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Five Assurances from the Federal Government About Ebola That Have Proven Less than Reliable


It’s no secret that the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola virus’s arrival has been lackluster. The feds have repeatedly assured the public that everything is under control, even as their previous promises crumble around them. 

Here’s a chronological list of the federal government’s most egregious misstatements and false declarations about the deadly virus’s spread:

July 28, 2014: CDC official calls Ebola’s arrival in the United States “a very remote possibility.”

As the outbreak in West Africa picked up speed this summer, CDC official Stephan Monroe briefed reporters on the threat. “The likelihood of the outbreak spreading outside of West Africa is very low,” he said. “Nevertheless, because people do travel between West Africa and the U.S., CDC needs to be prepared for the very remote possibility that one of those travelers could get Ebola and return to the U.S. while sick.”

On September 20, Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in Dallas from his native Liberia, carrying the virus with him.

September 16, 2014: President Obama says the chance of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is “extremely low.”

During a visit to the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, President Obama addressed the American people directly. “Our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low,” he said. “In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.”

On September 30, news broke that Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, where he infected at least two others.

October 1, 2014: CDC promises robust support for any and all hospitals caring for Ebola patients.

After Duncan’s arrival at Dallas Presbyterian, the CDC announced they would send a team that, among other things, would “ensure the hospital uses appropriate infection control measures” and “monitor the health status of health-care providers who cared for the patient.”

On October 12, nurse Nina Pham tested positive for Ebola after treating Duncan at Dallas Presbyterian. Director Frieden admitted a stronger CDC response “might have prevented” her infection, adding that he “wish[ed] we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed.”

October 5, 2014: CDC director Tom Frieden declares U.S. hospitals will be able to ”stop [Ebola] in its tracks.”

In the few days after Duncan’s admission, Frieden and the CDC repeatedly promised that U.S. hospitals have the technology and know-how to contain the infection. “We will stop it in its tracks,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulous on October 5, ”because we’ve got infection control in hospitals and public health that tracks and isolates people if they get symptoms.” Nurses union National Nurses United disagreed, saying American hospitals “are not ready to confront this deadly disease.”

On October 15, a second nurse, Amber Vinson, was diagnosed with Ebola. Like Pham, she treated Duncan at Dallas Presbyterian. 

October 12, 2014: CDC director Tom Frieden claims all 48 health-care workers who cared for Duncan are being carefully monitored.

While warning that addition cases of Ebola after Pham’s were still possible, Frieden took pains to explain that all potential carriers were being watched closely. “The risk is in the 48 people who are being monitored,” he said, ”all of whom have been tested daily, none of whom so far have developed symptoms or fever.”

In violation of CDC protocol, Amber Vinson flew on a commercial airliner one day before she was admitted to the hospital with Ebola. She had a temperature of 99.5 degrees before boarding the flight, but was nevertheless cleared by a CDC official to travel commercially. Frieden admitted on October 15 that she “should not have traveled” on that airliner, promising more careful monitoring in the future.

October 15, 2014: President Obama says he is “absolutely confident” the United States will not suffer a “serious” Ebola outbreak.

During a cabinet meeting, the president told reporters he was “absolutely confident that we can prevent a serious outbreak of the disease here in the United States,” adding that he was still confident in CDC director Tom Frieden’s leadership.

We’re still okay on this front — so far.

After the Frenzy Fades, Back to the Work of Helping Faith and Family Life


I’ve spent the better part of the week assuring non-Catholic friends and questioners that the Catholic Church has not surrendered on issues of marriage, life, and religious liberty.

The frenzy of hopes and fears – depending on where you were coming to it from – that surrounded news of a mid-synod draft made public earlier this week, missed a whole lot of context.

Largely overlooked, for instance: the controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae got a not-to-be-misssed (and yet it was!) name-drop in the draft, a little less than a week before its author, Pope Paul VI, would be beatified by Pope Francis. Somehow in all the world’s looking for messages in Pope Francis’s moves, this largely was left unexamined.

Now that a few days have passed, and synod work has continued, now largely in smaller working groups, this morning’s press conference about the synod was clarifying.

Remember, first, that this is a meeting about the family, which Pope Francis has made clear is in crisis — not that you needed to hear it from him. So what to do? This enormous and critical question is what the synod process was opened to discern.

“Do not judge, but accompany. This is the thought of Pope Francis, which is not relativism,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, a Dominican priest and archbishop of Vienna, stated frankly, addressing concerns he’s certainly heard, at a Vatican press conference Thursday morning

Pope Francis wants that the reflection about the family be a journey,” he said, explaining the open discussion and debate and continued prayer and work over the next year in a particular way.

