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Twined fantasies doom the poor

Watching the predictable machinations of the Arkansas State Legislature has become tiresome. Whenever the state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens are concerned, Republican lawmakers invariably see how close they can get to unconstitutionally punitive restrictions and mandates.

Echoes of pandemics close to home

There were a pair of stories this week that reported on major public health issues potentially affecting Arkansas. The first of these by Arkansas News Bureau reports on an announcement by Arkansas state health officials. In it Arkansas health officials said Tuesday the Shelby County Health Department in Tennessee has confirmed six cases of measles in the Memphis area and said some Arkansans may have been exposed to the infectious disease. The second ANB story reflects the Arkansas Department of Health report of a fourth Arkansan infected with the Zika virus, that has been spiraling globally.

Parties dangerously ignoring context

If you were to visit the National Archives in Washington, D.C. you might pass by the 1935 Robert Aitken sculpture, “The Future.” The piece is comprised of a seated female figure with a large open book on her lap. It is part of a pair of sculptures that flank the Archives entrance. The other is “The Past” a male figure, also seated, but the book he holds is closed.

Population number bear reflection

A recent story published in The Commercial details one of the most serious issues facing the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County: population loss. The county and city have been in decline for almost three decades. Peaking at just over 57,000 in 1970 (and hovering there until 1990) the region has seen one of the most precipitous population slides in the nation.

Steering the national will

One hundred-fifty years ago this week, Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth mortally wounded U. S. Pres. Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater at Washington, DC. History well records the sequence of events: Booth’s furtive move into Lincoln’s private theater box; the fatal shot to the back of the head; the assassin’s leg-breaking leap to the stage and his infamous cry of “sic semper tyrannis!”

Protect them to protect us

On this day in 1866, the cause of animal welfare took a giant leap forward. New York philanthropist and diplomat, Henry Bergh, founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Bergh’s interest in protecting animals began while he served as the U. S. representative to the court of Russian Tsar Alexander II. While at this post, Bergh often saw the Russian peasantry mercilessly beat their work horses with whips and knouts.

Tesla vs. dealers: Let buyers decide

America is the land of the free - unless your idea of freedom includes a right to build cars and sell them directly to the public, rather than through a third party. For those who try to do that, America morphs into a semi-feudal system of state-law trade barriers and bureaucracy whose ostensible purpose is to protect consumers but whose actual one is to protect incumbent holders of automobile retail franchises, as expert testimony confirmed at a Federal Trade Commission conference on the subject in January.

Putting words in someone’s mouth

I recently saw a silly cartoon that gave me an idea for this column. The first frame showed two siblings sitting on the floor amidst piles of torn paper. The second frame showed the older of the two with a comic bubble showing a lightbulb above his head. He then began sticking bits of paper in the younger one’s mouth, saying, “Chew! Chew! Swallow!” at the younger’s loud cry, the mother rushes in and asks, “WHAT’S going on here?” The older calmly answers, “Aw, nothing, I’m just puttin’ words in Timmy’s mouth.”

Modern privateers still influential

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress issued a document entitled, “Instructions to Commanders of Private Ships or vessels of War, which shall have Commissions of Letters of Marque and Reprisal, authorizing them to make Captures of British Vessels and Cargoes.” This declaration gave the captains of privately owned commercial ships the right to attack and plunder British ships without any legal consequences. Thus began the long American tradition of private military contractors.

Pacts old, new and irrelevant

Twenty-five years ago today, the Warsaw Pact came to an end. Formed as a military counterpoint to the West’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the original assembly included the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Albania.

Council trapped under logical rubble

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this point in the situation, but recent efforts by certain members of the Pine Bluff City Council to construct a false victim narrative around Garland Trice; and a concomitant effort to vilify Danny Bradshaw (dba Mr. Brick) really strain credulity. At the most recent meeting of the council, members Steven Mays, George Stepps and Thelma Walker each exhibited a rationale that borders on delusional.

Hutchinson denies huddled masses

Many opponents of so-called trickle-down economics hold that the much vaunted benefits to America’s wealthiest individuals never quite flow to the bottom. Interestingly, data from a 2015 report by the Urban Institute suggests that the mechanism does in fact work, just not in the way proponents would like to believe.

SCOTUS history against GOP

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Republican party has waged a rhetorical war against any nomination President Barack Obama might make for a successor. As of this week, that nominee has a name: Merrick Garland. While Garland’s previous vetting en route to the Federal Appellate bench was strongly bi-partisan and without controversy, his road to the Supreme Court may be yet more rocky.

For Hollingsworth;for progress

As the March 22 primary runoff elections are fast approaching — and early voting already underway — we urge voters to mark their calendar and help the city continue its recent progress. To this point, we heartily endorse incumbent Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth came in as a successful business person but a political outsider. Four years ago that’s exactly what this community needed. Hollingsworth, having been hardened in the forge of Pine Bluff politics, is the one person who can continue to facilitate the progress we are now experiencing.

Obama’s foreign policy success

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama’s foreign policy gets no love. Republicans portray it as weak, timid, inept and rudderless. Hillary Clinton has faulted him for the rise of the Islamic State and lacking a strategy. Bernie Sanders doesn’t rush to Obama’s defense.

ADC should keep facility here

As recently reported in The Commercial, the Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center may be relocated to West Memphis. As the facility employs 138 people, area residents are necessarily concerned about the economic and human impact this move poses for the people of Jefferson County.

Yet another gross “Mis-Stepps”

Those who suffer from anxiety disorders should probably avoid the Pine Bluff City Council meetings. While the electorate recently corrected a couple of long-standing (or seated as the case may be) problems, the March 7 meeting demonstrates why January 2017 cannot come too soon.