Category Archives: Jason Tolbert

Tim Griffin on Face the Nation: We need to drill for oil, Deal with Medicare and Debt Problem (The Conspirator, Part 21)

Tim Griffin on ‘Face the Nation’

Jason Tolbert reported yesterday:

Tim Griffin was on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this morning…  He discussed the problem of the national debt and its impact on the economy, a reoccurring theme for Griffin.  He says that Medicare as we know it is on a path to bankruptcy in nine years.  He supports making changes for those under 55 while keeping it the same for those 55 and over.

Tim Griffin also mentioned the restrictions that the Obama Administration has had on drilling for oil in the USA and he thinks those should be removed.

During the show it was mentioned that Congressman Griffin has had several townhall meetings. I recently attended one last week in Shannon Hills. Rep. Griffin started off the meeting with this simple statement: 

“We have a debt crisis facing our nation. We have a debt crisis because Washington spends too much, not because Washington taxes too little. The spending is driven by retirement and health security programs. The cost of doing nothing is unacceptable…Our nation’s debt is $14.1 trillion and that is $45,484 for every man, woman and child or $142,819 for the average American family.”  
Congressman Griffin pointed out that because of growth of entitlement spending our discretionary side was of the federal budget has slipped from 58% in 1970 to 38% in 2011.
Rep. Griffin compared this to our household budgets. The fixed payments like rent have to be paid every month. However, the discretionary part of your budget may be changed from month to month. The problem with the federal budget is that fixed part of the budget is growing too rapidly. If nothing is done about entitlement spending then we will never balance the budget, and our country will go bankrupt eventually.
The chart “Deficits Under Obama Budgets” was the most alarming that Rep. Griffin presented. President Bush’s last three budgets produced budget deficits of 161 billion, 239 billion and 407 billion.  President Obama’s first budget produced a budget deficit of 1.1 trillion dollars in 2010 and estimates for 2011 are around 1.65 trillion.
The last payment on September 30, 2008 that the Bush Administration made on the interest on the debt was $451 billion on the total amount of debt of $10,024,724,896,912.49. Now just two and half years later our debt is over 14 billion.
Rep. Griffin took several questions from the audience. He was asked if Washington would be looking again to raise our taxes in order to close the gap on the deficit. 
Rep Griffin responded, “Politicians spend additional revenue from taxes. Raising taxes is not the answer. Tax increases hurt much needed economic growth. History shows spending is the problem.” 
When my turn came, I asked the Congressman if he knew where the breaking point would be as far as the amount of debt our country could stand before we went bankrupt? Was it 15 trillion or 28 trillion or what? (I was thinking about when that levee would break.)
Congressman Griffin answered, “The main thing is that we need to address the problem. For instance, there were those several years ago that were saying that Fannie Mae was going to collapse in the future if changes were not made and many told us not to worry, but the bubble burst. We must turn the ship around now, and address the core problems. We have to put our grown up pants on now.” 
I also lament the fact the federal government has grown so much in relation to the state and local governments where the people are closer to their representatives and can give more input. In 1902 the federal spending was only 2.6% of the Gross National Product (GNP), and the state and local governments’ spending made up 7.7% of GNP. Last year federal spending was 24.7% of GNP.  
Max Brantley throws out raising taxes again in his article “A Progressive Budget Plan,” Arkansas Times Blog, April 25, 2011. However, if our federal spending is 6 percent higher than what we have traditionally taken in over the last 50 years (19%) then why would your solution include raising taxes. Don’t we have a spending problem?
Name: The Conspirator
Release date: April 15, 2011
Director(s): Robert Redford
Cast: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Kevin Kline, Jonathan Groff and Norman Reedus
Genre(s): Drama

Friday, Sep. 17, 2010

The Conspirator: Abraham Lincoln’s 9/11

By Richard Corliss

The news put Americans in a state of shock; they knew that, after that unprecedented day, they would never be the same. With this dastardly attack, and after the greatest loss of civilian lives the U.S. had ever known, the federal government abridged the liberties of those it suspected of giving aid and comfort to the nation’s enemies. It tried civilians in military courts, deprived them of due process, suspended the right of habeus corpus. The few lawyers to speak up in defense of the accused were overruled or drowned out by high government officials who spun fantasies into imminent threats, predicting anarchy if the suspects were not railroaded to conviction. And when it couldn’t find the real perpetrators of the attack, the government went after people who might slake the country’s thirst for righteous revenge. (See TIME’s Fall Arts Guide.)

The news, of course, was of Abraham Lincoln’s bloody death, a few days after the Civil War ended. The vindictive government officials included Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The civilian on trial in a military court was Mary Surratt, whose son John was part of the plot that killed Lincoln. Despite a spirited defense by a young war hero, Frederick Aiken, she was convicted of treason by a Commission that recommended she be sentenced to life in prison. President Johnson overruled that sentence — as well as the writ of habeus corpus Aiken had secured — and on July 7, 1865, Mary Surratt was hanged. She was the first woman to be executed by the U.S. government. (See photos of Abraham Lincoln.)

