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August 17, 2011

Vol 37 • No 51

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Free ride or pay the fare?

There's more than one way to get the sheepskin.

Is higher education a bubble soon to burst?

The numbers aren't pretty in Arkansas.

"IOU/USA" — Salvest public art project in Kansas: Update

ASU artist to use shipping containers to symbolize U.S. debt predicament.

Mark Martin and Jill Dabbs: Your tax dollars at 'work'

The line is open. Stray thoughts on Chipotle, Michele Bachmann, Jill Dabbs and Mark Martin.

Big Orange will open next week

The burgers and salad restaurant should be open by the mid-part of next week.

Know your Arkansas monsters

The Observer visits Northwest Arkansas

And stays a night in the famed Crescent Hotel.

One from the Rove playbook?

At a town hall meeting held in Little Rock last week, staffers of Rep. Tim Griffin handed out pamphlets of "homework" that included a list of Florida activists who have been critical of Republican politicians.

Security advocate Shannon Beebe dies

A former Arkansan who had been a strong voice for new security policy in the evolving world died in a recent plane crash.

It's happened before

Rep. Linda Collins-Smith's move to the Republican Party isn't the first such switch in the state's history.

A very 'escalated' officer

Plus, the history of the term "Third World."

Back to work

After two weeks of vacation, I prepared to go back to work with a speed reading of accumulated newspapers.

Eye on Arkansas Aug. 17, 2011

Let us see it

Arkansas has erred in the past by allowing private development that partially blocks the view of its Capitol. Let us learn from our mistake.

Hearing set for Dabbs

Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs will go before the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Friday to fight a preliminary finding that she improperly increased her mayoral salary without City Council approval.

Griffin's way

Straightforward, ethical behavior seems beyond Tim Griffin. Some genetic defect, perhaps.

Irony abounds as religion arises

If you want irony, pop open a can of worms on religion, on those who claim it and those who don't.

Judicial legislating of health care

Forget the headlines about foes of the health insurance reform law winning a big victory in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Matters are not going well for that side.

Contracting out

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office paid the law firm Friday, Eldredge and Clark $3,190.27 to draft a Freedom of Information Act policy for the office.

Packet House plans

Remodeling plans are in flux, so no specific opening date is available yet, but as we've reported before, the historic Packet House on Cantrell Road is soon to be used again as a restaurant.

Times Blues Bus rides again

Plus, the Harvest Music Festival announces its lineup and Bobby releases a new album.

'Well, it's one louder, isn't it?'

The Wicked Good turns it up to 11.

Gucci Mane, Nappy Roots and Country Bucks

Plus, Blackberry Winter, Touche Amore, Royal Forest and Janet Napolitano.

The Iguanas play Juanita's

Plus, Jackson Taylor & The Sinners, Elise Davis, David Kimbrough, a benefit for the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation and more.

Little Black dress guide

This guide to cocktail dresses might not provide a flow chart that determines the level of dressiness that a particular event requires, but it does note a number of local retailers with a great selection of outfits for after-hours events.

Obama's first two years

Fayetteville profs edit book on change, continuity.

Adding dimension

Volkert's boxed and mounted masterpieces at HAM.


'30 Minutes or Less' is a brisk, darkly funny romp.

In Pulaski County, juries are trusted

And if Nancy Grace drops in, John Hall is ready for her.

Good week: death row inmates

It was a good week for: death row inmates, atheists and Arkansas Republicans. It was a bad week for: The Arkansas Lottery and Knile Davis.

On "Beyond Scared Straight"

Plus, IFC's "Whisker Wars" and "Winter's Bone."

Tea Party Tim and Plutocrat Pete

Nice lunching in Dogtown Cookery

Not so long ago, no restaurateur in North Little Rock would have dared use the name "Dogtown." Times have changed, obviously.

Big Orange set to open next week

Plus, Chipotle opens at Pleasant Ridge and the Toast of the Town poll is live.

Dem-Gaz layoffs

"Walter Hussman has a notorious history of paying little and offering few benefits. Walter Hussman is a rich man. Can he take his riches with him when this life is over? If there is a heaven, what will he say, what excuses will he offer St. Peter?"

The Tea Party: Is the fun over?

An interesting New York Times op-ed reviews the plunging poll approval numbers for the Tea Party and delves into the numbers for some insight into who TPers are.

