Asa Hutchinson seems so much nicer about his belief in legal discrimination. But the result is more dangerous. You can be falsely lulled, as the national press has been, into believing Hutchinson is a moderate.
As a professional matter, I've been halfway dreading Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. The 2016 Democratic nomination appears to be hers for the asking. Democrats enjoy a strong Electoral College advantage. And yet it's hard to imagine how she can overcome the unrelenting hostility of the Washington media clique.
The reason college basketball fights desperately to recapture its erstwhile appeal, despite some excellent games in this NCAA tournament and those before it, is multifold. What happened to the Razorbacks' roster, for instance, is a tacit illustration of many issues coalescing in one hotspot.
THE HUCKSTER'S HUSTLE: He'll pitch economic populism and personally cash in.
Politico dubs Mike Huckabee "the populist 1 percenter":
Mike Huckabee was not a millionaire when he ran for president in 2008, and liked to let people know it during his underdog campaign against wealthy rivals like John McCain and Mitt Romney.
“I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night,” he quipped.
Now, after hosting his own Fox News show and a syndicated radio program, while authoring several books, the former governor is solidly – and, some would say, ostentatiously — a part of the one percent.
There’s the 10,900-square-foot beachfront mansion he built on Florida’s Panhandle, worth more than $3 million. There are regular trips on private jets, often to elite events at which he has given countless paid speeches.
This makes his claims today that he's the blue-collar candidate a bit much, but just because he's rich doesn't mean he can't make an argument for economic populism. I think the real story here is that Huckabee's entire career in politics has been partially devoted to promoting not just evangelical populism but also ensuring a lavish lifestyle for himself. Politico doesn't come out and say this but part of the reason that Huckabee is much richer than when he ran for president in 2008 is precisely because he ran for president. He was able to translate the publicity from running into a multi-million-dollar career as a conservative entertainer. He has long been a master of outlandish statements designed to get him more attention; nothing grabs attention quite like running for president. More attention means more book sales, more TV deals, and who knows what else. Never underestimate the Huckster's knack for monetizing himself.
Can he actually win? The polling wonks at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight think that Huckabee is likely doomed to repeat his 2008 performance: "there’s evidence that the fatal flaw of his 2008 run — namely, an inability to widen his appeal beyond born-again and evangelical Christians — hasn’t gone away."
Even though Huckabee’s overall ideology rating places him firmly in the Republican mainstream, he has major problems with economic conservatives. He called for raising taxes numerous times as governor — the Cato Institute gave him a lifetime D grade (compared to Bush’s B). And the Club for Growth, which went after Huckabee hard during the 2008 campaign, has threatened to air ads pointing out Huckabee’s transgressions on taxes.
To win in 2016, Huckabee would need to convince economic conservatives that he’s seen the light. Will he? I seriously doubt it. In his opening campaign ad, he came out strongly for protecting Medicare and Social Security, even as the relatively moderate Bush has called for raising the retirement age for Social Security. In fact, Huckabee has actually shifted left on the issue since 2008. Huckabee’s position may be a winner in a general election, but it’s not the way to win over skeptical Republican party actors in a primary.
If he can’t win over country-club Republicans, Huckabee may be limited to a base of Southern conservatives, just as he was in 2008.
And of course the Club for Growth has already shown that they'll spend big to stock any Huckmentum, with an ad ready to go and set to start airing tomorrow. As a side note, I think it's interesting that Huckabee's economic populism plays with dead-red-Republican evangelicals. But those rhetorical flourishes (and in the case of Social Security and Medicare, real substantive differences) simply run counter to a party that has tax cuts for the rich as its organizing principle — even if in a vacuum they hold more appeal to some base voters than you might think. You can get an awful lot of votes ignoring the fat cats, but the fat cats have an awful lot of money to portray you as a RINO. Again, sounds like a repeat of 2008.
But would such a repeat spell doom for the Huckster? I don't think so! Remember the 2008 campaign made him filthy rich. He's folksy and he says crazy stuff. The media is going to give him all kinds of coverage. The Club for Growth and liberals will slam him. Huckabee will play the martyr routine. He'll get more attention and more fans among evangelical consumers of Huckabee's brand of politics. Huckabee in the White House? Nope. But maybe he can upgrade to an even more extravagant mansion in Florida.
