- Couch Jackets win round two of the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase
- Mardi Gras all weekend: People and dog parades, beard contest, food, beer, etc.
- Memphis promoter planning return of Riverfest on Memorial Day weekend
- Tacos 4 Life coming 2 NLR
- From Texas, with steak: Saltgrass in Little Rock
- Little Rock airport announces nonstop to Austin
- Honeymoon appears over for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Baghdad Barbie of Trump White House
- Study says Arkansas lags in accountability for corporate welfare
- Early warning: Religious Right again is targeting Arkansas Governor's School
- Early morning budget votes end brief federal shutdown
- State dodges sovereign immunity question in Burger King case
- Supreme Court bills show higher charges for out-of-state lawyers in Griffen case
- Attorney general will investigate pharmacists' complaints about reimbursements
- #MeToo hasn't gotten the job done yet. See White House and Rob Porter
- Narcan administered in suspected overdose at Central High
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 01:40 PM PST
All hail your groovy winners of Round 2 of the 2018 Arkansas Times Musician's Showcase: Couch Jackets.
Next week we've got another great lineup for Round 3, you can check out the schedule here. And keep coming out every Thursday in February to Stickyz, to see who will join The Rios (your Round 1 winners) and Couch Jackets at the finals at The Rev Room on Friday, March 9.
Let's list again the wonderful plunder of the winner of that final round: cold hard cash, an in-studio showcase at Capitol View Studio, a live spot at the Arkansas State Fair Bud Light Pavilion, a live spot at Musicfest El Dorado, a live spot at Low Key Arts' Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival in Hot Springs, a Thursday Night Live performance at Griffin Restaurant in El Dorado, eight hours of artist development at The Hive Studio, a PRS SE 245 Standard 22 Electric Guitar from Sunrise Guitars and more.
Here's a rundown of last night's show with comments and videos from our four judges; Sarah Woolf, Robert Locke, Dazzmin Murry, Brie Boyce and our guest judge for the night, Mandy McBryde.
Make sure to check out the slideshow at the bottom with all the photos.
Ten Penny GypsyJudges' comments:
"They complement each other very well! Musically and vocally. Buddy Love plucked the hell out of those strings! Rock on!!"
"Opening song was soul food — took me right back to my Southern Baptist roots"
"Making magic with those guitars! Ahh! [insert praise hands emoji]"
"Feel-good front porch revival tunes. It's obvious they really <3 music and <3 each other! I think that translates here."
"So much energy! Colorful players."
"I wanna get up and dance! I love rock and roll and so do they."
"HELL YES! Very original vocalist. You seldom hear this type of low-
Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo
"I felt that song in my whole soul. Yassss, Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo,
"They are a real band knocking on the door to the next level; they're ready. I can't wait to see where they go from here."
"Love how she goes from a lilting Judy Garland to full-on Joplin-
"I feel the 'story' he's telling. It's moody, exciting, sensual — maybe even a little dangerous at times."
"A life soundtrack. I wanna see him on a bigger stage and then a bigger stage…"
"Holy shit, they're fun to watch. These dudes are going everywhere and they're doing it together! Supertight set."
"So many creative elements — my GAWSH! My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Ready for the road!"
"Not what I expected. A very awesome surprise. So professional and polished. I wanna follow this band. Festival circuit look out!"
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 01:05 PM PST
The 2018 SoMardigras, which includes a Main Street parade at noon Saturday, Feb. 10, and The Root Cafe Beard and Mustache Contest in the Bernice Garden afterward, has the following food and drink lineup (in addition to food trucks) in SoMa: Beer from Stone's Throw Brewery, Lost Forty Brewing, the Water Buffalo and Ozark Brewery in the Bernice Garden's Mardi Gras Craft Beer Garden; non-alcoholic Hurricanes at Sweet Home and Clement antiques; King Cake sundaes at Loblolly Creamery; special brunch, King Cakes, cucumber mimosas and Bloody Marys at Raduno; free slices of three varieties of King Cake at Community Bakery (bring in beads on Tuesday, Feb. 13, for free coffee); cupcakes for the first 100 visitors to The Escape Room; brats and other edibles at The Root Cafe; and King Cake-inspired Matcha drink at the Green Corner Store (which is having a costume contest).
