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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.

Seeger: study in resolve

Editor’s Note: Legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died Monday at age 94. Earlier this month we published an editorial about Seeger and his group, the Weavers. Because Seeger left such an indelible mark on American popular and political culture, we’ve updated the editorial and are presenting it again today.

Sacking the debate on bags

Lawmakers in California have recently proposed a law banning the use of plastic bags in retail outlets. Predictably, folks on the extreme end of conservatism decry this as the harbinger of fascism, communist oppression and the growing “nanny state.” While their ire is often justified by the equally polemic machinations of California liberalism, on this issue, conservatives are just plain wrong.

A step in the right direction

When President George W. Bush signed the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in 2006, he reminded his audience that as a nation, “we’ve made great progress toward equality, yet the work for a more perfect union is never-ending.”

Wars, drugs, successes, failures

Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine that minor events on the other side of the world could have a measurable impact here in the United States, but recent testimony given by John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, seems to support just such a connection.

Going bananas about monkey health

Musical funnyman Weird Al Yankovic performs a memorable song titled “Everything You Know is Wrong.” The chorus goes in part, “Everything you know is wrong. Black is white, up is down and short is long; and everything you thought was just so important doesn’t matter.”