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Eat Arkansas

kBird: Little Rock's gem of a Thai place

kBird feels like your friend's house in college, but with way better food.

Ceci's Chicken and Waffles relocates to Conway

Slightly odd ordering system aside, Ceci's serves mouth-watering food you'll want a regular date with

Sashimi offered good service but mediocre dishes

While there was nothing terribly wrong with this experience, there wasn't anything truly great, either.

Dining Review

Cheers!

June 22, 2017
Cheers!
A different approach to the Heights stalwart. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

Hard edges

June 22, 2017
Hard edges
The 59th Delta provokes thoughts about why we love our unnatural lawns, and what is real, anyway? /more/

To-Do List

Joo Won Kang at Wildwood

June 21, 2017
Joo Won Kang at Wildwood
Also, Esme Patterson, Little Rock Vegan Festival, Crystal Mercer, Ben Lee, Opera in the Ozarks, Sammy Kershaw and more /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

A tax for NLR

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith pitched me this week on a city sales tax increase. If still a resident, I'd be favorably inclined. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Obamascare

Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments. /more/

Gene Lyons

Megyn vs. Alex

As vigorously hyped broadcast events go, Megyn Kelly's televised confrontation with internet conspiracy cultist Alex Jones proved something of a dud. /more/

Movie Reviews

Vroom (again)

June 22, 2017
Vroom (again)
Pixar's 'Cars 3' gets a few things right. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Summer hopes

June 22, 2017
Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

Eye Candy

On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 16:02:00

Former Arkansas Democratic legislator lands on Trump vote fraud commission

DAVID DUNN: Trump appointee.
  • DAVID DUNN: Trump appointee.
Donald Trump quietly Wednesday named some members to an ad hoc commission supposed to look into election fraud and they included some unlikely members, including David Dunn, a former Democratic state representative from  Forrest City.

It's been so quiet, when I first heard about it this morning, I couldn't find any White House announcement. Since then, Huffington Post has caught up with some of the members of the commission including Dunn.
Dunn is now in government relations as a principal of Capitol Partners. Said Huffington:

Dunn, who served in the Arkansas legislature from 2005 to 2011 and now runs a government relations firm, said he was eating dinner with his children when the White House sent out a press release announcing the president intended to appoint him to the commission. Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin (R), an old friend of Dunn’s from the legislature, recommended him to the commission, Dunn said. He said he also spoke with Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and the commission’s vice chair, just once about his interest in the role, but didn’t expect much to come of it until he saw the White House’s press release.
The commission is being viewed with some skepticism, because Kobach has been a font of unsubstantiated election fraud hogwash. Mark Martin, too, has joined in some of Kobach's enterprises, including an error-riddle voter matchup effort.  The commission is supposed to study the election commission, find things that undermine confidence and make recommendations. The suspicion is it's expected to justify Donald Trump's claim that voter fraud explains why he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Every credible study ever done has found true voter fraud — vote by impersonation — almost non-existent.

In a Thursday interview, Dunn sounded openly stunned he was chosen for the role and admitted he did not have any expertise in elections or voting issues.

“I don’t know why this has fallen on my shoulders,” he told HuffPost, adding that he was concerned about voters’ access to the polls, particularly in rural areas of the state. “I’m just a very small old country boy from Arkansas in this bigger commission with Vice President Pence, and I’m just going to do the best I can, to be honest.” 
 Dunn told Huffington Post that he didn't believe millions voted illegally in 2016 and that Kobach had said he wasn't looking for rubber stamps. He said he didn't think Russian election interference would be a topic of commission interest.

Dunn once headed the Forrest City Chamber of Commerce and was an advisor to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. He formed Capitol Partners with Melissa Moody, who'd been chief of staff to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. Their lobbying clients, according to public reports, include:

Arkansas Agricultural Aviation Association
Arkansas Convenience Store Association
Arkansas Land Title Association
Arkansas Occupational Therapist Association
Arkansas Optometric Association
Boars Head Provisions
Cal Ripken, Sr Foundation
Ross Group
Woodridge Behavioral Health, LLC

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 15:28:00

Judge Griffen strikes down 2017 law on sentencing juvenile killers

click to enlarge BRANDON HARDMAN: New sentencing ordered in 2000 murder case.
  • BRANDON HARDMAN: New sentencing ordered in 2000 murder case.
Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen today ruled that a 2017 law addressing sentencing of juvenile killers was unconstitutional.

