Blog Roll

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Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Dining Review

42 gets a winning overhaul

November 23, 2017
42 gets a winning overhaul
At the Clinton Center. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

'Bullets and Fire'

November 23, 2017
'Bullets and Fire'
Arkansas's history of lynchings in the rearview mirror, barely. /more/

To-Do List

Noruz at Four Quarter

November 23, 2017
Noruz at Four Quarter
And much more. /more/


Max Brantley

The Clintons

I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Selling tax cuts

Making tax law is always pretty simple, despite the arcane references to S corporations, pass-throughs, carried-interest deductions and the like, which define the ways that lots of rich people get their income. /more/

Gene Lyons

Trust in Putin

The more Donald J. Trump talks about Russia, the harder it is to believe he's actually loyal to the United States. He's dedicated to his money and to his grotesquely inflated ego. He enjoys pomp and parades. The end. /more/

Pearls About Swine

The end

November 23, 2017
If Bret Bielema is going to prep a video reel of the best moments he's had during a five-year run as Arkansas's latest polarizing head football coach, he's ostensibly going to use something like the first quarter against Mississippi State. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 24, 2017 - 17:01:00

The open line

click to enlarge BYE BYE BRET?
Here's the Saturday night open line. Whale of a football game  underway today. Arkansas is up 42-38 as I write this, with about 10 minutes left in the game.

Is this the swan song for Bret Bielema, the head football coach at Arkansas? I've been told for weeks the answer is yes. A failure to act on Bielema, without a breakout season in five years at Arkansas, finally coalesced a majority on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees to fire Athletic Director Jeff Long. So it's always seemed unlikely he'd go and his failed pick as coach of the marquee team at the university would stay.

Like a lot of people — and apparently the players — I like ol' Bret. But the evaluation of a $4.2 million-a-year employee has one metric, and it isn't likability.


Friday, November 24, 2017 - 16:50:00

Black police officers complain about racial Facebook post by police recruit

The Little Rock Police Department has acknowledged a complaint by the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association about a racially tinged message allegedly found on the Facebook page of a member of the police recruit class as well as an insensitive drawing posted on a window of police offices

The Department says the matter is under investigation. There has not been confirmation that the racially tinged post, which is no longer on Facebook, is that of the named police recruit.

The BPOA said the Facebook post dates to 2013. It notes that a decision to hire a recruit who'd once attended a KKK meeting ended with the prosecution of that recruit, Josh Hastings, in a manslaughter case. That "catastrophically bad choice," said the letter, "dismantled an already fractured relationship between the police and the African American community. We will not sit silently and allow or wait for the city of Little Rock to unfold a welcome mat for this recruit."

The letter, signed by BPOA President Melvin Vester, said the current administration is unwilling to regain trust and build partnerships. It said the City Board has also remained silent regarding matters in the African American community. It said the Board had not held Chief Kenton Buckner or City Manager Bruce Moore (both black men) accountable. Buckner has met with the community, but the sessions have been contentious.

The letter said the police seemed to be selective in monitoring social media. It's not clear, but this could be a reference to the careful attention the police "intelligence division" seems to be paying to coming rap shows in Little Rock, if not the Facebook posts of police recruits.

The letter asks that the recruit be shown the "exit door" and that an investigation be undertaken of the image posted on the window of the downtown detective division.

Here's the full letter from the BPOA.

The formal response from a police spokesman:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-11-24_at_4.13.35_pm.png

There's a back story on how this complaint became public. It followed a series of FOI requests from blogger Russ Racop, a critic of Chief Buckner and an announced candidate for City Board.  He's been trying for days to get the BPOA letter and was initially rebuffed, without legal justification, by Buckner. You can read his account here. It includes the Facebook post that drew criticism — a sleeping black man with the message, "Go night, night nigga. Go night night." The Facebook page is that of an Army veteran who attended Cabot High School. The photo to which objections were raised appears to me to be a picture of a sleeping soldier.

The BPOA letter also criticized this notice reportedly posted at a police office:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-11-24_at_4.11.43_pm.png

If the complaint about the recruit holds true it will fall, coincidentally, into a pattern that is a source of departmental tension. Only about 20 percent of the white Little Rock police officers live in the city of Little Rock, while 62 percent of black officers live in the city. White police officers have said crime and poor schools are among the reasons they don't live here. The city provides free auto transportation to 160 police officers, most of them white, to commute to homes in suburban cities, including Cabot, that have long benefitted from population and school enrollment growth of people leaving Little Rock for the same reasons. A major reason for chamber of commerce support of a $600 million-plus freeway widening project in downtown Little Rock is to shave a few minutes off commuting time to places like Cabot.


