I give it to you early.
FYI: Yes, I know the comment count function isn't working properly. And more readers than normal are reporting access problems with Movable Type, a problem beyond our ability to troubleshoot. We have been lucky to keep the blogging software running at all, my technical adviser tells me. In theory, we are less than 10 days away from a new backend control of our website. I'm hesitant to predict its arrival, given how long it's been in the works. The change should increase ease of use. It will require a new signup procedure, but that will be part of a new user system that should improve use of all facets of the website, not just the blogs. Fingers crossed here. More as soon as I can report it.
I wouldn't hazard more than a dollar on the outcome of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. But the punditry seems to be detecting an upset.
1) Blanche Lincoln's campaign was one of the worst of the year.
Lincoln has seemed to suffer from a split personality in trying to defeat Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. At the outset, she was an apologetic DLC moderate -- happy to defy her liberal national party on behalf of Arkansans. Then, after barely edging Halter in the primary, she veered hard to the left and aired ads touting her support for healthcare reform and featuring noted Razorback favorite Rachel Maddow. Now, seemingly frustrated with labor's continued air assault against her, she's returning to Southern Dem of yore mode, warning outsiders to stop meddling in her state and boasting of her time spent in her caucus's "time-out chair."
If she wins, it will be because this Blanche relied on the kindness of strangers -- namely tradition-minded Democratic regulars who may show up for a run-off -- and not because she did herself any favors.
2) And then there's the prediction of how Bill Halter could change the face of progressive Democratic politics NATIONWIDE?
Adam Green of the liberal group, Bold Progressives, said a Halter victory would have the impact of Ned Lamont's upset victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in the 2006 Democratic primary.
“Just as the Lieberman primary victory shocked Democrats into talking about Iraq, this will shock Democrats into being more populist and anti-corporate,” said Green. “If Halter wins, it will prove to thousands of activists, donors and voters that defeating corporate Democrats is possible — and likely lead to a huge infusion of energy into other progressive campaigns across the country."
Ummm, maybe, maybe not. Is the Tea Party ascendant in Masschusetts and the U.S.? Or did Martha Coakley just run a terrible race?
You don't have to walk far in my neighborhood to encounter someone furious about the Robbie Wills mail attack on Joyce Elliott. Nor do you have to look hard to find someone who'll tell you the mailer had the undesired effect -- it cemented a vote for Elliott.
The mailer suggests 1) desperation; 2) bad advice to Wills; 3) poor judgment on Wills' part for taking it.
I'm curious about the reach of this mailer: Anybody in East LR, downtown or South and Southwest Little Rock get it?
A Boston Globe article examines how the medical/industrial lobby got a Medicare payment for bone scans reinserted in health legislation (at a higher rate). There's an Arkansas connection:
“You have to view these things through common sense. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that providing bone density tests for elderly Americans will save this country billions of dollars,’’ said [U.S. Rep. Shelley] Berkley. “In addition to saving taxpayers money, it will prevent suffering that people with osteoporosis have.’’
Berkley and the key Senate sponsor, Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, who was a pivotal vote in the Senate in favor of health reform, have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from medical industry sources, including physicians, as have many other lawmakers.
Among the lobbyists working on behalf of several corporations on the effort was a former top staffer to Lincoln, Drew Goesl, who was listed on public disclosure records as being among the people at Washington lobbying firm Capitol Counsel who worked on the issue.
Goesl did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Lincoln said neither campaign contributions nor Goesl’s involvement played any role in her position.
“Part of her effort to strengthen and improve Medicare includes recognizing when a particular test with enormous potential to prevent health problems and significant promise of cost-savings is being taken out of doctors’ offices because providers can’t afford it,’’ said Lincoln spokeswoman Marni Goldberg. “That’s a flaw in the system that needs to be addressed.’’
Interesting article today in the Times on how the economic downturn has had a disproportionate impact on what had been a rising black middle class in Memphis. You have to wonder if this has been experienced in other cities.
Not so long ago, Memphis, a city where a majority of the residents are black, was a symbol of a South where racial history no longer tightly constrained the choices of a rising black working and middle class. Now this city epitomizes something more grim: How rising unemployment and growing foreclosures in the recession have combined to destroy black wealth and income and erase two decades of slow progress.
