Looking for a long read? I recommend this article by Ellen Cushing in the East Bay Express on the enormous wealth, particularly among young people, concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area thanks to the technology bubble.
All the news of the trappings of great wealth isn't good, and not just because of the profligate spending. One theme is a potential lack of philanthropic zeal among the new money equivalent to that shown by people with older money.
I couldn't help but read the article in the context of current Arkansas political events.
I ask you: Would all the young tech tycoons depicted in this article — given two months worth of news coverage of the Arkansas legislature — want to be here rather than in high-tax California? If not, why not?
Also: Where are the tycoons of Little Rock who'd pay to make an art project of Buddy's Broadway Bridge like the tech moguls have underwritten on the Bay Bridge? (There, the article notes, the LED light show on the bridge is visible only from the San Francisco side of the bay. Maybe Judge Buddy could talk Frank Fletcher into lighting up the replacement Broadway bridge in a manner visible only from the shores of Dogtown. That'd show the elitists from South Dogtown once and for all.)
If you were paying attention while watching the Oscars last night, you might have heard that Arkansas-raised stuntman Hal Needham was one of those who received an honorary Academy Award this year. Before his retirement, Needham was a pioneer in the stunt industry, developing many techniques for making stunts more dramatic and safer, including the development of the high-fall airbag. As pointed out by Quentin Tarantino when he introduced Needham at the Governors Awards back in December, Needham is only the second stunt performer/stunt coordinator in history to receive an Oscar.
Born a dirt-poor sharecropper's son, Needham parlayed a stint as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne and work as a tree trimmer into a career as a stuntman and filmmaker, directing screwball, fast-car cult classics like "Smokey and the Bandit," "Hooper," and "Cannonball Run." We talked to him at length just prior to his appearance at the Little Rock Film Festival in 2011. You can read the extensive Q&A here.
When we asked him why he thinks there is an Academy Award category for almost every facet of film making except stunts, Needham said he's glad they don't give out Oscars in his line of work, and gave an excellent answer why:
"My belief is, when a person goes in and pays his money to see a movie, and he sees his hero up there doing something spectacular, you don't want him to stop and think: 'I wonder if that's the star, or if it's a stuntman?' You want them to enjoy the movie. I think stuntmen should take their check and go on their way."
Seen above is video of Needham's emotional speech on accepting his Oscar. "You're looking at the luckiest man alive," Needham told the crowd, "and lucky to be alive."
* BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE: Spitting rain here. Little Rock City Hall is delaying its start time until 10 a.m. Pulaski County School District operating on normal schedule. How about you?
* GIVE PEACE A CHANCE IN LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT: Little Rock School Board member Greg Adams urges that I keep calm in response to my fears about the current search for a new school superintendent. He writes:
In the summer of 2010, the board vote to not extend the contract for Dr. Watson was 4-3. Later in the fall the board vote to not reconsider the earlier decision was 5-2. The board vote to hire Dr. Holmes as interim superintendent was 7-0. The vote to hire Dr. Holmes for 2 years was 7-0. The vote this fall to begin a new search for a superintendent was 7-0 and the board vote this week to interview the top recommendations of the search firm was 7-0. There are four candidates to consider and a long day of multiple interviews for each of the candidates where s/he will interact with school personnel, members of the public and media and members of the board. From a distance, it could be that the board is seeking to work together as much as possible and follow a set and open process together. Making a final decision together and another 7-0 vote would be ideal, and even if that goal is not met, it will matter how the final decision is reached and the strength of the final consensus. The future of the district and the success of the next superintendent will benefit from these efforts to find consensus and move forward together. I don't believe this process, especially when viewed in a larger way, necessarily leads to the conclusion that we are headed for disaster. I hope and believe otherwise.
* UA GETS ON OBAMA'S TEAM: The Obama administration and supporters have gone all out to highlight the range of services to be felt if the budget sequesters take place and result in automatic spending cuts across government. Add the University of Arkansas news service to the chorus:
Sequestration Budget Battle Could Reduce Programs for Low-Income Students and Veterans
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — More than 2,400 students in Northwest Arkansas, as well as parts of Missouri and Oklahoma, have a personal stake in the current Congressional debate over the federal budget. The same is true for 130 local veterans, 325 University of Arkansas students and the 25 full-time staff and other part-time workers who direct and staff eight federal programs within the office of diversity affairs at the U of A. For that matter, this also applies to thousands of students and veterans in other parts of Arkansas, and across the nation who are served any of the federal TRIO programs.
True, though I'd bet it smacks of lobbying to some in the legislature, which recently moved to ban public spending on campaigns for ballot initiatives. Under that proposal, I'm thinking public employees using their public jobs to state facts useful in making decisions on public policy (as here) might be a problem.