Friday, November 24, 2017 - 10:24:00

Beware of Republican senators bearing tax cuts

The hits just keep on coming against the Senate tax bill that Tom Cotton says will rain prosperity on us like a mighty trickle, this time from Vox:

Kent Smetters was in the trenches in the Newt Gingrich-era Congressional Budget Office and he’s a veteran of George W. Bush’s Treasury Department. His well-regarded new analysis just concluded the Republican tax plan won’t raise nearly as much revenue as its proponents say, or provide a meaningful boost to economic growth.

The problem, according to a pair of new analyses by the Penn-Wharton Budget Project, is that the Senate Republicans’ tax bill would increase federal debt by more than advertised, and increased debt accumulation would counteract much — or potentially all — of the positive growth impact of tax cuts. The result will likely be lower incomes for the bottom half of the income distribution even before considering the negative impact of inevitable spending cuts to offset the surprisingly low federal tax intake.

The reduction of revenue is long-term, the analysis says, even when assumptions are made about growth-boosting effects of tax cuts (an assumption hotly contested by many economists.)


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Rock Candy

Friday, November 17, 2017 - 16:35:00

Art partying on Friday night: McLeod's, Museum School sale preview, New Deal, Argenta Art Wall

click to enlarge Holmes and Massey at McLeod.
  • Holmes and Massey at McLeod.
So here's the scoop for tonight:

Matt McLeod Fine Art is celebrating its 2nd anniversary from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 106 W. Sixth St. See paintings by Cindy Holmes, alabaster sculpture by Bryan Massey and more, plus blown glass ornaments and art, and hear Rena Wren sing and play guitar. You will be plied with snacks and drinks, too.

click to enlarge Artist Robert Bean's booth at the AAC Museum School Sale.
  • Artist Robert Bean's booth at the AAC Museum School Sale.
Buy a membership to the Arkansas Arts Center at the door to get first dibs on paintings, jewelry, pottery and more at the Museum School Sale, 6-9 p.m. at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds.

Head to New Deal Gallery, 2003 Louisiana St., to see "We Dissent: An Exhibition of Protest Photography." No music, but beer and wine.

North of the River, Argenta galleries are open until 8 p.m. for the Third Friday Argenta Art Walk: "Under the Influence: Scott Lykens/Tom Richard" at the Argenta branch of Laman Library, "Best of the South" at Greg Thompson Fine Art, Jake Jackson at the North Little Rock Heritage Center, David Murphree at StudioMain and Chad Maupin at the Thea Foundation.


Friday, November 17, 2017 - 11:42:00

Review and slideshow: Chris Stapleton and Marty Stuart at Verizon Arena

click to enlarge Chris Stapleton - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Chris Stapleton

Given the sparse Western desert landscapes and the Hunter S. Thompson-esque horror stories of behind-the-wheel pill popping that characterize Marty Stuart’s new album, I half expected Stuart’s set to create an unexpectedly trippy warm-up to headliner Chris Stapleton last night at Verizon Arena. True to a showman’s form, though, Stuart ripped through a variety show-style set of hits he’d co-written for other people (“The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore”), his own hits (“This One’s Gonna Hurt You”) and hits from the formidable repertoire he’s developed as a country music sideman of the first degree, like “Orange Blossom Special.” Stuart invoked former bandmate (and former father-in-law) Johnny Cash with “Ring of Fire,” introduced with the squarely nonrhetorical question: “Y’all ever heard of Dyess, Arkansas?” Even the younger country fans – otherwise concerned with filing through the crowd of 13,445 to find their seats, and without spilling their craft beer – could get excited about that one, and cheered again when Stuart declared that “Little Rock is the surf music capital of the world right now.” He and his dapper band, The Fabulous Superlatives, were more Grand Ole Opry than desert mirage in their delivery, taking time to let each of the longtime band members step up to the center stage microphone. And – though they handled it with finesse – I’ve no doubt that those who were there for Stapleton would have left in awe of Stuart’s musical prowess, had the openers been afforded a fraction of the luxuriously present sound afforded to the headliner on this “All-American Road Tour.”

