← Back to issues

June 22, 2011

Vol 37 • No 43

Read the print version

Putting the fetus first

Pro-lifers keep up attack on access, but pro-choice advocates fend off the end to abortion right.

'Billy Blythe' to premiere in NYC

Local musician Bonnie Montgomery's opera will run for a two-night engagement at the Medicine Show Theater.

The festival for us... just a few weeks away

The Argenta Foodie Fest is a great chance to sample great foods made with Arkansas grown products by some of our best restaurants, to hear good music and chill out with friends, and another excuse to visit the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers Market. Mark your calendar for July 2nd.

Review: 'Billy Blythe'

Bonnie Montgomery's Clinton opera enjoyed a strong premiere in Manhattan.

The community solution to punishment

I jump to no conclusions here, but I was reminded again today how much is yet to play out on the decision to move to more community solutions for non-violent offenders rather than expensive prison time.

BREAKING: 8th Circuit stays Little Rock school money cutoff

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today granted a stay of federal Judge Brian Miller's ruling summarily halting most state desegregation financing for the three public school districts in Pulaski County.

Arkansas Supreme Court proposes weak rule

Last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court took a half-step toward improving police interrogations, but it did not go far enough.

Running ramshod

While rams generally go unshod, horses that wore shoes with nail heads projecting from the bottom of them were said to be "roughshod."

Dog-peter gnat update

The media, both mainstream and alternative, continue to ignore the dog-peter gnat situation.

Taekwondo title

Cody Gertz of Quincy, Ill., left, and Kevin Durant Jr. of Sacramento, Calif., compete during last year's American Taekwondo Association World Championships in Little Rock. The 2011 World Championships begin tomorrow at the Statehouse Convention Center.

The Observer put on the hot seat

The Observer, who had a couple of flicks with our name in the credits screened at the Little Rock Film Festival, was called on to elaborate upon the source of our influence.

Good week: Bryan Abernathy

It was a good week for Bryan Abernathy. It was a bad week for Pulaski County Special School District, Helena-West Helena School District, Aggrieved Walmart workers, Arkansas Razorbacks Basketball, Arkansas State Hospital, Marion Berry, Secretary of State Mark Martin

Browning's to re-open for real?

The long-simmering, new-and-improved Browning's Mexican Grill posts an opening date of July 11.

A sure thing

Acadia continues to impress.

Obit policy flap

The Center for Artistic Revolution, a gay rights organization, has mobilized a protest over an obituary policy in the Batesville Guard that omitted a gay man from the list of his partner's survivors.

Orval's guide to summer fun in Arkansas

First things (Huck) first

Tea Party defined

New polling from the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics at the University of Arkansas and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute sampled opinion from 3,400 people to get inside the minds of members of the Tea Party movement.

Separate but equal at Dickey-Stephens

A visitor to Dickey-Stephens Park discovered that he couldn't buy a beer and a hot dog at the same refreshment stand, but had to go to two different stands. He wondered why.

Clare de Room

A mama moonlighting as a designer gives a friend's old house a very chic update.

We don't like local news

And there's not much of it out there, either

Sweepstake scams part fools from money

Euromilliones Loteria International was pleased to inform us, their letter said, that we'd just won $815,960 in the Spanish Sweepstake. And we didn't even remember buying a ticket.

Data digging to make government more transparent

The Times' collection of searchable databases, which already includes salary information on all Little Rock and Pulaski County government employees, continues to expand at

Pet sitters guide

With the beginning of the summer vacation season comes the perennial question of what to do with your pets. There are many options available, but first you have to decide whether to go the boarding route or hire a sitter.

Manhattan company offers outline of 'Billy Blythe'

A developmental reading by the Metropolis Opera Project captures the core of the work despite the absence of props and costumes.

'Cool Shoes' amps up the summer fun

Also, Iron Tongue and The Dirty Streets bring the rock to White Water, and jazz guitarist Tonk Edwards plays the Quapaw Bathhouse

'An issue of simple math'

"The problem is backward thinking in deciding that sheltering is the most effective way to deal with homeless pets because shelters have been around for a lot longer than birth control."

'Chicago' confirms musical's core qualities

The production combines a wicked sense of humor, a brassy score and tremendous, Brechtian showmanship.

Q&A with Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols is on a roll, albeit one that's taken a while to gain momentum.

Supreme Court rule would not mandate recording

The Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Criminal Practice has proposed a rule that would encourage, but not require, the electronic recording of police interrogations.

