Atlanta Fire Chief Fired For ‘Anti-Gay’ Views ‘Absolutely’ Wants His Job Back

Kelsey Harkness /

After being fired for writing what’s been described as an “anti-gay” book, former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran says he “absolutely” wants his job back.

“In the United States of America, Americans should not have to choose between keeping your job and living out your faith,” Cochran told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview. “And that’s the position the city of Atlanta actually has taken—that I have to have a choice to live out my faith or to keep my job.”

Cochran was fired in January 2015 for publishing a men’s devotional book for a Baptist church group. In the book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” Cochran addressed issues of homosexuality, gay marriage and premarital sex from a biblical perspective.

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“Many Christian men struggle with issues of sexual sin and sexuality, and so I spoke to that in the book—why God created sex and that God’s purpose for sex was for procreation, and to do it his way it has to be done in holy matrimony,” Cochran explained. “That led to the controversy.”

Cochran has been a firefighter since 1981 and was appointed Atlanta’s fire chief in 2008. In 2009, President Obama appointed him as U.S. fire administrator for the United States Fire Administration in Washington, D.C. In 2010, he returned to serve as Atlanta’s fire chief.

In his 34 years of service, Cochran had never been accused of discrimination.

The controversy with his book began in late 2014, when gay activist groups caught wind of the literature and demanded that Cochran be dismissed.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed then acted to suspend Cochran and ordered him to undergo “sensitivity training.”

“I profoundly disagree with and am deeply distrusted by the sentiments expressed in the paperback regarding the LGBT community,” Reed said in a statement. “I will not tolerate discrimination of any kind within my administration.”

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In January, the mayor fired him.

“This is about judgment,” Reed said in defense of his actions. “This is not about religious freedom, this is not about free speech … Judgment is the basis of the problem.”

Cochran told The Daily Signal that he does not judge anyone.

“My profession for 34 years was to be willing to die for anyone under any condition where I could possibly save a life, and I am still committed to doing that today,” he said. “There’s no hatred. Love is the foundation of the Christian faith and I have lived that out in my profession for 34 years.”

Upon being fired, Cochran filed his own federal lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated and being discriminated against for his Christian beliefs.

“In the United States of America, we are guaranteed the freedom to live without fear of being terminated or experiencing any adverse action for the free expression of our beliefs and thoughts,” Cochran said. “It was an injustice against me on that basis.”

The case is still ongoing.

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His lawyer, David Cortman, who serves as senior counsel and vice president of litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom, said the lawsuit has national implications “for several reasons.”

“First off, do we want the government deciding that anyone that holds views that are in conflict with the government’s views can’t work—can’t make a living?” Cortman asked.

He continued:

That should worry all of us regardless of your religious viewpoints, your ideological viewpoints, your political viewpoints. It should not matter your viewpoints to hold a job. The second thing that should worry everyone is, we have a right to religious freedom to free exercise in the Constitution and that gives a person the right to say look, I don’t have to choose between my faith and making a living. But that’s exactly the choice that the city put on Chief Cochran.

Cochran maintains that “tolerance is a two-way street.”

He believes Reed showed “zero tolerance” by firing Cochran for expressing his beliefs.

“People of any faith, when they’re strong in their faith, they would choose to live out their faith over keeping their job,” Cochran said. “But that should not even be a dilemma for any American in this country.”

Supreme Court Decision a Loss for Unelected Bureaucrats Trying to Drive Up Energy Costs - The Daily Signal

Supreme Court Decision a Loss for Unelected Bureaucrats Trying to Drive Up Energy Costs

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris /

The Supreme Court handed a victory to Americans concerned with unelected bureaucrats driving up energy costs by overturning a costly regulation that lacks any meaningful environmental benefit. With more regulations with similar high costs and meaningless direct benefits, now Congress and the states must step up to reject overzealous regulators—not rely on the courts.

The issue the high court considered was the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard that regulates emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants.

The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to reduce air pollutants if the agency deems the regulation “appropriate and necessary.” The court ruled that the agency failed to consider costs in their latest determination.

And those costs are substantial. Per the EPA’s own calculation, the compliance costs are $9.6 billion annually. Industry projections are much higher and likely more accurate as the EPA grossly underestimated the number of power plants adversely affected.

Also per the EPA’s calculation, the direct benefits of reducing hazardous air pollutants are miniscule—at most $6 million each year.

To put that in perspective, it’s the cost-benefit equivalent of renting $1,600 in scuba gear to collect four quarters at the bottom of the lake. Every year.

The difference between heavy-handed regulations and the scuba diver is that the affected industries will pass the costs on to families and businesses. Americans feel the pain of higher energy prices directly, but also indirectly through almost all of the goods and services they buy, because energy is a necessary component of production and service. The cumulative result is fewer jobs and a weaker economy—all for naught.

Is the Supreme Court ruling too little, too late? After all, dozens of coal-fired power plants have closed their doors permanently (laying people off in the process) and others have installed costly technology because the EPA finalized the regulation in 2012.

Even so, the decision is important for a number of reasons. Typically, the courts defer to the judgment and interpretation of the regulatory agency but this time, the courts provided an important check on unelected bureaucrats’ power. When the costs are so high and the benefits are so low, those considerations shouldn’t be dismissed so readily by a regulator.

Furthermore, depending on how the EPA and Washington, D.C., Circuit Court address the regulation, the decision could save the tens of thousands of megawatts of affordable, reliable energy sources that asked the EPA for an extension to comply with the regulation.

If there’s a lesson to be learned for the states and Congress it’s that it’s time to step up. In the instance of the mercury regulation, the court reined in an overzealous EPA. However, our elected officials and state governments should not wait on court decisions.

By the end of the summer, the Obama administration will likely finalize climate change regulations on new and existing power plants that will have devastating economic effects by driving up energy prices … all for a change in the earth’s temperature that is almost too small to measure.

These climate change regulations have garnered bipartisan concern at all levels of government due to the threats the Clean Power Plan poses to the economy, quality of life, reliability of the national power grid and constitutional separation of powers. They will inevitably face legal challenges.

When EPA finalizes the Clean Power Plan, the agency will charge the states to develop their own implementation plan to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets. No matter what path the state chooses, the plan will be costly. Why should the states go down a path similar to the mercury rule—of implementing costly climate plans that destroy jobs and curb economic growth for no direct environmental benefit—only to have a court decision tell the EPA to back off?

Congress should prohibit any agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and the states need to step forward and reject these regulations entirely, not succumb to the executive branch’s coercion. And both need to reassert their power before it’s too late.

Originally published in the Island Packet 

Welcome to John Roberts’ America, Where Words Mean Nothing - The Daily Signal

Welcome to John Roberts’ America, Where Words Mean Nothing

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes /

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?

Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.

Chief Justice Roberts may have had legal and political reasons for ignoring the common usage of words, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, like so many others in our culture, he felt that being a stickler for a word’s actual meaning was just pedantic, a trivial matter when compared to the importance of some larger cause—in his case, delivering what he thought Congress really intended.

And why should we blame him? After all, if the prevailing wisdom says that a person’s gender or race is what he or she says it is, then why fuss over the meaning of the word “states”? Words mean what we say they mean, right?

For quite some time our intellectual classes have told us that truth lies only in the interpretation of language. Under the spell of postmodernist philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, our scholars have been deconstructing language and society for decades. The result is that today many people don’t care what others think a given word means.

But there is a problem. If white literally means black, which used to be dismissed as a kind of joke, then who’s to say that anything, including what Rachel Dolezal or Bruce Jenner believe, is true? What and who is to separate reality from delusion? If reality is truly relative, then Dolezal’s parents’ word about her white identity is just as good as Rachel’s. The whole debate is nonsensical, and yet our media took it quite seriously.

All of which explains the current obsession with political symbolism. No matter what you may think of the Confederate battle flag, there is something weird about our fixation on it. You’d almost think that the flag itself marched into that Charleston church and killed those innocent worshippers. Yes, it’s a symbol of racial hatred, and for that reason alone it should not be displayed in ways that give offense. But surely we would be deluding ourselves if we were to think that banning every Confederate flag would somehow eliminate racial hatred in America.

The same is true for same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court may believe that all states must recognize it as a constitutional right, but that will not change how a majority of Americans involved in traditional marriages will see the “truth” of their own unions. An enduring reality will survive no matter how much courts or intellectuals try to change it.

Reality is not a Rorschach test. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. We may think that we can change the meaning of words and institutions at will, but in the long run an undertow of reality brings us back to earth.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher of the “will to power,” once said, “All things are subject to interpretation [and] whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

So true. Last week the Supreme Court chose power over truth—and the meaning of words—twice.

Originally published in The Washington Times 

Disability Advocates Fight Assisted Suicide Measures - The Daily Signal

Disability Advocates Fight Assisted Suicide Measures

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman /

When he was 19, Anthony Orefice hit a telephone pole on his motorcycle going 100 miles per hour. Doctors told his family he wouldn’t survive. He did, but the accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, unable to do what he loved — surf, snowboard or ride dirt bikes.

“All you are thinking is the worst, worst, worst – everything you can’t do,” said Orefice, who lives in Valencia, Calif. “I wanted to be dead.”

More than two decades after breaking his back, Orefice, 40, is married, has a 7-year-old son and owns a medical supply business. He also counsels patients newly disabled from spinal cord injuries. “Depression,” he often tells them, “is part of the healing process.”

Anthony R. Orefice, 40, owns a medical supply business and works from home. Orefice says his faith helped him get through the initial depression of being paralyzed. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Anthony R. Orefice, 40, owns a medical supply business and works from home. Orefice says his faith helped him get through the initial depression of being paralyzed. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

As California legislators consider a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to get prescriptions to end their lives, disability rights advocates are speaking up in opposition. They worry that if it becomes law, depression and incorrect prognoses may lead people with serious disabilities to end their lives prematurely.

The bill poses “considerable dangers” to people with new disabilities who may have suicidal thoughts, said Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “It would almost be too easy to make an irrevocable choice,” she said. “It could lead to people giving up on treatment and losing good years of their lives.”

Golden added that the many people who initially received terminal diagnoses have “lived full lives [for] years or even decades” longer than expected.

Disability rights advocates have fought against bills and referendums in Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut and elsewhere that would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal medication. They have met with legislators, participated in forums, conducted letter-writing campaigns and submitted newspaper opinion pieces.

“We have had success after success in stopping these bills,” said John Kelly with Not Dead Yet, a grassroots group of advocates opposed to physician-assisted suicide. The coalition was less organized when laws passed in Washington, Oregon and Vermont, Kelly said. Now, he said they are determined to defeat any bill, including the one in California.

Allowing doctors to prescribe such medication would “open the floodgates” to people taking their lives under the mistaken impression that they are imminently dying or because they think they are a burden on their families, he said.

Anthony R. Orefice and his family in their home in Valencia, Calif. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Anthony R. Orefice and his family in their home in Valencia, Calif. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

The proposed California legislation, Senate Bill 128, was prompted by the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard, a young Bay Area woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon so she could get a lethal prescription. She took the medication and died in November.

The End of Life Option Act, introduced by Democratic state Sens. Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, would allow patients to get fatal prescriptions if they are mentally competent and have six months or less to live. Patients would have to make one written and two oral requests 15 days apart.

Disability rights advocates say there aren’t enough safeguards in the bill. In a letter to Wolk late last month, Deborah Doctor, a legislative advocate for Disability Rights California, wrote that disabled people are vulnerable to abuse and could be coerced by family members not acting in the patients’ best interests. Relatives, she said, could put pressure on people to take life-ending medication.

“Everyone is not Brittany Maynard,” Doctor said in an interview, noting that the young woman’s family supported what she wanted. “Our responsibility is to think of people who are the most vulnerable to coercion, abuse and pressure.”