'Jersey Shore' inspires the reverse endorsement

On a slow morning, this funny story stood out. Abecrombie and Fitch is proposing to pay a substantial sum to MTV so that cast of "Jersey Shore" will NOT wear their clothes on-air.

Last Shot With Judge Gunn UPDATE

Though a number of production details remain hazy, work continues on the syndicated TV show planned by former Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn, who resigned from the bench so she could create the show modeled on her drug court in Fayetteville.

Fatal shooting at convenience store

Little Rock police say Jarrod Gatewood, 23, died at a hospital early this morning after being shot in the upper body during an argument with another person about 12:45 a.m. on the parking lot of a convenience store at 12th and Woodrow.

New ramp planned for Big Dam Bridge

A cyclist called with concerns about a detour from the existing River Trail between the Big Dam Bridge and the new Two Rivers Bridge.

How low will the Brothers Koch go?

The Kochs will even deploy their millions to take over a North Carolina school board in the interest of upending a working desegregation plan that has the educationally sound effect of ensuring a mix of economic groups in all schools.

Linda Tyler announces for Senate

State Rep. Linda Tyler made her expected announcement today that she'll seek a state Senate seat now held by term-limited Gilbert Baker.

Wednesday To-Do: Touche Amore

TOUCHE AMORE7 p.m. Downtown Music Hall.

Thursday: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners, Dante and more

Jackson Taylor & The Sinners play Stickyz Thursday night.

Anybody seen Burt Reynolds?

News article from Florida about foreclosure action against actor Burt Reynolds for debt on a Florida mansion says legal papers were sent to Reynolds' home in Little Rock.

More on Rick Perry's Texas Miracle

This is rich. Did you know that a big part of the reason for robust job creation in Texas during the tenure of Rick Perry was the creation of 300,000 GOVERNMENT JOBS — 47 percent of the new jobs between 2007 and 2010?

Beebe has 'confidence issues' with lottery director

Gov. Mike Beebe doesn't control Lottery Commission appointments (only three of nine), but that's three-fifths of the way to assembling the votes to fire the lottery director and he presumably has some stick with the legislative leaders who make the other appointments.

Not much. You?

Slow day. Maybe the readers can fire it up.

Arts Center taking entries for Delta Exhibition

Artists have until Oct. 14 to enter.

Speaking of the Arts Center

A good end to fiscal year 10-11; July donations highlight need to fill development job.

Bid on Johnny Cash Music Festival goodies

Arkansas State University is auctioning a Fender guitar signed by musicians who played the Johnny Cash Music Festival.

Cirque du Soleil's Dralion to Verizon Arena

Cirque du Soleil's Dralion comes to Verizon Arena Dec. 13-14.

The pope is not a Republican

Pope Benedict has made headlines for saying a profit-at-all-cost mentality is behind the European economic crisis and that morals and ethics should play a greater role iin economic policy.

Missouri Lt. governor and the stripper

Ever heard of Peter Kinder? Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr drops his name a lot.

Burger joint of the week: 302 on the Square

We’ve talked about this place before, this restoration going on at the Grand View Hotel in Berryville. But what you don't know, is that the restaurant is doing something I haven't found at any other Arkansas restaurant. They're baking their beef.

Weekend: Elise Davis, The Iguanas, David Kimbrough and more

David Kimbrough plays Midtown Saturday night.

'Garage shops' announced for Third Street

Moses Tucker Real Estate has announced that it's constructing 1,000 square feet of retail space in three bays on the ground floor of the Arkansas Capital Commerce Center parking deck on East Third Street.

Body found in Arkansas River

Little Rock police have identified a body found in the Arkansas River about 8:30 p.m. last night as that of LeAndre Jackson, 41, who was reported missing Tuesday.

9-11 commemoration set at Capitol

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks will be observed at the State Capitol with a program at 2 p.m.

Alice Stewart noted in Bachmann coverage

Alice Stewart, the former Arkansas newswoman who's handled press for Mike Huckabee and Secretary of State Mark Martin, is drawing plenty of attention for her role as spokeswoman for Michele Bachmann.

Hearing set on River Rail expansion study

Metroplan has scheduled an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 30, at its offices at 501 W. Markham to consider a study with recommendations on expansion of the River Rail streetcar system.

Friday To-Do: Gucci Mane

GUCCI MANE9 p.m., Clear Channel Metroplex. $25-$75.

