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Arkansas in spotlight on HBO in documentary on meth scourge

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 12:36 PM PST

"Meth Storm," a new documentary by the Renaud brothers, debuts on HBO at 9 p.m.  tonight and it won't paint a pretty picture of Arkansas. It's about how a potent form of the drug coming from Mexico and a lack of economic opportunity have harmed rural communities.

WBUR has an interview with Brent and Craig Renaud about their film here. Excerpt:

Craig Renaud: "I think the film is as much about poverty in the state as it is about meth addiction. And you have this perfect storm of these large amounts of methamphetamine coming in, at the same time that you have a loss of job opportunities and not a lot of things going on in these communities. And you hear the [Drug Enforcement Administration] in the film talk about, back in the days of meth labs, they would be surprised if they saw a pound at a time, and now they're seeing 40- to 50-pound shipments a week coming into Arkansas. So the problem has gotten very overwhelming in these communities."

Monday: An open line and the video roundup

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 12:19 PM PST

Another Monday. Another open line. Another roundup of news and comment.

Today's Not the Onion edition of Donald Trump

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 12:01 PM PST

So Donald Trump honored Navajo code talkers at the White House today. He used the occasion to make a "Pocahontas" quip about Sen. Elizabeth Warren and posed for a photo in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Act.

This is a true story. Full quote:

"You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas."

What's a tax 'reform' task force meeting without free eats?

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 11:32 AM PST

I'm in receipt of a message sent to registered lobbyists seeking "sponsors" for either a dinner on Dec. 4 or a lunch on Dec. 5 (the lunch must be close to the Capitol) for the next meeting of the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Task Force.

This is the group looking for ways to cut taxes, preferably those that apply to rich people and corporations. It wouldn't do for the members of the task force to take their fattened paychecks and fat per diem (untaxed expense payments) to pay for their own meals would it? Not when corporate tax breaks are on the table.

You might have thought that the so-called ethics amendment outlawed free wining and dining for legislators. But legislators adopted several loopholes (the chief architect was accused kickback recipient Jon Woods, who goes to trial next week) that allowed free slopping of legislators when an entire committee is invited. I've asked Speaker Jeremy Gillam if this ad hoc committee is on the approved list. No response yet but how else would the Arkansas Society of Professional Lobbyists know about it so as to put out a call for someone to pick up the check.

The Society says you'll need a credit card good for 16 task force members, 10 out-of-state guests and five to 10 people from the sponsoring entities for each event. Reporters and members of the public will have to bring a lunch Surely they'll be allowed to sit in on dining table conversations?

Here are the legislators on the task force:

Senate: Republican Sens. Bart Hester, Missy Irvin, Dave Wallace, Jonthan Dismang and Jim Hendren.  Democratic Sens. Keith Ingram, Joyce Elliott and Larry Teague.

House Republican Reps. Joe Jett, Frances Cavenaugh, Jim Dotson, Lane Jean and Mathew Pitsch. Democratic Reps. Bob Johnson, Warwick Sabin (it so happens a co-sponsor of the "ethics amendment") and Kenneth Ferguson.

Bon appetit!

Supreme Court won't consider Florida's ban on open carry

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 10:53 AM PST

The gun fetishists of Arkansas like to suggest the 2nd Amendment is an unabridged right to carry guns whenever and wherever. They also believe, based on that legally unsupported reading of the Constitution and an ambiguous state statute, that open carry is the unassailable right of all Arkansans.

As yet, we have no specific case on point in Arkansas. But we do have this new barometer:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a challenge to a Florida law that bars people from openly carrying firearms in public, ending a case that started nearly six years ago when a man with a gun was arrested in St. Lucie County.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the case. But the move effectively let stand a Florida Supreme Court ruling in March that said the open-carry ban did not violate the constitutional right to bear arms.
PS: The Court also declined to hear an appeal of Maryland's assault weapons ban.

Springfest to continue as family event, though Riverfest is over

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 08:30 AM PST

Music show economics spelled the end to Riverfest after this year's edition, but Springfest, a family event earlier in the spring that channeled the early days of Riverfest, will continue.

The Museum of Discovery announced today that it will sponsor the third installment of the free family event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the River Market pavilions and the First Security Amphitheater.