Guitarist “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan sang his own “Country Music Got a Hold On Me,”  followed by a number from true Nashville cat session player and former member of BR549 Chris Scruggs. Finally, “Handsome” Harry Stinson stepped up to show off his skilled brushwork on a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” and might well have stolen the moment with his “Mule Skinner”-style breath control, had the camera not been so careful to close in on shots of Stuart’s storied mandolin, with the initials “JRC” scratched into it unceremoniously from the time Johnny Cash “ruined his mandolin,” as Stuart recounted to CMT in a 2005 interview:

“Well, I’d saved my money to buy that mandolin when I got a job with Lester Flatt, and it was $650. For years, I was real proud of the fact that it never had a scratch on it. It looked like a brand new instrument for probably 12 or 13 years. When I got a job with Johnny Cash, he got on a kick of wanting me to teach him how to play the mandolin. And he was a horrible mandolin player. He’d take my mandolin on the stage and just play along with June Carter when she was singin’. One night I looked over there and he had his pocketknife out and scratched a huge cross on it and put his initials, “JRC,” on it and then flipped the mandolin over and autographed it and signed, “Johnny Cash.” My heart fell. After the show, I said, “What did you do that for?” and he said, “I didn’t want you to forget the Lord.” And I told him I could have remembered the Lord without him wrecking my mandolin. But it was all in good fun. And that started a trend after that. People just felt compelled to sign the mandolin. It has Stephen King, President Clinton, Bob Dylan, Billy Bob Thornton, Chuck Berry, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, ex-girlfriends, my momma and a lot of people I don’t know on there. I’m about to run out of places for people to sign.”

The crowd, mostly listless during Stuart’s set, piped up loud and clear in the intermission before Stapleton’s set for Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” The aisles were a parade of leather, fringe, suede and cowboy boots; all the sartorial signifiers of a stadium country show, if a somewhat traditionalist one. A stray Miller Lite was passed around for anybody willing to drink a beer from an unknown source – which, as far as we could tell, was nobody. The couple in front of us, who’d initiated impromptu trivia during intermission about the original lineup of The Eagles (or, as it was put chidingly between debaters then: “The founding members, dipshit!”) snuck down to the stadium floor for a sweet waltz or two. When the lights went down, the crowd went wild, but it was a false alarm — “Cripple Creek” kicked in on the loudspeakers. Finally, around 9 p.m., there was a great bass rumble that gave way to a cold open; a solo Stapleton ripping into a weed-loving lament from his debut record “Traveller,” “Might As Well Get Stoned.” The crooner's lean outfit was remarkably loud for such minimal instrumentation: guitar, bass and drums. For my taste, they were maybe even a bit too sonically homogenous, but nevertheless solid and in the pocket, with polished arrangements that recalled the “Black Velvet” heyday of 1980s country radio — the era when country fell back in love with blues rock.

Morgane Stapleton, Chris’ wife and an accomplished Nashville singer and songwriter (Carrie Underwood’s “Don’t Forget to Remember Me,” LeAnn Rimes’ “You Ain’t Right” and two tunes with the late Guy Clark) filled in on some muscular vocal backup to songs like “Hard Livin’,” and Stapleton called Stuart back up for a rendition of Rodney Crowell’s “I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” made famous by Waylon Jennings.

Don't get me wrong: Chris Stapleton is wildly accomplished and in complete command of his voice. He’s probably the closest thing, vocally, that we have to Chris Cornell on this earth, and capable of blending his blues leanings with his bluegrass history (Stapleton is a former member of The SteelDrivers) so seamlessly that you’re not even all that mad at him when he solves the eternal “Freebird” conundrum by actually playing the damn thing. Dude’s racking up CMA Awards like they’re Pokemon, and he’s definitely the name pulling in the ticket revenue for a 13,000-plus audience.

But somewhere, there must be an unwritten rule that the headliner is to be afforded the luxury of a superboosted presence, something that lets the audience know, as I knew when my entire body began to rumble seismically upon his grand entrance, that things were cranking up to eleven, that we were “really gonna party now.” I don’t know that Stapleton’s set needed that glitz – which, to be fair, was understated in comparison to a few of the stadium’s 2017 shows. Somehow, though, it felt a little artificial to roll out the acoustic red carpet for Stapleton when legends like Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives got the short end of the stick, sonically speaking.


Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 17:06:00

Announcing the inaugural Central Arkansas Music Awards

click to enlarge cama_logo.jpg

In partnership with Arkansas Sounds, a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the Arkansas Times presents the first ever Central Arkansas Music Awards, a concert and ceremony of recognition to take place at the Ron Robinson Theater.

With the help of an esteemed board, we've put together a list of nominees in 22 categories. Now, we need your help! Visit to add your favorite musicians to the list of nominees by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26. We'll combine your responses with those from our board, and our board will cast its final votes.

Then, mark your calendars for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, where host Kevin Kerby and a panel of presenters will name the winners. Keep an eye out here and on the Times’ Rock Candy Facebook page for announcements about live performances from a few of Little Rock's finest, and make plans to celebrate the changing landscape that makes up the Little Rock music scene.


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Long gone

November 23, 2017
Long gone
lt's curtains for the Arkansas AD. /more/


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Arkansas Reporter

Ripe for juvenile justice reform

November 23, 2017
Ripe for juvenile justice reform
In DYS director, some see a potential force for long-sought change. Part 1 of 2. /more/

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