Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Lynch at Large Blog has moved

The Lynch at Large blog will continue at a new address in the wonderful world of Word Press. The headline above links to the new site. All of the contents of this blog have been moved to the new location.

Be sure to change your bookmarks, and please tell all your friends.

The new link is:

Also, let me know what you think,

See you at the new digs!

Friday, August 31, 2007

A few totally gay questions

State Representative Steve Harrelson’s “Under the Dome” blog raises some excellent questions about the Arkansas Family Council’s proposed initiated act to prohibit homosexuals from adopting or being foster parents. He uses the arrest of Idaho Senator Larry Craig as a basis for his inquiry.

As you know, Craig was arrested and entered a guilty plea on misdemeanor public indecency charges stemming from an incident in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. Riddle me this one, Family Council. Under the law you are asking voters to adopt, is Craig qualified to foster or adopt? Does the guilty plea equal an admission?

It is a substantial question because Craig denies being gay. Does a single act qualify? What if somebody says they are not gay any more? There are so many other little complexities to this proposal, and they demand an answer.

What about unrelated people of the same sex living in the same residence? Are they presumed to be homosexuals? Can homosexuality be reversed, and, if so, under what conditions? One presumes the Department of Human Services will have to enforce the law if it passes and they will need guidance. The voters will need some help as well.

(Broadcast August 30, 2007)

Friday summary

An attorney for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette filed a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court to unseal court briefs submitted in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over access to former Pulaski County Comptroller Ron Quillin’s e-mails. Pulaski County has refused access to 668 e-mails Quillin exchanged with Cheryl Zeier, a Missouri woman who works for a financial software company that the county has paid more than $1.1 million over the past four years.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that would deny Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola voter-backed increases in power and pay. The lawsuit was dismissed “without prejudice” and may be refilled.

Two more heat-related deaths have been confirmed in Arkansas, bringing the total this summer to eight, state health officials report. A State Department of Health spokesman declined to release specific information about the most recent victims, citing federal privacy laws.

The state attorney general's office has filed a lawsuit against a Jonesboro company for allegedly offering fake driver's licenses to Hispanics in northeastern Arkansas. McDaniel's office filed suit in Craighead County Circuit Court against Benjamin Sanchez, Oscar Sanchez and Rita Soto, owners and operators of International Automovil Association Inc.

Weekend motorists can expect to see sobriety checkpoints along with a saturation of law enforcement. The holiday saturation period will begin Friday, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m., and continue through midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Gov. Mike Beebe and a panel of lawmakers have called for broad increases in pay for state employees, saying a raise is necessary to compete for workers likely to be lured to private sector jobs.

A 23-year veteran of the Department of Correction has been fired after investigators determined he took a rifle once assigned to Director Larry Norris and then lied about it when confronted. The employee wasn’t identified because he has state appeal rights, but spokesman Dina Tyler says that the 45-year-old had been a training instructor at several prisons. His duties included training staff to shoot firearms.

Former Justice of the Peace Johnny W. Brady says that he has dropped his appeal of a circuit ruling that reversed last November's District 10 justice of the peace election. The seat Brady once pursued and attained is now held by JP Jerry L. Roberts, who ran as a Republican. Before Roberts' lawsuit, Brady, a Democrat, was deemed the race's victor by a 738-736 total count.

Wireless, high-speed Internet access may be available to the people of Polk County in about two months. Access to high-speed Internet is an economic development must-have, according to Polk County Judge Ray Stanley.

A group of Humphrey citizens are hoping that an empty grassy lot on the north side of town will be the home of a new state-of-the-art school facility next fall. Organizers of the proposed “School of Excellence” open-enrollment charter school will submit their application to the state Board of Education for the second time on Friday.

Arkansas will receive $13.2 million over the next six years to raise the scores of students taking Advanced Placement exams and, ultimately, to produce more mathematicians and scientists for the state and nation.

Three Arkansas communities are planning new health clinics with the help of new federal funding announced this week. A group of 12 community health centers in Arkansas was awarded about $1.4 million in grants to start primary-care clinics in Mount Ida, Lake City and Bentonville.

Derwood Smith doesn’t think the fashion of baggy pants — the kind that hang low enough to expose the boxers, briefs or thongs underneath — is going out of style fast enough. So, to help speed the process, the 74-year-old Pine Bluff alderman is proposing the city fine anyone with the look $200, plus court costs.

Police in Indiana have arrested an Arkansas prisoner and a former Faulkner County jailer who authorities believe loaded her three small children into a vehicle and helped the inmate escape almost three weeks ago.

A Blytheville man who told relatives he was tired of caring for his partially paralyzed brother faces manslaughter and abuse charges after an autopsy found the brother died of starvation and neglect on a back porch. Police arrested Gerald Wayne Whitaker after receiving a report from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory that called the death of Larry Whitaker a homicide.

A former Fayetteville police detective faces federal child pornography charges. Jeremy Boyd Grammer was indicted by a federal grand jury. He was arraigned in federal court in Fayetteville on three charges, including one count of distributing child pornography that was transported in interstate commerce by computer and two counts of receiving child pornography that was transported in interstate commerce by computer.

A Fort Smith couple who pleaded three weeks ago to more than 40 theft-related felonies in Sebastian County appeared in Crawford County Circuit Court and pleaded to more. Jeffery Paul Mattox and Stacy Lynn Mattox were each charged with three felony counts of residential burglary and three felony counts of theft of property. Judge Gary R. Cottrell sentenced the couple to 15 years in prison plus 15 years suspended. Federal authorities are investigating firearms charges against the couple.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday summary

With the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and the closing of the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis, Congress will likely consider raising the gas tax slightly in order to pay for necessary repairs to improve America’s aging roads and bridges, Rep. Marion Berry told a Jonesboro civic group.

Pulaski County prosecutors have linked criminal charges against former county Comptroller Ron Quillin to his affair with a county vendor, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday. The complain was filed under seal and Pulaski County has been attempting to hide emails between Quillin and the female vendor from public scrutiny.

The Pulaski County sheriff’s office on Wednesday sent Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley its completed investigation into allegations of ethics law violations by Little Rock School Board President Katherine Mitchell, interim Superintendent Linda Watson and a small group of other Little Rock district employees.

The Arkansas State Police is investigating how money used for undercover drug buys was managed at the Beebe Police Department, according to White County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Raff.

Alltel Corp. shareholders’ overwhelming approval of the sale of the company for $26.3 billion marked a final step toward taking the publicly traded firm private.

A study projecting a three-year, $5.5 billion statewide economic impact from natural-gas production in the Fayetteville Shale formation was much too low, according to Kathy Deck, director of the University of Arkansas’ Center for Business and Economic Research. Arkansas has the lowest severance tax in the region.

Roby Brock reports on Mississippi County has a hot industrial prospect although the name of the company is not being disclosed. Earlier this week, Mississippi County officials agreed to add $175,000 in economic development funds to a $425,000 commitment in trying to land a major industry in the county. The prospect is rumored to be in the steel industry, which would compliment Nucor Steel’s major operations in the region.

Equity research giant Credit Suisse issued a scathing memo on Dillard’s Department Stores and the company’s woeful second quarter in which the Little Rock-based mall retailer reported a $25.2 million loss.

Several record companies filed a lawsuit in Arkansas against 10 people they say copied music illegally through a file-sharing website, and then distributed over 5,000 copies. The ten people have internet provider addresses through a Little Rock company, Windstream Communications. In the lawsuit, the record companies asked for permission to subpoena Windstream for the real names, addresses and phone numbers of the ten.

Southwestern Energy Power Co.’s proposed coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County is likely to cost more than the company’s $1.4 billion estimate, an attorney for some of the opponents has suggested.

Reconfiguring the Interstate 630/Interstate 430 interchange in west Little Rock will cost at least $130 million, almost twice the original estimate, a top state highway official reports. The total cost likely will be even higher, in part because the project will take several years to complete, said Scott Bennett, assistant chief engineer for planning at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. The cost estimate is in today’s dollars, he said.

The state has determined that Jefferson County violated state ethics rules by paying more than $600,000 to vendors that employed family members of former County Judge Jack Jones and another county employee, according to an audit released Wednesday.

A state representative who is trying to kick a more than 20-year habit of smoking cigarettes wants colleagues who chew tobacco to change their ways, too. Rep. Pam Adcock of Little Rock proposed changing House rules to bar representatives from chewing tobacco in the House chamber and committee rooms.

