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Best and Worst

Best and Worst

December 21, 2017

Vol 44 • No 16

Read the print version

Best and worst 2017

All the news that was fit to print, and some that probably wasn't.

'Last Jedi' visuals are indelible, even if the plot isn't

It's an uneven epic.

Mitchell Crisp's film design career is pretty punk rock

It includes stints on "God's Not Dead 3" and "Come Early Morning."

Kat Wilson debuts her emoji paintings

And much more.

Rx card event

A Medicinal Purpose, an Arkansas company established this year to provide physician evaluations for patients seeking a medical marijuana card that entitles them to legally buy and use cannabis to treat health conditions, will hold an evaluation event from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 23 at the Holiday Inn, 10920 Financial Center Parkway.

Tis the season

Resolutions 2018

Because of our annual Native's Guide issue coming next week, this will be the last regular issue of the dear ol' Arkansas Times — and thus, the last Observer — for the Year of Our Lord 2017.

Tasty Southern Table

Hodge and Raimondo team works well.

Donor payback

Happy days are here again! The coffers of the Republican campaign committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which have been in a drought this year while the party struggled to deliver the huge tax cuts so long promised to businessmen, will get a deluge now that the deed is about done.

B-ball promise

The winds of change that swirl about the Arkansas football program have thankfully compelled us Hog fans to focus an even sharper eye on the basketball team, which is clearly re-energized after the 2016-17 team cruised back to the NCAA Tournament and won an opening-round game against Seton Hall before succumbing to eventual national champion North Carolina.


I cannot count the number of times that more established people have told me how I should think, how I should dress, how I should get my hair cut and when it is my time to place my name in the proverbial election hat.


In last week's column, Gene Lyons asks the question, "How low will a columnist go?" before he insults the integrity of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), sympathizes with a man whose wife won't let him paw her in public, and equates Sen. Al Franken's alleged groping of women during photo ops as mere "insults." All while minimizing and dismissing the voices and experiences of the women he mentions.

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker comes to Robinson

Also, New Year's Eve fun.

No ABC leader

I voted that way because I was sick and more.


If the president thinks he can get away with firing special counsel Robert Mueller and turning the United States into an authoritarian Trumpistan, now would be the time to go for it.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Holidaze Ahoy! Edition

Play at home, while buying disposable crap to prove your love!

Hiding Hog money

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week reported that a University of Arkansas response to an open records request shows UA officials regularly communicate with the Razorback Foundation, which supports UA athletics. Duh.

Tax-cut legislation increases costs for big-time college athletics

USA Today reports a little-noticed element of the tax cut legislation approved this week means increased expenses for major college athletic programs.

Memphis removes Confederate statues by selling parks

Just like that, the long controversial statues of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis parks are gone.

Little Rock native Charlotte Jones Anderson is styling in NY Times today

A massive feature appears in today's New York Times Style section on Charlotte Jones Anderson and her key role in managing father Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys empire.

Criticism of assault weapons costs Air Force veteran a Trump administration job

Read this: A Washington Post op-ed by Dean Winslow, a retired Air Force surgeon who writes of the end of his nomination for a Defense Department post because he'd spoken about the "insanity" of civilian ownership of AR-15 military-style weapons.

Police arrest four in hotel robberies

Fox 16 says Little Rock police announced today that four arrests had been made in four recent hotel robberies.

Census Bureau puts Arkansas population over 3 million. How good is that? Depends.

The Census Bureau has issued new population data for the year ending July 1 and they show Arkansas population has topped 3 million. That's nice if perhaps not so nice as a spokesman for the governor tried to make it.

Harassment complaint at Arkansas House still secret

A renewed effort to see information about a sexfual harassment complaint against a state representative has again been rejected as an invasion of privacy of the person who made the complaint.

Planned Parenthood asks Supreme Court to restore injunction on medical abortion

Planned Parenthood Great Plains today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review and correct the 8th Circuit Court of Appeal's July ruling that would allow the state to effectively ban the safest abortion procedure — by the administration of abortifacient drugs.

Thursday: The open line and daily news roundup

Thursday's open line and the daily roundup of news and comment, leading today with the tax cut legislation's impact on college spor

Governor proposes $25 million technology development partnership

Recommending a private-public partnership costing an estimated $25 million dollars, a commission of business leaders put together by Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a report on improving the state's prospect in technology jobs.

Family values, Trump style

The lead of this New York Times article is sobering: The Trump administration is considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, according to officials who have been briefed on the plans. The forceful move is meant to discourage border crossings, but immigrant groups have denounced it as draconian and inhumane.

