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A Different kind of Republican

A Different kind of Republican

May 7, 2015

Vol 41 • No 35

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Rockefeller the reformer

Winthrop Rockefeller introduced a moderate, sometimes progressive brand of Republican politics in Arkansas.

Disabilities hamper oral health in Arkansas

For some, a trip to the dentist is a long one.

Baseball Hogs on a roll

We've noted a peculiar tendency for Dave Van Horn's Arkansas Razorback baseball squads to commonly defy expectations. You can see how this might be a wildly sliding scale, because when projections are modest the team almost always excels. In fatter years, those results trend leaner by the end.

Some politics is still local

As early voting begins this week in Eureka Springs, a campaign that has been consciously localized seems well positioned to pull off an important victory for LGBT rights progress in an emphatically red state.

Annual Taste of the Rock returns

Also, the Peace Love Goodwill 5K and 10K at Murray Park.

Lose Obamacare, lose tax cuts

team of 40 health experts, a task force of 14 Arkansas legislators and a company of corporate consultants backed by millions of taxpayer dollars are assembling to attempt the hardest political gambit of our time: how to make Obamacare look like it's not Obamacare.

Gary Conrad at Loony Bin

Also, the Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour of Homes, Swingin' Utters at White Water, the Little Rock Film Festival and JMSN at Juanita's.

Seeking justice

On Tuesday, May 5, John Mark Byers walks away from the podium after speaking at the Justice for 6 rally for his son Christopher Byers and two other boys who were murdered on May 5, 1993, in West Memphis. He urged the Gov. Asa Hutchinson to push for an investigation into other suspects who may have committed the murders.

Paranoia in Texas

The real news isn't that many Texans seemingly subscribe to an apocalyptic, delusional world view that has them convinced that a U.S Army training exercise called "Jade Helm 15" is the opening wedge of an Obama-led coup d'etat — seizing guns, importing thousands of ISIS fighters to subdue local patriots, and throwing dissenters into FEMA concentration camps.

Tamales today at HT&T

Yellow Rocket venture in the old Browning's was worth the wait.

From Hope to higher speaking fees

Huck announces for prez, dogs and drunks out of control at the Big Dam Bridge, Tom Cotton and playground tactics, Josh Duggar standing up for discrimination and Baker Kurrus takes over the LRSD.

Ask the Times: Ants!

Q: My house, even my roof, is crawling in ants, and our exterminator has not been able to control them. He says they are odorous house ants, but I call them obnoxious. Has there been a jump in ant populations this year? I'm not the only one having this trouble.

Gay diamonds

Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.

Little Rock Film Festival's Teen Filmmaker Lab gives a voice to youth.

The healing light.

You're not being too harsh, Mr. Brantley

If the majority of Arkansans were as informed, thoughtful and objective as you, The Natural State wouldn't continue occupying the bottom rungs of the 50 states as it has since its statehood.

Their signs

Bill Engvall's comedy routine about dumb people is one of The Observer's favorites. For example: He pulls into a gas station with a flat tire and the attendant asks, "Flat tire?" No, Engvall says, the other three just suddenly swelled up.

'Avengers: Age of Ultron' is comfortably OK

It's also more of the same.

Recommended: Radley Balko on criminal justice

Recommended morning read from the Washington Post's Radley Balko: "This isn’t 1968. Baltimore isn’t Watts. And Hillary Clinton isn’t Michael Dukakis."

Under pressure, Treasurer Dennis Milligan puts email deletion policy on hold; time for transparency in constitutional offices

Treasurer Dennis Milligan caves for now on his plan to delete all emails after 30 days. It's time for constitutional officers to adopt the same transparency rules that govern all other state agencies. The excuses are ludicrous; the only reason to delete public records is to conceal the record from the public.

The Huckster stands by his scam

Huckabee doubles down on his career in scamming and spamming his own supporters and fans.

Witness against Howard leaves court in a huff

On Wednesday, Tim Howard’s defense attorneys undercut the credibility of the woman who, for a while, looked like the state’s star witness.

Vegan variety at Superior Bathhouse

When it comes to vegan eats, the Superior Bathhouse Brewery has a variety of delicious things on the menu—and some local brews to wash it all down.