Schönborn went on to say “we must confront the new challenges with the same principles as before, we must only find new words,” (hitting on a theme of the work of Catholic Voices, an effort I’ve been involved with).

That does not mean poll testing Church teaching. It does mean paying some attention to how you’re being heard. Or if you’re even being heard.

Schönborn brought his personal experience in to illumine what’s going on at the synod, explaining “my parents were divorced and I know what this break is. It is not virtual but real.” He went on to say the “journey of faith has greatly helped our family to overcome the pain of separation.”

“How to combine the doctrine, the Gospel, and the mercy of Jesus is a constant challenge for pastors of the Church,” he said about the work of the synod.

Regarding the topics that have been subject of many press headlines and much commentary – same-sex attraction, cohabitation, among them — Schönborn made clear: “Every person has dignity beyond question. Respect for every human person does not mean respect for every human behavior.”

“We first look at the person and not their sexual orientation,” he said, re-articulating what the Church taught even before the synod and even before Pope Francis.

About language suggesting the synod wanted to accentuate the positive in irregular relationships, he said: “Critical situations are not only seen from the point of view of what is missing, but also what is positive.”

Let people see the good and that more is attainable, in other words, a theme the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville has long pointed to.

Also at this morning’s press conference was Pina De Simone, an Italian professor who has been participating in the synod along with her husband. She told those gathered: “We want to draw attention to the proclamation of the Gospel in everyday life of families in a new and realistic way.

“We want to begin from from life experience, not from the enunciation of certain theoretical principles,” she said.

(Credit to the Holy See Press Office for the quotes—I don’t speak Italian.)

How do you make the Catechism of the Catholic Church look practical and attainable and joyful, even with the work and sacrifice it requires? You can’t just talk, you have to show, and lead with an authentic knowledge of the obstacles to evangelization.

My friend Greg Erlandson at Our Sunday Visitor sums up what’s been going on this week, in particular, well:

Much of the news coverage leading up to the synod focused on a debate between cardinals regarding how best to minister to those who were divorced and remarried outside the Church but who desire the sacraments. That this is debated is not a problem for me. In fact, such debates provide a catechetical moment and do not need to be censored, although the filter of the news media may distort the issues (yet another reason for a strong Catholic press).

But with the release of the synod’s relatio Oct. 13, it seems that the fathers of the extraordinary synod are not simply lining up theses to argue about with modern world. Instead, they want the Church to confront the sufferings and confusion of her people in a way that does not diminish the teaching but allows the Church to “accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them …”

Or as the document said elsewhere, “Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.”

The demands do not vanish. God does ask hard things of all of us.

But in this field hospital that is the Church in the modern world, the image that the synod document brings to mind is that of Simon of Cyrene. Simon could not free the Lord from his cross. He could simply walk with him and help him carry it. The synod fathers seem to be asking how the Church can do the same.

The doctrine does not change, nor the call to repentance. But the Lord does rebuff those who would “tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:4). Our challenge is to help families in their struggles to carry their crosses.

Don’t expect too many surprises when an enhanced document is expected to be released Saturday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said on his radio show from Rome today. Doctrine isn’t changing. 

The Catholic Church is still the Catholic Church. 

UPDATE: My friend Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire put it well tonight on a radio show (Thank you Sheila Liaugminas.) we were both on: How does the Church meet the world with the doctrine. We have the doctrine. What the synod is working on is the language of encounter. (Word on Fire’s Fr. Robert Barron had a wise column — have patience with the sausage making, he counseled – on the buzz about the synod earlier this week.)


Murdock: Elbert Guillory Ad ‘Has Done a Tremendous Service’ for Black Community


Make sure to check out Joel Gehrke’s profile of Elbert Guillory, the Louisiana state senator who switched parties from Democrat to a Republican last year, which you can read here.

Web Briefing: October 21, 2014

Deadspin Tries to Take Down Cory Gardner, Gets Stiff-Armed by the Truth


As Republican congressman Cory Gardner has taken the lead in the Colorado Senate race, he’s had to defend himself against claims from a liberal sports blog that he lied about playing on his high-school football team.

Deadspin’s Dave McKenna published a story yesterday claiming that Gardner, who was described as “homo-hatin’ and climate-change-denyin’,” did not play on his high school’s football team despite claiming that he had. The report was shown to be false within hours of its publication. 

The Denver Post talked to Deadspin’s main source, Yuma High School teacher Chuck Pfalmer and found his account did not match McKenna’s story. Deadspin reported that Pfalmer, who taught Gardner and kept football statistics, said Gardner was not on the high-school football team, but Pfalmer told the Post that Gardner played football for three years in high school.