Marking the twenty-second anniversary of the deaths of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, three eight year old boys left in a muddy ditch after being murdered in West Memphis on May 5, 1993, about 30 people rallied on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol today, asking that the state reopen the investigation into the boys' deaths.
The first speaker to the lectern was Rev. Thompson Murray, a United Methodist minister who stood in for "Devil's Knot" author Mara Leveritt, who is in Ashdown covering the retrial of Tim Howard. Murray said that he'd been largely ignorant of the facts of the West Memphis Three case until he asked Leveritt, who lives across the street from him, to explain where the case stood some years ago. During that conversation, Murray said, "I went from being an objective observer to a serious inquirer." He said he soon came to believe that the three teens accused of the crime — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley — were innocent, and that the real murderer of the children was still walking fee. While the facts can be undermined, Murray said "the truth can never be fully destroyed."
Following Murray was keynote speaker John Mark Byers, who limped to the podium, sweating heavily in the heat under a gray suit. After starting with the Serenity Prayer, Byers said that the rally could "start a new day in what could be justice for six families."
Byers, at times weeping so hard it was difficult to understand him, said that though news accounts have often referred to him as Christopher Byers' stepfather, he considered himself the boy's father. He said he was the only father Chris ever knew.
"Despite my mistakes and my poor decisions," Byers said, "I loved my son with all my heart. And 22 years ago, a big part of my heart was taken away."
Byers spoke at length about the last time he saw his son, saying he'd spanked Christopher for riding a skateboard in the street. He said it didn't know it would be the last time he'd ever speak to him.
"Words, they cannot describe the thoughts, the wishes, the regret I've felt for 22 years for spanking my son... I wish I'd done anything except spanking him," he said.
Byers said that after he learned of his son's death, "between the drugs, alcohol, anger and hurt, I was crazy." He said he was consumed with madness and anger for years, but soon came to believe that there were holes in state's the case against Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin, among them: How could "three skinny teenagers" be such efficient killers? How could they leave a crime scene devoid of evidence? How did they know to calmly hide the bodies and the boys' clothes instead of "freaking out" and leaving the crime scene in a rush? "That's not the mind of a teenager," Byers said. "That the mind of a skilled killer."
"If I could figure it out so clearly, blinded by anger and hate, blinded by the loss of my son," Byers said, "don't you good people all around the world think that the state of Arkansas could figure it out? Of course they could."
Byers called the idea that the Alford Pleas closed the case and proved that the WM3 are really the ones who killed his son, "a crock of garbage." He said now is the time to push for change, and for the case to be reopened.
"To the great State of Arkansas: investigate this case," he said. "Follow up on the evidence we have given you. Quit hiding behind the meaningless Alford Plea and prosecute the men who killed these children."
The powerful and deep-pocketed conservative advocacy group Club for Growth wasted in no time in attacking Mike Huckabee, the latest entrant into the crowded GOP primary field. This morning prior to Huckabee's event in Hope, the Club announced that it will be launching an attack ad against Huckabee in Iowa and South Carolina, two states that Huckabee will be targeting in the early going. You can watch the ad above.
Club for Growth president David McIntosh said, according to a report from USA Today, "Governor Huckabee raised taxes. He raised them a lot and he raised them often. Since he’s decided to run again, and is still not telling the whole story on his tax record, then we’ll do it for him.”
It's kind of an odd commercial, basically focused on the fact that various conservative groups have been down on Huckabee as too much of a tax-and-spender. The kicker comes at the end: a "Ready for Hillary" poster with Huckabee's name flying in. He's just a RINO, see. Zing! Since Huckabee's base are rank-and-file evangelical voters who probably don't care that much what the Club for Growth thinks, I'm not sure how much this commercial, focused entirely on the pronouncements of gatekeepers, will hurt him. But it's clearly an effort to signal to primary voters that he's unacceptable to the party's economic right wing.
This is a fight that the Club for Growth has been spoiling for, a rivalry stretching back more than a decade. Huckabee has called them "the Club for Greed" and compared them to suicide bombers and Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan. McIntosh told National Review last week, "he’d be terrible on economic conservative issues, and we’ve got to educate the voters about that through our affiliated PAC."
Huckabee's speech today, with at least rhetorical focus on economic populism and very strong language around protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits (which would be slashed in the proposed budgets supported by the Club) probably helped throw some fuel onto the fire in this ongoing GOP civil war.
Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
As a cinema buff, my recommendation this week is a place I try to mention to every film-loving friend of mine sooner or later: the used DVD stacks at your local Game X Change store. I'm pretty sure nearly every DVD in the place is hotter than a fifteen dollar Stratocaster, all of them likely ripped off during burglaries and turned in for store credit (when the Five Finger Discounters cleaned out the home of Yours Truly a few years back, they made off with over 100 DVDs, leaving us to wonder what teenage hooligans were going to do with a seven-season box set of "The Gilmore Girls." Then we found Game X Change and it all made sense). That said, you can make someone else's loss your gain, with thousands of used DVDs for $4.95 each. They also have an excellent three-for-the-price-of-two deal, which has helped me restock my home collection in record time. It's not all copies of "Harry Potter" and "Die Hard 9: Die From an Erection Lasting More Than Four Hours" either, especially if you're willing to dig. There are quite a few classics mixed in, and it's all alphabetized so you don't have to paw through everything if you're looking for something in particular. Recently, for example, I bought a remastered super-deluxe bells-and-whistles edition of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" — regularly priced at north of $25 on Amazon — for less than the price of a latte at Starbucks. I'm probably shooting myself in the foot by being the John the Baptist of my secret stash, but I like to spread the love. — David Koon
Someday I hope to write a book detailing the shining gems in the otherwise treacherous and solemn story that is Christian music. That day may never come, so I’ll make do occasionally calling out the characters, albums, and events that make you say “For real this is?” Today I recommend listening to "Solid Gold Heart," the collaboration between Jad Fair and Danielson. I have a healthy surface knowledge of Jad Fair’s musical history. But my familiarity with Danielson (from my days running with the local, heavily-tattooed Christian music bookstore employees) runs deep and wide and I love this album. It’s funny, rocking, and dutifully quirky. Listen! — Bryan Moats
I recommend Future's "Codeine Crazy" both the song and the music video, a neon haze of wild horses and purple electricity. There is a world of sadness in the way Future pronounces the word "celebrate" here, on one of the loneliest and best pop songs I've ever heard about depression, addiction and altered states. He says he's "drownin' in Actavis suicide" (referring to the brand of codeine cough syrup) while wearing "diamonds colder than a glacier." He says, "I'm an addict and I can't even hide it." He says, heartbreakingly, "You thought I forgot about us?" It's the first rap song that's ever reminded me of Gus Van Zandt's "Last Days."— Will Stephenson
A few days ago, I read an article somewhere (bad journalism; I don't remember where) comparing recent fanfic-turned-novel-turned-movie juggernaut "50 Shades of Grey" with an older film, Steven Shainberg's "Secretary." I haven't seen "50 Shades," nor do I have any desire to see it, but the 2002 James Spader-Maggie Gyllenhaal film has long been one of my favorites. The story is hit-or-miss, but in terms of performances, I don't think either actor has ever been better (ditto supporting actor Jeremy Davies).
What I really love about the film, though, are the scenes shot in the law office in which the two main characters mostly interact: lush, dark wood walls, a reliance on old manual typewriters and the Spader character's meticulously-kept in-house orchid garden all give the entire movie an otherworldly, out-of-time feel that makes the atmosphere more fairy tale than erotica. Add to that one of the best uses of Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" ever in a movie , and the result is a story less about sex and more about self-discovery. I'm sure that's how all these sorts of narratives would like to be known, but few sell it quite as naturally as "Secretary." Oh, and if you need some spanking and bondage, it's got that, too. — Michael Roberts
It is prom and graduation season — always an exciting time of year for pretty dresses, celebrations and family gatherings. I myself am graduating from Philander Smith College tomorrow with my Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. Graduation is bittersweet for me: on the one hand I'm glad I've accomplished my goal and am moving on, but on the other, I'm sad to see my college days come to a close. I've met some wonderful people, made good friends and networked with some of the best and brightest in Little Rock. It has been a whirlwind 4 years and an unforgettable experience. I'm so proud of what my classmates and I have accomplished and I'm excited to see what the world has in store for each of us. To Philander Smith College, my alma mater, you will always have a place in my heart, and to my professors, thank you for your dedication and counsel, you will be missed. Thank you to everyone who made my education possible and believed in me. I know now that I am capable of anything I put my mind to and I'm not afraid to try something new. Last but not least, congratulations to the graduating class of 2015, we are destined for greatness and we will change the world for the better. — Kaya Herron
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I recommend Kathryn Joyce's fantastic book, "The Child Catchers," which explores the underbelly of the international adoption system and its embrace by the evangelical community in the U.S.
