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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.”

Looking back looking forward

Over the past couple of weeks The Commercial has taken a look back at some of the most talked about stories of the year now past. We celebrated accomplishments. We decried injustice. We gave a narrative voice to the timeline of our community.

Bad advice exacts heavy price

Ninety-eight years ago today the Russian mystic and courtier, Grigory Rasputin, was murdered by members of the Russian nobility. Rasputin claimed to have miraculous powers through which he healed the hemophiliac son of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra. This mystical power drew him to the inner circle of Russian politics, a position from which he would make many enemies.

Justifiable homicide facts and fiction

As we look back on all the news that captured the American viewer in 2014, no national news item stands out more than stories related to use of deadly force by police. It seems as though a day hardly passes that we don’t have to hear about yet another police-involved shooting.

Singing in the season

It’s often the case that we can tell how important something is by the number of times it’s been reproduced. In the Internet age such a reckoning might be the number of times something has been shared online. Of course the fly in that ointment resides in the fact that videos of cats playing the piano might become unduly elevated as an artifact of our culture.

Better on the road to great

In their quest to promote the safe keeping and humane treatment of animals, many advocates employ an elegant trope often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.”

Tables turned but message unclear

This week marks the 30th anniversary of a shooting on the New York City subway that created a media frenzy and ignited a vociferous debate on matters of race, crime and gun control. At the center of this furor was Bernhard Goetz, a lean 24-year-old with a troubled home life.

Christmas a time of opportunity

This is the time of year when so many of us worry about the “perfect” gift, the “perfect” meal and the “perfect” outfit. Often subconsciously we hold ourselves to an unobtainable Norman Rockwell standard of holiday pageant. In so doing, we create needless stress and imperil an otherwise joyous season.

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.