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Bravo to Fox’s Shepard Smith for Combating Ebola Panic



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It’s a sign of the current cynicism of the public that so many people fear an imminent outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. But government incompetence that creates skepticism feeds into the fear-mongering of television-news divisions who seem to have turned into Ebola networks.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, was acting director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009. He witnessed that year’s sensationalized coverage of a swine-flu outbreak. He now sees the same pattern with Ebola: “The big misconception about Ebola is that there’s risk to people in America. And that’s just not the case.”

He himself has seen the impact of fear about Ebola. He returned this month from a reporting trip to Liberia where he was careful to never to be in the home of an Ebola patient or a facility where patients were treated. But many colleagues still shun him. He had to apply his own makeup for one show when the makeup artist wouldn’t touch him. His speech at Case Western University this week was cancelled, with school officials suggesting he use Skype instead. “I look to universities to promote correct information. I thought that they took an easy way out,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

Despite the fever-pitch nature of televised Ebola coverage, there are exceptions. On Fox News, anchor Shepard Smith went out of his way to provide context for a reporter’s conclusion that Ebola was causing “widespread panic” across the country.

“I think we both know there’s no widespread panic across the country,” Smith responded before turning to the camera to address the TV audience directly.

“You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise,” Smith said. “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online. The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible.”

But as for his show, Smith said, “it’s not worth the ratings and it’s not worth the politics” to say Ebola is an imminent danger when the day might come when a real panic hits.

“We do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States. Nowhere. We do have two health-care workers who contracted the disease from a dying man. They are isolated. There is no information to suggest that the virus has spread to anyone in the general population in America. Not one person in the general population in the United States.”

Would that more of Smith’s colleagues in the media followed his lead. Concern is one thing, but raw, unreasoning fear is something that must be combatted as a public service.

On Mary Landrieu’s Alleged Charm



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Every time I read about it, I’m reminded of this story.

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The Kansas City Royals, Back at the World Series, 29 Years Later



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Incredible:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For almost three decades, the gold crown above the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium had mocked the home team. The Kansas City Royals had not been kings of anything since 1985, when they won their only championship. They would never be royal.

All of that has changed. Across eight mystical games, a famine has given way a bountiful harvest. The Royals — yes, the Royals — have advanced to the World Series, finishing a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

Along the way, the Royals made history, returning to the postseason with unprecedented success after an absence of 29 years. Kansas City became the first team to start a postseason with eight victories in a row.

I love that George Brett was there, passing the baton with a smile.

As Brett, a Hall of Fame third baseman, beamed from an upstairs box, the Royals gave fans a new group to celebrate: homegrown stars like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez and imports like Jason Vargas, who allowed two hits in five and a third innings Wednesday.

 

Update: This is what it sounded like from the parking lot.

 

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

Web Briefing: October 23, 2014

Shaky Recovery



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From my most recent NRO article, about America’s economic problems: “The wobbling of the stock market, jitters about deflation in Europe, and the sharp decline in the price of oil have raised renewed doubts about the believability of the economic recovery from the tremendous strains of 2008 and 2009.”

Whether you agree or disagree, your comments are, as always, most welcome.
 

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Florida Gubernatorial Debate Delayed over Whether Charlie Crist Gets an Electric Fan



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The state of Florida was scheduled to have a gubernatorial debate Wednesday night, but it almost didn’t happen. Why? Because there was a fan placed under Democratic candidate Charlie Crist’s podium, which Republican Rick Scott’s campaign maintained was against the candidates’ agreed-upon rules.

Both candidates had not taken the stage by the time the debate was supposed to begin. “As you can see, the two candidates who were invited to take part in this debate right now are not stepping up on the stage,” one of the debate’s moderators, local anchor Elliot Rodriguez, announced as the audience laughed at the two empty podiums. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now,” he said. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist finally did take the stage and stood alone for a few minutes, during which Rodriguez explained the fan controversy. Crist told another moderator he was not aware his fan’s presence was prohibited, and asked, “Are we really going to debate about a fan?”

