political science in recent years is a book by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, "Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics."

Clergy lingo

"Chuck Fillay, a reverend at a church near the massage parlor, spoke in favor of the ordinance."

McDaniel's farewell

The 2014 race for governor was turned upside down Friday when Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced he wouldn't run for governor.

Dumas: The truth about guns

Americans engaged in heated debates over guns periodically from 1690 until today, and race was nearly always a provocation and usually the main one.


India's famous sacred cows are roughly handled compared to the reverential treatment given the Chamber of Commerce in this country.

American Iran?

Locally, freedom of religion has received some reinforcement. Little Rock city government has wisely decided to run a new homeless shelter itself, rather than pay a private religious group to do so.

Trapt at Revolution

Meshugga Klezmer Band at The Joint.

All in the family

Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.

Gun talk

It was a good week for a super project

Also a good week for a hypocrite. It was a bad week for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Bill Halter, women, communion thieves and Wesley Clark.

Lancaster: Just like Hitler

I remember in the famous book "Brave New World" how they worshipped Henry Ford where it had once been God, so they'd say "Oh Ford!" instead of "Oh God!" and on their Facebook and phone texts it would've been OMF instead of OMG. But Henry Ford never caught on as a deity so we still have OMG.

The good, the bad and the ugly

A week's worth of fodder from Razorback Country is akin to a Leone spaghetti western.

Big news

Gov. Mike Beebe and Big River Steel CEO John Correnti shake hands during a news conference Tuesday in which it was announced that Big River would build a $1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County.

'Circuit breaker' legal

When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.

Movie theater safety

Mason Christopher Mauldin, 1981-2013

Mason Mauldin was one of the first new faces The Observer met when he moved to Little Rock in late 2009.

Skip it

'Parker' a dud.

Rightward push

Isn't it interesting to watch the right scramble to try to turn the tide of history?

Mercado San Jose has it all

It's a one-stop shop.

Plotting the Arkansas governor's race rumor mill

Our wholly unscientific take on the likelihood of their candidacy and what sort of leader they'd be.

The morning report — drug testing, sexual discrimination

A roundup of the morning mail: * WHO WE GONNA DRUG TEST?: The U.S. attorney's office announced a guilty plea by a Little Rock medical clinic nurse who'd helped a clinic official illegally obtain hydrocodone (25,000 pills worth over time).

Big steel mill — how good a deal?

What's not to like about 500 good-paying jobs at a steel mill in an economically depressed part of the state, which was announced yesterday at the Capitol?

Wednesday: Trapt, Black Eyed Vermillion, 'Gee's Bend' and more

Trapt plays at Revolution Wednesday night.

Who pays taxes?

Thursday To-Do: 'An Evening with Bonnie Montgomery'

Bonnie Montgomery performs at White Water Tavern Thursday.

Thursday To-Do: Perpetual Groove

Perpetual Groove plays Thursday at Revolution.

Charter school spending: Is it really less?

The Billionaire Boys Club held their charter school pep rally yesterday and one of the most popular cheers was that charter schools do more (no solid proof of that yet in any peer-reviewed comprehensive study) for less money than public schools.

Wednesday To-Do: Science After Dark: 'It's Not the End of the World'

Science After Dark tackles the end of the world Wednesday at The Museum of Discovery.

Wednesday-Thursday: 'West Side Story'

"West Side Story" is at Robinson Center Music Hall Wednesday and Thursday.

The war on women continues

Sen. Jason Rapert's clearly unconstitutional bill to ban abortions when a fetal hearbeat can be detected — it would incidentally force transvaginal probes of unwilling women in the early stages of pregnancy — came out of a Senate committee today.

School groups fight back against the billionaires

A new coalition, the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign, held a news conference today at the Capitol to forthrightly defend Arkansas education against the agenda pushed yesterday by a group led by some of the wealthiest people in Arkansas, including the Walmart, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Murphy Oil, Dillard Department Stores, Koch Industries and Stephens fortunes.

