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December 2, 2010

Vol 37 • No 13

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A different kind of Christmas

'I promised not to tell. He thought I wouldn't. But I did.'

The small government crowd

Lobbyup tweets: The vast majority of prefiled bills are coming from GOP Reps. Will this trend continue into session?

Fayetteville tosses wrench in Walton expansion

The Walton Arts Center Board is supposed to announce plans for an expanded facility at 5 p.m. today.

The homeless center battle

Neighborhood watchdog Kathy Wells was on hand for Mayor Mark Stodola's tour of the former road machinery business in the East End that he wants to turn into a day center for the homeless.

'Wicked' a certified hit

Celebrity Attractions, the theater production outfit that brought 'Wicked' to Little Rock recently, said in a release today that nearly 40,000 people attended the 16-performance run.

Public pay is public information

I am surprised that 11 employees of AASIS, the state 's computerized information system, objected to release of their names, job titles and pay under a Freedom of Information Act request by Seth Blomeley of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

HIghway report: Tax and spend

The Blue Ribbon Committee on Highway Finance issued its final report today. The particulars had pretty well been outlined already.

Honest Abe at ASI

How the president used the Constitution to confront Civil War issues.

Thursday To-Do: Arkansas Times' "Readers Night Out"

Arkansas Times' "Readers Night Out" goes down tonight all across town. Think Black Friday redux without the inhumanity.

Shocker at F'ville

WAC going where Waltons want it.

Chris Thyer nominated for U.S. attorney

As The Insider indicated two weeks ago would happen: President Obama has nominated former legislator Chris Thyer of Jonesboro to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Disclosing frack fluids

The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission will vote next Wednesday on a proposed rule that would require natural gas companies working in the Fayetteville Shale to disclose the chemicals used in the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. There are currently no such requirements in the state, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and public health advocates who fear the chemicals could have a negative impact on the state’s water. The new rule would be a step in the right direction, but according to environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the language is vague and doesn’t go far enough to protect the public.

The line is open

Busy day. Your turn.

LR School Board votes Watson buyout

As expected, the Little Rock School Board voted 5-2 tonight to buy out the time remaining on Superintendent Linda Watson's contract.

Jeff Nichols' follow-up to 'Shotgun Stories' set to debut at Sundance

The film, which we've written about before, is called "Take Shelter." It's among 16 dramatic films selected out of more than 1,000 in competition at this year's festival, January 20-30.

My favorite breakfasts #3-7: Five great experiences

From Hot Springs to Eureka Springs, five of the state's best restaurants for breakfast according to Kat Robinson.

Italian icon

Despite occasional misses, Graffiti's still holds up.

Ya Ya's Euro Bistro

If you're looking for a really nice dinner — a great place for a date, anniversaries, birthdays — and don't mind dropping a little change for it, then YaYa's is one of your best bets in Little Rock.

President Huckabee

It is only a little premature to ponder the unthinkable, a Mike Huckabee presidential nomination and, yes, even a Huckabee presidency.

They'll always have Paris

It has been revealed that an already warm relationship between the mayor's office and the Chamber of Commerce was heated further by a sumptuous dinner in Paris, paid for by those inveterate romantics, the taxpayers of Little Rock.

Eye on Arkansas, Dec. 2

I could f-up a ball bearing

Would I trade the hours spent attempting to learn about Hegel or the Spanish-American War or metonymy for a touch of innate know-how in small engine, motor or electrical repair? God yes.

In Brief, Dec. 2-4

Blitzkid, Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers, Sweetwater Abilene, Kingsdown, "High Society," Cody Belew and the Mercers.

Wills' 'good deed'

House Speaker Robbie Wills mailed letters to all state political candidates following the general election. He congratulated winners and offered praise to losers for trying. When we say "all" candidates we mean "all."

Bare nubs

Here's another column of distilled wisdom for those with attention spans short already and getting shorter all the time. Pithy observations. Nuance-free. Money-back guarantee if you're not completely satisfied.

La belle vie

Your headline, "La belle vie" — is that French for "or how to steal from the saps back home"? I don't speak French but that's the attitude people like Ron Mathieu and "Mayor" Stodola must have after reading your article.

Sex sells

But obscures the heft of 'Love and Other Drugs.'

The Observer, Dec. 2

The Observer got a summons last week: Time for jury duty. We duly reported for the orientation and got the skinny on what our citizenship required of us.