Doctor also worries that in other cases, physicians may simply be wrong about how long someone has to live. Insurance companies also might overrule treatment for people with disabilities because of the cost of care.

Supporters of the bill say it has many protections built in. For example, they say, people wouldn’t qualify based solely on having a disability. The bill also wouldn’t allow medication to be prescribed if the person were suffering from a mental disorder that impaired judgment.

In addition, physicians would have to attest that the patient’s request didn’t result from undue influence from someone else. And patients would have the final say — they must administer the medications to themselves.

“We don’t want to see this law abused, and we certainly don’t want to see it used against people with disabilities who have enough problems with the health care system,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization that supports the bill.

In any event, Broaddus said the vast majority of disabled people wouldn’t meet the criteria for life-ending prescriptions. “Most people with disabilities don’t immediately have terminal illnesses and most disabilities are not terminal,” she said.

Anthony R. Orefice holds a photo of himself snowboarding at Mt. High in California before his accident.  Orefice says he is still physically active despite being paralyzed from the chest down. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Anthony R. Orefice holds a photo of himself snowboarding at Mt. High in California before his accident. Orefice says he is still physically active despite being paralyzed from the chest down. (Photo: Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Previous efforts to pass similar bills in California have failed under opposition from doctors, religious groups and disability advocates. But the new bill recently passed in the state Senate, and its chances may be buoyed by Maynard’s case and by the California Medical Association’s historic decision to declare a neutral position.

Laurie Hoirup, 59, strongly opposes the bill based on her own long experience. She has had spinal muscular atrophy since she was a toddler. With a curved spine and rods in her back, she cannot eat, bathe or go to the bathroom on her own. She has trouble breathing.

Physicians told her family that she wouldn’t live past 10 years old. “Anyone could be given the wrong diagnoses,” she said. “I am certainly the perfect example of that.”

Hoirup, who is now a grandmother, spent many years working in government and other positions on behalf of people with disabilities. She said she is particularly concerned about people being coerced into ending their lives so they aren’t a burden on others.

Orefice, who wished for death when he was 19, said he is now glad for what he calls the years of “bonus time.” He still struggles with physical problems, including bladder infections and pressure sores. And three years ago, he had another unrelated health scare – colon cancer. He is now in remission.

But Orefice said he doesn’t dwell on his disability or think much about death. Instead, he focuses on his family and thinks what he’s been able to accomplish and what he still hopes to. He paddle boards, plays wheelchair hockey and races specially equipped off-road vehicles.

“I have affected more lives than I would have if I was walking,” he said. “When you are in the trenches, you don’t see that.”

Originally published by Kaiser Health News

The Federal Reserve Hasn’t Reduced Frequency of Recessions. Why Is It Necessary Again? - The Daily Signal

The Federal Reserve Hasn’t Reduced Frequency of Recessions. Why Is It Necessary Again?

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel /

In two months the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City will hold its annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is here that, for more than 30 years, “participants from across the globe gather … to discuss important policy issues of mutual interest.”

Previous topics have included labor market dynamics and unconventional monetary policy, but this year’s theme is “Inflation Dynamics and Monetary Policy.”

In 2012, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke kicked off the conference by reviewing “the evolution of U.S. monetary policy since late 2007.”

While these short-term evaluations are certainly useful, can’t we do a little better? The Fed’s been around since 1913. Isn’t its long-term track record more important than its post-crisis performance?

Some people certainly think so, and they’ll be holding their own conference in Jackson Hole, just down the road from the Fed’s gathering. Sponsored by the American Principles Project, this conference’s theme is “Central Banks: The Problem or the Solution?

It’s certainly a valid question. The Federal Reserve is nothing like the central bank that was created in 1913, and overall it has not increased economic stability relative to the pre-Fed era.

It’s true that recessions were more frequent in the pre-World War I era than in the post-World War II period, but this comparison omits roughly 30 years that included the Great Depression. When the entire Federal Reserve period is compared to the full pre-Fed period, the frequency of recessions has not decreased.

Even when you exclude the interwar period and throw out the Great Depression, the Fed’s track record still isn’t as great as central bankers would have us believe.

