February 2015 Issue

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Issue No. 4

Cover: The Future of Modern Conservatism

Features: We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers by Alex Montgomery;

Conservative Roots and Adaptations for a New Generation by Daniel Sifredo;

How Conservatives are Winning Millenials by Christina Kresser;

Fusionism: The Legacy of President Ronald Reagan by Frank Pray;

Conservatives Should Support Same-Sex Marriage by Peter McClelland;

Net Neutrality: An Overview by Grace Timothy;

The Libertarian Take on Immigration by Patrick Slinger;

Disappearing Dads and the Social Crisis of Fatherlessness by Christopher Arnold;

Happiness and Virtue by David Ortiz, Editor Emeritus;

Looking Towards 2016 by Jackson Valentine, Managing Editor.

Editor-in-Chief: Francis C. Pray, III

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Tolerance in America

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”- Dalai Lama

As Americans we are uniquely different than many other nations because we live in a society that is heterogeneous. We should not look at the differences in others as an opportunity to advocate their inferiority, but, instead, we should look at differences in others as an opportunity to learn and understand other’s perspective so that we can make clear judgment on what we see as “right” and “wrong”.

At times it may seem that those who oppose our viewpoints are our adversaries, but it is important to remember that one of the fundamental principles of a democratic republic is the presence of opposition. Without a balanced opposition there would be a monopoly of power and narrow-mindedness that may easily lead to the persecution of minority groups.

Narrow-mindedness is what provoked the killing of African-Americans by the KKK, the genocide of the Jews in Germany, and it continues to fuel the constant clash between Israel and Palestine. A narrowed minded person lacks the capacity to learn new ideas, creating a blind partisanship that leads to incompetence.

Whether you are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, atheist or theist we should remind ourselves we are still bound together as Americans, and more specifically, as Tar Heels. We should always strive to protect each other’s unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no matter how different our opinions may be.

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ISIS or ISIL?

We hear about a terror group known as ISIS almost daily on the news in America today, but you will hear about a terror group known as ISIL from any speech or statement made by the United States State Department. They are obviously the same group, but why the discrepancy? Why must the government (among others) decide to call a terrorist group ISIL while others call them ISIS?

Just to set a background, ISIS stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and ISIL stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Most English-speaking news organizations refer to the group as ISIS, but that’s not necessarily the most accurate title for the terror group.

In Arabic, the group is called Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, which is literally translated “The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”. Al-Sham is a region that stretches from southern Turkey through Syria to Egypt, which includes Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. This region’s English name is the Levant; therefore ISIL would be a more accurate title than ISIS.

However, it must be noted that there is a difference between al-Sham and Bildad al-Sham. Some Arabic scholars claim that al-Sham is used to refer to Syria and Damascus, while Bildad al-Sham is used to refer to the Levant. It is also important to note that “the Levant” is a dated term that would normally be used alongside “Mesopotamia”, and “Greater Syria” is probably a more actuate name for the Levant.

Regardless, neither ISIS nor ISIL is the most accurate name for the group. The Arabic shorthand for ISIL is DAIISH, and if news organizations wanted to be as actuate as possible, DAIISH would probably be the best way to go.

In any event, ISIS, ISIL, or DAIISH is a dangerous terrorist group and America must do everything within its means to make sure that terrorism is not carried out on our homeland.

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The Misuse of Money in Secondary Education

With ongoing debates over secondary education policy, high school curriculum and teaching has taken a hit. Currently expected to teach specific classes to specific tests, many instructors feel limited in their ability to educate students beyond standardized assessments. Many have voiced opinions that students are not learning life skills, critical thinking, or creative learning necessary to succeed. As teachers and administrators express their thoughts, local governments should be responsible for listening and funding aspects of education curriculum that will impact as many children as possible in a positive manner. Yes, there is dispute over how this should be done, but if you take a journey through my high school, you will find some simple starting points.

It is not difficult to see the misuse of money in local schools. If you were to walk down the halls of my high school, the first thing you would notice is the class schedule for an average student. You would find courses such as “earth science” that explore different kinds of dirt and rocks, but none that teach personal finance. You would find basketball and indoor volleyball, but not resume writing. While there is nothing wrong with rocks or basketball, high schools are sending students out into universities, the military, and the work force with a lack of knowledge about how to interact with society or take care of personal matters. Current secondary students might be able to list the differences between minerals and igneous rock, but they fail to know how to build credit. How can the government approve of financing such gaps in education?