On Sunday, Barkus on Main, the dog parade, will feature other eats in the 300 block of Main (NoMa?), a.k.a. downtown's food court (Soul Fish Cafe, Brewski's Pub & Grub and Samantha's Tap Room and Grill.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 12:58 PM PST
A group calling itself the RiverFest Organization has scheduled a news conference Monday at the First Security Amphitheatre for the announcement of
Riverfest called it quits in 2017 after 40 years of operation by a nonprofit organization, pressed by the financial realities of rising costs.
Into the breach steps Universal Fairs of Memphis, whose CEO Mark Lovell says the organization runs fairs, festivals and trade shows around the country, including fairs in Memphis and the Georgia State Fair.
Lovell tells me by telephone from his Memphis office that the group plans a three-day music festival, plus a "family zone," May 25-27, Friday through Sunday. He said he's already lined up some major sponsors, including Mid South Ford Dealers, and has worked out
It's too soon, Lovell said, to predict the musical acts.
To my question of how he plans to succeed where the nonprofit Riverfest organization said it could not, he responded: "We're just good at what we do."
He said his company had "rescued" other faltering events.
He said Riverfest would have two main stages, the amphitheater and a stage in the Clinton Library park.
He said he expected his phone to be "ringing off the wall" next week after the formal announcement.
I haven't gotten return calls from the city to confirm arrangements they have made to renew the event. LRCVB sent notice of Monday's press announcement.
UPDATE: John Eckart, the city parks director indicates his department isn't expected to play a role as in years past. He said the event isn't extended to extend west from the amphitheater, which is managed by the
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 12:50 PM PST
Tacos 4 Life, an Arkansas chain that supports the Minnesota-based nonprofit Feed My Starving Children, will open a restaurant in Dillard's parking lot at McCain Mall in North Little Rock this summer.
The outlet will be the ninth Tacos 4 Life restaurant in Arkansas; others are in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Springdale, Benton, Jonesboro, Searcy and Conway (which has two). The chain has also expanded to Texas, with one in Frisco, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Tacos 4 Life offers chicken, beef, steak, pork, seafood and vegetable tacos along with salads, quesadillas, rice bowls, nachos and more. For every entree sold, Tacos 4 Life donates 22 cents to Feed My Starving Children, which provides volunteer-packed meals to schools, orphanages
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 12:42 PM PST
In time for Valentine's Day, Saltgrass Steak House, a Texas chain owned by Landry's Inc., opened its first Arkansas outlet Feb. 1 at 10 Anglers Way off Interstate 30, near the Bass Pro Shop and Outlets of Little Rock.
The steak restaurant, which serves certified Angus steaks along with poultry, seafood, barbecue, pork chops and homemade beer bread, takes its name from the Saltgrass Trail along the Texas Gulf Coast, a cattle-drive route.
The restaurant is styled in Lone Star State decor and open for lunch and dinner daily: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The No Bull Lounge bar's Monday Happy Hour, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., features drink and food specials. Gift cards are available.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 08:37 AM PST
Clinton National Airport has announced that Via Airlines will begin offering nonstop air service between Little Rock and Austin, Texas beginning April 29.
It will use 50-seat Embraer jets. Flights will be available daily, except Saturday. You can check fares at the website. I plugged in a flight down on April 30 with a May 1 return and got a $98.59 fare in each direction, just under $200 roundtrip.
The new flight is in addition to new nonstop service announced this year to Denver and Washington.
Via is apparently making a big push to serve Austin from several cities.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 08:22 AM PST
Lying repeatedly to protect your boss can have a damaging impact on a press spokesman's reputation. See the case of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who's building a long record of dubious defense of the indefensible in the Trump White House.
Gabriel Schoenfeld of the New York Daily News put the hurt on Sanders this week in a column headlined "Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the lying liars in the White House." It focuses on the attack on the FBI and Justice Department and specifically Sanders' claim of broad FBI support for Trump firing Comey — "countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision."
More than a few observers wondered at the time how Sanders' claim could be true. How would someone like her, 35 years old with a career confined entirely to PACs and political campaigns, be acquainted with FBI "members," let alone "countless" numbers of them? Why would these FBI agents flock to Sanders in particular, among all White House officials? And had morale in the FBI really sunk so low that rank and file personnel at the bureau were actually "grateful and thankful" for Comey's dismissal?Trump himself later said he fired Comey over the "Russia thing." Then an FOI request by
Anyone who reads the documents that lawfareblog has assembled will come away convinced, not only beyond a reasonable doubt but to the point of absolute certainty, that Huckabee Sanders was lying through her mandible and maxilla when she claimed that FBI officials had contacted her in large numbers — or in any numbers at all — to express thanks and gratitude for Trump's axing of Comey.Schoenfeld wasn't done about Sanders' "particularly wicked type of fabrication."
Sanders may not be the first White House spokesperson to disseminate falsehoods. But it bears noting that up until the Trump administration came along, purposeful lying by the person at that podium was a rare occurrence. Officials occupying the position in the past have worked hard to maintain their credibility for the simple reason that truthfulness is the only coin of the spokesmen's realm.And this was before the
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 08:05 AM PST
The Pew Charitable Trusts have compiled an evaluation of the states for how well they monitor industrial development incentives, or corporate welfare payments of tax money to attract business. Arkansas scores poorly.
Staff members of The Pew Charitable Trusts have assessed each state on the extent to which it has taken three steps to successfully evaluate tax incentives: making a plan, measuring the impact, and informing policy choices. These criteria were selected because they lead to regular, high-quality analyses that lawmakers use to improve the results of the state's economic development efforts.The assessment was first done in May 2017 and has been updated. Here are the key points from Pew's current assessment of Arkansas:
Arkansas is trailing other states because it has not adopted a plan for regular evaluation of tax incentives.
We pour it out hand over fist (even though the prevailing political thought in the legislature is that welfare for poor people is a disincentive to honest toil.) We've extended hundreds of millions in promised benefits during the Hutchinson administration to three separate Chinese projects, none yet
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 06:22 AM PST
Many details to come, but there are multiple indications that the Religious Right has again targeted Arkansas Governor's School.
Look for Republican Sen. Jason Rapert and Rep. Mark Lowery to be at the forefront of doing something drastic to the summer program for gifted children, decried by religious conservatives since its founding as a hotbed of godless liberalism where impressionable young minds are filled with dangerous ideas.
Supporters of the school have rallied before to keep it operating in the manner originally conceived. It has been housed at Hendrix College since its beginning in 1979 by Gov. Bill Clinton (with assistance, I should disclose, from my mother-in-law who worked in gifted and talented education in the state Education Department.)
The school has met challenges by endeavoring to reflect
But those challenges were met before Republicans took over every aspect of state government and the echo chamber that is the Republican majority decidedly leans toward the fundamentalist view of the world.
Jerry Cox, the leader of hateful Family Council, applied for a teaching job at Governor's School this year and wasn't hired. He's suggested on Facebook that this might have been Christian discrimination. I wish my mother-in-law, a godmother of Governor's School, was still alive and supervising AGS, a church lady who was in her pew every Sunday.
We'll have more details in the future, but the plan apparently includes a move away from Hendrix, well-known as a liberal enclave. But I wanted to get the word out early to the legions of young people who've said Governor's School was a singular formative moment in their lives. They have tech savvy. They can use social media.
You can bet that the homophobia of Cox, Rapert and the others plays a role in this. Governor's School has been a safe place for LGBT kids, a marked contrast for many of them from communities (and sometimes homes) dominated by anti-gay conservative churches that view their sexual orientation as at least a sin and even a crime. By safe I mean simply safe to live as one was born, not a place that's indoctrinating or preaching. Of course, the Raperts and Coxes do not want a world in which LGBT people are safe from discrimination. They endeavor to make discrimination state law.
It pains me to reveal this movement is underway yet again, but it is not too soon for those who believe in academic freedom to organize.
One talking point among the opponents: Some tough questions Governor's School students have given Gov. Asa Hutchinson. One telling comment on Cox's Facebook page:
The Governor has almost no say in it. If he did, the students probably wouldn't have gotten away with disrespecting Governor Hutchinson.Trumpism run rampant. It is treason to criticize The Leader.
I think Asa Hutchinson, by the way, is up to debating high school students. Here's an account of his 2016 appearance there, in which he fielded a number of questions on controversial topics. Seems pretty respectful to me. But expect a replay of this bill of particulars from conservatives in 1992. They watched a movie about Harvey Milk!
