The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 weeks ago

Dad-deprived homes reach crisis levels in Alabama

(PIxabay, YHN)

Father’s Day has come and gone, and sadly so too has the concept of fatherhood in many parts of Alabama.

Nearly half of all babies born here are to unmarried women, according to the latest information from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

This is a crisis.

It is a crisis that researchers have shown significantly contributes to nearly every challenge facing our state – education, health, addiction, crime, and economic mobility to name just a few.

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While dad-deprived homes cause problems for both sexes, it has a particularly damaging impact on young men.

“The boy crisis resides where dads do not reside,” said Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis” during a recent episode of the 1819 podcast.

While single mothers are making heroic efforts in Alabama, Ferrell said that young men growing up without a father in the house face enormous odds. Boys in this situation, he said, stand a greater chance than their female counterparts of doing poorly in school, being overweight, being both the bully and the bullied, of going to prison, and becoming addicted to drugs, pornography, and video games.

A father’s natural way of parenting, Ferrell explained, adds something that boys critically need and do very poorly without.

“While boys who are motivated can become many of society’s most constructive forces … boys whose energies are poorly channeled can become society’s most destructive forces,” he wrote.

The research indicates this is a slow-moving train wreck that doesn’t show any signs of stopping. In 2005, the Alabama Department of Public Health found that a little more than 35 percent of babies were born to unmarried mothers. By 2017, and despite a statewide initiative and many programs aimed at improving fatherhood across the state, that number had skyrocketed to more than 47 percent.

The research cited in Farrell’s book is alarming:

· “Children who were born poor and raised by both married parents had an 80 percent chance of moving to the middle class or above; conversely, children who were born into the middle class and raised without a married dad were almost four times as likely to end up considerably poorer.”

· “A study of boys from similar backgrounds revealed that by the third grade, the boys whose fathers were present scored higher on every achievement test and received higher grades.”

· “71 percent of high school dropouts have minimal or no father involvement.”

· “Around 90 percent of runaway and homeless youths are from fatherless homes.”

· “Every 1 percent increase in fatherlessness in a neighborhood predicts a three-percent increase in adolescent violence.”

Farrell offered many partial solutions, from increasing recess time during school to recruiting more male teachers to educate people about the uniquely helpful aspects of dad-focused parenting.

But to solve this problem, we must first identify and agree that it’s indeed a problem and one worth marshaling our collective resources to solve.

Yet it doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s radar.

It doesn’t show up on the latest survey by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama detailing what issues are most important to our state’s citizens. Not to conservatives. Not to liberals. Not to men or women. Not even to those who the report highlights as “experts” in public policy.

I don’t recall it being a noticeable talking point during any recent political campaign either.

Yet on every one of the report’s lists, and in many recent campaigns, were issues that are symptoms of fatherlessness – poor education, crime, poverty, substance abuse. The correlations go on and on.

To be fair, there are many fathers performing admirably in Alabama. I see such examples every day. We should be thankful for them and use their work to build a foundation upon.

But we must face the fact that we’re not doing too well in this regard as a state, as a society.

And not until we confront this problem as a society – liberals and conservatives, through government and private-sector efforts – will we be able to reverse this trend.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute and host of the 1819 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

4 weeks ago

Alabama has one of the nation’s strongest … campus free speech laws?

(UA/Facebook)

Alabama has been in the news lately for recently passing the nation’s strongest anti-abortion law, but it also just enacted what is being hailed by one expert as “one of the most comprehensive and effective campus free-speech laws in the country”

Last week Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to adopt a number of significant policies and procedures to protect free speech on campus.

“Freedom of expression is critically important during the education experience of students, and each public institution of higher education should ensure free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation by students,” the law states.

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It goes on to declare that it is not the proper role of schools to “shield individuals from speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, including ideas and opinions the individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.”

The state’s powerful higher education lobby didn’t fight the bill, and the only opposition came from a handful of lawmakers who expressed concern that it offers protections to racist speech. But as shown in the landmark Skokie ruling, such protections are already offered by the United States Constitution.

Alabama’s strong move comes on the heels of a trend on college campuses that is chilling the free speech rights of faculty, students and visiting speakers who dare mention controversial or unorthodox views.

In recent years some institutions of higher learning have created “free speech zones,” which are meant to move certain discussions away from where they could offend listeners, or be heard at all. Others have speech codes, which limit acceptable topics to an ever-shrinking list of progressive-leaning beliefs. And some quickly yield to the heckler’s veto, giving the power of censorship to a loud minority.

The issue has been mostly observed on campuses located in the progressive-leaning areas of the northeast and the west coast. But is campus free speech really a problem in conservative-leaning states like Alabama?

Yes, at least according to one expert who has helped draft other campus free speech laws in other states.

“Although it’s sometimes argued that the campus free speech crisis only affects deep-dyed blue states like California and Massachusetts, the problem is national,” wrote Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Kurtz noted how Alabama A&M recently made it on the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list maintained by the individual-rights advocacy group FIRE for having the most “red light” rated policies that, in their view, restrict free speech.

The Washington Examiner wrote an article last year accusing the University of West Alabama of having a “free speech zone” by limiting any demonstrations to a spot near its student union building.

And at the University of South Alabama, a pro-life student club founded by Katherine Sweet was told that they had to set up their display on an arguably low-traffic portion of the campus that’s designated for free speech.

“I went to South thinking it would be a place where I could debate freely with other students, engage in discourse, and ultimately learn from not only our professors, but each other,” Sweet wrote in an AL.com guest opinion article. “Aren’t universities supposed to be atmospheres that promote just that?”

Yes, and Alabama’s recent action seeks to ensure they do through various measures, including:

• Ensuring that faculty and students are free to take political positions, to express themselves in outdoor areas of the campus, and to assemble, speak and pass out literature,

• Prohibiting the establishment of any “free speech zones,”

• Keeping the campus open to anyone invited by student groups to speak,

• Forbidding the imposition of excessive security fees that discourage some speakers,

• And suspending members of the “campus community” who disrupt the free speech of others.

“Free speech is the cornerstone of our rights as American citizens — and those First Amendment rights certainly apply to college students on university campuses. Around the country, there have been chilling examples where administrators and professors have discriminated against students,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo. “With this law, we are making it very clear that in Alabama, the First Amendment rights of all students, liberal or conservative, will be protected from unfair and discriminatory university speech policies.”

Indeed, yet it remains troubling that such legislation is even needed in a nation founded upon the unalienable freedoms of expressions recognize by our First Amendment.

Voltaire’s beliefs in freedom of expression were once famously summarized with the phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But unless our lawmakers in other states follow Alabama’s lead, what you may hear on your local college campus could someday be, “I disapprove of what you say, so I will restrict your right to say it.”

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute and host of the 1819 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

2 months ago

Time to stop daydreaming about a lottery

(Pixabay, YHN)

Lottery supporters were left saying “so close …” last week after the latest attempt to establish the game in Alabama collapsed under the weight of competing interests and power plays.

It was reminiscent of the failed lotto player, successfully matching his numbers one-by-one until his hopes are dashed when that final digit proves ever elusive.

But that’s what happens when you play a losing game.

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We’ve already heard the arguments against a lottery, from the financial risk of budgeting on a game of chance to the moral risk of a government enticing its citizens to play a game 99.9 percent of them will lose. I’ve written about it before, and the Alabama Policy Institute has a long history of opposing the lottery.

But this time, the corrosive nature of gambling conspired to defeat itself.

Here’s what happened.

Vegas-style Casinos

The lottery debate in recent years hasn’t centered on an actual lottery. That is, walking into a gas station and buying a paper ticket with a few numbers.

No. There’s a strong pro-gambling lobby in Alabama that seeks to take advantage of any momentum behind a lottery proposal to include measures legalizing what’s known as Class III gaming – card tables, roulette wheels and slot machines.

By including some specific language in a lottery bill, they could later artfully argue that expansion of gaming into Class III has already become law, thus giving them a green light to open casinos.

And then there are those who have stakes in existing gaming facilities such as dog tracks and electronic bingo halls. They push hard to ensure that no legislation passes that could create competition.

Point is, those who profit from the forms of gambling we have now, and who could profit from expanded forms in the future, see a simple lottery as a threat. They want to protect what they have, and then expand their offerings to keep existing customers and lure even more.

Horse Trading

Several lawmakers who favored a lottery in the past found themselves holding out for assurances that Alabama would adopt a key provision of Obamacare by expanding Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor and disabled.

The issue here is that while the federal government pays for the first few years of the expansion, Alabama would eventually cough-up an increasingly higher percentage of an ever-growing expense.

As the bill moved through the Legislature, it was reported that lawmakers were considering paying that additional cost with lottery revenue in a bid to collect more votes.

Here’s the problem: the Legislative Service Agency estimated that the lottery would generate about $167 million a year in revenue after expenses and prizes were handed out, but estimates on the state’s share of expanding Medicaid range from $168 million to $250 million annually.

So, we’d end up passing a lottery whose revenues could be swallowed up by Obamacare.

How many politicians in Alabama want that etched into their electoral tombstone?

Money Money Money

Then there’s the question of how we’d spend whatever little is left.

