Month: April 2016

Alabama’s conservatives must face some unpleasant facts

George Orwell once explained that his ability to write about politics – and what was obviously the source of his willingness to so sternly critique fellow socialists – came from his “power of facing unpleasant facts.” His revulsion to political tribalism and his refusal to rationalize abuses of power led Orwell to expose the horrors of Soviet communism in Animal Farm and 1984. The books were so effective that modern conservatives mistake Orwell for one of our own. So did his contemporaries. “In the view of many on the official Left,” explained the noted communist academic Raymond Williams, “he committed the ultimate sin of ‘giving ammunition to the enemy.’” While the situation for conservatives in Alabama isn’t nearly as grave, it’s time for us to face some unpleasant facts of our own, even if it gives ammunition to the enemy. Unpleasant Fact No. 1: Some of our state’s Republican voters apparently don’t understand or don’t value conservatism as an overarching political philosophy or even as a candidate’s governing principle. This was unmistakable after Donald Trump garnered more than 370,000 votes in our state’s Republican Presidential Primary in March – or 43.4 percent of all votes. Whatever their reasons for choosing Trump, it wasn’t because of their common belief in limited government, free markets, and individual rights – the cornerstones of conservatism – and it certainly wasn’t because they valued the same cultural and religious traditions. Few conservatives think that Planned Parenthood does “wonderful things,” as Trump said, nor do they…

A conservative’s guide to opposing commencement speakers

The bright and tree-lined road leading into the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s main entrance is named for something its students should always pursue: Knowledge. Unfortunately, a few of them seem to have already left campus along a dimmer, narrower route: Ignorance. A graduate of UAH recently launched a petition to prevent Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, from delivering the commencement address at the school’s spring graduation ceremony. “Senator Jeff Sessions has time and time again voted counter to higher education and rights for all of the populace of these United States,” reads the petition launched on the ever-annoying Change.org. “His voting record has shown a disregard for the funding of public education in this great nation while also voting counter to programs that support the underprivileged and vulnerable.” The petition then references the senator’s low ratings from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union – a badge of honor in these parts – before linking him to Donald Trump’s repeated “inflammatory remarks towards women, the disabled, and immigrants.” The petition has more than 650 supporters, including UAH students, graduates, and even faculty members who left comments like these: “As a graduate of UAH and member of the extended UAH community since the 1970s I hate to see the school align with such an anti-science obstacle to a just society as Jeff Sessions has proven himself to be. Freedom of speech is one thing, but to have Sessions address a community of scholars from all walks of life on their special…

Huntsville’s ban on book learning will backfire

Ray Bradbury ain’t got nothing on Huntsville’s government schools. Sure, the author may have imagined a dystopian future in which books were abolished in Fahrenheit 451, but this school system in north Alabama is actually pulling it off. And now it’s getting worse. After switching from physical books to a laptop-only education a few years ago, some textbooks were allowed to remain in classrooms to ease the transition. They were helpful to those who still wanted real books, and they proved invaluable when the network went down, as networks are wont to do. But now the school superintendent has told teachers they must scour their classrooms and collect all remaining physical textbooks – those contemptible relics of a bygone era – and hand them over to the authorities administration. The firemen of Bradbury’s nightmare would approve. “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door,” said the fire chief in Fahrenheit 451. “Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers ... well, teaching. Because once the curriculum, the materials, the tests, the schedule, and everything else are sucked into some giant standardized network, our teachers become more like facilitators of a program than educators of children. Transformations like those in Huntsville aren’t without serious critics. Paul Thomas, a teacher and professor of education who authored a dozen books about educational methods, told the New York Times “a spare approach to technology in the classroom will always…

Dr. Trumplove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Donald

I was initially open-minded about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign because any unease about his inexperience with policy issues was balanced against the man’s dazzling success everywhere else. I like a winner just as much as the next guy, but I mostly liked Trump’s emphatic promise to build a wall across our southern border. Because if we don’t stop illegal immigration – and all the liberal voters who come with it – our country will eventually transform into a mash-up between the socialist societies of Western Europe and the ganglands of Central America. It’ll be ballgame if that happens, folks. Trump’s talk about better trade deals was also appealing. What’s been happening isn’t free trade. It isn’t even capitalism. It’s the fleecing of our nation’s wealth – and the jobs of individual Americans – by crony capitalists with no interest in preserving the free market. These two skills – building things and negotiating deals – are what Trump does best. But as I began learning more about his liberal record I began to seriously worry: is Trump’s newfound conservatism genuine, or is he a “fugaise,” as they say in New York. I then made a terrible mistake: I asked Trump’s supporters to explain his record. What they said surprised me. “You’re a liar!” “You’re an idiot!’ “You’re part of the establishment!” That last bit stunned me, especially since I’m currently sitting three-feet from the “Pat Buchanan for President” sign I took as a souvenir after working as a campaign staffer on…