Arkansas State University officials told a legislative panel they have a tool that could help promote interest and demand for broadband technology in the state, but they lack funding to use it. At a meeting of the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology, ASU officials gave a presentation on the NETmobile, a van with wireless Internet access that the university acquired through a 2001 grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development.

Volunteers seeking to raise $2 million to save Bald Knob schools say they are being hindered by untrue rumors that substantial sums have already been raised.

Rachel Hoffmann of Searcy has joined an elite group in the nation. She has achieved a perfect score of 36 on the ACT when she took the exam in June. The ACT is a test given to high school seniors used to qualify them for entrance into college.

A day after an e-mail chain sparked concern about safety in Little Rock’s River Market District, police arrested two teens Wednesday in a pair of carjackings occurring in the entertainment district in the past month.

A former Arkansas Tech University chemistry professor arrested in conjunction with a Russellville Police Department online sting operation designed to catch Internet predators has been indicted in federal court. Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons says he declined to continue prosecution of Albert Snow in Pope County Circuit Court after federal prosecutors notified him they planned to pursue the case in U.S. District Court.

A woman tried to plead guilty in an arson case Wednesday in hopes of keeping her children from losing both their parents to prison, but a judge wasn’t convinced of her guilt. “I can’t accept the plea,” U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson Jr. told Tawanna Thomas after she said she didn’t know that when she bought gas canisters for her husband, he planned to use them to commit a crime, let alone to ignite the Bada-Bing Grille nightclub in Pulaski County.

A 9-woman, 3-man jury was seated at the Craighead County Courthouse in the case of a Paragould woman charged with manslaughter and four counts of second-degree battery. Judy Cozart is charged in connection with a traffic accident on March 21, 2006, in which Greene County Justice of Peace Mark E. Reed was killed and four others were injured. Another motorist called 911 describing Cozart’s irratic driving prior to the wreck.

Country star Faith Hill will sing the opening theme to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” this season, the network announced Wednesday.

Big-time moviemaking returns to Memphis in October, when Matt Dillon, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda, David Schwimmer and Vera Farmiga come to town to shoot "Nothing But the Truth," a political thriller from writer-director Rod Lurie.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What to do about Iraq

While trying to save himself this morning on KARK TV Channel 4's Wednesday Wake-Up, Republican consultant and strategist Bill Vickery gained a momentary victory by asking what Democrats would do about Iraq.

Of course, no Democrat got us into the war and, last time I checked, it is a Republican who is commander-in-chief. Don't they even believe in personal accountability?

Anyway, I was researching another story when I came across a little story about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Here is what he has to say.

His plan for withdrawal calls for unifying Iraq by establishing autonomous regions for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis with a central government that controls border security and distribution of oil revenues on a per capita basis.

Second, his plan includes securing Sunni support by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenues, putting Baathists back to work and re-integrating those with no blood on their hands.

Third, his plan calls for increasing economic aid by tapping the oil-rich Arab Gulf states. Biden also proposes convening a regional conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group of major world powers to enforce their commitments.

Finally, his plan includes withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by 2008, which would allow time for the political settlement to take effect. In turn, a small residual force would be left solely for counter-terrorism and training.

Of the 27 million people in Iraq, about 4.2 million have self-cleansed, 2 million have left the country and 2.1 million have been displaced internally, according to Biden.

Arkansans Increase Amtrak Revenue

If you missed it, my friend, Dr. Bill Pollard from Conway, got his picture on the front page of yesterday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Pollard is part of a volunteer team that has, for the past nine years, been successfully managing the sleeping car and coach inventory on Amtrak. They manage the price charged for tickets based on availability. Airlines do a similar thing.

This group also talks with train crews and helps them identify regular travelers, especially between St. Louis and Chicago, and target them to buy unused sleeping car rooms as office space. Since that is a short trip and the same room is sold later at night, when the business traveler is gone, it increases revenue. It looks like this little hobby has brought revenue up for the Eagle, which passes through Arkansas once daily northbound and southbound.

Why does every long distance train not have a marketing expert devoted to increased revenue production? The reason is that airline and highway interests want Amtrak service snuffed out anywhere it is not already booming.