Some lawmakers wanted to send it all to the general fund. Others wanted some, if not most, to go toward education. And the teacher’s union, which remains a powerful force in Montgomery, wouldn’t budge.

In the end, those who wanted more gambling, those who sought Medicaid expansion, and those aligned with the teacher’s union felt the status quo was preferable. Add them to traditional opponents of the lottery, and the bill died by a handful of votes.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

Alabama needs its leaders to focus their time on attainable solutions for problems that aren’t going away, and on opportunities that might if we refuse to focus.

It’s about time they quit daydreaming about hitting the lottery.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute and host of the 1819 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

2 months ago

It’s time to reform occupational licensing in Alabama

(Pixabay)

Did you know that it’s against the law to braid hair, wash hair or even plant flowers professionally in Alabama without a license?

That’s because occupational licensing, originally meant to protect consumers, has gotten way out of hand. A video recently produced by the Alabama Policy Institute illustrates just how ridiculous it has become.

Sure, licensing certain occupations is a good thing. We need to know our builders, physicians, attorneys and those practicing many other specialized and potentially dangerous professions are being well regulated.

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But the process has evolved beyond its original intent. Sometimes, it seems to be more about controlling the market and restricting access to competition rather than public safety.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations, covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the state’s labor force,” wrote the authors of The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama, a special report commissioned by API.

The report found that the initial costs of occupational licensing are $122 million, with another $45 million for renewals plus $243 million in annual continuing education costs.

Those costs are eventually passed along to the consumers.

Thankfully, we have an opportunity to at least slow further growth of occupational licensing in Alabama.

State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) has introduced House Bill 88, known as the Alabama Sunrise Act.

Under existing law, the Alabama Sunset Committee is responsible for periodically reviewing state professional licensing boards, agencies, and commissions to ensure they’re operating effectively and ethically.

Shedd’s bill would reform the committee’s processes by adding a “sunrise” provision so that when a new licensing requirement is proposed, lawmakers would have an objective set of thorough standards to judge its merits.

The bill states that “no profession or occupation be subject to regulation by the state unless the regulation is necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare from significant and discernible harm or damage and that the police power of the state (is exercised only to the extent necessary for that purpose.”

In other words, it would have to be more about protecting the people than protecting the profession, used only as a last resort, and even then it would be applied to the least degree possible.

The bill sets down several requirements that a proposal must satisfy before a new license is created, including:

  • Demonstrate that it wouldn’t have an unreasonable effect on job creation or job retention, or place unreasonable access or restrictions on the ability of individuals who are practicing the profession.
  • Explain why the public cannot be effectively protected by other means.
  • And provide documentation of the nature and extent of the harm to the public caused by the unregulated practice of the profession or occupation.

Unless we do something now, we should expect the trend to continue.

“In the past six decades, instances of occupational licensing in the United States have increased from a coverage of around 5 percent of the U.S. labor force to a present-day coverage of close to 25 percent of the U.S. labor force,” wrote Peter Q. Blair and Bobby W. Chung in a recent policy memo from the Cato Institute.

Those pushing for additional occupational licensing may have the best of intentions, but we should remind them of the simple phrase uttered by a Frenchmen more than 200 years ago. His words captured the essence of the free market and became the slogan for an emerging economic doctrine that formed the bedrock of America’s prosperity.

When a meddling advisor to King Louis XIV asked a group of struggling businessmen in Paris how the government could help them increase profits, a frustrated factory owner named Legendre bravely shouted,

“Laissez-nousfaire!”

Translation: “Leave us alone!”

Contact your state lawmaker today and tell them you want some of the boards to simply leave us alone and that the Alabama Sunrise Act should receive a public hearing before the House Boards Agencies and Commissions Committee, and soon.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

3 months ago

Alabama should wait and watch before considering Medicaid expansion

(Pixabay, YHN)

If only Alabama’s leaders had a magical Medicaid “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, so they could flip ahead and see the different outcomes we could expect by expanding the government insurance program that was originally designed for the poor and disabled.

Would it end in a stronger economy, more jobs and a vibrant system of rural hospitals?

“Medicaid expansion remains an economic development opportunity without equal,” said David Becker, an economics professor at UAB, in an AL.com article.

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Or would it bankrupt our already cash-strapped state budget and further sink our country into unsustainable levels of national debt?

“When you expand Medicaid, the administrative costs and the cost of expansion will eventually swamp the state,” warned U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), during an interview on the Matt & Aunie Show on Talk 99.5 FM in Birmingham. “It has in other states. Illinois is about to go bankrupt.”

Each side makes a strong case, but the truth seems hidden behind a fog of experts, statistics and forecasts that confuse more than clarify.

The Economic Impact

A UAB study conducted by Becker and paid for by the Alabama Hospital Association found that even when Alabama starts paying 10 percent of the expansion’s costs, the move would create thousands of new jobs and generate $2.7 billion a year in economic activity. Becker wrote that the expense would be “almost entirely offset” by new tax revenue and state spending reductions on current Medicaid enrollees and other health programs.

And another study funded by the same association concluded that “state savings and other economic gains from expansion could be reinvested in the health care system in Alabama, including to support expansion and other state priorities.”

But critics say those predictions are extremely unrealistic and point to how widely off the mark such estimates have been elsewhere.

States that expanded Medicaid have signed up more than twice as many “able-bodied adults” than expected and per-person costs have exceeded original estimates by a whopping 76 percent, according to a 2018 report by the Foundation for Government Accountability. This led to cost overruns of 157 percent, the report showed, with Medicaid now accounting for one of every three state budget dollars.

Many expect the same overruns in Alabama, which would exacerbate our already challenging budget.

“We will have to find $250 million more in the state general fund every year, even when revenues decline in recessions,” said Daniel Sutter, an economics professor and director of the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University, in an email. “Alabama’s perennial budget crisis is due largely to having to pay for Medicaid every year. Medicaid expansion makes this pressure worse.”

Hospital Closures

Supporters of Medicaid expansion most often mention that 12 Alabama hospitals have closed this decade, with many being in rural areas possibly leaving residents without critical care nearby. Expanding the program, they contend, may have saved those hospitals, and could still save many that are at risk.

“Those are critical dollars for us as our hospitals currently spend more than $500 million each year in care for which they receive no reimbursement,” said Owen Bailey, chairman of the board of the Alabama Hospital Association and CEO of USA Health, in a press release. “Providing insurance through Medicaid expansion is vital to maintain access to care for everyone.”

While an influx of Medicaid cash would help these hospitals in the short term, it’s unclear if it solves the underlying problems that created their instability in the first place.

Hospitals are losing money and closing for a variety of reasons, according to The New York Times — shrinking rural populations, hospital mergers, consolidated services, regulatory burdens, low reimbursement rates, and a decrease in hospital care due to outpatient services and speedier care that requires less hospital time.

Officials at one Kansas hospital that closed in 2015 told The Times that additional Medicaid funds would have been significant but probably would not have helped them survive in the long run.

Meanwhile, help could come from elsewhere. The federal agency that oversees Medicare recently announced that its “tweaking” the formula used to reimburse hospitals in Alabama, a move that AL.com noted could increase payments to rural hospitals.

A way forward

When economists are arguing vastly different forecasts and outcomes, it’s often helpful to fall back to a few simple yet immutable conservative principles. Chief among them is the principle of prudence, which basically says we shouldn’t rush big decisions – decisions that have long-term consequences and that cannot easily be reversed, if at all.

Medicaid expansion is clearly one of those decisions.

And even without that magical Medicaid “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, there have already been unexpected plot twists, and clear deathtraps, for other states who decided to expand the program.

Alabama should wait and watch to see if the promises, or the fears, are realized.

We should also patiently observe states taking alternate storylines through Medicaid waiverspartial Medicaid expansion requests and block grant plans.

Otherwise, if Alabama takes the bait and expands Medicaid, we might turn the final page only to see that ominous yet sadly predictable word.

Bankrupt.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

4 months ago

Three reasons why Alabama should stand up to the Freedom from Religion Foundation

(Pixabay, YHN)

An atheist group from Wisconsin has implicitly or directly threatened to sue more than 40 Alabama school systems, local governments, and elected officials during recent years over what they claim are violations of the Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion.

The organization, called the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is often successful. Many give in after calculating potential attorney fees and the uncertain outcome of drawn-out lawsuits.

But perhaps it’s time Alabamians recall our state motto and “Dare Defend Our Rights” by standing up to some of the more frivolous of these challenges.

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A review of the FFRF’s news release archives reveals that while some of their complaints are reasonable, many are simply ridiculous.

For instance, Gov. Kay Ivey posted a video on social media in 2017 wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” and adding, “May your days ahead be filled with the light of God and his abundant grace.”

The FFRF said it was an “overly religious homily” and sent a threatening letter saying the governor broke the law.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office had to remove “Blessed are the Peacemakers” from the side of its cars after the FFRF objected to the well-known and harmless quote because it was taken from the Book of Matthew.

“We support what’s written on the stickers and we support the spirit of it,” the county administrator said in 2015. “But unfortunately, from a legal perspective, we could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and still likely lose.”

Eric Johnston, president of the Southeast Law Institute in Birmingham, explained that most local government attorneys simply aren’t prepared to handle such lawsuits.

“Most of them have little or no experience in constitutional establishment clause/free exercise cases,” Johnston explained. “In order to defend themselves, most would need to hire outside counsel at high rates.”

Add the possibility of having to pay the FFRF’s legal bills if they prevailed, and suddenly that strongly worded letter starts looking a lot like a very expensive bill.

And that’s how our freedoms die … a dollar at a time.

But school boards and local governments who are facing such threats should also take into account these three considerations:

#1: Our leaders were elected to protect our rights.

Our constitution doesn’t just prohibit the establishment of religion; it also forbids actions that will “prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

The people, individually, cannot defend against these lawsuits. They depend upon their elected officials to act, and many would likely support pushing back against the more baseless of the FFRF’s complaints.

#2: We’re not alone.

The FFRF isn’t the only group out there with lawyers experienced in First Amendment issues. There are many organizations that provide support to those whose religious freedoms are under attack.

The Southeast Law Institute, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Landmark Legal Foundation, and the Alabama Policy Institute are just a few.

#3: The odds are in our favor.

A review of the FFRF’s most recent public tax documents show that while it wrote 1,561 letters complaining about alleged establishment clause violations nationwide in 2017, it reported just 22 actual lawsuits either won or pending – only 1.4 percent of their complaints.

Furthermore, the foundation reported that 308 complaints were resolved without a lawsuit – only 19.7 percent of their complaints.

So, nearly 80 percent of their complaints may have gone absolutely nowhere (except perhaps in the trashcan).

“My feeling has always been they were more threats than reality due to not only funding issues, but the availability of qualified lawyers to bring their lawsuits,” Johnston said. “When lawsuits need to be filed in faraway places, it is difficult to find qualified legal counsel.”

Though many of the FFRF’s charges of establishment clause violations are unjustified, we should be mindful of their motivation.

Reading through their letters, one gets a sense that there’s an awful lot of hurt there, even resentment. Their language speaks of being excluded, left out, made to feel apart from the group, and a sense of wanting to protect young unbelievers from overzealous bullies.

There is also a need to ensure that our public services and institutions don’t become arms of any particular religion, and there are those among us who would indeed use their positions of public trust to advance their personal faith.
We must guard against those tendencies.

But we also have a common culture in this nation, especially in Alabama, and certainly in many of its smaller communities. Central to our culture is a Judeo-Christian heritage that’s often, and without harm, reflected in many of the traditions that buttress our public gatherings and official symbols.

To completely ban these traditions and symbols from the public square doesn’t separate church from state as much as it separates citizen from culture.

That’s not good.

There are bullies on both sides of this issue, actually, pushing and shoving us around, either wanting to make people feel like outcasts or wanting to burn our traditions to the ground.

The reasonable among us must stand against these bullies. Both of them.

And the best way to deal with bullies … is to push back.

Pepper Bryars is a senior Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

5 months ago

Gas tax increase should be ‘Even Steven’ — raise one tax, lower another

(YHN, Pixabay)

Can Alabamians support raising our gas tax for better roads while remaining true to our belief in limited government and protecting a beneficial, low-tax environment for our businesses, our families and our future?

Yes … if taxes are lowered elsewhere so that the overall amount of money taken from the people doesn’t increase.

The concept is called “revenue neutral tax reform.” It essentially means that if Alabama raises one tax by $100 million next year, then it should have a comparable decrease in something else.

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So, if you’re going to pay an extra $400 at the gas station, you should save an extra $400 at the grocery store.

Even Steven.

A solid majority of Alabamians support the revenue-neutral approach, as well.

Nearly 62 percent of respondents said they’d support raising gas taxes if grocery taxes were decreased by the same amount, according to a statewide poll commissioned earlier this month by the Alabama Forestry Association.

But why shuffle taxes around if it doesn’t ultimately change the government’s total haul?

Because taxes change behavior, encouraging some actions while discouraging others, and they also impact people differently.

Everyone who pays taxes on a gallon of gas uses roads and bridges. Fair enough.

But the rich man and the poor widow pay the same tax on a gallon of milk. That may not be entirely fair, or at least not kind, especially if that tax is relatively high.

Shuffling things around can also simplify things, making taxes predictable and sustainable for both the citizen and the state. And lowering those that discourage economic growth may actually produce more revenue in the long term.

In our nation’s great laboratory of democracy, Alabamians can look near and far to find examples of how raising the gas tax has worked well in other states.

In 2017, Tennessee raised its gas tax by 6 cents, its natural and liquefied gas tax by 8 cents, and its diesel fuel tax by 10 cents. To balance the scale, it cut the sales tax on food from 5 to 4 percent, decreased certain taxes on its state’s manufacturers, and eliminated taxes on some income from bonds, notes, and stocks.

In one swoop, Tennessee improved its roads, lowered the cost of food, and removed obstacles to job growth and investment.

And in the end, they were Even Steven.

Americans for Tax Reform, the watchdog group known for its fierce opposition to tax increases, didn’t oppose Tennessee’s plan. Its president, Grover Norquist, found it didn’t violate their popular Taxpayer Protection Pledge that many candidates sign during election season.

Tennessee’s voters were pleased with the result and reelected the Republican majority to the legislature the following year.

Americans for Tax Reform also supported former Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to raise the gas tax in New Jersey in 2016. His plan raised gas taxes there from 14.5 cents to 23 cents per gallon, but eliminated the state’s death tax, lowered its sales tax from 7 percent to 6.6 percent, and increased the earned income tax credit.

Even Steven.

Same goes for South Carolina. Americans for Tax Reform supported then Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to combine an increase in gas taxes with a significant decrease in the state’s income taxes on individuals, families and small businesses.

Again, Even Steven.

Unfortunately, there are other examples of how gas taxes were raised without the benefit of lowering anything else. They either failed to pass or, ultimately, harmed the communities they sought to help. We must remember that high taxes are one of the chief reasons why people and businesses are fleeing places like New York for places like Alabama.

And there are also other reform measures that Alabamians should consider during this debate that were raised in a recent report issued by the Alabama Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, our lawmakers should remember another lesson from Tennessee’s experience raising their gas tax – the need for open debate about the details.

The chairman of the transportation committee in the Tennessee House of Representatives, State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss, was accused by some of breaking the chamber’s rules so he could “ram” through the gas tax increase. He ended up drawing a challenger in the Republican Primary and ultimately lost his seat, and some say his parliamentary maneuvers were partly to blame.

They say history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.

If that’s the case, let’s hope Alabama’s lawmakers will be less like Boss Doss by being transparent in the process and more like Even Steven by balancing any increase in the gas tax with decreases elsewhere.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

6 months ago

While the Supreme Court deliberates, Alabama should shine the light on asset forfeiture

(W.Miller/YHN)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently signaled that it’s ready to limit the government’s power to confiscate things like cars, houses, and cash that prosecutors have proven, or maybe just reasonably suspect, were involved in crimes.

The court heard oral arguments related to Indiana’s use of the power, known as asset forfeiture, to confiscate a $42,000 vehicle — a value nearly four times the maximum fine for the underlying crime. Specifically, the court is looking at whether the state is subject to the Eighth Amendment’s ban on imposing excessive fines.

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But because the justices seemed so skeptical of asset forfeiture overall, some court watchers predict that while the impending ruling may not abolish the practice completely, it could have deep and wide-ranging impacts.

Including here in Alabama.

Our state’s asset forfeiture law has become increasingly controversial because it allows something called civil asset forfeiture, a maneuver in which law enforcement agencies legally seize assets based upon the mere suspicion of a crime.

Yes, you read that right.

Under state law, you don’t have to be charged or even convicted of a crime to have your property seized.

Originally intended to cut off the cash flow of drug cartels, civil asset forfeiture is a practice that is independent of personal guilt or innocence. Instead, police charge or suspect your assets of being involved in a crime, and then take them.

Civil asset forfeiture flips the innocent-until-proven-guilty mantra of the American judicial system because defendants must prove their innocence to get their property back. In the case that defendants decide to hire an attorney, the legal costs can rival the worth of the assets, making such attempts both prohibitively expensive and, at times, pointless.

A coalition including the Alabama Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Institute for Justice supported efforts to reform the law during the last legislative session. But as negotiations in Montgomery waded into the details and potential unintended consequences arose, time ran out and the bill failed.

Why?

“It’s a complicated issue,” explained the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, in an AL.com postmortem of the effort.

Part of that complication lies in the delicate balance between liberty and order, and how much we’re willing to cede one for the other. That’s an age-old question and one that’s not easily resolved.

Proponents of asset forfeiture contend it’s an effective tool for law enforcement and helps keep drug dealers off the streets. Critics believe it goes too far and might even create a perverse financial incentive for police departments to take property from those who cannot defend themselves in court.

Both sides have valid points.

Another complication lies in the inability to know exactly how asset forfeiture is being conducted in Alabama. Law enforcement officials say they process forfeitures ethically, while some critics believe it’s a shadowy and unaccountable practice.

That, however, should be the simplest complication to settle.

The recent reform bill called for the creation and maintenance of a publicly accessible database containing relevant asset forfeiture information – what agencies were involved, what assets were seized, their value, the existence of any underlying crimes, etc.

Such transparency would not only build trust in the process, it would give both sides a common set of facts to discuss rather than rumors and disputed anecdotes.

Still, opponents of a database point to the fact that asset forfeiture cases are already public record since they’re all handled in one of Alabama’s 41 circuit courts.

That’s true, but that’s like telling concerned citizens to look for a needle in a haystack … or 41 haystacks, actually. We should expect more from our government when private property is being seized.

Another objection is, of course, the cost of maintaining such a database.

But if the purpose of seizing assets is to deprive criminals, or suspected criminals, of property used in the commission of crimes, and not as a method to fund their agencies, then shouldn’t they be okay with a portion of whatever is seized going to fund a database that would build trust in the system?

Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of asset forfeiture are eagerly anticipating the court’s ruling in June. Regardless of the decision, Alabama’s asset forfeiture law should take a step in the right direction … and into the light.

Pepper Bryars, author of American Warfighter, is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

1 year ago

Modest Proposal: A lottery in Alabama will finally make the poor pay their ‘fair share’

(W.Miller/Pixabay)

We often hear that the rich should be made to pay their “fair share,” but the top 20 percent of earners are already paying about 84 percent of our nation’s income taxes.

Some say that’s a reasonable apportionment from each according to their ability, but here’s a modest proposal for consideration: maybe it’s time for the poor to actually start paying their fair share in taxes.

Outrageous? No more than feeding our unwanted children to the rich. But still, how can we tax the poor without seeming like a monstrous mix of Ebenezer Scrooge and Montgomery Burns?

Politicians in Alabama — both Democrats and an unfortunate number of Republicans — have finally found the secret answer: a lottery.

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You may be skeptical that a lottery could deliver additional revenue on the backs of the poor, but other states have experimented with them for decades and have thoroughly perfected the trick.

Duke University found that the poorest third of households buy more than half of all lottery tickets, and a University of Buffalo survey showed that the lowest fifth on the socioeconomic scale had the “highest rate of lottery gambling (61 percent).”

Studies in Texas, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Minnesota also show that those with below-average incomes purchase a majority of scratch-off tickets. That’s partly because, as the Duke study found, poorer neighborhoods are saturated with get-rich-quick lottery advertisements for games with tempting names like “Win for Life, ” “Golden Ticket,” and “Holiday Cash.”

And get this: a study in California found that lottery sales actually increase with poverty rates. It’s recession proof!

We get to hook their children, too. A Yale University study revealed that “receipts of scratch-off lottery tickets as gifts during childhood … was associated with risky/problematic gambling.” Teach them when they’re young, as the saying goes.

We never have to worry about the lottery being repealed, either. The poor don’t hire lobbyists to help avoid taxes, and when they vote it’s often for self-serving or incompetent politicians. For instance, those shouting the loudest for a lottery actually represent the poorest parts of Alabama.

If those reams of scientific studies aren’t convincing, take my personal word for it – the poor will pay.

I grew up poor, and not just relatively speaking. We fell below the federal poverty line for a family our size many times over the years, and I can recall how my father once blew the lion’s share of his paycheck gambling at the dog track in Mobile. It hurt. We weren’t the kind of family who could absorb a lost paycheck. Bills simply went unpaid … and our family simply went without.

Later on, a close family member’s husband blew three paychecks in a row at the casinos over in Mississippi. They were poor, too, and were eventually evicted from their rental house. Their family never recovered, and it eventually fell apart.

But who cares, right? Gambling is a victimless and voluntary vice, and we have no right to stop a grown man from wagering his family’s income on a chance to “Win for Life” or to get some “Holiday Cash.” Besides, it’s not our fault if children are caught up in the scheme, even if it’s sanctioned by the people and managed by the state.

Still, I remain worried that Alabamians won’t approve the lottery.

Think about it. If the poor knew that lotteries were actually wealth redistribution in reverse or that their children would likely grow up addicted to gambling, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

If their elected representatives knew that a lottery would raise the taxes of their poorest constituents, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

If the Democrats, who style themselves as defenders of the poor, learned that a lottery takes advantage of the most vulnerable among us, they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

And if the Republicans, who style themselves as the keepers of our Judeo-Christian values, knew that a lottery’s get-rich-quick advertising campaigns “exploit the poor because they are poor (Proverbs, 22:22),” they wouldn’t vote for it … right?

I’m not sure. All of this experience and evidence presents an overwhelming and convincing case that a lottery is a hidden tax on the poor.

Thankfully, nobody seems to know these things.

Nobody, that is, but you.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

Why conservatives need a (partially) viable Democratic Party in Alabama

(W.Miller/YHN)

Liberals seeking a future in Alabama politics don’t have many options nowadays, but that’s not all good news for conservatives.

If the state’s Republican Party is the only game in town (and it is), then it’s bound to attract all sorts of players, from liberal candidates to liberal special interests and everything in between.

Take the recent GOP primary ballot. It was full of former Democrats and, probably worse, many of the longtime Republicans on the ballot accepted thousands of dollars from Democrat-aligned special interests (more than $600,000 from the teachers union alone).

Why this matters: Marketing professionals know the value of a brand, of building its awareness and protecting the feeling it evokes. Make changes to a successful product, they warn, and you’re bound to lose customers. And in the GOP’s case, lose voters, as Democrats-posing-as-Republicans dilute the brand.

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Liberals seeking elected office here are at a disadvantage, with 43 percent of Alabamians calling themselves conservatives and only 16 percent liberals, according to a Gallup survey released earlier this year.

That’s a 27-point spread in favor of conservative candidates.

Those odds probably discourage many politicians from running as Democrats even as conservative ones.

On another level, liberals who want to work in politics as aides, advisors or campaign consultants have even fewer options.

Thirty years ago, young liberals stood a better chance than young conservatives of landing politically-appointed jobs in Montgomery or with the state’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.

There were also many well-funded and abundantly staffed liberal-leaning advocacy groups, lobbying shops and consulting firms looking for talent. These jobs are important because they help identify, train and strengthen a party’s bench of future leaders.

Now there’s not a single member of the Democratic Party in a constitutional statewide office, their once supermajorities in the State Legislature are gone and Republicans comprise seven (soon to be eight in 2020) of Alabama’s nine-member Congressional delegation.

Meanwhile, the state’s Democratic Party establishment is a house divided and flat broke. Their candidates for statewide office this cycle, while energetic, are bound to lose by double digits.

That’s great for the Republican Party, but conservatives should remain watchful.

Where’s an ambitious liberal politician or wannabe staffer to go these days when the Democrats have lost all power?

Three places: home, the political wilderness, or for the most opportunistic individuals, the state’s Republican Party.

That’s fine for those who have actually changed their minds. There has been a rash of party-switching in recent years and conservatives should welcome all newcomers to the Republican ranks, especially former Democratic politicians.

Still, it’s hard to believe that elected officials and staffers who stood as Democrats through the decades of teacher-union dominated legislative sessions will be genuine leaders in the conservative movement.

Have they truly changed their minds or just their party?

Conservatives brought the state’s Republican Party to power based on the principles of limited government, individual liberty and family values-based traditions. It will be a challenge to hold onto those principles and the conservative brand as the party grows and welcomes new members with new ideas.

Is there a way to solve this?

Maybe. One could argue that a partially viable Democratic Party would give their candidates someplace to go, and thereby help keep ambitious liberal politicians from diluting the hard-won conservative brand.

Republicans shouldn’t purge their ranks, but conservatives will need to become more discerning as Alabama becomes more of a one-party state.

There are many indicators to watch for, including the aforementioned donations from the teachers union (more on that in the coming days).

Fundamentally, voters shouldn’t be sold on a candidate’s conservatism based on their pro-life or pro-gun rights beliefs — both givens here.

A truer test would be their belief in limited government, and whether they want to return or retain the power in Washington and Montgomery and restrict further government growth.

That’s a hard belief to verify, but their opinion on taxes is a great measure.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge offered by Americans for Tax Reform is one of the best indicators of a commitment to limited government, even though some conservatives refuse to sign out of a principle against taking pledges other than the oath of office.

Still, it’s a simple pledge that says candidates will “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

And that’s something no ambitious liberal could ever sign with a straight face.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

TRAGEDY: Pause and pray for Alabama AG Steve Marshall — wife confirmed dead

Steve Marshall with wife Bridgette and daughter Faith (Bridgette Marshall / Facebook)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall was confirmed dead Sunday, following “a long struggle with mental illness,” according to a statement from Marshall’s office.

When untimely death strikes, our natural tendency is to immediately want to know what happened and be tempted to listen to and spread gossip.

But Steve Marshall and his family don’t deserve gossip right now. They deserve grace and space, and that’s what Alabamians should give our attorney general.

Today, the how and why shouldn’t matter, at least not right now.

What matters is that a husband, a father, a man – a good and decent man – is devastated beyond comprehension. Everything we say and do should be about helping Steve and his family, not adding to their grief by posting mean social media comments or spreading unconfirmed rumors.

Troy King, his opponent in the GOP primary runoff, said in a Facebook post that he is pausing his campaign and stopping his advertisements, as he should.

Take a moment today to pause and pray for Steve Marshall and his family.

Update: Steve Marshall, angered by the rumor mill, spoke publicly about his wife’s death this week. 

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1 year ago

Princeton professor writes beautifully honest, hopeful article about Alabama in Harper’s Magazine

Professor Imani Perry (Princeton University)

Ivy League professors don’t normally write nice things about Alabama, especially when the topic veers into discussions of race and past (and current) injustices.

But not all Ivy League professors come from here. Thankfully Imani Perry does, and in next month’s print edition of Harper’s Magazine the Birmingham-native and current professor at Princeton University pens a beautifully honest and hopeful article about Alabama.

Do yourself a favor and read Perry’s entire article, titled “As Goes the South, so Goes the Nation,” but here are some of my favorite excerpts:

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“For the nation, as Montgomery lives in 1956, Selma is frozen in 1965, and Birmingham is stuck in 1963—the hoses, the children, the singing—right there just like that forever. It’s a half-truth lie,” Perry writes, recalling how she often feels when visiting home. “I know because I have been going home and leaving home almost all my life. History haunts. But Alabama changes.”

History haunts. Alabama changes.

Truth from a fellow Southerner who knows the best tribute a native son or daughter can give their homeland is to speak of it with honesty and reverence. Our ancestors and our descendants deserve nothing less.

Perry begins by describing Mobile Bay and informing readers that our Port City, not New Orleans, is home to Mardi Gras.

“But I am not bitter at the status of New Orleans. That’s not why I mention this,” she writes. “I am just trying to shake loose what TV movies and official declarations have told you. Alabama is more than you think. Put another way: it’s been said, aptly, that Alabama is a long state with its head in Appalachia and its toes in the Gulf Coast—the gateway to the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Alabama is swampland, beach silt, mountains, cities and dirt roads, plump gourds hanging from trees cut down and hollowed out to house purple martins and fat finchlike birds called yellowhammers. It is a tessellated but uneven map of counties, events, senses that must be read, more than a little bit, with one’s feet and not with one’s predilections.”

She then explains the danger in writing about Alabama “because when you write about returning home, and home is a place that echoes with national wounds, you run the risk of making it seem as though home is frozen except when you, the expatriate, return. That kind of work often reeks of the egotism of the Northeastern writer—and the idea that the interpretation of everything worth knowing depends upon her. The trick, I think … is to remix past and present, where time syncopates and repeats in a mix of yearning, hope, and loss.”

Perry does this deftly, reminiscent of Rick Bragg.

My favorite passage is when Perry uses two unique aspects of Mobile Bay as a metaphor to describe our state’s history with slavery — one natural, the amazing Jubilee that happens along its eastern shore, and another manmade, the slave-founded Africatown community.

“The Africans never lost their homesickness,” Perry writes, noting that “Africans in Alabama … built their own world—Africatown.”

“The echoing horror of slavery cuts both ways. We are often afraid to say what we know is true. The South is disaster and it is also miracle. Death and birth and rebirth and haunting ghosts at once. A new people out of old ones. There is no better metaphor for this than what happens sometimes in baby-foot Mobile Bay in the summer. Before dawn, crustaceans, eels, sea crabs, and fish, a mess of them, swarm close to shore, wriggling and near-naked. This is called a jubilee. And people joyfully come and scoop up the bounty. Feasts follow. There is a horrifying poetry. In the gospel music tradition, Jubilee is the victorious day when the saints gather. In Mobile Bay, it is a day when the fish are slaughtered by the hundreds. A few live.”

Now a little honesty.

“The Black towns in the Black Belt are now dumping grounds—of fantasies and waste,” she wrote, describing the state’s poorest, nearly forgotten areas. “In random assortment through the woods there are abandoned cars rusted to the color of dried blood, and stacks of old unwanted papers. But worst is what comes from out of state. Matter of fact, our nation has turned Uniontown, Alabama, into one of its trash cans, burying it in the refuse of thirty-three states. “Landfill” is too clean a word for what they do. And that’s not all. As part of Uniontown’s sewage system, liquid waste is spewed into the air to land on the hard Alabama clay earth. The town is showered in shit.”

Perry, who often returns to Birmingham for Thanksgiving, then writes about the changes she’s seen through the years.

“Named after the industrial city in En­gland, Birmingham was once a steel-­mill town,” she writes. “There are now lofts and luxury malls and Whole Foods and Walmart Supercenters, but “city” doesn’t quite mean the same thing in the South as in the North, except for in Atlanta and maybe not even there. The edges curl and everything earthen is in sight, right out of the line, in your peripheral vision. It harkens to a time before concrete. My part of town … was once anchored in modernity by the steel mill, Ensley Ironworks. Now its dust has just settled atop the soil, yet under the weight of new construction.”

“So the conundrum: Alabama calls up the past but it is not stuck in the past.”

After describing the Port City, the Black Belt, Montgomery, and Birmingham, Perry sets her sights on the Huntsville area and provides an interesting bit of family history, shedding light on what life was like around the Rocket City a century ago.

“Hundreds of acres in Madison County belonged to my people, the Garners, with bushes of blueberries as big as grapes and trees hanging with peaches and plenty of animals,” she writes.

“According to the 1910 census, we went from owned to owners before we went from illiterate to literate. My mother remembers her grand­daddy had so many field workers, and some were white. This fact dumbfounded me when I learned it as a child. But poor white folks had to eat, too.”

She ends her piece by describing all of the growth our state has experienced in recent years, especially in Huntsville — people leaving, then returning — and then reflects on a series of pictures of the area’s flora taken by her cousin.

“They are quiet and thick with spirit,” she writes of what grows wild in Alabama.

One might think she was writing about the beautiful trees and flowers she saw in her cousin’s pictures.

But back home, we know Perry is talking about us, her people.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

 

1 year ago

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox says he’s pro-life, but his language is chock-full of pro-choice phraseology

(W. Maddox/YouTube)

Earlier this month the Democrat Party’s nominee for governor, Walt Maddox, responded to a questionnaire about his views on many issues facing Alabamians, but his answers about abortion proved to be the most revealing, although probably unintentionally.

The Tuscaloosa mayor began by writing that he was “personally opposed to abortion,” a slippery term if there ever was one, before proceeding to use similar phrases that we normally hear from the pro-choice crowd.

It’s as if Maddox was sampling lines from an abortion apologist’s Greatest Hits album.

Why this matters: Alabama already has one pro-choice politician in high office with Sen. Doug “20 Weeks” Jones, who infamously voted against banning aborting unborn children when they’re 20-weeks old and capable of feeling pain. We cannot afford to have another one.

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The questionnaire was formulated by the editors of Yellowhammer News and our partners over at the Alabama Policy Institute. Here’s the rather straight-forward question on abortion:

“Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?”

And here was the mayor’s answer, which as you can read isn’t really an answer at all:

“I’m a pro-life Democrat who is concerned that many Republicans are more pro-birth than pro-life,” Maddox wrote. “Perhaps Sister Joan Chittister best summed up my feelings when she said “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

He continued. “Although I am personally opposed to abortion, under the law of the land a woman has a right to choose up until the point of fetal viability,” he wrote. “The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits use of federal funds to pay for abortions except those that endanger the life of the woman, or that result from rape or incest, and Alabama law does not provide any state funds for abortions. The courts will ultimately decide which of Alabama’s several laws regulating abortion are constitutional, including any restrictions on new abortion clinics. As a governor sworn to uphold the federal and state constitutions and the laws of Alabama, I will faithfully execute Alabama’s laws within the constitutional limits defined by the Supreme Court.”

Here’s a breakdown of Maddox’s pro-choice phraseology:

— “Republicans are more pro-birth than pro-life.” 

I’ve seen this same line in dozens of emails from pro-choice activists after every pro-life column I publish. 

It’s like clockwork. They can’t cope with keeping the focus on abortion because the act is indefensible, so they attempt to change the subject entirely with what they hope is a witty turn of phrase. 

But it’s not witty. It’s hollow, and betrays the hollowness of both their argument and the moral framework it’s built upon. 

The two issues — abortion and welfare — are two entirely different subjects. But in their world, it must be OK to end someone’s life if the state isn’t willing to provide for it financially (which we do for the truly needy, by the way).

— “Although I am personally opposed to abortion, under the law of the land a woman has a right to choose up until the point of fetal viability.”

Maddox is trying to have it both ways here, but this isn’t that sort of issue. If he believes an unborn child is a person, which I suppose forms the basis for his personal opposition to abortion, then any measure of morality would compel him to oppose it completely. 

The unborn child is either a living person or not, and if so, it’s life must be defended as anyone else’s life would be defended.

To believe that, personally, yet do nothing to stop it from happening means one is either a coward or creature of such unscrupulous ambition as to be wholly undeserving of public office.

— “The courts will ultimately decide.”

No, the people will, at least in the end.

But to the point: here Maddox evades the core question by falling back on courts, as if the governor has no role. As if nobody has a role but five of nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. But we’re not living in a judicial tyranny, at least not yet. 

There are many things the governor can do — sign pro-life bills into law, make executive decisions about funding certain abortion providers, and use the bully pulpit to encourage greater action.

It seems as if Maddox might not be willing to do any of those things, preferring to toss the hot potato over to the courts.

Fundamentally, this is weakness. I’m sure one could have heard an argument similar to Maddox’s in the 1850s: “Although I am personally opposed to slavery, under the law of the land a white man has a right to own a black man. So …”

Then he quotes Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun, in what he may think is some sort of clever nod to faith. 

But conservative Catholics would see straight through this, too, because Sister Joan disagrees with Catholic teaching on abortion. She’s effectively pro-choice because she has said that she opposes it as a primary form of birth control but leaves room for abortion in many other situations, which makes her opinion on the matter decidedly not Catholic at all. 

The fact that of all the people he could quote, Maddox quotes a nun who disagrees with the Catholic teaching on abortion is very revealing.

Perhaps one of his staffers wrote the response, allowing their pro-choice phraseology to seep into the answers. Maybe he would have said more if given more space and time.

If it’s sincerely held, Maddox should stand strong on his personal opposition to abortion. We need more people who share his beliefs to step forward, to convince others, and to help put an end to the awful practice. 

Yellowhammer News would happily publish a guest post by Maddox should he wish to further explain his beliefs about abortion, and we’d hope such an explanation would dispense with wordy obfuscation and answer our inquiry more directly — since he is opposed to abortion, what would he do to stop abortions from happening in Alabama?

Until such an explanation is offered, Alabamians should remain very skeptical of Maddox’s views on abortion, and certainly his ability to represent a state whose citizens are overwhelmingly pro-life.

@jpepperbryarsis the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

Do conservatives face a double standard? Yes, and we should

(W.Miller/YHN)

Conservatives have spent a great deal of time recently decrying the double standard we face over the appropriateness of our behavior.

The debate surrounding Roseanne Barr can be read elsewhere, but the basic complaint is this: Conservatives, and even those who half-heartedly support conservatives, are held accountable for things that progressives routinely get away with or are even encouraged to say or do.

But is there really a double standard?

Yes, and there should be. Here’s why:

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Fundamentally, that double standard could be more accurately described as a different standard, and one we conservatives freely choose to accept. Sure, it can be infuriating when those with, shall we say alternative standards, use ours as weapons against us, but regardless, they are our standards. We either have them or we don’t.

That’s why during times like these it’s helpful to remind ourselves why we have these different standards, where they come from, and why we should keep them, especially when they become uncomfortable or unpopular.

The Flesh

One of the first steps someone takes toward authentic conservatism, even if somewhat unconsciously, is to realize there exists an enduring moral order of rights and wrongs, as Russell Kirk observed, that wasn’t devised by mankind.

Much like Neo saw after he swallowed the red pill, this underlying matrix of morality exists whether we like it or not (and we often don’t like it). It’s basic biology and psychology, bro, hardwired into our bodies by God or evolution or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Point is, it’s there … in the flesh.

Hormones, temperaments, instincts and our own mysterious neurological structures combine to partially urge us into certain behaviors, and those certain behaviors produce certain results time after time. This can be observed across demographics, cultures, and even time. It’s far from any sort of pure biological determinism, but near enough to warrant serious attention.

It works something like this: A plus B usually produces C, so if you don’t want C to happen, then you better devise a method to avoid producing and combining its antecedents.

Presto – a standard is born.

Conservatives don’t accept this reality with any more glee than Neo after learning he spent his best years as a Duracell battery. It’s often initially undesirable, especially if you enjoy A and B, but it is what it is.

That’s why we recognize certain uncomfortable standards of behavior – of morality – that keep us from suffering even more uncomfortable yet altogether predictable consequences. We can, and often do, overcome immoral urges with the greater power of moral ones. Virtue battles vice, and standards help us suppress one while promoting the other.

The key difference is that progressives believe many of these standards are arbitrary and unjust. They’ve forgotten why the standard was originally enacted and see them as relics of a patriarchal and superstitious past rather than an ancient railing that keeps us from stumbling blindly into the abyss.

The Spirit

Many conservatives are also Christians, or at least loosely share in the Judeo-Christian tradition. So, while this may be news to some – though it has been preached for 2,000 years – followers of Jesus are called not just to a different standard, but a radically different standard – to imitate Christ.

This extends far beyond the standards that we share with the secular world, like not committing murder and not stealing, but to those actions which the world happily embraces and even encourages, like gossip, rudeness, and yes, even foul language and speaking meanly.

Walk into any Christian church and you’ll likely hear a variation on the same theme – we’re different, so act like it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

These new standards are high, some seemingly unattainable, and invite justifiable charges of hypocrisy because we usually fail to meet them. Yet hold them, we still.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus tells us, but then Paul writes that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I will not attempt an explanation of those apparently conflicting quotes except to say this: Believers get it, but skeptics never will.

Conservatives recognize reality and have adopted a set of standards to make life a little better, and some of us have accepted Jesus as our Lord and have extended those standards even further.

The world will deride us for adhering to old-fashioned and useless standards, ridicule us for striving to follow the commands of a make-believe god, and then use both to punish us for failing to meet them.

Being held to a double standard will happen, and often.

When it does, however, we mustn’t lash out angrily at those who are holding a mirror up to our faces, and we certainly shouldn’t lower our standards to avoid the reflection.

We should thank them for reminding us that we’re different, for reminding us that we’re fortunate to know something they don’t, and for reminding us that we’re blessed to have a relationship that they lack.

Take a good look into that mirror and allow what you see to sink in.

Then offer its holder a red pill, or perhaps a word of scripture, and then strive to do better next time.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

What’s next for Tommy Battle? Hopefully more of the same

(T. Battle/Facebook)

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle proved three things during his failed campaign for governor:

First, that he’s the best mayor in the state of Alabama by nearly every measurable indicator.

Second, the people of North Alabama believe he’s doing a great job — they gave him plenty of votes.

Third, business and industry interests in North Alabama think he’s doing a great job, too — they gave him plenty of campaign contributions.

So what’s next for this successful executive and still promising candidate? Some observers think he’ll run for Senate in 2020.

But I hope my mayor stays right where he is, and here’s why:

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We have plenty of potential United States Senators

One may need to understand rocket science to be mayor of Huntsville, but one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to be a U.S. senator.

Sure, it takes years to develop the knowledge, network and seniority to become as influential as Sen. Richard Shelby, but at this point, all we need is someone we can trust to vote “yea” on conservative bills and nominations and “nay” on everything else.

It’s that simple, and if there’s ever a question just say “ditto” to whatever is said by Utah Sen. Mike Lee (or ask “WWJD” … “What would Jeff do,” as in Jeff Sessions).

We have plenty of proven conservative lawmakers in Alabama who could seamlessly step into that role. State Senators Del Marsh of Anniston, Bill Hightower of Mobile, and Arthur Orr of Decatur are just three who spring to mind. We have many others, including mayors like Sandy Stimpson of Mobile.

But we don’t have plenty of potential mayors of Huntsville

Being the mayor of a hyper-booming city like Huntsville is an entirely different ballgame in terms of complexity, responsibility, authority, accountability and, most of all, impact.

Big things are happening up here, and fast. We have no time for a mayor to get on-the-job training, and the risk of bringing another captain aboard is too great.

And here’s why this matters to everyone else in Alabama, not just folks north of the Tennessee River: The decisions made by the mayor of Huntsville in the next five years will have an impact across the entire state for the next five decades.

Huntsville will soon be our largest city, our largest economy and one of our largest sources of state revenue.

Our state’s flagship will no longer be the Magic City … it’ll be the Rocket City, and the center of gravity in many decisions will necessarily shift from Birmingham to Huntsville. “Heresy,” say the blue bloods of Birmingham, Montgomery and my beloved hometown of Mobile. But the numbers don’t lie, and as with most things, influence will follow the money.

So, the growth of Huntsville can continue as it has under Battle’s leadership — smart and sustainable — or it could stall or slide under someone else. And Alabama’s economy will rise, or fall, accordingly.

So while the natural tendency may be to promote someone like Battle to another office, we, and he, should resist that temptation in this case.

Alabama may want a Senator Battle.

Alabama may someday even want a Governor Battle.

But right now, Alabama needs a Mayor Battle.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

America’s war heroes are born, not made

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, Iraq, 2005 (Tristan Kerbo/U.S. Army)

Near the end of the Korean War novel “The Bridges of Toko-Ri,” an American military commander is mourning the death of some of his best men, but also remembering their strength, their courage, and the devotion they shared for one another.

Staring alone out at the morning sea, he reflects on how fortunate our nation is to have had such heroes, and then asks, “… where did we get such men?”

On this Memorial Day, I find myself reflecting back to when I asked that same question while researching and writing the book, “American Warfighter: Brotherhood, Survival, and Uncommon Valor in Iraq, 2003-2011.” I wrote about the experiences of 10 men who, for their actions in combat, were awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, two Navy Crosses, five Silver Stars, and three other prestigious awards for valor.

After each interview I found myself asking … where did we get such men?