He said the law unconstitutionally took sentencing out of the hands of a jury by setting a mandatory life sentence for capital murder, first-degree murder and treason, with a possibility of parole after 25 years for 1st-degree murder and 30 years for capital murder.

The law was an effort to amend Arkansas law to comport with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held life without parole sentences unconstitutional for juvenile offenders 17 and younger.

Since that Supreme Court decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court has begun hearing cases from people sentenced to life as juveniles. It has held that they should receive sentencing hearings and be given a chance to present evidence about age, the nature of the crime and other issues and given a sentence within the range for Class Y felonies.

The legislature failed in its effort to create "age appropriate sentencing standards," Griffen ruled. The right to a jury trial includes jury sentencing, he said. "The issue of sentencing is not determined by the General Assembly. The General Assembly only determines the range of punishment for given sentences."

The mandatory sentence in the 2017 law deprives defendants of the ability to present mitigating evidence on sentencing. The so-called Fair Sentencing of Minors Act doesn't pass constitutional muster because "it denies individualized sentencing."

Griffen also said the law encroached on separation of powers. The state argued that the law provides parole hearings at which defendants can offer mitigating evidence. But Griffen said parole hearings are not sentencing hearings. They are a condition of release subsequent to sentencing, he said. He said the legislature overstepped its authority because parole is an executive branch function.

Griffen ruled in the case of Brandon Hardman, who was convicted in 2002 of a capital murder in 2000 in Little Rock. He was sentenced to life without parole, a sentence vacated in June 2016 under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Hardman, then 16, fatally shot Antwan Jones near 28th and Battery. The shooting occurred in what was then considered Vice Lords territory. Hardman was a member of the Gangster Disciple gang. Prosecutors relied heavily on Hardman's purported gang background in the prosecution.

Griffen ordered that a sentencing hearing be scheduled for Hardman, that he be allowed to present evidence  and that he be sentenced within the statutory range for a Class Y felony, between 10 and 40 years.

I've asked the attorney general for a reaction. The normal action would be to continue to defend the law on appeal.

UPDATE:

“Attorney General Rutledge will review today’s decision and evaluate how to proceed.”

Here's Griffen's opinion.
Griffen has been barred from hearing death penalty cases by the Supreme Court. This isn't such a case. But the decision is likely to rankle at least a few legislators already unhappy about his participation in a death penalty protest the day he decided in a drug company's favor its property rights lawsuit over a claim the state had dishonestly obtained its drugs for executions. That led to a Supreme Court reversal, the order to take Griffen off death cases and pending judicial discipline cases on the matter.

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 14:44:00

Thursday's open line


The open line and the daily news roundup.

/more/  

 

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 10:50:00

Kirsten Johnson's documentary memoir screens at Riverdale tonight

click to enlarge SAMIRA BOUAOU
  • Samira Bouaou
Kirsten Johnson — the cinematographer behind "Citizenfour," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Darfur Now" and "The Invisible War" — delved into her personal connections with the subjects of her lens in "Cameraperson," released last September. She talked with Variety in January about the catalyst for the film.

I had the idea of making “Cameraperson” after working on a documentary which fell apart because its protagonist, a young Afghan girl who had initially accepted to be filmed, changed her mind after three years when she saw the almost-completed film and she feared it would put her life in danger.

The extent of the ethical conflict that we face as filmmakers at this moment in history, now that the Internet exists, really dawned on me in that moment. In this new territory we’re in, we can’t control where images go. This has an impact on people being filmed and the people making images as well: we can all be traced. It used to be that when you filmed someone in a foreign country who needed protection, you could tell people that footage would never be seen in their country. Today we can’t. In many ways, “Cameraperson” is about representation and misrepresentation, about political, ethical questions, as much as it is about trauma, love and tenderness.