B-I-N-G-O spells drama at Conway High School

An official with the Conway School District says the district has "regrets" about a game among teachers at Conway High in which an educator made and distributed bingo cards with each square representing an aspect of a student's physical appearance.

North Little Rock cop highlighted by Killer Mike on CNN

Atlanta rapper Killer Mike appeared as a guest on CNN yesterday and held up North Little Rock police officer Tommy Norman (who he discovered on Instagram) as an ideal example of how officers can involve themselves positively in their respective communities. Norman appears in the segment as well to explain his approach and comment on recent events.

Arkansas Supreme Court rules predictably in case created to delay same-sex marriage ruling

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today that the Court's current seven members should decide a case challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

If task force wants to maintain coverage, it's going to have to learn to love Obamacare

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force is about to hire a million-dollar consultant but the budget reality is simple: the only way to maintain coverage for 200,000 Arkansans is to continue accepting Obamacare funds.

Hunt for the Treasure Hunt: Bill allows it online

The state auditor's office decision to publish the names and addresses of people with unclaimed property only online as part of what is known as the "Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt" stung the Arkansas Press Association, and the APA is asking its members to call legislators. But legislators passed a law in the latest session to allow the auditor to do just that.

Bentonville High student groups to rally for LGBT protections

A coalition of concerned students at Bentonville High School will hold a rally tomorrow near the school, urging school officials to pass an LGBTQ non-discrimination policy to protect teachers.

(Big) cat video from the LR Zoo

Here's a break from always distressing government news: Malayan tiger cubs Liem, Olan and Eko, born Nov. 21, 2014, at the Little Rock Zoo, have been shipped to Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo for its Banyan Wilds exhibit. The video above is about the exhibit and the zoo's work in conserving the Malayan tiger, and includes stills of the Little Rock-born boys.

Why the lawyer licensing link doesn't work: Update

Stephanie Harris, communications council for the court, says the iMIS software program that links information on lawyer licenses from the internal database to the public database has been providing incorrect information and the site has been taken down.

Health reform task force co-chair suggests kicking 200,000 Arkansans off their insurance, or single payer, or something

Sen. Jim Hendren, one of the co-chairs of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, suggests a not-very-creative "alternative" to the private option: cancelling health insurance for the more than 200,000 Arkansans who have gained coverage under the private option. He also says some stuff that doesn't really make sense.

Health task force selects Stephen Group as consultant

The Health Reform Legislative Task Force today voted to select the Stephen Group (of Manchester, New Hampshire) as its consultant as the task force attempts to develop a recommendation for the future of the private option and health care in Arkansas. The Stephen Group's proposal was a $1,081,500 contract.

The bingo! open line and video review

Have at it.

Mike Huckabee: government safety-net defender, at least for seniors

The Huck veers left.

Superintendent Kurrus says no reconfiguration for Rockefeller Elementary

Thursday evening's Rockefeller Elementary PTA meeting with new Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus and Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton marked a striking shift in LRSD public relations.

U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in April, unemployment down to 5.4 percent

The recovery continues: another good jobs report. And…about that "job-killing Obamacare"...

Ron Fournier on Mike Huckabee's "greedy, cheesy money grabs as governor in Arkansas"

Ron Fournier — National Journal columnist, voice of the mushy Beltway middle, and former AP reporter in Little Rock — unloads on Mike Huckabee's hucksterism.

Howard defense challenges conduct of investigation

Phillip Bush, who admitted selling methamphetamine at the time Brian and Shanon Day were killed, said the last time he saw Brian alive was the night before the couple were murdered.

Tom Cotton versus everyone: Cotton casts lone vote against Iran deal

What do you get when you cross the rigid obstinacy and extremism of Sen. Ted Cruz with the inexhaustible zeal for warmongering of former Vice President Dick Cheney?

Homicide on S. Valentine Street

Little Rock Police are reporting a homicide in the 2300 block of S. Valentine Street this morning, the city's 11th of the year.

