Former Bro. Gov. Mike Huckabee returns to Little Rock on Friday to serve as the keynote speaker at an evangelical conference at the Statehouse Convention Center. Pastors from Iowa and South Carolina plan to meet with Huckabee to talk about him running for president in 2016, according to USA Today.
Let’s decide if America is a Christian nation or a pagan nation – and get on with it; the sooner the better.
My intent is to put God, prayer and the Bible back into public schools as a principal component of education. Some experts say it would take 1) a constitutional amendment; others say 2) a simple 50 percent plus 1 vote in the House and Senate (U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2).
Pick your poison – either approach is fine with me.
Can you picture what America would look like following a decade-long war – a knock-down drag-out – to return God, prayer and the Bible to the public schools? To regain our Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?
There may be some casualties.
The message to our federal representatives and senators? Vote to restore the Bible and prayer in public schools or be sent home. Hanging political scalps on the wall is the only love language politicians can hear.
According to Arkansas State Police, Carter was in a car with a female driver when a trooper initiated a traffic stop on I-40 westbound near Ozark in Franklin County just before 1 p.m. yesterday. As the car pulled off the road, the female jumped from the car and fled into the woods. After the trooper began to chase her, Carter took the car and then sped away on I-40.
Just after 1 p.m., troopers spotted the car on I-40 and a short chase ensued. After the car pulled over, troopers approached, only to find Carter dead at the wheel, the victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Troopers were able to arrest Carter's 36-year-old female companion. She has since been released, and will reportedly face no charges in connection with the incident.
The River Valley Leader reports that a transformer fire outside Unit 2 of Arkansas Nuclear One power plant in Russellville has been contained and Unit 2 has been shut down. No injuries have been reported. Unit 1 is still in operation.
An explosion was called in at 7:50 a.m. to Pope County 911 after a neighbor heard an explosion and heard the ground shake, according to an earlier report.. Entergy is investigating the case of the fire.
SEEKING SCHOOL TAX MONEY: Developer Tommy Hodges wants to tap school tax for road improvements at his Bass Pro/outlet mall development.
Tommy Hodges, the developer of Otter Creek, earned deserved High Profile treatment in Sunday's Democrat-Gazette for his decades-long pursuit of retail development there. I've saluted him before for doggedly working through an earlier bankruptcy and other setbacks in landing a Bass Pro Shops, now open, and now building a retail outlet mall, the Gateway Town Center.
But. I was surprised to learn that Hodges' representation to me that the project was being done without Tax Incrementation Finance District money some months ago has undergone a change. The city board of directors will hold a public hearing Dec. 17 on a plan to use TIF district authorization granted with little thought back in 2003 for an earlier unsuccessful plan to divert property tax revenue created by the new development into road improvements. City Manager Bruce Moore also happened to have omitted TIF plans when he told me then the city would contribute some economic development money to the project. State highway money was a certainty from the outset given the location at an already problematic junction of I-30 and I-430.
What's not to like about this? There are questions to consider.
Most of the property tax money diverted to the project will come out of Little Rock School District millage — 9 mills not otherwise obligated to bond debt. I still believe an important legal question remains on whether ANY TIF district can constitutionally capture money voted for school taxes from schools. The Supreme Court left that question standing in an important Fayetteville case that did put the first 25 mills of school taxes completely off limits.
It is mighty easy for city directors to give away school money. You'll find they are historically reluctant to give away their own tax money for improvements needed by private developers.
Have other commercial developers enjoyed improvement to roads in front of their developments; traffic signals and the like?
By allowing this TIF district for this project is the city opening the doors to wholesale raids on school tax money for the benefit of other private developers? The city describes the plan here. It asserts that the developer will still pay a majority of infrastructure costs and notes the school district will capture some increased revenue on 12 mills dedicated to bonds or ruled off-limits already. The city description is a bit disingenuous. It claims 37 mills of Little Rock's school tax levy will enjoy increased revenue. Actually, 25 of those mills are the state's base charge. The entire state effectively enjoys the benefit of that increased revenue because the money it produces offsets the base support the state provides each school district. It is money the district is NOT getting. It goes to the state.
Every school dollar is important, particularly as the Little Rock district looks to a future loss of millions in state desegregation aid.
Equal treatment of developers is also important, however elated we might be about a regional shopping lure in Southwest Little Rock.
I don't expect the city board, beloved of private interests, to give this much consideration. About as much as it gave this year increasing its financial subsidy to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce through two separate appropriations even as a lawsuit pends over the constitutionality of that expenditure. But there it is for the record.
NO TRACTION: SUVs were stranded in place for a long period this weekend on a hill near Brian Chilson's home when they couldn't top a steep hill. Going down was no picnic for others.
I'm nearing home on my long journey (near Cozumel at the moment), but thought I'd check in.
* THE ICE HANGOVER: I'm still seeing warnings of late office openings and possible detours on CAT bus routes, though the buses are supposed to return to normal schedules this morning. The Brian Chilson photo is evidence enough of the need for continuing caution and a reminder that SUVs can't defeat ice.
