Hourly news and comment
The guide to Arkansas entertainment
For food lovers
On art in Arkansas
A view from Northwest Arkansas
Travis McConnell serves up the good stuff at the Bernice Garden Farmers Market.
Mylo Coffee Co. does savory just as well as sweet.
Late night edition, tell us where you're eatin' this week.
"Beautiful Uprising" reception tonight, talk by artist Saturday.
Reception for artist is tonight.
I had a nice visit with Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood last week. /more/
If you are a beltway Republican, no antidote for the blues matches extended congressional hearings on a real or imagined national horror — that is, if it might heap dishonor on a Democratic administration. If Hillary Clinton will be the dishonoree, so much the better. /more/
When last I spoke with the office of the U.S. attorney, neither a court appearance nor official news conference had been scheduled on Shoffner's arrest on a charge related to receiving financial benefits for her public service. Nor had I had been able to get a response to the question of why the Saturday arrest. She wouldn't appear to be a flight risk. Surprise arrests are sometimes undertaken to preserve evidence.
I wrote former U.S. attorney Chuck Banks, now one of the city's most successful criminal defense lawyers, to see if he was representing Shoffner. He didn't respond. But the Democrat-Gazette reports this morning that his name turned up on the county jail visitor log on Sunday. Banks, you might recall, defended Lu Hardin in his federal prosecution. It ended in a plea deal, but no jail time for the former UCA president, a former legislator in a position of public trust convicted of fraud and money laundering.
Employees of Shoffner are whispering that, despite the fact she's been under scrutiny for months, that they didn't believe she'd hired a lawyer until very recently, perhaps this weekend. If so, it was a decision about as wise as her decision not to appear to answer a legislative subpoena over her audit. She's short of financial resources, employees say, but legal representation is something you can't afford to skimp on.
A personal assistant to Shoffner told me the office would be open for business as usual Monday. We still don't know whether the charge will be linked to her investment decisions, or her messy campaign finances or both. Her ability to conduct business without ill appearance will necessarily be damage by being under federal charge. Pressure on her to resign will be enormous, however firm and perhaps even credible her protests of innocence might be. The difference here, as compared with say the prosecution of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, was that the case against him was wholly unrelated to his public office.
Employees that I've reached or been quoted by others, to a person, were caught unawares by Saturday's arrest. It occurs to me that the drama might encourage others to be cooperative, if others are in a position to do so.
I thought this was interesting — a Facebook post by former Republican Rep. Ed Garner making the unexceptional but worthy point that innocence attaches to all until proof of guilt and, moreover, that state investments for which Shoffner have been criticized aren't necessarily so readily judged. It is not a crime to sell a bond before maturity, for example. Also, there've been some gross misrepresentations already in this case by people nominally thought to be nonpartisan evaluators. I explored that at some length here when the increasingly political legislative audit division publicized faulty comparisons between treasury and retirement system investments to help Republican legislators build a case against Shoffner.
I'd add that it is not a crime to do business with friends or for a state official's office to do business with a campaign contributor (statutory law and sleaze being two different things). We'd be a nation of political felons if that were so. It's the direct quid pro quo that's the problem. Sometimes hard to prove; sometimes not. Soon we'll have more details to judge
Other items this Monday morning:
* GUN HAPPY: NRA blog reports news that Remington Arms is expanding its ammunition plant in Lonoke. It's a $32 million project.
The day's not done, but I've seen two excellent films at the Little Rock Film Festival. "Muscle Shoals" was a tuneful history of the large and talented personalities behind the recording industry in that seemingly unlikely place. Even better was "Bridegroom," a love story that I wish somebody would put in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court soon.
Here's the Facebook page for "Bridegroom," the story of Shane Bitney Crone, who lost Tom Bridegroom, the love of his life, in an accident. It is a story about the travails of a same-sex couple deprived of rights others enjoy (visiting a loved one in a hospital, for example), along with the simple hazards of being gay in some families and some places. Hard to see how this story wouldn't touch just about anyone, though Tom's family erased Shane from their son's life, preventing him from attending the funeral.
The movie is the work of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who was inspired by the 10-minute YouTube above. "It Could Happen to You" was produced by Crone after his partner's death. I hadn't been aware of this viral phenomenon (3.8 million views) until today. The movie takes the story much farther, in a sensitive and complete way, fair even to the hard-hearted in their lives. Truth hurts, of course. Crone was at the screening this morning and talked about his life today and the movie — an audience winner at Tribeca Film Festival, where it was introduced by Bill Clinton. It was another occasion to be grateful for the LRFF.
Not much new to report this morning. If all goes well, I'm going to catch at least three movies today at the Little Rock Film Festival. But if anyone would like to forward details of the coming charges against state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, you know where to find me.
Someone asked about impeachment. Here's what the Arkansas Constitution says. There is a presumption of innocence under the law, of course. But the facts of the coming charge seem likely to add to the case that Shoffner would best serve the public by resigning. if that were to happen, the governor would appoint someone to serve the remainder of the term, which ends next year.
* DON'T LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD IRS STORY: The New York Times has dug into the operation of the Cincinnati office of the IRS where Tea Party tax-exempt organizations got singled out for attention. The story may be more muddled than the get-the-conservatives conspiracy that has been established. Maybe it's as much or more about agency incompetence rather than politics. Fat chance this will change the story arc now.
* TAR SAND PIPELINES AND THE KOCHS: A day late, but here's a story to read and ask U.S. Rep. Tiny Tim Griffin of Mayflower about. It's about a vast pile of Canadian oil waste rising in Detroit. It's owned by the lovable Koch billionaires and is a nasty byproduct of Canadian tar sand exploration, a venture that put nasty crude into the pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower and which would put still more in the Keystone XL pipeline that Tiny Tim is pushing so hard to get built. That pipeline will allow the Koch boys to move Canadian tar sand product across sensitive U.S. aquifers en route to refineries in Texas that will ship finished products overseas. All this to further encourage pumping more dangerous gases into the planet's warming air.
An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.
Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here.
Marathon Petroleum’s plant in Detroit processes 28,000 barrels a day of the oil sands bitumen.
Residents on both sides of the Detroit River are concerned that the coke mountain is both an environmental threat and an eyesore.
I'll have more on my impressions on this year's festival tomorrow. In the meantime, here are this year's prize winners.
Oxford American Best Southern Film Award ($10,000 prize money): "Bayou Maharajah"
Heifer International Social Impact Film Award ($10,000 prize money): "These Birds Walk"
Golden Rock Narrative Film: "Short Term 12"
Golden Rock Documentary Film: "Dirty Wars"
Extraordinary Courage in Filmmaking: Jeremy Scahill ("Dirty Wars")
Arkansas Times Audience Award: "Bridegroom"
Made in Arkansas Best Feature: "45 RPM"
Made in Arkansas Best Short: "The Discontentment of Ed Telfair"
Made in Arkansas Best Director: Mark Thiedeman for "Last Summer"
Made in Arkansas Best Actor: Liza Burns in "45 RPM"
Wold Shorts: "When We Live in Miami"
Arkansas is full of talented people, and we ran across yet another one of them last night: the thoroughly-hilarious writer and video blogger Joseph Birdsong. In the video seen above, Birdsong, who was born in Arkansas, schools out-of-staters on some skewed facts about the Natural State, including: "People in Arkansas are born with the ability to recognize 30 different kinds of roadkill based on scent alone," and "The first gay person to ever come to Arkansas was George Takei, and that was because he was forced here to live in an Arkansas Japanese internment camp during World War II." Just remember, he's laughing WITH us, not AT us. Okay, he's laughing AT us as well, but a great sense of humor covers a multitude of sins.
If you're looking for a good laugh, you can check out almost 200 of Birdsong's quirky videos on his Youtube site, cupofjoeshow.com. He's also got a site where he blogs, a very funny Twitter account. and a video blog for My Damn Channel's Answerly page where he talks about sex and relationships.
If your first reaction to Vine, the new-ish Twitter app that allows users to post 6 second video clips, was, "This is worthless," you need to check out the Vines "Short Term 12" director Destin Cretton and actor Keith Stanfield did while they were in town for the Little Rock Film Festival. So good. They're on the jump. (Click the box on the top left of each one to un-mute the sound.)
If you missed 'Short Term 12,' the opening night film at the Little Rock Film Festival that's the heavy favorite to win the festival's Golden Rock Narrative Award, you blew it. Maybe it'll play here when it opens in August.
Women are now legally free to roam bare-breasted in New York City.
And don't even get me started on the subject of BBQ...
I watched that Larry King interview......he ASKED her to sing on the spot. You're weird.
A&E Feature / To-Do List / In Brief / Movie Reviews / Music Reviews / Theater Reviews / A&E News / Art Notes / Graham Gordy / Books / Media / Dining Reviews / Dining Guide / What's Cookin' / Calendar / The Televisionist / Movie Listings / Gallery Listings