Arkansas teachers to take 20 percent stake in new steel mill

The agenda for Monday's meeting of the board of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System reveals one of the investors in the $1.1 billion Big River steel mill proposed yesterday for Mississippi County.

A final farewell for Hot Dog Mike

Here's your last chance to get you some Hot Dog Mike. Free dogs for the first 100 fans. Get 'em while they're hot.

Thursday: Meshugga Klezmer Band, The Front Bottoms and more

The Meshugga Klezmer Band plays at The Joint Thursday.

An open line — wild times in Washington County

For Fayetteville readers and the many who've spent pleasant time in that civilized college town, where progressive politics prevail.

Feds: No ACA mandate for those in coverage hole

The Department of Health and Human Services released clarifications today regarding exemptions from the individual mandate.

2013 AT Showcase Round 1 roundup

Damn Arkansan won Round 1 of the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.

Buddy's bridge: A hurryup vote set

Too much happening today. I was just reminded by a letter from Gene Pfeifer of a tip I'd received earlier that County Judge Buddy Villines intended to have a hurryup Quorum Court meeting Thursday and vote on his plan to sink $20 million in county road and bridge money into a design dust-catcher on the state Highway and Transportation Department's stay-busy project to replace the Broadway Bridge.

NLR chooses Kelly Rodgers as school superintendent

Just in from the North Little Rock School District: The North Little Rock Board of Education named Kelly Rodgers, Superintendent of Schools Wednesday evening with a unanimous vote in a Special Board meeting.

Audit ambush planned by Republicans for Medicaid?

There was a burst of reporting today that the Legislative Audit committee might release early an audit of the state's Medicaid program, otherwise not due to be completed for months.

Pryor opposes assault weapon ban

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor will not be left during this pre-election period looking soft on guns.

Morning report: Mayhem, Mindy McReady and more

The morning mailbag brings more reports of gun deaths (remember the Mark Pryor construction — guns didn't cause these deaths.

Opposition suggested to steel mill subsidy

I don't know how many noticed a lengthy elaboration on the comment thread last night by George Hopkins, director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, on his hopes to invest $60 million of retirement system money in the proposed Big River Steel Mill.

Forget everything you know about losing weight

Article in New York Times touches on a subject in which I'm something of an expert.

Gun nuttery quote of the day

Some gun nuts often try to rile me on Facebook. In their world, the 2nd Amendment permits NO regulation of guns of any kind.

UPDATE: Game and Fish commissioner to resign

Unconfirmed, but a reliable source reports that Game and Fish Commissioner Richard Watkins is telling friends he plans to resign from the commission this week.

Friday To-Do: Vanishing Islands

Vanishing Islands play at Midtown Friday.

Chew on this: Gooey butter bars from The Cupcake Factory

Simple, chewy, sweet, and spectacular. Chew on a gooey butter bar from the Cupcake Factory next time you are in the Chenal area.

Boozman no friend of immigrants here now

A blog post from U.S. Sen. John "Dr. No" Boozmann on immigration reform indicates he won't be going along with any plan that provides legal status to people in the country already.

Marketing company moving from New York to Conway

Inuvo, an internet marketing company with executive roots in Arkansas, announced today a move of its headquarters from New York city to Conway.

Check out Wes Bentley in this teaser for 'Lovelace'

Wes Bentley stars in the upcoming film "Lovelace."

Gunmen for Jesus

A House committee this morning endorsed Sen. Bryan King's bill to allow guns in church, if the churches approve, which means final action is close at hand.

Walmart wins settlement at NLRB over pickets

Walmart announces today a settlement before the National Labor Relations Board of its complaint about illegal picketing by the UFCW union.

Anti-abortion votes rule Arkansas legislature

The House Public Health Committee today is considering Rep. Andy Mayberry's bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of a pregnancy.

Johnny Cash to grace U.S. postage stamp

It was recently announced that Arkansas native Johnny Cash will be honored with a U.S. postage stamp, one of the USPS's new "Music Icons" series.