The most troubling and satisfying aspect of The Conspirator, director Robert Redford’s account of the Surratt case, is the comparison it draws between the actions taken by the Andrew Johnson administration immediately after the event of Apr. 14, 1965 — the first assassination of a U.S. President — and the Bush Administration’s actions in the months and years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In this movie, Stanton is the stand-in for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; he proposes lurid theories of revolution and, when challenged, replies, “Who’s to say these things couldn’t happen?” In a direct parallel to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq as a crowd-pleasing alternative to the fruitless search for Osama bin Laden, one Surratt sympathizer says that Stanton & Co. are trying Mary “because they can’t find John.”

This may sound like catnip to Bush-whackers and an outrage or a yawn to everybody else. But this retelling of a crucial, poorly-remembered chapter of American law and war has enough atmosphere, stalwart acting and suspense (unless you’ve read the previous two paragraphs) to appeal to the mass of moviegoers, even those indifferent to the primacy of justice over vengeance. Early next year, they’ll get a chance to see it; The Conspirator, produced by online-trading billionaire Joe Ricketts’ American Film Company, was bought for distribution by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions shortly after its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

In Redford’s starchy but provocative version, Union war hero Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is persuaded by Maryland Senator Reverdy Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) at her trial. Screenwriters James D. Solomon and Gregory Bernstein have added an Aiken girlfriend (Alexis Bledel) and a pal (Justin Long) for home cooking, but the movie story is essentially the real one. Aiken presses his case against prosecuting attorney Joseph Holt (Danny Huston), quizzes John Surratt associate Louis Weichmann (Glee‘s Jonathan Groff) and searches for helpful evidence in Mary’s boarding house, where her daughter Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) still lives.

Thirty years after his directorial debut with the Oscar-winning Ordinary People, Redford comes to this period piece with a visual style that is both stately and obvious. In Mary’s prison cell, shafts of blinding light form the window giving her the third degree. Redford swathes the proceedings in artfully desaturated color and soft-focus back-lighting — just enough to let viewers know they’re in the 19th century, not enough to distract them from the story. He might have chosen his leading player more wisely: McAvoy, the young Scottish actor who’s been impressive as a romantic proletarian (Atonement), a roguish journalist (the BBC series State of Play) and a wimp turned action hero (Wanted), plays Aiken as a bit too callow and tentative.

The rest of the cast does fine by their roles. Kline and Huston provide different sides of the same government coin: one a zealot for finding villains and scapegoats, and never mind which is which; the other as a dispassionate advocate for his client, and who at the end quotes Cicero’s maxim that, “In times of war, the law falls silent.” The shining star is Wright, who brings drama and beauty to every role just by staring into the camera. She has more here: the sullen, fiery dignity of a woman who is as sure of her allegiance to the defeated Confederacy (she calls Lincoln “your President”) as she is of her innocence — and her fate at the grasping hands of Stanton and his government gang.

Wright’s performance is the key to a movie that pulses with the sick thrill of historical discovery. The Conspirator reminds us that. when we surrendered so many of our Constitutional rights and judgments after 9/11, it wasn’t the first time. How can we be sure it will be the last?


Mike Pence and Congressional Republicans vote to defund Planned Parenthood, although Pryor and fellow Democrats defeat bill in Senate

Congressman Mike Pence Speaks at CPAC 2010

I have started a series on the differences of Mark Pryor and John Boozman on the issue of a balanced budget amendment. I have also spent a lot of time talking about the prospects of Mark Pryor’s re-election in 2014. Today I am looking at the difference between the conservatism of every member of our delegation versus Pryor’s values (which seem to be very liberal). How long can he survive in Arkansas as the state turns red? 

Jason Tolbert reported today:

One vote would have stopped federal fund to Planned Parenthood while the other would have defunded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

Both measure passed the House with the full support of all four Arkansas Congressman including Democratic Rep. Mike Ross (votes here andhere.)  However both measure failed to pass the Senate with Arkansas Senators split their votes – Sen. John Boozman voting for defunding and Sen. Mark Pryor voting against it (votes here and here).


U.S. Congressman Mike Pence’s measure on eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood passed with bipartisan support 241-185-1. But failed in the Senate on a vote of 42-58. 5 Republicans voted against Pence’s amendment.

Pence gave a speech on the House floor on why this organization, which is the largest provider taxpayer funding for abortion, should not be granted federal funds.

Not only is abortion morally wrong, but it is also morally wrong for taxpayers to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America.

In his speech on the House floor, Pence reminded all that his amendment will not cut one penny from Title X women’s health services, just to Planned Parenthood.

“Today, thanks to the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, Congress will do something about that.

“Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America.

“In 2009, Planned Parenthood made a meager 977 adoption referrals, saw 7,021 prenatal clients, and performed an unprecedented 332,278 abortions.

“During that time Planned Parenthood received $363.2 million in taxpayer dollars.

“Planned Parenthood received $1 million a day and performed nearly 1,000 abortions a day.

“H.Con.Res. 36 will put an end to the taxpayer subsidy of Planned Parenthood once and for all.

“Despite the hyperbolic rhetoric of the Left, H.Con.Res. 36 will not cut one penny from Title X women’s health services, it merely denies those funds to the largest abortion provider in the land.