Those questions came home to roost for Johnson, who interspersed scenes of massacre and desperation with scenes of her own mother's mental decline, as the symptoms of Alzheimer's set in. As Arkansas Times Film Series curator Omaya Jones wrote in this week's To-Do List, Johnson says she is is "not in the film, yet [she's] everywhere in the film."

Tonight's screening begins at 7 p.m. at Riverdale 10 Cinema, and tickets are $8.50. RSVP here.


 

Monday, June 19, 2017 - 11:31:00

'Here in Body': Birdcloud subverts and transcends convention

click to enlarge birdcloud_batch-79.jpg


If Charles Bukowski was the “poet laureate of skid row,” Nashville’s Birdcloud could be its house band. Singers Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green, who also play guitar and mandolin, respectively, are currently on tour promoting their 2016 vinyl release “Singles Only,” a comprehensive compilation of their previous four EPs alongside a few new songs.

Despite explicitly labeling themselves as “ultra-modern country music,” Birdcloud could just as easily be described as simply postmodern, owing particularly to their irreverence and broad yet nuanced delivery that defies genre. Their country influences are omnipresent, but so is their great love of Bob Dylan. Green’s vocals, especially, have a potent punk rock swagger about them, which is really driven home by the fact that she will straight up knock your ass out if you disrespect her. (Just ask the guy on YouTube who tried to grab her during their Christmas show last year.) Kaset’s voice has a tenderness and vulnerability to it reminiscent of “Live Through This”-era Courtney Love. This dynamic is somewhat reversed in their instrumentation. Kaset, who used to be a drummer, has a muscular power and precision to her guitar playing, while Green’s mandolin gives the songs idyllic texture, although her playing can also regularly be as angular as her singing. They also share Cormac McCarthy’s knack for making base descriptions of ordinary situations feel haunting and hypnotic.

Birdcloud initially came to public attention through their YouTube videos, which generally feature the duo facing each other while performing. Their live show is a greatly intensified version of this, with the group’s sexually charged party anthems taking on a performance art quality. Women’s issues are important to Birdcloud: last year’s second annual “Cool Christmas with Birdcloud” show served as a drive to collect tampons and pads for Nashville’s women’s and homeless shelters, and the duo's stage banter often serves to lampoon the kind of sexist behavior they are subjected to.


Although they are always very quick to point out that they aren’t a comedy act, Birdcloud regularly mixes with a plethora of comedians for interviews and performances, the most notable instances probably being their close association with Doug Stanhope and their tour last year with Wheeler Walker, Jr. The Smiths aren’t considered a comedy act just because Morrissey frequently wrote funny lyrics, though, and by that same token it’s not fair to write off Birdcloud as comedy just because some of their songs are really funny and they hang out with funny people. Still, humor is a crucial element to their career and often what initially draws fans to the band.

During his seminal 1987 stand-up special “Raw” Eddie Murphy quipped that he “couldn’t give no curse show.” Birdcloud doesn’t give no curse show, either. While the cursing and vulgarity is an undeniably crucial feature, more important than the profanity is the incendiary wit and sociological commentary found in Birdcloud’s lyrics, however subdued and subversive it might be. Doubtless many of these songs are personal and specific, but they all still possess a magnetic relatability for anyone who likes to have a good time and doesn’t like living their lives by outdated, outmoded conservative conventions. Dismiss them as sensationalists at your own peril and miss out on some of the most singular observations about everyday life in 2017.

Birdcloud plays Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack Tuesday, June 20 with fellow Nashville band Thelma and the Sleaze, 8 p.m., $10-$12. Jasmin and Makenzie were kind enough to answer some questions for us from the road ahead of that performance.

I know y’all plan to spend part of this year creating and releasing a new full-length album. Can you tell us a little bit the direction of the songs? Does it have a title yet?


Kaset: Our next record is called “Bolth.” It’s got road songs, party anthems, and more satanic stuff. We are using our time on tour performing the fuck out of the new songs to figure out how we might want to arrange them when we get home.