While what truly matters in life may be subjective, each individual sitting in an American public high school is going to have to pay taxes. They will need to know how to buy a place to live. The budget of the secondary education system should be reevaluated to ensure that each student has the best chance to succeed in whatever they do, and they are sure to get a lot further in life if they know about the managing of money instead of defining different kinds of dirt.

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FAA Proposal on Drones

This past Sunday, February 15th, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an outline of rules for drone usage by companies. These proposed regulations are extremely limiting to businesses, like Google and Amazon, which wanted to begin using drones as a delivery system.  However, the drone industry and many lawmakers are in favor of these regulations. The proposal says that drones must stay in sight of the operator, and it cannot fly over people who are not involved in the drone operations, strongly limiting the drones’ capability of providing delivery services.  The FAA also limits the weight of an unmanned aircraft to 55 pounds, which puts a restriction on the size of packages that can be delivered. The drones are only allowed to fly up to 500 feet high according to the proposal.  Other countries, such as Canada and Denmark, are already using drones for commercial purposes. The benefits are quick delivery that is cheaper, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive.  One of Google’s Project Wing goals is to increase same day delivery that is already occurring by automobiles in cities like San Francisco and New York. The drones would expand same day delivery to other cities, further away. Another benefit that Google hopes Project Wing will be able to provide is quick emergency delivery to disaster areas, where the drones can distribute first aid kits, food and other supplies.  There are those who are not in favor of this drone delivery system for many reasons including crowding the sky, drones used for indiscreet surveillance, and the possibility of these drones being hacked. These regulations that have been proposed are not definite yet and a 60-day comment period has been opened. Executives within Google and Amazon are asking the FAA to reconsider the regulations and make them more business friendly, whereas executives in the unmanned aircraft industry already believe the proposal is a huge milestone that will make the industry more fruitful and create more jobs.

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Why You Should Be Watching “Gravity Falls”

How this Disney Cartoon Sets the Bar for Animated Entertainment

The main characters of “Gravity Falls” (from left to right): Soos, Dipper, Stan, Mabel and Wendy. Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

Most modern cartoons tend to have a set age group associated with them. Some are aimed towards children and attempt to instill life lessons or at the least entertain the youth of America, such as “Dora the Explorer” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Others are aimed towards adults and serve as social commentary on modern political and social issues, like “South Park” and “Family Guy”.

So when I heard a fair amount of young adults talking about Disney X.D.’s “Gravity Falls,” which premiered in June 2012, I was a bit skeptical. With the show being from Disney (though on one of its lesser known channels,) you know the boundaries are only able to be pushed so far without the show being deemed unsuitable for children. Then again, there have been a fair share of shows from other networks that have pushed the limits of children’s entertainment, making them favorites among both children and young adults. The two shows that first come to mind are Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show,”  both of which have been praised for its humor and characters. Luckily, in turns out Alex Hirsch, the creator of “Gravity Falls,” is friends with “Regular Show” creator J.G. Quintel and previously worked alongside of “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward, so my hopes for Hirsch’s program were fairly high.

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“Gravity Falls” creator Alex Hirsch holding a Stan puppet. Photographer unknown.

Thus, I decided to give “Gravity Falls” a chance, and after watching the 30 episodes that have aired so far, not only is it one of the best animated shows on television currently, it may be one of the best modern cartoons period.

The show follows 12-year-old twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are spending their summer vacation living with their great-uncle Stan (or “Grunkle Stan”) in the fictional town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. While living with their “grunkle,” the twins are forced to help Stan run his tourist trap known as the Mystery Shack with the help of a man-child handyman named Soos (as in Jesus) and a teenage girl named Wendy.

While at first their summer vacation seems boring, things quickly pick up for the twins after Dipper discovers a journal that details strange and unusual occurrences in Gravity Falls. Mythical creatures began making appearances throughout the community, and it is up to our two heroes to defeat these beasts while uncovering the mysteries that lie underneath this seemingly sleepy town.

From the outside, “Gravity Falls” seems like a stereotypical children’s show. A boy and a girl go on adventure and maybe learn a moral along the way. In a broad sense, that is what the show is. Yet as I started getting deeper into the program, I found a lot of interesting characteristics about it that make it stand above modern cartoons.

First, the mysteries placed throughout the show are incredibly intriguing. There are your usual mythical creatures like gnomes and the undead, but then there is also a plethora of hidden secrets placed throughout the show, including a fair amount of cryptic messages. It will most likely take you a few screenings to find all of them.

One of the best examples of this actually comes in the form of one of the main villains, a triangular, one-eyed demon named Bill Cipher. In Bill’s second appearance, he approaches Dipper late one night as Dipper is up working on a puzzle. Upon his arrival, Bill states that he has been “keeping an eye on you [Dipper]” since their previous encounter a few episodes before.

Bill Cipher. Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

Though that does not sound incredibly creepy, after rewatching the episodes leading up to this one, you start seeing triangles placed throughout Gravity Falls, many of which feature one lone circle directly in the center.

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Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

In a few cases, Bill himself is seen, though his appearance is often one marked with silence.

Bill can be seen on one of the arcade machines. Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

Not only is that disturbing, but it creates a great atmosphere and, as a viewer, makes the show more interesting. After you find out one puzzle, you begin to notice all the little things placed throughout the show, wondering if they lead up to solving the root of the town’s many mysteries.

Secondly, the main characters are fantastic, especially the Pines twins. Dipper is the serious, driven, adventurous brother, while Mabel is the happy-go-lucky, overly positive sister. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses, but both are a refreshing change in terms of children characters. They come off as more realistic and relatable to the viewer.

Dipper and Mabel Pines. Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

While discussing “Gravity Falls” with Alasdair Wilkins, who reviews the show for The A.V. Club, one example of an unrealistic animated child character he mentioned was Lisa Simpson of “The Simpsons.” The eight-year-old Lisa focuses a lot of her time not doing things a typical eight-year-old would do, but instead fighting for progressive political causes. While that makes Lisa interesting and multidimensional, Wilkins said she is not a great portrayal of an 8-year-old, which can make it difficult for a broad audience to connect with her.

“Lisa’s typically written without regard to what is technically supposed to be her age,” Wilkins said. “I do think audiences can connect with Lisa, but more as adults connecting with versions of themselves rather than themselves as younger children.”

I have to agree with Wilkins on this. I mean, how many eight-year-olds do you know actually understand and fight for environmental causes? Chances are not many.

Unlike Lisa, Dipper and Mabel actually act like real kids. They joke, act and talk like how actual 12-year-olds would. They actually are portrayed like children rather than adults in children’s bodies, and it shows in their interactions. They annoy each other, they fight, they are getting into trouble, they apologize and make up and they make each other laugh. That is how real children act. Hirsch has previously stated in interviews that a lot of the show’s inspiration goes back to when he was growing up with his twin sister, and that time he spent in his youth shines through Dipper and Mabel perfectly.

“Dipper and Mabel offer much more direct connections with memories of youth,” Wilkins said.

As someone whose brother is relatively close to him in age, I can relate to the chemistry between the Pines twins very well. I know how it feels to get into trouble with my brother, annoy my brother, make him laugh and more. I connect with this relationship because, in many aspects, I have lived this relationship. Hirsch did a fantastic job with Dipper and Mabel, and it really does show. It is satisfying seeing kid characters actually acting like kids, and it really gives the show more heart.

The rest of the main characters are fantastic as well.  Stan is often more worried about what attractions to put in the Mystery Shack, but at the same time he is concerned about his grandnephew and grandniece, and has on a few occasions gone out of his way to protect them.

Soos, while not the smartest person in Gravity Falls, does have a big heart and, much like Stan, cares about Dipper and Mabel, often accompanying them on their adventures around town.

Wendy is arguably the best teenage character on television today. She acts how a real teenage girl would act… for the most part. She does help steal a police car in one of the show’s shorts, but besides that, she is a great representation of the American teenager. She can be incredibly lazy, yet she does her best to help others. She follows what her friends want to do, but on many occasions she is also independent. Just like how he nailed siblings with Dipper and Mabel, Hirsch nailed teenagers with Wendy.

