by Max Brantley
A quick morning highlights report:
* ARKANSAS TRAVELERS: Lindsey Millar reports in this week's Times on the secretive goings-on at the Arkansas Travelers baseball club, which recently went through an unexplained management upheaval. Little Rock lawyer Russ Meeks runs the club like a private preserve, answering to no one. (I ran into this back when I tried to get info on Bill Valentine's abrupt departure as Traveler GM.) Given the significant public bounty that supports this organization - the taxpayer-provided stadium - more transparency is called for, such as details of the hiring of Meeks' son by the organization.
* HOT SHOOTING: No Arkansas angle here, but I'm in awe of this basketball news. I thought hitting 30 in a city league game once was pretty good stuff in my basketball playing days. Hardly a warmup for Jack Taylor of Grinnell, who scored 138. Yes, 138.
* ALSO ON THE ARGENTA SIDE OF THE RIVER: My column this week refreshes the memory of people like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial writer who sang the praises of Rep. Tracy Steele in endorsing him for mayor of North Little Rock in next week's runoff (early voting is underway). Steele's past isn't a recommendation for his being the chief executive of a major city, but indications are that voters may see it differently. Steele has been a far more effective campaigner than Joe Smith, top administrative employee during the tenure of outgoing Mayor Pat Hays.
* THE DECLINING LOTTERY: One small point about the various headlines that say the Arkansas Lottery will "go broke" at its current rate of scholarship payouts. Not really. The lottery will be played. Money will be available. It just will be far less than imagined and the scholarship awards will continue to be ratcheted downward - as college costs rise - to match the income. In time, the scholarships will be an increasingly small part of college costs. Welcome, no doubt, Durango, but small. You heard it here first.
* THE OBAMA AFTERMATH: Go ahead. Admit it. You Obama voters are secretly chortling at the angry, racist, occasionally homophobic and otherwise unhinged letters flowing into the Democrat-Gazette letters page about the president's re-election. I am tempted to write in with the all-purpose line from Republicans after the Supreme Court handed George W. Bush the presidency:
Get over it!
Having confidently planned a victory dance, Beth Cox had trouble grasping the magnitude of the Republican defeat. It astonished her that even "Southern-values Virginia" had voted for President Obama.
Fox News pundits and right-wing talk radio had her persuaded that even historically Democratic-leaning states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would support the GOP. "And Colorado?" she said. "Who the heck is living in Colorado? Do they want drugs, dependency, indulgence? Don't they remember what this country is about?"
It's interesting that Cox sees President Obama, personally the straightest-shooter to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter, in such terms. But then to the married, 44 year-old mother of two teenage daughters, the election was less a political event than an extension of what she calls her "Godly life" — an existence theologically and sociologically limited to persons who look and believe exactly like her.
Everybody outside that circle strikes her as suspect; Democrats as moochers, deadbeats and enemies of God.
It's a mindset straight out of John Bunyan's 17th century Puritan allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, as annotated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Some of her friends, she told Post, have concluded that only God can save America from itself.
"God put us in the desert," she said. "We are in the desert right now."
Actually, she's in a white-flight suburb of Nashville (which voted for Obama, like many Southern cities). Everybody in the South knows somebody like Beth Cox, a perfectly decent, intelligent woman whose spiritual home is the Southern Baptist mega-church of which her husband is pastor — one of those sprawling edge-of-town affairs with 7,000 members, auditorium-seating, volleyball courts, a children's center and a "techno-lit recreation room for teenagers."
Essentially theological Walmarts, such churches have grown up across the region to replace the small towns Southern suburbanites grew up in. Alas, most are turning out to be even more class- and ethnically-stratified.
Unless she makes an effort, a woman like Cox never has to deal with anybody she doesn't agree with on most personal and political issues. The women's prayer group she leads sounds like a meeting of sorority sisters striving to win a Best Mother/Most Happily Married competition whose existence is never acknowledged.
Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who's the holiest Mommy of all?