2013 AT Showcase Round 2: The Bad Years

The Bad Years play Round 2 of the Showcase, Thursday at Stickyz.

2013 AT Showcase Round 2: Stephen Neeper Band

The Stephen Neeper Band plays Round 2 of the Showcase, Thursday at Stickyz.

2013 AT Showcase Round 2: Flint Eastwood

Flint Eastwood plays Round 2 of the Showcase, Thursday at Stickyz.

Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round 2 is tonight at Stickyz

Round 2 of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase is tonight at Stickyz.

Weekend: Debauche, Dikki Du & The Zydeco Krewe and more

Debauche plays at Stickyz Friday and Midtown Saturday.

Medicaid: Better budget news; stonewalling on audit trickery

The Department Human Services has released the expected improvement in the projected shortfall in money in operating the existing Medicaid program.

They never laugh at Dickey-Stephens Park; action threatened over bumper sticker

The sun may always shine on the Arkansas Travelers, but the Travs have effectively told one unhappy Traveler fan to put his unhappiness where the sun doesn't shine, in a legal way.

UPDATE: America the Beautiful night

I'm outta here. Got to go to North Little Rock, where they'll be paying tribute to my boss Alan Leveritt tonight.

Koch money planned for proposed steel mill

Re the $1.1 billion steel mill that Gov. Mike Beebe has asked the state to support with $125 million in grants and loans and other inducements; * BACKERS: I now have multiple sources saying that Koch Industries — yes, those Kochs — is the likely source of another major chunk of the private capital required for the $250 million equity pot that must be in place before the state money would flow.

Jason Rapert makes The Nation for racial rhetoric

Jason Rapert's racial rhetoric draws attention in The Nation. UAMS audit spurs further questions.

Saturday To-Do: 'Drumline Live'

"Drumline Live" comes to UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall Saturday night.

Saturday To-Do: 'The One-Legged, Ass-Kickin' Benefit'

The Good Time Ramblers play at Stickyz Saturday.

Summerhill, Gentry, Copeland, Horn, Thompson

Sculpture, textiles, painting and valentines are showcased in tonight's Gallery Walk night tonight in Hot Springs, 5-9 p.m. along Central Avenue.

Careful when you hear about state spending on schools

A useful article from Wisconsin illustrates how numbers can be massaged to suit political purposes.

Saturday To-Do: Joe Diffie

Joe Diffie plays at Juanita's Saturday night.

Police arrest one, seek two in fatal shooting on Asher

The Little Rock police say they have arrested one suspect and issued warrants for two more in the shooting Wednesday night on Asher Avenue that left one teen, Jasmine Young, dead and one wounded.

Obama administration alters contraception plan

The Obama administration has proposed a compromise on contraception coverage under the new federal health care law.

More Mississippi press on Big River Steel

Sour grapes or important cautionary words? Judge for yourself.

Fiddling Rapert

What if they built a jail and nobody came?

Good story from on the brand new $1.2 million Newton County Jail in Jasper.

2013 AT Showcase: Stephen Neeper Band takes Round 2

The Stephen Neeper Band won Round 2 of the Times Musicians Showcase.

Taking the temperature of the Medicaid expansion debate: Bryan King wants to rid his system of waste

Today’s chances of passing expansion: 38%.

'Roadside' to close LR Horror Picture Show

Organizers for the Little Rock Horror Picture Show announced yesterday that "Roadside," the new horror thriller by Arkansas filmmaker Eric England, will close this year's LRHPS, which runs March 22-24.

2013 AT Showcase Round 2 roundup: The Bad Years

The Bad Years played Round 2 of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.

2013 AT Showcase Round 2 roundup: Flint Eastwood

Flint Eastwood played Round 2 of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.

UPDATE: The great Medicaid audit: Not today

The world waits for the special Medicaid audit from Legislative Audit. When will it be released?

2013 AT Showcase Round 2 roundup: Stephen Neeper Band

The Stephen Neeper Band won Round 2 of the Times Musicians Showcase.