“Thanks to the leadership of Speaker of the House John Boehner, the American people will be able to see who stands with taxpayers and who stands with Big Abortion.


House Passes H.R. 1473 (FY 2011 CR); H. Con. Res. 35 Defunding Obamacare; H. Con. Res. 36 Defunding Planned Parenthood

April 14, 2011, 4:10 pm, Central

Diane W. Collins

Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA)

Common Sense Statement on HR 1473

The House of Representatives had quite a busy day passing H.R. 1473, the FY 2011 CR; H. Con. Res. 35, defunding Obamacare implementation; and H. Con. Res. 36, defunding Planned Parenthood.

After debate, H.R. 1473 passed the House 260 to 167. 179 Republicans and 81 Democrats voted for the resolution while 59 Republicans and 108 Democrats voted against it. Bipartisan support was needed. Some Conservatives did not feel they could support legislation that did not fulfill their campaign promise to cut a total of $100B from FY 2011. The total cuts were $78.9B. Other Conservatives felt the Republicans were not cutting enough. (Congressmen, we are attempting to change the direction of a huge ocean liner. She is beginning to turn. Get behind the tug boat.) Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) made a great common sense statement regarding HR 1473 on the House floor this morning… “Sometimes you have the wring to mop out once or twice to clean up the mess.”

The House proceeded to H Con. Res. 35 and 36 which according to the deal cut in forming H.R. 1473 are to be allowed up or down votes on the Senate floor. The House proceeded to debate and passed both resolutions. The final vote for H. Con. Res. 35 was 240 to 185. Final vote on H. Con. Res. 36 was 241 to 185 with one present vote.


It has been 150 years since the beginning of the Civil War that started in April of 1861 at Ft Sumter.

The Old Trinity Church with the United States Capitol Dome under construction behind it.

The Old Trinity Church with the United States Capitol Dome under construction behind it.

Ledge finishes business after giving up on Fayetteville Finger (part 21)

Jason Tolbert points out today that even though it seemed like it took forever to get this process of redistricting done, Arkansas still may be the first state in the country to finish the process.  

One thing I noticed about the new congressional map is that there are 75 counties and District 3 only has 6 full counties and District 2 only has 6 full counties. That leaves all or part of 63 counties to the other two districts. Below is a portion of an article that ran in the Democrat-Gazettte on April 14, 2011.

        Our first reaction to the latest version of congressional redistricting was: It’s not perfect. Far from it. (The resemblance of the new Third District and a dog a child might make of blocks leapt at us like a bull terrier.) Our second reaction to this plan that isn’t perfect: There’s not another plan that is.
    The Third District was going to lose counties no matter what. That was a given. Northwest Arkansas has become a people magnet. But the congressman from Northwest Arkansas can’t represent twice as many people as the one from Northeast Arkansas. The courts won’t have it. One man, one vote. That’s the (entirely fair) law of the land. The Third District was just going to have to shrink if its population wasn’t going to dwarf that of the other districts.
    How accomplish that? It was the question of the month in Arkansas. After a couple of false starts, and after wisely giving up on the Fayetteville Finger, aka The Pig Trail Plan, the honorables at the Ledge came up with the best, fairest compromise they could fashion. It does happen on occasion. See the map above.
    The state’s Fourth District—the one that’s historically been represented by a congressman from South Arkansas—will shoot way up into Madison County for the next election. So it’s possible that one day, if a U.S. representative comes out of Madison County, there won’t be a single member of the state’s congressional delegation with roots in South Arkansas. That’s not a good thing.
    But the El Dorados and Texarkanas, the Magnolias and Arkadelphias, would still have a powerful advantage if they really wanted somebody in Congress from their part of the state. Besides, any congressman from Madison County who neglected his brothers and sisters below the river wouldn’t be a congressman very long. 
    (Editor’s note: Never underestimate little Madison County, which produced a vote-getter named Orval Eugene Faubus who swept this state like a broom time and again. Some of us editorial writers can remember the bad old days when the Eternal Incumbent beat us like a drum every two years.)
    Yes, the congressional district representing most of eastern Arkansas, The First, will have to take in a few more Delta counties. And it looks as though the Second will lose Yell County, home of Mattie Ross, who by now is as much a part of Arkansas legend as Hattie Caraway.
    Will these proposed changes on the congressional map help the Democrats in the next election or the Republicans? We can answer that question. At the end of November 2012.
    YOU WANT predictions? Here’s one: If Arkansas keeps on growing this decade as it’s done in the last, the state might actually pick up a fifth district after the 2020 Census. It depends on how much we grow, and how much other states do, too. Or don’t. States gain and lose congressional seats all the time, or at least after every Census. (At one time, Arkansas was big enough in proportion to the rest of the country to have seven—count ’em seven—United States representatives.)
    New York and Ohio lost two congressmen each this year. Florida picked up two. Texas picked up four. South of the (Arkansas) border, Louisiana lost one. To our north, Missouri lost one, too.


On April 29, 2011 we have another royal wedding coming up.  