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Where did we get the kind of medic who’d leave the safety of his armored vehicle to shoot his way through an ambush, killing several insurgents before pulling three soldiers from a burning tank?

Where did we get the former cook who singlehandedly killed six Al Qaeda fighters in close quarters combat, the last going down in a blazing face-to-face shootout?

Where did we get the Marine who ran into an open ambush in Fallujah not once, not twice, but three times so he could carry his wounded comrades to safety?

In an era when the term is perhaps too loosely applied, these individuals epitomize the word “hero.” But they bristled at the term, preferring instead to give credit to their families for supporting them and enduring the hardships of separation, and they always said others deserved equal or higher recognition. Still, when the moment came to act – to willingly place themselves in harm’s way – they did so instantly.

“I was just doing my job,” they told me.

Where did we get such men?

Before they were the heroes I spoke with, they were just normal Americans from every walk of life and corner of our nation: A high school quarterback from California, the son of a police officer from Staten Island, a Texan from a rough part of town, and a boy from New Orleans who just wanted to help people.

One was an immigrant studying for his doctorate in political science in Chicago, while another was a kid from rural Ohio who was rejected by the Air Force only to become a living legend in the Marine Corps. Then there was the little boy from Michigan whose mother signed him up for karate as an outlet for the aggression that would someday help save his fellow Green Berets.

But still, where did we get such men?

Those without military experience often assume young men and women join the ranks to escape whatever life they’re leading, to just get a job, or perhaps to learn a trade or earn money for college. While those are all incentives, they’re simply not enough to propel someone through all it takes to enter and remain part of the American military. There are far easier ways to earn a living and much simpler ways to get an education.

When asked, most of them said they joined because of a challenge or to be part of a team, to serve our nation, or even out of a sense of adventure.

Maybe … but after getting to know them very well, and many others like them, I’ve come to realize that the reason many joined is something nearly indefinable, perhaps unknown to even them. It seems it’s something deep within their souls that beckoned each to join the brotherhood of arms and to protect our country.

I’ve heard this same sense of a guided purpose be described by pastors as a “calling” to the ministry. It’s not a profession, they say, it’s a vocation that one has a predisposition to perform well and a spiritual summoning to undertake.

Accepting the calling to become an American warfighter isn’t the same thing, exactly, but it’s the nearest I’ve found.

So today I will attempt to answer the commander’s question in “The Bridges of Toko-Ri.”

Where did we get such men?

We didn’t “get” them at all.

They were “sent” to us.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

SHAME! State Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama’s first openly gay lawmaker, tries to ‘out’ Gov. Kay Ivey in hateful nighttime Tweet

(MSNBC/YouTube)

With just 34 words twisted together in cruel and bitter intent, Alabama State Rep. Patricia Todd – our first openly gay lawmaker and a professional human rights activist – has shown us everything that’s wrong with politics, journalism and the awful thing called Twitter.

Here’s what Todd tweeted Tuesday night:

Folks, decent people just don’t do this

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Todd should be utterly ashamed of herself. She, of all people, should know that the club she just wielded is dripping wet with hatred and bigotry and evil. She ought to never have picked it up, but now that she has, its stink and stain are on her hands.

The journalists across the state who immediately began spreading the rumor should be ashamed of themselves, too. They, of all people, should know better than to report something so unsubstantiated. They should have all done what I wanted to do when I saw the tweet – ignore it. Alas, they didn’t, so here we are, however regrettably.

And the people who gleefully retweeted or “loved” Todd’s tweet should also be ashamed of themselves. The following bit is just for them: Next time you complain about how parts of our society have become so mean, take a look in the mirror and you’ll see who’s partly to blame.

Again, decent people don’t do this. They don’t spread it. And they don’t cheer it.

Even though she didn’t need to, Gov. Kay Ivey’s campaign was quick to respond.

“This is a disgusting lie being pushed by a paid liberal political hack,” a campaign spokesperson told me last night. “There is absolutely no truth to it.”

If good old-fashioned shame still helped people remain somewhat civilized, here’s what should happen next:

— Todd should immediately apologize to Ivey, personally.

— If she doesn’t, the Democrat Party of Alabama should demand she does so.

— Journalists in the state should take some time to examine their policies and standards. Simply because someone says something, even if that person holds some high office, doesn’t mean it should be amplified so quickly, especially without evidence or even any serious attempt to gather evidence. This isn’t why any of us got into this business, at least I hope not.

— And some of us just need to get the heck off of Twitter. It’s unhealthy. The pathway from a random thought to worldwide publication has become dangerously short, and some people obviously cannot handle the responsibility. We used to have barriers that actually helped us be more prudent in what we said, and the delay helped tame our rash nature. It used to require effort to make such a claim, and the effort helped separate the meaningful from the meaningless. Now, nothing. Every hateful or moronic utterance is treated equally. (By the way, why hasn’t Twitter suspended Todd for bullying?)

Thankfully, the silver lining was that there were a few people who responded to Todd’s tweet correctly:

Ivey is a nice lady. Sure, she’s in politics, and as they say, it ain’t “beanbag.” But she deserves better, much better than this. Anyone does.

If Todd isn’t ashamed.

If the media isn’t ashamed.

And if those who cheered them on aren’t ashamed.

Then I’ve got enough to go around.

Because this morning, I’m pretty ashamed of all of them.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

Alabama’s race for governor bores us … but shouldn’t that excite us?

(Campaign)

Hardly anyone is paying attention to the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor this year.

That’s because the campaign is sort of boring. All four candidates are qualified, rational, reasonable and respectable people, and we lack a serious crisis or pressing issue upon which to contrast their differences.

But isn’t that a good thing?

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Unlike in years past, when I look around our state I think to myself, “Gosh, everything seems to be going quite well.”

I look at our State Legislature and see leaders who are conservative, dedicated and serious.

I look at our business sector and see a thriving, growing environment.

I look at my community and see a culture that has largely withstood the assaults from the left.

And then I look at the four candidates for the GOP nomination for governor and think, “I would be happy voting for any one of them.”

I’ve never been able to think that before.

We have the matriarch, the businessman, the pastor, and the thinker, and who I vote for may simply come down to how I’m feeling on June 5th.

Should the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” be on my mind, I’ll likely vote for Gov. Kay Ivey.

If I’m thinking even more jobs would be even mo’ better, then Mayor Tommy Battle will be my man.

If I happen to read something in the news that shows our Christian world and life view under attack, then I’ll respond by voting for evangelist Scott Dawson.

And if I’m feeling that we need someone who has a firm grasp of, and commitment to, authentic conservative principles, I’ll fill in the circle beside State Senator Bill Hightower’s name.

Meanwhile, I’ll spend some time writing a little about each, why I like them, and the attributes they could bring to the office.

It might be a boring race … but I’m getting pretty excited about what comes next.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

Yellowhammer U: Shapiro and Peterson discuss gender, meaning and manhood

(YouTube/Daily Wire)

This evening we’re introducing Yellowhammer University, a regular series of posts that will highlight information we find educational and believe advances the conservative movement.

The university’s “curriculum” will include subjects that stretch across politics, faith, and culture, and will be comprised from a mix of content — interviews, lectures, speeches, videos, articles and books.

Tonight’s inaugural installment is a fascinating discussion between Ben Shapiro, who we feature weekly on Yellowhammer News, and noted behavioral psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson. They discuss identity politics, gender differences and man’s search for meaning.

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1 year ago

Bear Bryant ‘Have you called your mama today?’ (VIDEO)

(YouTube/South Central Bell)

On a day like today, many sons and daughters across Alabama can appreciate Coach Bear Bryant’s famous television commercial for South Central Bell.

“Have you called your mama today?” the Bear asked, after explaining how he encouraged his players to keep in touch with their families. “I sure wish I could call mine.”

Me too, coach.

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1 year ago

Yellowhammer News is gaining readers, growing in influence, and bringing the conservative movement together in Alabama

It’s been six months since Rachel and I began editing Yellowhammer News, bringing with us a traditionally conservative focus on politics, culture and faith, a new and experienced team of writers, and an innovative new website design.

And the response has been incredible – Yellowhammer News articles are now being read more than half a million times each week!

We credit this success to three simple factors: our people, our principles, and our partners. Here’s an update on how we’re doing with each:

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Our People:

— Our team of writers has more than a 100 years of combined journalism experience.

— We brought aboard nationally-known writers such as Brendan Kirby of Daphne, the senior political reporter for Lifezette, and Alabama-native Jeff Poor, an editor at Breitbart News. Cullman’s Johnny Kampis is a seasoned investigative reporter and has written widely in publications including The New York Times and The Daily Caller. All have covered Alabama for years.

— North Alabama radio host Dale Jackson now brings his sharp analysis and conservative opinion to the site, along with rising stars Jeremy Beaman of Huntsville and Kyle Morris of Heflin.

— Our art director Walker Miller of Birmingham produces our stunning graphics, our social media presence has grown under the management of Trent Baker of Moody, and our site has quadrupled its production of stories with the help of our awesome editorial assistant, James Choi of Montgomery.