POLICE: Pastor's wife turned in husband after finding child porn files

Investigators in Jonesboro say that a veteran children's pastor there was found to have "tens of thousands" of video and still images of nude, pubescent girls after his wife discovered a computer file containing the images on their shared computer and called police,

Stone's Throw Readies Beer Garden, Continues Growth

Just in time for the beautiful Arkansas spring weather, Stone's Throw Brewing announced recently they've received approval for a new outdoor beer garden at their 9th and Rock Street location in the historic MacArthur Park Neighborhood and it should be open around the middle of next week I'm told.

Mike Huckabee, populism, and the Republican party

Huckabee will be singing his tune to a growing constituency within the Republican party: cultural conservatives who don't want anyone messing with their Social Security and Medicare.

Dennis Milligan refuses to answer questions about email scandal

Treasurer Dennis Milligan bobs and weaves...well, scratch that, he really doesn't even bother trying. He just refuses to answer questions about the activities of his office.

Mountain home veterinarian saves dog who lunched on live ammunition

There's dog bite man stories, man bites dog stories, and DOG BITES AMMUNITION.

Broker who bribed Treasurer Martha Shoffner ordered to pay $20,000 fine in final order

Yesterday, a hearing officer assigned to hear two financial securities cases related to former Arkansas Treasurer Marsha Shoffner issued a final order on the matter of Steele Stephens, the broker at St. Bernard Financial Services of Russellville who bribed Shoffner to obtain a higher volume of the state's bond business.

Strange bedfellows join to select consultant for health reform task force

A look at the curious vote splits in yesterday's Health Reform Task Force vote on a consultant. Why did Democrats join with Tea Partiers?

Group seeks to preserve White River Bridge

A Clarendon organization formed to save the White River Bridge from demolition and preserve the bridge as a hiking/biking route has posted the video above on its Facebook page. The state Highway and Transporation Department is building a new bridge across the White, scheduled to open around Labor Day, and has plans to demolish the old bridge.

Hospitals pay out millions to resolve False Claims Act allegations for unnecessary Medicare services

The federal Justice Department announced yesterday that 16 hospitals and their corporate parents have agreed to pay almost $16 million in a settlement over Medicare services which were not “medically reasonable or necessary.” Among the hospitals were two in Arkansas: Southwest Regional Medical Center in Little Rock (now closed and acquired by Baptist Health) and Summit Medical Center in Van Buren (now Sparks Medical Center).

The Here Comes Huckabee Edition

Mike Huckabee’s presidential announcement, the hiring of Baker Kurrus to run the Little Rock School District, the latest from the Arkansas Supreme Court on the same-sex marriage case and the future of the private option in Arkansas — all covered on this week's podcast.

The office possum open line

Here's today's video and open line. More importantly, here's a box of baby possums.

Not guilty of capital murder, Howard likely to be freed in a matter of months

After 17 years in isolation, more than 14 of them on death row, Tim Howard will likely be freed within 90 days.

Legislative special session for defense-related economic development project likely coming soon

Will the capitol critters be doling out corporate welfare soon? Lots of rumors have been floating about a potential legislative special session to be called by Gov. Asa Hutchinson later this month. The session would convene just after Memorial Day, when the legislature would take up a proposed economic development project.

Stormy open line

It's yours.

When Mother's Day was Mothers' Day

The radical origins of a Hallmark holiday.

Reminder: the Arkansas legislature has no interest in helping mothers

The scandalous disrespect that the nation — and Arkansas — shows working mothers.

Free idea for the Health Reform Task Force: testimony from folks covered by the private option

As the Health Reform Legislative Task Force considers the future of the private option, which has provided coverage for more than 230,000 Arkansans, it should have the decency to hear from some of the folks who would be harmed if they took their coverage away.

Call your mom open line

Late open line.

On Trans-Pacific Partnership, Huckabee is to left of Obama

This week's Congressional vote on a big trade deal has created bizarre alliances: Ted Cruz plans to vote for giving the President greater authority, while Mike Huckabee and Elizabeth Warren both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership as currently written.

Bricktown Brewery provides a great place for drinks and food

Bricktown Brewery in Ft. Smith is home to tasty brews and stick-to-you-ribs pub grub.