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen play Revolution

Plus Opera in the Ozarks, The Swingin' Utters, Joan Jett and Joe Johnson's 30th birthday bash featuring Young Jeezy and K-Ci & JoJo

Scalia gets down to nitty-gritty

Everything has gotten more casual, including Supreme Court opinions.

Is truckers' highway program falling apart?

The trucking industry's plans to raise state diesel taxes by a nickel a gallon over 10 years via referendum may be unraveling in the face of an anti-tax mood among Arkansas voters.

Gov. Perry: Somebody's prayer answered

In a breathtaking example of good timing, 20 Republican Arkansas lawmakers sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week urging the handsome farmer with the big cufflinks and high collars to run for president.

The Conservative Carnival of Crazy

Rick Perry: Bottom-of--barreler

If anybody could lower the quality of the Republican presidential field, Rick Perry just might be the man.

'Green Lantern': Bright for boys, at least

All this time we wondered what a Ryan Reynolds was for and it turns out he's perfectly serviceable as a cocky man-child who goes from flying jets to becoming an intergalactic super hero with the power to shape reality into a Tex Avery cartoon.

So wrong for so long

Restoring order in Pulaski County schools

Wasn't it calming to hear from Bobby Lester in the Democrat-Gazette this morning? The former superintendent named to temporarily lead the state's trusteeship of the Pulaski County School District said getting principals named and teachers prepped for new curriculum were more important than a huge building plan the district might not be able to afford at the moment.

Walmart's authoritarian style

An op-ed in the New York Times, considering the end of the class action sex discrimination lawsuit against Walmart, says the complaint was symptomatic of a historically patriarchal, authoritarian and evangelical Protestant leadership that creates harsh pressures for all employees, but particularly low-wage employees who happen to be predominantly female.

On the subject of cold summer salads

When the weather turns nasty hot like this, the idea of a hot meal at noontime can be oppressive, maybe even nauseating. What's your favorite cold salad for summer — chicken, tuna, pimento?

Beebe opposes truck tax break without diesel tax

KUAR's Kelly MacNeil reports that Gov. Mike Beebe makes it clear he'll seek repeal of a sales tax exemption on truck and trailer sales without an increase in the diesel tax to repair the freeways the trucking industry destroys.

Sarah Palin: Quitter

Sarah Palin couldn't finish her term as Alaska governor. Now she can't finish her discover America buscapade.

Prosecutor says FBI shooting of suspect justified

Mississippi County Prosecutor Scott Ellington has issued a report concluding that an FBI agent was justified in fatally shooting Brandon Fountain, 26, during a planned search of Fountain's Osceola home in the course of a child pornography investigation.

Gore: Obama has failed to lead on climate change

Al Gore slams President Obama. So what's a Democratic sympathizer to do?

Wednesday To-Do: Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen bring the Hold My Beer and Watch This tour to Revolution.

Joe Johnson pays it forward

NBA star Joe Johnson, who still calls Little Rock home, is inviting the press in Saturday for the "launch" of the Joe Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at helping low-income kids and their families.

Wednesday through Saturday To-Do: OA Summit for Ambitious Writers events

As part of its inaugural Summit for Ambitious Writers, the fine folks over at the Oxford American have included some events for those of us not attending the five-day, intensive writing workshop happening right now up on Petit Jean Mountain.

Jose Antonio Vargas has a dream

The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter has a dream — passage of the DREAM Act and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Red clay, anyone?

Little Rock potter is looking for a source.

Thursday night: M2 Gallery auction for Red Cross

Art and other goodies to bid on, food from Pleasant Ridge restaurants to munch on.

There Tim Griffin goes again

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, warns of crushing U.S. debt without cuts in spending, particularly in health costs, or tax increases.

Rick Crawford files financial report

Freshman U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford couldn't get his act together to file his annual financial disclosure statement by the May 16 deadline, but he did file it Friday, June 17.

Wednesday night line

Open line with a robbery, Court of Appeals reversal, update on New York gay marriage vote and more.

A behind-the-scenes view from The Assembly of Light and The Body tour

Photographer and Assembly of Light women's choir singer Jaime Lowe is keeping a photo blog of her band's tour with The Body.

Crispin Glover bringing his far-out films to Hot Springs

Crispin Glover is coming to Hot Springs to screen his latest film "It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE."

Cornbread: It's coming

Save the date. The Cornbread Festival, November 5th at The Bernice Garden in Little Rock (right there on South Main).

A trip on Arkansas's last ferry

Kat Robinson, stalwart contributor on our Eat Arkansas blog, does a world of Arkansas travel on her own Tie Dye Travels blog.

Tea Party: It's all about Obama

John Brummett talks with the UA's Angie Maxwell about recent polling on the Tea Party and its differences from other Republicans.