Let the eagle soar

The Friday night line is open. Finishing up: * PRAYING FOR CONWAY SCHOOLS: Having had some cutesy responses to past FOI requests for the Conway School District, all now funneled first (improperly I believe) through a Texas religious organization, I expanded a request for all possible forms of communication on the subject of campus visits by multiple church groups, apparently a longstanding practice in Conway that a church-state separation group has questioned.

Remembering Mason Mauldin

There will be a memorial service for Mason Mauldin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Robinson Center Music Hall's exhibition hall, followed by a wake at Stickyz from 3-6 p.m.

The War on Women Edition

The war on women being waged in the Arkansas General Assembly, the latest maneuverings on the Medicaid expansion, the super project, Pryor on guns, Boozman on disaster aid and "America's Bridge" — all discussed on this week's podcast.

Arkansas doesn't protect renters

Bowen School of Law holds a symposium on Landlord Tenant law reform.

The morning newspaper: Hot skin and cold cash

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette produced one of those Saturday newspapers of yore, a stack of public record reporting by dedicated beat reporters who understand the subjects they cover and work to elaborate and amplify.

Education notes: Pray for Conway and Teach for America

A couple of education items; * CHURCH AND THE CONWAY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I wrote last night about a new batch of internal documents from the Conway School District relative to Superintendent Greg Murry's to continue to allow numerous church groups to visit with school kids at lunch hour.

Jason Rapert is not happy. He also lies

Yesterday morning, I picked up and quoted from an item in The Nation. It unearthed a campaign speech Sen. Jason Rapert once gave to a Tea Party assembly in which he was in full revivalist flower against the evils of Barack Obama.

Saturday night fights. Or not.

The line is open. Finishing up: * IS IT 2014 YET?

Super Sunday: Predicting the death of football

The Super Bowl brings a rash of articles about the future of football. Permanent injuries.

The Three Stooges Redux: Jim Walton, take back that Rapert money

A group that targets Walmart and its billionaire heirs turns its attention to Arkansas politicians again.

Fact: Guns don't make homes or women safer

Speaking of topics certain to be not so warmly received in certain regions of Arkansas: Check this New York Times editorial on the fallacy of the increased safety offered by guns: But there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home.

The Super Sunday line

The line is open. Have some cheese dip.

Why the lights went out at the Super Bowl

In case you wondered if Arkansas's major power company, Entergy, had culpability in the 34-minute power outage at New Orleans' Superdome during the Super Bowl last night, the Times-Picayune has the most extensive report I've found.

Morning news of note

A few other items to mention on a slow Monday morning: * BLOWING UP THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Republicans have backed off, for now, a plan to game the electoral college system by dividing state electoral college votes by congressional district.

Justice meets justice in Arkansas case

Amicus curious brief from Arkansas Business: Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson attended the Jan. 7 oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court of a case out of Miller County over the legality of a class-action legal strategy used extensively by her husband, John Goodson.

State tax report for January again mixed

The closely watched monthly report on state tax revenue again tells a contradictory tale in January: Net and gross revenues were up sharply against both the same month last year and the forecast.

Tuesday: Harlem Globetrotters at Verizon Arena

The Harlem Globetrotters come to Verizon Arena Tuesday.

The ballad of Rapert

This Conway-grown musical commentary hasn't gone viral yet. But it's worth a click.

Robbers hit Walgreen, Wendy's

Weekend crime summary from the Little Rock Police Department includes a report that a masked gunman interrupted Walgreen employees unloading a truck about 6:30 a.m.

Hussman feels the pinch in Chattanooga pointed me to an article in the Chattanooga daily newspaper, where its publisher Walter Hussman, also publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, tells readers that subscription costs are going up because of declining advertising revenue.

Doyle Rogers Sr. dies at 94

Doyle Rogers Sr., the developer and banker, died today. His company helped shape the Little Rock skyline.