Some in the audience applauded Crist, but others could be heard shouting “follow the rules,” while the debate moderators talked among themselves about whether or not they should ask him to get rid of the fan. Eventually, Scott appeared on stage to a partial standing ovation, and the debate began.

Scott and Crist entered Thursday’s debate in a neck-and-neck race, according to recent polls from the Tampa Bay Times and CNN. Crist, a former Republican governor who’s now running as a Democrat, has taken heat for his mercurial policy positions. Scott has recently been criticized for some discrepancies in his financial filings, but has been boosted by Florida’s improving economy. It’s possible the seesawing race between two relatively unpopular names could be decided by the impact of the Libertarian candidate, Adrian Wyllie, who has attracted double-digit support in some polls.

93 Percent of ‘Independent’ Greg Orman’s Political Donations Have Gone to Democrats



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Tonight in Wichita, Republican senator Pat Roberts will debate self-proclaimed independent challenger Greg Orman. Roberts likely will repeat his earlier charge that Orman is “just another Democrat who won’t shoot straight or come clean with Kansas.” Judging by Orman’s record of political donations, Roberts’ accusation is only 93 percent accurate.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the extremely revealing website of the Center for Responsive Politics, Orman contributed $37,300 to political candidates and party committees between October 23, 1996 and January 12, 2010. Of this total, $34,800 went to Democrats, and $2,500 landed in Republican coffers. Thus, 93.3 percent of Orman’s political giving benefited Democrats. Only 6.7 percent of his campaign largesse helped Republicans.

How independent.

As for specifics, Orman gave the Republican National Committee a check for $250 in 1996 and another such infusion in 1997. He neglected Republicans until 2010, when he sent $2,000 to Scott Brown, who captured the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of long-time liberal field marshal Edward Moore Kennedy of Massachusetts. (Brown is now locked in a pitched battle with incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for a New Hampshire Senate seat.)

Orman’s favors for Democrats include $500 in 2006 to comedian-turned-parliamentarian Al Franken of Minnesota (as Yogi Berra would say, “Only in America”), $4,600 to Obama in 2007, and $9,400 in 2009 to the Kansas Democratic State Committee.

Orman’s declarations of independence are belied by the fact that 93 cents of each of his political dollars financed Democrats. This makes it about 93 percent likely that, if elected, Orman’s first senatorial decision would be to vote for Harry Reid of Nevada as majority leader and try to restore his granite grip on the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. If Orman’s were the deciding vote, this would let Obama maintain the Senate as the mausoleum where reforms passed by the presumably Republican House would be laid to rest, rather than endorsed and forwarded to the Oval Office for signature or veto.

In tonight’s debate, Senator Pat Roberts should hammer that point all the way to victory.

Michelle Nunn Won’t Say If She Voted for Obama



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​Another Democratic Senate candidate has refused to say whether she voted for President Obama: This time it was Michelle Nunn in Georgia.

The same question has tripped up other red-state Democrats on the campaign trail. On two occasions over the past week, Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes has been panned for her refusal to answer the question, twice citing the “sanctity of the ballot box” as her reason for keeping mum.

Nunn was approached by a tracker who asked her if she voted for the president in 2008 or 2012. Nunn did not respond and kept walking towards the venue she was headed to. In the video captured, a member of her entourage faces the tracker and asks, “Would you leave her alone?”​

A voice in the background can be heard saying, “Yes — of course, yes, he’s the president.” “He’s done great things, he’s done great things, great things — health care,” the supporter continues.

Democrats are hoping Nunn can pull off the win in Georgia over Republican businessman David Perdue in the race to replace retiring Republican senator Saxby Chambliss. On Tuesday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced that it will spend an additional $1 million in the race.