That is the other dirty little secret. In the northeast, where there are modern fast trains on convenient schedules, rail travel is thriving. Around the world, many countries have trains going at over 200 mph.

(Broadcast August 29, 2007)

Wednesday summary

Former Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Tom Coughlin, confined to his upscale Centerton residence since pleading guilty last year to defrauding Wal-Mart and the IRS, could end up in prison after all. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled his 27-month home-confinement sentence handed down by a federal judge in Fort Smith was too lenient and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Two months after President Bush’s immigration plan collapsed in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder on Tuesday heard an earful from several people here who said they want more to be done to crack down on illegal aliens.

Asa Hutchinson, who has held a series of high-ranking federal posts in Washington and Arkansas, says he would not rule out succeeding departing U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales if he is asked by President Bush.

Gov. Mike Beebe has announced a college grant program designed to attract late blooming high school students of limited financial means. The GO! Opportunities Grant is the first state-funded college grant program in Arkansas based solely on financial need, Beebe said.

Arkansas’ high school class of ’07 upheld recent past showings by performing above the national average on the SAT college-entrance exam. But, in contrast to national trends, a smaller and less diverse group of the state’s students took the exam.

A new high school on Springdale’s east side is not fiscally responsible, even if patrons are willing to pay a hefty price tag. Superintendent Jim Rollins says a new high school on the east side, comparable to Har-Ber High School on the west side, could cost $50 million or more in today's market.

A local Veterans Affairs official pledges to support Arkansas’ medical school and Washington County in their plans to locate a satellite medical campus on land the VA deeded to the county decades ago.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on has allowed $635,000 in settlement checks to former Little Rock School District Superintendent Roy Brooks and his associates to be distributed and cashed without fear of court penalties.

Deploying broadband Internet service to rural areas by using money from the Universal Service Fund was among ideas suggested Tuesday at a meeting on the state of high-speed Internet service in Arkansas.

Poor sales and a lawsuit settlement pummeled Dillard’s bottom line for the quarter ending Aug. 4. The Little Rock-based retailer reports that it suffered a net loss of $25.2 million, or 31 cents a share, in its second quarter. For the corresponding period a year ago, the company reported earnings per share of 20 cents on profit of $15.7 million.

Fort Smith Mayor Ray Baker’s surgery for colon cancer has been delayed until Friday, after the procedure was started and stopped on Monday. Reached at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock, Baker said surgeons began the operation Monday before they halted it because of a “technical problem.”

A Searcy resident has filed a lawsuit against the Alcoholic Beverage Control board and Kelley’s Restaurant in Bald Knob seeking to have the restaurant’s liquor license revoked. Brett Watson, a 1991 graduate of Harding University and a member of the law firm of Anderson, Murphy and Hopkins in Little Rock filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

A murderer given a life sentence as a teenager 30 years ago received a clemency recommendation by the Arkansas Board of Parole on Tuesday. Melvin Smith Jr. was 16 when he was convicted of killing Grover Howard Smith (not related) during a burglary of Smith’s house in Sweet Home in June 1977. Smit was given an additional 15 years in 1983 after being convicted of a prison stabbing.

An elderly Mansfield woman was found dead and her husband critically injured in what law enforcement officials believe was an attempted murder-suicide at the couple’s home. Police found a woman dead from a knife wound and her husband bleeding profusely from a knife wound to his neck area. Sebastian County Coroner Terry Campbell confirmed the identity of the deceased Mansfield woman as 83-year-old Marie Basham and her husband as Autry Basham, who is also in his 80s.

An El Dorado woman made her first appearance in Union County District Court on charges that she attacked her pregnant teenage daughter and cut her 8-year-old son with a knife or a box cutter. Latresa V. Manning was charged with aggravated assault on a family or household member and third-degree domestic battering, both felonies.

A funeral home director who police claim wanted to kill the Newport police chief and mayor is under arrest and will be charged with two counts of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder, authorities said. Lawrence Tolerson, owner of Tolerson and Sons Funeral Home, was arrested by Jackson County sheriff’s deputies and was taken to the Woodruff County jail in Augusta and held because that was where the plot to kill the two men originated.