No doubt that the student population of Governor's School leans left, though I've encountered some outspoken conservatives in my occasional appearances there. And good for them. Boys State and Girls State (particularly Girls State) lean right. I doubt the fundies will be pushing for balance there.
If the end is near, I hope the Governor's School kids get an opportunity to question
UPDATE: Key people haven't been returning phone calls. But Feb. 15, next Thursday, is the deadline for submission of proposals to host the summer program. At this point, the state said, no applications have been submitted. UCA has been working on an application, a participant in the process told. Harding University said it is considering entering a proposal. No word from Hendrix. The host proposals could be separate from what Jerry Cox described as the existing "mess" and which Lowery says he intends to change.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:51 AM PST
Here's an account of early morning votes in Congress to pass budget legislation that ended a brief government shutdown.
* BLITHERING HYPOCRISY: Sen. Rand Paul held up the Senate vote, noting the hypocrisy of voting to add to the deficit after years of Republican complaints about the deficit. This argument would have had more power had Paul himself not voted to dramatically increase the deficit by joining in voting for the enormous tax cuts for the wealthy (and smaller handouts to less fortunate.) Deficits? Who cares anymore?
* PAUL RYAN'S SORRY LEADERSHIP: The Republican majority was big enough to pass this bill without Democratic votes. Speaker Ryan couldn't begin to muster it. Seventy-three House Democrats voted for the bill, while 119 voted against it. Among Republicans, 167 supported it and 67 voted no
* NEXT UP: The Dreamers and immigration. Republican leaders in the Senate and House have promised votes, but on what exactly?
* ALSO RAPERT: Sen. Rapert disputes any ill intent toward
My efforts have been nothing but supportive of the Governors School program being held in our community at Hendrix College and this can be confirmed with Pres. Bill Tsutsui.He posted a comment, however, on Jerry Cox's Facebook page in response to Cox's criticism saying
I've already started asking new questions.
Posted: 09 Feb 2018 05:41 AM PST
The news in an Arkansas Supreme Court oral argument yesterday on how much a Burger King franchisee owed in taxes on free meals provided employees came in what did NOT happen.
As reported by John Moritz in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state Department of Finance and Administration did not raise the issue of a new court precedent on the legal theory of sovereign immunity. In a sweeping decision that overturned decades of precedent, the Supreme Court said the state could not be sued in its courts and the legislature could not waive that constitutional provision.
DFA's lawyer Joel DiPippa had served notice earlier that the state would raise the sovereign immunity precedent in the Burger King case, but then he didn't.
Justice Rhonda Wood asked how the Andrews decision affected the Burger King tax case before the court.DiPippa didn't.
As noted earlier, the court frequently finds ways to avoid taking up new arguments that weren't raised in the trial court. So this was a longshot argument in any case.
But now let me delve into speculation: Though DiPippa said he hadn't had time to properly prepare the sovereign immunity argument given how recently things happened, I think there's another reason the state scuttled away from arguing the point.
I don't believe Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who controls DFA, wanted to be seen going into court — particularly during the election season — arguing the proposition that no decision by a state bureaucrat, particularly in the department that determines tax bills, is subject to appeal. I'm willing to bet that view of the law — and it is nothing but a sensible view that the Supreme Court's upheaval of precedent obliterated — is being communicated throughout state government and not just to DFA.
Oh, sure, the state will assert the claim as it long has in familiar cases — people damaged by state acts, such as a woman killed by a police officer speeding 100 mph on a needless response to a minor crime report dozens of miles away. These people will be left to the mercies of the state Claims Commission and the legislators who decide whether to pay damages for such claims.
Sovereign immunity — the King Can Do No Wrong — for every function of state government? No, I can't see the governor lining up behind that proposition, even if the Supreme Court does. In time, the court will begin to explain just how far it meant to go in invalidating the legislature's attempt to waive the privilege on the minimum wage law as it applies to state employees. In the meanwhile, a lot of confusion. And it appears the Burger King case won't provide any clues. If it wasn't asked to take up the question by the state, I'm betting the court won't. The court will decide how to tax restaurants for the benefits extended employees for free meals. It may even decide that the state tried to exact too much. And, in a sense, that will be a precedent too on what limits exist for suing the state.