Even the Times Can’t Defend Andrew Cuomo’s Shirking a Debate with Rob Astorino



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The editorial board of the New York Times, which couldn’t bring itself to endorse Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination (citing the huge ethics and corruption problems the same paper uncovered), has still reconciled with Cuomo fils, it seems. They’re now rapping him for agreeing to debate his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, but refusing to do so on television. Their argument:

With New York elections less than a month away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on a vigorous campaign to sell his new autobiography. What’s missing from this busy schedule is the political reality of the moment.

Mr. Cuomo is running for re-election on Nov. 4, and, so far, he has agreed to a single one-hour televised debate with three other candidates, including Rob Astorino, the Republican in the race. That isn’t sufficient for voters who need to hear and see the back and forth on issues like ethics in Albany, taxes, women’s rights and the economy.

Mr. Astorino, the Westchester County executive, has said at least five such debates were proposed, mostly by news organizations. However, Mr. Cuomo is willing to participate only in a group debate — which would include Mr. Astorino and candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties — in Buffalo on Oct. 22.

While this is better than nothing, the format means that the four candidates will essentially be participating in a panel discussion that allows less time for each candidate to challenge the others, and Mr. Cuomo knows that.

The Cuomo campaign has said that the governor had agreed to one radio debate with Mr. Astorino. Unfortunately, Mr. Astorino refused the offer because he wanted it to be televised, a demand the Cuomo campaign rejected.

On the one hand, you might be sort of surprised that the Times is so eager to force Cuomo onto a stage with Astorino, a candidate they once practically called a neo-Confederate for fighting a wasteful and pointless federal housing decree. On the other hand, Cuomo happens to live in the county Astorino is trying to defend as not, you know, segregated, so maybe the Times has come around on the ridiculousness of their stance.

And as Astorino has pointed out, even Vladimir Putin has debated his opponents on TV. It’s been more than 80 years since the Times was carrying water for the practices of Russian strongmen!

City of Houston Attacks Pastors, then Doubles Down



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The story sounds like something you’d read on a crazed e-mail forward — the city of Houston demands to see the contents of pastors’ sermons on the topic of homosexuality, gender identity, and . . . restroom access. In fact, when I first heard the story from a parent at my kids’ school, I didn’t believe it.

But, yes, it’s true. In fact, the reality is even worse than the reports. Houston — as part of its litigation strategy opposing a voter lawsuit filed after the city rejected voter petitions to repeal a law that allows members of the opposite sex into bathrooms — has issued subpoenas that don’t just demand pastors’ sermons on the topics of “equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity,” (and, of course, “restroom access”), they also demand all documents including ”emails, instant messages, and text messages” on those same topics. 

So, if a pastor is engaged in a theological discussion with a fellow pastor on the covered topics, that will have to be produced. If a pastor texts a friend his position on “restroom access,” that has to be produced. 

Oh, and did I mention that the pastors aren’t even parties to the lawsuit?

The sexual revolution, apparently, brooks no dissent. Not even from the pulpit, or in Skype chat boxes.

As I looked closer at the issue, the best-case scenario was this was “merely” (as Ed Whelan points out) big-firm scorched-earth litigation tactics, the kind of harassment that veteran litigators engage in almost without thinking, and certainly without thinking through the First Amendment implications.

But then I saw this tweet from the Houston mayor:

Umm, no. Pastors are not “fair game” simply for doing their job. First — and contrary to popular leftist belief — pastors can absolutely educate their flock, engage in issue advocacy, and even endorse ballot referenda from the pulpit. That does not make them “fair game.” Under IRS rules, they have an unlimited right to engage in issue advocacy, and they can endorse ballot referenda so long as the endorsement-related activities do not constitute a “substantial part” of the church’s activities in a given year. But those are IRS rules and utterly irrelevant to a state-court lawsuit regarding the validity of voter signatures. 

Second, there is a degree of constitutionally protected privacy in your First Amendment–protected speech. For example, in DeGregory v. New Hampshire, the Supreme Court quashed a state inquiry into a citizen’s past ”subversive” activities with the Communist party. In the words of the Court:

The Attorney General further sought to have him disclose information relating to his political associations of an earlier day, the meetings he attended, and the views expressed and ideas advocated at any such gatherings.

The Court noted that compelled disclosure was “objectionable and damaging in the extreme to one whose associations and political views do not command majority approval” and held that in the absence of an “overriding and compelling state interest,” Mr. DeGregory could, in fact, keep his views to himself. Speaking more broadly, the Court declared that “The First Amendment prevents use of the power to investigate enforced by the contempt power to probe at will and without relation to existing need.”

And what, pray tell, is the “existing need” here? To hear the mayor of Houston tell it, the “existing need” is to find out if pastors used their First Amendment–protected speech (including sending personal e-mails and text messages) for “political” purposes, something they had the right to do. If there is a specific allegation of wrongdoing against a specific pastor, then make that allegation. Otherwise, the fishing expedition is unconstitutional, and chillingly so.

I agree with Eugene Volokh when he says, that “at the very least, the subpoena seems vastly overbroad.” But his post on the topic spends most of its time exploring a question that’s not really at issue — whether a pastor’s sermons are always off limits in civil discovery. The issue here is entirely different — whether the mere existence of civil litigation regarding a contentious ballot issue can be a pretext for publicly exposing the public and private communications of pastors who are not even parties to the litigation. What’s next, subpoenaing all political donor emails when there’s an election challenge? 

The message Houston is sending is clear: You’ll agree with our dictates or you’ll be humiliated. 

My good friends at Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a motion to quash the city’s subpoenas. May God bless their efforts. We’ll soon see whether, as Mark Steyn predicts, our First Amendment isn’t robust enough to survive a transgendered bathroom ordinance.

The Pentagon’s Cringe-worthy Answer to Whether We’re Winning against ISIS



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On Wednesday, a reporter asked Pentagon press secretary John Kirby what seemed like a simple query: “What would you say about Senator McCain’s assessment that the Islamic State is winning, and the U.S.-led coalition is not?” What followed, however, was a case study in how not to handle a loaded question.

“Well, I’m not gonna, um,” the rear admiral began haltingly. “I would just tell you that — uh — we believe — that — let me put it this way. It’s going to be a long fight. It’s going to be difficult. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be wins and there’s going to be losses. We’re mindful of the complicated nature of this.”

Kirby went on equivocating for another two minutes, claiming he’s “not going to qualify who’s winning and who’s losing today,” that “you can’t judge a strategy based on a day, or a week, or even several weeks,” that “we’ve only been doing air strikes since August 8,” and that the Islamic State is “not getting a win everywhere.”

“So it’s a mixed picture, Phil,” he admitted. “I don’t mean to ramble, but it’s a mixed picture.”

How Obamacare Will Do Even More Damage to the Labor Market than the CBO Said



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This morning, the Wall Street Journal has a piece on “Obama Deniers” — those Democrats running for reelection who are trying their best to distance themselves from the president. More specifically, very few Democrats are running for reelection on the greatness of the ACA or Obamacare.

Why? Because there’s not much to say. And that’s even though, as insurance expert Robert Laszewski explained this week in USA Today, the administration has become a master at spinning the facts about Obamacare. The administration, for instance, “put a gag rule on insurance companies from talking about just how well the second version of HealthCare.gov is working,” which is probably a sign that it isn’t going as well as they hoped it would. It’s also “delayed the start of the 2015 open enrollment from last year’s October 1st start date to November 15th this year,” which is conveniently after the elections.

But that just means we need to docment the side effects of the law. A new Mercatus Center study, “The Affordable Care Act and the New Economics of Part-Time Work,” by University of Chicago’s Casey Mulligan looks at the law’s damage on labor markets. There are three major ways it discourages work: (1) an explicit tax on full-time work, (2) an implicit tax on full-time work for those who are ineligible for the ACA’s health-insurance subsidies, and (3) an implicit tax that links the amount of available subsidies to workers’ incomes. What’s the sum of these problems?

The health subsidies’ structure will put millions in a position in which working part-time (29 hours or less, as defined by the ACA) will yield more disposable income than working their normal full-time schedule. This creates a strong incentive to work less. He estimates these ACA disincentives will reduce work by about 3 percent, or about 4 million full-time-equivalent workers. This is the aggregate result of the law’s employment disincentives, and it’s nearly double the impact most recently estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.

Nearly half of American workers will be affected by at least one of the ACA’s employment taxes — and this does not account for the indirect effect on others as the labor market adjusts.

Notably, the ACA will push more women than men into part-time work. Because a greater percent­age of women work just above 30 hours per week, it is women who will be more likely to drop to part-time work as defined by the ACA.

Mulligan’s findings are consistent with the work of other economists, such as Nobel laureate Ed Prescott. I explained the connection in the past:

“In his famous 2004 paper, ‘Why do Americans work so much more than Europeans?’ [Prescott] shows that workers spend considerably more hours working when marginal tax rates on their incomes are lower. So basically, over time, people will reduce the number of hours of work, economic growth slows down, and less revenue is collected.”

In other words, we can expect tax increases to have an impact on the available labor supply.

But Prescott’s other big insight is that a generous redistributive system makes it easier to reduce one’s labor supply. As George Mason University economist Garett Jones explains, “Prescott argues that if you raise taxes for pure redistribution from the ‘average person’ back to the ‘average person,’ then the tax hike doesn’t make the ‘average person’ poorer: The government is taking money out of everyone’s right pocket and slipping it into their left. But if the income effect is gone, what’s left? The disincentive to work: The pure substitution effect.”

In other words, higher taxes coupled with more generous benefits equal a strong incentive to work less.

The bottom line: Lawmakers can try to distance themselves from Obamacare, but Americans will feel its deep consequences on the labor market for a long time. Unless, of course, Congress finds the courage to reform the whole thing. 

 

 

White House: Ebola Travel Ban Still ‘Not on the Table’



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As bipartisan calls to block travel from Ebola-stricken countries increase, the White House remains adamant that a commercial travel ban is simply not happening.

“[A travel ban] is something that is not on the table at this point,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained on Wednesday, claiming shutting down commercial travel would “prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region.”

“So that’s why, right now, a travel ban is not on the table,” Earnest later reiterated. 

On Monday, former surgeon general Richard Carmona recommended that a travel ban remain “on the table.” (Carmona ran as a Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona during the 2012 election.)

GOP Within Striking Distance in R.I. Gov’s Race



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Republican Allan Fung is putting up a fight in Rhode Island’s gubernatorial race, bringing a major upset in the deep-blue state into the realm of possibility.

A new WPRI/Providence Journal survey finds Fung, the mayor of Cranston, trailing Democratic opponent and state treasurer Gina Raimondo 36 percent to 42 percent among likely voters. Moderate-party candidate Robert Healey garnered 8 percent support.

Twelve percent of Ocean State residents say they’re still undecided.

While winning office in Rhode Island is an uphill fight, Fung has polled competitively against Raimondo, especially without a third-party candidate on the ballot. Since the beginning of September, in head-to-head match-ups, Fung has either tied or been within a few percentage points of Raimondo. In all the polls, at least 10 percent of voters remain undecided. The state’s Democratic party and organized-labor interests remain divided over the pension reform Raimondo oversaw as state treasurer — she barely triumphed in a tough Democratic primary.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report still rate the race as “Likely Democratic,” while RealClearPolitics says it’s a “Toss Up.”

Slate Does Catholicism



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Slate’s William Saletan tries to instruct Archbishop Charles Chaput on Catholic teaching, who is supposedly “trying to have it both ways” by insisting that he opposes the death penalty but that faithful Catholic politicians can support it. Chaput, Saletan complains, has “allowed no such ambivalence about abortion.”