* SPEAKING OF ICE AND ELECTIONS: Early voting will be held today for the Tuesday special election on pledging hamburger tax revenue to an expansion of Robinson Auditorium (a worthy project). But the start will be delayed until 10 a.m. and run until 5 p.m. because of the delayed start of county office openings.
* MARK PRYOR'S CHALLENGE: The New York Times is the latest with a look at the effort of three Southern Democrats to prevent a Republican sweet of U.S. Senate seats in Dixie. Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan are the remaining Dems. You've heard it before — the general hostility of Southern white voters and Obamacare, Obama, Obamacare, Obama. Re Arkansas:
Arkansas was once quite different from other Southern states, less race-obsessed and with a streak of mountain populism that kept it solidly Democratic well into this century. The election of Mr. Obama changed that practically overnight, costing Democrats the seat of Senator Blanche Lincoln in 2010 and now imperiling Mr. Pryor, a classic Arkansas Blue Dog.
* SPEAKING OF OBAMACARE: There IS another side to the Affordable Care Act story. It's not all massive resistance, signup woest and unforeseen complications. There are millions being helped. Again from the New York Times:
But for all those problems, people are enrolling. More than 243,000 have signed up for private coverage through the exchanges, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and more than 567,000 have been determined eligible for Medicaid since the exchanges opened on Oct. 1. For many, particularly people with existing medical conditions like Mr. Acosta, the coverage is proving less expensive than what they had. Many others are getting health insurance for the first time in years, giving them alternatives to seeking care through free clinics or emergency rooms — or putting it off indefinitely.
Not all who need health insurance are happy with their new options. Many have complained that the prices are too high, especially if they earn too much to qualify for federal subsidies. And many will have a limited choice of doctors and hospitals under the new exchange plans, which have “narrow networks” to hold down premiums.
But Mr. Acosta, like the people in the following profiles, says the health care law has given him a cautious sense of hope.
A place called Hope does not appear in the GOP lexicon.
After chasing a man thought to be wanted in connection to an Alabama murder investigation through parts of two counties in west Arkansas, Arkansas state troopers found the man dead in his car in what state police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot.
THE PERFECT GOP CANDIDATE: But may be an automaton.
Like much of what's been written on Tom Cotton in the national political press, the National Journal's new, nearly 4,000-word cover story on him is largely sympathetic. The piece begins with a Hot Springs woman adoringly reciting Cotton's CV (and marveling at his skinny waist) and wondering how he could be so perfect. It ends with the woman saying she'd tried hard to find something wrong with Cotton but couldn't.
That's pretty much the thesis of the NJ story: Cotton's so perfect he must have a fatal flaw, but we couldn't find it. The alternate web headline to the story is "Is Tom Cotton Too Good Too Be True?"
Of course, regular readers of the Arkansas Blog know a litany of things wrong with Cotton: He voted against the farm bill, pushed for government shutdown, punished students with higher loan costs, opposed the Violence Against Women Act, etc, etc.
Some of those votes merit inclusion in the NJ story, but more in the context of how they fit with the Republican Party than what they mean for the country.
The piece gives a lot of attention to Cotton's wacky columns for the Harvard Crimson, but otherwise doesn't uncover much about what he's like as person. Despite his recent engagement, there's no mention of it in the story. Nothing much about his family.
This may've been the most revealing bit.
On July 4, 2009, [Cotton] wrote to friends, "We celebrate the Declaration's words on the Fourth, but those words must be vindicated with arms—then, now, and always. Our great troopers' bravery, skill, and fighting spirit are therefore inspiring and reassuring things to behold on the Fourth."
It was Cotton's steadfast commitment to these ideals even in his private life, demonstrated through the stilted epistolary style, even with some of his closest friends, that led them to wonder if they hadn't gotten past his polished exterior. Who was the man beneath all this pomp? "He's very careful to make sure that your perception that you have of him right now is all there is," says one.
A close second:
[One friend] remembers that Cotton was a fan of Plato, loved the novels of Jane Austen and the movie Titanic, and hated American Beauty, the 1999 Oscar winner that portrayed the dark underbelly of American suburbia.
Also, I hate-love this:
If you closed your eyes and just listened to him, it would be easy to imagine that Cotton comes from another generation—not the one into which he was born (Gen X), but maybe the baby boomers or even the Greatest Generation. But here he is, at 36, sitting in his congressional office, adopting the posture of a statesman far more senior than he: long fingers steepled together contemplatively, longer limbs crossed and folded at 90-degree angles.
Mark Pryor'sBible-thumping campaign ad and the controversy that erupted after a Republican flack accused Pryor of contradicting himself serves as fodder for Frank Bruni to consider Christianity's prevalence in all facets of modern politics in the New York Times today.
What should have been a back-and-forth about the proper place of religious testimonials in the electoral process was instead, astonishingly, a contretemps over whether Pryor had flip-flopped on Scripture as a legislative how-to manual. The implication was that Scripture is totally suitable as such.
