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November 2, 2011

Vol 38 • No 10

Read the print version

Reforming judicial elections in Arkansas

Task force at work.

Braving haunted houses

It's that time of the year, when The Observer seeks out manufactured scares to get in the mood for Halloween. Like every American holiday, the night of Oct. 31 is surrounded by a certain amount of capitalistic tackiness; we wonder what it must have been like to live back when people were actually afraid of the dead returning to life.

Tim Griffin: unbelievable

President Obama's plan for Medicare would "balance the budget on the backs of seniors," Rep. Tim Griffin says in a mailing to residents of the Second Congressional District. He lies.

Getting dirty at the Mud Run

Up all night

Everyone I talk to is tired. You ask anyone how they are and this seems to be the response. Tired from work, tired from kids, tired from one more episode, from one more game the night before.

Barton's rock past preserved

For decades, music fans in Central Arkansas knew Barton Coliseum as THE place for big name concerts.

Sedaris to Wordsworth

Humorist and public radio favorite David Sedaris will be stopping by WordsWorth Books Dec. 5 for a book signing.

The story of a mural

First an artwork, then building material, now the goal of UALR restoration project.

Cornbread guide

Have a hankering for fresh, hot cornbread? Whether your preference is for traditional Arkansas unsweetened cornbread or the more Northern-friendly sweet version, or even if you're looking for jalapeno bread or johnnycakes, we have the best baker's dozen places in the state to get your cornbread fix.

North Little Rock Tea Party

North Little Rock votes on a sales tax increase next week and it seems only fair to give Mayor Pat Hays a little of the attention I gave Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola on his recent push for a penny increase.

'Paranormal Activity 3' keeps the scares coming

With a frightening formula of throwback minimalism.

Iron Tongue at White Water

Do you seek an evening of heavy-metal-psych-rock-riff-o-rama? Look no further than White Water Tavern, which hosts Iron Tongue, Black-Eyed Vermillion and Whiskey Dick, 9 p.m., $5.

Dillard a-Twitter over hip-hop prez

Dr. Walter Kimbrough, president of Philander Smith College, Tuesday was named new president of Dillard University in New Orleans.

Hot check artist unchallenged

Roby Brock's Talk Business website reported this week that Rep. Josh Johnston had announced for re-election in District 65 and that the Rose Bud Republican had no Democratic opposition.

Donation for Occupy Little Rock

Occupy Little Rock, the local offshoot of the worldwide protest movement that started in New York City with Occupy Wall Street, is getting a $1,000 donation last week from the Arkansas AFL-CIO.

They're a hoot

The hot topic among the Mississippi flyway birds coming south during the fall migration continues to be the rapture of several thousands of their brethren near Beebe last winter.

Against NLR tax increase

Why does North Little Rock need a tax increase? A flier that was mailed to me stated that with Little Rock and Newport as well as Garland and Jefferson Counties increasing their tax rates, North Little Rock needs to increase its tax rate to stay competitive.

Stick with breakfast at Ozark

Ozark shines in the a.m., but shadows fall over dinner.

Mitt Romney: big flipper

The professionals are consigning the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney more than a month before the first Iowan casts a vote.

Occupy Toad Suck

For roads and jobs

Better roads and more jobs is a combination that's hard to quarrel with, and we won't. The Arkansas Times supports the proposed $575 million bond program for interstate highway improvements.

Winning on road in SEC no easy task

You know all the lowlights by heart. Street to Peschel. The phantom pass interference against SMU. Atwater's missed pick in Miami. Stumble and Fumble. The Southern-Fried Misadventures of Reggie Fish.

Arkansas political trends

On Oct. 26, the University of Arkansas's Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society released its 13th annual Arkansas Poll.

Protect and serve

Beavis and Butt-head return

It's time to dig your Nirvana t-shirt out of the closet and get that case of OK Soda you've had aging behind the water heater, because "Beavis and Butt-head" is back.

