Ledge update

April 8, 2011 LITTLE ROCK — The final bill of the 2011 session is the most politically difficult, and it also best illuminates how the American system of representational government works.Proposals to redraw the boundaries of the four Congressional districts in Arkansas generated headlines, as various plans were bounced between the Senate and the House of Representatives.A map was finally approved by the House, but when it was sent to Senate committee it failed. Then the Senate approved its version of a new map, but it was sent to a House committee and failed.

School religion again

April 8, 2011 Just when First Amendment principles seem to be working in public education, new fights over student religious speech threaten to reignite culture-war battles in schools across the country.It’s little known that many public schools made significant progress toward getting religion right over the past decade. Thanks to consensus guidelines supported by advocacy groups from left to right, I have found that constitutionally protected student religious expression is way up in schools — and unconstitutional school promotion of religion is way down.

God, guns and glory

April 8, 2011 As we creep steadily closer to the 2012 election, new talk and new legislative efforts have come up regarding getting guns into church and church into schools. I’m wondering: by the transitive property of firearms, does that mean we’ll allow guns in schools?Personally, I think carrying a hogleg to church is a good idea. For one, it makes the preacher put some real thought into his sermon planning.

The great budget train wreck

April 7, 2011 The current furor over the national budget is ample proof of the fact that federal budgets should be completed in time and based on reality, and not based on welfare-state politics.Instead, Congress keeps kicking the can down the road by enacting so-called CRs (Continuing Resolutions) that have become nothing more than legislation that allows Congress to enact all the legislation they could not get through standing on their own.

Charlie Sheen offered higher speaking fee than President Clinton

April 7, 2011 Okay, so I realize I’m a bit late for April Fool’s, so I guess you can just call this headline a big fat lie. Although give it a day or two and I’m afraid it may just come true. It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, not in an age in which Snooki from Jersey Shore is paid more than literary legend Toni Morrison to speak at the same institution.

Raining on prom

April 7, 2011 A disclaimer: I missed out on my own high school prom back in 1978, so you may dismiss this column as sour grapes; but I felt compelled to comment on the dark underbelly of this pervasive phenomenon.The traditional pre-prom photos snapped by parents are particularly troubling, producing toxic results that will survive for eons. Pre-prom photos are the evil twin of new cars; the hairstyles and facial hair immediately turn humiliatingly nerdy as soon as you drive them off the lot.

Medicare discussion

April 6, 2011 If we really care about our children’s future, now is the time for Americans on both sides of the aisle to cast aside their political aspirations long enough to carry on an adult conversation about debt reduction and spending cuts.Now is also the time to remind ourselves why Washington is still discussing the 2011 budget this late in the year. We are here today because Democrats, controlling all three branches of government last year, failed to pass a budget - because they were too busy spending borrowed money.

If the First Amendment had to be ratified today…

April 6, 2011 Republicans will tell you they’re the sole Constitutional purists in the country; they worship the document more/better than you do. But imagine if the First Amendment had to be voted on today. It would need two-thirds majority in both Houses just to be proposed.Consider it: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The big picture

April 6, 2011 Doesn’t it make you crazy when people can’t see the big picture?You’ll be in the middle of a project, and they do something completely counter to the goals.  In our family, we call it the doorbell dynamic. There’s a story to explain. My parents remodeled their house a few years back.  It was an old, boxy split-level on a lake.  They bought it because the lake was beautiful, it was near the grandkids, and the price was right. But it needed a lot of work, and they pretty much gutted the entire interior.

Opening homes, wallets for pets

April 5, 2011 Gary and I were among the scores of people crowded into what was at one time a water holding tank Saturday night for the Humane Society of Independence County’s fundraiser.The Trivia Game Night was held in the firefighter training facility down by the river, and it really was a lot of fun. We’d never been to one (although we’ve all played trivia board games), but from what I hear these trivia events are the wave of the future for fundraising, popping up everywhere, it seems, for various causes. In my opinion, helping animals is one of the best causes.