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'Vice' is daft, dark and dadaistic

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 01:50 PM PST

Bale's Cheney is a quiet, calculating emperor on the rise.
Picture your reaction if, in 2000, someone told you that Christian Bale, the dude who'd just played Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho," would in a few short years be wearing heavy makeup and 45 extra pounds starring as Dick Cheney in a likely Best Picture contender.

Oh, also imagine your reaction if someone explained that Cheney — known as a shrewd Washington operator even before a callow rich-kid president unwittingly made him the most powerful vice president in history — would churn up a trillion-dollar Iraq invasion based on false intelligence. That thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, would die on this pretext; that White House lawyers would argue for legal torture; that the ensuing political vacuum would feed terrorist networks in Iraq and Syria; and that an ongoing refugee crisis would spill into Europe, threatening the viability of NATO and the European Union, and the very future of Western-style democracy.

You'd be like, "Wait, who made that Darth Vader sumbitch emperor?" at which point — time-traveling to 2019 — you would have to say, here, watch this daft, dark, occasionally dadaistic comedy. It's called "Vice," and it's going to explain a lot about why the future is an incoherent mess of war, debt, infighting and minority-rule government. It's also low-key hilarious, a worthy follow from writer/director Adam McKay to his excellent 2015 Great Recession drama/explainer, "The Big Short." Title cards announce early on that the script is as true as he could make it, given that the film is tackling one of the most secretive leaders in recent history, and a special thanks near the bottom of the end credits acknowledges all the journalists who covered that administration. Elections have consequences! Even those elections in which Al Gore won a half-million more votes than George W. Bush. (USA, LOL.)

Bale's Cheney begins as a surly roughneck who in the '60s nearly drunk-drove himself out of his marriage to Lynn Cheney (Amy Adams), a Machiavellian power broker in her own right. Kicked out of Yale, he returned home to Wyoming and was pushing 30 by the time he clawed his way to Washington (via the University of Wisconsin) and linked up with a brash, voluble mentor in Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). They stayed close in the Nixon and Ford administrations; Cheney was elected to the House during the Reagan years and under Bush I became Secretary of Defense. He wasn't happy about not removing Saddam Hussein from power in 1991, and by the time Bush's older son was scrambling to respond to 9/11, they both had personal scores to settle with Iraq.

This is all recent enough history that the most intriguing questions of "Vice" are not the "what," or even the "who," but the "how." How did Cheney go from a relatively staid mid-'90s life of running Halliburton to breaking the world and piping no-bid contracts to Halliburton to tape it back together? "Vice" supposes a Cheney who's almost as surprised as we are that the cards landed as they did. Before the Secret Service wryly nicknamed him "Angler," Cheney was a patient schemer, one who took on the grey, anonymous slog of government homework. In the candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) he found an empty vessel: someone unconcerned with minutiae, who had coasted long enough on his family name and charisma that he was willing to cede the details to this quiet, soft-spoken elder statesman. Of course, we know what's in the details.

McKay's filmmaking style tilts flamboyant at times, with a flavor not too far afield from a Michael Moore documentary. In "Vice," you'll get cutaways to news footage, twists in structure and narration, a full-on mid-film credits sequence, plus diagrams and cartoons and a Shakespearean dialogue and a broken fourth wall that will help make Bale an Oscar contender. Amid all that, one of the most memorable scenes of "Vice" takes place in the Cheneys' bathroom after Dick has first met with Dubya. Lynne wants an assurance that he won't be Bush's veep. Dick stands at the sink, brushing his teeth, thinking. You see Bale's paunch and his heavy chin. He is slow to reply. When he does, he tells her simply that he's never seen anything like Bush before. And continues brushing his teeth. If you'd told Dick Cheney in 2000 that he was about to make himself emperor, he wouldn't have blinked.

Four licensed to grow hemp by state Plant Board

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 12:59 PM PST

The Arkansas State Plant Board has issued industrial hemp cultivation licenses to four companies: Friedrich Enterprises Inc. of Searcy, Tree of Life Seeds Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas Hemp Genetics LLC of Fayetteville and Ozark Botanical Farms LLC of Hot Springs Village.

In addition, the board has issued processor licenses to Shake Extractions LLC of Fayetteville and to growers Arkansas Hemp Genetics and Ozark Botanical.