The thing about international adoption is that it just sounds so unimpeachably good in the abstract. Orphans! Desperate kids in darkest Africa saved from the clutches of Joseph Kony and plopped down upon a tasteful sectional to watch Veggie Tales in an air conditioned living room in Huntsville, Alabama. Sometimes that's what happens — but sometimes, the salvation narrative breaks down upon closer inspection. A key problem is that many of the kids adopted to the U.S. from Guatemala, Liberia, Ethiopia and elsewhere actually have families of some sort back home. The reason they're given up for adoption is often less because they lack caretakers in their countries of origin, and more because of a combination of tragic factors: Crushing poverty, promises of monetary payments or other compensation to family members, pressure applied to birth mothers, outright deceit, differing perceptions of what "adoption" really entails across cultures, and more. And that's not even getting into the tragedies that sometimes result when kids who have been through terrible trauma in institutions overseas are taken in by well-meaning and utterly unprepared families in the U.S.
As Joyce puts it, "Despite the varied but largely altruistic motivations of evangelical adoption advocates, as a movement it is directing hundreds of millions of dollars into a system that already responds acutely to Western demand — demand that can't be filled, at least not ethically or under current law. What that can mean for tens of thousands of loving but impoverished parents in the developing world is that they become the supply side of a multi-billion-dollar global industry."
Another thing about Kathryn Joyce: She's now working for the Times on an investigative story, and she's a really nice person.
While we're on the subject of unhappy children, and Katherines, I also recommend one of my favorite short stories, "The Downward Path to Wisdom" by Katherine Ann Porter, which tracks the internal experience of a six-year-old child in the most unsentimental terms possible. No lurid tragedies — just the fearful, normal, day-to-day acid trip entailed by being a kid. I can't find the full text online, but I did find this brief audio clip of Porter reading the opening paragraphs, which gives you a sense of her language. Evidently, you can order the full recording on vinyl, if listening to a single short story over and over is the sort of thing you'd like to spend $45 on. — Benji Hardy
Raku by Morgan McMurray, at the Argenta Arts Festival.
Argenta is the place to be Saturday, May 2, if you like baskets, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, fabrics ... and robotics, flying things, power tool drag racing, trebuchets ... and good weather, music and food. The arts and science are strong allies, so it was a fine idea to combine the Argenta Arts Festival (formerly run by the Thea Foundation but now taken over by the city) and the Innovation Hub's Mini Maker Faire.
On Main Street, find more than 30 artists working in crafts — in keeping with the Maker Faire theme — and arts demonstrations. At the Society of Printmakers booth, for example, Neal Harrington and Tammy Harrington will demo relief carving and printing, Catherine Kim and Mesilla Smith will demo intaglio techniques, and Daniel Adams will demo Coptic book binding. Pulaski Technical College will have a booth; they'll create tie-dyed scarves. The Cons of Formant, Caleb Patterson and Brown Soul Shoes will perform behind the Argenta branch of the Laman Library at 406 Main St.
Over by the Innovation Hub, at 201 E. Broadway, there will be 60 vendors where tinkerers and techies and entrepreneurs can gather, as well as presentations by folks like Josh Moody, founder and CEO at Innovis Labs; Wallace Patterson of MakerBot, and software developer Sam Mauldin. Entry to the Maker Faire is $10.
That's 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown North Little Rock.
Harold Ott is the founder and primary researcher of Psych of the South, a record label dedicated to unearthing rare Arkansas pop history.
Usually my work involves a quest for long-forgotten information about Arkansas’ garage bands of yore. In this case, Jim Finch, the drummer of Robin and the Hoods, contacted me. He wanted to share a demo that his group recorded circa 1966, including this take on the Young Rascals' version of the Larry Williams tune "Slow Down."
Finch grew up in North Little Rock and went to college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1960. In the summer of 1962, he went to Houston and filled in on drums with the Triumphs, BJ Thomas’ group. There he met Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, who had a hit with “Sugar Shack," and Jimmy Clanton of "Just a Dream" fame.