The wedding of the 20th century, Prince Charles and Princess Diana seemed a fulfillment of a fairytale stuff that goes..and they lived happily ever after, but destiny decreed otherwise. The wedding of the 20th century, Prince Charles and Princess Diana seemed a fulfillment of a fairytale stuff that goes..and they lived happily ever after, but destiny decreed otherwise.

It has been 150 years since the beginning of the Civil War that started in April of 1861 at Ft Sumter.

Federal encampment on the Pamunkey River in Virginia

Federal encampment on the Pamunkey River in Virginia


Fayetteville Finger missing from latest map (Part 19)

Rob Moritz and John Lyon in their article “Panels, Senate OK redistricting plan to split five counties,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 11, 2011 wrote:



A new congressional redistricting plan advanced at both ends of the Capitol today, possibly signaling an end to a stalemate that has prolonged the regular legislative session more than a week past its scheduled April 1 recess.

The proposal would split five counties, including — to the displeasure of lawmakers from Fort Smith — Sebastian County. It also would split the city of Alma into separate congressional districts.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed the proposal in the form of Senate Bill 972 by Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville. The full Senate then suspended its rules so it could take up the bill in the same day, and the measure passed 23-12.

Meanwhile, the House state agencies committee endorsed the proposal in the form of an amendment to House Bill 1836 by Rep. Clark Hall, D-Marvell. The House is expected to take up the bill Tuesday. Both chambers are scheduled to convene at 10 a.m.

The bill is similar to a proposal by Hall nicknamed the “Fayetteville finger”, which was supported in the House but rejected by the Senate state agencies panel. Unlike that bill, however, the new proposal would keep Fayetteville in the 3rd District.

Under the proposal, Washington and Pope counties would remain in the 3rd District, while Sebastian, Crawford and Newton counties would be split between the 3rd and 4th districts. The proposal would divide the city of Alma in Crawford County between the 3rd and 4th districts.

Madison, Franklin and Johnson counties would move from 3rd District to the 4th. A small portion of Searcy County would move from the 1st District to the 3rd.

In the southeastern part of the state, Lincoln, Desha and Chicot counties would move from the 4th District to the 1st. Jefferson County would be split between the 4th and 1st districts, with Pine Bluff remaining in the 4th District.

Yell County in west-central part of the state would move from the 2nd District to the 4th….

Hall told reporters he still preferred his Fayetteville-to-the-4th plan, but “unfortunately they had three senators down there that did not see it that way, and therefore we’re having to compromise and Sebastian County is receiving (the effect of) their lack of action.”

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the governor considered the proposal “a good compromise.”

House Speaker Robert S. Moore Jr., D-Arkansas City, said the Legislature could wrap up work on congressional redistricting and formally adjourn the regular session Tuesday, two weeks earlier than planned.

Lawmakers were to have come back April 27 to formally end their business.


It appears that this may be over now, but then again Jason Tolbert indicated that there still is possibly some uncertainty in the air:

The full Senate approved the map 23 to 12 with a hodgepodge of Republicans and Democrats on both sides on the vote.  The House approve the “motion to amend” by a 63 to 19 vote which appeared to be a bit more Republican heavy on the no votes but also saw many support it.  The House still will vote on the actual engrossed bill tomorrow but today vote should be a good indication. (However, I am hearing that might not turn out to be the case.)

There are those that are not happy with this new arrangement and they say that a community of interest has been split. On the Arkansas Times Blog the person using the username “Tusk” noted:

“Max, Sebastian County isn’t in Northwest Arkansas. It’s in the Arkansas River Valley, and south of the river at that, where the Ouachita Mountains are, not the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. There’s no “community of interest” between Sebastian County and Northwest Arkansas.”

Max Brantley responded:


You haven’t been listening to all the speeches claiming an unbroken community of interest from Sebastian north to the Missouri line.

Lynch: Fayetteville Finger could have quietly gone through (Part 18)(Famous musicians from Arkansas series continued)


Jason Tolbert reported that Rep. Uvalde Lindsey  (D-Fayetteville) prefers the map know as the Luker Amendment and does not mix words regarding his opposition to moving Fayetteville into AR4. Here is a clip of an interview Jason did with Rep. Lindsey below.

Pat Lynch suggested today in his article “The political bog,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 11, 2011, that the Democrats in the State Legislature could have quietly pushed through the Fayetteville Finger without much attention if they had been united. He states:

Two super-sized and ominous ongoing news events dominate the attention of those who keep up with such distasteful things. One is the General Assembly’s stumbling attempt at congressional redistricting and the second item concerns whether the national government will keep running.

Both of these little dramas demonstrate the consequences of getting bogged down in a political mess. Many Arkansas lawmakers would surely like to take a mulligan on redrawing the congressional districts. For our reps in Washington, there is no escape from the budget showdown…

Had legislative Democrats enjoyed any semblance of party discipline, the “Fayetteville finger” might have been pushed through with minimal opposition and swiftly enacted. Nobody would have noticed-except a few Fayetteville malcontents.

It is one of the deeper mysteries of these confusing times as to why Fayetteville folks, good and reasonable people, would so detest the possibility of being represented in Congress by a Democrat. If that is what they want, let it be.