For instance, the average length of recessions, as well as the average time to recover from recessions, has been slightly longer in the post-World War II era than in the pre-Fed era.

Yet, even people who tend to shun economic centralization have no problem at all supporting a central bank. To some extent this debate was hashed out prior to the Fed’s founding, but the debate is no longer simply theoretical.

We now have 100 years of experience with our central bank against a backdrop of Keynesian-style government management of the economy. The original impetus was simply to provide a central method for stemming currency shortages, but the Fed has become something very different—at least partly because it’s a government agency.

Many serious scholars have dedicated their life to this topic, but the debate over the proper role of a central bank rarely takes place outside of this group. In the typical graduate school, even monetary economists take the necessity of a central bank for granted.

So it’s encouraging that monetary policy reform ideas are gaining more ground in Washington than ever.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has just reintroduced legislation to create a National Monetary Commission. Such a commission would be the perfect vehicle for publicly assessing the Fed’s overall performance and implementing the best long-term monetary policy reforms.

Permanently moving the U.S. toward a truly competitive monetary system—one that’s wholly compatible with free enterprise—should be part of the national debate. But it’s unlikely to gain the public’s attention without some sort of formal congressional commission.

In the meantime, here’s a list of policy reforms that can inform the debate:

This list is likely far from comprehensive, and nothing should be banished from debate, not even the gold standard, a system incorrectly criticized for at least a century.

In 1985, Nobel Prize winning economist F.A. Hayek suggested (around the 2:50 mark) the best reform approach was to let private firms issue competing money and allow people to choose which moneys they prefer to use.

Allowing people to hold and use the money they prefer will not solve all economic problems but neither will legal restrictions and government monopoly. As with any privately produced good, inferior forms of money should not be expected to replace an economy’s preferred medium of exchange.

A moderate view, therefore, is that the Fed should not be shielded from competition against alternative monies.

That’s what policymakers should be debating in Jackson Hole. And depending on which conference we’re talking about, some of them will be doing exactly that.

Originally published in Forbes 

What an Iran Deal Won’t Cover - The Daily Signal

What an Iran Deal Won’t Cover

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel / Peter Brookes /

With the deadline pushed off until July 7, I’m betting that an Iran nuke deal actually will be trumpeted over the July 4 holiday weekend, since the best time to put out controversial news in Washington, D.C., is near or over a break.

Why?

Well, most Americans will be distracted by festivities of fireworks, food and family, giving Team Obama plenty of time to get their talking points together before the nation refocuses on the issues of the day next Monday.

That includes the Congress that returns to Washington next week after a district work period. It’s an understatement to say they’ll be chomping at the bit to get a look at any agreement, hold hearings, express their views in the media, etc.

Under the terms of recent legislation, Congress has the opportunity to vote on any final deal with Iran, an interesting White House concession indicating it probably thinks it has enough votes to prevent an override of a White House veto if the House and Senate do reject the pact.

Indeed, we’ll all want a look at it.

There are strong concerns about inspection and verification procedures, the pace of economic sanctions relief, Iran’s fissile material stockpiles, future research and development, Iran’s prior work on a warhead (aka “possible military dimensions”) and so on.

But putting those issues aside for a moment—at least until we see the “paperwork” out of Vienna—we shouldn’t believe that if America is able to cut a compromise with Iran on the bomb, that our Tehran troubles are over.

Not by any stretch of the imagination.

For instance, can we expect better behavior on terror from Iran? Not likely, according to the recent annual U.S. State Department report on terrorism, which writes about Tehran’s staunch support for Gaza’s Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s Shiite militias.

There is also concern in the report about al-Qaeda operatives who are in Iran, and about Tehran allowing the terror group’s “facilitators” to run a fighter/funds “pipeline” through the country to South Asia (likely Afghanistan and Pakistan) and Syria, since 2009.

The mullahs’ Middle East meddling will certainly continue, too. Iran will bolster its struggling ally in Syria in its bloody civil war, seek to up its influence in Iraq and work to put the Houthis in a position of power in Yemen.