Chaput treats abortion and the death penalty differently because Church teaching treats them differently. It doesn’t condemn the death penalty in principle, the way it condemns abortion in principle; it doesn’t say that faithful Catholics may not participate in executions, as it says that they may not participate in abortions; it does not regard the execution of murderers as a grave injustice on par with abortion. Saletan may wish that Church teaching were different from what it is, and the teaching may well continue to develop in an anti-capital-punishment direction (although I doubt it will ever treat these issues as equivalent). But everything Chaput is saying is consistent with the teaching as it stands today, even if that teaching is too nuanced for Saletan’s liking.

The Vindication of Christian Sexual Ethics



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Over at The Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald has penned an outstanding cover story chronicling the ongoing collapse of sexual-revolution values on college campuses. It turns out that sexual “liberation” has not led to sexual fulfillment, but instead to a landscape littered with broken hearts, long-lasting psychic pain, and a consequent desperate effort to create and enforce a bizarre “neo-Victorian” sexual ethic grounded not in any real morality, but instead in an effort to use institutional power to shift the emotional, psychological, and legal consequences of sexual regret and ambiguity to men and — as much as possible — men alone.

It won’t work. Sure, there will be a chill that settles across some campuses (depending on enforcement), and there will be cases where the burden-shifting “works” (at least in the way that feminists want it to work) by ruining a man’s life in highly ambiguous circumstances. But the end result won’t be a net increase in healthy relationships but instead an increase in fear, confusion, and recriminations as neo-Victorianism butts up against the crazed ”sex week” culture that still infects campuses from the top to the bottom of the academic food chain. It’s decadence versus contractual morality that utterly defies human nature, and neither model is viable.

This is exactly the time when Christians should step forward with a different ideal, the holistic, healthy, and proven model of sobriety always, chastity before marriage, and fidelity afterwards — all because marriage is sacred, our bodies are a temple to God, and we love our spouses more than we love our own lives. 

Yet, sadly, many Christians have treated Christian sexual morality as something to be embarrassed about — to be shoved at the end of the conversation or minimized by reference to “other” good works. As if the formation of lifelong, loving relationships is somehow secondary to good deeds in soup kitchens or medical mission trips. 

I mention sobriety in this context (note, I’m not arguing for teetotaling; I enjoy a good Bourbon — preferably Woodford Reserve) because it is the loss of control connected with binge-drinking and drunkenness that launches many millions of kids into sexual encounters they deeply regret and that haunt them for life. Drunkenness is not a prerequisite for friendships or fun. I somehow made it through all of high school, college, and law school without a single drunken night, and I look back on those years with fondness. They were among the best years of my life.

As for chastity before marriage, I recall my father (he was a math professor at a Baptist College) giving a chapel talk where he told the students, “The person you’re dating right now is somebody’s future wife or husband. Maybe yours, but probably not. How would you like someone to be treating your future spouse right now?” Students shifted visibly in their seats. 

I can’t help but think — as marriage rates plunge once again to all-time lows – that part of the problem is that the total disconnect between sex and marriage causes each relationship to be more baggage-laden than the next. Because there’s been someone before, there’s the conscious realization that there’s always someone next, and as relationships form and break and form again, kids leave a part of themselves behind each time. Yes, some people sow their wild oats and grow up, but it’s self-evident that many millions do not. They just break — and as they break, so do their children and their families.

I’m in my mid-40s, blessed with a loving marriage and three kids who have faith in Jesus. Yet even in my mid-40s, I’m constantly encountering peers who still struggle with the decisions they made in their “carefree” teens and twenties, decisions that turned out not to be carefree at all. 

As the sexual revolution implodes, Heather Mac Donald makes a great point regarding the conservative response: As stupid and destructive as new “affirmative consent” laws are, as unfair and immoral as it is to strip the accused of due-process rights, and as much as feminists now ironically treat women as the weaker sex, attacking the flailing sexual revolutionaries shouldn’t constitute the core of the conservative critique. In the culture as in foreign policy, “Don’t do stupid stuff” isn’t exactly a strategy. We must propose to replace the current mess with something – not just point our fingers and shake our heads at other people’s desperate foolishness.

And that something isn’t a new law, nor is it exactly a new culture. It’s an old culture, an old morality, one that we can never live perfectly but will be better for trying. And it’s one that has the benefit of pointing us to the oldest story, the story of our Creator and Redeemer.

So, Christians on campus — to the extent you’re still allowed to meet and speak – now is your time to step into the breach with a sexual ethics that is actually viable, sustainable, and life-affirming, a sexual ethics that is grounded in eternal values. It will likely be the best message you will ever share.

Poll: Roberts, Brownback Take the Lead in Kansas Races



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Kansas Republican incumbents have spent the past month fending off challengers, but a new poll shows the state’s conservative voters ultimately getting behind their candidate and giving Senator Pat Roberts and Governor Sam Brownback a slight lead.

Roberts, who has regained ground against independent opponent Greg Orman, currently leads 48 percent to 46 percent in the unexpectedly competitive race, according to a Remington Research Group survey. The race continues to be a toss-up as polls fluctuate within a narrow range, resulting in multiple lead changes.

The poll finds that 56 percent of Kansans want Republicans to win control of the Senate, which benefits Roberts over Orman, who has remained mum about which party he would caucus with if elected. Senate majority leader Harry Reid is also extremely unpopular in the state: only 16 percent of residents have a favorable opinion of him.

But voters are split on whether Orman is the de facto Democrat in the race. Forty-eight percent believe his views reflect an “independent” candidate while the same amount of respondents say they believe his views are aligned with the Democratic party.

Meanwhile, in the gubernatorial race, Brownback leads Democrat Paul Davis 48 percent to 45 percent. This race has also gone back and forth between both candidates. Although his approval rating is underwater, more voters have a more favorable opinion of Brownback than they do of Davis, presumably due in part to his name recognition.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Weh



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Nice spot by the New Mexico GOP challenger to liberal incumbent Tom Udall. If any Senate race has the potential to shock on November 2, it’s this one.

A Strange Abortion Argument



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These sentences from Hanna Rosin make no sense: “The reason we’re not [at peace with abortion], according to [Katha] Pollitt, is that we have all essentially been brainwashed by a small minority of pro-life activists. Only 7 to 20 percent of Americans tell pollsters they want to totally ban abortion, but that loud minority has beaten the rest of us into submission with their fetus posters and their absolutism and their infiltration of American politics.”

The number of people who wish to ban abortion in all instances is not small; it amounts to, as Rosin notes, about one in five Americans. The flip-side proposition is held by about one in four Americans — until you start talking specifics, in which case it falls down to about one in ten. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some cases, but they also support significant restrictions beyond those currently enacted in law. The actual “absolutism” — the unrestricted abortion license through the third trimester — is in fact a distinctly minority inclination, held by about 10 percent of the population.

Which is to say, the majority of Americans are on the pro-life end of the spectrum relative to where the law actually is, largely because a “loud minority has beaten the rest of us into submission” with their phony wire-hanger mythology backed up by magical pronouncements from mystics in black robes consulting esoteric scrolls.

In any case, one could certainly believe that abortion is gruesome and distasteful, and that it should be regulated, without believing that it should be illegal in all circumstances. In fact, that is a pretty common position — it was, for example, George W. Bush’s position, and the polls suggest that most Americans are far closer to that than they are to Rosin’s daftly bloodthirsty proposition that abortion is a “social good.”

Brainwashing? Rosin never seriously considers the question of why those “fetus posters” are so disturbing, and so effective, and why the vast majority of people believe that abortion should be illegal in the latter part of pregnancy: It is because even those generally inclined toward support for abortion rights are not completely morally dead, and they recognize an act of violence when it is right in front of their eyes. People can convince themselves of anything, so long as they do not have to look at it. But the human animal recognizes another human animal, and the metaphysical dodge of “personhood,” which may be effective in a courtroom or MSNBC, is in fact powerless in the face of biological fact and the evidence of our eyes. Nobody has to explain to anybody why what is shown in those placards represents evil. Human beings instinctively recognize it. 