The situation is so unsettled that it seems almost every lawmaker has developed a personal redistricting map. This is what representative government is all about, these occasional fits of total chaos.

Challengers in the 2012 election will be able to use that “Fayetteville finger” against any incumbent Democrat, and potential voters will have some sort of foggy idea of what it means. All they need to know is that the finger is bad. Democrats proposed it, so all Democrats are bad.


I think that Pat Lynch misses the boat on this one. It has been shown before that 82% of the people polled in Fayetteville opposed the move to the fourth. That is hardly a “a few Fayetteville malcontents.”

It was completely ruled out of the question by Max Brantley and considered a joke when it first came to his ears. Liberal John Brummett is the columnist who gave it the name of the “Fayetteville Finger.”

I just don’t see how it could have been shoved through without causing a stink.

Jason Tolbert posted today at 2pm:

Another day of redistricting and of course another map to look at.  Here is what the newest map that is still being hammered up might look like… maybe (blogger’s render – subject to change.)

Meetings are currently taken place and by all appearances some of the them in Gov. Beebe’s office primarily with Democratic legislative leaders to hammer out the details.  I spoke to several Republicans that have still not seen the map. (HERE IS THE NEW MAP BELOW)

Here is the Luker map that got voted down the other day. (from Tolbert Report)



In my series of famous Arkansas entertainers I come to someone that people may not recognize his name, but behind the scenes he has written some of the top hits. He grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Arkansas Baptist High School. He now lives in California and Linda Caillouet has written about him on several occasions in her Paper Trails articles in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Today she did again in her article “Arkansans abound on TV, Music,” April 11, 2011. She noted:

MUSIC MAN: Little Rock native David Hodges continues making music long after he left the locally rooted Grammy-winning rock band Evanescence.

One of his most recent projects? Collaborating with country star Carrie Underwood on the lead single off the soundtrack for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, released on DVD last Friday. The single “There’s a Place for Us” was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Original Song category.

The cut, available exclusively on iTunes, has sold more than 80,000 since its release last November. To view a video of the song, go to

Other artists with whom Hodges has worked as a songwriter and producer include Kelly Clarkson, Reba McEntire, Daughtry, Celine Dion and Adam Lambert.

Fayetteville Finger again? Maybe another plan or Court? (Part 17)

John Burris on Redistricting (from Tolbert Report):

I watched “Arkansas Week” and I saw Rob Moritz of the Arkansas  News Bureau suggest that it was very realistic that if the state legislators don’t get together soon that this could end up in court.

In his article today “Lawmakers return to work on congressional redistricting,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 11, 2011 noted:

More than a week past a scheduled April 1 recess, the Legislature’s inability to agree on a map for setting new district boundaries based on the 2010 U.S…

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to convene at 1 p.m.

Each chamber has approved a redistricting plan, but neither proposal has come to a vote in the other chamber. The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs rejected the House plan once and the panel’s House counterpart rejected the Senate plan.

If either proposal is rejected a second time in committee, it dies.

Lawmakers took Friday off to regroup. New proposals could be introduced today…

Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, said a compromise is possible — and preferable to a federal alternative.

In 2001, after the Texas Legislature failed to adopt a redistricting plan, a three-judge federal court panel drew that state’s congressional district boundaries.

Gov. Mike Beebe could call a special session at some point if the Legislature does not meet its state constitutional obligation to redraw congressional districts before lawmakers adjourn the regular session April 27. But Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Friday the governor would not do so unless there is a clear consensus for a redistricting plan.

A week ago, the Senate state agencies committee rejected a House-approved HB1322, a plan dubbed the “Fayetteville finger” because it would extend the 4th District of southern Arkansas narrowly up into the northwest part of the state to claim Fayetteville from the 3rd District…

I think the goal (of the House Democrats) is to have only one option, and that is the ‘Fayetteville finger,’” said Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, the House minority leader. “I think that’s not a good option.”

Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, said several new maps were being circulated by lawmakers late last week and some could be on the Senate state agencies committee agenda today.

One map Baker has drawn up attempts to address concerns by some southeastern Arkansas lawmakers who want to keep Ashley County in the 4th District and some in Northwest Arkansas who want to keep Madison County out of the southern Arkansas district.

“The good thing about this is, we are starting to get a really good feel for where everybody’s point of contention is,” Baker said. “So, once you know where the problems are you can dive back in and try to mitigate those problems.”


Jason Tolbert points out in his latest article “A partisan point of view,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 10, 2011,   that at times things did get a little partisan when the Governor and the House went at each other over tax cuts earlier. However, I like to keep things in perspective. Tolbert is right when he compares the level of conflict to the past when the Democrats controled commanding majorities, but we still are getting along much better than other states. Take a look at how Rob Moritz finished his article with an excellent point made by Dr. Barth:

Lawmakers and political analysts note that while partisan differences may be playing a role in the state Legislature’s redistricting stalemate, other states face far deeper divides.

Jay Barth, political science professor at Hendrix College in Conway, pointed to Louisiana as an example.

