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Tramp explores deep themes

Today we mark the 125th anniversary of silent film star Charlie Chaplin’s birth. While best remembered for his character, the Little Tramp, his career was much broader than that one famous visage. He was a director, a screen writer and a composer. Along with other film luminaries, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Chaplin founded the United Artists production company. Long recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, it’s fitting that we take stock of his legacy.

Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”

An off-base idea

After any mass shooting, a vocal faction in Congress insists that Americans would be safer if more people carried guns into restricted public places. Allowing teachers to carry firearms on campus struck us as not helpful. But now that Fort Hood, Texas, has seen its second rampage in five years, the argument seems stronger when applied to military bases: Aren’t they filled with well-trained, trustworthy marksmen who could take down would-be mass murderers? Why not allow military personnel to carry weapons on base?

Bailing on a broken system

The idea of using objective criteria to decide which criminal defendants are freed pending trial and which are thrown in jail may sound slightly chilling. For starters, who’s to say what’s “objective”? Sabermetrics may have improved a baseball manager’s ability to forecast a player’s performance, but can statistical analysis really predict defendants’ flight risk and fairly determine the limits of their liberty?

Under budget and overly cruel

People who are fans of the long-running Star Trek franchise might recognize the philosophical underpinnings of Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest budget proposal. With strictures on virtually every social welfare program and a big boost to military spending, it’s pretty clear that Ryan would like the United States to more closely resemble the Klingon Empire.

Common standards predictable opposition

As recently reported by The Commercial , a vocal group of Arkansas Republicans are mounting a campaign to kill the Common Core educational standards. Their efforts mirror those of tea party members across the U.S. Their primary talking point revolves around an assertion that Common Core will not prepare students for success in college, but the real issue is one of state’s rights.

Housing crisis as public health

For several years, The Commercial has published editorials highlighting problems associated with Pine Bluff’s poorly maintained and dwindling housing stock. In particular, we have regularly noted the crime epidemic that emanates from our community’s decrepit rental housing. Whether one’s home is rented or owned, our city has a tremendous problem associated with blighted housing.

Red noses foil land mines

Most of us probably know about Doctors Without Borders, the international medical aid organization that specializes in taking medical services to some of the most imperiled and dangerous places on Earth. According to a recent report, there’s another international aid group with a similar goal of making people feel better, but this group doesn’t use traditional medical therapies. Rather, they rely on the “best medicine” — laughter.

Reflecting, renewing and rebirth

In the Catholic faith, today is known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. It is the last day of the carnival season that precedes the start of Lent on Wednesday. While this time of year is among the most sacred to Christendom, many of the underlying lessons could be beneficial to everyone.

Ensuring women are combat-ready

The Army is looking to the International Association of Fire Fighters as it seeks to develop fitness tests to ensure women are ready for combat positions that will become available to them in 2016, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Not just fighting violence

The Institute for Economics and Peace is a non-profit think tank devoted to proffering the cause of peace all over the world. While their focus is explicitly macro-social (nation or global region) many of the ideas they propose have direct applicability here in Pine Bluff.

Criminalizing jester hijacks narrative

The highly controversial loose canon of the Republican party, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), recently raised the ire of his fellow Republicans with a renewed effort to unseat those members of Congress who aren’t sufficiently ultra-conservative for him. As all things do in today’s political world, Cruz’s push comes in the form of fundraising.

More unconstitutional Monkey business

This week we yet again saw evidence that a certain segment of our population is willing to violate Constitutional rights to force their beliefs on others. The incident in question involves a North Little Rock middle school teacher who thought it appropriate to teach their students about creationism.

Distilling violent crime connections

Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks has repeatedly acknowledged that any serious effort to curb violent crime in our community will require a willingness to make broad changes — both in how the police assail the issue and how the community itself responds. To this point, the chief has introduced a number of new strategies, all driven by the agency’s new emphasis on data-driven practice.