Author: J. Pepper Bryars

Four things the left doesn’t understand about gun rights supporters

So let me get this straight: a couple of Muslim terrorists affiliated with a movement to enslave the world under an Islamic kingdom kill innocent Americans and our political left’s response is to attack the National Rifle Association? It appears so. Hillary Clinton lashed out at the NRA before the facts were even known about the attack in California. Liberals in Congress and the media immediately began beating their anti-NRA war drums. And the White House said those who oppose the president’s gun control measures are just “scared of the NRA.”Perhaps the most telling of these attacks came from the New York Daily News. It called the NRA’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, a “terrorist” and placed his picture below one of the two San Bernardino killers. The headlined charged that the Islamic extremists were enabled by the “NRA’s sick gun jihad against America.”Seriously? Okay sure, let’s have a debate about the NRA and forget that this was an attack by two Islamic State agents operating openly in our homeland. Let’s forget that a foreign terrorist easily passed one of those vaunted visa background checks by listing a fake Pakistani address. Most importantly, let’s forget that not a single gun control law being proposed by Democrats would have stopped this terrorist attack or any of the other recent high-profile mass shootings.But before we suspend these crucial truths to hold a red herring debate about the NRA, there are a few things leftists should know about gun rights supporters like me. First, the…

Alabama simply can’t afford expanded Medicaid

Last month the committee appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to study the state’s health care situation issued a report that essentially recommended that a costly yet key ingredient of Obamacare be brought to Alabama – the much-debated Medicaid expansion. Members of the Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force made a noticeable effort to distance their recommendations from that central tenant of Obamacare, probably because the overall law remains so unpopular. Their report states that we should pursue an Alabama-driven solution that “reflects Alabama’s values and meets Alabama’s needs,” but the framework is basically the same.Under most proposals, Alabama would increase the pool of those eligible for Medicaid, which is the government’s free health care program for the poor, to those low-income adults earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $16,000 per year. That would close the so called “Medicaid Gap” by providing insurance for the estimated 290,000 Alabamians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid yet too little to afford government-subsidized private insurance. That sounds nice, except that we know that free health care isn’t really free. Estimates show the move could immediately cost Alabama taxpayers $40 million a year, but that’s only thanks to the federal government’s offer to pay the lion’s share for the first three years. After that, Uncle Sam starts walking away and Alabama would be stuck paying about $100 million in 2018, then $222 million in 2020, and who knows how much more of an increase after that. Nothing grows…

Carson and Trump don’t understand American conservatism

The campaigns of Ben Carson and Donald Trump once looked unrealistic, but they kept rising in the polls.Many political pundits said they’d eventually fade and drop out, but they kept rising in the polls.And then other candidates, the establishment in both parties, and the media viciously attacked them. Yet they survived ... and both keep rising in the polls.Carson and Trump have enthusiastic supporters. They’re bringing new voters into the party, and both poll very well against Hillary Clinton, especially in battleground states. So why is a traditional conservative like myself seriously worried about a potential Carson or Trump ticket? Simple: because neither seems to believe in American conservatism and our movement’s organizing principle – limited government.One candidate would increase the government’s power to regulate speech – with no thought as to whose speech would actually be silenced. The other sees nothing wrong with the government snatching property from one citizen and handing it to another.First, let’s look at Trump.Our Founders believed, as did philosopher John Locke, that one of the reasons governments are instituted is to protect the property of its citizens. We all know that we have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but it was Locke who first wrote that our rights were actually to “life, liberty, and estate.” Thomas Jefferson saw no distinction between property rights and liberty itself, and conservatives have carried that torch throughout our nation’s history.“Property rights,” philosopher Milton Friedman once wrote, “... are the most basic of human rights…