Gardner’s campaign tweeted out visual evidence yesterday of Gardner posing in his football uniform. In one tweet, Gardner wrote that he never expected his lackluster football career to be written about by Deadspin:

In another, Gardner tweeted at the Denver Broncos’ John Elway:

Deadspin initially stood by its reporting, issuing an “update,” not a retraction, blaming the 77-year-old Pfalmer for being an unreliable source. The update says that “Pfalmer repeatedly said Gardner had not played football at the school,” though Pfalmer told the Post that he does not remember saying that. Asked by the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple whether “the site has any further plans to address the discrepancies,” Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs replied, “For now, I guess, we’re going to sit here, eat some s***, and endure our Maoist struggle session in penitent silence.”

Craggs then issued an apology of sorts, in which he admitted that Deadspin “f***ed up.”

Meanwhile, Gardner has taken control in the Colorado Senate race, and it seems even incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D., Colo.) has noticed:

Udall addressed Gardner as “Senator” at a debate earlier this week, and recent polling suggests Udall’s error may prove prescient. A Quinnipiac poll released today shows Gardner leading Udall 47–41 among likely voters, while a CNN poll released on Wednesday found 50 percent of likely voters supported Gardner, with less than 20 days remaining until Election Day.   


Lessons of the Ebola Crisis


In the growing public debate about Ebola, both sides are basically right. The administration is right that we are not witnessing an outbreak of Ebola and that such an outbreak is unlikely in our highly developed public-health system. But the administration’s critics are right that we are witnessing serious failures of that system that should be cause for serious alarm and major improvement. 

Ideally, this unusual combination of circumstances — a genuine test of our communicable-disease containment and response system in which the danger to the public at large is actually quite small — would be an opportunity to learn some humbling lessons and make some meaningful changes. We have already learned, for instance, that in the case of a serious public-health crisis, our public officials will have a tendency to express vast overconfidence while relying on plans and procedures that demand an unrealistic level of competence from an enormous number of people in a wide variety of circumstances. The president should not have said that it was unlikely that anyone with Ebola would reach our shores, and the CDC director should not have said that essentially any hospital in America can handle Ebola — and more important, his agency should not have believed that and built its response plan on that premise.

This crucial process of learning lessons has been hampered so far by a peculiar attitude that often emerges in our politics in times of crisis and imbues our debates with the wrong approach to learning from failure. The attitude is premised on the bizarre assumption that large institutions are hyper-competent by default, so that when they fail we should seek for nefarious causes. Not only liberals (who are at least pretty consistent about making this ridiculous mistake) but also some conservatives who should know better respond with a mix of outrage and disgust to failures of government to contend effortlessly with daunting emergencies. But do we really expect (or even want) our government to have the power and ability to smooth all of life’s edges and be ready in an instant to address the consequences of, say, a major hurricane or massive oil spill or deadly disease outbreak? What do we think that government would be doing with that power the rest of the time? What we should want and expect is a government that can respond to unexpected emergencies by calling upon generally plausible prior planning, quickly building up capacity when it is needed, and learning from unavoidable early mistakes.

The most prominent of the arguments from nefarious causes has been the notion that what we’re witnessing now is the result of budget cuts—because surely an adequately funded government would also be omnicompetent. And it is especially appalling that this line of reasoning has been helped along by uncharacteristically foolish comments from NIH director Francis Collins. The director of the NIH would of course like the agency to have even more money, and he no doubt wishes his agency had directed more resources to this particular disease in the past. But his agency does have a $30 billion budget (which was doubled, in my view in a rather reckless way, in the late Clinton and early Bush years). And until this year the most severe known outbreak of Ebola had killed a total of 280 people—so it was perfectly reasonable not to treat it as a high priority in a world where, say, malaria kills 600,000 people every year, and it’s not likely that if the NIH had been given more money in recent years it would have directed it to Ebola research. This unexpected outbreak is killing thousands in Africa and could kill many more, and so we are turning our sizable resources to it. That we do not already have a vaccine is not a failure of government. It is a serious problem that our government (with its massive commitment to medical research) and our private pharmaceutical sector are actually pretty well positioned to help address now that it has arisen. 

Keep reading this post . . .

Ferguson Witness: Michael Brown Did Not Have His Hands Up


Exactly what happened between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson on August 9 is still unknown. Were Michael Brown’s hands in the air when he was killed, as has been widely claimed? Did Officer Wilson open fire while Brown was running away? Did he shoot while Brown’s back was turned? And did he continue the fight after Brown had indicated that he longer wanted any part of it? Per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one eyewitness says “no.”