Posted: 08 Feb 2018 02:59 PM PST
I reported earlier that Chief Justice Dan Kemp had written the Joint Budget Committee to say the court had spent
The summary above shows the total charges and amounts paid so far. It indicates Justice Rhonda Wood paid an initial bill of $8,832.93 by Colorado lawyers herself. I've asked her if she intends to pay future charges and if she intends to be reimbursed for those first charges.
To recap the billing, in order:
* Cooper and Kirk, a Washington law firm, represents Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson. Its bills so far: $86.610.
* Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, a Denver law firm, represents Justice Rhonda Wood: Its bill so far: $39,862.26.
* The Center for Constitutional Litigation, based in New York, represents the court as a whole and Justices Kemp, Robin Wynne and Shawn Womack.
* Tim Dudley, a Little Rock lawyer, represents Justice Karen Baker. His billing so far: $2,140.
* The Barber Law Firm of Little Rock represents Justice Josephine Hart. Its bills: $1,150.
Griffen seeks no monetary damages, only restoration of full abilities as a judge. His attorney, Michael Laux, says there'd have been no expense if the Supreme Court hadn't acted improperly. The case is in federal court. Griffen and the justices also face dueling ethics complaints before the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which has hired special counsel to investigate the cases on account of recusal of paid staff.
I don't have a figure for added costs in the judicial
UPDATE: the special counsels are serving pro bono though they might incur some expenses. One is from out of state.
UPDATE II: Justice Wood's response to my question about bills incurred by her lawyers:
I believe the state is responsible for the legal fees for suits against elected officials sued in their official capacity.
Posted: 08 Feb 2018 02:43 PM PST
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says she will review Arkansas pharmacists' complaints about insufficient reimbursements for drugs set by CVS Caremark, a pharmacy benefit manager.
Rutledge echoed pharmacists' complaint at a Capitol hearing last week that the reimbursements didn't cover the cost of the drugs covered by Medicaid under the Arkansas Works plan. The situation had already developed (and a similar complaint has been made in other states) but it worsened when Blue Cross, which covers more people in the state, adjusted its reimbursement system. It had been paying for
Blue Cross uses Caremark as a pharmacy benefits provider. Caremark told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that it makes money on 18 percent of prescriptions, loses on 9 percent and breaks even on the rest.
Rutledge has taken the side of the Arkansas pharmacists.
Earlier this year, the Attorney General began reviewing reports that CVS Caremark reduced its reimbursement rate for pharmacies in the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. In roughly 20 percent of prescription fills, prescription reimbursement rates reportedly dropped lower than purchase costs. Local pharmacists are forced to cover the additional costs of these rate changes, which impacts their bottom line and could lead to these businesses closing their doors. Investigators and attorneys have requested information pertinent to establishing if the reimbursement rate change triggers provisions of Arkansas's Deceptive Trade Practices Act
Posted: 08 Feb 2018 01:43 PM PST
A powerful piece by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate illustrates,
Three women, two of them ex-spouses, had accused Porter of abuse. They told their preachers. They told their friends. They told their family. They told law enforcement. One went to court. And still, Porter was hired for a White House job and allowed to see sensitive material without security clearance (e-mail server anyone?). Still, he was defended as a man of honor by Chief of Staff John Kelly and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the women's accounts dismissed as lies. Only when a newspaper put the story together with photos of the women did the story take hold. And even then Kelly and Hatch rose in Porter's defense.
What is "enough" for a woman to be believed over a man? Lithwick writes:
This questions of "enough" was coincidentally also the subject of a powerful piece from Catharine MacKinnon in the New York Times last Sunday, about why the #MeToo movement is accomplishing what decades of formal legal reforms could not achieve.
Trump himself put it succinctly and coarsely, with tape rolling:
And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ... Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.Latest tidbit: Kelly's statement defending Porter reportedly was crafted by another Trump confidante whom Porter has apparently been seeing, White House communications director Hope Hicks.
Posted: 08 Feb 2018 01:14 PM PST
KARK reports help from a fellow student and emergency workers for helping a 16-year-old suspected of overdosing Monday at Central High School.
The young woman was found unconscious on the floor of a restroom, according to a police report. Another student provided a dose of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of opioids, that was administered by Fire Department responders. The student was conscious and alert when taken to Children's Hospital. She's said to be recovering.
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