And while it’s tempting to attribute this silliness to a Southern politician’s need to appeal to the Christian fundamentalists prevalent in that region, the Arkansas episode is indicative of how thoroughly Americans from coast to coast let religion permeate public life.
As full of insight and beauty as the Bible is, it’s not a universally and unconditionally embraced document, and it’s certainly not a secular one. Yet it’s under the hand of almost every American president who takes the oath of office.
The centrality of religion in this country’s birth and story can’t be denied. And shouldn’t be. And having the Bible at inaugurations honors tradition more than it offends pluralism. But using the Bible as a litmus test for character betrays the principles of religious liberty and personal freedom, along with the embrace of diversity, that are equally crucial to America’s identity and strength. It also defies the wisdom of experience. How many self-anointed saints have been shown not to practice what they preach? How many of the ostentatiously faithful have fallen? Theirs is an easy pose, and sometimes an empty one.
An article today in the Washington Post is just one more chapter in the book of the screwed up American medical system. It's about two eye drugs, Avastin and Lucentis, virtually the same, both equally effective. One costs $50. The other costs $2,000. Guess which is prescribed a half million times a year?
Genentech, a division of the Roche Group, makes both products but reaps far more profit when it sells the more expensive drug. Although Lucentis is about 40 times as expensive as Avastin to buy, the cost of producing the two drugs is similar, according to scientists familiar with the drugs and the industry.
Doctors, meanwhile, may benefit when they choose the more expensive drug. Under Medicare repayment rules for drugs given by physicians, they are reimbursed for the average price of the drug plus 6 percent. That means a drug with a higher price may be easier to sell to doctors than a cheaper one. In addition, Genentech offers rebates to doctors who use large volumes of the more expensive drug.
The article estimates that the drug is costing Medicare an extra $1 billion a year.
The Harvard Business Review in October published an opinion piece that the system can be fixed:
We must move away from a supply-driven health care system organized around what physicians do and toward a patient-centered system organized around what patients need. We must shift the focus from the volume and profitability of services provided—physician visits, hospitalizations, procedures, and tests—to the patient outcomes achieved. And we must replace today’s fragmented system, in which every local provider offers a full range of services, with a system in which services for particular medical conditions are concentrated in health-delivery organizations and in the right locations to deliver high-value care.
* SECRETARY OF STATE'S FLOUTING OF FOI: Dec. 17 is the date for a long-delayed-by-Mark-Martin legal filibustering of Campbell's FOI lawsuit that arose from the office's illegal use of outside counsel to defend the variety of legal screwups in which Martin seems to often find himself.
* LT. GOV.MARK DARR'S ABUSE OF CAMPAIGN MONEY: Dec. 18 is the date the state Ethics Commission has set for a probable cause hearing on whether Darr violated a slew of rules and statutes related to spending of, and accounting for, campaign money. The Ethics Commission review is apart from review of Darr's spending of state taxpayer money in his expense account on travel unrelated to his official duties. In theory, the Division of Legislative Audit gets first look at that. Some day. Presuming the Republican-dominated SWAT team can be bothered to review a Republican politician. Darr has already admitted mistakes were made int he campaign report. As yet, no Republican has shown much interest in his fouls. Campbell properly wonders if those who demanded justice in the case of Paul Bookout will be so inclined here, should violations be found.
* STATE'S BIGGEST LOSER: He finished a poor third in a special Republican primary for state Senate in Jonesboro, but Chad Niell holds interest for Campbell, who dug up some problems with regulatory issues in Niell's business profiting from money transfers to prison inmates. Turns out Niell spent $208,000 — nearly all in a personal loan — to get 902 votes in his last-place finish.
I got a quick look at e-mail in port on Roatan, Honduras.
Schools and government closed back home in Little Rock. Nearly 30 airline flights canceled. Brian Chilson sent a batch of frozen road photos, including the wintry scene on University Avenue above. Word came, too, of the cancellation of the concert by son of a sailor man Jimmy Buffett. Verizon Arena will be refunding purchases for Saturday night's scrubbed show.
It would have driven me to drink. If I hadn't already had a coconut drink, complete with umbrella, on the sandy shore of a Roatan beach club, where the booze in the blender was augmented by fat lobsters (two for $25) and mounds of boiled, fried and grilled shrimp from local water.
You can motor over to my Facebok page for more gloating. Most interesting event of the day was a stop at an animal park with monkeys, toucans, parrots, coatimundi, the pygymy white tail deer found there and more interesting stuff. It was interesting not because of the wildlife as much as for our young guide's knowledge of the West Memphis Three case. Mentioning our home town brought forth not comments on Bill Clinton, but on Damien Echols and the justice meted out in that case. Small world, made smaller by documentary films.
Juanita's, the venerable Tex-Mex restaurant and music venue, is leaving the South Main Street location it's called home since 1986 for the River Market and the former home of Bill St., 614 President Clinton Ave.