The median income of black homeowners in Memphis rose steadily until five or six years ago. Now it has receded to a level below that of 1990 — and roughly half that of white Memphis homeowners, according to an analysis conducted by Queens College Sociology Department for The New York Times.
Black middle-class neighborhoods are hollowed out, with prices plummeting and homes standing vacant in places like Orange Mound, White Haven and Cordova. As job losses mount — black unemployment here, mirroring national trends, has risen to 16.9 percent from 9 percent two years ago; it stands at 5.3 percent for whites — many blacks speak of draining savings and retirement accounts in an effort to hold onto their homes. The overall local foreclosure rate is roughly twice the national average.
(The unemployment situation in Arkansas is similar -- 6.4 percent for whites and 14.5 percent for blacks in March.)
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robert Brown writes to the New York Times in defense of judicial elections. He was responding to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor's advocacy of an appointment process for judges.
Brown has long said appointment just substitutes one type of less transparent politics for another. Justice Brown's letter:
Progress is slow in winning congressional approval of a measure to tax Internet sales for the benefit of states and cities. Note in this Stephens Media article the reluctance of Arkansas's members of Congress to commit to the idea.
It has to happen. Or else local sales tax rates need to go up to offset the loss. Or else government services need to be trimmed. It's simple arithmetic.
I've been wondering for months how much of recent revenue woes of Arkansas cities is related to the migration of sales from local retailers to the Internet. But I've never seen any solid studies on it.
Brian Chilson catches a burst of the Riverfest fireworks show, nearing the end of what looks like a record year for the riverside festival. Closing acts included Ludacris.
The Sunday brings news of ...
... another afternoon shower. If it moves along quickly it will cool down the close of Riverfest, not impair it, if last night is a guide ... the state Health Department shut down Beaverfork Lake at Conway to swimmers, high e. coli counts ... the Garland County sheriff responded to shots fired and cries for help on Clear Creek Road, saw a man crawl inside a house where, at last report, he was not responding to calls (UPDATE: he's in custody) ... Bill Halter will be at the Arkansas Veterans Cemetery tomorrow and parks in Little Rock and North Little Rock and Hot Springs ... Blanche Lincoln will be at the Veterans Cemetery and also at a Veterans Memorial ceremony in Garland County ... Andrew Whisenhunt of Bradley, president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau for 13 years, died Saturday. ... Prosecutors are mulling charges in Sebastian County where two voters voted in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.
And what about you?
That gusher of a leak you hear isn't just crude oil, it's the deflation of the bubble of hope about President Obama.
I know the conventional wisdom is to dismiss Sen. Blanche Lincoln's effort to regulate derivative trading as an empty and cynical political ploy. For something so empty, the Wall Streeters sure have worked up a mad-on about it.
Anyway, Michael Lewis, who knows a thing or two about the Street, gives Lincoln a shout-out in a tongue-in-cheek take on the securities industry's desperate effort to preserve the profitable status quo. He detects a little of the same sexism that I see in this issue. How could a little ol' gal know anything?
Brummett figures two of the three choices for 1st District Congress -- both the Republican nominee and nominal Democrat Tim Wooldridge -- are Republicans. In the Democratic runoff, Chad Causey is the clear choice.
Here’s the essence of Wooldridge’s campaign: He is a devout member of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist religion where the members tend to stick together politically and which has a strong presence in this economically populist, culturally conservative and nominally Democratic region.
I can say that because I was brought up in this denomination. We were told we were the only ones going to heaven. Sometimes on a Sunday before an election the man making the announcements would remind us there’d be voting on Tuesday and that so-and-so was “a member of the church.”
Wooldridge’s message is that his daddy knows how to fix a carburetor in an old pickup and that he himself is a pure Arkansas old boy who drives a tractor instead of a fancy car and wears work clothes instead of a tuxedo.
When pressed on an issue, he’ll inevitably spout some conservative superficiality and banality, such as that employers ought to be able to fire gay people just for being gay because being gay is a behavioral choice and a sin.
Now he wants to say he’s the better choice in this runoff because he is married and Causey, a much-younger man who was engaged to be wed the last time I talked with him, isn’t.
By the way, just so you know: As a young state representative, Wooldridge put in a bill to reinstate public hangings.
Wooldridge and Wills would make a fine pair, wouldn't they?
A brief shower brought the temperature down for another big night of Riverfest music. Brian Chilson was on hand for the Black Crowes (above) and Lucero.
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