Apple Blossom Brewing rolls into South on Main for beer dinner

Northwest Arkansas' Apple Blossom Brewery invades South Main Street tomorrow for a beer dinner at South on Main. Will any survive? Only time will tell.

Two dead in Howard County after severe storms

KARK reports that two people are dead after a possible tornado passed through a mobile home park in Nashville. At least two others in Howard County are critically injured. In the northeast Texas, dozens were injured and 10 people are unaccounted for, according to the Associated Press.

An interview with Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. about its upcoming 8 course dinner

We sit down with Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. to discuss vegetarian options, traditional Chinese cooking and the 8 course dinner it's serving on May 16.

UALR gets $20.3 million grant to build visual arts center

UALR announced today that the Windgate Charitable Foundation has awarded the university a $20.3 million grant for the equipment for and construction of a new 71,636 square-foot visual arts building.

Hutchinson announces special session is on for May 26

As rumored over the weekend, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today he's convening the legislature for a special session after Memorial Day weekend to consider a major defense-related economic development project in Camden.

Monday's open line

And a plug for Sojas Wagle, the top-ten National Geography Bee finalist from Springdale.

Disaster area declared in 10 Arkansas counties hit by flooding and tornadoes

In addition to the two people killed in southwest Arkansas by last night's storms, heavy rains are wreaking havoc on a swath of counties in the Ozarks and the River Valley.

Early vote favors keeping Eureka Springs ordinance

Late this afternoon, Shannon Hix of Keep Eureka Fair reports that approximately 425 early votes were cast in the election. (418 have been cast at the Eureka Springs early voting site and a handful of eligible Eureka Springs voters showed up at a Berryville early voting site.) In a town where just 792 votes were cast in the November midterm elections, this is fairly remarkable early voting activity.

Pulaski County Quorum Court to consider nondiscrimination ordinance today

The county government will take up an antidiscrimination measure that mirrors the one passed by the Little Rock City Board last month.

TNR: Huckabee's rhetoric on Social Security violates GOP's "implicit pact"

Brian Beutler argues that Huckabee is "angling not only for the evangelical vote, but for the old person vote in general" with his singular union of social conservatism and explicit promises to safeguard Social Security and Medicare.

Pie Five Pizza announces Arkansas expansion

Texas chain Pie Five Pizza is coming to Little Rock.

Change in leadership at Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities

Ouachita Baptist University President Rex Horne will become head of the industry group representing Arkansas's private institutions of higher education beginning this summer.

Russellville High wiseacres in hot water over yearbook quotes

Parental and administrative outrage in Russellville was cranked to 11 after the Russellville High School yearbooks came out recently. Only then was it discovered that the Senior photos of several upperclassmen were paired with inspirational quotes that went a bit beyond your average excerpt from Albert Einstein or Oprah Winfrey.

Another Bledsoe for Arkansas health

Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, who chairs the Senate health committee, is the mother of the state's surgeon general, Dr. Gregory Bledsoe. Now the family is extending its influence into Arkansas health as the state Health Department seeks to hire her husband, Dr. James H. Bledsoe, as a part-time consultant for the department's Emergency Medical Services Section.

Billy Bob Thornton to narrate Hot Springs baseball documentary

It was announced today that Billy Bob Thornton, the famous Arkansas actor and director who was born in Hot Springs, will narrate a new documentary about the role of Hot Springs in the development of baseball as a springtime sport. 

Greek Food Festival returns with new eats and treats

A Little Rock favorite is back in action this weekend when the 31st annual International Greek Food Festival kicks off.

Number of Christians down, says group that ought to know

A study released today shows that the number of Christians in the United States is declining, particularly among young adults, and now stands at only 70 percent of the population. Here's a link to the study's particulars on Arkansas, where the percentage of Christians surpasses the national average, at 79 percent.

MSNBC's Maddow talks Eureka Springs, Ordinance 2223 and today's referendum

Last night on MSNBC, host Rachel Maddow talked with Associated Press Little Rock capitol correspondent Andrew DeMillo about Eureka Springs, SB 202/Act 137, Eureka's non-discrimination ordinance and today's referendum on Ordinance 2223.