Thirdly, the art for this show is top-notch. In my opinion, it is like nothing I have ever seen. The backgrounds of these scenes are absolutely stunning. They help build so much atmosphere into what is happening on screen, and it just makes you want to go to Gravity Falls just to check these places out for yourself. You want to explore the murky forest. You feel tense watching our heroes travel across the eerie Lake Gravity Falls. You are so awestruck while on these adventures, it makes you want to travel to the Pacific Northwest, even for just a little bit.

totem pole missing waddles gf

Photo courtesy of Disney Television Animation.

There is still even more the show has to offer. The side characters, the villains and even the show’s morals are all done fantastically. But all of these are not necessarily original to animation – let alone television – so what makes each trait so great? In all honesty, while none of these are incredibly unique, each one is executed in a perfect and humorous manner that makes it stand above anything else ever produced. None of the show’s characteristics seem forced because Hirsch and his team tweak each one to a point where they add something significant to the show, whether it is an important plot point or something that influences the main characters’ actions. Hirsch could have easily done certain things with the status quo in mind, but because of that extra tweaking and care for each of the show’s traits, “Gravity Falls” has more heart and character than anything else on television, which makes it a more memorable and enjoyable program.

If I had any complaints with the show, it would have to say there are a few episodes where the characters resolve their conflict a bit too quickly. It is like they develop the conflict fully by the end of the second act, but by the midway point of the third act, people and actions are forgiven relatively quickly with little to no strings attached. Then again, I was only able to point out few episodes where this was a problem, so maybe it is just me.

All in all, “Gravity Falls” is not a show you need to be watching; it is a show you should be watching. While at first it may look like just another children’s show, everything about this show makes it great for the older crowd, too. The characters are fantastic. The way the mystery is built up is great. The atmosphere is superb. Everything about this show is fantastic and it just sucks you right in. Give “Gravity Falls” a watch, and I hope you get sucked in like I have.

The next new episode of “Gravity Falls” will air on March 9 on Disney X.D. Older episodes are available on AmazonGoogle Play, iTunes and YouTube.

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A Few Political Thoughts …

As frustrating as it is to try to think politically, here are a few things to consider with regard to the passage of the Keystone-Pipeline Bill in Congress:

For a Republican Party that has allowed itself to be characterized by the media as excessively callous toward public opinion, it is a laudable accomplishment. Not only does it put Democrats (especially President Obama) in the position of having to answer either to the environmental crowd or to the pro-economic-growth segment of the moderate Left, but also because it signals a new era of Republican togetherness and compromise in the face of an obstructive executive.

Most likely, President Obama will veto the bill. To him, the Keystone Pipeline is symbolic of the irresponsible usage of fossil fuels by capitalists in the private sector. But it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to adequately explain this action to the public, especially considering the state of his approval amidst horrid foreign developments and economic ambiguity in the domestic arena. For all his rhetorical prowess, this seems to me to be a losing proposition for the President – a harbinger of his declining ability to bedazzle Americans with his charm and a sign of the volatility of his coming legacy.

Republicans must recognize however, that any incremental political benefit they gain from the Keystone issue will be altogether lost if they mindlessly attack President Obama for merely using the veto. After all, the federal government is designed in such a way as to ensure that the executive has a significant ability to check Congress’ power. Republicans need to criticize the President’s actual position on the Keystone Pipeline rather than his use of his implicit veto power, lest they end up embarrassing themselves in front of a populace that considers them hysteric. Regardless, I am not confident that this message would or will resonate with the likes of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the tea-party coalition.

So, although it is true that Keystone is most likely destined to perish under President Obama’s ballpoint pen, those of us who actually believe in the American system as it was created by the Founders can at least take solace in the fact that the President will be doing his job as it is delineated by the Constitution. This, indeed, is a far cry from his cowardly, perverse move on immigration policy – changing the law through executive fiat as if he were a monarch disillusioned with parliament, egotistically taking power into his own clumsy hands in some grand ruse. I, personally, am deeply convinced that process is important, in and of itself; if anything, this whole Keystone debacle will, by its end, illustrate the brilliance – but not the efficiency – of our structured, confined bureaucracy.

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