There is a moment in the Woody Allen movie “Bananas” when Allen’s character realizes the rebel leader he’s followed to victory is nutty as a Snickers bar. “From now on, everyone will wear clean underwear every day!” the commandante announces to a cheering crowd. “And from now on, underwear will be worn on the outside, so we can check.”
A similar moment of truth has come to supporters of Pulaski County/Circuit Clerk Pat O’Brien. O’Brien had given indication earlier that he was not quite the hero people hoped for when they elected him to succeed an arrogant and incompetent predecessor, nor even the reasonably level-headed civil servant that people would have settled for. Shortly after he took office, he ordered all the clerk’s employees to write essays for him on the subject of “an adversity that you have overcome in your life,” explaining how the adversity arose, how the writer overcame it, and the lessons learned from the experience. Besides being a goofy dip into pop psychology, this was an invasion of privacy and a poorly-concealed excuse to get rid of employees for reasons unrelated to their ability to perform the duties of the county clerk’s office. Still, O’Brien apologists pretended not to notice. We speculated at the time that bra sizes might be his next concern. We weren’t far wrong.
Last week, the officious O’Brien went from nosing around in his employees’ private lives to nosing around in their underpants, his latest Queegian directive instructing employees to “Take a bath or shower daily. Use a deodorant. Wear clean undergarments daily.” Etc. No word yet on who’ll inspect the undergarments and underarms but don’t be surprised if the clerk himself assumes the duty. You know what they say about something you want done right.
If there’s an employee in the clerk’s office whose personal hygiene is offending the public and fellow workers, the clerk should do what a normal boss does: Call the employee aside and talk to her or him. Once, we believed that not being Carolyn Staley was enough to ask of a new county clerk. We were mistaken.
Party of bad upbringing
President Bush calls his closest adviser “t**dblossom.” His favorite joke is said to be the golf-related “The only time I hit two good balls is when I step on a rake.” Republican pundit Robert Novak melts down and shouts “bulls**t on national television. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney tells a senator to “Go f**k yourself.” The U.S. has never had a major political party as coarse as today’s Republican Party. Family values, indeed. Strip-club values is more like it.
Ted Suhl was sentenced this morning by federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson on four counts of attempting to bribe a state official to help his mental health business supported by Medicaid money. He received 84 months and a $200,000 fine and is to report to prison in early January. He will appeal.
Blogger Russ Racop raises an interesting question, as he sometimes does, about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' gift of free tickets for North Little Rock cops to attend a Dallas Cowboy football game.
Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.