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Facilitating dollar sign diplomacy

President Barack Obama recently moved to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. With a great predictability, several members of Congress have decried the action as pandering to Communism. Fortunately, a few cooler heads have also weighed in to the debate.

Let the music play

In a recent report, the White Hall School District’s School Board President Raymond Jones laid out a bold plan for much-needed improvements to the high school. The board voted Tuesday to proceed with the second phase of this plan.

Barriers tested and broken

It sounds like the setup for a redneck cautionary tale: Take a very aerodynamic car chassis with “Budweiser” painted in great big letters down the side, drop in a 48,000 horsepower rocket engine and, just for good measure, strap on a 12,000 horsepower sidewinder missile. What could possibly go wrong?

Distinguishing want from need

A little more than a month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by a man on Alabama’s death row for the 1989 pipe bomb death of Federal Appeals Court Judge Robert S. Vance. Without comment, the Supreme Court denied the request of Walter Leroy Moody to review his petition.

Truth or grave consequences

With new revelations on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture in the so-called “war on terror,” it becomes painfully, shamefully clear that bad things have been done in our name. It has always been so. It will likely always be so. If we are not a better nation than depicted in the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, we need to become one.

Degenerate Art then and now

Almost every day appears to give us a new decadence against which to rail. Some mover within popular culture produces a new spectacle and the critics recoil. It’s probably been this way since the dawn of humankind. It’s certainly not a phenomenon exclusive to the United States.

Waning moderation in all things

Earlier this week, Sen. Mark Pryor made a farewell address to the United States Senate. One can speculate as to why Pryor lost his bid for reelection. Perhaps he was too much of a Democrat; or perhaps not enough; or maybe it was the great influx of outsider campaign donations to his opponent. Certainly, in today’s Arkansas, having a “D” behind one’s name was pretty much all that was necessary to get one unelected. Whatever the reasons, Pryor must now ply his trade elsewhere.

Infamy cycled and condemned

President Ronald Reagan once observed: “History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” This sentiment is particularly apt this weekend as we observe the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Get to the polls and cast your vote

Some of us may be growing weary of election season, as political ads take over the TV and “who are you voting for?” debates dominate coffee shop conversations — and some may be getting excited for exactly the same reasons, as candidates and campaigns struggle for your attention and the ever diminishing “undecided” vote.

Where have all the zealots gone?

On this day in 1964 students and faculty staged the first large-scale antiwar demonstration in the United States. The protest took place at the Berkeley campus of University of California. While this march gained national attention, opinion polls showed a majority of Americans supported President Lyndon Johnson’s policies in southeast Asia.

The law of the war

At the United Nations on Wednesday, President Obama offered a powerful case for war against the Islamic State. “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”

Geography lesson in banned books

Each year during the last week of September the American Library Association celebrates our First Amendment rights with Banned Books week. One of the event’s center points is publication of a list that enumerates those books that have received the most challenges during the past year.

Good first steps toward safety

Earlier this week, the Pine Bluff City Council passed a measure that creates penalties for irresponsible property owners. The ordinance was sponsored by Ward 1 Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and passed with the affirmative vote of five other council members.

Facts drown out rhetoric

According to a number of recently released reports, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare” is on track to improve health care access while decreasing taxpayer burden.

A different double jeopardy

One year ago today a computer technician working at the Washington Navy Yard went on a shooting rampage that left 12 people dead. A few weeks before arming himself with a Remington model 870 shotgun and murdering a dozen strangers, Aaron Alexis told police in Rhode Island that he was hearing voices. The private IT contracting firm employing Alexis took him off his assignment for a few days then let him back on the job; less than a month later, he went to work at the Navy Yard.

We will never forget 9/11

Fifty years ago, people talked about the amazing beauty of the mushroom clouds that developed after atomic bombs were detonated in tests. The brilliance, the wide spectrum of color visible, the graceful development of the cloud itself: It was a terrible beauty to be sure, but a beautiful sight just the same, and one seared into the memory of all who saw it.

Millennia of murderous barbarians

Approximately two weeks ago, The Islamic State, variously termed ISIS or ISIL, beheaded American journalist, James Foley. These same terrorists just released another video in which one of their operatives beheads, yet another American journalist, Steven Sotloff. In what is becoming a pattern of orgiastic barbarity, The Islamic State stands on a line it dare not cross.