One Canfield resident — who said he saw the killing of Brown from start to finish and talked to the grand jury recently — has given the Post-Dispatch an account with some key differences from previous public statements from other witnesses.

Among the recollections of the witness, who agreed to an interview on the condition that his name not be used, were:

• After an initial scuffle in the car, the officer did not fire until Brown turned back toward him.

• Brown put his arms out to his sides but never raised his hands high.

• Brown staggered toward Wilson despite commands to stop.

• The two were about 20 to 25 feet apart when the last shots were fired.

He would not detail what he had told the grand jury but said the members seemed fair and asked a lot of questions.

Witnesses have given differing accounts since the white officer killed the unarmed black teen Aug. 9, triggering protests, riots and national attention.

As the paper notes, if Brown did not have his hands up, the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme will have been rather premature:

Some have said Brown raised his arms high in surrender, giving rise to a common protesters’ chant of “Hands up, don’t shoot” while mimicking the move. But this witness said Brown never put his hands straight up but held his elbows straight out from his torso, with palms turned up in a sort of gesture of disbelief.

The new testimony contradicts the descriptions provided by Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, and onlookers Piaget Cranshaw and Tiffany Mitchell. According to MSNBC, Johnson claims that, after Officer Wilson opened fire, the two

took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.

“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him.

Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”

 By that point, Johnson says the officer and Brown were face-to-face. The officer then fired several more shots. Johnson described watching Brown go from standing with his hands up to crumbling to the ground and curling into a fetal position.

Piaget Cranshaw, by contrast, told Newsweek that,

it looked like the officer was trying to pull Brown into the car, [Crenshaw said.] When that didn’t work, she said the officer chased after Brown and shot multiple times, though none of those shots appeared to hit Brown. In the end, Crenshaw said, Brown “turned around and then was shot multiple times.”

For her part, Mitchell testified that:

“The cop shot a fire through the window. Michael breaks away and starts running away but the officer continued shooting.”

The St. Louis County police, meanwhile, claim that:

Wilson attempted to get out of his car and Brown pushed him back inside. A struggle ensued inside the car, in which Brown tried to take the officer’s gun. A shot was fired from inside the car. The officer then stepped out of the car and shot Brown, who died of his injuries.

With such starkly various accounts, I would imagine that the likelihood of an indictment is low, and the likelihood of a conviction is even lower. Fair or not, presumption of innocence always favors the living.

On the Travel Ban


Let me say upfront, I am less worried about an Ebola epidemic in the US than some folks. I can also sympathize with public health officials and the Obama administration in their obvious desire to avoid a national panic. What I can’t sympathize with is the way in which that effort has only fueled a panic. The communications operation of the federal government has been classically Obama-esque. At every turn they’ve over promised and under-delivered. It seems obvious to me that the two main drivers of this failure are an undue prioritization of politics and a typical overconfidence in the government bureaucracy. Whenever you listen to Friedan, Fauci or Obama talk about this, they do so in a way that leaves you wondering what the real facts are. What are they not telling us? At every turn they issue categorical statements about how things are under control and that X or Y won’t happen and when X or Y happen, they say it’s because of a breach in protocol they cannot identify. It’s as if the theory of government competence is more important than dealing with the reality of the situation at hand. That theory is only reassuring when it conforms to reality. When it doesn’t, it makes the next categorical statement not merely less reassuring but actually more worrisome. 

Which brings me to the travel ban. I’m largely with the editors on this. One needn’t impose a complete cordon sanitaire around these countries.  But you can quite easily create a system where you need special permission to come to the US. We put conditions on visas all the time. It strikes me as entirely reasonable to put some restrictions on who comes here, restrictions grounded not in hysteria but in simple common sense. 

That said I’ve had private conversations with experts who think a travel ban is unnecessary and could be counterproductive. The best argument they offer is that a travel ban could be destabilizing to the governments in West Africa. Some people say “So what?” And I agree with them if the argument is based on some vague sense that we need to hold our public health policies hostage to the continuity of the Liberian regime. But it’s also possible that our public health is better protected if those governments do not unravel.  I agree that we should do everything we can to contain Ebola where it currently exists (If Ebola breaks out in Nigeria, we should all be very afraid.). And if a travel ban does that, I’m for a travel ban.

