Three days of the week done. Your turn here. Final items:
* THE DEBATE DEBATE: President Obama has scheduled a speech to Congress that conflicts with an NBC Republican presidential debate. Republicans naturally are carping and Boehner is showing his rear and trying to force the president to let HIM set times of presidential speeches to Congress. But NBC says it could simply push the debate back and probably get more attention than it would have otherwise. White House says GOP pre-cleared time, BTW. This is kind of stuff makes people crazy at D.C. Here's the NY Times write-thru, I still say Boehner looks like a dick. But I'm sure Repubs see it differently. UPDATE: Obama caved.
* BLOG FAMILY: The news is good tonight on HHW.
* STICKER SHOCK: I just realized that the city of Little Rock is asking for $500 million in sales tax increases over the next 10 years, or an average of about $50 million a year, on a current total city budget of around $191 million. A 26 percent tax increase in the year of the Tea Party? It's mind-boggling.
Sheriff Doc Holladay announces that, beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, you can go to the Pulaski County sheriff's website for current information on people currently in the county jail. Excuse me — Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility.
The searchable inmate roster will be updated every 15 minutes. It will include photo and basic info for each inmate.
Here's the sheriff's home page. It will add a tab for the detention facility tomorrow morning.
UPDATE: A sheriff's spokesman confirms a reader's impression that those who post bond quickly won't appear long on the website, if at all. He said an archiving feature for all bookings might eventually be added to the roster.
Good article in Rolling Stone on a subject near and dear to the heart of 2nd District U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin:
As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.
Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP's effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council — and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party — 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.
Yes, of course, Arkansas Republican legislators are pushing the Koch/ALEC vote suppression agenda.
The Little Rock police report the arrest of three burglary suspects yesterday afternoon in Boyle Park after a car chase in which shots were reportedly fired at pursuing officers. In the end, no one was hurt except a suspect sicced by a police dog.
The Northwest Arkansas Times editorialized today on a topic it reported last week — then-Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn's abusive treatment of a drug court defendant who didn't want to be on TV. Their work followed our initial disclosure of a transcript of the proceeding. (It's worth remembering the proceeding was observed by many other drug court defendants who no doubt took to heart the rough justice Gunn handed out that day to someone who resisted having her life spread on TV.)
It's a tough editorial. The newspaper remains supportive of sharing drug court with the community by TV as a way of highlighting the perils of drug abuse. I tend to believe the perils are clear enough and therapy is best done as a more private matter, but those are propositions on which reasonable people can differ. But what Gunn told regulators about her court procedures and what she did in practice and how she treated defendants are other matters. The editorial says it well in noting that Gunn had singled out an enemies' list — me; defense lawyer W.H. Taylor, who is seeking to prevent public use of court video, and Circuit Judge William Storey, who's insisted on proper maintenance of court records and procedure.
These men, she said, are a small group rushing to criticize her next venture, a private production of a TV show based on her drug court experience.
It’s a safe bet that this “small group” is much larger now.
Taylor and Storey wouldn’t comment on this matter.
If they are indeed responsible for bringing this evidence to light, we thank them along with Brantley. They directed a brighter light in a darker, more secret corner than any televised drug court show ever did.
Drug court showed the public the travails of private people in their struggle against drug addiction. It did much good, we believe. However, Gunn’s actions were an abuse of both power and public trust.
The official announcement today of an expanded manufacturing facility in Bauxite says it could put 140 people to work.
Saint-Gobain, a French firm, will produce materials used in fracking for natural gas.
State Incentives: A sales tax refund for eligible building materials; a 1 percent income tax credit on new, full-time employees for five years; a $1.75 million grant to Saline County to buy equipment for the compnay.
The details from news release:
Our new-look print edition hits newsstands beginning today. It's the first substantial redesign of the Times in 20 years. Every design element, including the logo, is new (you'll notice the new logo atop this page). We've shifted around the order of some features in the front, and completely reinvented the Arkansas Reporter section (above).