Orval, Dec. 2, 2010

The biggest win of a year that isn't over

Arkansas fans should be getting pretty familiar with the odd Rube Goldbergian operations of the BCS this week.

This Modern World, Dec. 2, 2010

Premium tickets

Ticket scalping is illegal in Arkansas, but it occurs. This weekend, some sold items of nominal value, with tickets thrown in, as a scalping avoidance device. A sign on one truck read: "Two Cokes for sale — $16,000. 16 game tickets included."

The To-Do List, Dec. 2-7

Arkansas Times "Readers Night Out," Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey: "Illuscination," "The Controversy of Valladolid," Old 97s, Slobberbone, Michael Buble, Sweet Eagle, Eyehategod

Hell on the border

Brent and Craig Renaud's new short-form documentaries on the drug-fueled violence in Juarez, Mexico debut Dec. 8, 9 and 10 on the New York Times website.

The Week That Was, Nov. 24-30, 2010

Good week: Razorbacks, Brian Muller, Sheffield Nelson, Cliff Lee. Bad week: Sen. Mark Pryor, North Little Rock electric customers, Ernie Passailaigue.

What's Cookin', Dec. 2

Fans of Greek breakfast rejoice. Leo's Greek Castle, home of breakfast gyros and gyro-meat omelets, is now serving breakfast (and lunch) on Sunday, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Words, Dec. 2

A TV announcer said the other day that the word "lateral" no longer appears in the football rulebook. What used to be called a "lateral" is now referred to as a "backward pass," he said. Disturbing news.

The return of Ralphie

The Rep brings 'A Christmas Story' to the stage.

New on Rock Candy, Dec. 2

Billy Bob Thornton says that he's finished a new script with old writing partner Tom Epperson called "Jayne Mansfield's Car" and plans to direct, probably this spring.

Make your mark

2010 saw write-in candidates galore.

Flying good for business

Airport director defends travel.

Book Notes, Dec. 2

Mark Spitzer, Marshall Chapman and other upcoming author events in and around Central Arkansas.

Chemical disclosure

Commission may require frack fluid ID

Another good year for Chamber

Between Little Rock taxpayers and Little Rock sewer customers, the chamber receives $225,000 for an "economic development fund." How is it spent, precisely?

Mark Pryor's rightward plunge

Mark Pryor is the luckiest politician in Arkansas and now he apparently also is the most nervous.

Thursday: Kyle Turley, The Platters, ugh, ICP

What's going on in Central Arkansas tonight? A New Orleans Saint, doo-wop demigods and those clowns that rap.

Thursday To-Do: Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey: "Illuscination"

The circus rolls back into town when Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey bring their new extravaganza, "Illuscinations," to Verizon Arena for the weekend.

The wrong side of history

Fine column today by Gene Lyons, also available in fuller form each week on Salon, on the "pusillanimous milquetoast" and soon-to-be senior U.S. senator from Arkansas, Mark Pryor.

Politics: Not necessarily a bad thing

John Brummett makes a point worth considering: Do we do ourselves any favor by establishing independent public agencies to safely sequester them from the supposed evils of political influence?

Retail comeback?

I don't follow business revenue figures much, but surely it's a good sign that Dillard's comparable-store sales were up 8 percent over last year in the four weeks ending Nov. 27 (the Saturday after Thanksgiving).

The tobacco tax shuffle

Critics — chiefly in Republican ranks — have complained ever since the 2009 passage of a big tobacco tax increase to pay for health initiatives that it was a bait-and-switch to shore up other government spending.

Revenue up, Beebe lifts pay freeze

The state report on tax income in November isn't readily comparable with the same month a year ago, because of some one-time occurences, but this jumps out: Among the two dominant collection categories that correlate with economic conditions, sales tax (gross receipts) wasslightly over forecast with 8.3 percent year-over-year growth and income tax withholding was down slightly due to variance caused by payroll timing shift reflected this month.

Wittenberg's "Small Wonders"

Little Rock artist chosen for Maryland exhibit.

My favorite breakfasts: Filling the gap

B-Side comes to the rescue, offers new twists on the classics for a widely varied crowd.

Changes at The Underground Pub

Tomorrow, The Underground Pub, the 12-year-old bar and venue underneath Bosco's in the River Market, celebrates its grand reopening following a makeover.

Alamo conviction upheld

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today upheld the conviction of Bernie Lazar Hoffman (otherwise known as evangelist Tony Alamo).

Huffington, speaking of WAC

Exhibit of sculpture by Winslow artist is not to be missed.

