by Max Brantley
Another desultory morning from the jet-lagged Arkansas Blog: Nonetheless:
* MARCH MADNESS: The Arkansas House and Senate played a basketball game for charity last night. The House, helped by former Globetrotter Fred Smith, won. Brian Chilson has posted a mess of photos on Facebook.
* PRESIDENT OBAMA IN ISRAEL: The president's trip to the eternally troubled Middle East tops the national news today.
* THE WAR ON WOMEN: Another reminder of Saturday's 3 p.m. rally at the state Capitol to protest the legislature's stripping of constitutional rights from Arkansas women. Details here.
* LITTLE ROCK AIRPORT AUDIT: Here's the full Legislative Audit report discussed by the Little Rock Airport Commission yesterday that primarily rehashed all the questionable spending practices (sloppy but not fraudulent the audit seemed to conclude) that Leslie Newell Peacock unearthed for the Times subsequent to our discovery of a $40,000 contribution to the private school football field project at the school attended by a child of airport director Ron Mathieu. The Airport Commission had previously taken some accountability tightening steps. Yesterday, it decided Mathieu and others should no longer be reimbursed for first class travel to airport business. Bumptious Commissioner Tom Schueck still objects that the publicly governed airport should run like a private business, where executives are cosseted in high fashion. He doesn't get it, as usual. I've got no problem with Mathieu using mileage programs for ticket upgrades like the rest of us schlubs. But do they really need to rent multiple cars on Hawaiian convention trips or use airport credit cards for cash advances for incidental expenses, as the audit pointed out? Of course not.
* THE NEW POPE: More interesting reporting on Pope Francis in the New York Times. It details how he suggested the church in Argentina back civil unions for gay couples as a way to defuse controversy over the country's move to approval of same-sex marriage.
Few would suggest that Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is anything but a stalwart who fully embraces the church’s positions on core social issues. But as he faced one of the most acute tests of his tenure as head of Argentina’s church, he showed another side as well, supporters and critics say: that of a deal maker willing to compromise and court opposing sides in the debate, detractors included.
The approach stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who spent 25 years as the church’s chief doctrinal enforcer before becoming pope, known for an unbending adherence to doctrinal purity. Francis, by comparison, spent decades in the field, responsible for translating such ideals into practice in the real world, sometimes leading to a different approach.
* THE IRAQ WAR ANNIVERSARY: Somebody quick mail this Charles Pierce commentary to Tom Cotton, who, with the likes of Dick Cheney and Richard Perle, is among the dead-enders still extolling how wonderful the Iraq war was.