This is a speech delivered by the author at the Liberty Political Action Conferene in Reno, Nevada, on September 15, 2011:
The phenomenon that has arrested our attention and that is the object of our concerns is something that we call “liberty.” Indeed, if our political universe can be said to consist of ideas, then the idea of liberty is the center around which every other revolves. Partisans of every conceivable variety, if they insist upon engaging in our political discourse, simply have no option but to become fluent in the language of liberty. The idiom of liberty has prevailed over all others, not just within the contemporary Western world, but well beyond it. In America, especially, one would no more think to deny the value of liberty than one would think to deny the values of compassion, justice, or any other virtue.
Still, just because the rhetoric of liberty springs effortlessly from our lips does not mean, necessarily, that we know that of which we speak. It is true, no doubt, that, not unlike any number of other concepts with which we are acquainted, “liberty” is not something that is easy to define. And, not unlike any other concept, the challenges of defining liberty, we are confident, do not preclude us from identifying it when we see it. Whether this self-assurance is justified, however, is another question.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to tighten regulations on natural gas drilling based on grossly exaggerated estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to new industry research.
In its report MisMeasuring Methane: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Upstream Natural Gas Development, the independent energy analysis firm IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) reveals, "EPA's current methodology for estimating gas field methane emissions is not based on methane emitted during well completions, but paradoxically is based on a data sample of methane captured during well completions." (Emphasis in original.)
The agency's meager "data sample" is based on two slide presentations made at EPA-sponsored workshops, one in 2004 and one in 2007. CERA researchers explain that EPA recorded captured methane at a small sample of wells and now assumes every well in the country releases equivalent levels of methane without operators capturing any of it.
A member of Britain’s Parliament has declared that Christian churches that do not perform homosexual “marriage” ceremonies should be denied the right for their pastors to contract a legally-binding marriage on behalf of the government. Mike Weatherly, who represents the constituencies of Hove and Portsdale, two areas of Brighton on the English Channel, says that Anglicans, Catholics, or those of any other religion that refuses to permit homosexual marriage are evil discriminators who must not be permitted to perform any marriages.
Weatherly, a public proponent of same-sex marriage, is is a member of the Conservative Party.
According to his website, “Mike has pushed boundaries by urging the Prime Minister to completely reconsider the laws surrounding unions for same-sex couples in Britain.”
He is taking up the parliamentary cudgels, apparently, for his constituents. His area has “the highest proportion of gay couples in the country.” Though “civil partnerships” are now permitted in Britain, churches can still refuse to bless same-sex nuptials, Weatherly complained.
The National Review touts itself as a conservative publication. It consistently espouses what it considers right-of-center policy positions, as well as promoting the popularity of “conservative” candidates. There is little doubt that given the thickness of the fog of hubris that permeates every office of that periodical that it sincerely believes that its positions are consistent with the Constitution, as well. That is to say, were one to ask the journalists who write for the National Review if they were constitutionalists, they would likely respond, to a man, in the affirmative.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review. Ponnuru is an American of Indian descent, raised in the suburbs of Kansas City and educated at Princeton. He is a regular contributor to such national publications as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Time magazine.
In the September 19, 2011 issue of National Review, Ponnuru offers an article entitled “What Constitutionalism Means.” In this thoughtful piece, Ponnuru contrasts the “liberal” reaction to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s brand of constitutionalism with his own interpretation of the proper regard for the timeless principles that undergird our founding charter.
These days, with the rise of email, text messaging, and word processing, it seems to be more important to learn how to use a keyboard than a pen. As a result, the teaching of handwriting has a low priority among educators these days. They believe that handwriting is passe and that in the future everyone will be using a keyboard to do their writing. But students still have to use handwriting in taking notes in a class or lecture hall, although the more affluent students are using laptops for note-taking. But handwriting will still be required for signing things, jotting down ideas in a pocket notepad, writing postcards, birthday greetings, thank-you notes, and other minor communication chores.
But have you noticed how easy it is to make errors when writing an email? Indeed, emailers use all sorts of spelling shortcuts that save time and effort. As long as the email makes sense, no one, except us seniors, seems to care about accurate spelling. Yet, spelling is still considered very important. Remember what happened to Dan Quayle when he supposedly misspelled potato? He added an e, which was not technically incorrect, but archaic (The Oxford English Dictionary lists potatoe as a variant form, the most recent usage cited being from 1880: "She found the parson in his garden … making a potatoe pie for the winter.") but he became the butt of every comedian on television. It literally ruined his political life. And, of course, there are still spelling bees in which young students show off their spelling prowess. But there are no penmanship contests. I wonder why.