Jane Booth at Toby Fairley

Reception tonight for show of work by Kansas artist.

Fisk appeals ruling

Fisk wants the whole $30 million to spend as it wishes.

Former Bella Vista cop gets 30 days for killing

Coleman Brackney, a former Bella Vista cop charged with fatally shooting a motorist he'd chased, has struck a plea bargain that will require him to serve 30 days in prison and pay a $1,000 fine.

Supreme Court rejects O'Brien request

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in just about the tersest way possible, has swiftly rejected Pulaski Clerk Pat O'Brien's pleading to overturn an order signed by 17 circuit judges that he delay destruction of paper copies of legal filings until the judges are confident the system is working.

Judge Baker aims to retire debt

Jason Tolbert notes a fund-raising event for Karen Baker, who piled up almost $290,000 in debt in her successful race for Arkansas Supreme Court.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: NYC, LR

You don't have to to go Sotheby's to see work by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

ASU to announce coach today

KAIT-TV says Arkansas State University will announce its new head football coach this afternoon. Sounds like an inside job, offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze.

Speaking of auction results

Wondering how well Candy Fans did at Sotheby's and Christie's.

Radioactive gauge missing

The Arkansas Department of Health, announced today that one radioactive gauge is missing from the transport vehicle of a construction firm between Little Rock and Bryant, Arkansas.

House omits tax cut for wealthy

The House today voted to extend the Bush tax cuts, but to reinstate Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthiest taxpayers (family taxable income of mroe than $250,000.)

The line is open

Regnat populus.

Stodola's piggy bank

Late arriving is a legal opinion from Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter on the question of how much money city candidates can stick in their pocket from political campaigns.

Castleberry's at White Water does lunch

Nick Castleberry, whose new pop-up operation at White Water we're all about, is launching lunch today at the Tavern, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Weekenderies: "The Jam Session," "High Society," Saliva

The weekend brings in "High Society," the debut party from RSVP Society, "The Jam Session" with Epiphany, Gina Gee and Stacey Avery, and radio rockers Saliva.

Friday To-Do: Old 97s

One of the crowned kings of the 90s alt-country revolution, Old 97s, visit Revolution for a hotly-anticipated Friday night show.

Weekend To-Do: Slobberbone

Travis Hill of Last Chance Records celebrates his birthday with a two-day alt-country blowout from Slobberbone, Glossary, Two Cow Garage, Kevin Kerby and more.

Republican war chest

Jason Tolbert noticed that the Republican National Committee pumped about $225,000 into the Arkansas Republican Party in mid-October.

Krugman: Phooey on Obama

Krugman zings President Obama this morning:After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond.

A Useful Pot

That's what the artists produced for the national show "Drawing the Line: Utilitarian Pots," now at the U of A Fine Arts Center.

Arkansas racists make world headlines

The Sun, a British newspaper, has an extensive story here about the white supremacist Internt broadcasts of a Harrison family.

More useful pots, etc., from Craft Guild

On sale now, at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Question of the day UPDATE

Has it occurred to anyone else that Sheffield Nelson might be running for governor in 2014?

New brew at Diamond Bear

Diamond Bear Brewery unveils its Two Term Double IPA this evening.

LR teachers on alert

This flier went out to Little Rock Education Association members this week. It refers to the coming process to choose a new school superintendent for the Little Rock School District.

Newton County schools sue state

As promised, the Deer-Mt. Judea School District — which has about 360 students in two remote K-12 schools in Newton County — has sued the state to keep both schools open and avoid consolidation wtih other districts.

Bring home a Vuillard, or a Milton Avery

Collectors Show and Sale opens today at the Arts Center.

Beebe the leftist

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch billionaires-funded anti-tax anti-government lobby, is highly upset that Gov. Mike Beebe has lifted a freeze on state employee pay.The Arkansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity criticized Governor Mike Beebe today for increasing state government employees pay, a move that puts him to the left of President Barack Obama.

Block Street Art Sale

Starts tonight, runs through Sunday.

New director at Mosaic Templars

The Arts Council's H.L. McGill is chosen for job.

Social Security slashes coming

The third rail is no longer electrified. Republicans are now boasting that they can slash "entitlements" — others call them earned benefits of vital social safety net — with impunity.

Do you believe ...

... incoming U.S. Rep. Steve Womack when he says he wants a seat on the House Appropriations Committee to CUT spending?

Could we trade Pryor for Scott Brown?

The Massachusetts Republican says he'll vote to repeal the ban on open gay military service.

Quick look: 'A Film Unfinished'

The profoundly unnerving, critically acclaimed Holocaust documentary, "A Film Unfinished," opens this weekend at Market Street Cinema.

Kid artists: Win a free art kit

The Thea Foundation has five art kits to give away to kid winners of a free raffle that runs Dec. 6 through 10.

Toe-sucker chronicles

Remember when Dick Morris came to town to campaign for Beth Anne Rankin, the other Republican who ran for 4th District Congress?


Over to you. Have time to kill?

Votes have consequences

John Brummett illustrates voter choices by outgoing Sen. Blanche Lincoln's achievement in passing legislation aimed at getting healthier meals to children.

John Wayne: Yea or nay?

The coming release of the Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit," rekindles debate about the merits of the first movie, particularly John Wayne's Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn.

Mike Huckabee's $3 million home

Mike Huckabee, who left Arkansas, where he built the platform for his media success and which, incidentally, has an income tax, is putting down expensive roots in a beach development in Walton County, Fla., east of Destin — a $3 million home.

X3mex, the law and art

I had this first cup of coffee in the morning idea that the next sculpture in the Bernice Garden ought to be a building facade, complete with windows, for graffiti artists to use.

War between the opportunity states

Rising freshman Rep. David Sanders, yearning for a headline, has introduced legislation to re-nickname Arkansas as the Land of Opportunity.

Revved up

The Old 97's put on one hell of a show last night at the Rev Room. The foursome ripped through a solid set of material from their latest record and all the old stand-bys as well ("Barrier Reef" and "Question" to name a couple).

Mike Huckabee: 1st Class all the way

I told you earlier today about Mike Huckabee's $3 million house. He travels like he lives — nothing but the best.

Saturday line

It's yours. Final note, Doyle Webb was re-elected state Republican state chairman today.

As North Little Rock turns

Former North Little Rock Alderman Cary Gaines is expected to change his innocent plea at a hearing at 10 a.m.

More lottery questions

John Lyon of Stephens Media does some further digging into the slipshod travel reimbursement procedures of the Arkansas Lottery.

The worm turns on Obama

Frank Rich joins the Obama trashing this morning, not without some reason, depicting the president as a Stockholm syndrome captive of Republicans.

Batesville bank in bond fleecing?

Arkansas Business this weeks breaks news of a potentially devasting blow to First Southern Bank of Batesville.

Counter-productive, yes. But right?

Fayetteville taxpayers joined with University of Arkansas public money to help create the Walton Arts Center.

Sleepy Sunday

Your thoughts welcome here. One reader suggests an Auburn-Oregon poll.

Let the tax cuts expire

Krugman says it's better to let them all expire than to allow another round of Republican blackmail.

The Walton Arts Center charade

The Iconoclast, a Fayetteville blogger, has plenty to say about the deal to move the main operation of the Walton Arts Center to Bentonville, despite Fayetteville's founding, publicly financed role in the center.

Mike Huckabee: Vintage whine

If there's one theme that's persisted throughout Mike Huckabee's political career, from his first outing against Dale Bumpers, it's that he doesn't have enough money and doesn't get enough respect.

Help coming for Walmart?

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear Walmart's appeal of the giant gender discrimination class action certified against the discount chain.

Turn out the lights ...

Don Meredith died Sunday at 72.

Gaines pleads guilty

As expected, former North Little Rock Alderman Cary Gaines, has struck a plea bargain with federal prosecutors in his indictment for public corruption.

Former county judge gets jail time

Former Newton County Judge Clarence Harold Smith, 58, has been sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $69,140 in restitution for scheming to profit from county purchase of heavy equipment.

Bill to ban plastic shopping bags

Who knew that Republican Sen. Denny Altes, about to jump to the House, was a statist?

Monday: Romany Rye at White Water, River City Men's Chorus at Trinity United

The Romany Rye (above) return to White Water Tavern tonight with some more of that Laurel Canyon-style, multi-part-harmony-drenched, jam-rock, 9:30 p.m., $5.

What if ....

House Democrats don't go along with the president's fold on taxes and block continuation of any of the Bush tax cuts?

Conference center for NLR

A $1 million federal grant will build a business conference center at the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Channel 4 reports here.

Monday, Monday

Been good to you? Slow here.

Time to place your orders

Haven't ordered your holiday goodies yet? Better hurry.

Nelson v. Game and Fish: 'Ego orgy'

Is Sheffield Nelson's attack on the state Game and Fish Commission on which he once sat — richly and prominently covered yet again in today's Democrat-Gazette — really because he's chapped over loss of a fall turkey season?John Brummett suggests that today.

Obama's 'plan to govern' UPDATE

The New York Times sees in President Obama's rollover to Republicans on tax cuts a plan to govern the next two years with a changed Congress.

Chamber of Commerce renegades

Politico reports that some chambers of commerce around the country weren't happy about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce political blitzkrieg to elect a Republican Congress this year.

City board to discuss attorney UPDATE

The Little Rock City Board tonight has a recently added agenda item. It's an executive session on city attorney Tom Carpenter.

Tuesday To-Do: Eyehategod - Goatwhore

Metal heroes Eyehategod and Goatwhore play Downtown Music

Tuesday To-Do: Michael Buble

Good god, it's about to be Ladies' Night 2010 in Little Rock when the Justin Bieber for the 40-and-up crowd croons his way to Verizon Arena, sprinkling that blue-eyed, non-threatening charm through the Great American Songbook and probably touching a lot of hands in the crowd along the way.

College graduation rate lags

The Southern Regional Education Board reports that Arkansas has made progress in sending more students to college.

Social media helped snare bomb suspect

Lots more details here on Mark Krause, the Arkansas blacksmith arrested in Washington recently for allegedly placing a Pepsi can bomb at a polling place in Osage, Ark. during the June runoff primary election.

Tuesday To-Do: Sweet Eagle

"Super 1968 Dog Shit E.P." It's instantly on the shortlist for "Greatest Local Album Title Ever" even before it sees a release. Leave it up to Sweet Eagle, the local rock and rock and rock 'n' roll supergroup, to come up with it.

Argenta Holiday Art Sale TOMORROW !!!!

An opportunity to buy art, hear jazz, enjoy refreshments.

House Dems may not surrender

House Democrats send a signal they might not be ready to join President Obama in the tank for millionaire tax cuts.

Why stop at schools?

Rep. Fred Allen has filed a bill to prohibit use of cell phones while driving in a school zone.

Election set March 8 for House seat

Gov. Mike Beebe today set a March 8 special election to fill the House 24 seat that will be vacant because the election was won by Keith Crass, who died shortly before.

Elizabeth Edwards dies of cancer at 61

Her death was even nearer than yesterday's statement let on. She died this afternoon.

AOGC passes rule to disclose frack fluids

The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission tentatively approved a rule that would require gas companies to disclose the names of the chemicals used in the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Tuesday thread

Another paper sent to the printer. And, here, another open line for blog readers, including news of Fort Smith's Gritapalooza for the True Grit movie premiere.

Update: Mob trial, city board, child porn

Some additional news items tonight on the North Little Rock corruption trial, a child porn indictment and squabbling at the Little Rock City Board.

Breakfast at Ashley's: An Arkansas Tradition

Arkansas' most opulent breakfast is still accessible to all, utilizing locally grown produce and locally harvested eggs and such. A brief chat with Chef Lee Richardson; plus, a morning in Ashley's kitchen.

Fiscal conservatism

Liberal Democrat Joyce Elliott finished her losing campaign dead even on spending, according to this report from Stephens Media.

Slippery Stodola

So Mayor Mark Stodola tells the D-G he's going to let the "dust settle" before he tells the public how he spent his surplus campaign money, as much as $39,000.

Rush hour rollover

The time: 8:10 a.m. The circumstances: The van was headed east on Clinton Avenue.

Pryor supports repeal of gay military ban

Better late than never. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor has finally declared he supports repeal of the law that bans open gay military service.

Last night: Michael Buble

Michael Buble finished, um, bouncing — yeah, bouncing — his way through what he called “the biggest hit of my life,” the smash “Haven’t Met You Yet,” left the stage to thunderous applause after performing for more than an hour and a half and hardly had time to catch his breath before coming back for more.

Judge miffed at appeals court; gets off SWEPCO case

U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson Jr. let his exasperation show in an order Monday in which he recused from the case challenging SWEPCO's construction of a new coal-fired power plant in south Arkansas.

Tracking corporate welfare

A grassroots group has put together an evaluation of how well each state discloses taxpayer handouts to businesses.

Shades of Faubus

Of course the new Republican contingent has a bill to override the individual mandates in the federal health care reform law.

It's down to Susan Collins

A historic beginning of the end to discrimination against gay people in the military apparently comes down to Sen. Susan Collins.