The truckers want it all

It becomes clearer than ever that the truck lobby pulled a fast one on the legislature.

Burger joint of the week: Cotham's Mercantile

It’s been half a year since I started posting these burger joint recommendations, and you’ve probably wondered one thing: why haven’t I covered the most famous burger in Arkansas?

Judge Steele Hays dies at 86

Retired Supreme Court Justice Steele Hays died yesterday in Conway. He sat on the state Court of Appeals and served as a circuit court judge as well.

Woman run over by car UPDATE

A woman said to be "car-surfing" this morning, on a red compact car driven by her sister, fell off, was run over and was killed when she was trapped beneath the car, according to a report on 4029TV.

Hutchinson pops off; Beebe, DHS fire back UPDATE

Rep. Donna Hutchinson says Gov. Beebe is playing a "scrooge game" by eliminating foster care funding in light of tax cuts passed by the legislature.

Cell phone lot opens this afternoon

Little Rock National Airport has opened its cell phone lot, a boon for folks who want to pick up friends from the airport without having to pay parking fees.

Thursday To-Do: Swingin' Utters

The Swingin' Utters, Continental and The Reparations play tonight at White Water Tavern.

Supreme Court upholds three-part amendment

No surprise. The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld the amendment packing maneuver that rolled three disparate constitutional amendments into one for the 2010 ballot, where voters approved them.

Weekend To-Do: Opera in the Ozarks

Opera in the Ozarks kicks off its 61st season Friday.

Republicans: Rich must be protected

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor walked out of talks on a budget compromise. Why?

Weekend To-Do: Buffalo River Elk Festival

The 14th annual Buffalo River Elk Festival kicks off Friday morning in Jasper.

Thursday night line

The line is open. Closing notes: * OBIT POLICIES: An Arkansas gay rights group has stirred up quite a bit of national attention to the policy of the Batesville Guard to list only immediate family in free obituaries, not including unmarried domestic partners.

French it up in Memphis

"Jean-Louis Forain: La Comedie Francaise" coming to the Dixon Gallery.

World Cheese Dip Championship sets 2011 date

The Second Annual World Cheese Dip Championship will be held on Saturday, September 24 at War Memorial, the Southern Cheese Dip Academy announced today.

More WAC shows: Loretta Lynn, Béla Fleck, Lewis Black

The Walton Arts Center recently unveiled a bunch of upcoming shows for 2011-2012.

Comparing Little Rock's tax rate

Mayor Mark Stodola, in pushing for a 1.25-cent increase in Little Rock's sales tax, emphasizes how low our current rate is against other cities in Arkansas.

An easy fix for the U.S. debt "crisis"

I think someone has mentioned this before, but let's mention again Talking Points Memo's report on how Congress can fix the budget by doing NOTHING.

Stonewall Democrats rip Donna Hutchinson

Stonewall Democrats have a response to Republican Rep. Donna Hutchinson, who went off on a weird tangent yesterday in criticizing cuts in reimbursements to therapeutic foster parents by suggesting somehow (non-existent) programs for gays and lesbians could be cut instead.

Weekend: Cool Shoes, Tonk Edwards, Memphis Belles

Burlesque troupe Memphis Belles comes to Maxine's, Colt Ford and others play the Clear Channel Metroplex and Cool Shoes hosts a "Beach Party."

Pieday: Fried pies galore at the two Ms. Lena's

Summer seems to be the season for fried pies… which, while not set in a pie tin or topped with meringue, are indeed pies.

GOP corporate governance

Another Tea Partyer with an angle — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson who conveniently got $10 million in deferred compensation from his private corporate business after he'd supposedly spent $9 million "self-financing" his race for Senate.

What a drag. Cross-dressing robbers

Gunfire was reported in three separate robberies in Little Rock last night. One robbery victim wounded.

Voter impersonation hogwash

The Republican push to put ever higher ID hurdles in the way of people voting — particularly people from population segments not friendly to Republican candidates — is built on the fiction of a need to combat voter fraud.

Illegal immigration solved

Oops. Yes, Georgia has figured out a way to drive illegal immigrant laborers out of Georgia.

Podcast: Enter the Morass Edition

Max and I have conflicts this afternoon, so here's "The Week in Review Podcast" early.

Saturday To-Do: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Joan Jett plays Timberwood Theater Saturday night.

Saturday To-Do: Joe Johnson's All-Star Birthday Bash

Joe Johnson's 30th birthday party is going to be a serious throw-down.