Arkansas’ southern neighbor is losing a congressional district and its Legislature must redraw six districts from the current seven, balancing partisan, racial, regional and incumbent interests, he said.

Louisiana is among 18 states that are either adding or losing congressional seats. Texas is adding the most, four, while New York and Ohio each are losing two.

“Compared to what you are seeing in other states, what is going on in Arkansas is minor,” Barth said.

Jason Tolbert posted today “The two chambers seemed at an impasse last week but I hear that a conscious is building around a map.  Not sure which one…” 

I am hoping things get worked out so it does not have to go to the courts. We will just have to wait and see.


Profiles of State Lawmakers. Today is State Representative Gary Stubblefield of Ft Smith District 67.

Click on people’s faces in the photo to tag them.


Article below when Gary Stubblefield announced that he was running for office.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010 11:33 AM CST






Western Arkansas dairy farmer and former Razorback football player Gary Stubblefield announces intention to run on the Republican ticket for Arkansas House of Representatives, District 67.

Long time area dairy farmer and former Razorback football player, Gary Stubblefield, has announced his intentions to seek District 67 Arkansas House of Representative seat. Stubblefield, who played for the Razorbacks from 1969-1971, studied Pre-Veterninary Medicine at the University of Arkansas. Stubblefield married his wife, Kathi, in 1974. They have two children, Joshua and Amber. Stubblefield has served on the Franklin County Quorum Court, County Line School Board, and was appointed by Former Gov. Mike Huckabee to serve on the Milk Advisory Board. “I want to restore common sense back in our government, along with integrity, accountability, and economy in government while protecting the freedom that we have been blessed with,” said Stubblefield, “Our freedom should never be taken for granted.”

According to Stubblefield, a Republican, he wants to represent the citizens of District 67 and their values, and is willing to listen and learn, without being intimidated or bullied to support anything that goes against keeping taxes down, that conflicts with promoting less government intervention in Arkansans lives, or that compromises his Pro-life values. “It is important that we have a Representative who will do what is best for our community, not what others tell him is best for our community. We need someone who will vote for Western Arkansas values,” said Stubblefield.

He is also dedicated to supporting law enforcement and improving the resources and opportunities for students, teachers, administrators, and support personnel on a local level in education. “I believe that we as a nation must return to some of the old things that made this country great; values such as integrity, honor in public office, economy in government, and individual liberty. Sebastian and Franklin counties are great places to live in Western Arkansas, and I hope the people in District 67 will help me make it even better,” said Stubblefield.

Gary and his wife Kathi are members of First Baptist Church in Branch, AR where Gary teaches Sunday school. Gary is currently serving as Vice Chairman of Franklin County FSA COC.

Alternatives to Fayetteville Finger out there? (part 16)(Billy Bob Thornton)

I certainly hope there are some alternatives to the Fayetteville Finger out there. Jason Tolbert reported that there seems to be an impasse.

As predicted, the House State Agencies rejected both the Senate compromise map (linked here) passed yesterday with 20 votes and the so called “Luker Amendment” (linked here) named after its author Sen. Luker…

“We can’t have negotiations when the Fayetteville Finger is on the table,” insisted House Republican Minority Leader John Burris. “As long as that map is out there and being discussed as a serious possibility – not only as a serious possibility but by making it a serious possibility by by passing the committee and going straight to the floor vote, until that is ruled out I think negotiations will be very difficult because it is such an irrational position.”

Both the House and the Senate have adjourned until Monday…

Rep. Uvalde Lindsey  (D-Fayetteville) prefers the map know as the Luker Amendment and does not mix words regarding his opposition to moving Fayetteville into AR4.

“I think (the Luker map) is by far the of all the maps I have seen the best example of a bipartisan cooperation to give the people of this state a Congressional district that they can have confidence in,” said Lindsey.

Lindsey said he believes the House committee’s rejection of the Senate compromise and the Luker Amendment was an effort to try to persuade the Senate to pull the Fayetteville Finger out of committee with 18 votes which he warns will create a backlash.

Roby Brock in his article, Legislature nearly finished with session businees, April, 9, 2011, Arkansas News Bureau, noted:

The 88th General Assembly completed all but one task by a self-imposed April 1 deadline. State lawmakers passed a series of major bills aimed at tax relief, prison reform and potential highway improvements. They also approved a $4.6 billion balanced budget.

Legislators have yet to settle a once-a-decade challenge of redrawing congressional district lines. Several failed attempts have been unable to garner support from the House and Senate. Lawmakers will regroup next week to continue work on the effort. They will not officially adjourn until April 27.


Another famous Arkansan below.

Billy Bob Thornton

Inducted in 1996

(b. 1955) – A native of Hot Springs, Thornton was featured on the television series “Hearts A’Fire.” He directed and starred in “Slingblade” a movie he filmed in Benton. He received two Oscar nominations for the film, one for Best Actor and one for Best Screenplay, which he won. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1999 for “A Simple Plan.” Thornton has since gone on to star in “Monster’s Ball” (2001), as Davy Crockett in “The Alamo” (2004), “Bad Santa” (2003), and “Astronaut Farmer” (2007).