As I said in a note about our new look in this week's issue, a lot of pubs hire outside consultants when they undertake this sort of complete redesign. We didn't need to. Our award-winning editorial art director Kai Caddy was able to fit it in whatever small time he had between laying out the weekly the issue.
Check it out.
And look for updates to the website and e-newsletters in the near future, too.
Don't know about you, but my scan of morning headlines was disheartening this morning.
* LOATHING THE POOR: There's New York Times commentary on the Republican war on the poor. It is now safe — and presumably popular among voters — to talk of extracting higher taxes from the poor and disabled to protect low tax rates for the wealthy. Says the Times: "At a time when high-income households are paying their lowest share of federal taxes in decades, when corporations frequently avoid paying any tax, it is clear who should bear a larger burden and who should not." Yep, stick the poor.
* HOLDING THE DAMAGED HOSTAGE: Republican messaging is nothing if not poll-tested. So are we to conclude that Americans truly want to hold storm aid hostage to cuts in other worthy government programs? Is Bernie Sanders in ravaged Vermont the only person able to work up towering outrage about this?
* IS THIS CHINA? It is now safe for Republicans to oppose any form of clean air regulation, even that mandated by courts, as bad for business. Visit Beijing sometime and decide if an opaque atmosphere clogged with carbon emissions is good for humans and other living things.
* WORKERS RIGHTS? WHAT'S THAT?: It is strictly good politics for Republicans to flout the national labor relations law. You need only repeat the words "union bosses" enough times to insure election, even in Arkansas, where unions have no power at all and scant membership. Workers are lucky to have jobs at all and we should leave it to business to look after their interests.
In short, Republicans are intent in turning all of the U.S. into something resembling Arkansas circa 1955. Impoverished. Low-wage industries with Dickensian conditions. Dirty air. Scarce public amenities. No social safety net. But a happy group of well-fed tycoons will look down from their comfortable country club perches on medieval-style peonage. (Oh, and women's rights? Those are to be dispensed with, too.)
* ONE LAST OUTRAGE: 25 companies pay more to their chief executives than they pay in federal income taxes. I kid you not.
The Democrat-Gazette's Debra Hale-Shelton does it again (pay wall) — unearthed a most salient fact missing from a University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees discussion. That $700,000 gift from food service operator Aramark to renovate the president's house at no cost to students and taxpayers? Er, it's conditioned on Aramark keeping and extending its food service contract at UCA long enough to "amortize" the gift — meaning get the money back, with profit — through charges to school and student and visitor.
There's some indication that this baksheesh is typical in the industry. That only goes to suggest that there's a pretty hefty margin built into such arrangements, which in turn suggests competitive bidding might be in the public institution's interest.
UPDATE: UCA has announced a called meeting of the Board of Trustees for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. I'm guessing cafeteria services will be on the agenda.
Negotiations have been underway between the Corps of Engineers and representatives of John Burkhalter, the Little Rock businessman who wants to build a marina on the Arkansas River about a half-mile downstream from the old Rock Island railroad bridge in front of the Clinton Library.
The question is how close Burkhalter can build the Rock City Yacht Club to the river navigation channel, a question that will determine how many boats the marina can accommodate.
The Corps must approve a dredging permit for the work and also agree that the construction doesn't present a hazard to river navigation.
Coincidentally, Burkhalter, a politically influential businessman, is tied up in another local regulatory issue. He wants to build an office building at Sixth and Woodlane. He’s been stymied so far by a Capitol Zoning District rule that limits buildings there to three stories. He wants to build a five-story building.
Mark Redder, project manager for The Holloway Firm, the engineering firm on the Rock Town Marina project, said negotiations so far have produced four reductions in the distance the proposed marina could extend into the river. These reductions have reduced the size of the marina from one capable of handling about 480 boats to around 400, a point at which the project's economic feasibility could become questionable, he said. The marina will include a store, restaurant and fueling station.
Here's the original notice for public comments on the project, with specs and map of location.
Here's a compilation of public comments on the plan. To summarize: Local and state officials generally support the project as an economic boon. (A state Parks employee even said creation of way for boats to attend local events — presumably such as Riverfest — might reduce vehicular congestion.) But federal agencies had questions, as did port operators and others in commercial shipping who are concerned about safety in the shipping channel. In the beginning, the navigation and maintenance section of the Corps said "this is not a good location for a marina," though the Corps is working to address that concern. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife raised concerns about impact on wildlife habitat and fisheries.
It's Tuesday and
your you're on. Close-outs:
* HE LIKES MIKE: Columnist Mark Shields writes warmly of Mike Huckabee and recounts how Huckabee thinks he could beat Barack Obama in 2012, if only he could survive the Republican primary first. He notes that Huckabee is enjoying having plenty of money.
* MARA LEVERITT IN NEWSWEEK: Mara Leveritt writes about the dramatic West Memphis Three events last week for Newsweek
* LITTLE ROCK SALES TAX: Some time this evening, this week's edition of the Times will be found on-line. You'll find there an editorial page endorsement of the full Little Rock sales tax proposal. It was a product of a discussion of our editorial board, which includes the editor, writers and publisher. The editorial, which represents the institutional position of the newspaper, speaks for itself. So, too, does my column, which continues my earlier personal inclination to vote for the operational portion of the millage, but not the "capital" portion. See: Emerson, Ralph Waldo.
*WOO PIG: ESPN's Rick Reilly says the football Hogs are gonna win it all this year:
Grub's, the best college bar in America, will nearly come unhinged when Arkansas wins the BCS national championship over Oklahoma. It's the first national title for Arkansas since 1964, when it went undefeated under Frank Broyles. (Yet Alabama, which lost its bowl game to Texas that year, still claims it as theirs. Whoa, Tide!) Anyway, chili cheese fries for everybody!
News of an increase in bauxite mining employment in Arkansas — once a very big deal in Saline County — is balanced in the wrong direction by closure of a long-standing Arkansas enterprise, the SeaArk Marine boat plant in Monticello. It once employed more than 200. About 60 will be put out of work when it stops production at the end of this year, though a few will apparently fill parts orders. The news from Monticello Live. (I should have emphasized originally, as the story I linked reports, that there are two SeaArk operations in Monticello and the recreational boat division continues.)
The Daily Howler, written by a former teacher and journalist, is often brilliant on education issues. Nor is he above shucking his personal leanings to puncture those on his generally leftish side.
Today, he's praising a (harsh) review by Richard Rothstein of Steve Brill's diatribe against teacher unions and in support of "reform." One passage simply will not be accepted as truth by the "reformers," but it's worth repeating (emphasis added).
Central to [Brill’s] argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago. (There has also been progress for middle schoolers, and in reading; and less, but not insubstantial, progress for high schoolers.) The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.
Talk Business summarizes word leaking first in the Democrat-Gazette of a Saline County business announcement tomorrow said to mean 100 new $20/hour jobs in an expansion of the bauxite mining operation of a French company, Saint-Gobain. It will supply material for gas fracking wells.
Good morning, everybody! I want to say that this is the most joyous experience: learning to live, to love, and to soar higher than any past expectations. We live in a world where sometimes living is not about loving. However, all of you have shown me that the parts of the world you inhabit are about loving.
What happened to me happened without my consent. What all of you have done, you chose to do. You chose to step in and eliminate some of the darkness in this world. I find you all to be heroes, and I am glad to call you all my friends.
These new days have been a blur, full of hard-won and much-deserved fun, revelry and just getting to know one another and ourselves. I've probably said this countless times these past few days, but I've felt like a dandelion seed in the wind—pulled from one friend's arms to the next, to dance to the sweet tune of freedom. It's a beautiful sound.
Love and libre!
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