A female resident of the Arkansas State University campus reported that her life was threatened, and she was kidnapped from the parking garage on the north side of the university and made to drive to Goobertown, about 10 miles away. The 18-year-old woman told University Police Department officers that while she was walking to her vehicle, “several men,” both black and white, “jumped her on the first level of the parking deck.”

The former treasurer of Sugar Creek Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization turned herself in to police on a warrant charging her with stealing $23,130. Heather Diane Jennings is held at the Benton County Jail in lieu of a $10,000 bond set by Senior Circuit Judge Tom Keith.

Larry Craig

We are not supposed to gloat over our adversaries’ problems, so let us consider soberly the case of Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge arising out of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport men’s room.

Apparently some vice cop became suspicious about the foot tapping coming from the honorable gentleman’s stall. The first reaction, of course, is “good grief!” Surely such a powerful and wealthy man could find some other outlet for his sexual desires than such a public and humiliating venue.

The crime is an offense against his office and the institution of the Senate. And, just in case you are about to ask, yes I would apply the same standard in other high-profile cases, although an office is not quite as public as a restroom.

The folks back home in Idaho will remember how much he denounced homosexuals and espoused “family values.” Who knows? Maybe he is a compassionate conservative, although I doubt it. Apparently rumors about Senator Craig have been floating around for some time, so perhaps he just wanted to get caught. Surely a smart guy like this must know that cops patrol airport restrooms.

The genius of our system has a method to handle things like this known as elections.

(Broadcast August 28, 2007)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Democrat-Gazette breaks major Amtrak story

My friend, Dr. Bill Pollard, is on the front page. This one is about how three volunteers manage the sleeping car and coach inventory on the Eagle, which passes through Little Rock.

The story is linked here. Please remember that the Democrat-Gazette is a subscription web site.

This item is discussed on my rail passenger blog, Trains for America.

Education investment pays off

Here is something Mike Huckabee should be telling the Club for Growth. THIS is real growth, not just increased greedy gain for a favored few.


Arkansas’ public school students once again posted gains in terms of participation and performance on Advanced Placement (AP) Exams in 2007 and maintained SAT scores that are above the national average, according to information released Tuesday by the College Board.

“Last year we were named ‘The Arkansas Model’ for other states to emulate in terms of our policies encouraging participation in Advanced Placement courses,” Dr. James said, “so it is wonderful news to hear that both participation rates and exam scores remain on the rise.”

In 2007, 16,013 public school students took AP exams, representing a 6.4 percent increase over the 15,054 students who took the exams the previous year. What’s more, there was an 8.8 percent increase in the number of exam scores of 3 or higher from last year for public school students. On AP exams, a 3 is “Qualified,” a 4 is “Well Qualified,” and a 5 is “Extremely Well Qualified.”

"It is impressive to see the increase in the number of students who score well on the AP exam," said Dr. Steve Floyd, Interim Director of the Department of Higher Education. "This means there are more high school students who are earning college credit and preparing themselves well for postsecondary education. Good preparation in high school will contribute to higher graduation rates from college."

As of the 2009-2010 school year, all high schools in the state will be required to offer an Advanced Placement course or its equivalent in each of the four core areas of English, mathematics, science and social studies. The state also began paying for students taking AP exams in May 2005. Both of these pieces of legislation have garnered national praise for Arkansas because of the increased access they gave public school students to rigorous course work.

“We know from research that anytime students take AP courses, they are greatly increasing their chances of finishing college in five years or less,” Dr. James said.

Arkansas public school students did not completely mirror the scoring trend found nationwide on the SAT Reasoning Test, which incorporates Critical Reading, Math and Writing portions:

· The state’s public school students’ mean score in Critical Reading increased by 2 points to 579, as compared to a one point drop in scores nationally to 502.

· The state’s public school students’ mean score in Math remained at 571 as compared to a three point drop in scores nationally to 515.

· The state’s public school students’ mean score in Writing fell one point to 567 as compared to a three point drop in scores nationally to 494.

The state had 1,044 students taking the SAT in 2007, a 3.6 decrease in the number of test-takers in 2006.

Of the public school students taking the SAT, 87.2 percent enrolled in colleges, according to the College Board, and two-thirds of those attended Arkansas schools. The three colleges and universities in Arkansas receiving the most SAT scores from Arkansas test-takers were the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College.

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