Friday, October 09, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up 2

This is the second in an irregular series of quirky and informative items that have shown up recently in the news media or in the blogosphere.

Eric Brescia, a Republican candidate for the House of Delegates in Virginia's 47th District (in Arlington; he's aiming to succeed retiring Democratic Delegate Al Eisenberg), had an opinion piece in The Washington Blade last week headlined "Equal rights requires Republican allies; I need your support to become a pro-gay GOP voice in Va. legislature." In it, he says:

IF THE REPUBLICAN Party wants to be relevant for the newest generation of voters, it cannot continue to drive a social wedge between those who seek to protect “traditional marriage” and those who seek to extend the rights and responsibilities to couples who want to enjoy such a commitment.

And if gays and lesbians want to enter into civil marriages in states like Virginia, they’re going to need Republicans in Richmond advocating on their behalf.
Brescia is one of the new breed of confident, thoughtful, libertarian-minded Republicans who are trying to rescue the legacies of Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan from the pages of history books by making them relevant for today. To see the candidate himself answer questions about the issues that animate his campaign, check out my blog post from August 13.

By the way, Brescia is one of those Republican candidates who do not use Twitter for campaign communications. Let's just say I'm surprised.

Meanwhile, in last Sunday's Examiner, the Cato Institute's David Boaz replied to a pessimistic Outlook piece on the future of conservativism by Steven Hayward in the same day's Washington Post. Boaz notes:
The good news about the Obama era is that the president has returned the issue of the size, scope, and power of the federal government to center stage. And that in turn has revived the long-dormant small-government spirit in American conservatism.

In that regard, I’m more positive than Hayward is about the “tea party” movement. True, it is somewhat “unfocused,” without a clear “connection to a concrete ideology.” But it reflects and galvanizes the natural American antipathy to big government.

Now the responsibility of the conservative media and political leaders is to give the tea partiers a positive cause to rally around, by shining light on scholars with good ideas. There are plenty of free-market intellectuals today, far more than in the era when Milton Friedman dined alone. Glenn Beck does indeed sometimes devote significant time to a single intellectual; other talk show hosts should do the same.
In a helpful frame of mind a few days later, Yorktown University's Richard Bishirjian offered a few books that young conservatives should read to advance their educations and stretch their minds. Writing in The Washington Times on Wednesday, Bishirjian said:
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has published several studies that demonstrate that required courses in English literature, American history and the history of Western civilization are no longer required to earn the bachelor of arts degree. Is there anything that can be done? Yes. Read these books:

- Ludwig von Mises' "Human Action" (1940)

- Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" (1944)

- Friedrich Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" (1960)

- Richard Weaver's "Ideas Have Consequences" (1948)

- Eric Voegelin's "The New Science of Politics" (1952)

- Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind" (1953)

- Robert Nisbet's "The Quest for Community" (1953)

- Eric Voegelin's "Israel and Revelation" (1956)

- Wilhelm Roepke's, "A Humane Economy" (1962)

- Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (1962)

Once again, conservatism doesn't need to be reinvented. Its principles need to be relearned to be passed on to this generation and to future generations. The surest way to do that is not by reading the popular polemics of today's overheated partisans, but through the writings of the passionate original thinkers and scholars who helped found the modern conservative movement.
A good list, though -- as David Boaz points out in his Examiner piece -- Hayek explicitly excluded himself from the label "conservative," calling himself (and Margaret Thatcher, among others) a "liberal." At least Hayek's essay, "Why I Am Not a Conservative," is indirectly included in Bishirjian's syllabus (as part of The Constitution of Liberty).

In other education news, Virginia's James Madison University earned the dubious distinction of having the "Speech Code of the Month," as designated by the civil-liberties organization known as FIRE ("Foundation for Individual Rights in Education"). According to FIRE's Samantha Harris:
JMU's policy on "Obscene Conduct" provides that "[n]o student shall engage in lewd, indecent or obscene conduct or expression, regardless of proximity to campus." (Emphasis added.) Torch readers may already be familiar with this policy, because we blogged about it several weeks ago. Our post caught the attention of student reporters at JMU, who have published several articles in the student paper The Breeze since our post first appeared. The first article, on Sept. 24, expressed FIRE's concern that this broadly worded policy could be used to punish a great deal of student expression, including expression taking place online in e-mails or on sites like Facebook. Because "lewd" and "indecent" have no defined legal meaning, they could be interpreted to include almost any crude or vulgar language that someone found offensive, most of which would nonetheless be constitutionally protected. The policy allows for punishment of lewd and indecent expression on or off campus, so virtually everything that students say or write is fair game — and I would venture to guess that college students use plenty of crude and vulgar language on Facebook and elsewhere.
Free speech is sometimes irreverent, and it's seldom as irreverent as it is on Red Eye, the 3:00 a.m. news and chat show on the Fox News Channel that is virtually the only FNC show I watch. I was pleased to learn that Red Eye is getting great ratings -- even though it is aired in the middle of the night. Host Greg Gutfeld and his gang of regulars are entertaining and informative, and unafraid of being politically incorrect.

I use energy-saving lightbulbs throughout my house -- the ones known as CFLs that take a long time to warm up -- by my own choice. Governments, however, are lining up to deny me that choice and make the venerable, Edison-invented incandescent lamp illegal. put together an informative and entertaining video, called "Light Bulbs vs. the Nanny State," about CFLs, hooking it to the European Union's new prohibition on incandescents:

The video is also available on YouTube and it suggested this question to me: Before Edison, how did cartoonists indicate that someone had a bright idea?

Finally, next week I will be participating in Blog Action Day 2009. Some will be surprised, some will be pleased at what I'll have to say.

The topic for Blog Action Day is climate change, or what used to be known as "global warming" (a term that has fallen out of usage as evidence emerged that planetary temperatures plateaued about 11 years ago and may actually be declining.)

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