Month: March 2014

Whether from the left or right, banning books is a bad idea (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

Liberals recently launched a Twitter war demanding that the Children's Book Council remove a book from consideration for its most prestigious honor – the Children's Choice Book Award. The tirade of tweets called the author a "bigot," the book "terrible," and expressed disbelief that it was a finalist.  The offending book? "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims," written last year by Rush Limbaugh. It tells the story of a time-travelling teacher who takes students on a history lesson back to early America. The campaign would have likely been criticized by liberal thinker Noam Chomsky. "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise," he reminded the left, "we don't believe in it at all." Challenges to Limbaugh's book can be added to the more than 9,500 other attempts to remove "inappropriate" books since 1990, according to the American Library Association (ALA). "Books usually are challenged with the best intentions – to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information," reads an explanation on ALA's website. The top three reasons were that the content was sexually explicit, contained offensive language or was unsuitable to any age group. Another reason is that a book must "support the diverse interests, needs and viewpoints of the school community," at least according to a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Its librarians refused to accept books donated by Christian students in 2008 because the books would make gay students "feel inferior." One of the offending titles was "Marriage on Trial: The…

Alabama may be a conservative battleground in the 2016 presidential primaries

Alabama hasn't been a presidential battleground in decades. Republicans have carried the state since 1980 and most indicators show it's either the most conservative state or a very close second. So we're not going to see Hillary Clinton campaigning here anytime soon. But we'll see everyone else. The Republican National Committee recently changed the primary schedule and now the earliest contests – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – will all occur in February, a month later than in 2012. That means several GOP candidates may still be aggressively competing for our delegates when Alabama holds its primary in mid-March. Although the race is two-years away, even the coyest contenders are testing the waters by wooing donors, drafting strategies and developing staffs. Real Clear Politics has even begun posting its average of presidential preference polls, a scientifically flawed yet popular collection of national surveys. In a crowded field without a clear frontrunner, how might these candidates fare in a Deep South primary? Here's a brief look at the potential candidates from a conservative Alabamian's perspective, and in the order of their recent Real Clear Politics polling average: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading with an average of 13.7-percent in the polls. He won Alabama's primary in 2008 but was the only social conservative on the ballot. He'll have competition for that title next time. While he has kept a high profile – television, radio and books – his economic policies in Arkansas may concern many fiscally-minded Tea Party…

Rand Paul hopes to guide “liberty lovers” into the conservative movement (Opinion by J. Pepper Bryars)

File photo of presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Rand Paul is a man on a mission. The senator from Kentucky hopes to energize the conservative movement by spreading a libertarian-themed message throughout its grassroots. "It isn't a message of the haves and the have-nots, the rich versus the poor," Paul said in a speech earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "It is a message for anyone who wants to own their own destiny." Paul told the crowd of activists that "America's next generation of liberty lovers" must stand against a government that is trampling upon their constitutional rights. He tried to appeal to a wide audience, first by channeling Pat Buchanan's fiery 1992 Republican National Convention speech by saying "there is a battle going on for the heart and soul of America," then quoting Pink Floyd by asking liberals did they "exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage" by remaining silent on the Administration's domestic surveillance policies. The establishment should listen to Paul because his message may resonate beyond the party's base. Liberal columnist Camille Paglia has lamented how the "creeping totalitarianism of Obamacare" and domestic surveillance has damaged the Democrat Party's brand as "the party of freedom." Paul is also reaching out to social conservatives, a group at odds with many libertarian views. He believes they can unite in their common goal of limited government. After all, the policies of socialist Europe have proven that big government isn't…

Pro-life lawmakers are a heartbeat away from ending abortion in Alabama (Opinion by J. Pepper Bryars)

Abortion rights supporters are worried that Alabama could soon tie North Dakota for having the toughest abortion restrictions in the nation thanks to a group of bills moving through the state legislature. “Alabama GOP advances multiple extremist anti-abortion bills,” read a headline in the far-left Daily Kos blog, and another in the liberal Huffington Post alerted readers that “Draconian abortion restrictions advance in Alabama legislature.” That’s good news for pro-life activists in Alabama. They began their incremental battle last year by first tightening the licensing requirements for abortion clinics. Now they’re seeking to restrict what happens inside, first with a bill to ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected and another to close a loophole that allows minors to bypass the state’s parental notification law. The “heartbeat bill,” introduced by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, is based on what many believe is a medical fact – abortion stops a beating heart. Depending on what device and procedure is used, an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be heard anytime from a few weeks to a couple of months after conception. Similar heartbeat bills have been attempted in several states but only two – measures in Arkansas and North Dakota – ever became law. Federal judges blocked them from taking effect. The other bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, seeks to close the loophole that allows minors to too easily bypass the parental notification law. Currently, a minor doesn’t need parental permission for an abortion if a court finds she…

Doctors earn every penny they’re paid

I recently read one of those viral letters posted on social media that began with the line, “Somebody asked: You’re a doctor? How much do you make?”The author cleverly used another definition of “make” in the answer, citing the difference doctors “make” and the sacrifices their families routinely to “make” as part of their demanding profession.Some of the answers were thought provoking: ·         “I can make holding your hand seem like the most important thing in the world when you're scared.”·         “I can make your child breathe when they stop.”·         “I can make myself get up at 4 a.m. to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live.”·         “I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of.”Comments on the letter were mainly positive. Some readers rightly extended those answers to nurses and other healthcare professionals who spend their lives handling our emergencies. Still, in an era when government rather than the free market is controlling much of our healthcare costs, doctors are sizable targets. Many believe they simply “make” too much money and that doctor salaries are part of the overall healthcare cost crisis. “We pay our doctors way too much,” wrote economics writer Matthew Yglesias in Slate magazine, adding that “there’s no rational basis for leaving their interests unscathed when tackling unduly expensive medicine.”To justify the claim he cited the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that reported the United States “has the highest-paid general practitioners in the world” and…

Education lotteries redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

A clerk prepares to operate a lottery machine to print out Mega Millions lottery tickets for a customer in Indiana last year. (AP file) Imagine if Alabama's lawmakers introduced a fee that would be collected from mostly everyone, but disproportionally from the poor, and used it to fund college scholarships for mostly everyone, but disproportionally for the rich. Would you support it? That lopsided scheme is what Democrats have been trying to establish in Alabama for the last 15-years: an education lottery. The basic idea is that ticket sales would fund college scholarships for students who maintain an A/B grade point average. Democrats in the Alabama House of Representatives recently announced that it's part of their legislative agenda this year, and three candidates for governor support the idea. Regardless of one's opinion about gambling, the fact remains that poor families make up a disproportionate number of lottery players while most honor roll students come from middle income families and up. Who pays for the scholarships? "Those in poverty or near poverty not only are more likely to play the lottery than those with greater means, they also spend a larger percent of their money on average on these games of chance," wrote David R. Just, a behavioral economics professor at Cornell University, in a CNN opinion article. "We find there are jumps in lottery purchases when the poverty rate increases, when unemployment increases, or when people enroll on welfare." Who gets the scholarships? "Household wealth is associated with the likelihood…