A chat with Jared Henderson, Democratic candidate for governor

I had many questions about a surprise Democratic gubernatorial candidates and got to ask several of them earlier this week when I returned from vacation. It turned out too long for my column space, so here's the result of my telephone interview:

UA officials react to tax law changes and impact on athletics

University of Arkansas officials provided response last night to questions about how the new tax law might affect athletic finances.

'True Detective' season to be filmed in Northwest Arkansas

The third season of HBO's "True Detective" series, created by UA graduate alum Nic Pizzolatto, will, as indicated earlier, be filmed in Northwest Arkansas beginning in early 2018.

Arkansas unemployment edged up in November

The Arkansas unemployment rate in November edged up to 3.7 percent from 3.6 percent the previous month and the number of people working declined by about 6,200.

Another report favoring freeway removal

Another day another report contradicting Arkansas conventional wisdom that the only good freeway is an even wider concrete ditch of a freeway.

New chancellor for UAMS: Dr. Cam Patterson

The University of Arkansas System announced today that UA President Donald Bobbitt will recommend cardiologist Dr. Cam Patterson, COO of Weill-Cornell Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, as the new chancellor at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.

Murder charge filed in death of Logan County child

The State Police have announced the filing of a murder charge against a Logan County man in the death of a child Thursday morning in a house fire in Paris.

Washington County justices of the peace deny permit for marijuana cultivation center

Washington County's Quorum Court denied a permit for a marijuana cultivation center that hoped to be located near Lincoln and Cane Hill, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Legislations adds 7 houses to Central High historic district

Congress completed action today on a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. French Hill to add seven houses covering 1.47 acres to the area of the Central High School National Historic Site.

The pre-Christmas open line

Last video before Christmas and another open line to close out the week.

Book traces Nazi law roots to, among others, Arkansas

The Atlantic reviews a book, James Whitman's "Hitler's American Model," that explores how Nazi Germany developed its racial laws. It turned to U.S. sources, among them Arkansas.

The End of the Year Edition

The tax bill that just cleared Congress, a Democratic candidate for governor, sexual harassment and state politics, transparency and the Razorback Foundation and turmoil at Arkansas Baptist — all covered on this week's podcast.

Here's a piece of genuine news: Fake news sells

It may not be pretty, but the media knows well one piece of real news about the current administration — Trump sells.

The end of the pension and its ill consequences in the 'Golden Years'

The end of the private sector pension contributes to conditions that suggest a looming "retirement crisis."

Eve of eve open line

The open line.

D-G chronicles more legislative waste of public money. Welcome to the party.

Lisa Hammersly of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today chronicled several more of the ways legislators wasted public money on unaccountable local pork barrel projects through the now-defunct General Improvement Fund. One quibble: Public questions about this spending didn't begin this year.

A late Christmas gift suggestion — resistance

Here's a Christmas gift idea: Contribute to the resistance by supporting Ozark Indivisible.

Ho ho ho. The Christmas Eve open line

The Christmas Eve open line and memories of Christmases past.

Tis better to give, John Oliver edition

Twitter was full last night of remembrances of a great gift past — when HBO's John Oliver in 2016 reported on the heavy-handed tactics of the debt collection industry. Oliver incorporated a nonprofit debt collection company, bought $15 million worth of medical debt for $15,000 and then forgave all the debt. Arkansas plays an embarrassing cameo role.

The Christmas open line

The Christmas day open line, with vsions of happy holidays and Donald Trump dancing in our heads.

Democrats challenge for House control

Democrats are turning out in numbers to challenge Republican control of the U.S. House. You can't win if you don't run, but .....

Today's trend: The cashless society

Plastic and apps are replacing cash in many retail businesses, some entirely. Has the cashless trend made it to Arkansas yet?

Real news: The end of science

The decimation of the EPA is but one of many dark examples of the lack of respect for science in the Trump administration.

Eye-in-the-sky open line

An open line plus news of a state mapping project.

Woman reportedly survives I-430 bridge drop; police said she was kidnapped after killing

The killing of a man near Scott early Christmas morning reportedly led to the kidnapping of a woman who witnessed the shooting. She says she was dropped from the I-430 bridge into the Arkansas River, but survived the drop

Huckabee bashed for comparing Trump to Churchill

Mike Huckabee saw a movie about Winston Churchill and it reminded him of Donald Trump. I kid you not.

Prince Harry interviews Barack Obama, they talk about social media

Prince Harry interviews Barack Obama for BBC. Imagine his successor in the interview chair.

Another terrible Trump judicial nominee, a Jesse Helms follower

There are dozens of these stories, but Donald Trump's nomination of Thomas Alvin Farr for a North Carolina judgeship is particularly egregious, says William Barber II in a New York Times op-ed today.