Colleges and universities must defend free speech

The uneducated comments coming from higher education these days are startling.Over at the University of Missouri, a student body representative recently said she’s “tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students” who engage in speech she deems hostile.Up at Amherst College in Massachusetts, students are demanding the school issue a statement saying it does “not tolerate the actions of students who posted … the ‘Free Speech’ posters.”And here in the south, students at Vanderbilt University are protesting a professor who once wrote that Islam was “dangerous” and that Christians should strengthen themselves “spiritually and intellectually” for continuing challenges to traditional marriage. Good grief. So much for college being a liberated time and place for the open discussion of ideas. It’s become the opposite. But lest we roll our eyes and shrug the issue off as harmless antics from silly, spoiled college students, we should think hard about what is actually at stake. To adjust the phrase, a threat to free speech anywhere in America is a threat to free speech everywhere in America. It doesn’t require much imagination to see how our freedoms could vanish after decades of steady erosion or even in a flash flood of political correctness. The constitution cannot defend itself. Our rights depend on young Americans who’ve not only learned about things like the First Amendment, but who’ve also become convinced of their necessity, stalwart in their defense, and motivated to pass them along, intact. Sadly, our institutions of higher learning, which play a critical…

We must do more to help our homeless veterans

There is a simple seven-word line in the Soldier’s Creed that always strikes a chord in my heart whenever I hear it uttered: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”It’s both a task and a promise, and it’s something that soldiers, and all members of our armed forces, take very seriously. Many men and women have risked their lives, and some have died, living up to those words.  But what about our brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen on another type of battlefield, far from the sounds of rifles and mortars but still within an environment that can certainly take their lives, if not already their health, well-being and dignity? This week, only hours after Veterans Day parades have wound their way through our nation’s cities, and after the speeches and patriotic slogans have faded from our minds, nearly 50,000 veterans will be sleeping in the streets, in their cars, or in homeless shelters. Prior year estimates have shown that there were more than 500 homeless veterans in Alabama alone. This is a great shame, and an indelible stain on our nation’s honor. We’ve heard about the problem before, of course. I remember as a little boy listening to stories on the evening news about homeless Vietnam veterans sleeping in the park across from the White House. The fact that a former soldier was homeless saddened me when I was a kid, and it burns me up now that I’m an adult. Many folks feel the same way,…

Pope’s recent failure strengthens my Catholic faith

Alabama can be an interesting place to be Catholic.On the one hand, it’s challenging to live within an overwhelmingly evangelical community that generally believes our faith isn’t authentic Christianity. “If he’s a Christian, it’s despite being Catholic,” is how I’ve heard it said. On the other, we have great opportunities to learn from the thriving protestant communities that dominate the Bible Belt – their knowledge of scripture, how they make church fun for families, and how they build thriving, mission-minded congregations. But perhaps the greatest challenge, and opportunity, is when we’re questioned by a knowledgeable and well-meaning protestant. While there are many theological differences to discuss – why we believe that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist, for instance – one of their favorite topics always seems to be the pope. “Why do you think the pope is such a great guy?” someone might ask. Well, who said I did? Some popes are great while others aren’t. I’m sure you’ve had great pastors and not-so-great pastors, as well.  “Why does the pope wear that funny hat?” I don’t know, it probably has something to do with customs and traditions. Why does your choir wear robes?  “Why do you think the pope is infallible?” I don’t. He’s capable of making mistakes like the rest of us. But I do believe, as the fathers of the First Vatican Council wrote, that when the pope “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses ……

The Present Crisis Podcast

I’m still a far away from the launch of the inaugural episode of my weekly podcast, “The Present Crisis,” but I wanted to go ahead and drop a few lines explaining what the show will be about.The title comes from a famous line in President Reagan’s inaugural speech in January of 1981. In those few words, the Great Communicator summarized both the disease and the cure: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”The podcast will begin in a few weeks. Meanwhile, check out the intro that I recently produced. It begins with an old War War II air raid siren effect and then incorporates the aforementioned line from President Reagan. While his remarks focused on the crisis our nation faced in the early days of the 1980s, I’ve always believed his thoughts were timeless and summarized both the challenge facing our nation and the philosophy – limited government – that will save it. So, in a sense, the “present crisis” is an enduring one … hence the name of the show.The weekly episodes will focus on the arenas of politics, culture, and faith, and I will analyze and comment upon the issues through my unique perspective as a former political aide and journalist. I plan to discuss and expand upon what I wrote in my weekly newspaper column, run through the major stories that made recent headlines, and also discuss any news that may have been ignored by the mainstream media…

Free thinkers are an endangered species on campus

Perhaps the most eloquent explanation of free speech is the famous line attributed to the enlightenment thinker Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”Roll over in your grave Voltaire, and tell Jefferson the news: free speech is dying in this supposedly enlightened future of ours. Each month brings increasingly preposterous news about some group of college students forcing a speaker from campus in the name of diversity, or inclusion, or multiculturalism, or some other liberal notion that they’re proving they either don’t understand or don’t honestly value. Earlier this month Williams College cancelled a speech by conservative author Suzanne Venker after students became absolutely unhinged and flooded the sponsoring group’s Facebook page.“When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’” read one particularly tedious comment, “You are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological and physical harm to students, but you are also -- paying -- for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters … you are dipping your hands in their blood.”Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, the cancelled speech was part of a campus series titled “Uncomfortable Learning.”With all the fuss, one would think these students are protesting visits by brutal dictators or holocaust deniers. Not exactly. Actually, many recently banned speakers shared something in common with Venker -- they’re women. Due to strident prattling…

The House GOP is far from a crisis

The establishment wing of the Republican Party is having a full-blown panic attack.Crisis. Chaos. Disaster. Those are just a few of the words being over used to describe the House Republican Conference after embattled Speaker John Boehner suddenly quit and his hand-picked successor gave up his brief attempt at the gavel last week.As the dust settles, GOP lawmakers supposedly look “divided and in disarray” according to NBC News, while the Politico says some are “just exasperated.” Are things really that bad? No. The conference is cleaning house. But for a group that’s supposed to be full of businessmen, it’s surprising that many think the ouster of an ineffective leader, and then passing on his recommended replacement, wasn’t necessary. Had the speaker and his lieutenants been running a company, they’d have all been fired long ago. That’s why all of this supposed tumult is music to the ears of many conservatives. Far from chaos, we see the shakeup as a promising sign that we may be getting closer to the type of legislative branch leadership we’ve asked for since giving Republicans control of Congress. We see a real opportunity to direct the flow of coming events not only with who we support as the next speaker, but by firmly telling them what they must deliver once in office. And that’s what it’s about: policies, not personalities. In the past few days we’ve heard that “recalcitrant” conservatives ran poor old Boehner off because the veteran lawmaker wasn’t conservative enough. Now, they say,…

It’s the garbage in our minds, not the guns in our hands

Last week’s mass shooting in Oregon once again has the usual suspects on the left calling for more gun laws and those on the right blaming the mentally ill.“Some say the answer is stricter gun laws,” said a visibly shaken Stephen Colbert on The Late Show the evening after the shooting. “Others say the answer is mental health care, that we need better treatment or just keep the guns out of the hands of the insane. Maybe it’s both. I honestly don’t know.”Few do, but that doesn’t stop the debate from playing its endless loop.“We’re going to have to change our laws,” President Barrack Obama said. The liberal echo chamber then became predictably saturated with similar demands for more laws.  But what laws, specifically? They never say, because they cannot say. “The way they talk is as if they have the answer and there are these recalcitrant forces in the country that say ‘no, no, no,’ even though deep down they know their legislation will work,” said conservative writer Charles C.W. Cooke during a debate on MSNBC. “That’s simply not the case. It’s far more complicated than that.”Cooke is right. Conservatives aren’t opposing legislation that could prevent such crimes, but nothing the president’s party has ever proposed would have stopped Chris Harper-Mercer from purchasing the firearms that he used to kill nine people at Umpqua Community College. He wasn’t a criminal. He wasn’t under the care of a physician for a severe mental illness. He didn’t use any sort of outlandish…