Eureka LGBT ordinance supporter: drivers swerved toward pro-2223 sign holders

It's getting ugly in Eureka Springs, where the city will vote today on whether to keep or scrap Ordinance 2223, which protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in hiring, employment and public accommodations. A supporter of the ordinance who has spent the day holding a pro-2223 sign along busy Highway 62 claims that those holding signs in favor of retaining the ordinance have been repeatedly and purposely swerved at by passing drivers.

Senate Democrats reject fast track trade authority for Obama

Democrats in the Senate today blocked a bill to give President Obama trade promotional authority — also called "fast track" authority — despite pressure from the White House. The failure of the bill complicates Obama's push to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Late Tuesday open line

Here, take the wheel.

After debate, PuCo LGBT non-discrimination ordinance advances

With a vote of 9 to 3 with one abstention and two members not present, the Pulaski County Quorum Court tonight advanced an non-discrimination ordinance that would protect LGBTQ county employees from discrimination and require businesses that contract with the county to do the same.

UPDATE: 75 percent of voters reject millage increase in Pulaski County Special School District

I think a millage increase for the Pulaski County Special School District is not in the works this year. Early voting from the county shows voters turning 3-to-1 against the proposed 5.6 mill hike in property tax.

Eureka Springs votes overwhelmingly to keeps its nondiscrimination ordinance

Election results from Eureka are in. It's a win for LGBTQ rights.

Will Jim Hendren vote against Asa's market-distorting superproject incentives?

State Sen. Jim Hendren dislikes the private option because it interferes with the natural workings of the market. Surely he's also against corporate welfare projects, like the one planned for South Arkansas.

Risorgimento! Little Italy will ask to incorporate today

Residents of Little Italy, the small unincorporated community on the border of Pulaski and Perry Counties, will submit a petition for incorporation as a municipality today.

Prosecutor pay raise clears final hurdle from independent citizens' commission

The body created to set pay for elected officials gave final approval to a 22.2 percent pay raise for Arkansas's prosecuting attorneys today upon the conclusion of a public comment period.

Eat My Catfish announces expansion

Benton favorite Eat My Catfish announces the completion of a huge expansion project.

TheatreSquared announces lineup for 2015 Arkansas New Play Festival

Fayetteville theater company TheatreSquared announced the lineup for their 2015 Arkansas New Play Festival today. The event will see a series of five plays — including a few with Arkansas themes — by nationally and internationally-known playwrights performed in Fayetteville and Little Rock over two weekends in June..

Council on Common Core standards hearing from testing companies today

More hearings today on Common Core, the controversial set of education standards that Arkansas (like most states) has adopted. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin chairs the Governor's Council on Common Core Review, which is composed of parents, educators, students and others from around the state.

How high's the water, mama?

Brian Chilson ventured out to the old Rock Island bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library today to bring back some pictures of dramatic flooding. The wetland area near the library is already underwater, and if you look upstream in these photos, the water looks to be uncomfortably close to the bottom of the Junction Bridge.

Wednesday's open line

Take it away.

Protesters against LRSD takeover target Little Rock Chamber of Commerce

Around noon today, a small group of protesters gathered in front of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce to point out the influence of local business leaders in the state's decision to take over the Little Rock School District in January.

"Subversive" museum "hack" tonight at Arts Center re '30 Americans'

OK, let me say right up front that I have never heard of museum hacks, much less subversive ones. But that's how the Arkansas Arts Center describes tonight's "Assembly Required" event from 6-10 p.m.

John Wooldridge at Cantrell Gallery tonight

Maumelle artist John Wooldridge, in his statement for Cantrell Gallery, says: "Lonely times, lonely places, the periods of transition and reconciliation of loss. I am driven by the beauty of nature and the place of humans within it. I have a predilection for those themes with which I am most familiar and which were meaningful to me in my childhood. Streams, rivers and bodies of water hold a particular fascination as do small towns and the fading remnants of our civilization, so quickly reclaimed by the land."

Eyes, lips, stars, magic and silver at Argenta ArtWalk

Argenta ArtWalk is 5-8 p.m. tonight in downtown North LIttle Rock. Eight venues are participating.

Lunch time loves and laments

A look at three lunch options in Little Rock. Who makes the grade and who doesn't? Get to reading and find out.