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March 23, 2011

Vol 37 • No 29

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Lee County justice: the mistrial of Curtis Vance

Even with DNA evidence that would have been ironclad in most courtrooms, the blacks on a Marianna jury refused to convict Curtis Vance of Rape. The question is: why?

For the defense

"We protect his rights, we protect everyone's rights."

Details on Porter's Jazz Cafe

Porter's Jazz Cafe hopes to open on Main Street by May.

The Tuesday line

The legislative roundup. Republicans like higher taxes, corporate welfare and more government.

Chef Peter Brave prepares to make a 200-mile hike for charity

The celebrated local chef tackles the 223-mile Ouachita Trail to raise awareness and money for Potluck Food Rescue of Arkansas.

Want healthy grub? Get Fresh Start

You don't? It's got burgers and fries, too.

Little Rock's sad state

Mayor Mark Stodola delivered his state of the city address last week and the message wasn't uplifting.

Pillager of state

Secretary of State Mark Martin helped himself to whatever he wanted at the state Board of Apportionment, unconcerned that the property belonged to someone else. Ethics has never been Martin's best subject.

C of C on class warpath

A Chamber of Commerce spokesman told a legislative committee last week that opponents of the Chamber's legislation were guilty of "class warfare."

Hendrix to institute limited 'gender-neutral' housing

Starting next fall, the Conway college will offer "gender-neutral" student housing for students who are openly gay or are questioning their sexuality.

Good week: tax cuts

Democrats and Republicans worked out a $35 million package of tax cuts.

Partisan blindness

One problem with blind partisanship is that it can lead you to betray your own principles and the well-being of the people you represent.

Democrats gesture toward Fayetteville

Considering that it now appears we might end up living with this wild concoction for the next 10 years, let us begin with a definition of terms.

Tenth annual Ozark Foothills FilmFest offers impressive slate

Highlights include contemporary shorts from France, screenwriter Gordy Hoffman and a screening of the original cut of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' with a live film score.

That other anniversary

Subscribers to the Arkansas History Listserv have been wondering if anyone will remember that Arkansas will turn 175 on June 15.

Political extremists

The spring issue of Intelligence Report included two Arkansans on a list of 23 "right-wing extremists" who ran for public office in America last year.

Has it covered

Researchers at U of A's Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies have contributed to the cover of this month's National Geographic.

Orval, March 23, 2011

Porter's Jazz Cafe on its way

Also, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre announces its 36th season.

The Observer and Longcat

Rock on, Weeniecat. You're an inspiration to us all, and you don't seem to be letting your short little legs slow you down.

'Paul' hits, misses

The more of "Paul" you get, the more you are, in fact, the butt of the joke.

'Marijuana: A Chronic History' explores the illegal weed

And HBO remakes a classic with 'Mildred Pierce'

Kevin Kerby + Battery record an episode of AETN's 'On the Front Row'

Also, G. Love & Special Sauce at Revolution, Sommore and 'The Aluminum Show' at Robinson Center Music Hall, Days of the New at Juanita's, Destroyer at Stickyz and the South Center Bike Polo Championships at MacArthur Park.

Speeding noted

Is Lt. Gov. Mark Darr getting reckless on the interstate?

Klappenbach Bakery

It gets a little pricy, but it's hard to complain about the quality.

Spring has sprung

Spring fights back

There's nothing subtle about spring. What the black tulip magnolia does is not bloom so much as detonate.

The Valley of the Vapors festival rolls on

Also, American Aquarium and Mandy McBryde & the Unholy Ghost at Stickyz.


Springtime has nothing to teach us mole people of today. What insights does it have to offer on Charlie Sheen?

'Fools and tools'

'Anyone who promotes tax breaks for billionaires, and is not a billionaire, has been played for a fool and used as a tool.'

This Modern World, March 23, 2011

Antique store guide

Little Rock and its environs abound with antique stores and antique malls of different stripes, offering many options for discerning shoppers. A few (particularly one in Bryant, which shall remain nameless) are so packed as to be panic-inducing or at the least worthy of an appearance on "Hoarders." Those did not make the cut. This selection, gleaned from years or scouring and searching, runs the gamut — from stores that require a bit of digging to the higher-end variety where the editing has already been done for you.

Shugg's BBQ Kitchen coming to the River Market in mid-April

Also, Boulevard Bread Co. moves to South Main Street.

The dreaded semantic transformation

To some people, seeing a noun become a verb is as horrifying as seeing Lon Chaney Jr. become The Wolfman.

Will Senate stop Republican tax raid?

Once more with feeling: Will the Senate, once again, protect Arkansas from baser instincts? The issue today is Republican Sen. Jake Files' proposed constitutional amendment to allow cities and counties to set up so-called redevelopment districts with bonding authority.

Arkansas on English-only driver's license bandwagon

A House committee got on board one of xenophobic Rep. Jon Hubbard's anti-immigrant biills yesterday, the one to require that driver's license tests be given only in English.

Reporters describe Libyan captivity

Recommended: New York Times' journalists recount their time in Libyan captivity.

Elizabeth Taylor, dead at 79

As everyone must know by now, Elizabeth Taylor has died, at 79. Norma Bates hasn't promised, but will disappoint, if she doesn't file a tribute.

Mosaic Templars director gone

H.L. McGill, who was named director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in December, is already gone.

Hot day at the Capitol

One of those days. Gerard and I both have independent projects this morning that interfere with Capitol coverage.

O.W. Pizza expands far, adds new selections

New menu changes are afoot, including new sandwiches, gumbo and pizza options.

Wednesday To-Do: Sommore

The "Queen of Comedy" visits Robinson Center Music Hall.

Democratic redistricting plan coming out

The Democratic plan for congressional redistricting apparently will be unveiled in committee this morning by Rep. Clark Hall.

Wednesday To-Do: G. Love & Special Sauce

The tenacious hip-hop bluesman returns to Revolution.

Mike Anderson to be Hog basketball coach

Or so claims 40/29 TV, quoting an unnamed but "direct" Hog sources. Anderson — if you're from Neptune — is coaching at Missouri and once was an Arkansas assistant.

Wednesday: Half-Handed Cloud, The Blue Hit, VOV

Tonight offers more Valley of the Vapors, a Sufjan-affiliated multi-instrumentalist at ACAC and rowdy cow-punk from Brooklyn at White Water Tavern.

Top hires at Crystal Bridges

Just eight months out from its opening, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announced today new hires: the deputy director of art and education, a director of curatorial and a curator of American Art.

English driver's license test bill fails in House

Don't have the vote yet, but a message from publisher Alan Leveritt says the House has defeated Rep. Jon Hubbard's bill to require that driver's license tests be administered only in English.

Diesel tax trickery continues

More on the diesel tax increase, which came out of Senate committee yesterday in a speedy voice vote.

Benini's controlled Kaos

The thing about the paintings of Benini is that they sometimes require you to befriend the circular and the shaped. UPDATED WITH NEW IMAGES.

Tyrese Gibson closes 'Bless the Mic' season

The actor, musician and self-help author closes out Philander Smith's successful lecture series on April 1 at Central High.

Todd Gold, other fantastic chefs feted at 2011 Chef Ball

I have been utterly remiss... I should have already been beaming strongly about the Chef Ball this weekend at Pulaski Technical College's main campus.

The Wednesday night line

Redistricting debate rages on. Mike Anderson goes to Arkansas.

Opera in the Ozarks announces 61st season

Eureka Springs' long-enduring opera festival returns for another year, offering operas by Strauss, Mozart and Mark Adamo.

Neat and cool: Cake pops from This Cake Pops!

What’s that there? That, my friends, is the latest craze in the world of desserts.

Thursday: Brenn, Justin Bank, Frown Pow'r

Anthemic rockers Brenn bring synthesized grandiosity to Vino's alongside Magnolia pop punk act belair, indie rockers Ellison's Cage, and guitar thrashers The Alexei, 9 p.m., $5 adv., $7 d.o.s. Chris Henry sings and strums at Grumpy's, 8 p.m., free.

Thursday To-Do: 'On the Front Row' with Kevin Kerby + Battery

The rightful "poet laureate of Pulaski County" films an episode of "On the Front Row" at AETN Studios.

Good morning Arkansas

The AM roundup: * DO THE MATH: So the final motions are underway for a $35 million tax cut package.

Burger joint of the week: Reno's Argenta Cafe

Reno's Argenta Cafe offers a half pound Argenta Burger on a Kaiser roll that's packed with red onions, tomato and your choice of cheese. Add this to your list of must-have burgers.

Redistricting: inside baseball raps Ross UPDATE II

The Blue Arkansas blog throws down on U.S. Rep. Mike Ross for standing in the way of a supposed redistricting plan worked out between Democrats and Republican Sen. Johnny Key.

Be in your seats, children

Special notice for the five Republicans on the eight-member Senate Transportation Committee. Sen. Linda Chesterfield, the chair, has called a committee meeting immediately after adjournment.

Property tax appraisal errors found

Country Club area owners benefit.

Health care blockade fails again

Death Star Jason Rapert, the insurance salesman/revivalist who is living up to the standard set by the previous Bigelow senator Bob Johnson, failed in Joint Budget today to block implementation of health care reform legislation.

Ditto, Duran Duran and David Lynch are 'Notorious'

The Judsonia native joined the New Wave kings for a live, Lynch-directed, take on "Notorious" last night.

Oops: Assessor discovers some appraisal errors

The Country Club of Little Rock-area home above, owned by retired Alltel CEO Joe Ford, figures in a story I've posted elsewhere on the website.

Committee OKs guns in church

Rep. Bryan King won House committee approval this morning of his bill to allow concealed handgun permits to take them into church.

Agreed: John Stossel is an idiot

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for this John Stossel quote: "Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs?" he said.

Good day for highway tax increases

Only twenty-five members of the House objected today to passage of Rep. Jonathan Barnett's proposed constitutional amendment to raise the sales tax to build freeways.

Looking ahead: LaDawna Whiteside at UA

Fayetteville artist LaDawna Whiteside, whose "Animal Architecture Drawing" installation won the Grand Prize at this year's Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center, is showing works on paper at the University of Arkansas's Fine Arts Building.

'Tales of the South' soliciting stories from Greatest Generation

The internationally syndicated radio show is looking for stories from the WW2 generation.

Thursday night line

A Senate committee has approved Sen. Sue Madison's bill to prohibit lottery ticket sales by vending machines. Blue Hog Report identifies the "fabulous Five" legislators who don't take pay enhancements.

Weekend: Surf City, Cool Shoes, Wade Bowen

The weekend in Central Arkansas offers critical darlings from New Zealand at VOV, another installment of 'Cool Shoes' and Red Dirt country at Revolution

Weekend To-Do: Ozark Foothills Film Festival

You could make a case that the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is one of the country's top doc events.

Saturday To-Do: Arenacross

The touring dirtbike race visits Verizon Arena.

Saturday To-Do: Days of the New

The '90s post-grunge act visits Juanita's.

Saturday To-Do: South Central Bike Polo Championships

The Little Rock Bike Polo league hosts the South Central Regional Bike Polo Championships at MacArthur Park.

Sunday To-Do: Destroyer

The acclaimed Canadian pop scientist visits Stickyz.

Mike Huckabee leads Republicans

Floridian Mike Huckabee leads polling for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Gallup reports. But it's a midget wrestling match at the moment.

Sierra Club to fight power plant bill

The Sierra Club vows to fight to the last full Senate vote on the legislation to make it far more difficult to get court review of Public Service Commission rulings in power plant cases.

Fayetteville to the 4th: It's legal

Jay Barth, professor of politics at Hendrix College, has volunteered a useful article explaining why — however much some people may not like it — that there's no legal disqualifier in the proposed congressional redistricting that moves a portion of Washington County, including Fayetteville, into the 4th District.

Arkansas unemployment rate stable

The Arkansas unemployment rate in February was unchanged from the month before, 7.8 percent. Report here.

Insurance exchange bill fails

HB 2138, the bill to set up state insurance exchanges under the federal health reform law, failed to clear committee Friday morning.

Apple hiring for Little Rock store

Tipster notes that the Apple website now advertises (if you have iTunes account you use your info to sign in to see openings) that it is taking applications for a retail store in Little Rock, zip 72211.

Pieday: PCP at Ed & Kay's Restaurant

Imagine the best pecan pie you've ever tried. Add pineapple for a sweeter, deeper flavor, and coconut for an exotic texture, and you have Ed & Kay's PCP pie.

House approves guns in church

The House approved legislation today to allow concealed handguns in church. The vote was 65-23.

English driver's license bill killed

Blow me over. The House failed for the second time to pass Tea Party Rep. Jon Hubbard's bill to require that driver's license tests be given in English only.

Bible study approved by House

HB 1032, Rep. Denny Altes' bill to encourage more teaching of the Bible in public schools — ostensibly in a strictly academic fashion, but Altes' himself says he doesn't believe in keeping religion out of government — pass the House today 71-16.

Republicans' lips are moving ....

... you know what that means. Hats off to Jason Tolbert, who's been dogging the great mystery of the nickel diesel tax increase, which passed the Senate yesterday with the bare 18 votes necessary, not a single one of them a Republican.

Democrats press Mark Martin on car purchase

Well, sure. The Democratic Party has more to say about Secretary of State Mark Martin's early spending missteps.

Looking ahead: Hisae Kimura Yale

"Hiroshima," the thesis exhibit of University of Arkansas Fayetteville graduate student Hisae Kimura Yale, opens March 28 in the Fine Arts Center.

First Amendment only for Christians?

A Religious Righter, Bryan Fischer, has declared that the First Amendment was written only to protect Christians.

Bookout memorial

A sculpture by Michael Warrick was unveiled today at UAMS' Rockefeller Cancer Research Center.

Payback in Wisconsin

Thanks to Norma for a Salon link that rounds up just about everything pertinent simmering from blowback for a University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon who made the mistake of writing critically about Gov. Scott Walker's attack on public employees' unions and, more specifically, mentioning the right wing-funded think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Moore: We should implement health care exchange

House Speaker Robert Moore took questions from the press after today's House session. He reiterated his desire to conclude business by April 1. Notable quotes: Moore said the legislature should go ahead and pass legislation to set up the health care exchange that will be required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A bill designed to do just that failed in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee this morning.

Thea scholarship winners 2011

Work by the Thea Foundation's Visual Arts scholarship winners, high school seniors from across Arkansas, is on exhibit now through April 10.

The Friday night line

There is no bottom to how low Republicans will go to prevent a woman's right to choose abortion. And Clark Hall defends his redistricting plan.

Bryant Mayor Dabbs: No crime, but ...

A press release has arrived from Saline Prosecuting Attorney Ken Casady, who mounted an investigation after all into Bryant Mayor "Republican" Jill Dabbs unilateral decision to raise her pay and that of new City Clerk "Republican" Heather Kizer.

The fight over Fayetteville continues

Brummett today makes the Democratic Party's case for expanding the 4th District into Fayetteville in the congressional redistricting plan.

Charter school bill takeover

I was interested to see Sen. Gilbert Baker and Jimmy Jeffress as co-sponsors of SB 436, a charter school accountability act.

Walmart goes after New York liberals

Walmart has renewed a push to enter New York City. Former CEO Lee Scott once famously said he didn't care if the retailer never entered New York.

The Saturday forum

Might as well open the line for comments now. Feeling old on learning that Geraldine Ferraro has died.

The moral majority returns

Why does a day pass without an overheated utterance from Mike Huckabee on the evils of homosexuality, Islam or abortion?

What's up at Teacher Retirement? UPDATE

The Democrat-Gazette this morning carried another long examination of a $40 million investment by the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System in Tennenbaum Capital Partners, a firm that puts together investment packages that look for profits in the debt of distressed companies and properties.

Crime pays in the U.S.A.

What I did last night: Watched "Inside Job," the stunning documentary on the financial meltdown and how it could have been avoided.

Getting to know Mike Huckabee

Politico continues its flirtation with Florida tax fugitive Mike Huckabee, noting in a piece currently leading its website his many strengths in polling of the Republican primary vote (Fox News-watching evangelical social warriors are his niche for 20 percent support) Plus, see, he's "genial."

The Sunday night line

UA professor and veteran politico Steve Smith explains why the plan to put Fayetteville in the Fourth Congressional District has merit.

Reed, Oldham in mix for University of Arkansas presidency

University of Arkansas Trustee John Ed Anthony told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the other day that two Arkansas business leaders and two academicians from out-of-state were interested in succeeding the retiring B. Alan Sugg as president of the University of Arkansas System.

Democrats: Careful what you wish for

Interesting analysis by Roby Brock of the portion of Washington County that would be moved to the 4th District under a congressional redistricting plan proposed by Democrats in the legislature.

Teacher pay by test scores

Los Angeles will forge ahead with a plan to base teacher pay in part on "value-added" testing, a measure of progress students make in teachers' classes.

A weekend in New Orleans

I've spent the weekend in New Orleans, covering the New Orleans Roadfood Festival. This week I'll have some insights for you on the festival, New Orleans food, culinary promotion and how we can apply those ideas here in Arkansas.

No. 2: Darr trying harder to get there

We reported last week an account from an I-40 motorist about the speedy, Steve McQueen-style driving of a white pickup bearing a "2" license plate.

Tropical Smoothie to the River Market

Tropical Smoothie is opening a franchise in the River Market’s Ottenheimer Hall.

Health exchange bill clears committee

A House committee has recommended passage of a bill to set up a health insurance exchanges in Arkansas to implement federal health legislation.

Win tickets to Arkansas a la Carte

On Thursday, April 21 at the Chenal Country Club, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary is hosting Arkansas a la Carte, a fundraiser featuring food from 23 local restaurants.