Fayetteville Finger gone, Rep Luker’s amendment to pass? (Part 15)(Mary Steenburgen, Famous Arkansan)


April 6th, 2011 by Jason

Jason Tolbert has pointed to Representative Jim Luker of Monroe County and his amendment as the latest. The funny thing is that wife Jill Sawyer Hatcher had a great grandfather named “Stephen Decatur Sawyer” who served as the Representative from Monroe County in both the 1925 and 1927 sessions of the General Assembly. In fact, his granddaughter, Mary Anne Salmon, is the current Senator from North Little Rock.

Sawyer was a Baptist preacher and farmer. I never met him, but I grew to love and respect his son L.R. “Tom” Sawyer who I have written about before.

What does this new map from Representative Luker do? Tolbert comments:

 Ashley County stays in AR4 (which gets several south Arkansas Democrats on board); Pope County stays in tact (bringing on board Rep. Lea) but is moved to AR4 along with Johnson and Yell.  Logan is the only county split between AR4 and AR3.

Not a bad map. Relatively smooth edges. Only one county split. No fingers as best I can tell.

My sources says this will likely be introduced in the House State Agencies Committee as an amendment to the map passed today by the Senate.  This one has a better chance at 11 committee votes which currently appears to be the biggest hurdle in the House.


I think that Tolbert is right in his assessment. Hopefully this will be the last hurdle.

I am doing a series on Famous Arkansans. Here is some info on a wonderful lady from North Little Rock.

Donald Sutherland and Diana Ross presenting Mary Steenburgen with the Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Melvin and Howard” at the 53rd Academy Awards® in 1981.

Mary Steenburgen

Inducted in 1996

 (b. 1953) – This Academy Award-winning actress from North Little Rock was discovered by Jack Nicholson. She has starred in “Ragtime” (1981), Woody Allen’s “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” (1982), “Parenthood” (1989), “Back to the Future III” (1990), “The Butcher’s Wife” (1991) and many other movies. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Melvin and Howard” in 1981. She produced and starred in “The End of the Line” (1987), a movie filmed in Arkansas. Steenburgen also starred, along with her husband, actor Ted Danson, in the television miniseries “Gulliver’s Travels” (1996) and the television series “Ink” (1997). She last appeared in the television show “Joan of Arcadia.”

Craig Ferguson welcomes to the show Mary Steenburgen who is promoting Step Brothers.

You will notice the interview seen above, Mary mentions how touchy her husband Ted  is about his bald spot. I was in the Little Rock Airport about a year ago and I was getting money out of the Bank of America ATM and I turned around to leave and both Ted and Mary were standing right behind me. Ted was fumbling around with his wallet and the first thing I noticed was his bald spot.


Fayetteville Finger may be gone and replaced by new map (part 13)(Jerry Van Dyke, Famous Arkansan)


Jason Tolbert just reported:

Sen. Steve Harrelson (D-Texarkana)  tweets this picture of what could be the new map that the Senate will consider.  He says this leaves Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and Russellville all in the third district.

The liberal Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times Blog:

 A Senate committee will meet at 4 p.m. today on what may be a compromise redistricting plan. Rep. Steve Harrelson has distributed the map above and says it or something like it will be under consideration. It still features a “finger” that juts up into Washington and Madison Counties and also takes a part of Sebastian County, but the cities of Fort Smith and Fayetteville and Russellville in Pope County remain in the 3rd District. The map is pretty much a screw job to 2nd District Democrats, adding Hot Springs Village, part of Pope and the Republican end of Lonoke County while giving up Democratic Yell County. The 1st District is a true Delta district, thought to be friendlier to Democrats, but that could prove wishful thinking. In all, the Republican howling — aided by unhappy Fayetteville Democrats — has produced a map much friendlier for Republicans. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, Democrats may have been chasing ghost voters long gone anyway. I’ll leave what I wrote earlier, because I think I was on the mark in predicting the outcome. 

We will have to wait and see if this will fly or not.


I know that Jerry Van Dyke is a frequent vistor to Arkansas. I found this unique video of him on youtube from a  1963 Tonight Show visit.

Jerry Van Dyke might have been more famous than his older brother, Dick, had he taken the role as Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island he was offered. Instead, he turned this role down citing that the series was one of the worst things he ever read and started the series My Mother the Car. This show, about a man who discovers his talking 1928 Porter Flivver is his dead mother reincarnate, only ran for one season and has become known as one of the worst shows in television history. I think it’s a playful bit of television kitsch.

Another role he turned down was the role of George Utley on Newhart. This role was written for him but eventually went to Tom Poston. The show would have taken a whole new direction had Van Dyke taken the role.

Jerry Van Dyke was born in Danville, Illinois. He began performing in High School and soon moved on to stand up. It was his brother who gave him his big television break with a guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1962). He was soon hired to host Picture This (1963) and as comic relief on the Judy Garland Show (1963).

He was cast for various other film and television projects until he got his next “big break” playing Luther Van Dam on Coach, the role he is probably most remembered for. Luther was the lovable, cranky, but hilariously funny assistant coach to Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson.