Filing the applications were George Friedrich for Friedrich Enterprises, Julie Brents for Shake Extractions, Brian Madar for Tree of Life, Jody Hardin Jr. for Arkansas Hemp Genetics and David Brian Taylor for Ozark Botanical Farms.

Tree of Life Seeds and Schiavi Seeds of Lexington, Ky., have also been licensed as seed dealer/labelers in Arkansas. Schiavi is a licensed industrial hemp grower in Kentucky.

The board has conditionally approved, but not licensed, two other industrial hemp growers. It has two other applications that are pending review.

Arkansas issued the licenses under a federal law that allows for industrial hemp research, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill. Mary Smith, director of the seed division of the Arkansas State Plant Board, said the board has not yet discussed with the U.S. Agriculture Department whether its regulatory setup will pass muster with the newly-passed 2018 Farm Bill, which broadens the rules on industrial hemp. Trump's shutdown of the government means no one is answering the phones at the USDA; the agency's website notes there will be no updates as long as the funding is cut off. Smith said she will have a conference call with other state regulators next week.

The bill made industrial hemp — defined as a Cannabis sativa plant containing less than .3 percent THC (the intoxicating agent in marijuana) — legal, removing it from the controlled substances list. It allows its transfer across state lines for commercial and other purposes when produced legally. The bill does not allow hemp to be grown without restrictions, however; states that regulate its cultivation must submit their regulatory plans to the USDA for approval.

Thirty-eight states have passed laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. The State Plant Board's rules on hemp cultivation may be found here.

Hemp fiber is used in clothing, rope, paper and other products. The plant can also produce CBD oil; the new law is seen as a huge boon to that industry and other agricultural endeavors. 

Friday: Headlines and the open line

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 12:36 PM PST

The open line and today's video roundup of news and comment.

As the Pope County casino turns

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 12:03 PM PST

Here's a brief update on the machinations about the possibility of a casino in Pope County under the new Amendment 100, which expanded casino gambling in Arkansas.

* The state Racing Commission, which regulates casinos, will meet at 11 a.m. Thursday at the 1515 Building. There's no agenda yet, but the commission can be expected to put out for formal comment the casino regulatory rules drafted by its attorney Byron Freeland and modeled after Nevada gambling rules.

* A critical change was made in the draft yesterday that pertains to the amendment-required approval of a county judge or quorum court or relevant city mayor for a casino in either Jefferson or Pople County. It says the signatures must come from those holding the office at the time a casino application is made. This will clear up premature letters of support from the lame-duck county judge and Russellville mayor on a Pope County casino proposal from a Mississippi casino operator. The application process won't be formally open until rules are adopted.

* This change will require a new letter from the new county judge in Jefferson County, Gerald Robinson. The rule previously said the letter need only be sent after the effective date (Nov. 14) of the amendment. The previous county judge, Booker Clemons, had submitted that letter in behalf of a proposal expected from the Quapaw tribe. Robinson has said he's a casino supporter, but he's more important now and in a position to perhaps assert some leverage on the future development. I've called him about this change,

* Heavyweight lobbyists/politicos are at work all over. They include Dustin McDaniel for the Cherokee tribe, a potential applicant in Pope County; Nate Steel for the Quapaw tribe (not Cherokee as I originally wrote and an applicant in Jefferson County); Robert Moery, a former Asa Hutchinson staffer now working for the Mississippi casino group; Bill Vickery and John Goodson for the Choctaw tribe, which nominally wants a fair and open application process in Pope County but is viewed by others as hoping to block Pope County casino development to protect its casino across the border from nearby Fort Smith and, in the process, help the interests of Oaklawn Park and its expanded casino about an hour south of Russellville on Highway 7. Remember that the Racing Commission traditionally is dominated by horsemen and friends of Oaklawn Park. John Goodson, by the way, races thoroughbreds. He's also husband of Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

* Freeland didn't respond to my question yesterday about the motivation for the rule change, but I think the influence of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the stout opposition from the Pope County legislative delegation, particularly Sen. Breanne Davis, had something to do with it. There ARE some business people in Pope County heavily invested in pushing the Mississippi proposal.

* The new rule, if approved by the Commission and then ratified by the legislature, would effectively kill a Pope County casino for the foreseeable future. Neither the current county judge or Russellville mayor would be likely to endorse any casino proposal in the face of overwhelming popular sentiment in the November election and a local ordinance requiring a vote before their approval.