Cornbread Festival comes to Main Street

Plus the Ozark Folk Festival, RVIVR, 'Blaze Folely: Duct Tape Messiah', 'The Quality of Life', Dead Confederate, Dead Meadow, Eddie Miles

Cheddar's open

And H.A.M. puts off opening for a week.

Not Barney

"I see that google is now in the dictionary as a verb meaning 'to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.' But where did the search engine get the name? Does it have anything to do with the old comic strip character Barney Google, he of the goo-goo-googley eyes?"

Good week for Mike Beebe

overning magazine named the governor one of its 2011 public officials of the year and the University of Arkansas's Arkansas Poll reported that he enjoys a stratospheric 72 percent favorable rating in the state.

Musical 'Shrek' succeeds, mostly

If light family entertainment is your speed.

The have-mores

Now and then, George W. Bush told the unvarnished truth — most often in jest.

Little Rock Board widens racial divide

The Little Rock City Board last night, as expected, refused to reappoint Robert Webb to the board of the Little Rock Housing Authority, as the authority had requested.

State treasurer's messy books

Good for the Democrat-Gazette, which got some comment today from State Treasurer Martha Shoffner about her campaign finance reports.

Questions raised about shale lease practices

The growing band of activists watching for abusive practices in shale gas exploration were buzzing last night about a complaint filed Monday in Cleburne County that alleges official connivance in the filing of improperly executed gas leases.

ASU prof enters 1st District Democratic primary

Michael Cook at Talk Business reports on the announcement of another Democratic candidate for 1st District Congress.

State revenue continues positive trend

The state revenue report for October shows gross revenues for the month ahead of the same month last year and also ahead of forecast, though large income tax refunds pushed the net a bit below the forecast.

Debunking the Social Security myths

Gene Lyons, now available on-line in the Arkansas Times, takes apart this week something I'd mentioned earlier — a wildly misleading piece of analysis in the Washington Post (reprinted on Page one of the DOG) about Social Security, a piece that invented a crisis that doesn't exist in a way that seemed intended to support the Republican view that Social Security needs to be dismantled.

To-Do: Ozark Folk Festival

Split Lip Rayfield plays the Ozark Folk Festival in Eureka Springs.

Wednesday To-Do: RVIVR

RVIVR plays White Water Tavern Wednesday night.

Griffin makes hay out of regulations

More cartoon-quality legislating from U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin. He has legislation — going nowhere — to stop new government regulations.

Chain Link: Cheddar's

There are several restaurants that fall within the sphere of typical middle-class restaurant. Cheddar's Casual Cafe manages to avoid this trap with decent, tasty food.

Pryor jobs plan — build things

Given that they might face each other in a Senate bout in 2014, I think it's worth noting two approaches to job creation from U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Citizens ask Little Rock board to be heard

I wrote early this morning about divided Little Rock politics and the lack of trust engendered by city powers' disregard for the have-nots.

Severance tax group starts Facebook page

The Commitee for a Fair Severance Tax, the group pushing an increase in the severance tax on natural gas, has an informational Facebook page up.

The Republicans' one-way street

Democrats on the so-called Super Committee are willing to damage their base by agreeing to major cuts and changes that could affect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

City of Gould strikes deal with IRS on tax liability

The IRS has worked out a deal with the city of Gould that could mean the city will be forgiven more than $250,000 in past taxes and penalties due.

Texas judge who beat daughter: 'not as bad as it looks'

Words fail. Caution: The video is violent and unsettling.

Review: Randall Shreve and the Sideshow at Stickyz

Randall Shreve and The Sideshow played Stickyz Friday night.

John Deering at Cantrell Gallery

New paintings in show opening Friday.

ASU faculty biennial

Going down in 9 days

"Finer Things" at sUgAR Gallery

Contemporary craft in Bentonville

Winfred Rembert in Hot Springs

Subject of the documentary "All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert," is the featured artist at Taylor's Contemporanea this month.

Thursday To-Do: 'Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah'

'Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah' will screen Thursday night at Stickyz.

Obama nominates Kris Baker for federal judgeship

Sources tell me President Obama will nominate Kris Baker, a member of Little Rock's Quattlebeaum law firm, to a vacancy on the federal district court bench.

Wednesday night line

The line is open for your comments. Close-outs: * WHIRLPOOL IMPACT: The City Wire gets an analysis of the impact of the closure of the Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith.

Oxford American signs lease on old Juanita's space

On Tuesday, the Oxford American signed a five-year lease on the buildings at 1300 Main Street in Little Rock that formerly housed Juanita's.

Thursday: Iron Tongue, John Oates, The Gettys and David Cortight

John Oates plays the UARK Bowl in Fayetteville Thursday.

Cornbread: The Festival

This weekend we'll find out who'll come out on top at the inaugural Arkansas Cornbread Festival cornbread competition. Find out what restaurant cornbread we like around the state — and check out a couple of recipe, too.

Judge defends beating his daughter

We probably did plenty on this yesterday, but I saw a fuller version of the Corpus Christi TV station interview with Judge William Adams of Rockport, Texas, a family court judge whose daughter filmed him beating her with a belt and cursing her throughout.

Big corporations have light tax bite

Another report illustrates the meaninglessness of corporate tax rates. They employ accounting dodges unavailable to wage slaves.

Arkansas lottery ticket worth $1 million

Somebody won the big Powerball draw last night — in Connecticut. But an Arkansas lottery player purchased a ticket worth $1 miillion at the Phillips 66 at 8629 Chicot Road.

The case for stricter gun laws

The Clinton School has hosted Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, now it offers an opportunity to hear the other side — the case for stricter gun laws in the U.S. Dennis Henigan, acting president of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, will speak at noon Friday at the Clinton School.

Gay soldiers still face discrimination

Gay people may now serve openly in the military, but the Defense of Marriage Act, among others, still denies them and their families equal treatment under the law.

Ask Tim Griffin about the glories of coal ash

You'll recall that U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin yesterday blamed government regulation for the tough economy.

Burger joint of the week: Johnny B's Grill

A single ingredient can sometimes elevate a good burger to a great burger. That’s the case with the amazingly sweet yellow onions you’ll find on the signature burger at the El Dorado mainstay.

Delta Bank in Hillcrest robbed

Little Rock police message reports yet another bank robbery — this one the Delta Bank and Trust at 2924 Kavanaugh.

Friday To-Do: 'The Quality of Life'

'The Quality of Life' opens Friday night at The Weekend Theater.

Greenwood alderman sics cops on Internet critic UPDATE

40/20 reports today the arrest of a man for harassing communications for comments he made on a message board about Greenwood Alderman and firefighter Lance Terry.

Mary Steenburgen to '30 Rock'

Newport native Mary Steenburgen is headed to "30 Rock" for a guest spot in which she'll play Charlotte, the "highly spirited...uber-WASP" mother of Elizabeth Banks' Avery, EW reports.

Momchilov, House

Photographs at Justus Fine Art.

Boozman: Against NCTR before he was for it

Why do voters let its politicians get away with this? Tuesday, the Senate approved a spending bill that would provide $60 million for the National Center for Toxicological Research at Pine Bluff.

Save money on groceries and more

The Arkansas Times has a standing webpage feature that offers legitimate half-off certificates on a range of good stuff — restaurants, retail, personal services, entertainment and lots more.

Weekend: Glossary, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, 'Ain't Misbehavin'' and more

Jason Boland & The Stragglers play Revolution Friday night.

Wisconsin legislators allow guns, bar speech

The Wisconsin Assembly has approved a rule allowing concealed weapons on the floor of that legislative body and the gallery.

Check out Glen Campbell's latest video.

Glen Campbell's latest video premiered Tuesday.

Complaint: Religion taught in lawmaker's tax-funded daycare UPDATE

We've written before about state Rep. Justin Harris, the West Fork Republican who operates what he has called a "church preschool," Growing God's Kingdom.

Maze, Bar-Kays, Keith Sweat to Verizon

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly plays Verizon Arena Nov. 20.

