Ledge update

April 4, 2011 LITTLE ROCK — The major accomplishments of the 2011 legislative session include a wide-ranging series of tax cuts, stronger ethics laws for lawmakers and a highway program that Arkansas voters will be able to vote on in a statewide election.The Legislature enacted new laws to provide alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, which include an expansion of parole and probation. The General Assembly also restored the state’s depleted unemployment insurance fund, and it passed legislation to stabilize the fund by freezing unemployment benefits.

America: You’re fired!

April 4, 2011 I want to know. You want to know. The whole world wants to know. What’s the deal with the surprising retiring Republicans? Not age-related retiring, as in shawl on the lap watching the third DVD of the fifth season of “Matlock” with a glass of tepid tea on the side table. Retiring as in coy, reticent, withdrawn. Obviously, we are not speaking of those pesky majority members of the House — demure as an over-caffeinated grizzly on roller skates gallivanting down a fashion runway and, yes, that means you, Kate Moss.

It’s never enough money

April 1, 2011 As both a capitalist and a taxpayer, news of recent antics by General Electric (G.E.) made me wince.That’s because G.E.’s actions are practically begging the usual suspects to ramp up their protests against “evil corporations.”According to The New York Times, G.E. — despite making a $5.1 billion profit in the United States in 2010 — paid no federal income tax and actually received a $3.2 billion TAX CREDIT to apply to future indebtedness.

Government skilled at secrets

April 1, 2011 Although the Obama administration pledged early on to exercise greater care when using the so-called “state secrets privilege” in court, it appears that there has been little meaningful change since the Bush years. Indeed, new research at Georgetown University suggests that the degree of government secrecy in legal cases by both administrations during the last decade may be greater than previously realized.

Offensive views need airing

April 1, 2011 By now there likely are few Americans who don’t recognize the names of a tiny Topeka, Kan., church and of the family that makes up most of its members — Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps family.For years, various Phelpses have been demonstrating at funerals — most notably at services for U.S. military service members killed in combat overseas — to condemn America’s acceptance of homosexuality and other “sins.” In early March, the family won an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving a lawsuit brought by the father of a Marine who died in 2006.

March arrives with new life, loss

March 31, 2011 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, an a time to pluck up that which is planted.                                      Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Why not dig, see what’s there?

March 31, 2011 Back in the 1820s or 1830s, those who found evidence of visitors to ancient America, such as inscriptions carved on stone, had no problem getting people to believe that.But along about the early 1880s — 130 years ago — that suddenly changed and a firm belief was put forth in the United States that all ancestors of American Indians walked across a now submerged Bering Strait land bridge and that North and South American Indians had absolutely no outside influences until Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.

Why the rich don’t feel rich

March 30, 2011 Get this: Rich folks aren’t feeling very rich.Reuters reports that a Fidelity Investments survey found 42 percent of more than 1,000 Americans who have at least $1 million in assets aren’t feeling very wealthy.They say they’d need to have at least $7.5 million to feel they’re well-to-do.As ridiculous as that may sound to some, it makes perfect sense to me. There is every indication that America could enter a hyperinflationary period not unlike the 1970s.

The new church assignment

March 30, 2011  Because Dustin had been locked in his room the first 10 years of his life when he wasn’t in school, he was curious about everything. We had been taking him to church for a couple years when the leader of our congregation, whom we refer to as the Bishop, asked to speak to us. He said that Dustin was at an age when he should be given some responsibilities. In our church, when a boy turns 12, he is given the duty of sharing sacred sacraments or communion with the congregation. We expressed our concerns about Dustin’s unpredictability.

Friend was a fighter

March 30, 2011 BOSTON — We became friends long after we had known each other as candidate and journalist. Long after the grit that Geraldine Ferraro showed facing down press and politicians had been transformed into the grit she showed facing multiple myeloma.I met Gerry in 1984 when we were being teased by rumors that Fritz Mondale might actually pick “a woman” for his running mate. Maybe even this congresswoman from Queens. I watched weeks later when he introduced her to America and I heard her say, “Vice President, it has such a nice ring to it.”