Grant approved for Rohwer camp cemetery

The National Park Service has approved a $250,000 grant to continue the "Life Interrupted," the project to preserve the cemetery of the Rohwer Relocation Camp in South Arkansas where Americas of Japanese descent where interned during World WAR II.

Make art, not trouble

Artist V.L. Cox and her painting crew wrap up a mural at juvenile detention and treatment center.

The night is young

And the line is open. Final notes: * THE OBSERVER ON FACEBOOK: The Arkansas Times Facebook page has a new regular feature — daily musings by The Observer, expanding from his weekly roost in our print edition.

Tyson's Mexican bribery scheme; why no charges?

Tough analysis from the New York Times' James Stewart of Tyson Foods admitted payments to influence veterinarian inspectors in Tyson Mexican facilities.

Judge Miller gives up Pulaski school case

Federal District Judge Brian Miller, who made the unexpected and since stayed ruling to halt state desegregation payments to Pulaski County school districts, has disqualified himself from hearing the case.

New York Senate approves same-sex marriage UPDATE

Multiple Twitter feeds are saying the New York Senate WILL vote tonight on a same-sex marriage, indicating an agreement has been reached on religious protection language sufficient to bring over enough Republicans for adoption.

No gifts for public officials, but ....

The state Ethics Commission issued the only opinion it could possibly have issued yesterday — that public agencies cannot give gifts to public officials, such as the $500 Spirit of St. Louis radios the Little Rock National Airport bought for soon-to-be-outgoing airport commissioners.

The end of choice

It's no coincidence. The Times cover story this week by Leslie Newell Peacock is about the shrinking availability of abortion in Arkansas.

A Mark Martin clause? UPDATE

A trusted correspondent says the following boilerplate was included on an e-mail from Secretary of State Mark Martin.

Campaign boasts, Little Rock style

A civic gadfly with a long memory sent me a copy of the flyer he received from Mayor Mark Stodola during his re-election campaign last year.

It's Saturday night

And you're live. Please note: * ON WISCONSIN: The conservative justice barely re-elected in Wisconsin and an import cog in the right-wing junta apparently tried to throttle a female member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Questions about shale riches

In case you missed the reprint in the Democrat-Gazette, the New York Times today has an important story about internal documents raising questions about the value of shale gas exploration, including in Arkansas.

The highway construction dilemma

John Lyon of Stephens Media highlights a critical bit of fallout from the apparent implosion of the idea to increase the tax on diesel to pay for repairs to the bridge freeway routes that truckers regularly destroy.

The Ark. Kook Caucus has Perry's back

In case you needed it, John Brummett chronicles the extremism of Texas Gov. Rick Perry — theocrat, secessionist, plutocrat-enabler.

The New Yorker chats with Alice Walton

The latest New Yorker has the best article I've read yet on billionaire Alice Walton's evolution as, first, a collector of fine art and then mother of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The line is open

It's hot. Beyond that ....

Tolbert joins Roby Brock

As mentioned here previously, Jason Tolbert will begin blogging again next month in partnership with Roby Brock at Talk Business.

Preserving Capitol views

The state took control of planning issues around the state Capitol and Governor's Mansion some years ago to protect those historic structures.

Europe fights the automobile

First things first. I know.

Weiner tales: Just Deb's

The Mountain Home eatery does a pretty decent Chicago dog. The Italian beef sandwich, though... my oh my, we have a winner.

Corporate welfare for a newspaper?

Amusing. A Gannett newspaper editor in Florida — with blood on his hands from the layoff of 14 employees — tries to justify taking $105,000 in taxpayer-financed corporate welfare for startup of some new digital media jobs in his building?

A dose of alternative education reform

The Walton money, through the ideological arm it founded at the University of Arkansas and the lobby group it fiannces in Little Rock, pretty well sets the tone for most discussion of "education reform" in Arkansas.

Democrats go after Griffin and Crawford

Republican freshman Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford are among those spotlighted by new Democratic Party advertising aimed at reducing the GOP edge in the House.

More Supreme Court comfort for the rich

Another 5-4 conservative bloc ruling favoring the wealthy and corporate interests in campaign financing. The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down an Arizona law that gave supplemental money to publicly funded candidates.

Court rejects ban on violent video games for minors

In another First Amendment case today, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2, with Scalia writing for the majority, to uphold a lower court decision that states couldn't ban sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

Owner of closed store complains in graffiti

A convenience store at 1901 Wright Ave — closed by court order as a nuisance property on June 22, less than a week after a murder in the parking lot there — now features protest signs and graffiti apparently placed there by the owner.

See photos from Joe Johnson's birthday bash

See a slideshow of photos from Joe Johnson's birthday party.