More recently he was found again guest starring on his brother’s show, Diagnosis Murder. This time, he also got to guest star with his nephew, Barry Van Dyke. Television is a family activity for the Van Dykes.

So, why the heck is he a famous Arkansas local? He and his wife, Shirley, once owned and operated a 500-acre ranch in Saline County. He also owned an entire block in Benton which housed “Jerry Van Dyke’s Soda Shoppe & Royal Theater,” a candy shop and an antique store. I’ve been informed that the soda shop has been closed down and the Royal Theater is now under new management but you can still see the block that was once Van Dyke heaven! If you were a Van Dyke fan (any of them) you could see all sorts of photos of Jerry and his famous relatives in the Soda Shoppe. It also housed Coach memorabilia and other cute items. The menu featured items named after some of his characters and great prices. It’s just a fun place to eat and get a great soda. Formerly located at 117 S. Market.

Has Fayetteville Finger been withdrawn? (part 12)

My sons Hunter and Wilson (on right) went to Yosemite with our friend Sherwood Haisty Jr. (on left) from March 21 to March 27th.


 State Rep Clark Hall is questioned by Senator Gilbert Baker concerning the Fayetteville Finger. (From Jason Tolbert)

John Brummett in his article “Legislators have their ups and downs,” Arkansas News Bureau, April 5, 2011 stated:

arrowupsmallState Rep. Clark Hall — This old-style East Arkansas Democratic politician did actually handle the gerrymander bill in the House, so he deserves an arrow, too.

arrowupsmall State Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville — Yes, up, for the simple reason that he went against his local chamber of commerce and his local commentariat to support the Pig Trail Gerrymander, and, I figure, will survive to get re-elected, or at least renominated.

At the time Brummett wrote this article it looked like the gerrymander would go through with the 18 votes the Democrats thought they had in the Senate. Brummett was praising Greg Lading for standing up to Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. However, I think it is rather stupid to fight for something that  81% of the people in your district oppose and that is exactly what he did when he voted for the Fayetteville Finger!!!

Max Brantley reported a few minutes ago in the Arkansas Times Blog:

The state Senate recessed immediately after reconvening this morning so closed-door negotiations could continue on a congressional redistricting map.

Likely outcome: 1st District somewhat more hopeful for Democrats; 2nd District stronger for the Republican; 3rd District as usual; 4th District, without Fayetteville friendlier to Republicans, particularly when DINO Mike Ross leaves the seat open to run for governor.

Let the angry Democrats of Fayetteville cheer if the plan keeps them under Boss Womack’s wing. But let them also know that Republicans are chortling. They’ve been handed a political tool that they’re swinging gleefully and either alternative is acceptable to them. They make hay if the original Democratic plan prevails. If the Republican/Fayetteville opposition prevails, they will have made it harder to elect a Democrat in the 4th in the post-Ross future. No need to worry about a candidate from a population center like Fayetteville.

Jason Tolbert notes:

Apparently there are lots of state legislative huddles going on.  Will they emerge with a new map and how long with that take? It’s anybody’s guess at this point.

Noted – No map has been released/leaked but glimpses seen by roaming reporter’s eyes show one with smoother edges and no fingers


One can only hope that the politicians have moved on from considering the Fayetteville Finger. What was first considered a joke to Max Brantley quickly became wise Democratic politics to split 7 counties in order to get as many Democrats out of the 3rd District as possible. I hope this is the last of the dozen posts have I have to cover on this.


Free-lance columnist Rex Nelson is the president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities. He’s also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried. com.

Rex Nelson wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 2, 2011 a great article called “Arkansas Bucket List.” The readers of his blog came up with a list of things you must do at least once in your life to be considered a well-rounded Arkansan. Nelson asked others to add their suggestions at his website. I am going through the list slowly.

 1. Search for the Gurdon Light late one night.

Wikipedia reports:
The Gurdon Light is an unexplained light, said to be of supernatural origin, found in modern day Gurdon, Arkansas folklore. It is a series of unknown phenomena which occur in a wooded area by railroad tracks, appears to observers as a light or lights hovering in the air. The light has been featured on local media and on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. The location is still in use by the railroad and is one of the most popular Halloween attractions in the area.[1][2][3][4][4]The light has been ascribed various colors, ranging from blue, green or white, to orange, and has been described as bobbing around as if being from a cord. Its location varies within a select geographic area and witnesses have described it appearing at various times of the day or night.

According to Lauren folklore, the light originates from a lantern of a railroad worker who was killed when he fell into the path of a train. The legend states that the man’s head was separated from his body and was never found, and that the light that people see comes from his lantern as he searches for it. Other variations state that the light is a lantern carried by railway foreman William McClain, who was killed in the vicinity during a confrontation with one of his workers at the time of the great depression. The lights are believed by some to be from passing cars on the highway off in the distance which looks like small floating lights that flash off in the distance. However, this highway opened in 1974. The light has been reported seen and spoken of since the Great Depression. .[1][2][3][4]

My sons Hunter (on left) and Wilson (on right) went to Yosemite with our friend Sherwood Haisty Jr.  from March 21 to March 27th