Quote of the week
"This report has a stamp of authority and breadth to it ... This simply documents what we've really already known intuitively."
— Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson concurring with the Senate Intelligence Committee's damning conclusions on the use of torture by the CIA. In 2013, Hutchinson led a bipartisan task force that published its own harsh findings that the United States has indeed engaged in torture. Other Arkansas Republicans were not as thoughtful as Hutchinson; Sen.-elect Tom Cotton said the new Senate report was "full of lies."
Packing in Walmart
A shopper in Searcy was twice booted out of a Walmart for openly wearing his pistol in the store. He and other pro-gun activists say open carry is entirely legal in Arkansas, due to a 2013 bill that smuggled ambiguous language into the code regulating firearms. It's a question that will remain unresolved until a court or the legislature clarifies the statute. In the meantime, Walmart itself is staying judiciously neutral. "There is no policy against customers carrying their handgun in our stores as long as he/she is legally permitted by their state to carry the handgun," said the company.
Out with a whimper
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has done some commendable things with the office — pursuing Exxon after the Mayflower oil spill, speaking truth on capital punishment — but he made an indefensible move last week by joining a lawsuit to challenge President Obama's recent executive order on immigration. His reasoning? Leslie Rutledge, his successor as AG in January, asked him to do so. How polite. We're sure that courtesy, not an opportunistic glance at November's election results, is behind McDaniel's reasoning.
An 11-year-old girl from Bryant made news by swiping $10,000 from her grandmother's sock drawer and hailing a Little Rock cab ... to Jacksonville, Fla. She was planning on visiting a boy she met on vacation; the cabbie accepted a $2,500 fare ($1,300 up front) to make the drive. The girl made it to the outskirts of Atlanta before police located her, and she was returned to her frantic family unharmed.
No, no, no
The U.S. House of Representatives passed, with plenty of bipartisan support, a spending measure last Thursday to avoid a government shutdown. Among the 67 House Republicans who voted against Speaker John Boehner's bill was Rep. Tom Cotton, who wants to avoid funding the federal government until the White House reverses course on its immigration policy. Expect more such absurdity in the Senate.
Friends in high places
Amendment 3, passed by Arkansas voters in November, places some tough new restrictions on gifts to legislators. The lobbyist community is still trying to suss out the new landscape: Free meals and open bars for individual members are forbidden, but what about buying a buffet for the whole legislative body, as many lobbyists are doing right now? As long as all 135 members are invited, it may be within the letter of the law, albeit certainly not the spirit.
Or what about gaining access to a corporate-rented skybox at a Garth Brooks concert at Verizon Arena? Pictures of legislators doing just that cropped up on Facebook over the weekend. Even if those lawmakers bought the high-price tickets with their own cash, there's still the smell of a favor being extended: Such tickets aren't made available to the general public, and annual corporate rental of a skybox costs money.
Eugene Ellison, by the numbers
Last week, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a wrongful death suit against two Little Rock cops who shot an unarmed man to death in his own home in 2010.
67 - The age of Eugene Ellison when he was killed by Little Rock Police Officer Donna Lesher. She and another officer were working off-duty security when they saw that Ellison's door was open, entered the apartment to investigate and got an angry response from the older man.
4 - The number of police on the scene when Lesher fired into Ellison's apartment from the balcony outside his door. According to the police report, Ellison was swinging his cane in a threatening manner.
6'1" - Ellison's height, pertinent because the trajectories of the two bullets that struck his chest traveled front-to-back at a downward angle. Lesher is 5-foot-6. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say this casts doubt on her story that Ellison was standing upright and advancing when she fired the shots.
19 - The number of years that Ellison's son, Troy, has served on the LRPD. Sergeant Troy Ellison is one plaintiff in the case; the other, his brother Spencer, is a former LRPD detective. Troy says he's suffered employment retaliation due to the ongoing litigation, and his lawyers have written the U.S. Justice Department to request an investigation of the LRPD's internal practices. The letter also asserts that Eugene Ellison's death is part of a larger pattern of excessive police force against African-American residents of Little Rock.