Conway Community Arts Association accepting applications for directors

Conway Community Arts Association is seeking applications from directors.

House PAC hits Tim Griffin again

The House Majority PAC is going after U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin again with commercial spots.

Friday To-Do: Nappy Roots

Nappy Roots plays Stickyz Saturday night.

The law according to Mary Ann Gunn

Information continues to trickle into me about Mary Ann Gunn, the former circuit judge who quit the bench to film a syndicated commercial TV show about her time as a drug court judge.

Girl Talk, The Fray, Dierks Bentley and more to Fort Smith

Fort Smith's Festival on the Border includes performances from Girl Talk, The Fray, Dierks Bentley and more.

Speculation mounts on freedom for West Memphis 3 UPDATE

Big news is expected in circuit court in Jonesboro when Judge David Laser holds a hearing just announced today on the West Memphis Three case.

Raines won't take Little Rock Airport job

Mark Raines, who was hired this week as the public relations person at Little Rock National Airport, has changed his mind and decided not to take the job, Airport Director Ron Mathieu has confirmed.

Get ready for 3rd Friday art

Thea Foundation, Ketz Gallery, Greg Thompson Fine Art, Laman Library Argenta and other venues have Argenta ArtWalk events lined up for tomorrow night.

Thursday night line

Final thoughts on University of Arkansas football fund-raising, a Republican congressional candidate, charges in a Fort Smith city hall fight.

Tim Griffin's dirty politics

The Crooks and Liars website passes along information about the origin of a flyer U.S. Rep. Tim Griiffin distributed at a town hall meeting in an effort to tamp down criticism and discourage dissenters.

West Memphis 3 return to court and, perhaps, freedom

Much more to come later this morning from Jonesboro, where Circuit Judge David Laser will consider a plea bargain between the state and the West Memphis 3 that could bring their immediate release from prison after more than 17 years.

Pieday: Sweet Potato at Java Primo

You’d be harder pressed to find a heartier pie than this slab of nutty condensed sweetness.

'Paradise Lost' filmmakers in Jonesboro at work on part 3

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were days away from putting the finishing touches on "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," the third part of their trilogy of films on the West Memphis Three, when news of today's expected plea deal came down.

Arkansas unemployment rate rises to 8.2 percent

More disappointing news: a rise in the Arkansas unemployment rate in July to 8.2 percent, up from 8.1 percent the month before.

Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines are in Jonesboro

Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines, famous for their roles in Pearl Jam and The Dixie Chicks respectively, are in Jonesboro today awaiting the expected release of the West Memphis Three, on whose behalf the two musicians have advocated for years, according to Times reporters Gerard Matthews and David Koon, who're on the ground.

Saturday To-Do: Eureka Springs Family Bluegrass Weekend

Blackberry Winter headlines this year's Eureka Springs Family Bluegrass Weekend Saturday night at Basin Spring Park.

FLASH: West Memphis 3 freed in plea bargain

After the bang of a judge's gavel, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., walked out of a Jonesboro courtroom free men this morning.

West Memphis Three press conference

Gerard Matthews is streaming.

Prosecutor's statement on West Memphis 3 plea deal

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro issued this prepared statement following today's plea bargain that freed the West Memphis 3 murder defendants: Some are happy, some are angry, and others are perplexed.

Damien Echols' statement on plea deal

Damien Echols, freed from Death Row in today's West Memphis Three plea bargain, released the following statement today: To all my friends and family, my attorneys and advocates, and to those of you from every corner of this earth who have stood beside us these long years, please know that I will forever be indebted to all of you for helping me to become a free man. Each and every day I was the beneficiary of acts of kindness and humanity from people of all walks of life, of all ages, nationalities, religions and political persuasions.

Death penalty foes applaud WM3 outcome

The Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, led by Christian Ruud, issued this statement on today's action in the West Memphis Three case: We mark the release of Damien Echols from death row and co-defendants Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin — both serving life terms — with a somber sense of gratitude.

Sunday To-Do: Royal Forest

Royal Forest plays Artchurch Studio Sunday night.

Dustin McDaniel puts WM3 call on prosecutor

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who's office rabidly pursued affirmation of capital convictions of the West Memphis Three, has now been heard from on today's plea bargain that freed them.