Conflicts force early closure of Park Plaza

THV11 reports that Park Plaza, the shopping mall on University Avenue, closed an hour early Tuesday night because of fights inside and on the parking lot. No arrests or injuries were reported.

Rutledge touts her 'achievements.' Poor women might not cheer.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge lists her accomplishments in seeking another term. We see them in a different light.

Wednesday's open line and a brief video

An open line, a news video and a favorite Christmas present.

New tax bite has some looking for angle on Arkansas property taxes

Gov. Asa Hutchinson punted today on a question raised by the Republican tax legislation, which will hit at least some Arkansas taxpayers in their pocketbook.

KARK-Fox reporter joining Department of Human Services

Marci Manley, who's been a news reporter for KARK/Fox 16, is joining the state Department of Human Services to become the department's chief spokesperson.

State releases edited marijuana applications

The state today released redacted information from hundreds of applications for medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries.

Police report from Drew County

This headline of a KARK/Fox 16 report on a domestic violence case in Drew County last week caught my eye. — Husband accuses wife of shooting him after sex.

The tax cut legislation is big but it isn't simple

The new federal tax law will provide a $1.5 trillion tax cut and balloon the deficit, with benefits concentrated on the high end of the income scale. But don't believe anyone who says it has simplified the tax code.

Governor tells State Police 'open carry' is the law in Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has informed the Arkansas State Police that he believes a 2013 law made open carry of guns legal in Arkansas and they should police accordingly.

And speaking of guns ..... White House press secretary knows how to use them

A gun-toting Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells the White House press corps she can do more than bake pies.

Polling may encourage another candidate in 2nd District

Word is circulating of poll results that might encourage another Democrat to get in the race for 2nd District Congress.

Governor also sent message on open carry to prosecutors

Gov. Asa Hutchinson also informed prosecutors, through the state prosecutor co-ordinator's office, of his belief that open carry of guns was legal in Arkansas.

Pulaski treasurer says no to early payment of property tax as federal tax dodge

A Pulaski County official rules out early payment of property taxes to avoid a cap on deduction of such taxes next year on federal income tax returns.

Thursday: An open line and the day's news

Here's the Thursday open line. And the daily roundup of news and comment on a cold and quiet day.

Pat Fitts named to head Game and Fish Commission

Pat Fitts, who had been assistant deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, will become director of the agency Jan. 1.

Rutledge approves release of Bielema contract with Razorback Foundation; details the same as reported here earlier

The University of Arkansas has released a document showing fired football coach Bret Bielema's separate personal services agreement with the Razorback Foundation that guaranteed his severance payment in the event of firing. It suggests the ESPN report of a $11.8 million buyout was on target.

Bank buys Jake Files' property in foreclosure sale for $2.1 million in defaulted loans

Dave Hughes of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the First Western Bank of Booneville bought three properties of Sen. Jake Files, including him his Fort Smith home, at foreclosure sales today to satisfy unpaid loans of $2.1 million.

Fake news? How about Trump-era fake government?

A disturbing article from the Wall Street Journal says that a significant number of comments posted about a federal rule aimed at protecting retirement investments were fake. it is not the first time public comments have been faked on important federal agency rules.

Was 2017 the craziest year ever? Consider 1919, not a good year for Arkansas

Was 2017 the craziest year ever? Politico asked 12 historians and they talked of some other dark years, including 1919 when a massacre of black sharecroppers in Elaine, Ark., was among the episodes of racial strife that year.

Legislative moonlighting can present conflicts, but it's all smiles for Stephen Meeks

The Center for Public Integrity has analyzed the outside employment of the nation's state legislators and, unsurprisingly, found many conflicts of interest. But there's also a friendly anecdote about moonlighting by one Arkansas legislator.

The mind-boggling (and mind-boggled) Donald Trump

The reality show producer is entertaining, much as horror shows are entertaining. You can't help but peek.

Fort Smith mosque and the vandal: Chapter II

The New York Times has a heart-warming followup of its article about how a Fort Smith mosque and one of those convicted of vandalizing had come together in forgiveness and regret.

Lottery win leaves unhappy waitress at Stuttgart restaurant

A $300,000 lottery ticket has a Stuttgart waitress saying her one-time best friend did her wrong.

Arkansas tax break set for retired military

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has issued a news release bragging on a tax cut he supported that takes effect Jan. 1 to exempt military retirement pay from the state income tax.

Adios 2017 open line

Here's an open line for the last regular workday of 2017 at the Arkansas Times, though I'll likely check in through the New Year's weekend. From today's video: It's cold and the world is rushing to explain to Donald Trump that there is a difference between current weather conditions and global climate.