* Yes, the local ordinance is likely an unconstitutional limit on the new state amendment and somebody might sue over it. It could come up in a pending lawsuit aimed at squelching the Mississippi casino's enlistment of the lame-duck county judge's expression of approval (not formal approval, the judge, Jim Ed Gibson, later told the local news source, River Valley Now.)

* Here's another fun legal wrinkle: Amendment 100 says this:

the Commission shall issue four casino licenses, one to Southland Racing Corporation ("Southland") for casino gaming at a casino to be located at or adjacent to Southland's greyhound track and gaming facility in Crittenden County for as long as Southland holds a license, one to Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc. ("Oaklawn") to require casino gaming at a casino to be located at or adjacent to Oaklawn' s horse track and gaming facility in Garland County, one to an applicant to require casino gaming at a casino to be located in Pope County within two miles of Russellville, and one to an applicant to require casino gaming at a casino to be located in Jefferson County within two miles of Pine Bluff;
"Shall" is a powerful word in Arkansas law. There's a theory afoot that a lawsuit could argue that the Commission MUST issue a casino license in Pope County. Yes, an opponent would argue, the amendment also provides that the Commission shall require applicants to provide a letter of support from local officials. It's conditional in other words. Who knows?

This much is clear: Lawyers and lobbyists and political consultants will be busy for some time to come.

Judge takes Arkansas Times challenge of Israel boycott law under advisement

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 10:58 AM PST

Federal Judge Brian Miller heard arguments today from the Arkansas Times and the ACLU for an injunction against the Arkansas law that requires state contractors to sign a pledge not to engage in a boycott against Israel. He said he wanted to do more research before ruling.

The hearing consisted of legal arguments by the ACLU lawyers and the state attorney general that repeated arguments made in filings in the case. The Times contends it is unconstitutional to be compelled to sign a pledge to continue to do advertising business — specifically with a campus of the University of Arkansas, which has invoked the law. The state contends this is not a First Amendment violation.

No witnesses testified. The state had tried to have the motion dismissed for alleged lack of standing (we haven't spoken on the boycott), but Miller heard arguments anyway. The state continued to attack the newspaper's standing, according to publisher Alan Leveritt, who attended the hearing.

Miller remarked that at first blush he thought the case was simple — a speech restriction on news media. But he said the state's arguments had made it appear more complicated and said he wanted to do further legal research.

The state law is a copy of one passed by pro-Israel groups in other states to discourage protests of Israel policy toward Palestine. It's not a subject the Times has editorialized about. But the newspaper has objected to having conditions set on content by the state legislature in the form of a pledge or a price reduction should we not sign the pledge. (I was thinking this morning, half in jest, that perhaps I should advocate boycotts of Israel as a protest against Arkansas legislators who don't respect the First Amendment. The practical fact is that the state already discriminates against speech its controlling leaders find unpopular in many ways, without a need for statute.)

Sen. Bart Hester, one of the sponsors of the law, has said amendments to the law were likely in the coming session because of court cases that have blocked the law in other states.

Windgate gives $12 million to Fort Smith museum

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 10:47 AM PST

The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum was awarded $12 million from the Windgate Charitable Foundation to endow its general operations and programming, the Southwest Times Record reports.

FSRAM (as the museum styles itself) is just the most recent arts institution to benefit from the generosity of the Windgate Foundation, which has given hundreds of millions of dollars in total to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, UA Little Rock, UA Fort Smith, Arkansas State University and UA Pulaski Tech to build and support art and design facilities.

The Times Record reports that FSRAM director Louis "Lou" Meluso was surprised at the news of the endowment. The museum was in talks with the foundation, but "there wasn't anything definitive until I received the phone call from the foundation," Meluso told the Times Record.

The museum, formerly the Fort Smith Art Center, opened as FSRAM in a new home at 1601 Rogers Ave., a 16,000-square-foot building donated to it by Arvest Bank, in 2013. The museum has hosted several notable exhibitions. In the gallery now: "Modern Master David Hayes: The Ventana Series," work by a sculptor who studied under David Smith and Alexander Calder; and "Timothy J. Clark: Masterworks on Paper," figurative works.