The open line

The Thursday line is open. Final thoughts: * PROTECTION FOR RELIGIOUS BIGOTS AND BULLIES: This is easily the saddest story I read today.

God and state in West Fork

I see Stephens Media has a report following up the story I broke earlier today about the request by Americans United for Separation of Church and State to have state agencies that fund state Rep. Justin Harris' daycare be investigated for impersmissible entanglement in religion.

Democratic ads target Rick Crawford

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hasn't given up on regaining House seats and has targeted 25 Republicans with ads on their poor voting records and ethical shortcomings.

I believe Herman Cain

Details mount. Witnesses say Herman Cain hit on a woman in a boozy night in a bar and that she felt hostility at work later for rebuffing him.

New measure will change poverty count

The New York Times reports that the formula used to count the number in poverty is to be reworked and it will make the poverty count in the U.S. look not quite so dire, comparatively.

Another national Crystal Bridges review

The Magazine Antiques magazine writer Laura Beach falls hard for Crystal Bridges.

Fayetteville schools sue over TIF tax grab

The Fayetteville School District has sued Washington County officials to stop them from raking a portion of a new school millage into the black hole of dowtown Fayetteville's failed tax increment finance district.

Couple robbed in N. Pulaski home

The Pulaski sheriff's office says an elderly couple was bound and robbed about 8 p.m.

Saturday: Cornbread Festival

The Cornbread Festival is Saturday at Bernice Garden.

Ham & Cornbread SOLD OUT

The big event at the Historic Arkansas Museum with famed cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon scheduled for noon today is sold out.

Pieday: Apple at Betty's Restaurant

Today is the perfect sort of day for a hot apple pie — fresh out of the oven, flaky and buttery.

Aden to Womack: Remember me now?

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack will continue to condescend to potential Democratic opponent Ken Aden of Russellville, but he'll do himself no favors by continuing to demean Aden's service as an enlisted man under Womack's command in the National Guard.

Tim Griffin's poll gives him better numbers UPDATE

Talk Business shares results from U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin's own polls that show him with better favorable opinion among voters than an independent and a Democratic-commissioned poll showed (53 percent) and showed him with a wide lead in a potential matchup with either former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (50-29) or Democratic Party chair and former legislator Will Bond (49-29).

AETN explores Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Ark.

Fire up your DVRs, Architecture geeks! On Monday, Nov. 14 at 9 p.m., a new AETN documentary takes a tour of Arkansas's scattered crop of Mid-Century Modern architecture, a building style of the 1950s and 60s characterized by clean lines, function over form, and a rejection of the over-ornamented design of a generation before.

Sunday To-Do: Dead Meadow

Dead Meadow plays Juanita's Sunday night.

Police arrest Delta Bank robbery suspect

Channel 11 has details on the arrest of Nickarlos Banks in yesterday's Delta Bank robbery on Kavanaugh (cameras caught sharp photos of the robber.)

Congressman finds errors in new districts

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford has written state legislative leaders to say it appears mistakes were made in mapping the new congressional districts.

Why does Justin Harris hate Scooby-Doo?

Why is Scooby-doo banned from Justin Harris pre-school? And other matters of religion and public money in West Fork.

Light up the night

Layoffs expected at Hawker Beechcraft. Attorney general okays fluoridation in Fort Smith.

The Persecution of Scooby-Do Edition

State. Rep. Justin's Harris' state-funded church preschool, an arrest in Greenwood for "harassing communications" directed at an alderman on an online forum, the $575 million highway bond election and Tracy Steele's entrance into the North Little Rock sales tax talk are all discussed on this week's edition.

Vote in our annual Readers Choice Restaurant poll

Vote in our annual restaurants poll.

The congressional map squabble

Republicans will continue to make hay of this regardless, but the problem raised by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) over the new congressional district maps is NOT a problem of the map.

Your tax dollars at work — teaching Bible

I'm sorry to say that Republican state Rep. Justin Harris has cut off my access to his Facebook page (after I asked him there about his animus to Scooby-Doo) and he won't return calls or e-mail messages.