Appeal dropped in Chenal Valley arson UPDATE

Arkansas Business reports that Aaron Jones, the lawyer convicted of a scheme to burn his Chenal Valley mansion to reap insurance proceeds, is dropping appeal of his conviction and also moving to settle with the insurance company.

D.C. school success story challenged

Former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee, trotted through Little Rock a second time at the Clinton School recently as the Billionaire Boys Club rolled out their "education reform" legislation has taken another body blow.

Celebrity chef-game show host to Walton Arts Center

Guy Fieri, the television chef and host of "Minute to Win It" comes to Fayetteville

Bass Pro Shops: Careful what you fish for

The idea to steal school tax revenue to subsidize a Bass Pro Shops-anchored retail center in North Little Rock's Dark Hollow swamp is moribund, if not totally dead.

Priest arrested for prison contraband

A Catholic Priest, Father Charles Thessing of Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton, was arrested on March 23 for what Corrections officials say was an attempt to smuggle tobacco to a Death Row inmate.

Tuesday To-Do: 'The Aluminum Show'

The strange modern dance/acrobatics production comes to Robinson Center Music Hall for a three-day stand.

UA presidency search: Decision near

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees meets Friday morning in Monticello and the question is whether a decision will be reached at an executive session that morning to name a new system president.

Surprise! Arkies like status quo

Republican blogger Jason Tolbert commissioned a Republican polling firm to poll Fayetteville residents on the Republican-opposed idea to move the city into the 4th Congressional District.

Legislature does power company bidding

Late night action at the state Senate included ratification of the SWEPCO/Arkansas Electric Co-op takeover of the utility regulatory process.

Maternity tourists from China

Feature in the NY Times today on Chinese women traveling to U.S. to deliver babies that become automatic U.S. citizens and then return home. That sound you just heard is Jeannie Burlsworth's head exploding.

Who proposed the pay raise?

I mentioned last night that the legislation for district judge pay raises including a provision to raise the maximum pay for the three Little Rock municipal court judges to $175,000 a year (which compares with $139,821 for Supreme Court justices.)

Legislature: Corporations pitch a shutout

A few more days of torture are left, but it's not too soon to declare winners and losers.

Internet sales tax clears committee

SB 738, the bill that makes a stab at collecting sales tax on goods sold on the Internet, cleared a House committee today on a voice vote, putting it in position for passage.

David Gordon Green to produce Comedy Central pilot, remake horror classic

Prolific filmmaker/producer David Gordon Green is staying busy.

Supreme Court hears Walmart discrimination case

Oral arguments were held this morning on the huge Walmart class action sex discrimination case.

Story time with Damien Echols

Times Senior Editor Mara Leveritt has published a video of Damien Echols reading his short story, “Nostalgia and Marlou,” about a girl who loves Halloween.

The Party of No emerges in Arkansas

The Insurance Department appropriation was defeated in the House today. It was approved 53-41, with 75 votes needed.

Session complications — schools, apportionment

Wrinkles always develop in the final days of legislative sessions. Among those developing this year: * SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION: Tea Party Rep. Jon Hubbard caught the administration off guard today by winning House committee approval of his bill to require that test scores and finances, not just enrollment, be considered in school district consolidation.

Ready for a federal government shutdown?

Talk of a federal shutdown is heating up, with both parties jockeying to blame the other side.

SNL's Seth Meyers to Arkansas Tech

The actor and comedian visits Russelville on Monday, April 11.

The legislature's pork plan

Between hard times and tax cuts, it's a lean year for Arkansas. No raises for state employees.

Pics: Valley of the Vapors 2011

Our favorite photos from this year's installment of the popular Hot Springs festival, courtesy of Jim Miller, Dwayne Zeke Ezekiel and Aaron Brewer.

No decision Friday on UA president

I spoke briefly this afternoon with Dr. Carl Johnson, who'll take the chair for the first time Friday as leader of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

Wednesday To-Do: Monkhouse

The "Holy Ghost Rock & Roll Revival" returns to White Water Tavern, raising funds, as always, for SOAR and Helping Arkansas.

Thursday To-Do: 'Livestock'

Carver, Whale Fire and Sea Nanners round out a triple-bill of energetic indie-rock to raise money for Heifer International.

Friday To-Do: Eggshibiton XX

The annual fundraiser for Youth Home returns for its 20th year.

Friday To-Do: Kenny Chesney

The country superstar swings into Verizon Arena with Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker.

Friday To-Do: Tyrese Gibson

The multi-talented singer/rapper/actor and, now, author closes out this season of Philander Smith's "Bless the Mic" series.