You’ve done a lot of tours as a support act for Vanessa Carlton, Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, etc. This year you’re focused firmly on doing headlining shows. Any chance your live show will morph with that transition, i.e. doing performances with a full band as you gain more and more attention?

Kaset: Playing with a full band is always a treat, but what sets our sound apart isn’t the instrumentation, it’s the vocals and lyrics, so the most power is found in our set as a duo.

Green: We play with a full band a couple times a year. It really sets off the songs.


We live in perilous political times, particularly for women. What’s your opinion of the Trump Administration?

Kaset: I hate Donald Trump. I think he is really fucking scary and a huge asshole. I think it’s an important time in America to create art and nurture the creative and good in each other.

Jasmin has a solo career concurrent with Birdcloud and has released a few really great albums. Do either of you have any other outside projects going on right now or any cool collaborations and such planned for the future?

Kaset: I’m recording two solo records right now; one of them in my home studio, the Hymen Auditorium. A collaboration record I made with Makeup and Vanity Set is coming out this fall. The project is called "You Drive."

You’ve performed with one of Arkansas’s biggest musical legends, Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas, as well as one or Arkansas’s strongest current artists, Adam Faucett. Are there any other Arkansas acts you admire?

Kaset: Yeah, Jim Dandy is an absolute legend. It was so cool to share the stage with him. Adam Faucett is very cool too. We have played with Mountain Sprout. Those guys are on another planet, man!

You’re extremely active on social media, especially Twitter. What role do you believe this plays in your career?

Green: Twitter has linked us up with most of the comics we’ve worked with. It’s probably the coolest internet for show promo.

You were recently blocked by Joel Osteen on Twitter and your music strikes a defiant tone against religion to say the least. Why don’t you like ol’ baby Jesus?

Green: Jesus is great. The people ruined it for us.

Damian Echols is well known just about anywhere at this point, but naturally he’s a particularly noteworthy figure here in Arkansas and you’ve made mention of him before. Got anything you’d like to say about him and the West Memphis 3?

Green: He talked to us on Twitter once. We just like to talk about and celebrate his (release) to piss off pro-life death penalty people.


Having fun and partying are obviously important features to your songs, but you are also clearly making social commentary in them. Do you purposefully try to balance that out, or are you just making observations?

Kaset: Nuance is one of the first casualties of political conflict or social unrest. Our lyrics are nuanced, so there are multiple levels of partying to it. We have strong feelings about the hypocrisy and backwards thinking in the South, all the hatred in America, being a woman in this or any sphere, all kinds of stuff. But we’re not gonna hit you over the head with it. You have to arrive at it through our fucked up performance. You may leave a show with an impression of it. Or you may leave with a hangover and a dumb smile on your face. By making lyrics dumb and party and the music style country, we are able to reach a lot of people other bands can’t. Like playing an anti-capital punishment song in front of a state senator and for him to stop tapping his foot halfway through, that’s a rare and important opportunity and it’s one we get because our music is nuanced. And that’s not saying a lot of our fans aren’t geniuses, ‘cause they fuckin’ are. And I can say with confidence none of our fans are Republican state senators.


 

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 16:30:00

Kris Kristofferson headlines Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess

click to enlarge kris_kristofferson.jpg

Kris Kristofferson — former boxer, Rhodes scholar, Golden Globe winner, U.S. army helicopter pilot and author of seminal songs like "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down" — has been announced as part of the lineup for the inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, to be held October 19-21 in the cotton field next to Cash's (restored) boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas.

Kristofferson, who famously convinced Cash to record "Sunday Morning Coming Down" when Kristofferson was working as a janitor at Nashville's Columbia Records, is joined by Rosanne Cash, Joanne and Tommy Cash and Buddy Jewell for the Saturday afternoon concert, 12:15 p.m., which follows a three-day symposium in the Dyess Colony Circle. Tickets are available here, or by calling 870-972-2781.



 

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Two suits challenge new abortion laws

June 22, 2017
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Arkansas legislators "matched cruelty with creativity" this year with the passage of new laws to block women from getting legal abortions, the deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project said Tuesday in announcing the filing of two suits in federal court challenging new laws. /more/
 

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