My problem with the public arguments from the administration is that they are so underwhelming. We constantly hear that a travel ban would make it impossible to send volunteers to Africa to help contain the disease. Really? We can’t charter planes anymore? Is the military out of aircraft that could fly CDC crews and supplies to West Africa? It’s hinted that it would be somehow unfair or mean or unjust to bar travel to the US. But that’s nonsense. There is no civil right to fly to America. Frieden said today that if we imposed a travel ban we’d lose the ability to screen people coming to the US from West Africa. Uh, right. And if you lock the doors to your home, you lose the ability frisk intruders. It’s arguments like this lead people to think, “What aren’t they telling us?”

The debate over a travel ban is of a piece with the administration’s larger communications failures. They don’t lack for confidence, they lack the ability to persuade people their confidence is justified. 

Washington Post: Vote for Mark Warner Because He’ll Raise Your Taxes


Today’s Washington Post endorsement of Democratic Virginia senator Mark Warner is not surprising, but the editorial board’s case against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is a revealing window on how people think in the city that takes what America makes:

We understand that Mr. Gillespie, who faced a competitive GOP primary, is loath to alienate Republican hard-liners. Yet his opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise — is exactly the sort of promise that produces congressional paralysis and would defeat a bargain to cure the nation’s fiscal ills . . . 

Mr. Gillespie, a former lobbyist, national and state GOP chairman and top adviser to President George W. Bush, has deep political and policy experience. Unlike many Republicans who have been content to attack Obamacare, he proposed an alternative — albeit one that would offer far less protection to vulnerable patients.

Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse.

If only the voters — who are constantly telling pollsters that they’re fed up with Washington business as usual and forcing lifelong politicians to make improbable claims to “outsider” status — were as reasonable as the Post’s editorial board. The argument seems to be that what’s good about Gillespie is that he is another get-along-go-along pol; but unfortunately, he’s not quite as easy as Warner.

The equation of “new taxes” with “compromise” — which the paper should really be embarrassed to make after the stunning non-apocalypses of the budget sequester and the partial shutdown of some non-essential government services last year — also elides a point the two campaigns have been arguing over. Though Warner claims Gillespie signed the tax pledge created by Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and his campaign even flooded the press room with literature to that effect at Monday’s debate, Grover himself has shot that story down. As Post Virginia reporters Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella point out, “Norquist tweeted late Monday that Gillespie did not sign the pledge: “Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn’t. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn’t raise their taxes. He won’t. Warner did.’”

The ed board’s case for Warner also mentions his successful governorship, “ability to cross partisan lines,” and the fact that many people still think he’s John Warner. (OK, not that last one.) But the only case against Gillespie is his opposition to “new revenue” to “tackle the nation’s fiscal problems in a balanced way.” In fact, as Ohio University economist Richard Vedder demonstrated in a 1980s study that has been repeated with the same results many times since, every dollar of tax revenue raised leads to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Studies of revenue-based deficit reduction efforts in other countries have shown the same.

Gillespie has closed some of his very wide polling gap against Warner, but other than a September Quinnipiac poll that showed him trailing by nine points, he has never come within double-digits of the incumbent. But the power of incumbency is not a ratification of bad math. Raising taxes only makes the country’s fiscal problems worse. Americans know that. Washingtonians don’t.

Tags: Mark Warner , Taxes , Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , 2014 Midterms

Charlie Crist Has Longstanding Attachment to His Electric Fan


The presence of Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s electric fan gained attention on Wednesday night for causing a rift between the Florida gubernatorial candidates that almost canceled the debate. But Crist’s fan has been by his side throughout his political career.

Crist’s unique attachment to his fan is well documented, including by Crist himself in his memoir The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat. “I always like a fan at the podium when I give a big speech,” Crist wrote on page three of his memoir. “You have no idea how hot those TV lights can be.” Crist has traveled with portable fans since at least 2000 when he ran for education commissioner, The Atlantic reported, and spent $320 on portable fans alone on one European trade mission as governor. Crist’s fan has disrupted other debates in the past as well. As a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Crist squared off with fellow Republican Tom Gallagher. When Gallagher discovered Crist had a personal fan on stage, he threatened to leave the debate unless he was given a fan too, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A fan was found for Gallagher and the debate went on as planned.  

But on Wednesday night, incumbent Republican governor Rick Scott discovered Crist’s fan before the debate began and did not appear on stage for several minutes. Following the debate, Scott’s campaign manager Melissa Sellers released a statement defending Scott’s action. “Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate,” Sellers said. “In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an ‘emergency meeting’ with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan. But Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates — none of that will cover up how sad his record as Governor was compared to the success of Governor Rick Scott.”

A copy of the debate rules agreed to by both campaigns includes the statement, “Candidates may not bring electronic devices (including fans), visual aids or notes to the debate, but will be provided with a pad and pen.” Crist’s campaign signed the rules, but inserted a note underneath the signature that read, “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary,” according to Kevin Cate, a Crist spokesman. The electric fan overshadowed the substance of last night’s debate, but the election may be decided by the one candidate who was not on the stage: Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian candidate who has polled in the double digits in some polls. Support for Wyllie has shrunk in recent polls that show Scott and Crist tied, but it remains to be seen who will gain the most ground from last night’s debate.  


CDC Head: Ebola Spreading in Africa Would Be ‘Threat to U.S. Health System for Long Time to Come’


After weeks of assuring Americans that there is no long-term, wide-scale threat to the United States from Ebola, CDC director Tom Frieden told Congress there could be a long-term, wide-scale threat to the United States from Ebola. 

“I will tell you, as the director of CDC, one of the things I fear about Ebola is that it could spread more widely in Africa,” he told a House committee on Thursday. “If this were to happen, it could become a threat to our health system, and the health care we give, for a long time to come.”

The World Health Organization recently increased expected Ebola cases in west Africa from 1,000 per week to 10,000. And the United Nations warned Tuesday that the world has less than 60 days before the outbreak in the region becomes uncontrollable. 

The God that Failed


I wrote about how Obama’s unpopularity is affecting the midterms in my Politico column today:

Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014.

Like the instantly notorious Republican senate candidate from Missouri, Grimes has committed a defining political gaffe. Grimes’ refusal to say that she voted for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections has some of the same characteristics as Akin’s infamous rape comment: It was telegenic, mockable and universally condemned. She first refused to say she voted for President Obama in a cringe-inducing videotaped editorial board interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, then after getting roasted by every political commentator in the country, doubled down during Monday night’s debate.

She elevated her refusal to high principle. Out of respect for Kentucky’s constitution and the sanctity of the ballot box, she couldn’t possibly say whether she voted for the man she was a delegate for at the 2012 Democratic convention. In her own mind, Grimes is the Rosa Parks of the secret ballot.

In 2012, Akin’s statement captured the Republican Party’s vulnerability to “war on women” attacks and how its roster of candidates included too many not-ready-for-prime-time players.She elevated her refusal to high principle. Out of respect for Kentucky’s constitution and the sanctity of the ballot box, she couldn’t possibly say whether she voted for the man she was a delegate for at the 2012 Democratic convention. In her own mind, Grimes is the Rosa Parks of the secret ballot.

This year, Grimes’ miscue speaks to the president’s unpopularity and to the unseemly desperation of Democratic candidates to get as far away from him as possible.

Dallas Nurse: Hopsital Never Talked about Ebola Until First Patient Arrived


Despite a raging Ebola outbreak in west Africa and concerns that the virus could reach U.S. shores, a Dallas nurse claims that the hospital where she worked never even discussed Ebola with its employees — much less enacted emergency procedures once the first patient arrived.

Nurse Briana Aguirre spoke Thursday on NBC’s Today about Ebola preparations at Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan arrived on September 28. At least two nurses at that hospital were subsequently infected by Duncan, prompting questions about the facility’s preparedness.

Matt Lauer asked the nurse whether there was a “code red” or “lock down” following Duncan’s admission to the hospital. 

“We never talked about Ebola, and we probably should have,” Aguirre said. “We never had a discussion. They gave us an optional seminar to go to — just informational, not hands on. And it wasn’t even suggested that we go.”

“We never were told what to look for,” she continued. “And I just don’t think that any facility in this country’s prepared for that, at this time.” 

McCarthy: State Department ‘Not Dealing with Reality’ of Islam


On the Perils of Government by ‘Psychological Necessity’


On the homepage, Dr. Marc Siegel proposes that the United States should impose “a travel ban against the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa.” That ban “may not be medically necessary or even advisable,” Siegel concedes, “but it is psychologically necessary.”

“First and foremost,” he continues,

although we are members of the world health community, we must worry about our own public psyche here in the United States. If our leaders can’t give us a sense that we are protected, we must achieve it by imposing a ban.

“This,” Siegel acknowledges, ”isn’t strictly a medical argument.”

Its not, no. Indeed, I might go one further: This isn’t strictly an argument at all.

Spelling it out, Siegel writes:

I don’t believe that a travel ban against the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa will be particularly effective, it may even be counterproductive, and it certainly isn’t coming from the strongest side of what being an American means. But as fear of Ebola and fear of our leaders’ ineptitude grows, I think we must have a ban to patch our battered national psyche.

