Month: June 2015

It’s time we hold our highest courts accountable for judicial activism

There's an old saying about the Supreme Court: it isn't final because it's supreme; it's supreme because it's final. That sounds clever, but let's review some of the court's more memorable decisions from the modern era to see how "final" they actually were, at least in terms of ending the debate.In Roe v. Wade, it discovered a constitutional right to kill unborn children, yet most Americans believe abortion is murder and want it abolished or significantly limited.In Kelo v. the City of New London, it told us that government had a constitutional right to seize private property for whatever reason it deems appropriate, yet most Americans believe the notion is absolutely tyrannical.In the two Obamacare cases, it said the law's authors meant to use the words "tax" rather than "fine" and "federal government" rather than "the states," even though Congress chose those precise words for specific reasons. People know what those words mean, and know we're now living under an unconstitutional law.And now we're told that hundreds of years of American federalism and thousands of years of human tradition mean nothing – our constitution suddenly mandates that marriage be redefined. Yet most of our churches will forever teach differently.It's easy to see that the Supreme Court didn't bring finality to these debates. They sowed thicker discord instead. By gathering to themselves all power of law and assuming that they know best, these justices have denied our democratic republic the opportunity -- the necessity, in fact -- to thoroughly debate these…

No way, padre. Pope’s encyclical on the environment is flawed

There's plenty of truth in the pope's new encyclical on the environment, titled Laudato Si' ("Be praised"). Most agree with his teaching that it's terribly wrong for individuals, corporations, and nations to wantonly destroy our environment and carelessly waste our natural resources.But there are some portions of his letter that read like polished versions of the missives that spewed from Occupy Wall Street, and on the two questions central to the debate about global warming, Pope Francis has proven himself entirely fallible.Let's start with the first question: What's the problem?"A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system," wrote the pope. "In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events."That's not true.Writing last year in the Wall Street Journal, climatologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said that the consensus claim is "fiction.""The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research," Spencer wrote. He explained that the often cited number that 97-percent of climatologists agree about man made abrupt climate change comes from an article by a college student and her master's thesis adviser that reported the results of a brief survey of selected scientists."The 97-percent figure in the ... survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said…

Who is to blame for the decline of fatherhood in America?

As we approach Fathers Day, the minds of many Americans will drift to fond memories of dear old dad.Some will appreciate the hard lessons their fathers taught because life has proven his loving firmness was needed, while others will forgive his faults because life has also shown that he was just a man, imperfect and burdened with the challenge of raising children in a difficult world.Sadly, however, an increasing number of Americans are less likely to even remember having a father around the house -- good, bad, or indifferent."The percentage of U.S. births to unmarried women has been increasing steadily since the 1940s and has increased even more markedly in recent years," read a report issued in 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau.It found that 40-percent of all children born in Alabama in 2011 were to unwed mothers, and nationally the report found that one in four children were being raised by single mothers.Anyone with a large extended family probably isn't surprised by that news. Many of us know children who are being raised by their mothers, or even their grandparents. Many see their fathers regularly. Some see their fathers once and a while, yet a growing few don't even see them at all.Does it really matter? In this age when we're told that families can be made from any sort of arrangement, many would say "no." Others would say that the quality of the time fathers spend with their children is equal to the quantity of time they're around,…

Is it time to throw a ‘Bama Beer Party?

Lawmakers in Montgomery who claim to be "pro-business" Republicans or the more philosophically consistent "free market conservatives" ought to be ashamed for allowing a bill to die earlier this month that would have finally "freed the hops" in Alabama. The bill would have removed a senseless government barrier that has long forbidden Alabamians from buying beer to-go straight from local breweries and taking their beverages home in what craft beer drinkers call "growlers" (a fancy word for a jug). Enthusiasts know that the best way to taste beer is straight from its brewers, but Alabama remains the only state with such a prohibition. State Sen. Bill Holzclaw, R-Madison, sponsored the legislation that would have partially removed the ban and he managed to get it approved by a Senate committee earlier this year, but it never received a floor vote and it was never even taken up by the House. The Alabama Brewers' Association, which represents more than two dozen breweries across the state, has long called for direct sales and hopes to see another bill next year. AL.com Opinion About the writerJ. Pepper Bryars grew up in Mobile and is now a writer living in Huntsville. Contact him at jpepperbryars@gmail.com and jpepperbryars.com. More opinion on AL.com So what's the issue? Currently, if you want to purchase one of Alabama's incredible craft beers you can visit a brewery, buy a pint straight from the owners and drink it there (highly recommended). You can also buy a glass at local restaurants, bottled…

Want to save baseball? Bring back the sandlot

As little boys swing their bats for the final time this season and park leagues go dormant for the summer, there’s been a great deal of talk about how baseball is literally dying in the womb. Kids just aren’t playing the sport as much as they use to. Sportswriters are busy casting blame. “Baseball is struggling to hook kids -- and risks losing fans to other sports,” declared one headline in the Washington Post while another in that newspaper read, “Stealing home: How travel teams are eroding community baseball.”Others sports are to blame? Strike one. There have always been other sports competing with our national past time (especially in Alabama). Besides, data from the National Sporting Goods Association show that participation in all sports is declining.  Travel teams are to blame? Contact, but it’s a foul ball. While specialization from an early age means fewer kids are playing multiple sports, elite players have always been recruited into private clubs. A few decades ago every sawmill and textile mill in the South would field teams comprised of the best high school and park league players around.Still, there’s no arguing with the facts. In a recent Wall Street Journal article headlined “Why Children Are Abandoning Baseball,” sports reporter Brian Costa cited additional data from the National Sporting Goods Association that indicated a 41-percent drop from 2002 to 2013 in the number of baseball players between the ages of 7 and 17. You’re killing me, Smalls. That’s terrible news. Baseball is the one sport in…