The Museum, just down the street on Clinton Avenue, will add some of its hands-on activities and "Awesome Science" shows to the event. Other elements include the Super Retriever Series, a dog parade, interaction with police, fire and other emergency responders, play attractions such as a giant slide and bounce houses;, a construction zone and  performances by dance teams, cheerleaders and bands. Count on food trucks and vendors, too.  Austin Hall at the Museum of Discovery has more information — 501-406-7568 or ahall@museumofdiscovery.org

Jessie Misskelley of West Memphis 3 jailed on vehicle charges

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 06:38 AM PST

WREG of Memphis reports that Jessie Misskelley, one of the West Memphis Three defendants, has been jailed in Crittenden County on auto-related charges.

Jessie Misskelley was arrested Saturday for driving without a drivers license, driving without one or more headlights and having no proof of insurance.

Another report finds tax legislation better for rich than the poor

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 05:27 AM PST

From the Washington Post:

The Senate Republican tax plan gives substantial tax cuts and benefits to Americans earning more than $100,000 a year, while the nation's poorest would be worse off, according to a report released Sunday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
To the Arkansas congressional delegation, this is a reason to vote FOR the tax bill, just as they'll vote to dismantle the move toward universal health coverage. If you're poor it's your fault. Indeed, the damaging impact on the poor is because the plan also brings a dramatic reduction in federal spending to help the poor have insurance coverage.

And don't let Cotton and Boozman and French and them tell you about how it is about deficit reduction.

The CBO also said the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, a potential problem for Republican lawmakers worried about America's growing debt.
This chart shows changes in taxes without allowing for changes in health coverage.

Deck the halls .... with lead UPDATE: two dead in LR, one in Stuttgart

Posted: 27 Nov 2017 05:14 AM PST

On a slow news morning — only the report of a homicide in the 12000 block of Stagecoach Road with a SWAT callout in local headlines — I was drawn to this report on KTHV:

Local gun dealers reported the same spike in gun sales experienced nationwide on Black Friday. A single-day record 200,000 background checks were processed Friday and one local dealer reported sales seven times the normal level.

Peace on earth.

UPDATE: Police now say the call on Stagecoach was a murder/suicide in the Knollwood mobile home park.

IN OTHER GUN DEATHS: State Police say Charles Lindel Ice, 39, was fatally shot Sunday afternoon in Stuttgart. He'd been in a fight with another man. Morgan McDonald, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder, State Police said.

The open line: Also, retired Judge G. Thomas Eisele has died at 94.

Posted: 26 Nov 2017 03:37 PM PST

Another open line marked by news of the passing of a public figure. Retired federal District Judge G. Thomas Eisele died today at 94. He served actively on the federal bench in Little Rock for 41 years, cintinuing to take cases after assuming senior status in 1991.

I can't write dispassionately about Judge Eisele. I met my future wife when she was one of his law clerks in 1973. His law clerks became family. They gathered for years for Judge's nogg at Christmas gatherings at his home. He contributed to their career advancement with advice and support.

Tom Eisele landed his judgeship as all do, by politics. He'd been legal counsel to Winthrop Rockefeller in his rise to be a Republican governor of Arkansas and Rockefeller advocated his appointment by President Richard Nixon to fill a vacancy in 1970. Judge Eisele was a Republican, but of the Rockefeller stripe.

He issued important decisions over the years on the environment, the death penalty, racial discrimination and more. Much of this was in the days when federal district courts were often constitutional battlegrounds for issues where justice was in short supply in state courts. He was intelligent, studious and fair. And make no mistake, he was a Republican. It was a tearful day for him the day Richard Nixon resigned, if not necessarily for some of his law clerks, who seemed often to come from the Democratic end of the political spectrum.

He was chief judge of the Eastern District for 16 years from 1975 to 1991. In 1997, as a senior judge, he made headlines for writing an opinion that said Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr might have a conflict of interest in investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton. He noted that Starr had lined up a job at a law school financed by one of the Clintons' pursuers, Richard Mellon Scaife. A Hot Springs native and World War II veteran, he came back to Arkansas after Harvard Law School and spent time in both private practice and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

My wife and another former clerk, Edie Ervin, put together a video tribute to Judge Eisele a few years ago. Fans of his might appreciate this excerpt from it, about his handling of a case over racial profiling of Hispanics.