It is not an overstatement to say that this way of thinking represents pretty much everything that I stand against. First off, the notion that governments are instituted among men to mold and to soothe the “national psyche” is misguided in the extreme. It is civil society, not Washington D.C., that should be providing a free people with purpose and meaning. Want to feel good about yourself? Join a club. Buy a bottle of wine. Go to church. Don’t seek political drugs from Washington.

More important, though, is that the idea is downright dangerous, serving as the ugly midwife to all sorts of irrational and insidious claims. Every time you hear it said that ”something must be done,” or that “grieving communities needs to see some — any — action,” or that to have a plan of any kind is better than to remain circumspect, the speaker is likely indulging in exactly this form of nonsense. And this really matters. As history teaches us, vague and opaque appeals to “psychological necessity” are the grease that helps along all liberty killing initiatives: among them, bans on firearms that look “scary” but that serve no special purpose; creeping restrictions on speech and conscience; spending that does naught; laws that have fluffy sounding names but change precisely nothing; and rules that serve to elevate security over liberty. The idea that the government should act to make the public feel better, moreover, has established and entrenched our modern Cult of the Savior Politician. Is this really the road we wish to go down?

If there is a good case to made in favor of a travel ban — and, although I am not quite sure where I come down, I think that there absolutely is — then it should be made. If there isn’t, then it should not. As a general rule, if one finds oneself saying that “a proposed measure will not work, but . . .,” — or, worse, that it might even be “counterproductive” — one might wish to reconsider one’s priorities.

Intimidation Works


Check out Eliana’s piece on the home page on Harry Reid’s super PAC and why Republicans don’t have a direct counter:

Republicans point to a handful of headline-making incidents they say have deterred donors from making public contributions — chief among them the case of Frank VanderSloot, who, after making a donation to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, found himself listed on the Obama campaign’s website on a list of GOP donors with “less-then-reputable” character, and who went on to receive two IRS audits; and that of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was ousted from his position in April after it was revealed that he had contributed money in 2008 to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage in California (the online dating website, among others, had begun to push its users to boycott Mozilla’s Firefox web browser).

Then, of course, there is the experience of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have been featured in dozens of television ads, flayed by Senate Democrats throughout the election cycle, and lambasted by Reid for everything from “actually trying to buy the country” to being flat out “un-American.”

The Kochs, who in 1986 sat for a lengthy New York Times profile chronicling the family’s disputes and dramas, are today in virtual hibernation. Many Republican donors have followed suit.

More Airpower Might Have Saved Kobani for Now


The Islamic State has been pushed almost entirely out of the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani, local officials say, after it had seized a large chunk of the town and threatened to take it over entirely over the last week. Probably helping the reversal: The U.S. intensified its bombing campaign against the jihadist group, going from a few strikes a day to more than a dozen a day this week. Comparisons of our bombing rate to the rate of attacks in Afghanistan and Bosnia air campaigns don’t quite add up, and there are limits to what can be done without assets on the ground to identify targets. But our air campaign in Syria had been limited, and it seems like more strikes did help — perhaps as much psychologically as operationally.

The 37 strikes this week, for instance, destroyed 16 Islamic State–controlled buildings, according to the Pentagon. What enabled or caused the uptick in strikes? We’ve improved a secret system to coordinate and identify targets with the Kurds, the Pentagon says, and the growing numbers of Islamic State fighters had massed in or near the town presented more targets. The Department of Defense also says bad flying weather over Iraq allowed more airpower to be diverted to Syria, but it’s not clear why this makes sense: The U.S. has plenty of resources in the area to launch dozens of attacks every day in Syria and Iraq combined.

The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq also sent aid and weapons to Kobani over this past weekend, though it’s not clear if they’ve reached the town yet. The Iraqi Kurds say they would send troops to help Kobani, but it can’t do so logistically. The U.S. leaned on Turkey, which has troops just across the border, to help the Kurds beat back the Islamic State, but Turkey demurred, being loath to help Kurdish militants allied with its own troublesome Kurdish nationalists. 

UPDATE: A Kurdish friend of National Review suggests that the aid from U.S. airpower might have been as much about shock and awe as it was accurate strikes. Kurdish fighters, he points out, lack heavy weaponry, while the Islamic State has some fancy weaponry they actually know how to use. Heavy weaponry can thus help intimidate the Kurds into retreat, while air strikes can significantly boost their morale.

South Dakota Senate Candidate Reads ‘Cowboy Poetry’ at Sports Bar


The art of poetry may seem out of place in the rough-and-tumble blood sport that is U.S. politics. But on Wednesday night, South Dakota Senate hopeful Larry Pressler revealed his sensitive side. 

The independent candidate read a few poems — including one written by a “cowboy” — at the meeting of a local poetry club at a Sioux Falls sports bar. 