Protesters Occupy the Kochs

As planned, a good crowd marched around the hall in which the Koch brothers' front group, Americans for Prosperity, held a gala to celebrate their campaign for the 1 percent to take over America.

Details on Internet commenter's arrest

I wrote earlier this week about the arrest last week in Greenwood of part-time newspaper reporter Dennis McCaslin for "harassing communications," specifically threats posted in August on an Internet community chat site against Greenwood Alderman Lance Terry, who's also a local fireman.

Saturday night line

I'm opening it up early, because pizza making and football are about to occupy most of my time.

Alice Walton on CBS' "Sunday Morning"

With CBS' Martha Teichner.

Radio station wants to drop Pine Bluff football over lewd dancers

Helena-West Helena blogger Andrew Blogger turns up another story of cultural interest: A radio station owner whose stations broadcast games in Helena and Pine Bluff is threatening to stop broadcasting Pine Bluff Zebra games because of the sexually suggestive nature of dance team/band performances.

Larger than expected crowd at Cornbread Festival

Main Street was swarmed with cornbread lovers for hours today. There were lines of folks ready to pay their $5 to get in at 11 a.m. and there was a sea of people from one end of the festival to the other, listening to great music and consuming mass quantities of cornbread and all sorts of other things.

Give us your tired, your poor ... Alabama will harass 'em

Alabama's draconian new anti-immigrant law is bad enough. Now that state's attorney general is imitating George Wallace in demanding proof that the U.S. government has a legal right to investigate civil rights abuses there.

The Penn State scandal — where's the outrage?

I was surprised by the Democrat-Gazette's brief treatment of given the explosive Penn State sex abuse scandal that broke yesterday.

Jonesboro, the next Silicon Valley?

A NE Arkansawyer sends a link to Business Insider, which puts Jonesboro atop a list of 20 "micropolitan" areas in the U.S. with potential to be the next Silicon Valley.

Blog buzz: Houston Nutt to be fired

After Ole Miss' 12th consecutive SEC loss yesterday, Houston Nutt's future as head coach became topic A on Ole Miss blogs. One blog has report the decision has been made to fire him.

All quiet?

Sunday open line here.

Carroll County food banks find Womack cool to cause

A blog on the Carroll County news site reports that workers in local food banks got a cool reception from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack when they visited him in Washington plead a case for support for feeding those in need.

More Bible study with tax support UPDATE

John Lyon of Stephens Media advances the story about religious instruction in state-financed pre-schools with news that Republican state Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home also provides religious instruction in his pre-school, which receives almost $200,000 a year in tax dollars.

Corporal punishment kills third child

A chilling story in NY Times about an evangelical preacher, Michael Pearl, and his popular book exhorting use of "corporal punishment" from age six months to properly rear children.

Penn State officials step down in scandal

The Penn State athletic director went on leave and a university vice president will retire it was announced after an emergency Penn State Board of Trustees meeting over the the school's failure to report allegations of an assistant football coach sexually abusing children.

A common thread — a Christian nation at work

Just noticed a thread in the morning posts: * Preacher's book offers Bible-based support for whipping children as young as six months old.

Stolen rig smashes two cop cars in chase with gunfire

The driver of a stolen truck tractor disabled two Pulaski County sheriff's cruisers in a chase that began on Dixon Road about 4 a.m. this morning.

Dogs rescued from Hot Springs 'puppy mill'

The ASPCA announced this morning that it was working with the Garland County sheriff's office to care for more than 100 dogs removed today from what it described as a Hot Springs puppy mill.

Tuesday To-Do: Eddie Miles

Eddie Miles plays Murry's Dinner Playhouse Tuesday night.

Attorney alleges Little Rock police brutality

A video shows an off-duty Little Rock police lieutenant repeatedly hitting a man outside of Ferneau Restaurant.

How the Kochs plan to take over U.S.

Good reporting in The Guardian on the Koch billionaires' financing of a vast database to organize their political base for the takeover of state and federal government.

Your turn to choose

That's right — time to tell us what you think about restaurants in Arkansas. Who has the best in each category, and what are the best restaurants in Arkansas?