Habemus Nomen: Operation Inherent Resolve



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About two months after beginning air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, the Pentagon has finally given a name to the campaign: Operation Inherent Resolve. Some critics of aspects of the operation — see Senator Ted Cruz on NRO last week – had suggested that its anonymity spoke to its inadequacy and incoherence. Alas, the naming operation turned out to be ad hoc itself: “Inherent Resolve” was apparently a placeholder that officers thought was too lame to keep, with one of them telling the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago the name “is just kind of bleh.” But it stuck.

The practice of branding military operations didn’t start with the U.S. military — the Germans started doing it in World War I, when military planning started getting really complicated and they needed names to organize sub-operations. The U.S. started doing it regularly in World War II, assigning meaningless colors to operations for security’s sake: Operation Indigo was the invasion of Iceland; Operation Gray was the invasion of the Azores. The Allies’ war soon got too big for the color wheel, so the British and the Americans came up with lists of random words to use to describe operations. Sometimes thye were a little too random: Winston Churchill, for instance, objected to labeling a risky American bombing operation over Romania’s oil fields “Operation Soapsuds” and got the name changed to “Tidal Wave.” Sometimes the names were a bit cheeky: When the British planted a freshly deceased corpse in an officer’s uniform, along with large amounts of fake plans for the invasion of Greece (the real plan was to hit Sicily), on the coast of Spain, the gambit was called Operation Mincemeat.

In any case, things got really professional toward the end of the Cold War, when a general with a journalism degree supposedly decided to dub the invasion of Panama Operation Just Cause. Since then, more or less, names have been picked to help boost perceptions of the operation among the public. Even the U.S. military mission to contain Ebola in West Africa immediately got a name, Operation United Assistance.

28 Harvard Law Professors Slam the College’s New ‘Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures’



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The Boston Globe reports today that 28 Harvard Law professors have issued “strong objections” to the campus’s new Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. Per the Globe, the dissenters contend not only that the “policy adopted by Harvard will do more harm than good” but charge caustically that authorities on campus have elected to “defer to the demands of certain federal administrative officials, rather than exercise independent judgment about the kind of sexual harassment policy that would be consistent with law and with the needs of our students and the larger university community.” In consequence, the group argues, Harvard has “undermined and effectively destroyed the individual schools’ traditional authority to decide discipline for their own students.”

As one might expect, the complaint revolves primarily around due process. The members write:

As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, the substantive law governing discrimination and violence, appropriate administrative decision-making, and the rule of law generally, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach. We also find the process by which this policy was decided and imposed on all parts of the university inconsistent with the finest traditions of Harvard University, of faculty governance, and of academic freedom.

Moreover, they argue:

Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.

Specifically, the professors criticized the procedures’ “failure to ensure adequate representation for the accused, particularly for students unable to afford representation”; “absence of any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing”; and reliance upon “rules which are starkly one-sided as between complainants and respondents, and entirely inadequate to address the complex issues in these unfortunate situations involving extreme use and abuse of alcohol and drugs by our students.” 

In conclusion, the letter calls “on the university to withdraw this sexual harassment policy and begin the challenging project of carefully thinking through what substantive and procedural rules would best balance the complex issues involved in addressing sexual conduct and misconduct in our community.” “The goal,” the rebels write,

must not be simply to go as far as possible in the direction of preventing anything that some might characterize as sexual harassment. The goal must instead be to fully address sexual harassment while at the same time protecting students against unfair and inappropriate discipline, honoring individual relationship autonomy, and maintaining the values of academic freedom.

Yesterday, I wrote about the appalling illiberalism of Ezra Klein and his fellow travelers on the unprincipled, authoritarian Left. Presumably, both he and his grubby little ilk would regard these criticisms as benefits, not drawbacks. The rest of us, however, might see them for what they are: the elevation of ends over means and a creeping internal threat to free civilization and the Western way of life. Bravo, Harvard Law — or some of it, at least.

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