A church I visited recently announced a seminar for “financial professionals” who lament their industry’s “fallen ethics.” In 2009, USA Today reported that “the top Roman Catholic bishop in the United States said … the global economic crisis was caused in part by people abandoning personal ethics, and he's calling for increased morality in business.” And earlier this year, Jewish Week lamented that “financial scandals have become a fixed component of our civilization” after opining, “If current trends [in cheating] continue, the Wall Street gang of 2020 will make the slithery coterie of 2008 look like a Cub Scout pack in comparison.”
I’m just a parishioner, not a cleric. Maybe that’s why I don’t see the inherent evil of business. In fact, when I pick up the phone to hear my father from 500 miles away tell me he loves me, or I send another article to an editor with a click of a mouse, or I feast on fresh spinach and blueberries while a blizzard howls outside, I thank God for the market. The comfort, abundance, convenience, and leisure it provides are enormous blessings.
Indeed, the market is nigh miraculous. Jesus Christ fed 5000 men with a few loaves and two small fish, but we mere mortals must depend on voluntary exchange. Yet that astounding commerce multiplies the earth’s scarce resources to feed, house, and clothe billions of people who would otherwise suffer short, nasty, brutish lives.
It took one man, working tirelessly in his private laboratory, to light up the world. The invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas A. Edison was the work of an individual, not a collective, not the government. Yet its impact on the world was greater, more productive, and more beneficial than anything that 10,000 government bureaucrats could dream up. The purpose of the government was to secure Edison’s God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was not to help him invent anything. Its purpose was to leave him alone to do what he did best: invent new wonders that changed the world.
But today, the government can’t keep its hands off anything, including Edison’s great invention. Through a new law entitled “The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act,” the government has mandated phasing out Edison’s remarkable invention and replacing it with a more expensive Compact Flourescent Light Bulb (CFL), which according to lighting engineer Howard Brandston, poses a risk to public health and safety. He testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 11, stating the following:
The compact fluorescent lamp contains mercury. One gram of mercury will pollute a two-acre pond. This 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in our nation.
We do not have enough knowledge of the potential consequences of being continuously exposed to the electromagnetic field that compact florescent lamps emit. There are millions of people in this country with lupus, an auto-immune disease. Exposure to low doses of light from these lamps causes a severe rash.
The government of Pakistan, which receives billions in U.S. government aid each year, is using its intelligence services to support attacks on American military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan, top U.S. officials said last week in the most direct accusations to date. Pakistani authorities denied the charges. For years, American military and intelligence officials have claimed the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was directly supporting various terror groups with money, weapons, information, and more. On September 22, however, top commanders told Congress that the links were undeniable. Some analysts even said Pakistan’s behavior came perilously close to an act of war.
Despite ongoing controversy over the federal government’s scandalous loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, a $25 billion green-car loan fund has managed to avoid the congressional guillotine. The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program, which was established during the Bush years and began dispensing funds during the Obama administration, is designed to provide debt capital to the auto industry and assist manufacturers in retooling facilities and equipment and improving fuel economy for vehicles manufactured in the United States.
In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama vowed to "break our dependence on oil" and pledged that the United States would "become the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015." Considering the ATVM loan program and consumer offerings such as Cash for Clunkers, the President’s proclamation is not a market goal, but a government goal, and as he perceives it, such a target is only achievable through government-sponsored loans and subsidies.
The ATVM program has become a hot target for conservatives, but Senate Republicans choked legislative efforts from House Republicans to shave the $25 billion program by $1.5 billion to help avert a government shutdown and outweigh new spending for disaster relief.
President Obama’s reelection campaign is struggling, as his once loyal fan base has begun to turn its back on him. It began when labor leaders criticized the White House for what they perceived to be a failure on the administration’s part to come to the defense of unions. Now, MTV — the network which last October hosted a youth town hall meeting called “A Conversation with President Obama” — has denied a request by Obama’s reelection campaign to help the President connect with American youth.
Though MTV claims it does not wish to be involved in political campaigns, it has long had a reputation for pushing a political agenda. “A Conversation with President Obama” is a prime indicator of just how political the station could be, and the “Rock the Vote” campaign was a long and popular one for the network.
Likewise, MTV’s website features a section entitled, “Think MTV,” where visitors can “get informed, get heard and take action on the issues that matter to you most.” Causes featured in this section include what MTV has dubbed “modern-day slavery,” which, according to the site, is as follows: