Category: News and Events

The keynote speaker for the Right Online conference tonight was conservative columnist and political commentator Robert Novak. Talking about his latest book Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington, Novak declared that if you want to know why they call him the Prince of Darkness in Washington it’s because he supports limited government, low taxes, and freedom in the economic sphere, and that’s “enough to make you the Prince of Darkness in Washington.”

Novak called Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama a “true and smart politician” for pivoting to the center in the general election campaign. Novak said that chief executive officers of leading industries come away from private meetings with Obama saying they “can live with an Obama presidency.” Novak said recent Democratic presidential candidates couldn’t count on such passive support in previous elections.

Novak also called Ronald Reagan “the only successful president in his lifetime,” and he criticized the Republican minority leadership in Congress. Novak also lavished praise on the fair tax. Novak ended his engaging speech on politics by declaring Calvin Coolidge the other successful 20th century president.

Novak also answered a large number of questions at the end of his address, much more than the usual you may find at a keynote address at a major venue like the one we had here in Austin. Novak is a Roman Catholic convert and called himself “a great believer in prayer.”

One question we didn’t get to ask Novak was how much the support of the religious left, consisting of organizational leaders like Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and Brian McLaren, will be a strength to Obama’s campaign. We can get a sense of how Novak might have answered from a recent column, “McCain’s Evangelical Problem.” McCain is much more reticent to talk about faith while stumping on the campaign trail, and that certainly seems to open additional opportunities for Obama to pick up votes from young, impressionable, and starry-eyed evangelicals. Look for that demographic to be an important swing vote in November.

Update: See also, “McCain’s Lead Among Evangelicals Smaller than Bush’s in ’04.”

An excellent talk by from the Media Research Center, “Understanding and Critiquing Old Media,” opened today’s afternoon session at Austin’s Right Online summit. The speakers clarified some basics about journalism, such as the fact that typically reporters don’t write their own headlines (copy editors do) or that there is an unofficial reporter’s code of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists.

A good deal of the talk revolved around consistent forms of bias found in the media, most of which are monitored closely by MRC’s watchblog NewsBusters. An archetypal form of bias by ignorance that exists in the media, often manifesting itself in bias by labeling, has to do with the mainstream coverage of religion.

The signature authority on this form of media bias is GetReligion, whose name is taken from William Schneider’s observation that the press “just doesn’t get religion.” A great example is the most recent GR post on the media’s constant politicization of statements from the pope and other Vatican officials, a theme we’ve long covered in this venue.

These sorts of online outlets represent a huge shift in the conversation about media. The word can now get out if there are errors, intentional or otherwise, in media coverage. Quotes taken out of context can be shown in their original form. Letters to the editor can be posted online whether or not the original source chooses to acknowledge them. New media is an important form of “citizen” journalism.

One question I have is whether or not citizen journalists should recognize and respect the “off the record” phenomenon that is a hallmark of professional journalism. If nothing is ever off the record now, I think there’s a dangerous possibility that such a reality will impoverish public discourse and create an environment of cynicism and opposition. There’s a reason that ability to speak “off the record” arose in the fourth estate and I don’t think we should simply cast it off as an antiquated relic without serious reflection.

One of the other key differences between old and new media is the form that authority, influence, and celebrity take in the latter. See, for instance, New York mag’s “The Microfame Game” and Vanity Fair‘s Blogopticon.

The Sam Adams Alliance hosted a session titled “Samsphere” here in Austin, Texas at the Defending the American Dream conference. After a brief biography of American Founder Samuel Adams, discussions turned to improving networking and message organization for individuals and groups committed to freedom and political liberty.

In a nutshell, the purpose of Samsphere is to network pre-existing bloggers together into single or shared networks. The Sam Adams Alliance also spent much of their discussion focusing on the importance of strengthening the grassroots aspect of community activism. The Chicago based thinktank also promoted their new web project, Blogivists.

Additional discussion was related to comparisons of conservative and libertarian online groups with the grassroots effectiveness of groups such as Daily Kos and MoveOn.org. We also had group discussions about how ideological differences play into the different organizational components of the political right and left, which led into discussions about the motivation and objectives of online activism.

By contrast with the Netroots Nation agenda, there are no sessions devoted to how faith relates to political conservatism. The absence of the faith element in this discussion is a reminder of just how well-positioned and unique the Acton Institute is within the broader community calling for limited government. During the session we were able to connect with a writer from the Reagan Coalition. Also, Erick Erickson from RedState.com dropped by and offered some helpful comments on limited government, election strategy, and organizational technique.

The PowerBlog is well-represented this weekend at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Austin, Texas. Ray Nothstine and I have made the trek to Texas to engage and learn from a variety of organizations seeking to bring the power of new media to bear on the conservative movement.

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation and RightOnline are the major sponsors of the Texas summit, which features keynote addresses from Barry Goldwater Jr. and Robert Novak, as well as talks by John Fund of the WSJ, Erick Erickson of RedState.com, and Michelle Malkin.

One of the purposes of the summit and a special focus of the Sam Adams Alliance is to get state policy thinktanks in touch with local bloggers, as part of an effort to get tap into the dynamism of grassroots web media. If all politics are local, than new media efforts of thinktanks need to connect to the particular knowledge and insight of state and local bloggers.

Last night the Texas Public Policy Foundation hosted a barbecue social. I talked with David Guenthner, director of Media and Government Relations, and he told me about a tool they had developed, TexasBudgetSource.com, to make government expenditures across the state more transparent. This is a remarkably powerful concept that has the potential to be duplicated in other states to galvanize attention to issues of government spending, accountability, education reform and more.

Also happening across town is the annual Netroots Nation, a large gathering of progressive and liberal new media activists.

Dr. Anthony Bradley, a research fellow at the Acton Institute and PowerBlog contributor, was on NPR’s News & Notes blogger roundtable to discuss the controversy over the New Yorker‘s latest magazine cover. He also discusses news about a mostly black neighborhood that didn’t have running water for almost fifty years and a racially charged comic book that was recently pulled from the shelves.

Listen here.

Tony Snow speaking at the 2001 Acton Annual Dinner

The Acton Institute was deeply saddened to learn of the death of our dear friend Tony Snow. Snow was the keynote speaker at the 2001 Acton Annual Dinner, delivering his address one month after the terrorist attack on September 11. Snow was also a speaker for the Acton Lecture Series in 1996, where his humor was in full effect.

In a more contemplative moment, Snow declared during the 2001 dinner lecture:

If we get back to the basics, God, trust, freedom, we have the basis to not only win a war, but to win a society…I don’t want my children to wake up scared. I want them to wake up…saying thanks. Because you look out at the glorious day here in Western Michigan, the leaves have already turned here, it’s splendid, you got out in the morning and there is beauty everywhere, beauty that is incomprehensible. It speaks to you in ways in which you can say embrace it all, understand how important that is. Because that is the sort of thing we need to cherish, the ability to say thank you and to acknowledge the extraordinary gifts and blessings we have. It’s the most important gift we can give to our children, because if they understand the blessings they will know how to build on them.

Snow, a Roman Catholic, spoke openly about his faith and how it impacted his life on numerous occasions. Perhaps none were as elegant as this essay he penned for Christianity Today titled, “Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings.”

The Washington Times, Human Events, and Catholic Online all have notable tributes to Snow. William Kristol weighs in beautifully on Snow’s optimistic faith in a piece for the New York Times.

While Snow’s achievements in journalism and public service were many, and he was a giant figure in those arenas, we will always be grateful at the Acton Institute for the time and the valuable thoughts he shared with us.

Snow was also a man of high character who was committed to his family. We offer our prayers and condolences to his wife Jill, and their son and two daughters. He battled cancer with courage, thought, reflection, and a mature faith. Although there is a deep pain his family feels because of his death, we are thankful his faith has delivered him to the perfected arms of Christ.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, July 11, 2008

My commentary from last week (“Christianity and the History of Freedom”) elicited a thoughtful response from a blogger named Jonathan Rowe, who subsequently invited me to join his blog, American Creation. Rowe and his colleagues debate the concept of a “Christian America,” especially focusing on the question of religion and the Founding. If you’re interested in the issues raised by my commentary and by Acton’s film, The Birth of Freedom, you might enjoy American Creation. My first post is a direct rejoinder to Jonathan’s comments.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Armed Forces Journal has a noteworthy essay on professionalism titled, “In Praise of Mavericks.” The author, Michael Wyly, is a retired Marine Colonel who served two combat tours in Vietnam.

The central theme of Wyly’s piece is that true professionals choose to do something rather than be someone. The essay discusses the importance of character, service, and moral integrity over career advancement and comfort. Wyly notes:

Courage is a virtue. In the military profession, courage tops the list of virtues required and demanded. My experiences in combat demonstrated that you can’t have the physical kind of courage without the moral kind.

Sir John TempletonSir John Templeton, the great entrepreneur and philanthropist, passed away on July 8, 2008. Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, marks his passing with this tribute:

It was with great sadness that I learned today of the passing from this life of one of the twentieth-century’s great stalwarts in the struggle for faith and liberty. Rising from a humble background in Tennessee, John Templeton graduated from Yale and Oxford universities, the latter of which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to become one of the most-successful investors of his generation, creating wealth and generating employment for thousands of individuals. Today the very name “Templeton” remains a byword for entrepreneurship, prudent risk-taking, integrity, and innovation in the financial industry in America and around the world.

Read Rev. Robert Sirico’s tribute to Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008): A Great Entrepreneur and Philanthropist.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A round-up of diverse items of interest, in no particular order: