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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Speeding through the morning e-mail

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 6:09 AM

Another daybreak roundup of this and that:

* BAND OF BROTHERS: I say this as a poorly educated boob who often has difficulty comprehending Shakespeare productions. The Rep's staging of Henry V is a light- and sound-filled spectacle that seemed to please a surprisingly large crowd last night as much as I enjoyed it. Happily, I could follow the smashing English defeat of the French at Agincourt and the king's wooing of Catherine of Valois. The play runs through Sunday.

* DON'T MESS WITH PARTNE: Another victory for Partne Daugherty of Jacksonville, who won Arkansas Court of Appeals reversal of a speeding ticket on insufficient evidence — the Jacksonville officer hadn't done the legally required calibration of the radar gun on which he based her ticket but also it could only be calibrated to within 1 mph plus or minus the reading and she was charged with exceeding the speed limit by 1 mph. Daugherty scored an FOI victory related to this case earlier. And, as I've noted, she's something of a self-appointed watchdog of police behavior and misbehavior. It was her effort to obtain and analyze police video that led to the unraveling of the trumped-up Little Rock police roust of Surgeon General Joe Thompson. Partne is "entrap" spelled backward, in case you didn't know.

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* IN REVIEW: DAMIEN ECHOLS: The book by former Death Row inmate Damien Echols on the West Memphis Three saga draws attention here as a "haunting" book from the New York Times' reviewer Janet Maslin, who begins by noting the story has been told in several past and coming films.

These are mind-bending new circumstances for a guy who grew up as an impoverished loner, sardonically described himself as white trash, and spent his years of incarceration noticing the most grotesque, dehumanizing aspects of prison life. Yet “Life After Death” tries to reconcile all these extremes into a single narrative, and to a great extent it accomplishes this magic trick. By the way, Mr. Echols spells that word “magick,” just as one of his favorite writers, the very spooky Aleister Crowley, did. It was Mr. Echols’s teenage taste for the occult, heavy metal and black clothing — a look inspired by Mr. Depp in “Edward Scissorhands,” he says — that initially made him a target for the vindictive and provincial police in West Memphis, Ark.

The book doesn't deal with the murder case and investigation, but is more memoir of Echols' life before and during prison with "freakishness at every turn."

And they make good stories, even if this book’s emphasis is often on filth, hellishness and disgust. They are so well told that “Life After Death” sometimes sounds like the work of a ghostwriter. But the book reprints enough handwritten pages of Mr. Echols’s prison writing to make it very clear that the literary talent is entirely his. He was still in the ninth grade at the age of 17, but he is an autodidact who read thousands of books while incarcerated. And, as the documentary footage of his arrest and trial make clear, he is someone with a strong, single-minded personal style.

The mere fact of his survival in prison becomes more miraculous as his death row stories unfold.

* DEAD CATS: The Garland County sheriff's office says it has arrested a man on 39 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and violation of the rabies act as a result of a recent house fire in which 28 cats were found dead and 11 hurt. He was released on a $1,000 bond.

* HUCKSTER FOR HATE: Sure, Mike Huckabee can use his media platform to promote parody songs making fun of the Muslim world. But, is it really a good idea at the moment?

* JOHN BOOZMAN KILLS VETERANS JOBS BILL: Rachel Maddow raked Arkansas's U.S. Sen. John "Dr. No" Boozman last night for contributing one of four key Republican votes that killed a veterans jobs bill.

* VOTE FRAUD: THE NON-ISSUE: Yes, we've had instances of absentee voter fraud in Arkansas. Voter ID laws wouldn't cure them since IDs don't come into play. Even so, voter fraud is a slight problem here and everywhere, a fact that Republicans overlook in the rush to pass laws that make it harder for the young, poor and minorities to vote (generally Democratic). Here's an interesting report on voter fraud cases in states where Republicans are yelling loudest for calls for adoption of the Koch-machine's Voter ID movement. Arkansas, with almost 3 million people, has had six cases in 12 years. The impact of this in elections with millions of votes against, say, the impact of Republican efforts to block health care to 250,000 Arkansans annually hardly seems worth dividing into the minuscule fraction that it is. But Republicans will continue to cover their damage to the public welfare with cries about this straw man. Count on it.

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