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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.

Executive session out of bounds

Yet again we feel compelled to express our displeasure with the antics of Jefferson County Election Commission Chairman Ted Davis. At the most recent meeting of the commission, Davis called for an executive session without announcing a reason for it. Upon review of the session’s contents, Davis’ request may well violate the Freedom of Information Act.

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Remembering the Great Conciliator

Sen. Howard Baker Jr. was often called the “Great Conciliator.” He earned the nickname because of his prodigal ability to mediate differences and build alliances across political party boundaries. Baker died this week at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88 years old.

Water thrown on bikini contest

As recently reported in the Commercial, a concert scheduled for July 3 at Saracen Landing will no longer feature a bikini contest. The planned contest became fodder for heated discussion on social media. It drew similar fire from local officials who noted that the contest was not mentioned in any of the sponsoring organization’s agreements with the city of Pine Bluff.

The distance has gotten longer

There are only a handful of names large enough to go in the radio broadcasting pantheon alongside the likes of Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack (a.k.a. Robert Weston Smith), but Casey Kasem certainly earned a spot. With his recent passing at age 82 it’s fitting that we pause to reflect not only on his life and career, but upon the medium in which he is best remembered.

Getting real about pensions

Slowly but surely, reality is taking hold in the debate over the massive liabilities state and local governments have accumulated for their workers’ pensions and other benefits. For years, governments routinely inflated estimated pension-fund investment returns to make them seem better-funded than they are, but two years ago the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, an authoritative nonprofit organization, issued guidance intended to curb that tendency.

Solving the border crisis

This country benefits from a healthy, legal flow of fresh talent and energy from all over the world. For that, a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws, including a path to legalized status for those already here illegally, is essential.

Summer heat fifty years long

This Saturday marks a the 50th anniversary of a dark day in America’s march for racial equality. On June 21, 1964 three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodwin, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were murdered as they investigated the burning of a Mississippi church. There story is well known, but there are many more stories from the period dubbed Freedom Summer that should be retold.

America’s oddest rancher

Eccentricity and personal tumult often accompany artistic talent. Such was certainly the case with Stanley Marsh, a Texas millionaire whose partially buried row of Cadillacs became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s. Marsh died this Tuesday at Lubbock, TX. He was 76.

A smarter way

It’s an election year, and Democrats are loudly decrying the cost of higher education and demanding that the government spend more to cut student debt. The Senate on last Wednesday rejected one of their less-sensible ideas. But there are better ones that lawmakers should embrace.