It's academic in the sequestration debate. NY Times says House, of course, will not accede to the White House blend of tax increases and spending to help the federal budget. So here come the cuts.
* VOTE SUPPRESSION AND FETUSES: No evidence emerged of Democratic Party claims yesterday that a Republican senator in floor debate yesterday had admitted the obvious — that the voter ID bill approved by the Senate was intended to help Republican election outcomes. What DID happen was the usual dishonesty from the lying liars, such as Sens. Alan Clark and Sen. Jason Rapert, who could only point to acts not covered by the law in support for the bill, no in-person voter ID fraud. Rapert actually said on the floor that vote buying by a Democratic legislative candidate in East Arkansas proved the need for the legislation. It did no such thing. Voter ID was not an issue in the Hudson Hallum case and this bill, had it been in place, wouldn't have deterred those illegal activities. The truth isn't in Rapert, who claimed for two years that no vaginal probes were required by his anti-abortion bill, when they were. In the face of medical testimony, he took the probes out, but left a bill that remains unconstitutional and goes to a House vote today.
* SPEAKING OF ABORTION: Given the coming House vote on Rapert's patently unconstitutional abortion prohibtion at the 12th week of pregnancy, it's a good time to review Leslie Peacock's earlier cover story on Jason Rapert and the rest of the Republican Party's war on women this legislative session. Not that facts are likely to deter the anti-woman express train.
* UPDATE: OBITUARY OF THE DAY: Durango no doubt caught this one. It was called to my attention by a friend. But let's all bid a fond farewell to Carrie Mae Stell Austin of Monticello. Wish I had known her. Read on:
Jimmy Bryant, director of the archives at the University of Central Arkansas, sent me a recent addition to his growing collection. It's a nice antidote to obsessing over the self-interest and narrow outlook emanating from the Arkansas State Capitol.
The picture is of former President Bill Clinton with Lencola Sullivan-Verseveldt and her husband, Roel Verseveldt, a businessman in Amsterdam. Sullivan-Verseveldt, a former Miss UCA and the first African-American to be named Miss Arkansas, has given her papers to UCA and regularly sends additional material.
They were all photographed at a charity event for Dutch Postcode Lotterij, a gala at which Clinton was guest of honor. The Dutch lottery has been a supporter of the Clinton Foundation's worldwide efforts since 2005. It recently committed almost $3 million to further expand anti-HIV/AIDS work the Clinton Foundation supports in Tanzania. Appearances by the former president at such events undoubtedly help the Foundation in its fund-raising. And take a look at the Clinton Health Access Initiative for the end result — births of healthy children to HIV mothers in Kenya; a hospital in Rwanda; medical innovations in Mozambique; health services in Malawi.
I should disclose I'm a proud poppa, given a chance to brag by the coincidence of the e-mail from Jimmy this morning. After years in finance, my daughter Martha went over to the charity side and works in New York for the Clinton Foundation, recently on efforts to win German and Dutch support for health projects in Tanzania and Malawi, where she's also been working on a project to encourage microfarmers to grow soybeans. Bill Clinton's presidential years look better all the time, but each month that he continues to build global initiatives such as these is a down payment on a greater legacy.
The improving day calls me to other activities. I'm opening the Sunday line early. I may return. I may not. Meanwhile:
Cotton joined a panel that included liberal columnist Juan Williams and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. At the end of the segment, Kristol, who was chuckling at the time, said the GOP should go with a Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton presidential ticket in 2016.
Joking? Given Kristol's unstinting and unceasing praise of Cotton, I'm not so sure. Reminder: Bill Kristol is the man whose political acumen and good judgment lifted Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket in 2008.
* DEATH ON THE INTERSTATE: The Arkansas State Police sends words of an apparent homicide in Conway:
The Arkansas State Police wants to hear from anyone who was passing through Conway along Interstate 40 early this morning (Sunday, February 10th). What may have appeared to motorists as a drunk driver or a wrecked pick-up truck is now part of a homicide investigation.
State Troopers were dispatched shortly after 5 AM to a stretch of I-40 westbound at the 129 mile marker near Dave Ward Drive. A caller reported what appeared to be a drunk driver in the area, followed by a call of a wrecked black Nissan pick-up truck.
The first State Trooper on the scene found the driver of the truck. Jose Martinez, 31, of Conway was transported by ambulance from the scene and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division are continuing their investigation but preliminarily suspect someone pulled-up along Martinez’s truck and shot him.
Martinez’s body has been transported to the State Crime Laboratory for an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
Anyone with information about what they saw on the highway or if they know anything about the homicide can call (501) 618-8100.
Ballet Arkansas sent word today that Chelsea Clinton will return to Arkansas this spring to be honored for her work in the performing arts as part of the dance group's spring gala April 26.
It's a fund-raiser. Ballet Arkansas is one of several arts groups hoping to achieve the financial ability to join the hoped-for arts corridor along Main Street.
Clinton performed with Ballet Arkansas before moving to Washington at age 12. She's on the board of the School of American Ballet in New York City.
The news sent me to my box of stuff for a photo of Chelsea and her dad at one of her earliest dance recitals, at the Children's House Montessori School. She's joined by a dancer near and dear to me. From the release:
This year's gala will be held at Supermarine of Little Rock. In addition to remarks from Clinton, the program includes cocktails, dinner, a silent and live auction, and a one night only performance by Ballet Arkansas. Tickets to the event — as well as to Spring into Motion, the company’s last Main Stage performance of the 2012-2013 season premiering at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre— can be purchased online at www.balletarkansas.org.
A bill filed in the Tennessee legislature prohibits the renaming or removal of any monuments or memorials or plaques related to any war. The idea, apparently, is to prohibit any tampering with Civil War icons.
The Memphis City Council has jumped out ahead of the lawmakers, the Memphis Flyer reports.
Galvanized into action by a bill filed in the Tennessee General Assembly but not yet acted upon, the City Council voted Tuesday to change the names of three downtown city parks that had been named in honor of the old Confederacy or for Confederate figures.
By a vote of 9 ayes against 3 abstentions, the Council changed the name of Forrest Park (which is managed by UTCHS) to Health Sciences Park; Confederate Park to Memphis Park; and Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park.
The potential threat to local autonomy from the state capital fired up Memphis politicians.
Councilman Shea Flinn referred to it as "the ironic war of aggression from our northern neighbor in Nashville," and Council member Janis Fullilove, who pointedly noted the Republican sponsorship of the bill, called it a "snake" needing its "head cut off." Councilman Harold Collins said, "I don't care if the name is Nathan Bedford Forrest. He's a dead man. We need to be focused on the living....but we will never let the legislature in Nashville control what we in Memphis will do for ourselves."
I don't think David O. Dodd school or other tributes to the boy martyr, not to mention numerous other Civil War monuments are at risk of de-Doddification in Arkansas, even if Gen. Griffin Smith (CSA-hon.) has retired from the battlefield. But you can't be too careful. Sen. Rapert, here's another tub for you to thump.
Says here she's stepping down as CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance to return to communications litigation.
Good story from ozarksfirst.com on the brand new $1.2 million Newton County Jail in Jasper. Voters authorized the building, but twice have refused to vote for taxes to pay to operate it. So Newton County pays $5,000 a month to jail inmates in neighboring counties. It also runs a little heat in the building to keep pipes from freezing.
The sun may always shine on the Arkansas Travelers, but the Travs have effectively told one unhappy Traveler fan to put his unhappiness where the sun doesn't shine, in a legal way.
We've told you about John Crow, a Sherwood liquor store owner who's voiced unhappiness with Traveler management changes instigated by Russ Meeks, who calls most of the shots nowadays for the minor league baseball team. Crow came up with a bumper sticker to express his feelings, shown above.
Crow printed 500 bumper stickers to distribute free tonight at a "Hotter Stove" event from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight at Reno's in North Little Rock. Facebook page has details. Crow's event is totally free. It's a protest of its own to a $20-a-head "Hot Stove" event an hour earlier at Embassy Suites in Little Rock.
The Travelers will NOT be mocked. Crow has received a cease-and-desist letter for his "unauthorized use" of the Travelers' mascot from Walter M. Ebel III of the Friday Eldredge and Clark law firm (bigger than which they don't get in Arkansas.)
"The Arkansas Travelers have been using the Shelly mascot for many years and have a substantial investment in this symbol. It is the Arkansas Travelers' position that this mascot and its likeness are subject to legal protection from unauthorized use under applicable law. Accordingly, in the event you do not promptly adhere to this request and immediately cease using all likenesses of the Arkansas Travelers' Shelly mascot, and remove all references to this symbol from all prodeucts and materials you are using or proposing to use, we will have no choice but to advise our client to pursue all available remedies to protect its legal rights with respect to its Shelly mascot."
Well. Short story. Crow plans to go ahead with distribution. He has advice from a lawyer that it's a "fair use" of the trademark under law as a parody protected under the 1st Amendment. The lawyer relies on a case in which Mattel sued an artist, unsuccessfully, over his use of a Barbie doll in bizarre ways to make a statement about objectifying women. Further, the lawyer observed, Crow has created something transformative, or new, from the image, which isn't an exact copy.