Mayor Stodola takes own challenge — rides bus

The mayor took his own Car Free Challenge this a.m., riding his Orbea bike to a Heights bus stop, getting on (and racking the bike) and riding to Louisiana and Third streets with several CAT regulars, a few on board because of the mayor's challenge and some City Hall staff.

Conrad Murray convicted in Michael Jackson's death

CNN reports: A jury has found Dr. Conrad Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

Cloar to U of A

A gift from the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.

Legislative bureau says redistricting map OK

The Bureau of Legislative Research says in a statement issued through the House speaker's office that the congressional redistricting maps were drawn correctly.

Monday, Monday

Line is open. You're on.

New study: Charter schools again fail to excel

The Billionaire Boys Club has sold the credulous on the notion that if you hang a charter school label on a school it follows that it MUST be better than a conventional public school.

Easter Seals deal stirring neighborhood

I've been reporting sporadically on the latest effort by Easter Seals to sell its derelict building on the eastern end of Lee Avenue, on state land across a ravine from the owner, the state schools for the blind and deaf.

State reviews religion in tax-funded preschools

The state spends $100 million a year to subsidize preschool programs in some 300 places around the state, but despite the specific requirements of a state law, has never done the required auditing that the money not support religious instruction.

Cops don't like being on camera

In light of the pummeling a Little Rock cop gave a bar patron who disrespected him the other night — caught in unflattering fullness on video — you can understand the rising resistance around the country by cops to use of recording devices on their actions.

The good old days of deregulation

Ernie Dumas this week recalls his idyllic youth in Union County, bobbing a cork for panfish, but taking care to avoid the oil-industry polluted waters in the days before government environmental regulation cleaned them up.

Duggars expecting 20th child

People magazine reports that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are expecting their 20th child this spring.

On today's ballot: Personhood for the zygote

The world will watch today as Mississippi votes on a "personhood" amendment that begins protection at fertilization.

Clear Channel layoffs hit Arkansas stations

Clear Channel recently laid off dozens of DJs at stations around the country.

Boozman again takes credit for 'No' vote

There he goes again. Sen. John "Dr. No" Boozman had a staffer on hand in Jonesboro for a recent meeting on the federal program to provide money to help people insulate their homes and lower energy bills.

D.C. circuit court upholds health care reform act

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has upheld Obamacare. Opinion written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee if you're counting.

Pictures from an exhibition: Anita Huffington

The sculptor from Winslow was one of 500 special guests at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's American Spirit gala Saturday night.

North Pulaski homicide victim identified

The sheriff's office has identified Kylaus Demareya Williams, 22, of Little Rock as the man found shot to death by a driveway in the 6900 block of Highway 161 (the Jacksonville Highway) near the Rixey community.

EPA secret list on polluted air revealed

NPR began a series this week on Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities. Though the U.S. has made strides in cleaning up poisonous air, problems persist.

Report: Joe Paterno out as Penn State coach

The New York Times is reporting that Penn State will soon be exiting the scene as the school's football coach.

Leveritt sues over legal discipline gag orders

Mara Leveritt, the crusading former Arkansas Times journalist, filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of a rule of the state Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct that prohibits those who complain about lawyers from discussing their complaints publicly.

Republicans file ethics complaint against Barry Hyde UPDATE

The Arkansas Republican Party has filed an ethics complaint against state Rep. Barry Hyde, who plans to run for state Senate next year.

TIF lawsuit settlement in works in North Little Rock

A new deal has been proposed to settle the North Little Rock School District's lawsuit against the city over the illegally drawn midnight tax increment finance district, approved in the waning minutes of 2008.

It pays to be Paula Jones

Here's some small comfort for the women who've accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment and now find themselves being run through the right-wing politics-of-personal-destruction mill.

The Tuesday night line

The line is open. Final thoughts: * WE GET QUESTIONS: Caller notes a truck pulled up to state Rep. Allen Kerr's Farmers Group insurance agency on Merrill Drive the other day and hauled boxes of records away.