In other words, a nuclear deal won’t temper Tehran’s interest in regional domination and the creation of the so-called “Shiite Crescent” across the Middle East—which will only be furthered by the free flow of cash from the lifting of punitive economic sanctions.

The regime isn’t big on human rights, either.

A recently released Foggy Bottom report on human rights practices notes that Iran “severely restricts civil liberties,” such as freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, press, due process and executes its citizens “at the second highest rate in the world.”

No surprise that Tehran is holding several Iranian-Americans on a variety of questionable charges.

Getting a good deal with Iran on nukes would be a positive development, but even on the outside chance that we do, we shouldn’t for a moment think that our problems with the Persians will—poof!—perish.

Originally published in the Boston Herald 

What the Role of ‘We the People’ Is - The Daily Signal

What the Role of ‘We the People’ Is

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel / Peter Brookes / Ed Feulner /

“We the People.” We’ve heard that phrase so often it’s easy to overlook its significance. But as we mark our nation’s birthday, we should take a moment to ask ourselves: What is the role of the people?

Our nation is unique because of its universal founding principles. At the heart of these principles is the belief that people are free by nature and possess inherent rights. The use each one of us makes of these rights will naturally be different, and the outcomes of those choices will naturally differ, too. But the choice remains ours.

Freedom is thus inextricably bound up with living our lives as we see fit. This is self-government in the truest sense of the term. We the people need not slavishly defer to experts. We can be trusted to govern ourselves.

That is why government must remain limited: The people have given it only limited powers, as described in the Constitution. When we allow government to take more than we have given it, our choices become meaningless. At worst, unlimited government is tyrannical; at best, it imposes a dull uniformity that crushes true diversity and saps the independent spirit of the people.

The founders strove to create a government that couldn’t be dominated by a single faction. That faction might be a minority or a majority. But no matter its size, it would inevitably seek to promote its own narrow interests at the expense of the liberties of the people.

One purpose of the Constitution’s checks and balances—one reason it divides and limits power—is to restrain the ambition of the powerful and promote “the general welfare.”

Yet as the federal government has grown over the past century, its business has increasingly become taking from Paul to benefit Peter, then borrowing from Peter to pay off Paul. What supporters of big government call the general welfare is merely the artful distribution of favors to particular factions.

The federal government is not supposed to be the most important institution in America. In securing the general welfare, it’s supposed to do only those things that are provided for in the Constitution.

It must, for example, provide for the common defense and regulate our relations with foreign nations. It must respect our right to enjoy the fruits of our labor by taxing lightly, and defend the freedom of the marketplace by ensuring the rule of law. And it must remember that the family and religion are where we learn virtue, and that without virtue, government cannot be both limited and free.

As John Adams stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In the United States, government requires not merely the consent of the governed. It rests ultimately on the ability of the people to govern themselves. Thus, the first role—the first duty—of the people is to ensure that they remain virtuous and free.

That is why the American system is based on the rights of the individual, but not on individualism. When Thomas Jefferson wrote that “it is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor,” he captured a vital truth of American freedom. The founders placed great hopes in the Constitution, but they knew that no paper constraints could preserve liberty. That duty rested ultimately with the American people.

The role of the Constitution was to restrain and to check, and—as Washington wrote—to “raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.” The words of the declaration, the lives of the founders, and the design of the Constitution can inspire, but on their own they cannot preserve the American republic.

Only the American people, steeped in the principles that inspired the founders and animated the declaration, can do that. Almost 240 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, it’s worth asking: Are we up to the task?

Originally published in The Washington Times 

Are Americans Still Patriotic? What Polls Reveal - The Daily Signal

Are Americans Still Patriotic? What Polls Reveal

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel / Peter Brookes / Ed Feulner / Diana Stancy /

American Enterprise Institute published a public opinion report evaluating Americans’ sense of patriotism. The report compiled information from various studies, including those done by Pew Research Center, The New York Times and National Opinion Research Center. Here are some key findings:

1. Most Americans consider themselves patriotic. According to a Pew Research study from February 2014, 65 percent of respondents ranked themselves between 8-10 on a ten point scale when asked if they consider themselves a “patriotic person,” with ten as the highest possible ranking.