Double homicide reported near King and Roosevelt

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 09:45 AM PST

Mitch McCoy of KARK/Fox 16 reports two are dead in a shooting near M.L. King Drive and Roosevelt Road in Little Rock this morning.

The messy business of governance: Bless the troublemakers in LR and NLR

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 06:18 AM PST

A huge crowd and uplifting blessings Tuesday cheered many about the rise of Frank Scott Jr. as the first popularly elected black mayor of Little Rock. But I got an e-mail last night that reminded me how quickly reality bites in the form of troublemakers. Bless them, too.

I was copied on an e-mail by Luke Skrable, a longtime critic of city government, who wants to know if Frank Scott will deliver on answers given at a candidates' forum that indicated he'd support citizens' rights to speak before the board and even to speak repeatedly on the same topic if their previous complaints had not been answered.

Skrable was a major contributing cause to a rule by Mayor Mark Stodola not to allow speakers at board meetings to repeat complaints they'd made previously. Skrable's efforts to be heard eventually led to his being charged with threatening the city manager and a ban of his presence in City Hall, now expired. Skrable is a hard case. He can wear you out.

But .... he lives in Southwest Little Rock, as does Frank Scott, and Scott himself has said — as Skrable has long complained — that his section of the city hasn't received the same attention as more prosperous areas. There's evidence in Skrable's regular photographic notations of failures of code enforcement, piles of trash, potholes and other city dereliction in his neighborhood.

Will Scott continue the one-time speaking rule? Skrable says he intends to find out next week at the City Board meeting. Welcome to City Hall, Mayor Scott.

Speaking of unanswered questions: I'm still waiting for an answer from Scott on contributors to the cost of the party thrown to celebrate his inaugural. He promised transparency, after all.

I'll also be interested in hearing Scott's take on unfinished city business — whether former Mayor Mark Stodola should get $173,000 or more for putative unused vacation time (and whether that's a policy, if legal, that the city should continue for future mayors. No other elected official in Arkansas is able to accrue pay for unused leave time.)

Also, Stodola hasn't gotten back to me on plans for more than $70,000 he's holding in a campaign carryover account.

UPDATE: I just now got an e-mail from Stodola on the carrover account.

Good morning, Max—- been moving and in the hospital for a few days, sorry for the slow response. I am sure I will be making contributions to worthy charities , I just haven't decided which ones.
Irritating questions from sometimes unpleasant people are part of the price of public service. Bless the questioners. Because sometimes they have fair points.

Over in North Little Rock, Jimmie Cavin is raising sand with the North Little Rock School Board over a report that members of the School Board met without public notice in advance of the Dec. 20 Board meeting with Superintendent Bobby Acklin and the district personnel committee chair on personnel policies. If true (and one school board member has responded to Cavin in a manner that suggests such a meeting DID take place), it would have been illegal. Meetings, even informal, of multiple members of public bodies require public notice. One school board member responded to Cavin by saying it was "not a board meeting." She also referred him to another board member who apparently attended but whom Cavin failed to include in his correspondence. Sounds like a meeting to me. By law, if multiple board members were present, it WAS covered by the sunshine law.

Good luck to Cavin on his quest. Here's hoping that Acklin, School Board member and former senator Tracy Steele and other North Little Rock School Board members take care to be sure all are on the right page about doing the public's business in public.

After 46 years in Arkansas, however, my opinion is that such occurrences as Cavin describes are not isolated. He signed his letter to school officials:

"Sincerely expecting transparency,"
Don't we all?

UPDATE: Superintendent Bobby Acklin responded to my inquiry:

Before the December 20th board meeting, a few board members came to my office. The majority of the conversation was casual; however, one board member asked a question about a policy that was on the agenda. That member just wanted some clarification. We answered her question so that we could all speak intelligently about the policy when we entered the public forum. There was no decision made in my office.

Even though we also discussed the policy in the public forum, in retrospect, we should not have talked about it prior to the meeting. I never want anyone to think that we are doing things underhandedly. I am all about transparency. I apologize for the oversight. We will always strive to follow the law.
Another board member described the meeting in the same way and called it a "teaching moment." Fair enough. If the lesson is learned.

UPDATE II: Another good answer from Board chair Tracy Steele

When we come in for board meetings it's normal to go to the superintendent office for a snack or beverage. Prior to the Dec 20th meeting the superintendent was watching the ADE Board meeting in which we all have interest. Several conversations took place with various board members and staff.I do know that there was no prior communication or intent to have any unauthorized conversations We as a board must be more careful to follow the law.