Little Rock Zoo chimp dies

Louie, the Little Rock Zoo's eight-year-old chimpanzee, has died after suffering from autoimmune disease.

Argenta ArtWalk reminder: Ketz Gallery

Vintage photos combined with drawings and stamps from Matthew Castellano.

Argenta Artwalk reminder: Thea

Thea Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary tonight.

Byers points finger in killing

John Mark Byers accuses another of being the real West Memphis killer.

Video: 'Thoughts from China'

James Tisdale's ceramics are the focus.

Friday night line

A momentous day done. Over to you.

Video: 'ROUX'

Another video from UALR, on a show by women printmakers.

Ethics Commission cautions Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs

By a vote of 5-0, the state Ethics Commission ruled Friday that Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs had violated state ethics rules by giving herself a pay raise, from $65,000 to $71,000, without the approval of the city council.

Podcast: The West Memphis Three Are Free Edition

Max Brantley offers a clarifying explanation of how and why the West Memphis Three were freed today.

$20 million 'Devil's Knot' adaptation targeting spring production

A major director is attached to a film adaptation of Arkansas Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt's "Devil's Knot," Deadline New York reports.

West Memphis 3 bottom line: Freedom

John Brummett's take on the West Memphis 3 plea deal yesterday: Justice wasn't served, but political considerations were.

Community group opposes LR sales tax

Arkansas Community Organizations, the grass-roots group, has written a letter opposing the Little Rock one-cent sales tax increase.

As Little Rock National Airport turns

It's Saturday and slow. How about a little inside baseball from Little Rock National Airport.

Historian found slain in Newport

KAIT in Jonesboro has some details on the death of James Logan Morgan, 70, found stabbed to death Friday morning in his Newport home.

Evangelical dynasty undone

Ever heard of the influential evangelical Francis Schaeffer? (Mike Huckabee once said Mike Huckabee his favorite book after the Bible was Schaeffer's "Whatever Happened to the Human Race" and he's been described as having a "profound" influence on Michele Bachmann.)

The line is open

Over to you. I've been on the receiving end of a variety of messsages related to the release of the West Memphis 3, including from key supporters who spent time with them last night and today in Memphis.

Death in Garland County Jail

From sheriff's spokesman James Martin: At approximately 3:55 this afternoon [Saturday], during inmate feeding, deputies noticed 29-year-old Christopher Lee Martin hanging in his cell.

Pay attention to who's PACing

State Rep. Greg Leding, the Fayetteville Democrat, has sent an e-mail to friends urging careful inspection of pleas for money to PACs established to elect people to the Arkansas legislature.

Fringe politics imperil water supply

John Brummett declines to use the word crazy to describe the unhinged efforts by Koch Brothers shill Teresa Oelke of Americans for Prosperity and hors categorie wingnut Jeannie Burlsworth of Secure Arkansas.

In review: Charter school mythbusting

Today's reading assignment for those interested in education reform and the Billionaire Boys Club drive to charterize public education (and destroy teacher unions in the few places they exist): It's a New York Times review of Steve Brill's new book "Class Warfare," an anti-union, pro-charter school effort.

The $500 million message

Like mushrooms in a cow patty, signs promoting the Little Rock sales tax increase have begun popping up in the neighborhod.

Monday To-Do: Janet Napolitano

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano comes to the Clinton Presidential Center Monday.

Sunday night line

How's about it? Anything to report.

Arkie goes after Microsoft for $500 billion

Why not an even trillion? Seattle newspaper explores an Arkansan's $500 billion lawsuit against Microsoft over his Xbox contract.

Libyan revolution nears climax

You can do a lot worse than for updates on the fighting in Libya, where rebels seem close to putting the government to flight.

Does Little Rock need a half-billion in new taxes?

The Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that the city of Little Rock has better police and fire staffing than several similar cities in the region — Tulsa and Austin, for example — despite having a lower city sales tax rate — a half-cent.

Alice Stewart meets Al Jazeera

Remember when Alice Stewart, late of Secretary of State Mark Martin's crack staff, drew national attention for rough handling of a CNN reporter and others in Stewart's service to Michele Bachmann?

Tuesday To-Do: Country Bucks

Country Bucks plays Downtown Music Hall Tuesday night.

West Memphis 3: Q&A set Thursday

Questions you'd like to ask about the unexpected and dramatic developments last week in the West Memphis Three case?

West Memphis 3 and Mara Leveritt on 'The Early Show'

This morning, CBS' "The Early Show" explored Jason Baldwin's decision to abandon his fight to clear his name and accept the "Alford plea" to save Damien Echols from death row, and interviewed Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt.

Senate race shaping up in Delta

A well-funded two-party fight is shaping up for a race for Senate in District 26, now held by term-limited Sen. Jimmy Jeffress.

Peter Jackson applauds the WM3

Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, took a break from filming "The Hobbit" on Friday to hail the release of the West Memphis Three on his Facebook page.

Flash: Republicans like a tax increase

But wouldn't you know it, the tax increase some Republicans want to pass is to reinstate the full payroll tax.

The line is open

A weird Monday for me. What's on your mind. Closing out: * MEDICAID: Gov. Mike Beebe has sent a letter outlining changes he hopes to make to restrain Medicaid expenditures.

Lucinda Williams to Juanita's

Lucinda Williams is scheduled to play Juanita's Oct. 11.

HBO to re-air WM3 docs next week

In honor of the release of the West Memphis Three, HBO will be re-airing the groundbreaking documentaries that really kicked the effort to win their freedom into high gear.

Riverfest robbery followup UPDATE

A reader asked: Do you remember the robbery of the young male near the Capitoal Hotel one night during Riverfest?

Apple store opens Saturday

Thanks to Radical Centrist for marking the sparrow's fall on the Apple store in The Promenade at Chenal.

'Lord of Rings' maker on West Memphis Three

Sir Peter Jackson, the director of "Lord of the Rings" and for years a key but secret financial supporter of the effort to free the West Memphis Three, has posted a long essay on last week's release of the three on his Facebook page.

West Memphis 3 event moves to bigger venue

The panel discussion on the West Memphis Three case, sponsored by the Arkansas Times in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service, has drawn more than 500 reservations less than 12 hours after we put it together yesterday morning.

WM3 judge: They're still murderers

Sen. David Burnett of Jonesboro, who was judge in the West Memphis Three case, tells the Commercial-Appeal that he's unhappy with the plea bargain, but said the defendants "walked out of that courtroom as murderers."

Tim Summers announces for Senate

As expected, Rep. Tim Summers of Bentonville, a Democrat in his early political years but now a Republican, has announced for the open state Senate seat drawn to help him by his political friend Gov. Mike Beebe.

Charter school cheating

Hold the phone on the developing narrative on the success of New Orleans charter schools.

What's wrong with Iowa

This poll just about says it all on Iowa Republican voters. Romney up 12 on Perry with evolution believers, 22 with global warming believers.

Two-fer: Big Jake's BBQ and Original Fried Pie Shop

I don’t get down to south Arkansas enough, else I’m sure I’d have already enjoyed some of the smoky flavor of Big Jake’s before.

House elections shaping up

Roby Brock at Talk Business and Politics has begun a spreadsheet listing of emerging candidates for House of Representatives.

Rebels are in Moammar's house

Reporting is that rebels are inside the Qaddafi compound. It's also safe to say the fog of this civil war has been particularly obscuring.

Beebe: No pardon for WM3

Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters today what his office had earlier told us in reporting for our cover story this week on the West Memphis 3 case — don't look for him to pardon the three.

Rocking it like Faulkner County

A 5.8 earthquake centered near Richmond rattled the Eastern Seaboard today. It caused evacuation of government buildings in Washington, some disruption in airline flights and plenty of angst.

Airport Commission: No action on PR job

The Little Rock Airport Commission met for about an hour in a special executive session today to discuss the suddenly controversial job as director of PR and government relations, but took no action.

Floated: Pat Hays v. Tim Griffin for Congress

Talk Business & Politics floats noise about a congressional candidacy by longtime North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays against the one-term incumbent congressman, Reactionary Republican Tim Griffin.

Whirlpool's end in Fort Smith?

Whirlpool, which once employed as many as 4,600 in Fort Smith (now about 1,100), may be heading to zero as it evaluates continued production of side-by-side refrigerators.

WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour to Conway, seeking Arkansas acts

WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour comes to Conway March 31.

A statement from Jessie Misskelley Jr.

Jessie Misskelley Jr. is the least famous member of the West Memphis Three. He went to his family home in Crittenden County after his release Friday.

Tuesday topics are up to you

The line is open.