2. Americans are proud of the military. A study from the General Social Survey in 2014 found 66 percent of respondents were proud of the U.S. military forces. This was the highest ranked category. Other areas included America’s history, its democratic system and its social security system.

3. Americans are staying put. A Fox News survey from March 2015 indicated that 83 percent of Americans thought the U.S. was the best country to live in, while 14 percent responded negatively.

4. Americans aren’t as proud of their country as some citizens in other countries are of their own nations. According to a World Values Survey, 98 percent of citizens in Qatar claimed to be “very proud” of their nationality. However, only 56 percent of Americans responded positively in this category.

What Fireworks Does ISIS Plan for the 4th of July? - The Daily Signal

What Fireworks Does ISIS Plan for the 4th of July?

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel / Peter Brookes / Ed Feulner / Diana Stancy / James Carafano /

What to make of reports that ISIS may try to pull off a terrorist attack on Independence Day?

Let’s look at the facts.

It is not the first time after 9/11 that U.S. authorities have expressed concerns about possible terrorist attacks timed to coincide with significant dates like the Fourth of July. In 2011, a senior U.S. official told reporters, “We have received credible information very recently about a possible plot directed at the homeland that seems to be focused on New York and Washington, D.C.,” timed for the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s big attack on the two cities. Some hold that the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi was scheduled to coincide with 9/11. In fact, warnings of impending terror threats from authorities go back as far as 2002.

Next, we know that ISIS is active—both promoting and inspiring transnational terrorist attacks. Just last week near simultaneous assaults occurred in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.

Further, the U.S. remains a prime target for terrorist activity.  There was another Islamist terrorist related plot uncovered last week—the third in less than a month.

Additionally, we can’t even be sure of where an attack might happen. Terrorists have contemplated hitting everything from high-profile targets in big cities to shopping malls in the suburbs.

None of that necessarily means that something bad will happen between grilling the hot dogs, cheering on the main street parades and watching the fireworks over the Capitol.

Coordinating a terrorist attack to happen at a specific time and place, particularly when there will likely be heightened awareness and security, complicates the challenge of pulling off a terror strike–though those obstacles didn’t thwart two relative amateurs who bombed the Boston Marathon (and who had also considered conducting an attack on Independence Day).

Still, if an attack does occur the odds of any particular American being a victim are pretty small.  That’s cold comfort, as the real purpose of terrorist attacks is to terrorize us, killing us is just a consequence.

Best advice is to have a nice day, but take the common-sense precautions that people should always take in public. There are plenty of lists out there of the right steps to take. Read one.

The reality is that even the best security can’t childproof a free society. On July 4, of all days, Americans shouldn’t want it any other way. When a free society gives up on freedom the terrorists win.

Originally published in the PJ Tatler

What American Institutions Conservatives Trust, And Which Ones Liberals Trust - The Daily Signal

What American Institutions Conservatives Trust, And Which Ones Liberals Trust

Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Kim Holmes / Anna Gorman / Norbert Michel / Peter Brookes / Ed Feulner / Diana Stancy / James Carafano / Kate Scanlon /

Trust in American institutions varies widely by political ideology, according to a new Gallup poll.

Gallup found that American liberals and conservatives “report markedly different levels of confidence in nearly every key institution” that they measure, a shift they attribute to a significantly different “worldview” embraced by each group.

Photo: Gallup

Photo: Gallup

Conservatives are more likely to trust organized religion, the police and the military. Liberals are more likely to trust the Supreme Court, television news and public schools.

Congress inspires little confidence in the American people, with only 11 percent of conservatives and 9 percent of liberals reporting that they trust the institution.

Gallup asked Americans about the office of the presidency rather than the president himself. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to trust the presidency by 36 percentage points.

Photo: Gallup

Photo: Gallup

Gallup notes that “confidence in most major U.S. institutions continues to linger well below historical norms,” and is not limited to one particular political ideology.