When he returned to Fayetteville he formed his own group, the Morticians, with Rick Dykman on guitar, Bill Kennamer on bass and Larry Collard on keyboards. They were one of school's top frat bands and regularly played at the student union. During the Razorback’s undefeated national championship football season in '64, the group played outdoors to celebrate while class was let out. They filled the area around Old Main with thousands of kids and were featured in Scene Magazine.
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Around this time, Finch’s roommate burned down their house while cleaning his MG carburetor, so he moved into the Iris Motel for $18 a week. He noticed his next door neighbors were weird characters, so he introduced himself. They were Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, who later became the Band. The Hawks would regularly stay in Fayetteville and would make the Iris Motel their home base while touring the area, including Oklahoma and Texas, in the earliest days of the Band. When Finch met them, they didn't have a car and were stuck there. Finch had a tri-power 1957 Pontiac and so they became fast friends and regularly went to the Rockwood Club, a legendary rock ‘n’ roll joint in Fayetteville that was owned by Hawkins.
After the club closed for the night, Finch would drive them there and open a keg. He sat in on drums with Danko, Manuel, and Hudson and jammed until the wee hours. Finch's late nights at the Rockwood with the Hawks happened a handful of times and he became a gopher for group as they emerged into the Band, regularly running errands and hanging out when they were in town. A short time later, of course, they became Bob Dylan's backing band on his first electric tour.
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Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in El Dorado, Ark.
In 1966 Finch moved back to North Little Rock to form Robin and the Hoods with Phil Schlenker and Kenneth “Brown” Williams on guitar, Larry Shelton on bass, Mike Scallion on vocals and Kelly Duke on keyboards. They needed a gimmick to stand out, so they decided to wear wrestling masks, or hoods, styled after the Great Bolo, which one of their mothers custom made for the group. The first gig with the hoods was suffocating and miserably hot. Scallion couldn't sing in his and the other guys tried to endure, but only played one more gig before dropping the costume.
They were setting up at the Tiki Club on the old Conway highway in North Little Rock when a friend of the group came by with a reel to reel recorder and wanted to make a demo for them. Finch liked what he heard and took it to Jaggars Recording Studio, where Steve Jaggars had an acetate cutter that could make some one-off demo records from the tape.
A memorable gig for the Hoods came with a trip back to Fayetteville for Finch, where Dayton Stratton operated the Rink nightclub. He remembered Finch from his groupie days with the Hawks and booked them sight unseen. As they were unloading their gear, Stratton insisted that they use the house PA, a state of the art $20,000 sound system. A little while into the set, the band blew the sound system and had to bring in their own gear to finish the show. That was their only Fayetteville performance.
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Robin and the Hoods
Jim Porter ran a booking agency in Little Rock and represented Robin and the Hoods. He set them up in a warehouse on 7th and Scott St., which housed an artist’s loft and a practice space. Sometimes a small crowd would gather outside and dance in the streets. They would shut the windows and sweat it out, but the cops would dependably show up to tell them to turn it down.
The group was regularly booked at the Royal Knights Supper Club on 65th and the Raven Club off of 12th St. among others, and wound up playing seven nights a week. When the band parted ways in the late 1960s, Schlenker and Williams joined the Chaps, a group from Pine Bluff that had recorded for Shreveport’s Paula Records in the mid '60s and which later included local legend Mike "Burger" Scoggins on vocals.
After Robin and the Hoods, Finch formed the Holidaze, a popular club act featuring Paul Truett and Johnny Quattlebaum of the local garage band the Reknown, who recorded for MY records in Little Rock. The Holidaze had two female singers and were regulars at the Pink Pussycat club on Highway 10.
Finch followed the career of his old friends from the Hawks as they rose to fame with Bob Dylan and the Band. In the early 70s, Finch got backstage to visit them in Houston and was later invited to the Last Waltz, the Band’s grand exit immortalized by the Martin Scorcese film. When the Band reformed in the '80s without Robbie Robertson, they had a gig planned for Little Rock, but had to cancel when Richard Manuel committed suicide in 1986. They rescheduled and played at the SOB club, where Finch was invited to the show and mourned the loss of his old buddy.
ASHDOWN — Tim Howard’s trial in 1999 for the murders of his friends Brian and Shannon Day took three days, from opening statement to death sentence. Thursday was day-four of Howard’s retrial and, after introducing more than 200 items of evidence, prosecutors are still at least a day away from concluding their case.
Something's up. The State Board of Education has announced a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. The lone agenda item concerns a request for a waiver of state law regarding the Little Rock School District.