Duh — Rapert bill is unconstitutional

Gov. Mike Beebe's preliminary assessment is that Sen. Jason Rapert's bill to ban most abortions (after first jamming a probe up an unwilling woman's vagina) is unconstitutional.

Court date nears on abortion legislation; church guns advance

The Arkansas House today voted 75-20 in favor of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a prohibition justified by the contested theory of pain caused to the fetus.

Guns: First church, now the state Capitol

I got a tip from a former legislator last week that, once churches were opened up to guns, the state Capitol would be next.

Senate talks steel

The Senate is meeting this afternoon for a Q&A on the $1 billion Big River Steel Mill, which will require $125 million-plus in state loans, grants and inducements.

Monday night: The millionaire line

The line is open. Cleaning: * MILLION-DOLLAR WINNER: Stephen Weaver bought a $1 million winning lottery ticket at T Rick's in Pangburn, the Arkansas Lottery has announced.

Who'll protect Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.?

A reader writes: What about those of us who worship in synagogues and mosques? Are we covered or were we minorities left out?

Do Republicans really want more people to vote?

Now that Sen. Bryan King has his guns-in-church bill, he'll turn attention to his efforts to shrink the voting franchise by requiring photo ID to vote, a measure that will instantly put up obsacles to voting by thousands of Arkansans, typically among voter segments most likely to vote against people like Bryan King.

Former Miss Arkansas moves from lobby back to law

Remember Regina Hopper, the former Miss Arkansas who moved from TV news to law and, then, big-time Washington lobbing?

Segregation dooms education 'reform'

No, the headline doesn't refer to racial segregation, except to the extent it's the de facto result of economic segregation.

An N.C. template for opposing Medicaid expansion in Arkansas?

Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion ... special Medicaid audit ... allegations that the audit was rigged to aid the anti-Medicaid cause ...

Check out some photos from Saturday's Professional Bull Riders show at Verizon

The PBR Lucas Oil Pro Series was Saturday at Verizon Arena.

Valentine's Day sweet treats for your sweetie

Sugar is one of the most reliable and foolproof paths to your significant other’s heart. Here's the best places to please your sweetie this Valentine's Day.

UPDATE: Beebe pushes for charter school compromise with Walton

Buzz increases on a topic I mentioned earlier. Gov. Mike Beebe, who'd earlier expressed opposition to the Billionaire Boys Club legislation to strip the state Board of Education of the power to regulate charter schools, is now reportedly pushing for a compromise with Jim Walton, the Walmart heir who's leading other wealthy Arkansans in the push for more charter schools.

More gun nuttery comes out of Senate committee

A Senate committee today approved Fireball Holland's bill to make the list of concealed gun permit holders secret.

Pulaski Tech approves tuition increase

Pulaski Tech will be increasing tuition for students of the community college. uition at Pulaski Technical College will increase by 5.5 percent beginning with the fall 2013 semester.

UAF asks for audits of advancement division

David Gearhart, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, is going to come clean after a fashion with a request for audits of the UA Advancement Division.

Former Police Chief Sonny Simpson dies

Former Little Rock Police Chief Walter E. "Sonny" Simpson died this morning of apparent natural causes while driving to lunch, friends say.

UPDATE: Rapert abortion bill tabled, political tension surfaces

House Public Health Committee Chairman John Burris today moved for tabling of Sen. Jason Rapert's bill to prohibit abortions when a fetal heart beat is detected.

Tuesday topics

The line is open. Closing out: * SERVICES FOR DOYLE ROGERS: Roller-Crouch Funeral Home in Batesville has details on services for Doyle Rogers, the developer who died yesterday at 94.

Rapert pulls vaginal probe; no fix for unconstitutional bill

Sen. Jason Rapert, in an attempt to save his unconstitiutional bill to ban abortions pre-viability of a fetus — a direct contravention of 40 years of federal court precedent — is preparing to omit requiring the invasive transvaginal probe that he had previously insisted for two years wasn't required by the bill.

Guns make you safe?

Tell that to the family of a Eureka Springs woman killed by a man with a handgun he shouldn't have been able to buy.