Our Principles:

— We’ve increased standards and elevated content quality, pledging to be advocates for conservatism while remaining true to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

— Aside from offering the news you need, we advocate for ideas … not individuals. We’re committed to integrity — to not be anyone’s guard dog or attack dog, and we’re not cheerleaders for any political party. But that doesn’t mean we’re bystanders, either. You can rely on Yellowhammer News to speak loudly, especially when our elected leaders fall silent.

— We’ve focused on the pro-life issue in Alabama, defended our First and Second Amendment rights, supported the free market, advocated for consistent standards of morality, critiqued the liberal views of some media in the state, stood against mindless social justice mobs, called attention to efforts in the Legislature to end human traffickingdefended conservatives under attack for sticking to their principles, and called for the reform of laws governing jail food money, guns for teachers, civil asset forfeiture, and ethics laws among many others.

— During last year’s controversial special Senate election, we demonstrated that good conservatives can disagree when the site’s editor and publisher took different positions. Then we sought to unite the movement in the aftermath.

— Our commitment to these principles was frequently tested, and we were often questioned by our fellow conservatives for not toeing the party line (including being criticized by the site’s founding editor). But we remained true to ourselves and remained on course, confident in both our declaration and our destination … and most importantly, the judgment of our readers and the right of everyone to think for themselves.

Our Partners:

— To provide deeper coverage of politics and economics, we’ve partnered to bring you articles from the scholars at three prestigious public policy think tanks in Alabama: the traditionally conservative Alabama Policy Institute in Birmingham, the free-market focused Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and the libertarian-leaning Mises Institute in Auburn.

— In an effort to focus on the crossroads of faith and culture, Pastor Harry Reeder of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham shares his Christ-centered thoughts every weekday (with the excellent transcription skills of our editorial assistant, Jessica Havin of Huntsville), celebrated Catholic Bishop Robert Barron offers insights on culture and faith, and the writers at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission comment frequently from the Southern Baptist perspective.

— We’ve brought national and international news coverage of issues conservatives care about through a strategic partnership with CNSNews and the Daily Caller News Foundation.

— Readers can also find hunting and fishing covered by Alabama’s best outdoor writer, David Rainer.

— Insightful commentary that has been absent from Alabama’s newspapers has returned by our regular publication of such national opinion writers as Pat Buchanan, Ben Shapiro, Walter Williams, Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh and John Stossel.

— We’re also pleased to announce our newest partnership with The Birmingham Mom’s Blog — to expand into new topics with the publication of pieces written by Birmingham mothers.

— Nearly every day we feature guest opinions from leaders and laymen across the state, including Alabama’s Congressional delegation and state lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Yellowhammer held events across the state, from a news-making forum in Montgomery with the leaders of the State Legislature to an event in Birmingham celebrating the impact of women in Alabama.

Every day we seek to honor God and serve our readers and we thank you for your loyalty, your patience, your feedback, and your shared love for our great state.

So, keep reading, keep coming back, and we promise to keep providing the news you need with the conservative opinion and analysis that you want.

The best is yet to come!

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

President Trump channels ‘Josey Wales and Ten Bears’ in negotiations with North Korea

Everything one needs to know about foreign policy can be learned by watching the three-minute negotiation scene between the Rebel outlaw and the Comanche chief in the film “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

Wales offers both life … and death … with utmost sincerity, and because the outlaw is willing to die in battle, the warrior chief Ten Bears believes he is willing to live in peace. And so they live together, in peace.

President Donald Trump’s similar stance with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have yielded similar results.

Here’s why:

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Trump’s strategy with Kim has been obvious: The president is willing to go to war and he’s willing to settle for peace. The choice is all up to Kim, and Trump is deadly serious about either option.

The North Koreans have enjoyed a familiar calculation with past American presidents: The regime behaves badly + the White House get scared = our president gives their Dear Leader whatever he wants.

But 1+2=3 doesn’t add up anymore. In fact, Trump has gone and changed the entire equation to a rather simple two-choice question. The North Korean regime can either have A) peace, or B) we can turn their country into the largest glass menagerie in the galaxy.

And like Josey Wales, our president ain’t bluffing … and maybe Kim knows it.

For those who aren’t familiar with the film (and if you’re a guy who hasn’t seen it, you may turn in your Man Card at the nearest gun range), here are the best lines:

Josey: You be Ten Bears?

Ten Bears: I am Ten Bears.

Josey: (spits tobacco) I’m Josey Wales.

Ten Bears: I have heard. You’re the Gray Rider. You would not make peace with the Blue Coats. You may go in peace.

Josey: I reckon not. Got nowhere to go.

Ten Bears: Then you will die.

Josey: I came here to die with you. Or live with you. Dying ain’t so hard for men like you and me, it’s living that’s hard; when all you ever cared about has been butchered or raped. Governments don’t live together, people live together. With governments you don’t always get a fair word or a fair fight. Well, I’ve come here to give you either one, or get either one from you. I came here like this so you’ll know my word of death is true. And that my word of life is then true. The bear lives here, the wolf, the antelope, the Comanche. And so will we. Now, we’ll only hunt what we need to live on, same as the Comanche does. And every spring when the grass turns green and the Comanche moves north, he can rest here in peace, butcher some of our cattle and jerk beef for the journey. The sign of the Comanche, that will be on our lodge. That’s my word of life.

Ten Bears: And your word of death?

Josey: It’s here in my pistols, there in your rifles. I’m here for either one.

Ten Bears: These things you say we will have, we already have.

Josey: That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.

Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double-tongues. There is iron in your word of death for all Comanche to see. And so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron, it must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life … or death. It shall be life. (he takes his knife and cuts his hand. Josey does the same and they grasp each other’s hand.) So shall it be.”

Watch the awesome clip now:

Exit question: Will Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un seal the pact by slicing their palms and mingling their blood? Never say never with this guy …

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

Bizarro World: NYT reminds us that Alabama’s Jeff Sessions is a consistent conservative

(Wikicommons)

The president has repeatedly insulted Alabama’s Jeff Sessions, calling him “weak” “disgraceful” and an “idiot” along with mockingly nicknaming him Mr. Magoo.

To add injury to insults, many fair-weather conservatives have echoed these jeers or said nothing, failing to defend a man who has faithfully defended us and our values for decades.

Oh well, at least the Gray Lady took a moment today to remind us that Sessions remains faithful to our movement and his word:

Key excerpts from the New York Times:

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— “While the president rails against him in Washington, Mr. Sessions travels the country diligently pushing the conservative Trump agenda. As a former federal prosecutor who has a firm grasp of the tools of his office and the letter of the law, Mr. Sessions, 71, is the creator and chief enforcer of the tough immigration and criminal justice goals that helped propel Mr. Trump into office.”

— “And unlike several other members of the Trump cabinet, Mr. Sessions has not sullied the administration with headlines over first-class jet travel, exorbitant office furnishings, lobbyist-furnished housing — or all of the above. When he is in Washington, Mr. Sessions has a turkey sandwich from the Justice Department cafeteria (base price: $5.29) for lunch, which he eats at his desk. When his team works late, he hands out granola bars, which his wife buys in bulk at Costco.”

— “It was Mr. Sessions who announced Mr. Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama executive order shielding from deportation immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children. He is suing the state of California over its sanctuary laws: “It cannot be, as it seems to be today, that someone who illegally crosses the border here on a Monday and ends up in San Francisco on Wednesday can never be deported,” Mr. Sessions said in Las Cruces. “Even if they were hauling dope to San Francisco and they got arrested, they can’t be deported. Now, how illogical and insane, really, is that?’”

And he’s doing much, much more to advance the conservative agenda and restore a sense of law and order in our nation.

So, next time you see a tweet insulting this honorable man, remember this: Jeff Sessions is a strong conservative, an ethical leader, and a good man.

And conservatives should be as loyal to him as he’s been to us.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

1 year ago

#FakeRacism — Alabama cops were justified in Waffle House arrest

(WKRG/YouTube)

They’re out here saying those white cops who arrested that black lady last weekend at the Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama were racists.

Reality Check: When a cop places you under arrest and you do anything other than passively comply, you may wish for him to say, “Oh, you don’t want to be arrested? My bad. I’ll just leave now.” But here’s what will actually happen, every time, and like Michael Jackson sang, “it don’t matter if you’re black or white.”

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“Outrage growing over black woman’s arrest … by white police officers,” read the headline on AL.com, followed by an article reporting that local protestors were then “confronted by white police officers and one black man was handcuffed.”

Are y’all as sick of these #FakeRacism stories as I am?

That ugly scene could have been avoided if that lady had followed the advice my father gave me years ago.

“Don’t argue with the cops, son,” he told me. “Whether you’re wrong or right, the police deal with criminals all day long and don’t need any lip from some kid.”

“So if they ever say ‘Get out of here,’ or ‘Sit on that curb and shut up,’ then do it without a word of backtalk,” he warned. “Or they might crack you upside the head with that baton they carry or you’ll spend the night in jail.”

A version of that advice called “The Talk” is given in the black community because of their experience with the law enforcement, especially in decades past.

I personally believe those days of systemic racism are gone, but the advice should remain — obey the law.

Or you might end up looking like a fool on Youtube for being arrested at a Waffle House … and it don’t matter if you’re black or white.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

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