Who knew the Travelers had a Shelly mascot? It's so well-known I've never noticed it. But never mind that. The Travelers have thrown John Crow into a briar patch. He intends to munch there happily on a mountain of publicity he wouldn't have received but for the Traveler management's thin skin.
Retired U.S. Army General and former presidential contender Wesley K. Clark was the chairman and public face of a Wall Street investment firm that rode a wave of interest in Chinese stock, and then plunged on reports that much of the profit was hype and many of the companies were outright frauds.
Now the China deals Clark helped promote at lavish parties are among those facing scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission as they try and account for the billions of dollars lost in dozens of suspicious stock offerings, which some officials believe represent collectively one of the largest financial scams since Bernie Madoff. Authorities told ABC News that firms serving as middle men who helped promote the Chinese companies are now in the crosshairs.
Clark, who apparently provided star power in China, wouldn't talk to ABC about the matter, because of ongoing lititgation.
I mentioned the Quorum Court's discussion last night of Judge Buddy Villines' $20 million proposal to gussy up a replacement Broadway Bridge with a hump of nonfunctional ironwork and a tricolor paint job. America's Bridge, he says we'll call it.
The interrupted broadcast of the meeting prevented me from seeing the outcome. Villines delayed a vote because he didn't have the 10 votes he needed to speed the ordinance along, in part because of defection of sponsors Phil Stowers and Shane Stacks, Republicans who were cheered by Koch Bros. minions in attendance for their action. The Kochs had rallied troops to oppose the Lake Maumelle watershed protection ordinance, but also raised sand about the expenditure of road and bridge money on the bridge.
I'm beginning to lean with the Kochheads on this one.
Villines proposes to use up $9 million in reserve money and dedicate annual matching payments for road and bridge payments PLUS new state revenue for four years to pay for the project. I don't oppose spending for aesthetic purposes. But this is no Calatrava design. It's a camel of a bridge designed by committee, capped by Judge Buddy's garish paint scheme. Do it right — at whatever cost a true landmark would cost — or let's just settle for another humdrum transport link in the style of the Highway Department's gloriously ugly Main Street bridge. I remain to be convinced the bridge must be replaced now anyway, or that anybody has adequately computed the financial impact and traffic headaches to be caused by the two-year closure for the replacement.
Don't put me on the Americans For Prosperity speed dial just yet, Teresa, but the Koch boys' blind hogs might be close to rooting up an acorn on this one.
Thanks to KUAR's Michael Hibblen for a good tip on some good broadcasting:
"Johnny Cash and the Forgotten Prison Blues" airs at 2:05 p.m. today on BBC World Service. And you can also play it on the web.
Arkansas native Cash, famous for Folsom Prison and San Quentin shows, is featured for work in prison reform in Arkansas in the first segment:
Presenter Danny Robins uncovers two lesser known but intriguing prison concerts — Cash’s 1969 appearance at Cummins Prison in Arkansas, and his 1972 concert at Österåker Prison just outside Stockholm in Sweden, the only prison gig Cash ever performed outside America.
In Part One, Robins travels to Arkansas, Cash’s home state.
A concert at Cummins Penitentiary, one of the worst prisons in the country at the time, meant so much to Cash that the singer donated his own money to have a chapel built there.
Only a year after Cash’s visit to Cummins, a judge would declare the whole of Arkansas’s prison system to be ‘unconstitutional’ on the grounds it constituted cruel and inhuman punishment.
KUAR has done a piece on the show, which KUAR hopes to get clearance to rebroadcast.
Former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln can now officially lobby the Senate, having completed the two-year waiting period since she left the Senate.
Hard to tell the difference. She's been working for a political lobbying firm almost ever since, though supposedly not making lobbying contacts at the Capitol. Hard to tell the difference, as a "special advisor" for big bucks at Alston and Bird her activities have included fighting the EPA for the troglodytes at the National Federation of Independent Business. Hard to believe she hasn't been making her sentiments known in recent days about doing something about that turrible estate tax.
Alston and Bird touts Lincoln in a video on its website currently.
Chelsea Clinton has produced another "Making a Difference" report for NBC News, this one on the effort to preserve musical tradition in Mountain View, Ark. by teaching it to kids.
Trivial point: The piece opens to the strains of "Ashokan Farewell." It's the fiddle tune that became familiar through its use in Ken Burns' epic documentary on the Civil War. It doesn't happen to be an old folk tune, but a 1982 work by Jay Unger. It sounds perfect in the context of a piece about keeping old-time music alive, though, just as it did on the Civil War opus.
Yes, Cord Rapert is indeed Republican Sen. Jason Rapert's cousin. He worked for Shoffner till…
i am noone important and i dont know much about politics or much about what…
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