Glen Campbell to hit the road one last time

Arkansas native Glen Campbell, who recently revealed he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, will take to the road for "The Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour."

'True Blood': Sookie deftly avoids the glowing oranges

"True Blood" is pretty much indefensible, my buddy argued last night. Bad or at best campy acting. Bad, exposition-laden dialogue. Dumb plot turns. Scattershot character development. Yet, it's still so goddamn addictive.

At the throttle: tea party justice

Most detailed story yet about right-wing Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser who argues that, as Eschaton put it, a female justice "attacked his hands with her neck."

Tyson chlorine leak sends dozens to hospital

A chlorine leak at the Tyson Foods plant in Springdale (Stephens Media) has sent 164 to area hospitals with breathing difficulties headaches and other symptoms of exposure, with at least a few admitted for treatment.

I-440 blocked by chemical spill

The State Police says access to I-440 from I-40 has been blocked because of an overturned truck that spilled an acid cargo on the roadway.

Blagojevich convicted on 17 counts

Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor, has been convicted of 17 of 20 public corruption charges.

White House wants new names for federal judgeship

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor confirms that the White House wants to start over on potential nominees for a vacant federal judgeship in Little Rock.

Walker wants state to rescind Pulaski takeover

John Walker, attorney for black children in the Pulaski school desegregation case, has written a letter asking the state to rescind its takeover last week of the Pulaski County Special School District.

Monday thread

The line is open. Some final notes: * 'I WAS WRONG ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE': So writes conservative commentator David Frum, who once argued strenuously about the dangers.

School choice: Proceed cautiously

School choice sounds so good, particularly when the public has been increasingly conditioned to believe all public schools are bad and anything would be better.

Judge Miller's old school ties

Talk of charter schools reminds me: Federal Judge Brian Miller stunned everyone late Friday when he stepped off the Pulaski school desegregation case.

Pryor's plan for the budget

John Brummett drew out Sen. Mark Pryor on a potential Senate plan to provide for an increase in the debt ceiling.

Bachmann: How will she deal?

Michele Bachmann made (another) campaign trail gaffe on the repeat opening of her presidential campaign in Waterloo (how's that for a metaphor).

Jerry Guess to lead Pulaski School District UPDATE

That was quick. Former superintendent Bobby Lester's interim leadership of the Pulaski County School District, now under state control, didn't last long. Jerry Guess of Camden-Fairview has been named to take charge.

Hitting the air against Griffin, Crawford

I mentioned yesterday an independent Democratic PAC's ad campaign against Republican freshmen in Congress, including Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford.

Questions about city homeless center UPDATE

An advocate for the homeless sends along comments and questions about Mayor Mark Stodola's latest idea for providing a long-delayed day center for the homeless.

Beebe weighs in on special election

Gov. Mike Beebe has sent out an e-mail call (through the state Democratic Party) for support for Democratic nominee Hudson Hallum in the special election July 12 for House District 54 from Crittenden County.

Sierra Club continues fight against coal plant

Welcome to the Twilight Zone of Arkansas environmental regulation. The Department of Environmental Quality held a hearing last night for a wastewater discharge permit for a coal-fired power plant, SWEPCO's Turk Plant, that's probably at the billion-dollar-construction mark already.

Ear Fear throws an old-school party in new video

Ear Fear debuts a new video.

Southern Baptist Convention hoaxed on gay stance

The Southern Baptist Convention apparently was the target of an elaborate hoax — complete with phony news releases, a fake website and phones answered by impostors — to make it appear that the denomination had reversed itself and supported gay rights.

Juanita's to open in River Market this week

Juanita’s plans to open in its new River Market location by the end of the week.

So much for Senate consensus

Sen. Mark Pryor made press rounds in Little Rock yesterday and his message included hopefulness about Republican Senate colleagues.

Q&A with Crispin Glover

Crispin Hellion Glover discusses his films and his unconventional means of promoting them.

Bonnie Montgomery's Clinton opera gets more national attention

Former Democrat-Gazette columnist Kyle Brazzel, who wrote a preview and a review of "Billy Blythe" for the Times in recent weeks, has a great Talk of the Town piece in this week's New Yorker on the opera and its creator, Bonnie Montgomery.

The best crazy idea of the year

Bonnie Montgomery, a Searcy native currently living in Nashville, is putting the finishing touches on "Billy Blythe," a one-act opera on the young life of Bill Clinton.

'Billy Blythe' preview shows promise

"Billy Blythe" represents an "opportunity to bring opera back to the people," director Jeremy Franklin told a near-capacity crowd at its premiere Friday night at the Women's City Club.