As board President I am recommending more training on the F.O.I laws for all board members and administrative staff.

A system designed to fail: Arkansas's Medicaid work reporting rule

Posted: 04 Jan 2019 05:42 AM PST

Josh Mahony, the Democrat who ran for 3rd District Congress this year, has posted a video on Twitter that illustrates one of the many flaws in  the system by which Arkansas first mandated computer-only reporting to qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage. If you have a computer, have access, have e-mail and can figure out the process, you still might be stymied by not having an up to date browser.

You do regularly update the software on your computer don't you? No problem with your home WiFi and its link to a high-speed Internet connection in Bodcaw, right?

Brandon Chase Goldsmith, who illustrates the problem in the Twitter video, also has written about problems with the system in an op-ed in the Fort Smith newspaper. Gov. Asa Hutchinson would undoubtedly dismiss it as more unfounded bellyaching by the undeserving layabouts on welfare, but you might give it a look.

A few months later while reporting my work, I received a "SYSTEM FAILURE NOTICE." After several attempts I called their helpline. They told me the system was down, because it could not handle all the traffic. So, I asked if I could report my work over the phone. They said they could not help me and I would have to wait for the system to come back online. The network errors were not resolved before the reporting period had past. Consequently, I was unable to report my work in time, not because I did not try, but because their system was down. Additionally, if they had issued extension notices, I would not have received one because my contact information was incorrect. I tried multiple times to update it, but each time received a "SYSTEM FAILURE NOTICE." I called the helpline and they were able to fix my mailing address, but in the process they messed up my email address.

As I write this column, I am attempting once again to correct my email, but keep receiving the same "SYSTEM FAILURE NOTICE." Based on my experiences, I can tell you this part of Arkansas Works' application has never worked. If people are unable to update their contact information, how will they receive non-compliance or other important notices?

I am an experienced professional with easy access to computers and the Internet, but I continue to have browser issues. "Your browser is not compatible with the Arkansas Healthcare Independence Program application." Laptop memory problems have hindered my ability to perform the required Safari upgrades, but fortunately, I also have Google Chrome, which works. The state is forcing people to have the most recent versions of browsers to even open their site. This potentially denies access to the system by people with older computers with outdated operating systems, and individuals with limited computer knowledge.
Chase, an adjunct faculty member at UA-Fort Smith, notes the state has now relented in face of worldwide criticism and provided some telephone assistance. But he also notes:

However, the state still has not given an extension to the possibly thousands of people who were not able to report their work due to the multitude of systemic failures and errors that have and continue to exist in Arkansas Work's online architecture. 

Racing Commission rules get a tweak in apparent response to Pope County casino furor

Posted: 03 Jan 2019 02:31 PM PST

Byron Freeland, attorney for the Arkansas Racing Commission, has distributed a proposed change in draft rules for the regulation of casino gambling that would clarify a potential controversy over what constitutes approval by a local official of a casino application.

The newly adopted casino amendment requires approval by local officials, but not a local vote, for the casino licenses available now in Jefferson and Pope Counties. Controversy has arisen in Pope County, where voters expressed opposition to casino gambling, because of letters from both a lame-duck county judge, Jim Ed Gibson, and lame-duck Russellville mayor, Randy Horton, that spoke positively of a potential application from a Mississippi casino operation. Those letters were sent to the Racing Commission, but the formal application process can't begin until the rules are adopted.

In any case, here's the relevant rule as originally drafted, with a portion to be changed highlighted:

All casino applicants for a casino license in Pope County and Jefferson County are required to submit either a letter of support from the county judge or a resolution from the quorum court in the county where the proposed casino is to be located and, if the proposed casino is to be located within a city or town, are also required to submit a letter of support from the mayor in the city or town where the casino applicant is proposing the casino to be located. Letters of support and resolutions by the Quorum Court, required by these Rules and the Amendment, shall be dated after the effective date of the Amendment.
The effective date of the amendment was Nov. 14. Here's the revision, again with the new version highlighted:

All casino applicants for a casino license in Pope County and Jefferson County are required to submit either a letter of support from the county judge or a resolution from the quorum court in the county where the proposed casino is to be located and, if the proposed casino is to be located within a city or town, are also required to submit a letter of support from the mayor in the city or town where the casino applicant is proposing the casino to be located. Letters of support and resolutions by the Quorum Court, required by these Rules and the Amendment, shall be dated after the effective date of the Amendment. All letters of support or resolutions by the Quorum Court, required by these Rules and the Amendment, shall be dated and signed by the County Judge, Quorum Court members, or Mayor holding office at the time of the submission of an application for a casino gaming license.
That should, in time if adopted, clear up any concern about the value of the letters from Gibson and Horton. Still to be decided, perhaps in a pending lawsuit related to Gibson's letter of support, is the question of whether a Pope County ordinance adopted by voters in November is constitutional. It requires a local election before local officials can recommend a casino. Some argue that is an unconstitutional additional restriction not allowed by the constitutional amendment.

I'm not sure if Freeland made this change on his own, or at the suggestion of members of the Racing Commission. The Racing Commission will meet on the regulations, but no meeting date is currently set. Interested parties have been asked to review the 340-page proposal drafted by Freeland, generally following procedures in Nevada.

The state amendment solidified the legality of existing casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Parks and expanded the types of gambling they may offer in addition to allow two more casinos, one each in Jefferson and Pope counties. The Quapaw tribe of Oklahoma has been endorsed by Jefferson County officials. The Cherokee tribe is interested in Pope County, but a Mississippi operator got a jump on the process and contends the local ordinance isn't constitutional. But, for now, the new mayor and county judge have said they don't intend to endorse a casino not approved by voters.

ALSO TODAY: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge declined to issue an opinion on questions raised by Sen. Breanne Davis of Russellville that were spurred by former Judge Gibson's late endorsement of a casino bid. Davis, too, is opposed to a casino application opposed by local voters. The questions and responses As summarized by Rutledge's office:

Does the County Judge of Pope County have authority to execute a letter of support for a casino applicant in violation of the "Pope County Local Control for Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018," which was adopted by the citizens in November, 2018 ? Q2) If the outgoing incumbent Pope County Judge executes such a letter before vacating his office, will his successor have the authority to rescind, amend or otherwise revoke it upon taking office? Q3) Can the Arkansas Gaming Commission require that any application for a casino license must be accompanied by a "current" or "valid" letter from a county judge (and city mayor if applicable), meaning a letter that has not been rescinded, amended or otherwise revoked by the incumbent county judge (or mayor, if applicable)? Q4) Would an Act of the General Assembly requiring that the Gaming Commission only consider an application that is supported by a letter or letters that have not been rescinded, amended or otherwise revoked by the incumbent County Judge (and city mayor, if applicable) be in anyway inconsistent with the plain language of Amendment 100? RESPONSE: I must respectfully decline to render an opinion in response to your questions because of current litigation, the outcome of which could directly affect the issues you have raised. See James Knight v. Jim Ed Gibson, No. 58CV-18-768 (Pope Cir., 4th Div., December 27, 2018). It is the longstanding policy of the Attorney General's office, as a member of the executive branch, to decline to issue opinions on matters that are pending before the courts.
PS: Here's an angle in this thickening stew to watch. Might there be yet another Indian tribe with an interest, say the Choctaws, working AGAINST a Pope County casino by ANYONE so as to protect against additional competition for existing casinos? The Choctaws, for example, operate a casino in Roland, Okla., across the line from Fort Smith?

PPS: High-dollar lobbyists are all over this thing. Former Asa staffer Robert Moery, who jumped into the lobbying business, is working for the Mississippi casino; you have people like Dustin McDaniel and Nate Steel working the Cherokees' interests; Bill Vickery and John Goodson are reportedly working for the Choctaws. Where's Rusty Cranford when we need him?

The Choctaws apparently claim they just want a fair process open to all. I'm not sure I'm buying that. I still don't see the percentage in their opening a casino 80 or so miles from their existing operation at Fort Smith, given casinos to the east and south at Pine Bluff and Hot Springs and miles of forested mountains to the north.

PPPS: You can't help but wonder about where Oaklawn Park, one of the most powerful political forces in Arkansas stands on this. The Racing Commission typically mostly represents horse people and, thus, friends of Oaklawn. Oaklawn is getting an enormous tax break and a casino expansion from the new law. Would it be happier if a casino competitor didn't open a few miles up Highway 7 in Russellville?