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Fishers of men or fools?

While historians can’t say for certain exactly how April 1 came to be celebrated as April Fools’ Day, most proffer a religious connection dating to 1582. Most scholars believe the day has its origins in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” — named after himself — which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to Jan. 1.

Extremists count on your credulity

On Friday, the Arkansas Senate passed House Bill 1228 (SB 202), a bill to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Supporters assert that the bill would offer protections to individuals and businesses who do not want to serve certain individuals based on their religious beliefs. The bill is now headed back to the House for a final amendment approval. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Ted Cruz and the Born-Again GOP

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill making “In God We Trust” the nation’s official motto, but his approach to religion was not excessive in its rigor. “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious belief,” he once declared, “and I don’t care what it is.”

BUMPY RIDES ON HIGHWAYS MAY LAST

On Interstate 40 near Brinkley a couple of weeks ago, I drove past a sign reading something like, “Big pothole ahead.” I can’t recall ever before seeing a road sign like that on an interstate, but it was certainly accurate. Actually, “crater” would have been a better word.

Starving the beast only made it hungrier

Some time in the 1970s, the Republican Party pledged allegiance to a strategy known as “starve the beast,” which said that the way to reduce the size of government was to reduce the taxes going into it. President Reagan in 1981 used another metaphor: reducing children’s allowance. Democrats, happy to increase government without paying for it, largely acquiesced.

Time to use animal cruelty laws

With the recent death of De’Trick Johnson, the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County are forced to recognize the flaws in our local culture of animal keeping. While county lawmakers have been largely mute on the twined issues of dangerous dogs and animal cruelty, the Pine Bluff City Council chose to address the problems with ineffectual and uninformed “breed specific” ordinances. These ordinances do little other than punish the dog for the crimes of the owner.

To walk fall and rise

Fifty years ago this week, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev sent this congratulatory message to cosmonaut Alexei Leonov as he orbited the Earth: “We members of the Politburo are here sitting and watching what you are doing. We are proud of you. We wish you success. Take care. We await your safe arrival on Earth.”

Enough humility to be courageous

All we can say is ‘Wow!’ When is the last time you heard an elected official come right out, admit a mistake and then apologize for it? And to boot, this one wasn’t one of those I-got-caught-and-now-I-better-appear-contrite apologies; this was a straight up, acknowledgement of fault and mea culpa.

MLK a clarion for service

As the nation honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we should pause to reflect on his ideals and vision for America. We all know King’s work in the cause of civil rights, but his call for committed public service should also be remembered.

The pipeline to nowhere

A new term has been introduced into the debate over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline: irrelevance. With crude oil prices at their lowest point in recent memory, folks on both sides of this debate are forced to refine their polemics.

An attack on freedom

On Wednesday, the world was shocked and appalled by the deplorable attacks at the Paris office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Twelve men and women were murdered for expressing their freedom of speech. Sadly, it is not an isolated incident.

Picking up by tearing down

As recently reported in The Commercial, the city of Pine Bluff will soon begin using inmates from the Arkansas Department of Correction to remove blighted structures from the community. The inmates will be close to parole and are involved in a skills-training program. Focusing on vacant and abandoned houses, the program will start in February.