“In this campaign I’m engaged in, I’m judged by some of my friends,” he told the few dozen people in attendance. “If you’re a friend of Barack Obama, therefore you’re bad. But this is a cowboy writing about his friends. And some of his neighbors have a different stand of branding than he does, but he still is their friend.”

Earlier that day, Pressler told the Washington Times that “Barack Obama needs friends in the Senate. . . . I think Barack Obama has kind of gone astray, but if I get there I’m going to try to help him and work with him.”

The former Republican senator lost his 1996 reelection bid, but is taking another stab at elected office as an independent following Democrat Tim Johnson’s retirement. Pressler is polling at around 23 percent, behind Democrat Rick Weiland’s 28 percent and Republican Mike Rounds’ 38 percent. 

When Anti-ISIS Is Pro-Islamist


I’m with Jonah a hundred percent on the hypocrisy of the U.K.’s National Union of Students – boycotting Israel but refraining from condemnation of ISIS for fear of being thought Islamophobic. But there is another side to the charade coin: Islamists posing as “moderates” while purporting to condemn ISIS’s interpretation of sharia.

To my chagrin, as further explained in this PJM post, the Washington Times yesterday opted to help that story along by turning to CAIR and one of the notorious “flying imams” for guidance. There are authentic moderate Muslims out there who don’t have a history of endorsing Hamas and who accept the heavy (and dangerous) burden of being “reformers” because they acknowledge the need to reinterpret Islam’s problematic aspects—rather than pretending these aspects don’t exist, and that ISIS is making up out of whole cloth a doctrinal basis for things like sex slavery and extortion (in the form of jizya). Couldn’t the Times use some of them for sources rather than giving us Islamists whose unsavory backgrounds it omits (much as it airbrushes sharia)?

By the way, Islamophobia is a smear coined by the Muslim Brotherhood—how rich to find it invoked on behalf of ISIS at a time when Brotherhood frontmen, notorious for their support of Hamas, are feigning outrage at ISIS’s jihadist tactics.

Ebola and Rand Paul’s Conundrum


Senator Rand Paul has aggressively attacked the Obama administration for its failure to prevent the Ebola virus from coming to America. He’s right to do this: The Centers for Disease Control has a mandate to protect the public health, and what is more important to the public health than keeping a communicable virus that resists virtually all medical treatment from our country’s people?  

Paul’s credibility as an administration critic suffers, however, because of one simple fact: His 2014 budget proposed cutting CDC spending by 20 percent from FY 2008 levels (see p. 35). That provision would reduce CDC spending to about $4.8 billion; it is estimated to spend close to $6.9 billion in FY 2014. Paul’s budget, therefore, calls for a 30 percent cut from current CDC spending.

Now, I don’t subscribe to the liberal budget equation that spending equals competence. Clearly any serious public health agency ought to prioritize the prevention of mass epidemics over any other priority regardless of the amount it spends. The CDC itself notes this by listing “protect[ing]Americans from infectious diseases” as its No. 1 goal (see p. 7). Nevertheless, Paul’s proposal to reduce CDC spending is symptomatic of a large problem with his thinking.

Paul clearly has a theory of non-government. In his view, government is generally a bad thing and we need to reduce it as fast and as deep as we can. However, cases like the CDC/Ebola crisis call for a theory of government. No serious politician, not even the quasi-libertarian senator from the Bluegrass State, thinks that the federal government ought to have no role in public health.  

The way liberals argue about these things means that any conservative who proposes budget cuts is attacked for caring more about rich folks’ money than average Americans’ lives. Senator Paul and others who think like him can only avoid the political impact of this attack if they develop a serious theory of government that explains clearly and in a principled way what government should do and what it shouldn’t.

In the CDC’s case, that means having a clear idea of what the CDC’s mandate should be and what resources are needed to carry out that mandate. Is $4.8 billion enough to carry that mandate out? I have no idea; it might be more than enough, or it might be woefully inadequate. Given that what is primarily at stake in the Ebola case is the CDC’s existing authority to initiate travel bans and isolation orders for people with “highly contagious diseases,” it’s pretty laughable to argue that proposals to cut funding for more research on gun-violence prevention or HIV caused Ebola to come to Dallas. But I would guess that Senator Paul and his staff also have no idea if that figure is appropriate for a properly designed CDC, or whether the amounts he proposes to spend for most items in his model budget is enough to meet each program’s objective – and that’s a problem for someone who wants to lead our nation.

— Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Geraghty on Ebola Response: CDC ‘Couldn’t Stop It from Taking a Roundtrip Flight to Cleveland’



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